Athens — Twenty years ago this week, a group of Greek Army colonels engineered a coup d''etat in Athens, initiating a seven-year reign the political legacy of which still persists in Greece and the eastern Mediterranean. On a regional scale, the wake of the junta's rule is evident in the military and political division of Cyprus, which fuels the continual Greek-Turkish disputes in the Aegean Sea over oil-drilling rights, air corridors, territorial waters, and the militarization of the eastern Greek islands and western Turkey.
Turkey invaded Cyprus in 1974 after the Greek junta sponsored an attempted coup on the island. The Cyprus coup attempt was the colonels' last act in power. Long-lasting impact
Domestically, the colonels helped change the face of Greek politics. Their rule - in its oppression of political opposition, its close links with the Nixon administration, and its debacle on Cyprus - helped sweep socialist Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou to power in 1981, seven years after the military government fell.
The Greek military has long been purged of junta elements. Today, former dictators George Papadopoulos and Dimitrios Ioannides and 15 of their colleagues are serving terms in Korydallos prison near Athens.
The initial death sentences given to Mr. Papadopoulos and the coup's architects were commuted to life imprisonment in 1978. April 21, 1967
When the tanks rumbled through Athens on the morning of April 21, 1967, Mr. Papandreou was center stage. He had been a key player in his father George Papandreou's campaign for general elections set for May of that year.
The platform was a moderate hybrid of the version that the younger Papandreou rode to victory on 14 years later: less dependence on the United States, constitutional limits on the monarchy, and civilian control of the Army.
But the colonels stepped in before the electorate's will could be tested.
According to Christopher Hitchens, in his 1983 book ``Cyprus,'' the Papandreou political program initiated in 1967 stepped on too many toes of the ``unelected para-state'' that had in effect ruled Greece since 1949.
This ``para-state,'' writes Mr. Hitchens, consisted of the royal palace, the general staff, elements of the Greek Orthodox church, and the United States Embassy.
The two years before the coup were characterized by political infighting, when no prime minister was able to sustain any political momentum.
Three governments were dismissed by the king or parliamentary votes of no confidence. One of those had been led by the elder Papandreou. Junta takes control
Once in power, the junta quickly moved to eliminate its political opponents - primarily from the left but also from what are today's conservative forces. Under martial law, thousands of people were exiled abroad, or sent to internal exile on desert Aegean islands. Many were tortured.
The natural opposition to martial law developed its anti-American flavor as the junta came under increasing favor in Washington.
The Nixon administration lifted the embargo on arms shipments to the military government in Athens in late 1970 and decided two years later to make Greece the home port for the Mediterranean-based US Sixth Fleet.
A number of investigations by journalists and the US Justice Department since the junta's fall have detailed even cozier connections between the Nixon administration, the US Central Intelligence Agency, and the Greek colonels. Union with Cyprus
A cornerstone of the colonels' foreign policy was the achievement of enosis, or union, with Cyprus.
But its backing in 1974 of the attempted coup against Archbishop Makarios, who was then the island's president and prelate, also proved to be their undoing.
The beginning of the end, however, had been heralded six months earlier when, in November 1973, opposition to the regime reached a crescendo at Athens' Polytechnic University.
A student revolt was bloodily squelched.
Days afterward, Papadopoulos was overthrown by General Ioannides, who ultimately coordinated the Cyprus debacle.
The Turkish invasion of Cyprus, prompted by the coup attempt, was the second major spark to the anti-Americanism that arose when democracy returned to Greece in 1974. Greece swings to the left
Democracy returned to Greece under the leadership of Constantine Karamanlis and his New Democracy Party. In a referendum later that year, Greek voters also chose to dissolve the monarchy.
Andreas Papandreou returned to Greece to rally the forces of the left behind the anti-American platform of his newly formed Panhellenic Socialist Movement (Pasok).
The next seven years saw a dramatic shift to the left in Greek politics, as Pasok increased its share of the vote from 13 percent in 1975 to a plurality of 48 percent in 1981.
Some of that support has since eroded, in part because the Pasok government has toned down its anti-American and anti-NATO rhetoric and had been forced by Western creditors to adopt economic austerity measures.
One campaign pledge Papandreou has met is the opening this year of the investigation into the events behind the the Cyprus coup/invasion.
Many junta principals have been summoned before the parliamentary investigative committee, and Papadopoulos and Ioannides are slated to testify this spring. Cyprus division: planned?
A key question in the probe is whether Ioannides had intended to carve the island into Turkish- and Greek-Cypriot zones, as it is in a de facto sense today.
Analysts here say the evidence points in this direction, and that the junta had colluded with Turkish authorities to plan the partition. They cite a 1971 meeting of Greek and Turkish foreign ministers in Lisbon.
``No other conclusion is logical,'' says a Western analyst. ``After all, there was no Greek resistance to the Turkish invasion.''
He also points out that Turkish and Greek flags are prominently displayed along the green line that separates the two sectors of the island.