Grigoris Lambrakis, symbol of democracy


Grigoris Lambrakis (April 3, 1912 – May 27, 1963) was a Greek politician, physician, track and field athlete, and member of the faculty of the School of Medicine at the University of Athens.  Today, May 22, 2013 it has been fifty years ago that a political assessment took place. He had been fatally injured and died on May 27, 1963.

Lambrakis was born in the village of Kerasitsa in the district of Tegea (Arcadia, the Peloponnese). After finishing high school in his home town, he moved to Athens to enter the School of Medicine at the University of Athens.
Lambrakis was a great athlete throughout his life. He held the Greek record for long jump for twenty-three years (1936–1959). He also earned several gold medals in the Balkan Athletic Games, which took place annually, featuring competitors from Greece, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Romania, and Turkey.

During the Axis occupation of Greece during World War II (1941–1944), Lambrakis participated actively in the Greek Resistance. In 1943 he set up the Union of Greek Athletes (Ένωση των Ελλήνων Αθλητών, Enosi ton Ellínon Athlitón) and organized regular competitions. He used the revenue from these games to fund public food-banks for the starving population.


Movement of Peace, 1963
Grigoris Lambrakis received threats for his life several times, but he went on with his actions without being afraid.

“In April 1963, Grigoris Lambrakis laid a wreath at the feet of Lord Byron, whose statue is to be found near Hyde Park Corner in London. He had walked about 80 kilometers, all the way from the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment at Aldermaston (United Kingdom), carrying his banner marked “ELLAS” (Greece), as part of CND’s (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament) annual Easter March.” (from: Spokesman books)

On 21st April 1963 the Movement of Peace organized the first peaceful march from Marathon. Grigoris Lambrakis was its leader. The police interfered by trying to stop the march and arrested a lot of people. Mikis Theodorakis was one of them.


However, Lambrakis, being protected by his parliamentary privilege, went on holding a placard with the word ΕΛΛΑΣ (Greece) written on it, with the symbol of peace on the left and the right side of the word.


Finally the policemen arrested him.
On 22nd May 1963 a plot was hatched to set him up and murder him after his speech in a gathering of peace lovers in Thessaloniki.  Using two hired thugs in a three wheeled vehicle, drove and the other in the back (E. Emmanouilidis and S. Gotzamanisone) with a club knocked him over the head in plain view of the police and a large number of people.


A young magistrate by the name of Christos Sartzetakis (photo: as the president of Greece from 1985-1990) was given the task of investigating the incident and give proof that his death was an accident. But Sartzetakis courageously implicated the leaders of the police in a conspiracy to murder Lambrakis and uncovered a secret organization of right-wing thugs used for dirty work, controlled by the police and perhaps higher.


Lambrakis was fatally injured and later, on 27th May, he died. The next day a mass funeral took place in Athens, where 500.000 people accompanied him chanting against the government and the parastate. (“Democracy”, “Lambrakis is Alive”).*

“That funeral was a huge, international event, attended and watched by millions. Lambrakis’s name became familiar to many people around the world who were concerned about the nuclear arms race, which had so nearly wrought disaster during the Cuban Missile Crisis a few months earlier.” (From: Spokesman books)

His assassination caused public revulsion and uncovered the action of the para-state under the tolerance of the government and the coverage of the authorities.  Like the Kennedy assassination and Watergate rolled into one, the Lambrakis murder eventually brings down  premier Constantine Karamanlis and his pro-American government.


Though never implicated in the murder, the perception was that even if Karamanlis was not a part of it, he should have had more control over the police.

In July 1963 the World Peace Council established an international peace prize named after Lambrakis, and a Lambrakis silver medal.


The book about Grigoris Lambrakis’ life: “Z”(Ζει)

The thick novel “Z” has been written in 1966 by the  Greek author Vassilis Vassilikos and it tells the story of Grigoris Lambrakis. “Z” must not be understood as the last character from the alphabet, but as Ζει, what means: “He, who is alive”!


Vassilis Vassilikos was born on November 18, 1934 on the island of Thasos, but he grew up in Thessaloniki. He is a writer, and a diplomat. Vassilis Vassilikos went into exile for seven years when the military junta, which banned his novel Z, took over in 1967. The book was published the year before.

