Hellenic Republic
Ελληνική Δημοκρατία
Elliniki Dimokratia
(National Flag)
Motto: Eleftheria i Thanatos, (Greek: "Ελευθερία ή Θάνατος",

"Freedom or Death") (traditional)

Anthem: "Ὕμνος εἰς τὴν Ἐλευθερίαν"
Ýmnos is tin Eleftherían
"Hymn to Liberty"1

(and largest city)
37°58′N 23°43′E
Official language(s) Greek
Ethnic groups  94% Greek,
4% Albanian,
2% others[1][2][3][4][5]
Demonym Greek (Officially: Hellenic)
Government Unitary parliamentary republic
 -  President Károlos Papoúlias
 -  Prime Minister Antonis Samaras
Legislature Parliament
Independence from the Ottoman Empire
 -  Declared 1 January 1822, at the First National Assembly 
 -  Recognized 3 February 1830, in the London Protocol 
 -  Current constitution 11 June 1975,
Third Hellenic Republic 
 -  Total 131,990 km2 (96th)
50,944 sq mi 
 -  Water (%) 0.8669
 -  2010 estimate 11,305,118[6] (74th)
 -  2011 (preliminary data) census 10,787,690[7] 
 -  Density 85.3/km2 (88th)
221.0/sq mi
2011 estimate
 -  Total $294.339 billion[8] 
 -  Per capita $26,293[8] 
GDP (nominal) 2011 estimate
 -  Total $303.065 billion[8] 
 -  Per capita $27,073[8] 
Gini (2005) 33[9] 
HDI (2011) increase 0.861 (very high) (29th)
Currency Euro (€)2 (EUR)
Time zone EET (UTC+2)
 -  Summer (DST) EEST (UTC+3)
Date formats dd/mm/yyyy
Drives on the right
ISO 3166 code GR
Internet TLD .gr3
Calling code 30
1 Also the national anthem of Cyprus.
2 Before 2002, the Greek drachma.
3 The .eu domain is also used, as in other European Union member states.

Greece, formally 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 Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and Albania to the north; and with Turkey to the east. The waters of the Aegean Sea border Greece to the east, and those of the Ionian and Mediterranean Sea 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.


Main article: Names of the Greeks

The historical name of Greece in Greek is Ἑλλάς Ellás /ɛˈlas/. This name is also written Hellas in English. More commonly, it is called Ελλάδα Elládha /ɛˈlaða/ in modern Greek. The mythical ancestor of the Greeks is the eponymous Hellen.

The name of Greece in the European languages (English: Greece, French: Grèce, Portuguese: Grécia, Spanish and Italian: Grecia, German: Griechenland, Russian: Греция, etc.) comes from a different root: Γραικός Graikós (via Latin Graecus) which according to Aristotle was an ancient name for the Greeks. On the other hand, the name of Greece in some Middle Eastern and Eastern languages (Turkish: Yunanistan, Arabic: يونان, Hebrew: יוון, ancient Persian: Yaunâ, Indian Pali: Yona, Malay and Indonesian: Yunani) derives from the Greek toponym Ἰωνία Iōnía. Norwegian is one of the few languages apart from Greek in which the name Hellas predominates.

Some Greeks prefer the name Hellas for the country and Hellenes for the people even in English.


The Acropolis in the Greek capital, Athens.

Main Article: History of Greece.

Prehistory and Antiquity

The shores of Greece's Aegean Sea saw the emergence of the first civilizations in Europe, namely the Minoan and Mycenaean civilizations. 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 civilization that followed the empire of Alexander the Great. For a detailed history of Ancient Greece see the relevant articles in: History of Greece.

Roman Rule and Middle Ages

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. When the Empire finally split in two the Eastern or Byzantine Empire, centered on Constantinople, remained 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 was gradually conquered by the Ottomans during the 15th century.

