Democracy Museum, Ai Stratis - Μουσείο Δημοκρατίας στον 'Aη Στράτη  
 
 
 
 
 
 
A citizen's rights should include
the right to know one's history.

Philippos Iliou

 
 
 
 
Internal exile
 
 
 
 

Internal exile of political opponents: The evolution over time of an administrative measure that restricted the citizen's constitutional rights.

Μουσείο Δημοκρατίας στον 'Aη Στράτη - Democracy Museum, Ai Stratis

Avraam Benaroya, founder of the "Federation" of Thessaloniki, which was the first mass trades union organisation.
Photographic archive of the Workers' Centre of Thessaloniki.

Μουσείο Δημοκρατίας στον 'Aη Στράτη - Democracy Museum, Ai Stratis

Workers' demonstration in Thessaloniki, in the 1910's.
Photographic archive of the Workers' Centre of Thessaloniki.

Μουσείο Δημοκρατίας στον 'Aη Στράτη - Democracy Museum, Ai Stratis

Members of the Organising Committee of the founding convention of the Socialist Workers' Party of Greece, in the headquarters of the Steamships' Engineers' League, Piraeus 1918.
Photographic archive of the Workers' Centre of Thessaloniki.

Constitution adopted by the 2nd Revisionary Assembly, 1911
Article 4:
"Personal liberty is inviolable: no one shall be persecuted, arrested, imprisoned or subjected to any other restrictions, except as and when so provided by law."

Constitution adopted by the 5th Revisionary Assembly, 1975
Article 5:
"Personal liberty is inviolable: no one shall be persecuted, arrested, imprisoned or subjected to any other restrictions, except as and when so provided by law.
Personal administrative measures restricting the freedom of movement or residence in this country or the freedom of any Greek citizen to enter and leave the country are prohibited."

Sixty-four years of recurrent political and social unrest separate these two affirmations of a fundamental liberty guaranteed by the Greek Constitution. The content of the two statements is identical, but the addition of the second paragraph in the 1975 Constitution is designed to ensure that never again will Greek citizens be deprived of the supreme constitutional right of personal liberty in any way other than that provided by law, namely as a penalty imposed by their lawful or 'natural' judge, not by a court martial or administrative committee.

In the case of most of those penalized for political reasons, sentences of internal exile were not handed down by an ordinary court of law. They were pre-emptive administrative measures imposed as the administrative authorities, the police or the military of each region saw fit.

The first politically-motivated internal deportations took place in the twentieth century. In 1914 Abraham Benaroyia and Samuel Yiona, two trade unionists from Thessaloniki who were leading members of the Socialist Labour Confederation, commonly called 'the Federation', were exiled to Naxos for about two and a half years after a militant three-week strike by tobacco workers.

Μουσείο Δημοκρατίας στον 'Aη Στράτη - Democracy Museum, Ai Stratis

Female exiles on Anafi, 1930's.
Source: Margaret E. Kenna, The Social Organisation of Exile: Greek Political Detainees in the 1930s, London 2001.

Μουσείο Δημοκρατίας στον 'Aη Στράτη - Democracy Museum, Ai Stratis

The newspaper Sosialismos was published by and expressed the views of the Socialist Workers' Party of Greece. In this issue we can follow the debate between the Party and " the Federation", the views of the latter expressed by A. Benaroya.
Photographic Archive of the Workers Center of Thessaloniki.

The first period of sentences of internal exile (1917-1935)

Internal exile as a politically-motivated administrative measure began to be used intensively in consequence of the first vertical political division of Greek society, the so-called 'National Schism' of 1915. However, the practice of administrative exile on a large scale was used chiefly against cadres of the trade union movement and socialist parties, which were then beginning to win a mass following for the first time.

On 4th July 1919 four of the leaders of the General Confederation of Workers of Greece - A. Benaroyia, A. Hadjimichalis, I. Delazanos and E. Evangelou - were arrested and deported to the island of Folegandros. This led to the first two-day nationwide politically-motivated strike (8th and 9th July 1919), called to demand the return of the four men from exile.

The "Idionymo" Law

Law 4229 of 24/25 July 1929 laid down that any act having as its object 'the overthrow of the existing social system by force or the severance of part of the country from the whole' is a 'special' (idionymo) offence. The law was clearly aimed at suppressing Communism and trade unionism, and it also made it an offence to spread Communist ideology. This law led to the first large-scale wave of internal deportations and prison sentences.

It was at this time that the first civilians were deported to Ai-Stratis and also to the uninhabited islands of Yiaros and Gavdos, where conditions were so harsh that even mere survival was problematic. Exiles were also sent to Ios, Milos, Sikinos, Sifnos, Santorini, Skyros, Amorgos, Anafi, Kimolos, Folegandros and other islands.

It is estimated that about 3,000 Greek citizens were sentenced to internal exile before Ioannis Metaxas assumed dictatorial powers on 4th August 1936. Many of them had first served terms of imprisonment on Aegina. Politicians such as Ioannis Metaxas, Ion Dragoumis, Alexandros Papanastasiou, Panayiotis Kanellopoulos, Andreas Michalakopoulos and Georgios Kafantaris were not excluded from the lists of the exiled for political reasons.

"This evening twenty-seven of the Venizelists and Communists arrested and held in preventive detention were deported to the islet of Ayios Efstratios."

Vradyni newspaper, 19th October 1935
Among those deported were the poet Kostas Varnalis and the teacher Dimitris Glinos.

From In Exile (October 1935)

"With steel cuffs our wrists were bound together and guns hemmed us in on all sides. Numb fingers, one man's right hand so tightly bound to another's left. Numb the other hand too, carrying a suitcase or bundle to take to Ai-Stratis. Lucky you, on that grim afternoon, being handcuffed to Glinos the teacher. And with us on the ship, last of all, were junkies, street-urchins, smugglers, put there on purpose to make it clear that Freedom is put on the same footing as dope."

K. Varnalis