Tsironis, Vasilis (1929-1978), the rebel assassinated doctor

Tsironis talking to the crowds from his barricaded apartment

A biography of doctor Tsironis, the radical maverick killed in his apartment in 1978 by the greek special forces after declaring it "an independent state".

Submitted by taxikipali on May 21, 2010

Vasilis Tsironis was born in Athens on the 15th of August 1929 to a family of Asia Minor refugees who had fled the coast of Turkey after Greece's defeat in the 1922 war. At the heart of the Civil War, Tsironis entered the Medical School of Athens in 1947, despite his family's wish to become a military officer. In 1958 the Greek Red Cross appointed him a doctor of communist exiles in the notorious internal exile camp of Agios Stratis. Disobeying orders by his superiors to neglect the exiled, he openly worked for the well being and health of the prisoners in the camp, while publicly denouncing the government for "intentional homicides" and the Greek Red Cross for "collaborationism and subordination", by leaking to the foreign press confidential documents and top secret guidelines of the Ministry of Security, proving his allegations.

The exposure of the conditions in Agios Stratis made him a subject of vilification by the government and the Palace. In 1962, during the short period of liberalisation, doctor Tsironis founded the "Party of Independents" which was however not allowed to function by the draconian political regime of the time. During the government of George Papandreou the First, he performed a 50 day long hunger strike demanding the immediate return of left-wing exiles to the East Block.

The arrival of the colonels' junta in April 1967 and the anti-left purges that ensued made Tsironis' life particularly difficult. The junta immediately arrested him, and when in mid August 1969 he managed to get a few days of leave from the prisons of the regime, the 40 year old aged doctor took advantage of the chaotic tourist season, boarded an Olympic Airways DC-3 airliner for the Greek city of Agrinio with his family. With the help of two guns and two knives the family high-jacked the plane forcing its pilot to land in Albania. The Albania authorities initially arrested Tsironis believing he was a spy, but then organised a banquet for the family, the crew and the passengers in what the pilot later described as a cinematographic feast. Faced with the Stalinist regime in Albania, however, the Tsironis family soon opted to seek refuge in Sweden the destination of hundreds of political refugees at the time, where, according to obituaries published after his death, the Swedish authorities imprisoned the doctor until the end of the junta.

Tsironis returned to Greece in 1974 after the civilian handover of power, where he founded O.E.M, the Neutral-gendered Front of Greece (NB: not Greek [elliniko] but of Greece [elladiko], a geographical rather than national adjective). Through its ranks he performed a series of scandals like shooting against a giant photograph of the PM Konstantinos Karamanlis hanging in the main market of Athens. At the same time Tsironis authored and published the "Little Blue Book" which was widely distributed and read at the time. Seen as the manifesto of OEM, the book (very rare today) was an ambiguous combination of self-satirical revolutionary analysis and agitation, the first and only specimen of what one might call radical postmodernism in Greece.

In the first free elections of 1977 Tsironis and the OEM campaigned for a white ballot rejection of all parties, attracting 251,000 voters in Athens' periphery alone, a substantial percentage of the electorate. This led the police to attempt to arrest him at the entrance of his house on 35 Areos street in Paleo Faliro. Tsironis escaped the arrest and locked himself in his apartment. Under the orders of the Ministry of Public Order, snipers and special forces surrounded the building the apartment on the 30 of November 1977 after the doctor had opened fire against a police car that came to arrest him. On the 5th of February 1978, after more than two months siege Tsironis declared his apartment "an independent state" and set up megaphones on his balcony from which he gave long "war communiques" against the "fascist state" day after day from 7 to 8 to the large crowds which would gather to listen to him. Several times snipers opened fire on the megaphones in order to silence him, but the doctor continued to incite the people to insurrection.

The reaction of the bourgeois media to the situation was blood-thirsty. Vima, the leading newspaper of the Lambrakis Trust (DOL) featured a front page on July 7 1978 asking in big letters "Does the state exist?" and arguing that Tsironis' "autonomous state" is "subversive of the very notion of the state". Tsironis had been a long enemy of the largest printing trust of Greece, having pointed out by means of a series of documents how the alleged anti-dictatorship stance of its owner Christos Lambrakis was nothing more than a veil of collaborationism. According to the article of Leonidas Christakis (on which this biography is mainly based), the campaign of Tsironis against the DOL included arson attacks against offices of the trust.

The leading unsigned editorial of Vima concluded: "When will someone decide at last to protect the dignity and status of the State? Because the Tsironis case underlines the non-existence of the State". It was no less than the the Minister of Public Order, Dimitris Balkos, who took the pain to respond to the article in the following day promising a resolution of the situation.

Having formulated the discursive ground, on the 4th of July 1978 28 commandos of the "Special Operations Brigade" stormed the apartment with the help of tear gas, while the Chief of Police Mr Lemonis had given orders for the isolation of the area from journalists. At the end of the operation, doctor Tsironis lay dead. The official claim of the police was that the doctor committed suicide, but his wife, who stayed with him barricaded in the last unassailed room of the house, claimed in public that "the fascists killed Tsironis in his home". The forensics doctor failed to testify that the death was a result of suicide.

The next day G. Scandalis and D. Nikoloulis were arrested as members of O.E.M. Scandalis was an anti-dictatorship struggler brutally tortured by the ESA (military police), whose torturers were all excepted from trial. It is worth noting here the continuing efforts of DOL to soil the memory of Tsironis: in 2002 Vima, the newspaper leading the efforts for the assassination of Tsironis in 1978, true to its fascist principles alleged that Scandalis (who died in a car accident in 1994) was a member of the N17 armed organisation. In 2008 in yet another effort against the radical movement, the other newspaper of DOL, ta Nea, alleged that a few days before his "suicide" Tsironis had abducted a 14 year old girl after luring her into his apartment. The newspaper received a letter in response by the "abducted girl", Anastasia Pavlou, clarifying that she had gone voluntarily into the apartment and not been in any way "abducted" by Tsironis.

Two days after the assassination of Tsironis, on the 13 of July, around 1,000 anarchists and extreme-leftists attended his funeral chanting slogans against state violence and against journalists who they targeted as morally responsible for the assassination. The same day the government of Nea Dimokratia declared that "with his anti-statist and anti-social bahaviour he was a constant threat and constant danger to innocent citizens. Citizens of every party and newspapers of all political colors were demanding that the authorities put an end to the dangerous activity of Tsironis".