Ottoman Rule

When the Ottomans arrived, two Greek migrations occurred. The first migration saw the Greek intelligentsia migrate to Western Europe and influence the advent of the Renaissance. The second migration of Greeks left the plains of the Greek peninsula and resettled in the mountains. As a result, the Ottomans could not conquer the entire Greek peninsula since they did not create either a military or administrative presence in these mountainous regions. 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 back 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 who remained on 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, while still secretly maintaining their identity and ties to the Greek Orthodox Church. Greeks who converted to Islam and were not Crypto-Christians were deemed Turks in the eyes of Orthodox Greeks.

Creation of the Modern Greek State

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 people like Lord Byron. At times the Ottomans seemed on the verge of entirely suppressing the Greek revolution but were threatened by the direct military intervention of France, England or Russia. The Russian minister of 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. Greece slowly grew 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 Atatürk, 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 in exchange for the hundreds of thousands of Greeks living in Turkey.

Despite the country's numerically small and ill-equipped armed forces, Greece made an important 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 (see Greco-Italian_War). 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.

To reduce the threat of a counter-offensive by Allied forces in Egypt the Germans attempted to seize Crete in a massive attack by paratroops. Allied forces, along with Cretan civilians, however, 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 the 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 with grants and loans through the U.S.A Marshall Plan, and later through growth, notably in the tourism sector. In 1967, the Greek military seized power in a coup d'état and overthrew the right-wing government of Panayiotis Kanellopoulos which had been preparing a general election set for May 28. The military established what became known as the Régime of the Colonels. In 1973, the régime abolished the Greek monarchy. But later in the same year dictator Papadopoulos was himself removed from power in a second coup. Colonel Ioannides was recognised as leader of the second coup but preferred to take second place. A new president, Gizikis, and a new Prime Minister, Androutsopoulos, were appointed.

Ioannides organised a military coup against President Makarios of Cyprus, which was considered a pretext for the first Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974 and the resulting crisis between Greece and Turkey. The Cyprus events and the outcry following the bloody suppression of Athens Polytechnic uprising led to the implosion of the military régime. A charismatic exiled politician, Konstantinos Karamanlis, who had also been premier between 1955 and 1963, 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, which he founded. 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 birth to widespread praise and 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", 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 occurrences 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.

Local government

Main article: Peripheries of Greece

The Meteora region in Central Greece

Map of Greece

Greece consists of 13 administrative regions known as peripheries, which subdivide further into the 51 prefectures (nomoi, singular - nomos):

Beyond these one autonomous region exists: Mount Athos (Agio 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 (koinotites). Before 1999, Greece's local government structure featured 5,775 local authorities: 457 demoi and 5,318 koinotites, subdivided into 12,817 localities (oikoismoi).


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 (around 3,000), including Crete, Rhodes, Euboea and the Dodecanese and Cycladic groups of the Aegean Sea as well as the Ionian sea islands. Greece has more than 15,000 kilometres of coastline and a land boundary of 1,160 kilometres.

About 80% of Greece consists of mountains or hills, thus making Greece one of the most montainous countries of Europe. Western Greece contains lakes and wetlands. Pindus, the central mountain range, has a maximum elevation of 2,636 m. The Pindus can be considered as a prolongation of the Dinaric Alps. The range continues by means of the Peloponnese, the islands of Kythera and Antikythera to find its final point in the island of Crete. (Actually the islands of the Aegean are peaks of underwater mountains that once consisted an extension of the mainland).

The Central and Western Greece area contains high, steep peaks dissected by many canyons and other karstic landscapes, including the Meteora and the Vikos gorge the later being the second largest one on earth after the Grand Canyon in the US.

Mount Olympus forms the highest point in Greece at 2,925 m above sea level. Also northern Greece presents another high range, the Rhodope, located in Eastern Macedonia and Thrace; this area is covered with vast and thick century old forests like the famous Dadia.

Plains are mainly found in Eastern Thessaly, Central Macedonia and Thrace.

