Anarchism in Greece

Anarchism in Greece can trace its roots to ancient Greece but was formed as a political movement during the 19th century. It was in the ancient era that the first libertarian thoughts appeared when philosophers based on rationality questioned the fundamentals of tradition. Modern anarchism in Greece emerged in the 19th century, heavily influenced by the contemporary European classical anarchism. Because of the Bolshevik success in the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the rise of the Communist Party, anarchism faded after the first decades of the 20th century. The collapse of the military Junta put an end to the monopoly of the political power from the Right, whereas the dissolution of the Soviet Union diminished the allure of the KKE, allowing anarchist groups to gain pace in Athens and other cities.


Beliefs, opinions and sentiments that are close to anarchist core values were expressed in Ancient Greece. With the appearance of presocratic thought, rational inquiry during the classical and Hellenistic period, challenged traditional beliefs, religion and authority itself. Socrates scepticism towards the state and its passionate support of the individual's moral freedom were among the first-ever libertarian critiques.[1] Cynics' contribution to philosophical anarchism was the distinction between the man-made laws and nature's law, fiercely rejecting the former.[2] Stoics followed the same worldview and Zeno of Citium, the main stoic philosopher, received the admiration of 19th-century anarchist, Piotr Kropotkin who was impressed by Zeno's Republic- a community based on egalitarianism and friendly relations.[3] A powerful play resonating with anarchism was Antigone, by Sophocles, where a young woman defies the orders of the Ruler and acts according to her consciousness.[4]

Ottoman era

According to some academics, shortly before and after the end of Ottoman rule in Greece, the socioeconomic relations of the Greek countryside reflected traits of Bakunian collectivism (decentralization and autonomy) creating a future audience for anarchist ideas.[5] Discussing the second half of the 19th century, a source argued that the level of anarchist activity in the Ottoman Empire was comparable to that in Europe. [6] Some of the Greek anarchists were born in the Ottoman Empire, for example Emmanouil Dadaoglou was from Izmir. [7]

According to a study of anarchism in the late Ottoman Empire by Axel Corlu, Greek anarchists were significantly less in their Armenian or Bulgarian counterparts in the leftovers of Ottoman Empire at the end of the 19th century. Corlu suggests that Greek anarchists were mostly focused in influencing events, struggles and structures of the Greek state rather than the Ottoman Empire.[7]

Early anarchism

Early anarchism in Greece traces to the mid-19th century and lasted through World War II.[8] This period is characterized by collaboration with other socialists as early Greek socialist thought was dominated by anarchism.[9] The most influential authors at the time were Bakunin, Andrea Costa, Kropotkin and Jean Grave;[9] for comparison, Marx and Engels were not translated in Greek until 1893. [10]Individuals having ties with Italy and Italian immigrants imported anarchism to the Greek mainland with the Ionian islands as a midpoint. Many of the anarchist intellectuals came from the upper classes. Popular support was gained through opposition to taxation and the current crisis. Giuseppe Mazzini was an influence over the whole Greek socialist movement at this period, and some anarchists combined anarchism with irredentism. The participation of women was limited. Anarchism flourished particularly in the Western Peloponnese. Geographical proximity to Italy explains why the port town of Patras saw the first organised anarchist group. [11] Patras had organized meeting places, a viable local press and publishing activity.[12]

Various individuals were inspired by the expansion of European classical Anarchism. The first anarchist publication in Greece appeared in September 1861, in the daily newspaper "Φώς" (Light), issue 334. In the main article of the paper, titled "Anarchy", part A, an anonymous writer employed classical anti-authoritarian rhetoric.[13]

The first Greek-organised anarchist group was the Democratic Club of Patras (Δημοκρατικός Σύλλογος Πάτρας). Founded in 1876 and affiliated with the anti-authoritarian Jura Federation of the First International,[8][13] the Democratic Club helped to create a federated network of similar Greek groups. They also published the first anarchist newspaper in Greece, Greek Democracy (Ελληνική Δημοκρατία).[14] In its declaration of principles, the Democratic Club claimed that "poverty and ignorance are the greatest wounds of the people" and supported the liberation of Greeks in the Ottoman Empire.[15] Emmanouil Dadaoglou and the Italian Amilcare Cipriani were involved in the club's founding, having previously participated with other anarchists in the 1862 Athens uprising, though details of Dadaoglou's life are unverified.[16]

