Greece, officially called the Hellenic Republic (Greek: Ελληνική Δημοκρατία), is a country in the southeast of Europe on the southern tip of the Balkan peninsula. It has land boundaries with Bulgaria, the Republic of Macedonia (F.Y.R.O.M.) and Albania to the north; and with Turkey to the east. The waters of the Aegean Sea border on Greece to the east, and those of the Ionian and Mediterranean Seas to the west and south. Regarded by many as the cradle of Western civilization and the birthplace of Democracy, Greece has a long and rich history during which its culture has proven especially influential in Europe, Asia and Africa.
| National motto: Ἐλευθερία ἤ Θάνατος|
(Greek: Liberty or Death)
|Prime Minister||Kóstas Karamanlís|
- % water
| Ranked 94th|
- Total (2004)
| Ranked 70th|
| From the Ottoman Empire|
25 March 1821
| Time zone|
- in summer
| EET (UTC+2)|
|National anthem||Hýmnos prós tén Eleutherián|
|1 Prior to 2001: Greek Drachma.|
Table of contents
The formal name of Greece in Greek is Ελλάς = Ellás /ɛˈlas/. This name is also written ‘Hellas’ in English, following polytonic/ancient conventions. Less formally, and more commonly, it is called Ελλάδα = Elládha /ɛˈlaða/. The mythical ancestor of the Greeks is the eponymous Hellen.
The name of Greece in the European languages (English: Greece, French: Grèce, Italian: Grecia, German: Griechenland, Russian: Греция, Croatian: Grčka, ...) comes from a different root, Γραικός = Graikos (via Latin Graecus) which according to Aristotle was an ancient name for the Greeks. On the other hand, the name of Greece in Middle Eastern languages (Turkish Yunanistan, Arabic يونان, Hebrew יוון, Ancient Persian Yaunâ) comes from the Greek root Ιωνία = Ionia.
Some Greeks prefer the name "Hellas" for the country and "Hellenes" for the person even in English. See Hellenes for discussion.
Main Article: History of Greece.
The shores of Greece's Aegean Sea saw the emergence of the first civilizations in Europe, namely the Minoan and Mycenaean civilisations. After these, a Dark Age followed until around 800 BC, when a new era of Greek civilization emerged. This Greece of city-states established colonies along the Mediterranean and partially resisted Persian invasions. Greek culture would later become the basis of the Hellenistic civilisation that followed the empire of Alexander the Great. For a detailed history of Ancient Greece see the relevant articles in: History of Greece.
Militarily Greece itself declined to the point that the Romans conquered the land (168 BC onwards), though Greek culture would in turn conquer Roman life. Greece became a province of the Roman Empire, but Greek culture would continue to dominate the eastern Mediterranean and when the Empire finally split in two the Eastern or Byzantine Empire, centred on Constantinople, would remain Greek in nature, as well as encompassing Greece itself. From the 4th century to the 15th century the Eastern Roman Empire survived eleven centuries of attacks from the west and east until Constantinople fell on May 29 1453 to the Ottoman Empire. Greece proper had gradually been conquered by the Ottomans during the 15th century.
When the Ottomans arrived, two Greek migrations occurred. The first migration entailed the Greek intelligentsia migrating to Western Europe and influencing the advent of the Renaissance. The second migration entailed Greeks leaving the plains of the Greek peninsula and resettling in the mountains. Being that Greece was (and still is) mostly mountainous, the Ottomans could not conquer the entire Greek peninsula since they did not create either a military or administrative presence in the mountains. There existed many Greek mountain clans all across the peninsula and islands. The Sphakiots of Crete, the Souliots (or Souli) of Epirus, and the Mani (or Maniots) of Peloponnesus were the most resilient mountain clans throughout the Ottoman Empire. By the end of the 16th century up until the 17th century, many Greeks began to migrate from the mountains to the plains. The millet system contributed to the ethnic cohesion of Orthodox Greeks by segregating the various peoples within the Ottoman Empire based on religion. The Greek Orthodox Church, an ethno-religious institution, helped the Greeks from all geographical areas of the peninsula (i.e. mountains, plains, and islands) to preserve their ethnic, cultural, linguistic, and racial heritage during the harsh years of Ottoman rule. The Greeks living in the plains during Ottoman occupation were either Christians who dealt with the burdens of foreign rule or Crypto-Christians (Greek Muslims who were secret practitioners of the Greek Orthodox faith). Many Greeks became Crypto-Christians in order to avoid heavy taxes and at the same time express their identity by maintaining their secret ties to the Greek Orthodox Church. However, Greeks who converted to Islam and were not Crypto-Christians were deemed Turks in the eyes of all Orthodox Greeks.
