Constantinos Karamanlis was born in 1907 in the village of Proti,
in Serres, Macedonia, which was then under Turkish rule. His father,
a primary- school teacher, had played an active role in the national
struggle of Macedonia. Karamanlis studied law at Athens University
and after graduating, practiced law in the town of Serres from 1930.
He was elected Member of Parliament for the first time in 1935, representing
Serres for the Popular Party. In total, he was elected to the Greek
Parliament twelve times in his political career for the Popular Party,
Greek Rally, the National Radical Union and the New Democracy Party,
successively. The latter two parties were founded by him in 1956 and
1974 respectively. Between 1946 and 1955 he served as Minister of
Labour, Transport, Social Welfare, National Defence and finally Public
In October 1955 he succeeded Alexander Papagos as Prime Minister and
held office, winning three elections, until June 1963 when he submitted
his resignation because of a dispute with King Paul. He then went
into self- imposed exile abroad, remaining there for eleven years,
occasionally expressing his views on the need for the restoration
of democratic institutions. He returned to Greece when the military
dictatorship collapsed on the night of 24 July 1974 and formed, under
his leadership, the National Unity Government. This dealt effectively
both with the need for the immediate restoration of a democratic system
of government and with the national crisis caused by the Turkish invasion
of Cyprus. He went on to win two successive elections in 1974 and
in 1977, remaining in power until his resignation from active politics
Constantinos Karamanlis was twice elected President of the Republic,
on 5 May 1980 and on 4 May 1990.
In 1995 he retired from public affairs, having completed 60 years
in politics. During this time he served eight years as a Minister,
fourteen as Prime Minister and ten as President of the Republic. Between
1955 and 1963 he laid the foundations for the economic reconstruction
of the country. During his years as Prime Minister, between 1974 and
1980, he firmly established a workable system of constitutional democracy
and ensured the country's accession into the European Economic Community.
As President of the Republic, Karamanlis consolidated the democratic
regime, contributed to the strengthening of national unity and raised
the country's international prestige.
He received many European awards, the Charlemagne in 1978 and the
Schumann in 1980, the gold medal of the European Parliament in 1983
and the highest medal of the University of Paris in 1983 for his commitment
to the idea of a united Europe and his tireless efforts to ensure
Greece's accession into this union. He was also awarded the gold medal
of the Onassis Foundation in 1983 for his contribution to the restoration
of democracy, his success in integrating Greece into the European
Economic Community, his vision for the rebirth of the olympic idea
and his efforts to consolidate peace in the Balkans.
Constantinos Karamanlis died on 23 April 1998.