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For other uses, see Greece (disambiguation).

Greece is a country in the southeast of Europe on the southern tip of the Balkan peninsula. It is bounded on land by Bulgaria, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Albania to the north, to the east by Turkey and the waters of the Aegean Sea and to the west and south by the Ionian and Mediterranean Seas. Regarded by many as the cradle of Western civilization, Greece has a long and rich history during which it spread its influence over three continents.

Greece is formally called the Hellenic Republic (in Greek Elliniki Dimokratia). Greeks call their country Hellas, which in modern Greek is pronounced Ellas. In everyday speech the form Ellada is used. Greeks frequently call themselves Hellenes even in English. The English name "Greece" derives from a Latin name, Graecia, originally used for a region in what is now northern Greece inhabited by a people called the Graikos.

Ελληνική Δημοκρατία

Ellinikí Dimokratía

(In Detail)
''National motto: Ελευθερία ή θάνατος (Eleftheria i thanatos)''
(Greek: Liberty or Death)
Official language Greek
Capital Athens (Αθήνα - Athína)
Largest City Athens
President Kostis Stephanopoulos
Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis
 - Total
 - % water
World ranking: 94th
131,940 km²
 - Total (2001)
 - Density
World ranking: 70th
 - Declared
 - Assumed
From the Ottoman Empire
March 25, 1821
Currency Euro(€)¹, Greek euro coins
Time zone EET (UTC+1; UTC+2 in summer)
National anthem Imnos pros tin Eleftherian
Internet TLD .gr
Calling Code 30
(1) Prior to 2001: Greek drachma

Table of contents
1 History
2 Politics
3 Local government
4 Geography
5 Economy
6 Demographics
7 Culture
8 Miscellaneous topics
9 See also
10 External links


Main article: History of Greece

The shores of the Aegean Sea saw the emergence of the first civilizations in Europe, namely the Minoan and Mycenaean civilisations. After these subsided a Dark Age followed until around 800 BC a new era of Greek civilization emerged. It was this Greece of city-states that established colonies along the Mediterranean, resisted Persian invasions and whose culture would be the basis of Hellenistic civilisation that followed the empire of Alexander the Great (king of Macedonia).

Militarily Greece itself declined until it was conquered by the Romans from 168 BC onwards, though Greek culture would in turn conquer Roman life. A province of the Roman Empire, 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 be 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 had gradually been conquered by the Ottomans during the 15th century.

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. During the 19th and early 20th centuries, in a series of war with the Ottomans, Greece sought to enlarge Greece to include the Greek-speaking population of the Ottoman Empire, slowly growing in territory and population until it reached its present boundaries in 1947.

After World War II, Greece experienced a civil war that lasted until 1949. In 1967 the military with the aid of the US government, seized power in a coup d'état, establishing what became known as the Regime of the Colonels. In 1973 the regime abolished the Greek monarchy. In 1974, The military junta's sponsorship of a failed coup in Cyprus led to its collapse. In 1975, following a plebiscite to abolish the monarchy, a democratic republic was established. Greece joined the European Union in 1981 and adopted the Euro as its currency in 2001.


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. 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 president is elected by parliament to a five-year term and can be re-elected once.

Members of Greece's unicameral parliament (the Vouli ton Ellinon) are elected by secret ballot for a maximum of four years, but elections can be called earlier. 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.

For a list of Greek political parties, see List of political parties in Greece.

Local government

Main articles: Peripheries of Greece

Greece consists of 13 administrative regions known as peripheries, which are further subdivided into 51 prefecturess (nomoi, singular - nomos):

Beyond these there is one autonomous region, Mount Athos (Ayion Oros - Holy Mountain), a monastic state under Greek sovereignty.

The nomoi are divided into 147 eparchies (singular eparchia), which are divided into 1,033 municipalities: 133 urban municipalities (demoi) and 900 rural communities (koinotetes). Before 1999, there were 5,775 local authorities: 457 demoi, 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, which is 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 is mountainous or hilly. Much of the country is dry and rocky; only 28% of the land is arable. Western Greece contains lakes and wetlands. Pindus, the central mountain range, has an average elevation of 2,650 m. The legendary Mount Olympus is the highest point in Greece at 2,917 m above sea level.

Greece's climate features mild, wet winters and hot, dry summers. Temperatures are rarely extreme, although snowfalls do occur in the mountains and occasionally even in Athens in the winter.


Main article: Economy of Greece

Greece has a mixed capitalist economy with the public sector accounting for about half of GDP. Tourism is a key industry, providing a large portion of GDP and foreign exchange earnings. Greece is a major beneficiary of EU aid, equal to about 2.4% of GNP. 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 EU's single currency, the euro, on January 1, 2001.

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. Economic growth is forecast at 4 - 4.5 % in 2004.

The national central bank of Greece is the Bank of Greece.


Main article: Demographics of Greece

According to the 2001 census, the population of Greece was 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, was almost 4 million. Although the population of Greece is still growing, Greece faces a serious demographic problem: 2002 was the first year where the number of deaths surpassed the number of births.

A large number of immigrants live in Greece today. 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. The Albanians suffer from discrimination and exploitation in Greece, and are widely described as trouble-makers and criminals, despite their enormous contribution to the Greek economy. During the construction of the stadiums for the Athens Olympic games, for example, more than half of the workforce are Albanians.

There are smaller numbers of immigrants from Bulgaria, Romania, Pakistan, Ukraine, Poland and Georgia. The true number is not known, since the majority live illegally in Greece.

There are numerous linguistic, religious or cultural groups and minorities in Greece. They include, but are not limited to, various Roma groups, Slavs, and Vlachs (Aromanians and Megleno-Romanians).

The only minority to which special rights are granted (deriving mainly from the Treaty of Lausanne) is the Muslim Turkish minority of Thrace.


The Greek Constitution guarantees absolute freedom of religion. It also states that all persons living within the Greek territory shall enjoy full protection of their religious beliefs. According to the Constitution the "prevailing religion" of Greece is the Eastern Orthodox Church of Christ.

The majority of Greeks (95 to 98%) are at least nominally followers of the Eastern Orthodox Church, although religious observance has declined in recent years. Greek Muslims make up about 1.3% of the population, and are concentrated mainly in Thrace. There are also some Evangelical Protestants and Catholics, mainly in the Cyclades islands; and some Jews, mainly in Thessaloniki. Some groups in Greece are trying to reconstruct the old Greek Pagan Religion.


Main article: Culture of Greece

See also:

Miscellaneous topics

See also

External links


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