Wednesday, November 11, 2009


The Hermoupolis port in the island of Syros is the capital of the Cyclades.

The official Statistical body of Greece is the National Statistical Service of Greece (NSSG). According to the NSSG, Greece's total population in 2001 was 10,964,020. That figure is divided into 5,427,682 males and 5,536,338 females. As statistics from 1971, 1981, and 2001 show, the Greek population has been aging the past several decades. The birth rate in 2003 stood 9.5 per 1,000 inhabitants (14.5 per 1,000 in 1981). At the same time the mortality rate increased slightly from 8.9 per 1,000 inhabitants in 1981 to 9.6 per 1,000 inhabitants in 2003. In 2001, 16.71% of the population were 65 years old and older, 68.12% between the ages of 15 and 64 years old, and 15.18% were 14 years old and younger.Greek society has also rapidly changed with the passage of time. Marriage rates kept falling from almost 71 per 1,000 inhabitants in 1981 until 2002, only to increase slightly in 2003 to 61 per 1,000 and then fall again to 51 in 2004. Divorce rates on the other hand, have seen an increase – from 191.2 per 1,000 marriages in 1991 to 239.5 per 1,000 marriages in 2004.Almost two-thirds of the Greek people live in urban areas. Greece's largest municipalities in 2001 were: Athens, Thessaloniki, Piraeus, Patras, Iraklio, Larissa, and Volos.

Throughout the 20th century, millions of Greeks migrated to the US, Australia, Canada, UK and Germany, creating a thriving Greek diaspora The migration trend however has now been reversed after the important improvements of the Greek economy since the 80's.


Due to the complexity of Greek immigration policy, practices and data collection, truly reliable data on immigrant populations in Greece is difficult to gather and therefore subject to much speculation. In 1986, legal and unauthorized immigrants totaled approximately 90,000. A study from the Mediterranean Migration Observatory maintains that the 2001 Census from the NSSG recorded 762,191 persons residing in Greece without Greek citizenship, constituting around 7% of total population and that, of these, 48,560 were EU or EFTA nationals and 17,426 Cypriots with privileged status. People from the Balkan countries of Albania, Bulgaria, and Romania make up almost two-thirds of the total foreign population. Migrants from the former Soviet Union (Georgia, Russia, Ukraine, Moldava, etc.) comprise 10% of the total.

The greatest cluster of non-EU immigrant population is in the Municipality of Athens –some 132,000 immigrants, at 17% of local population. Thessaloniki is the second largest cluster, with 27,000, reaching 7% of local population. After this, the predominant areas of location are the big cities environs and the agricultural areas. At the same time, Albanians constituted some 56% of total immigrants, followed by Bulgarians (5%), Georgians (3%) and Romanians (3%). Americans, Cypriots, British and Germans appeared as sizeable foreign communities at around 2% each of total foreign population. The rest were around 690,000 persons of non-EU or non-homogeneis (of non-Greek heritage) status.

According to the same study, the foreign population (documented and undocumented) residing in Greece may in reality figure upwards to 8.5% or 10.3%, that is approximately meaning 1.15 million – if immigrants with homogeneis cards are accounted for.


Holy Trinity monastery, in Meteora, central Greece.

The constitution of Greece recognizes the Greek Orthodox faith as the "prevailing" religion of the country, while guaranteeing freedom of religious belief for all. The Greek Government does not keep statistics on religious groups and censuses do not ask for religious affiliation. According to the State Department, an estimated 97% of Greek citizens identify themselves as Greek Orthodox.[51] However, in the Eurostat – Eurobarometer poll of 2005, 81% of Greek citizens responded that they believe there is a God, which was the third highest percentage among EU members behind only Malta and Cyprus.

Estimates of the recognized Muslim minority, which is mostly located in Thrace, range from 98,000 to 140,000,(between 0.9% and 1.2%) while the immigrant Muslim community numbers between 200,000 and 300,000. Albanian immigrants to Greece (approximately 700,000) are usually associated with the Muslim faith, although most are secular in orientation.[54] In the Treaty of Lausanne Greece and Turkey agreed to exchange minorities. About 500,000 people were expelled from Greece, predominantly Turks, but including other Muslim.Judaism has existed in Greece for more than 2,000 years. Sephardi Jews used to have a large presence in the city of Thessaloniki (by 1900, some 80,000, or more than half of the population, were Jews), but nowadays the Greek-Jewish community who survived the Holocaust is estimated to number around 5,500 people.