The Ottomans ruled Greece until the early 19th century. In 1821, the Greeks rebelled and declared their independence, but did not succeed in winning it until 1829. The elites of powerful European nations saw the war of Greek independence, with its accounts of Turkish atrocities, in a romantic light (see, for example, the 1824 painting Massacre of Chios by Eugene Delacroix). Scores of non-Greeks volunteered to fight for the cause--including, for example Lord Byron--and indeed at times the Ottomans seemed on the point of almost entirely suppressing the Greek revolution but for the threatened direct military intervention of France, England or Russia. The Russian minister for foreign affairs, Ioannis Kapodistrias, himself a Greek, returned home as President of the new Republic following Greek independence. That republic disappeared when a few years later Western powers helped turn Greece into a monarchy, the first king coming from Bavaria and the second from Denmark. During the 19th and early 20th centuries, in a series of wars with the Ottomans, Greece sought to enlarge its boundaries to include the ethnic Greek population of the Ottoman Empire, slowly growing in territory and population until it reached its present configuration in 1947. In World War I, Greece sided with the entente powers against Turkey and the other Central Powers. In the war's aftermath, the Great Powers awarded parts of Asia Minor to Greece, including the city of Smyrna (known as Izmir today) which had a large Greek population. At that time, however, the Turkish nationalists led by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, overthrew the Ottoman government, organised a military assault on the Greek troops, and defeated them. Immediately afterwards, hundreds of thousands of Turks then living in mainland Greek territory left for Turkey as an exchange with hundreds of thousands of Greeks living in Turkey.
Despite the country's numerically small and ill-equipped armed forces, Greece made a decisive contribution to the Allied efforts in World War II. At the start of the war Greece sided with the Allies and refused to give in to Italian demands. Italy invaded Greece on 28 October 1940, but Greek troops repelled the invaders after a bitter struggle. This marked the first Allied victory in the war. Hitler then reluctantly stepped in, primarily to secure his strategic southern flank: troops from Germany, Hungary, Bulgaria and Italy successfully invaded Greece, overcoming Greek, British, Australian and New Zealand units.
However, when the Germans attempted to seize Crete in a massive attack by paratroops — with the aim of reducing the threat of a counter-offensive by Allied forces in Egypt — Allied forces, along with Cretan civilians, offered fierce resistance. Although Crete eventually fell, this delayed German plans significantly, with the result that the German invasion of the Soviet Union started fatally close to winter.
During years of Nazi occupation, thousands of Greeks died in direct combat, in concentration camps or of starvation. The occupiers murdered the greater part of the Jewish community despite efforts by the Greek Orthodox Church and many Christian Greeks to shelter Jews. The economy languished. After liberation, Greece experienced an equally bitter civil war—between communists and royalists—that lasted until 1949.
In the 1950s and 1960s, Greece continued to develop slowly, initially with the help of the U.S.A Marshall programme and later with the growth of tourism. In 1967, the military seized power in a coup d'état, overthrew the social-democrat government of George Papandreou, senior and established what became known as the Régime of the Colonels, supported by the U.S.A. In 1973, the régime abolished the Greek monarchy. In 1974, dictator Papadopoulos denied help to the USA and as a result the (US/Kissinger) "appointed" a new dictator named Ioannides. Many hold Ioannides responsible for the coup against President Makarios of Cyprus — the coup seen as the pretext for the first wave of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974; see: the 1974 crisis between Greece and Turkey. The Cyprus events and the outcry following a bloody suppression of Athens Polytechnic uprising in Athens led to the implosion of the military régime. A charismatic exiled politician, Konstantinos Karamanlis, returned from Paris as interim prime minister and later gained re-election for two further terms at the head of the conservative Nea Dimokratia party. In 1975, following a referendum to confirm the deposition of King Constantine II, a democratic republican constitution came into force. Another previously exiled politician, Andreas Papandreou also returned and founded the socialist PASOK party, which won the elections in 1981 and dominated the country's political course for almost two decades.
