1935 Greek coup d'état attempt

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Rebel Greek officers under guard following the suppression of the coup Rebel Greek officers under guard, March 1935.jpg
Rebel Greek officers under guard following the suppression of the coup

The attempted coup d'état of March 1935 (Greek : Κίνημα του 1935) was a Venizelist revolt against the People's Party government of Panagis Tsaldaris, which was suspected of pro-royalist tendencies.

Coup détat Sudden deposition of a government

A coup d'état, also known as a putsch (German:), a golpe de estado (Spanish), or simply as a coup, means the overthrow of an existing government; typically, this refers to an illegal, unconstitutional seizure of power by a dictator, the military, or a political faction.

Greek language Language spoken in Greece, Cyprus and Southern Albania

Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages, native to Greece, Cyprus and other parts of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea. It has the longest documented history of any living Indo-European language, spanning more than 3000 years of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the major part of its history; other systems, such as Linear B and the Cypriot syllabary, were used previously. The alphabet arose from the Phoenician script and was in turn the basis of the Latin, Cyrillic, Armenian, Coptic, Gothic, and many other writing systems.

Venizelism was one of the major political movements in Greece from the 1900s until the mid-1970s.


The coup was headed by Nikolaos Plastiras, and broke out on 1 March 1935, but failed to establish itself in Athens and most of mainland Greece. The government quickly reacted, and loyal forces under the leadership of General Georgios Kondylis put the revolt down by March 11, when Venizelos himself was forced to flee Greece. In the coup's aftermath, a military tribunal was set up, which purged the Armed Forces of Venizelist and Republican officers, and ordered the execution of two prominent Venizelist generals, Anastasios Papoulas and Miltiadis Koimisis, and major Stamatis Volanis on April 24. Venizelos and Plastiras likewise were condemned to death in absentia. In the political sphere, the failure of the revolt marked the triumph of anti-Venizelist forces, and actually quickened the collapse of the fragile Second Hellenic Republic. Its final death blow was given in October, when the Armed Forces overthrew the government in a coup (due to their consideration of Tsaldari's stance towards the immediate restoration of monarchy as indecisive, and due to personal motives of Kondylis and his political and military circle), and Kondylis declared himself regent for the restored monarchy.

Nikolaos Plastiras soldier and Prime Minister of Greece

Nikolaos Plastiras was a Greek general and politician, who served thrice as Prime Minister of Greece. A distinguished soldier known for his personal bravery, he became famous as "The Black Rider" during the Greco-Turkish War of 1919-1922, where he commanded the 5/42 Evzone Regiment. After the Greek defeat in the war, along with other Venizelist officers he launched the 11 September 1922 Revolution that deposed King Constantine I of Greece and his government. The military-led government ruled until January 1924, when power was handed over to an elected National Assembly, which later declared the Second Hellenic Republic. In the interwar period, Plastiras remained a devoted Venizelist and republican. Trying to avert the rise of the royalist People's Party and the restoration of the monarchy, he led two coup attempts in 1933 and 1935, both of which failed, forcing him to exile in France.

Athens Capital and largest city of Greece

Athens is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, with its recorded history spanning over 3,400 years and its earliest human presence starting somewhere between the 11th and 7th millennium BC.

Georgios Kondylis Greek politician and general

Georgios Kondylis was a general of the Greek army and Prime Minister of Greece. He was nicknamed Keravnos, Greek for "Thunder" or "Thunderbolt".


The coup was the resultant of conspiratorial actions of various circles and organizations of the Venizelist faction, who aimed to the deterrence of the restoration of the crowned democracy. Behind this goal was the desire of the Venizelists officers, who were dismissed, to return to the army and proceed into radical purges of the dissidents as well as the pursuit of the policies of the same party to return to power.

The concerns of the Venizelists for the future of the democracy were perhaps not entirely justified because, despite all the challenges of the royal fanatics, the regime was not seriously in danger, much less even by fanatical enemies, who were a powerless minority. The People’s Party, which housed the majority of the old royalists, had recognized in 1932 the republic and had undertaken to work in the framework of this regime. Although the leadership and the press refused to renounce crowned democracy, their refusal was related probably to the reasonable desire not to cause a portion of their voters rather than by their fanatical devotion to the royal institution.