Greek members of Roman Catholic faith are estimated at 50,000 with the Roman Catholic immigrant community approximating 200,000. Old Calendarists account for 500,000 followers.[53] Protestants, including Greek Evangelical Church and Free Evangelical Churches, stand at about 30,000.[51][53] Assemblies of God, International Church of the Foursquare Gospel and other Pentecostal churches of the Greek Synod of Apostolic Church has 12,000 members. Independent Free Apostolic Church of Pentecost is the biggest Protestant denomination in Greece with 120 churches. There are not official statistics about Free Apostolic Church of Pentecost, but the Orthodox Church estimates the followers in 20,000.The Jehovah's Witnesses report having 28,243 active members There are also 653 Mormons, 501 Seventh-day Adventists,and 30 Free Methodists.

The ancient Greek religion has also reappeared as Hellenic Neopaganism, with estimates of approximately 2,000 adherents (comprising 0.02% of the general population).


Greece is today relatively homogeneous in linguistic terms, with a large majority of the native population using Greek as their first or only language. The Muslim minority in Thrace, which amounts to approximately 0.95% of the total population, consists of speakers of Turkish, Bulgarian (Pomak) and Romani. Romani is also spoken by Christian Roma in other parts of the country.

Further minority languages have traditionally been spoken by regional population groups in various parts of the country. Their use has decreased radically in the course of the 20th century through assimilation with the Greek-speaking majority. This goes for the Arvanites, an Albanian-speaking group mostly located in the rural areas around the capital Athens, and for the Aromanians and Moglenites, also known as Vlachs, whose language is closely related to Romanian and who used to live scattered across several areas of mountaneous central Greece. Members of these groups ethnically identify as Greeks and are today all at least bilingual in Greek. In many areas their traditional languages are today only maintained by the older generations and are on the verge of extinction.

Near the northern Greek borders there are also some Slavic-speaking groups, whose members identify ethnically as Greeks in their majority. Their dialects can be linguistically classified as forms of either Macedonian (locally called Slavomacedonian or simply Slavic), or Bulgarian (distinguished as Pomak in the case of the Bulgarophone Muslims of Thrace.

The Jewish community in Greece traditionally spoke Ladino (Judeo-Spanish), today maintained only by a small group of a few thousand speakers.

Among the Greek-speaking population, speakers of the distinctive Pontic dialect came to Greece from Asia Minor after the Greek genocide and constitute a sizable group.

000 Greqia harta.PNG
Flag of Albania.svg
Flag of Macedonia.svg
Rep. Macedonia
Flag of Bulgaria.svg
Flag of Turkey.svg
Flag of Greece.svg
Central Greece
Mt. Olympus
Sea of Crete

Topographical map of Greece

Greece consists of a mountainous, peninsular mainland jutting out into the sea 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 (1400, 227 of which are inhabited), including Crete, Euboea, Lesbos, Chios, the Dodecanese and the Cycladic groups of the Aegean Sea as well as the Ionian Sea islands. Greece has the tenth longest coastline in the world with 14,880 km (9,246 mi); its land boundary is 1,160 km (721 mi).

Eighty percent of Greece consists of mountains or hills, making the country one of the most mountainous in Europe. Mount Olympus, a focal point of Greek culture throughout history culminates at Mytikas peak 2,917 m (9,570 ft), the highest in the country. Once considered the throne of the Gods, it is today extremely popular among hikers and climbers. Western Greece contains a number of lakes and wetlands and is dominated by the Pindus mountain range. The Pindus reaches a maximum elevation of 2,637 m (8,652 ft) at Mt. Smolikas and is essentially a prolongation of the Dinaric Alps. The Vikos-Aoos Gorge is yet another spectacular formation and a popular hotspot for those fond of extreme sports.

The range continues through the central Peloponnese, crosses the islands of Kythera and Antikythera and find its way into southwestern Aegean, in the island of Crete where it eventually ends. The islands of the Aegean are peaks of underwater mountains that once constituted an extension of the mainland. Pindus is characterized by its high, steep peaks, often dissected by numerous canyons and a variety of other karstic landscapes. Most notably, the impressive Meteora formation consisting of high, steep boulders provides a breathtaking experience for the hundreds of thousands of tourists who visit the area each year.

Northeastern Greece features another high-altitude mountain range, the Rhodope range, spreading across the periphery of East Macedonia and Thrace; this area is covered with vast, thick, ancient forests. The famous Dadia forest is in the prefecture of Evros, in the far northeast of the country.

Expansive plains are primarily located in the prefectures of Thessaly, Central Macedonia and Thrace. They constitute key economic regions as they are among the few arable places in the country. Rare marine species such as the Pinniped Seals and the Loggerhead Sea Turtle live in the seas surrounding mainland Greece, while its dense forests are home to the endangered brown bear, the lynx, the Roe Deer and the Wild Goat.