Since the restoration of democracy, the stability and economic prosperity of Greece have grown. Greece joined the European Union in 1981 and adopted the Euro as its currency in 2001. New infrastructure, funds from the EU and growing revenues from tourism, shipping, services, light industry and the telecommunications industry have brought Greeks an unprecedented standard of living. Tensions continue to exist between Greece and Turkey over Cyprus and the delimitation of borders in the Aegean Sea but relations have considerably thawed following successive earthquakes – first in Turkey and then in Greece – and an outpouring of sympathy and generous assistance by ordinary Greeks and Turks.
The 2004 Summer Olympics took place in the country of their foundation to general satisfaction.
Main article: Politics of Greece
The 1975 constitution includes extensive specific guarantees of civil liberties and vests the powers of the head of state in an indirectly-elected president, who is advised by the Council of the Republic on an ad hoc basis. The Council of the Republic consists of the incumbent Prime Minister, the leaders of all parliamentary parties, and all former Prime Ministers that have received a parliamentary vote of confidence (see "dedilomeni" below) at least once. The Council's advice is not binding.
The prime minister and cabinet play the central role in the political process, while the president performs some governmental functions in addition to ceremonial duties. The parliament elects the president for a five-year term and can be re-elected once.
Greeks elect the 300 members of the country's unicameral parliament (the Vouli ton Ellinon) by secret ballot for a maximum of four years, but elections can occur at more frequent intervals. Greece uses a complex reinforced proportional representation electoral system which discourages splinter parties and ensures that the party which leads in the national vote will win a majority of seats. A party must receive 3% of the total national vote to gain representation.
Greek parliamentary politics hinge upon the principle of the "dedilomeni", i.e. the "declared confidence" of Parliament to the Prime Minister and his/her administration. This is achieved if Parliament approves a new administration's political platform by a majority "plus one" (i.e. 151 votes), and is renewed yearly by voting on the new budget. An administration may label any particular parliamentary vote a "vote of confidence", and conversely the opposition may designate any vote as a "vote of reproach". Both are rare occurences with usually predictable outcomes as voting outside the party line happens very seldom.
For a list of Greek political parties, see List of political parties in Greece.
Main articles: Peripheries of Greece
Beyond these one autonomous region exists: Mount Athos (Ayion Oros – Holy Mountain), a monastic state under Greek sovereignty.
The 51 nomoi subdivide into 147 eparchies (singular eparchia), which contain 1,033 municipalities: 900 urban municipalities (demoi) and 133 rural communities (koinotetes). Before 1999, Greece's local government structure featured 5,775 local authorities: 457 demoi and 5,318 koinotetes, subdivided into 12,817 localities (oikosmoi).
Main article: Geography of Greece
The country consists of a large mainland at the southern end of the Balkans; the Peloponnesus peninsula (separated from the mainland by the canal of the Isthmus of Corinth); and numerous islands, including Crete, Rhodes, Euboea and the Dodecanese and Cycladic groups of the Aegean Sea. Greece has more than 14,880 kilometres of coastline and a land boundary of 1,160 kilometres.
About 80% of Greece consists of mountains or hills. Dry and rocky conditions prevail in much of the country, with only 28% of the land classed as arable. Western Greece contains lakes and wetlands. Pindus, the central mountain range, has an average elevation of 2,650 m. Mount Olympus forms the highest point in Greece at 2,911 m above sea level.