From the causes of the Movement stand out two. The attempt in June 1933 against the life of Venizelos and its impact on the mentality and actions of the elder politician and the gradual debarment of the underpinnings of Venizelist – democratic faction in the army, occasioned by the Plastiras movement on March 6, 1933.

The attempt of 1933 convinced Venizelos that his political opponents would not hesitate to use and this belief, such as his belief that his party and the country generally needed his services, certainly contributed in decision making that only unfortunate can be characterized.

His encouragement and fomenting of conspiratorial organizations in the army, with ineffable but real purpose the defense of the Venizelist composition of the army, betray a lack of self-control. Such organizations were the "Greek Military Organization" and the “Democratic Defense”.

The first was formed by officers who served in the army and the leaders were lieutenant colonel Christodoulos Tsigantes, his brother captain Ioannis Tsigantes, colonel Stefanos Sarafis and others. The purpose of the organization was to prevent Georgios Kondylis to impose with his own movement dictatorship, and to prepare military coup in order to prevent potential change of the regime. The second organization, the “Democratic Defense” was constituted by demobilized Venizelists officers. Leaders were the generals Anastasios Papoulas and Stylianos Gonatas but the true leader was Nikolaos Plastiras. These two organizations were united with the initiative Venizelist politician Alexandros Zannas with the common goal to defend the regime. [1]

Christodoulos Tsigantes Greek journalist, politician and soldier

Christodoulos Tsigantes was a Greek general who distinguished himself as the commander of the Sacred Band during the second World War.

Stefanos Sarafis an officer of the Hellenic Army who played an important role during the Greek Resistance

Stefanos Sarafis was an officer of the Hellenic Army who played an important role during the Greek Resistance.

Anastasios Papoulas Greek general

Anastasios Papoulas was a Greek general, most notable as the Greek commander-in-chief during most of the Greco-Turkish War of 1919–22. Originally a firm royalist, after 1922 he shifted towards the republican Venizelists, and was executed in 1935 for supporting a failed republican coup.

These concerns of Venizelos and of the leadership of Venizelos’ faction were strengthened by the occasional dismissals of Venizelists officers and stated objectives of those in power after 1932 were to remove their opponents from the army and the state apparatus in general and to substitute them in every sector and in every means. It was the reaction of political leadership that had been identified with the power and the state, after a long and a one-party government, and refused to leave power and let a field clear to the opponents of establishing a similar long-term and one-party regime. The invocation of political and state authorities and the references to national schism gave the necessary ideological status in the fight of totalitarian domination. This leadership preferred to remain captive of an ideological epiphenomenon, which did not correspond to political and social incisions and the country's problems. It is characteristic that the resurgence of the schism coincides in time with the first, after ten years of one-party Venizelist governance, effective challenge by the opposition party. References to the dangers that threatened the republic began to multiply and to be intensified since the People’s Party recognized the regime and undertook to respect it, either as a government or as an opposition party.

The coup

Minister of Military Affairs Georgios Kondylis with a tank shortly before the coup attempt Kondylis and Protosyngellos with tank, 1935.png
Minister of Military Affairs Georgios Kondylis with a tank shortly before the coup attempt

Conspirators intended to capture the fleet, which, according to their plans, played a key role in the success of their movement. Their aim was still the military forces based in Thessaloniki and Kavala, and which would put under their control. By controlling the fleet, the guards in Thessaloniki, Kavala, Crete and the Aegean islands, the people of the Movement would form a temporary government in Thessaloniki, if in the meantime the government in Athens not submitted resignation, where the initiates officers would try to put under their control guards the capital to create distraction.

Thessaloniki City in Macedonia, Greece

Thessaloniki, also known as Thessalonica, Saloniki or Salonica, is the second-largest city in Greece, with over 1 million inhabitants in its metropolitan area, and the capital of Greek Macedonia, the administrative region of Central Macedonia and the Decentralized Administration of Macedonia and Thrace. It is also known in Greek as η Συμπρωτεύουσα, literally "the co-capital", a reference to its historical status as the Συμβασιλεύουσα (Symvasilévousa) or "co-reigning" city of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire, alongside Constantinople.

