About The Monument to the Student Polytechnic Uprising
The monument to the Student Polytechnic uprising consists of a crushed gate and giant bronze head, which serve as a reminder of Greece’s fight for freedom.
History of The Monument to the Student Polytechnic Uprising
In 1967, a group of far-right military officers seized power in Greece following a coup d’etat. Known as the ‘Regime of Colonels’ or the military Junta, they ruled the country for the next 7 years in a repressive dictatorial style. Parliament was dissolved, opponents were arrested or exiled, civil debates were silenced, newspapers were controlled and the arts were heavily censored.
On 14 November 1973, a group of students gathered at the Polytechnic University in Athens to rise up against the Junta. They took control of communications equipment and began to broadcast anti-government messages. Part of the rebellion included broadcasting the national anthem, as well as the music of Mikis Theodorakis, a popular dissident musician who had been recently exiled.
By Thursday 16 November, the uprising had spanned to several thousand people, who banded outside the Polytechnic with Greek flags, banners and chants. Keen to subdue the rebellion, the government forces broke down the fences of the university with a tank and began shooting at the crowd with military snipers.
One witness, Maria Deminaki, described to the BBC in 2011 how the students inside set up a makeshift hospital in one of the university rooms to treat victims of gunshot wounds. It is now estimated that around 40 people were killed, including innocent bystanders as well as demonstrators. This triggered events which led to the Junta being ousted. In 1974, the first free election was held in Greece for nearly a decade.
The Monument to the Student Polytechnic Uprising today
So much space is given to the ancient history of Greece that it’s easy to overlook the more recent past. Walking around the touristy area of Plaka, it can be difficult to imagine that this European capital was under the rule of military dictators less than 50 years ago. In Exarchia, crowds of armed police might put a pin in that particular balloon.
While the area surrounding the Polytechnic is very central and may not seem especially picturesque, it’s worth coming here to pay tribute to those who have fought – and continue to fight – for freedom in Greece. In 1984, a giant bronze head was designed by Agamemnon Markis in memory of the Athens Polytechnic uprising. It was modelled on that of the Marxist intellectual Nikos Svorkis, who was a resistance fighter in World
War Two. Today it lies just inside the gates, on the floor in the walkway up to the steps. The fence where the tank stormed in remains there unfixed, as a reminder of what happened.
Getting to The Monument to the Student Polytechnic Uprising
The entrance to the polytechnic is on 28 Oktrovriou. The closest stations are Panepistimiou or Omonia, and the monumnet is just a 2 minute walk from the National Archaeological Museum.