In 1876, an anarchist working club was founded in Syros. It played an instrumental role in the tannery and shipyard strikes of 1879.[17]

Pyrgos, a Peloponnese city close to Patras, was another place that anarchist ideas flourished along with other socialist currents. The fight against loan sharks and the heavy taxation by the state fueled anarchist thought among small raisin producers in the Peloponnese which was the home of various anarchist groups in the late 19th century. New Light (Νέον Φως) was a western Peloponnese weekly newspaper that voiced anarchist ideas (local and international). It was first published in October 1898 by the lawyer Vasileios Theodoridis. Its aim was to unify the subversive people of the Western Peloponnese to face the social problem. The newspaper contained articles of Drakoulis, translations of the works of Paul Argyriadès, republications of texts that first appeared in Athenian magazines and news about the Greek and the international labour movement. It also contained adages of the Orthodox Church Fathers and Charles Fourier as well as translations of texts by Bakunin, Kropotkin and Girard. [18] The publisher of Νέον Φως was the journalist Dimos. Papathanasiou. In a 1861 article in Νέον Φως , entitled "Anarchy as the greatest good", he claimed that state authorities live at the expense of the people. [19]

The anarchist groups of the Peloponnese were the strongest in Greece until the early 20th century. They had a lively propaganda work in the cities and their surroundings as opposed to "authoritarian" socialists who were more interested in parliamentary politics. They encouraged abstention in the elections of 1899 and mobilized against loan sharks and taxation in the name of raisin producers. They did not seek the support of the state to confront the currant crisis but rather to denounce state mechanisms of oppression. [20]

Zestful socialist Stavros Kallergis was arguing in The Socialist (a newspaper he was editing) that socialism is the path towards Anarchism. The Socialist was funnelling the contemporary socialist thought of Europe, ranging from moderate socialist to anarchist opinions, during the 1890s.[21]

Persecution against anarchists intensified in the summer of 1894. The assassination of Sadi Carnot by an anarchist led to a barrage of attacks against the anarchists by the press, and in particular by Asty, the official organ of Charilaos Trikoupis' party. Many anarchists and socialists were put on trial and this led others to either flee the country or relocate in isolated parts of Greece. Similarly, many radical publications closed down and mainstream activity was reduced. [22]

In 1896 in Patras, Dimitrios Matsalis, a sandal maker, murdered Dionysios Fragkopoulos, a banker and currant merchant and injured Andreas Kollas. He declared that "I acted alone. By killing I did not aim at people but I stroke the capital. I am an anarchist and as an anarchist I am in favour of violence." He committed suicide in prison. Fragkopoulos' assassination arguably intensified the erosion of collective identities as the persecutions continued. [23][24]

Persecuted anarchists and anarchosyndicalists fled from Patras during the last years of the 19th century. The persecution began right after the international antianarchist Conference of Rome 1898. They moved to Athens to establish the "Anarchist Workers Association" («'Αναρχικός 'Εργατικός Σύνδεσμος»). They took part in the anarchist international congress held in Paris in 1900.[25] "Epi ta Proso" (Επί τα πρόσω) was another group of anarchist intellectuals publicly advocating for anarchism in the Peloponnese that finally ended up in Athens before being dissolved.[26]

As in the rest of Europe by that time, propaganda of the deed was employed by the Boatmen of Thessaloniki, a group of Bulgarian anarchists based in Salonica (then part of the Ottoman Empire),[17][27][28] and Alexandros Schinas, who assassinated King George I in 1913 for reasons of either anarchist conviction or mental illness.[29] In 1916, the anarchosyndicalist Konstantinos Speras was an organizer of the Serifos miners strike.[8]

The Greek anarchist movement's momentum subsided in the 1920s as, among many factors, the Greek working class turned to Marxist ideology and the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), known for its hostility towards anarchists, appeared.[30] Reflecting Greek desire for a strong state, anarchism was eradicated in the 1930s and 1940s, between the Metaxas Regime, the Axis occupation of Greece, and the Greek Civil War.[31] In times of changing government, Greeks relied on local government for resistance and security.[32]

Regarding developments outside geographical Greece, Greeks in the Mariupol region formed defence units in reaction to the events of the October Revolution, joining the Makhnovshchyna but some distanced themselves after the early 1920s. Indeed, "twenty per cent of the Makhnovist forces were Greek and [...] according to Arshinov some of the best Makhnovist commanders were Greek".[33]

