End of the Papandreou era Death of a leader: American economist turned Greek nationalist and leftist.

June 26, 1996

ANDREAS PAPANDREOU, who died Sunday at 77, was a Greek who became a proud American and then used anti-Americanism to become a symbol of Greek nationalism. He was a scholar who appealed to vulgar emotion, a man of the left who built no real institution but personal rule, who soared on demagogic rhetoric but acted cautiously.

As a young man in the time of the fascists and as his politician-father's chief adviser in the time of the colonels, Mr. Papandreou was jailed and tortured for his beliefs. At the end he believed in little beside the indispensability of Andreas Papandreou. Many Greek people never forgave him for throwing over his longtime American second wife and mother of his children for an airline hostess whom he then married and imposed as a political power and controller of access to himself.

Even as Dimitra Liani, the third Mrs. Papandreou, recedes from public view to the pink villa he built for her, his political heirs Costas Simitis and Akis Tsohatzopoulos fight for control of the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOC), the party he founded in 1974, rode to power in 1981 and led until his death. When he lay hospitalized last January, PASOC replaced him as prime minister with Mr. Simitis.

Greek resentment of U.S. closeness to Turkey, support for Serbia's revanchist nationalism, anti-European rhetoric while using European Union funds to reward followers, and personal chieftaincy all remain potent forces in Greek political life for others to try to use as skillfully as he. In this country, Mr. Papandreou may be remembered as a sailor in World War II or as a vigorous chairman of the University of California at Berkeley economics department until 1963.

All in all, Mr. Papandreou was a remarkable man who might have made Greece a better place, but did not. It would be one thing had he deserved credit for restoring its democracy twice, but it is something else that he made the most of that restoration wrought by others. Whether he served Greece well or not, Greece served him well.

Pub Date: 6/26/96

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