23 May, 2005
A former long-standing head of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), Harilaos Florakis, died at home on Sunday aged 91 after suffering cardiac arrest.
Florakis was one of the first to be arrested under Greece's 1967-1974 dictatorship and interned, escaping abroad in 1972.
He fought in the civil war that came in the wake of WWII, then escaped to the former Soviet Union and Romania before illegally returning to Greece in 1954.
The KKE's honorary president, Florakis was a parliamentary deputy from 1974 until the early 1990s.
The president of the republic, Karolos Papoulias, was first to send a message of condolence.
"Harilaos Florakis lived side-by-side with history until his 91th year, treading the hardest and stoniest paths in our country with unrivalled steadfastness and faith in his ideas, honorably and valiantly, displaying a deep wisdom that welled up from his popular origins," Papoulias said.
Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis described Florakis as the KKE's historic leader and a credit to his party.
"Among the great political figures to mark the eventful second half of the 20th century, Florakis was a leader who made a personal and decisive contribution to overcoming the passions of the past and consolidating democracy and stability. This contribution has the acknowledgment and respect of History and of the public," Karamanlis said.
The honorary president of the ruling New Democracy party, Constantine Mitsotakis, a veteran on the other side of the political camp, expressed abiding esteem for Florakis as a staunch front-line fighter who suffered persecution and many years of imprisonment.
"He was the key player in the Left who contributed to a historic understanding with us, which allowed the creation of a multi-party government and national unity, marking a definitive end to the civil war," Mitsotakis said.
"I worked with him in the framework of democracy, and I felt respect and friendship towards him," he added.
The head of the main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement, George Papandreou, described Florakis as a historic communist leader, a restless seeker displaying down-to-earth wisdom. "He won the respect of both political friends and foes."
Among other public figures to send condolences were the leader of the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology, Alekos Alavanos, and parliament speaker Anna Psarouda Benaki.
The leader of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), Aleka Papariga, said in a statement: "This is one of those deaths you are expecting, it was anticipated, but it's difficult to accept as Harilaos Florakis was so closely linked to the party's history, not only because he was its secretary general for very many years, but also because throughout his life, from ordinary member to senior official, he was an inextricable part of the KKE's history.
"He was the person who in 1974 and beyond helped the party to stand on its feet after 27 years of illegality. In his person was displayed the whole character of the KKE, the party's contemporary character in the new conditions that arose after the fall of the junta."
Source: Athens News Agency