Kavala Place in Greece

Kavala is a city in northern Greece, the principal seaport of eastern Macedonia and the capital of Kavala regional unit.

The coup failed in its first and crucial phase, when the fleet instead of Thessaloniki, headed to Crete, where Venizelos took over leadership of the Movement, but not without hesitation. The guards in northern Greece rebelled too late, and the ones of the capital were again under the government’s control, as soon after the onset of the Movement. In the meantime, the government of Panagis Tsaldaris reacted dynamically by assigning the suppression of the Movement to the Minister of Military Affairs Georgios Kondylis [2] and by hiring Ioannis Metaxas as Minister of State.

Ioannis Metaxas Greek politician

Ioannis Metaxas was a Greek military officer and politician, serving as Prime Minister of Greece from 1936 until his death in 1941. He governed constitutionally for the first four months of his tenure, and thereafter as the strongman of the authoritarian 4th of August Regime. On 28 October 1940, he denied an ultimatum imposed by the Italians to surrender Greece to the Axis powers, thus bringing Greece into World War II.

Kondylis with headquarters in Thessaloniki, quickly suppressed the Movement in Macedonia after a series of conflicts and the leader of the rebels in the area major general Kammenos, commander of the 4th army corps in Kavala, forced to take refuge on March 11 in Bulgaria. Eventually, the fleet was surrendered, while Venizelos fled to Kasos (Dodecanese were under Italian occupation) and requested political asylum. Basically, the Movement collapsed, which was due to the lack of a generally accepted military leader, the faulty design and the improper performance of projects, the rivalries of different groups and the lack of coordination. Finally, the Movement had only a minimal impact on the people, who felt discomfort and fatigue from the arbitrary interference of the military in politics.

Bulgaria country in Southeast Europe

Bulgaria, officially the Republic of Bulgaria, is a country in Southeast Europe. It is bordered by Romania to the north, Serbia and North Macedonia to the west, Greece and Turkey to the south, and the Black Sea to the east. The capital and largest city is Sofia; other major cities are Plovdiv, Varna and Burgas. With a territory of 110,994 square kilometres (42,855 sq mi), Bulgaria is Europe's 16th-largest country.

Impact of the coup

The consequences of the coup were serious both for Venizelist party and for the country in general. The great national leader, Eleftherios Venizelos was forced to leave the country and he died a year later in exile in Paris. Political leaders of the Venizelist faction, including Venizelos and Plastiras, who was sentenced to death, were tried and sentenced to various severe or light sentences in a display of vengeful dispositions by those in power. The military leadership of the Movement, including senior officers, as Stefanos Sarafis and brothers Tsigante, were put on trial by emergency military courts and were convicted, publicly humiliated and were dismissed from the army. Mass reprisals were avoided – three officers were executed, the cavalry major St. Volanis and the generals An. Papoulas and Mil. Kimoisis, not necessarily all of them responsible - when moderate elements of the government and the anti-Venizelist faction in general were prevailed.

But the most important, in terms of long-term effects, was that the most important part of Venizelist and Republican military and navy officers was dismissed. The dismissal of Venizelist officers, more than any other action or moderation of the winning faction, has neutralized the foundations of the Venizelist faction in the army and facilitated not only on the eve of anti-Venizelist party in power, but also the gradual creation of a one-party state. Determined to proceed to the complete liquidation of the state apparatus of Venizelos elements, Tsaldaris’ government abolished the lifelong operation of the court and suspended the permanence of civil employee. Also, the government abolished the Senate dissolved the parliament and announced elections for a Constituent Assembly in June 1935.

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  1. topontiki.gr: Το αποτυχηµένο κίνηµα του 1935 (Greek)
  2. Thanos Veremis (1999), "I Ellada tou Mesopolemou (1922-1940)", in Ekpedeftiki Elliniki Egiklopedia: Elliniki Istoria [Educational Greek Encyclopaedia: Greek History], Vol. 22, pp. 389–96, Ekdotiki Athinon.