Between 1981 and 1984 Vassilikos served as general manager of the Greek state television channel ET1.
Since 1996, he has served as Greece’s ambassador to UNESCO.
As an author, Vassilikos has been highly prolific and widely-translated. He has published more than 100 books, including novels, plays and poetry. His best known work is the political novel Z (1967) (English language ISBN 0-394-72990-0 or ISBN 0-941423-50-6), which has been translated into thirty-two languages and was the basis of the award-winning film Z directed by Costa-Gavras.


The film about Lambrakis’ life: “Z” (Ζει)
Z is a 1969 French language political thriller directed by Costa-Gavràs, with a screenplay by Gavras and Jorge Semprún, based on the 1966 novel of the same name by Vassilis Vassilikos. The film presents a thinly fictionalized account of the events surrounding the assassination of democratic Greek politician Grigoris Lambrakis in 1963. With its satirical view of Greek politics, its dark sense of humor, and its downbeat ending, the film captures the outrage about the military dictatorship that ruled Greece at the time of its making.



Z star is Jean-Louis Trintignant as the investigating magistrate (an analogue of Christos Sartzetakis, who 22 years later was appointed President of Greece by democratically elected parliamentarians). International stars Yves Montand and Irene Papas also appear, but despite their star billing they have very little screen time compared to the other principals. Jacques Perrin, who co-produced, plays a key role.

The film had a total of 3.952.913 admissions in France and was the 4th highest grossing film of the year. It was also the 10th highest grossing film of 1969 in the United States. Z is also one of the few films to be nominated for both the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and Best Picture.

Still on the list of many critic’s best movies of all time, Z is a must see for anyone who wants to understand Greece of the fifties and early sixties and the man who might have become a great leader instead of a martyr.

The story begins with the closing moments of a rather dull government lecture and slide show on agricultural policy, after which the leader of the security police of a right-wing military-dominated government (Dux) takes over the podium for an impassioned speech describing the government’s program to combat leftism, using the metaphors of “a mildew of the mind”, an infiltration of “isms”, or “sunspots”. Here you can watch the full film:


Review of the film “Z”
(…) When the movie came out, the Junta was already in place. The film was made with French money. It could not, of course, be shot in Greece, so Algeria was used as a substitute. Sharp-eyed viewers will detect Algerian faces and places, but overall the stand-in country works nicely.

The movie never mentions Greece by name, but its anonymous country is patently and transparently Greece. The uniforms are Greek, the references are Greek, the names are Greek. Among others, note the scene of Yves Montand, (The Deputy and victim-to-be) in a police office : he looks up and sees on the wall the portraits of King Paul and Queen Frederica, but with faces hidden by the reflection of lights on the glass frames.

Z was a sensation in its time and, even today, when shown to students who don’t even know the first thing about the American Civil War and the two Word Wars –not to mention modern Greece! — the film works very well as a high-pitched, easy- to -grasp, technically excellent thriller.

Z is a film of Greek inspiration, made by a Greek filmmaker, but as a French production it straddles French and Greek cinema , and is considered a part of the French repertory.


Costa-Gavras is really Constantinos Gavràs (note the accent). His father, a Greek from the USSR, has started to emigrate from Russia to the USA–but his stopover in Athens became a permanent residence.

The son, Constantinos (Costas for short) was born in Athens in 1933. The father, a small bureaucrat, was suspected of communism and harassed, even after the war, at a time when leftists could be denied such niceties as passports, driver licenses and entrance to the
university. The son suffered much of that.

Costas went to Paris at age 20 to study literature at the Sorbonne. Later he went to the main French film school, the IDHEC. He worked with major directors, made a fine murder thriller, The Sleeping Car Murders, which starred Yves Montand and his then-wife Simone Signoret.

Costa Gavras’ next work was about choice and conscience set among the French Resistance in World War II. Fame came with Z.

In the meantime the name had been fancifully and mysteriously changed by the French (and the acquiescent director) to the easy, hyphenated, Costa-Gavras.

Edwin Jahiel


The music of the film “Z”, composed by Mikis Theodorakis
Mikis Theodorakis himself was exiled in Zatouna by the junta when he wrote the permission for using his compositions Enas Omiros and Mauthausen in the film “Z”.