Main article: Economy of Greece
Greece has a mixed capitalist economy with the public sector accounting for about half of GDP. Tourism has great importance, providing a large portion of GDP and foreign exchange earnings. Greece also counts as a world leader in shipping (first in terms of ownership of boats and third by flag registration) . Greece figures prominently as a major beneficiary of EU aid, equal to about 2.4% of GNP. The export of manufactured goods, including telecommunications hardware and software, foodstuffs and fuels accounts for the rest of Greek income.
The economy has improved steadily over the last few years, as the government tightened policy in the run-up to Greece's entry into the zone of the EU's single currency, the euro, on January 1, 2001. Average per capita GDP in 2003 was estimetad at $20,000 CIA World Factbook. Greece has an expanding services sector and telecommunications industry and has become one of the largest investors in her region. Moreover, Greece now operates as a net importer of labour and foreign workers (mainly from the Balkans, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Pakistan, and equatorial Africa) now account for 10% of the total population.
Major challenges remaining include the reduction of unemployment and further restructuring of the economy, including privatising several state enterprises, undertaking social security reforms, overhauling the tax system, and minimising bureaucratic inefficiencies. Forecasts predicted economic growth of 4 – 4.5 % in 2004. Reducing the government deficit also remains a major challenge, as it is currently running at nearly twice the Eurozone target (of 3% of GDP). The new conservative government claimed to Eurostat that the previous figures supplied, which were the basis of Greek entry into the Eurozone, were incorrect.
Main article: Demographics of Greece
According to the 2001 census, Greece had a population of 10,964,020. Of those, 58.8% lived in urban areas, whereas only 28.4% lived in rural areas. The population of the two largest cities in Greece, Athens and Thessaloniki, reached almost 4 million. Although the population of Greece continues to grow, Greece faces a serious demographic problem: for the first time in 2002 the number of deaths surpassed the number of births.
A large number of immigrants live in Greece today, estimated at over one million. About 65% have come from Albania, and large-scale Albanian migration to Greece since the fall of Communism in Albania has become a source of conflict in Greece because the Greek-Albanian borders opened without any preparations from the Greek government in terms of immigrant facilities. A minority of Albanians are regulalry implicated in highly publicised criminal activities and, as a result, all Albanians are often stigmatised. The Albanians also occasionally suffer from discrimination and exploitation in Greece. Nonetheless most Greeks nowadays recognize their contribution to the Greek economy. Several prominent Greek sportsmen immigrated to Greece as ethnic Greeks from Albania or Georgia in the 1990s. Smaller numbers of immigrants came from Bulgaria, Serbia, Romania, Pakistan, Ukraine, Belarus, Poland, Egypt, Palestine, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, China and Georgia, Russia. The exact number remains unknown, since the majority live illegally in Greece. As a result of the illegal immigrants residing in Greece, Greek xenophobia/racism has risen significantly. Currently, right-wing nationalist political forces call for the expulsion of all illegal immigrants and the strengthening of Greek borders.
Greece has traditionally had various, if not numerous, linguistic and cultural minorities. A non-comprehensive list of these would include Bulgarians, various Roma groups, Turkish-speakers, Slavs, Vlachs (Aromanians and Megleno-Romanians) and Arvanites. Numerous religious minorities exist: Muslims form the largest such minority.
Due to the role of the Orthodox Church in maintaining Greek ethnic and cultural identity during the 400 years of Ottoman rule, most Greeks, even those who are not religious, revere and respect their Church and feel their faith as a national religion.
Reflecting this, the Greek Constitution on the one hand guarantees absolute freedom of religion while, on the other hand, it defines the "prevailing religion" of Greece as the Eastern Orthodox Church of Christ. In practice, the Orthodox Church as well as the secular state approve jointly any activities related to the building of temples; priests receive state salaries; and the President of the Republic takes an oath on the Bible.
The majority of Greeks (95 to 98%) have at least nominal membership of the Eastern Orthodox Church, although religious observance has declined in recent years. Greek Muslims make up about 1.3% of the population, and live mainly in Thrace. Greece has some Roman Catholics: mainly in the Cyclades islands of Syros, Paros and Naxos; some Protestants and some Jews, mainly in Thessaloniki. Some groups in Greece have started an attempt to reconstruct Hellênismos, the old Greek pagan religion. See also: Greek Orthodox Church.