Greece's climate is divided into three well defined classes the Mediterranean, Alpine and Temperate, the first one features mild, wet winters and hot, dry summers. Temperatures rarely reach extremes, although snowfalls do occur occasionally even in Athens, Cyclades or Crete during the winter. Alpine is found primarily in Western Greece (Epirus, Central Greece, Thessaly, Western Macedonia as well as central parts of Peloponessus like Achaea, Arkadia and parts of Lakonia where the Alpine range pass by). Finally the temperate climate is found in Central and Eastern Macedonia as well as in Thrace at places like Komotini, Xanthi and northern Evros; with cold, damp winters and hot, dry summers. It's worth to mention that Athens is located in a transition area between the Mediterranean and Alpine climate, thus finding that in its southern suburbs weather is of Mediterranean type while in the Northern suburbs of the Alpine type.

About 50% of Greek land is covered by forests with a rich varied vegetation which spans from Alpine coniferous to mediterranean type vegetation.

Seals, sea turtles and other rare marine life live in the seas around Greece, while Greece's forests provide a home to Western Europe's last brown bears and lynx as well as other species like Wolf, Roe Deer, Wild Goat, Fox and Wild Boar among others.


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 vessels and third by flag registration) [2]. Greece figures prominently as a major beneficiary of EU aid, equal to about 2.4% of its GNP. The export of manufactured goods, including telecommunications hardware and software, foodstuffs, and fuels accounts for a large part of the rest of Greek income.

The economy has improved steadily over the last few years, as the government tightened fiscal policy in the run-up to Greece's entry into the Eurozone on January 1, 2001. Average per capita income in 2004 was estimated at $22,000 [3]. Greece has an expanding services sector and telecommunications industry and has become one of the largest investors in the immediate region. Moreover, Greece now operates as a net importer of labour and foreign workers (mainly from Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Pakistan, and Africa). People from these areas now account for 10% of the total population.

Part of the economy relies on tourism

Major challenges faced by the country include the reduction of unemployment, privatising of several state enterprises, 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 issue, as it is currently running at nearly twice the Eurozone target of 3% of GDP. The new conservative government revealed to Eurostat that the previous figures supplied, which were the basis of Greek entry into the Eurozone, were incorrect. Under a negotiated agreement, the EU gave Greece two years (budgets of 2005 and 2006) to bring the economy in line with the criteria of the European stability pact.

The Bank of Greece, now a subsidiary of the European Central Bank, functions as the nation's central bank. This bank is not the same as the "National Bank of Greece", a commercial bank.


Main article: Demographics of Greece

According to a January 2003 study, Greece had a population of 11,000,000(stable non immigrant). 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 5 million in Athens while in Thessaloniki it was slightly over the 1 million. Although the overall population continues to grow, Greece may be facing a serious demographic problem. In 2002 the number of deaths surpassed the number of births for the first time in Greece's modern history.

Over one million immigrants live in Greece today, of which 65% have come from Albania. Large-scale Albanian migration to Greece since the fall of Communism in Albania has become a source of controversy in Greece, exacerbated by the lack of a coherent government policy on immigration. A minority of Albanians are regularly implicated in highly publicised criminal activities and, as a result, Albanians in general are often stigmatised and can face discrimination and exploitation in Greece. Nonetheless, most Greeks nowadays recognise their contribution to the Greek economy. Several prominent Greek sportsmen immigrated to Greece as ethnic Greeks from Albania and Georgia in the 1990s, including legendary weightlifters Pyrros Dimas and Kakhi Kakhiashvili. Smaller numbers of immigrants came from Bulgaria, Serbia, Romania. The exact number remains unknown, since the majority live illegally in Greece.

Greece has traditionally had various, if not numerous, linguistic and cultural minorities. A non-comprehensive list of these would include Pomaks, various Roma groups, Turkic-speakers. A number of religious minorities exist, with Muslims forming the largest group.


Prior to Ottoman rule, Greece was part of the Greek-speaking Byzantine Empire. The civil and religious capital of the Empire was moved to Constantinople (modern day Istanbul) by Constantine I. Since Constantine’s time the Orthodox Christian faith has flourished and spread throughout Eastern Europe. Even under Turkish rule and repeated attempts at being proselytised firstly by the Jesuits and then by the Protestants, Orthodox Christianity survived and flourished.