Plotino Rhodakanaty, born in 1828. His birthplace is disputed, some authors cite Athens, others cite other European capitals.[34] Nevertheless he is considered one of the most important figures in Mexican socialist thought.[35]

The Polytechnic uprising and the subcultural movement

The new phase of the Greek anarchist movement started during the Greek military junta of 1967–1974. In this period, Greek anarchism broke away from its anarcho-syndicalist origins, and it was organized around small direct action groups. Students played a significant role in this new phase. [17] Students returning from Paris, where they had taken part in the events of May 1968 and got in touch with leftist and anarchist ideas, started spreading these ideas among the radical youth. In 1972, Guy Debord's The Society of the Spectacle was published in Athens, along with other Situationist texts. Mikhail Bakunin's God and the State and Peter Kropotkin's Law and Authority followed. The "Black Rose" bookshop carried these publications of "Diethnis Vivliothiki" ("International Library").[36] Interest in anarchism swelled with the anti-junta movement, and the 1973 Athens Polytechnic uprising was a flashpoint for the junta's opposition.[17] The group that initiated the Polytechnic uprising included a minority of anarchists and leftists, who sought the fall of capitalism in addition to the group's common aim: the reinstatement of democracy. Anarchists were branded as provocateurs by the Communist Youth of Greece as they were expressing slogans not directly related to the student's demands (i.e. they were calling for sexual freedom, social revolution and the abolition of the State). The resonance with the French 1968 movement was clear. [37] Some demonstrators also used slogans with anarchist overtones, such as "Down with Authority" and "People Revolt".[17] The uprising became an emboldening symbol for the anarchists and leftists' unfulfilled vision, as if the occupation never ended. The uprising is commemorated annually with a multi-day march. Anarchists use the occasion to denounce the political regime. The marches traditionally end with skirmishes between anarchists and police in Exarcheia. The annual protests promote a subculture that sees resistance of authority as one's duty.[38]

Greek anarchism remained a small subculture after the fall of the junta, but grew into a movement following riots in 1981.[39] The university occupation movement of 1979–1981 was largely instigated by Anarchist and leftist groups. Near the Polytechnic, the student neighbourhood of Exarcheia became a "free zone", where leftists, Anarchists, hippies, and others were in charge.[40] A big moment for the anarchist movement that helped attest self-confidence was the anarchist demonstration on the hotel "Caravel" hosting a far-right conference (among the participants was Jean-Marie Le Pen).[41][42]

Demonstrations and clashes between anarchists and police took place almost daily in Athens between 1985 and 1986.[43] The confrontation between the police and anarchists escalated during the 1985 Polytechnic uprising anniversary demonstration when a group of anarchists set a riot police car on fire. One of the riot policemen, Athanassios Melistas, shot a 15-year-old anarchist, Michalis Kaltezas, in the back of the head, killing him instantly and sparking large riots in Athens and Thessaloniki and the occupation of the University of Athens's Chemistry Department. The government's reaction to the occupation made the oppression against anarchists almost unbearable, but the anarchist movement survived and staged demonstrations with thousands of participants in Athens.[44] In retaliation against Melistas, the 17 November Group killed Nikolaos Georgakopoulos and injured fourteen other MAT officers in a 1985 bus bombing.[45][46]

The anarchists proposal was in contrast to the legalistic approach of The Greek Communist Party (KKE), which was enjoying by then parliamentary participation.[47][42] Exarcheia was increasingly becoming a no go zone for police as clashes occurred merely with the sight of officers.[48]

Alternative media and punk subcultures proliferated anarchist thought among Greek youth in the 1980s and 1990s. This collectively owned media spread messages against neoliberalism, reactionary populism, liberal democracy, and the state.[49] By the late 1980s, anarchism had turned towards a broader spectrum of issues: gender inequalities, patriarchy, racism towards immigrants, and ethnic minority repression (Slavic and Turkish). Anarchist squats emerged in this era, among which Villa Amalia and Villa Lela Karagianni were the most prominent.[50]


The self-collapse of the USSR had a profound impact not only on anarchism but on Greece as well. Greek anarchism reached a peak of activity between 1989 and 1995, reinforced by a disappointment with Greek mainstream politics.[17] The 1990-93 Mitsotakis government agenda included an attempt to enforce neoliberal policies. The 1990s was the era that the anti-authoritarian movement became more prominent and had active participation among student riots against government plans for the privatization of the education sector.[51] The most circulated publications were The Void Network and The Children of the Gallery.[52]