One small part of Greece, Mount Athos, is required by the constitution to be governed theocratically as a monastic republic.
Main article: Culture of Greece
Since the dawn of her history and until today Greece has produced a number of contributors to philosophy, astronomy, science and the arts. For a list of famous Greek women and men see List of Greeks.
- Education in Greece
- List of Greek dances
- Greek National Holidays
- Tourism in Greece
- List of museums in Greece
| || || |
- History of Greece
- Communications in Greece
- Transportation in Greece
- Foreign relations of Greece
- Military of Greece
- Postage stamps and postal history of Greece
- Conscription in Greece
Sport in Greece
| || || |
- Greece.com everything about Greece in Greece.com
- Greece Index hand-selected webpages about Greece
- Greece Athens travel guide
- HR-Net (Hellenic Resources Network) — a comprehensive, non-commercial web site covering Greek news, radio links, Greek language instruction and an enormous categorized list of sites related to Greece.
- Greece travel guide Greece for travellers
- The Land of Gods and Goddesses Greece Guide
- Ask for Greece A volunteer community for Q&As about Greece
- Greece Museums Museum directory for Greece
- Greece Webcam
- Radio Greece live
- Travelling Greece and the Greek Islands
- Guide for Greece
- Pictures and photos of Greece from a backpacker's trip
- Open Directory Project: Greece
- Ministry of the Interior, Public Administration and Decentralisation
- Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs
- Ministry of Foreign Affairs
- Ministry of Development
- Ministry of Public Order
- Ministry of Mercantile Marine
- Ministry of the Aegean and insular policy
- Ministry of Justice
- Ministry of Culture
- online resource center with extensive information about the culture of Greece, its history, archaeological sites, etc.
- Ministry of Agriculture
- Ministry of Employment and Social Protection
- Ministry of National Defence
- Ministry of National Economy and Economics
- Ministry of Health and Welfare
- Ministry of Transportation and Communications
- Ministry of Macedonia and Thrace
Other official sites
- President of the Hellenic Republic
- Greece Now Government sponsored e-zine on Greek life
- Official site of the Prime Minister of Greece
- Hellenic Parliament Official parliamentary site
Austria | Belgium | Cyprus | Czech Republic | Denmark | Estonia | Finland | France | Germany | Greece | Hungary | Ireland | Italy | Latvia | Lithuania | Luxembourg | Malta | The Netherlands | Poland | Portugal | Slovakia | Slovenia | Spain | Sweden | United Kingdom
|North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO)|
|Belgium | Bulgaria | Canada | Czech Republic | Denmark | Estonia | France | Germany | Greece | Hungary | Iceland | Italy | Latvia | Lithuania | Luxembourg | The Netherlands | Norway | Poland | Portugal | Romania | Slovakia | Slovenia | Spain | Turkey | United Kingdom | United States of America|
|Countries in Europe|
|Albania | Andorra | Austria | Azerbaijan1 | Belarus | Belgium | Bosnia and Herzegovina | Bulgaria | Croatia | Cyprus2 | Czech Republic | Denmark | Estonia | Finland | France | Germany | Greece | Hungary | Iceland | Ireland | Italy | Latvia | Liechtenstein | Lithuania | Luxembourg | Republic of Macedonia | Malta | Moldova | Monaco | The Netherlands | Norway | Poland | Portugal | Romania | Russia1 | San Marino | Serbia and Montenegro | Slovakia | Slovenia | Spain | Sweden | Switzerland | Turkey1 | Ukraine | United Kingdom | Vatican City (Holy See)|
|Dependencies: Akrotiri and Dhekelia2 | Faroe Islands | Gibraltar | Guernsey | Jan Mayen | Jersey | Isle of Man | Svalbard|
|1. Country partly in Asia. 2. Usually assigned to Asia geographically, but nonetheless often thought of as European for cultural and historical reasons.|