The role of the Orthodox Church in maintaining Greek ethnic and cultural identity during the 400 years of Ottoman rule, has strengthened the bond between religion and government. Most Greeks, even many non-practicing Christians, revere and respect the Orthodox Christian faith, attend Church and Major Feast days, and are emotionally attached to Orthodox Christianity as their 'national' religion.

The Greek Constitution reflects this relationship by guaranteeing absolute freedom of religion while still defining the "prevailing religion" of Greece as the Eastern Orthodox Church of Christ. In practice, the Orthodox Church and the secular state are intimately involved with one another. Joint approval is needed for the building of churches and the Church has even blocked the building of places of worship for other religions in Athens. Priests receive state salaries. The President of the Republic takes an oath on the Bible and Orthodox Christianity is given privileged place in religious studies in primary education. The Church has also been allowed to keep its large portfolio of financial assets exempt from taxation and fiscal auditing.

Starting in January 2005, a series of highly publicised corruption scandals involving high rank church officials have led to many calls by secular Greeks for the complete separation of Church and State and greater control of Church assets.

The majority of Greeks (95-98%) have at least nominal membership in the Eastern Orthodox Church, although religious observance has declined in recent years. Greek Muslims make up about 1.3% of the population, and live primarily in Thrace. Greece also has some Roman Catholics, mainly in the city of Patras and the Cyclades islands of Syros, Paros and Naxos; some Protestants and some Jews, mainly in Thessaloniki (which was once a major Jewish city until the Holocaust). Some groups in Greece have started an attempt to reconstruct Hellenismos, the ancient Greek pagan religion. See also: Greek Orthodox Church.

One small part of Greece, Mount Athos, is recognised by the Greek constitution as an autonomous monastic republic, although foreign relations, however, remain the prerogative of the Greek state.

Spiritually, Mount Athos is under the Patriarchate of Constantinople and is therefore in communion with all the monasteries on Mount Athos and with the Orthodox Church based in various countries. One monastery has recently broken away and has formed a completely independent schism on the Holy Mountain -- Esphygmenou Monastery. Esphygmenou is composed of 117 Zealot monks who stubbornly oppose the head of the Church and do not commemorate him any more. They believe that they are the last remaining true Christians in the world and that Orthodoxy has been corrupted by having dialogue with other faiths. They also object to the lifting of the anathemas against the Roman Catholic Church in the 1960's by Patriarch Athenagoras.


Main article: Culture of Greece

Greece has produced a vast number of contributors to philosophy, astronomy, science, and the arts. For a list of famous Greek men and women, see List of Greeks.

See also:

Education in Greece
List of Greek dances
Greek National Holidays
List of museums in Greece

Miscellaneous topics

History of Greece

Communications in Greece
List of Greek language television channels
List of radio stations in Greece
Rio-Antirio bridge
Foreign relations of Greece
Military of Greece
Conscription in Greece
Plateia Syntagmatos and Vouli ton Ellinon
Cuisine of Greece

Sport in Greece

Summer Olympics of 1896, 1906 & 2004

Greece national football team (Euro 2004 Cup Winners)

Greece national basketball team (Eurobasket 2005 Cup Winners)

The Greek government built a world class sport infrastructure specifically for the 2004 Summer Olympics which is generally regarded as a legacyto the country. However, some concerns were voiced by the Greek public regarding the post-olympic useof this infrastructure in the near future.

Greece hosted the 2004 Summer Olympics

The Olympic Torch in Parga, Epirus

Unlike other western European countries, basketball has become a popular sport in Greece. This is largely the result of the victory achieved by the Greek national basketball team against the Soviet Union in the European championship final of 1987 held in Athens. 18 years later Greece won its second Europen basketball championship in the 2005 Eurobasket, held in Belgrade.

Politics and government of Greece



See also

Hellenic National Intelligence Service
National Statistical Service of Greece
Hellenic Republic Ministry of Culture


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