01 – O Andonis (Main Title)
02 – To Yelasto Pedi (Orchestra Version)
03 – La Course de Manuel (Chase) (To Yelasto Pedi)
04 – To Palikari Echi Kaimo (Farantouri)
05 – Cafe Rock
06 – Arrival of Helen (To Yelasto Pedi)
07 – Batucada
08 – To Yelasto Pedi (Bouzouki Version)
09 – Idep Otsaley Ot
10 – Pios Den Mila Yia Ti Lambri
11 – Finale (To Yelasto Pedi)


The Athens Classic Marathon
THE Marathon is of course the Athens Classic Marathon, the route run by the runner Pheidippides in 490 BC, to tell the people of Athens that the Persians, who had landed there with an enormous army that should have been able to pulverize the Athenian defenders, had been defeated. The Athens Marathon  is said to be one of the toughest, following a course that begins by the sea near the ancient battleground, climbing the base of Mount Pendeli and ending on the plains of Attika, now the center of Athens, at the old marble Stadium, built for the first modern Olympics in 1896. THE Marathon takes on even more meaning as it is dedicated to the memory of noted Greek peace activist, 1930s track star and physician and parliamentary deputy, Grigoris Lambrakis.

On November 10, 2013 the 31th marathon run will take place. You can run with thousands others. Do it. :) Or be there to support the runners.

Information and registration on the special 31st Athens Classic Marathon website.


Grigoris Lambrakis, symbol of democracy
Lambrakis remains in the hearts of the Greek people as a national symbol of democracy, representing the struggle against political repression, Royal Court scandal, and international dependence. After the fall of the military dictatorship in 1974, numerous places, including a football stadium in Kallithea and streets and squares throughout the country, have been named in honor of Grigoris Lambrakis.


New book about Grigoris Lambrakis
“Panos Trigazis has written a new book about Lambrakis, which “Spokesman Books” hopes to publish in English at a later date.


Panos is a good friend to the Russell Foundation who, over the years, has become one of its most active contributors. He was with us in the days of European Nuclear Disarmament, during the 1980s, and he is with us still. In his hands, ‘the Glorious Art of Peace’ continues to flourish, as do the links between peace movements in Greece and Britain.

Dr. Lambrakis provided the most powerful impetus for those relations by the example he gave before his untimely death.” (From: Spokesman books)


Grigoris Lambrakis on the “List of Peace Activists”
Together with many names (but still not enough) as Joan Baez, Harry Belafonte, Jimmy Carter, Albert Einstein, Jane Fonda, Mikhael Gorbatchev, Thich Nhat HanhVáclav Havel, Aldous Huxley, Pope John Paul II, Robert F. Kennedy,  Martin Luther King, John Lennon, Charles Lindbergh, Bob Marley, Thomas Merton, Paul Newman, Yoko Ono, Olof Palme, Bertrand RussellSophie Scholl, Martin Sheen, Cat Stevens, Leo TolstoyDesmond Tutu, the name Grigoris Lambrakis is shining.


Today, the present, and nuclear disarmament
The campaign for Nuclear Disarmament goes on. Still nuclear weapons are there as a threat to be used to overrule other peoples. We know the warnings from North Korea. How many countries have nuclear weapons?! Join the campaign, by at least starting to read the activities of the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation. Nuclear weapons are a threat for life in general. Thank you, Grigoris Lambrakis, for showing spirit, courage. For creating attention for the threat of nuclear weapons, for the importance of creating Peace as the only way to survive as humanity….


Lambrakis in the video: “John F. Kennedy, Dag Hammarskjold and the nuclear industry from Good Thinking.  (05:30)     




Sources and additional information                                                                                    

Updated: 5 May 2017
Updated: 23 April 2018





About "The Music of Mikis Theodorakis"

The blog "The Music of Mikis Theodorakis" started in 2010. The not-for-profit activities of the initiator were and are to collect, create and publish information about the MUSIC of the Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis via YouTube, Google+, Twitter, and this blog. Sources for this information are utterly strictly related with Mikis Theodorakis' Music only. The icon is a bouzouki. It is Greece's national symbol for freedom. During the Regime of the Colonels (Military Junta, 1967-1974) the bouzouki was forbidden. Mikis Theodorakis used this authentic Greek instrument in almost all his compositions, and Greeks were listening to Theodorakis's music in the underground scene, during the Military Junta time.
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One Response to Grigoris Lambrakis, symbol of democracy

  1. This link is a small clip from the award winning documentary: Good Thinking, Those Who’ve Tried to Halt Nuclear Weapons. (2015). There is a brief, and honorable mention of Dr. Lambrakis. Feel free to share:

    Liked by 1 person

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