Ancestors in politics
Rallis was descended from an old 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), paternal grandfather of George Rallis, was five times Prime Minister of Greece, for short periods in 1897, 1903, 1905, 1909 and 1921. His son, Ioannis Rallis or John Rallis (1878–1946), was collaborationist 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. His maternal grandfather, Georgios Theotokis, was four times Prime Minister of Greece, between 1901 and 1907.
George Rallis was born in the prestigious Kolonaki district of Athens, after schooling he studied law and political sciences at the University of Athens. Shortly after graduating he joined the fight against fascist Italy after the invasion on 28 October 1940. He had the rank of the junior lieutenant. During the retreat (April 1941) he had to shoot his own horse, because it was injured and stuck in the mud. He remembered with sorrow this incident in a TV interview during the 1990s.
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 Demotic Greek as the formal language in schools, and the reform of the school curricula. He became Foreign Minister in 1978, 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 the New Democracy party and succeeded Karamanlis as Prime Minister. During his tenure 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. He retired shortly thereafter. During his retirement, Rallis established and cultivated organically-farmed vineyards and olive groves at his family estate on Corfu.
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. A wealthy patrician by birth, he always made a point of living modestly, walking to work (even as a Prime Minister, much to the frustration of his security detail), and taking the time to greet and talk with those he met on the street. He died of heart failure at his home on 15 March 2006. He is survived by his wife, Lena Rallis (née Voultsou) and their two daughters, Zaira Papaligouras and Joanna Farmakidis.
Medieval Greece / Byzantine Empire
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