George Seferis’s statement denouncing the Colonels’ regime

In the case of dictatorial regimes the beginning may seem easy, but tragedy awaits...

Characters team Mar 28. 2019
by Characters team

On April 21, 1967, there was a coup d’état in Greece lead by colonels. They overthrew the interim government in place at the time and prevented general elections scheduled for May 28 of the same year. This right-wing military dictatorship lasted for seven long years, from 1967 to 1974. It came to be known as “The Regime of the Colonels”, “The Junta” or alternatively “The Seven Year”.
George Seferis was at the time one of the most renowned Greek poet. He was also well known internationally since he received the Nobel Prize for literature, in 1963. He was not perceived as a political figure, but the situation in Greece was certainly unbearable for him. On March 28, 1969 he broke his silence and, with the help of the BBC World Service, he broadcast the short but galvanizing message translated above. His statement was later reprinted by several newspaper in Athens.

A long time ago I made the decision to keep out of my country’s politics. As I tried to explain on another occasion, this did not mean at all that I was indifferent to our political life.

So, from that time until now I have refrained, as a rule, from touching on matters of that kind. Besides, all that I published up to the beginning of 1967 and my stance thereafter (I haven’t published anything in Greece since freedom was gagged) have shown clearly enough, I believe, my thinking.
Nevertheless, for months now I have felt, inside myself and around me, with increasing intensity, the obligation to speak out about our current situation. With all possible brevity, this is what I would say:
It has been almost two years now that a regime has been imposed on us which is totally inimical to the ideals for which our world — and our people so resplendently — fought during the last world war.
It is a state of enforced torpor in which all those intellectual values that we succeeded in keeping alive, with agony and labor, are about to sink into swampy stagnant waters. It wouldn’t be difficult for me to understand how damage of this kind would not count for much with certain people. Unfortunately, this isn’t the only danger in question.
Everyone has been taught and knows by now that in the case of dictatorial regimes the beginning may seem easy, but tragedy awaits, inevitably, in the end. The drama of this ending torments us, consciously or unconsciously — as in the immemorial choruses of Aeschylus. The longer the anomaly remains, the more the evil grows.
I am a man without any political affiliation, and I can therefore speak without fear or passion. I see ahead of me the precipice toward which the oppression that has shrouded the country is leading us. This anomaly must stop. It is a national imperative.
Now I return to silence. I pray to God not to bring upon me a similar need to speak out again.
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