George Rallis

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George Rallis (Greek form Giorgos or Georgios Rallis) (born December 26 1918; died March 15, 2006), Greek politician, was Prime Minister of Greece from 1980 to 1981.

Rallis was born in Athens and studied law and political sciences at the University of Athens. He graduated in 1939 and the year after that saw action in World War II in the Albanian front. He also fought in the Greek Civil War between 1946 and 1949.

Rallis is descended from an old Greek political family. Before Greek independence, Alexander Rallis was a prominent Phanariote (Greek from Constantinople). In 1849 his son George Rallis became Chief Justice of the Greek Supreme Court.

Dimitrios Rallis (1844-1921), grandfather of the current George Rallis, was five times Prime Minister of Greece, for short periods in 1897, 1903, 1905, 1909 and 1921. His son, Ioannis Rallis (1878-1946), was Prime Minister from 1943 to 1944, during the German occupation. After the liberation of Greece he was sentenced to life imprisonment for collaboration and died in jail in 1946.

On his mother's side Rallis was related to another political family: the Theotokis. His mother's brother was Ioannis Theotokis and her father was Georgios Theotokis both of whom served as Prime Ministers of Greece.

George Rallis was first elected to the Greek Parliament as a member of the People's Party in 1950, and was first appointed a minister in 1954 in the government of Alexander Papagos. He joined Constantine Karamanlis when he formed the National Radical Union and was a minister in the Karamanlis administrations until 1963.

After the military coup of 1967 Rallis was arrested and sent into exile on the island of Kasos when he said that democracy should be restored. He was later allowed to leave the country and stayed in exile until the restoration of democracy in 1974.

In 1974 Rallis returned to Greece and became Education Minister. He oversaw the educational reform, the institution of the Dhimotiki as formal language in schools, and the reform of the school curricula. He then became Foreign Minister, became the first Greek Foreign Minister to visit the Soviet Union, worked to restore relations with Bulgaria and Yugoslavia and negotiated Greece's accession to the EEC.

When Karamanlis retired in 1980, Rallis was elected leader of New Democracy and succeeded Karamanlis as Prime Minister. Under his leadership Greece rejoined the military wing of NATO. The following year, however, he was defeated at elections by Andreas Papandreou's PASOK party, and resigned as party leader. Later he had disagreements with his successor as leader, Constantine Mitsotakis, and sat for a time as an independent MP.

Although Rallis became Prime Minister at a time when the fortunes of his party were in decline, he remained a popular figure because of his well-liked personal attributes of mildness, modesty and straightforwardness.

Rallis died of a heart attack on March 15, 2006.

Preceded by:
Constantine Karamanlis
Prime Minister of Greece
Succeeded by:
Andreas Papandreou