In the new century, with capital and neoliberalism advancing victoriously through the world, Greek anarchist participated in the anti-globalization movement.[53] New collectives, such as the Antieksousiastiki kinisi in Exarcheia and its associated newspaper, Babylonia, became popular among rebellious youth.[54] Athens Indymedia and Antieksousiastiki kinisi were formed in 2001 and 2003 respectively.[55]

December 2008 saw massive protests after the lethal shooting of 15-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos by a policeman in Exarcheia, Athens. Within an hour, anarchists, leftists, and sympathizers rioted and attacked banks, police vehicles and government offices in the area. The government's attempts for a cover-up and refusal to apologize brought thousands to the streets for daily clashes and demonstrations, that were disseminated to other cities as well. The parliament building was besieged for weeks by angry crowds. Major violence erupted during one of the marches, with rioters attacking and setting fire to many public buildings, banks, and shops. Thousands of young people staged angry protests across Greece for a week, attacking police stations in every town.[56][57] In almost every neighbourhood of Athens and Piraeus, police stations, banks, and big businesses were firebombed.[58] An anarchist form of illegalism re-emerged during the insurrection when anarchist expropriated food from stores to distribute to people in need.[59] Anarchist groups organized and participated in protests against the measures implemented by the government to resolve 2010 Greek economic crisis that was precipitated by the 2010 Greek sovereign debt crisis Certain anarchist groups and networks, in conjunction with activists affiliated to anarchist and libertarian ideas, during the beginning of the crisis, differentiated themselves from violence, becoming engaged in self-organization activities[60] Spontaneous networks of students and other radicals were formed that followed an anarchistic approach on how they function. The influence of traditional Marxism was minimal.[61] What also was illustrated by the December 2008 riots is the inability of insurgency tactics to gain popular support.[62]

Athens Indymedia, an open publishing, anti-authoritarian site which attracted significant audience during the 2008 revolt, it paralleled the expansion of the anarchist choros within the Greek society.[63]

The May 2010 firebombing of a Marfin Bank branch in Athens during an anti-austerity protest that killed three employees put ice on both the anti-austerity protests and the Greek anarchist movement.[64][65] The Marfin events dropped the "ideological legitimacy"[64], and anarchist momentum eased.[66].[67]

The first years of the 2010s saw the rise of Golden Dawn, a fascist party that was targeting immigrants and managed to control Agios Panteleimonas neighbourhood in Athens centre. Anarchists confronted the fascists in various ways despite having to face the governmental hostility and police brutality. Police were often utilized against the anarchist movement and associated squats.[68]

List of groups and places

Choros, meaning "scene" in Greek, is the body of loosely associated anarchist groups in Greece.[69]

Squats and other places
  • Exarcheia.
  • K-Vox, former cinema sited in the Exarcheia square.
  • Lela Karagianni.
  • Nosotros (Athens) Anarchist social place, the home of Antieksousiastiki kinisi
  • Villa Amalia, now evicted (after a police raid)
  • Diadromi Eleftherias
  • Babylonia, newspaper affiliated to Anti-authoritarian Current
  • Rocinante, anarchosyndicalist publication


  1. Marshall 1993, p. 67.
  2. Marshall 1993, p. 68-69.
  3. Marshall 1993, p. 69-70.
  4. Marshall 1993, p. 66.
  5. Alexandrakis 2010, p. 74.
  6. Corlu 2016, p. 554.
  7. Corlu 2016, p. 567.
  8. Vradis & Dalakoglou 2009, p. 1.
  9. Noutsos 1995, p. 104.
  10. Noutsos 1995, p. 105.
  11. Apoifis 2014, p. 87-89.
  12. Noutsos 1995, p. 53.
  13. Apoifis 2014, p. 87.
  14. Apoifis 2014, p. 88.
  15. Noutsos 1995, pp. 147-148.
  16. Moskoff 1985, p. 152, 152n1.
  17. Vradis & Dalakoglou 2009.
  18. Noutsos 1995, pp. 87-91.
  19. Noutsos 1995, pp. 130-133.
  20. Noutsos 1995, pp. 90-91.
  21. Noutsos 1995, pp. 68-70.
  22. Καρπόζηλος, Κωστής (2013). Αρχείο Σταύρου Καλλέργη − Ψηφίδες από τον σχεδιασμό της σοσιαλιστικής πολιτείας. Athens: Εκδόσεις του Μουσείου Μπενάκη. p. 35–37.
  23. Μούλιας, Χρήστος (2000). Το λιμάνι της σταφίδας. Patra. p. 164.
  24. Τριανταφύλλου, Κώστας (1995). Ιστορικό λεξικό των Πατρών. p. 2197.
  25. Noutsos 1995, pp. 79 & 269.
  26. Noutsos 1995, pp. 278.
  27. Apoifis 2014:"The Boatmen of Thessaloniki were an anarcho-nationalist, pan-Slavic influenced Bulgarian militant group, active in Thessaloniki between 1898 and 1903."
  28. Megas 1994.
    • Kemp 2018, p. 181: "The accepted position is that [Schinas] was a homeless alcoholic with Anarchist tendencies."
    • p. 183: "The assassination of King George I is commonly thought to be an example of Anarchist propaganda of the deed (indeed, Schinas is typically referenced as a follower of this philosophy) or the work of a lone madman, motivated by non-political factors. Schinas has been characterized both as an educated and criminally motivated Anarchist and as a hopeless and mentally unbalanced alcoholic."
    • p. 184: "Schinas remains an elusive figure and a controversial one. The results of his actions are readily apparent, but what prompted them and, indeed, the details of the man behind them remain ephemeral, drawn as they are from muddled statements provided by multiple sources."
  29. Alexandrakis 2010, p. 76.
  30. Alexandrakis 2010, pp. 76–77.
  31. Alexandrakis 2010, p. 77.
  32. Chop 2008.
  33. Reviewed Work: Rhodakanaty y la Formación del Pensamiento Socialista en México (Rhodakanaty and the Shaping of Socialist Thought in Mexico) by Carlos Illades Review by: Dale Beecher Journal of Mormon History Vol. 31, No. 1 (Spring 2005), pp. 186-190 Published by: University of Illinois Press; Mormon History Association
  34. Beecher, Dale (2005). "Reviewed work: Rhodakanaty y la Formación del Pensamiento Socialista en México (Rhodakanaty and the Shaping of Socialist Thought in Mexico), Carlos Illades". Journal of Mormon History. 31 (1): 186–190. JSTOR 23289258.
  35. Apoifis 2014, p. 110.
  36. Kornetis 2013, pp. 260.
  37. Andronikidou & Kovras 2012, p. 713. "The memory of the Polytechnic has made two overlapping contributions to the cultivation of a culture of resistance. First, the protesting youth acquired independent agency. Only the student movement overtly resisted the dictatorship. Second, the memory of the Polytechnic has institutionalised the individual’s 'duty to resist authority'"
  38. van der Steen 2014, pp. 71–72.
  39. Apoifis 2014, p. 113.
  40. Apoifis 2014, p. 113–115.
  41. van der Steen 2014, pp. 72.
  42. van der Steen 2014, pp. 75.
  43. Apoifis 2014, p. 113-15.
  44. Marinos 2010.
  45. Kiesling 2014, pp. 137-149.
  46. Apoifis 2014, p. 112-13.
  47. van der Steen 2014, pp. 73.
  48. Siapera & Theodosiadis 2017, p. 508.
  49. van der Steen 2014, pp. 76.
  50. Vradis & Dalakoglou 2009, p. 2.
  51. Apoifis 2014, pp. 117-18.
  52. Apoifis 2014, pp. 120-23.
  53. Apoifis 2014, p. 126.
  54. van der Steen 2014, pp. 80.
  55. Schwarz, Sagris & Void Network 2010.
  56. Hadjimichalis 2013, p. 123.
  57. Moran & Waddington 2016, p. 96.
  58. Williams 2018, p. 9.
  59. Siapera & Theodosiadis 2017.
  60. van der Steen 2014, pp. 81-82.
  61. van der Steen 2014, p. 86.
  62. Siapera & Theodosiadis 2017, p. 509.
  63. Vasilaki 2017, p. 159.
  64. Roos & Oikonomakis 2014, p. 127.
  65. van der Steen 2014, pp. 87.
  66. Vogiatzoglou, M. (2016). Turbulent Flow: Anti-Austerity Mobilization in Greece. Late Neoliberalism and Its Discontents in the Economic Crisis, 99–129. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-35080-6_4 page 107
  67. van der Steen 2014, pp. 89-91.
  68. Kitis 2015, p. 2.


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