Phytogeographically, Greece belongs to the Boreal Kingdom and is shared between the East Mediterranean province of the Mediterranean Region and the Illyrian province of the Circumboreal Region. According to the World Wide Fund for Nature and the European Environment Agency, the territory of Greece can be subdivided into six ecoregions: the Illyrian deciduous forests, Pindus Mountains mixed forests, Balkan mixed forests, Rodope montane mixed forests, Aegean and Western Turkey sclerophyllous and mixed forests and Crete Mediterranean forests.


View of Mount Olympus from the town of Litochoro.

The climate of Greece can be categorised into three types (the Mediterranean, the Alpine and the Temperate) that influence well-defined regions of its territory. The Pindus mountain range strongly affects the climate of the country by making the western side of it (areas prone to the south-westerlies) wetter on average than the areas lying to the east of it (lee side of the mountains). The Mediterranean type of climate features mild, wet winters and hot, dry summers. The Cyclades, the Dodecanese, Crete, Eastern Peloponessus and parts of the Sterea Ellada region are mostly affected by this particular type of climate. Temperatures rarely reach extreme values along the coasts, although, with Greece being a highly mountainous country, snowfalls occur frequently in winter. It sometimes snows even in the Cyclades or the Dodecanese.

The Alpine type is dominant mainly in the mountainous areas of Northwestern Greece (Epirus, Central Greece, Thessaly, Western Macedonia) as well as in the central parts of Peloponnese, including the prefectures of Achaia, Arcadia and parts of Laconia, where extensions of the Pindus mountain range pass by. Finally, the Temperate type affects Central Macedonia and East Macedonia and Thrace; it features cold, damp winters and hot, dry summers. Athens is located in a transitional area featuring both the Mediterranean and the Temperate types. The city's northern suburbs are dominated by the temperate type while the downtown area and the southern suburbs enjoy a typical Mediterranean type.

Government and politics

The Hellenic Parliament in central Athens.

Eleftherios Venizelos (1864–1936), one of the greatest political figures of modern Greece.

Greece is a parliamentary republic.The nominal head of state is the President of the Republic, who is elected by the Parliament for a five-year term.[24] The current Constitution was drawn up and adopted by the Fifth Revisionary Parliament of the Hellenes and entered into force in 1975 after the fall of the military junta of 1967–1974. It has been revised twice since, in 1986 and in 2001. The Constitution, which consists of 120 articles, provides for a separation of powers into executive, legislative, and judicial branches, and grants extensive specific guarantees (further reinforced in 2001) of civil liberties and social rights.[25] Women's suffrage was guaranteed with a 1952 Constitutional amendment.

According to the Constitution, executive power is exercised by the President of the Republic and the Government. From the Constitutional amendment of 1986 the President's duties were curtailed to a significant extent, and they are now largely ceremonial; most political power thus lies in the hands of the Prime Minister.[26] The position of Prime Minister, Greece's head of government, belongs to the current leader of the political party that can obtain a vote of confidence by the Parliament. The President of the Republic formally appoints the Prime Minister and, on his recommendation, appoints and dismisses the other members of the Cabinet.

Legislative power is exercised by a 300-member elective unicameral Parliament. Statutes passed by the Parliament are promulgated by the President of the Republic.Parliamentary elections are held every four years, but the President of the Republic is obliged to dissolve the Parliament earlier on the proposal of the Cabinet, in view of dealing with a national issue of exceptional importance. The President is also obliged to dissolve the Parliament earlier, if the opposition manages to pass a motion of no confidence.

The Judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature and comprises three Supreme Courts: the Court of Cassation (Άρειος Πάγος), the Council of State (Συμβούλιο της Επικρατείας) and the Court of Auditors (Ελεγκτικό Συνέδριο). The Judiciary system is also composed of civil courts, which judge civil and penal cases and administrative courts, which judge disputes between the citizens and the Greek administrative authorities.

Political parties

Since the restoration of democracy, the Greek two-party system is dominated by the liberal-conservative New Democracy (ND) and the social-democratic Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK).[27] Other significant parties include the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) and the Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS). The current prime minister is George Papandreou, president of the PASOK and son of the late Andreas Papandreou, who on October 4, 2009, with a majority in the Parliament of 160 out of 300 seats.

Peripheries and prefectures

Administratively, Greece consists of thirteen peripheries subdivided into a total of fifty-one prefectures (nomoi, singular Greek: nomos). There is also one autonomous area, Mount Athos (Greek: Agio Oros, "Holy Mountain"), which borders the periphery of Central Macedonia.

Map ↓ Number ↓ Periphery ↓ Capital ↓ Area (km²) ↓ Area (sq mi) ↓ Population ↓
1 Attica Athens 3,808 1,470 3,761,810
2 Central Greece Lamia 15,549 6,004 605,329
3 Central Macedonia Thessaloniki 18,811 7,263 1,871,952
4 Crete Heraklion 8,259 3,189 601,131
5 East Macedonia and Thrace Komotini 14,157 5,466 611,067
6 Epirus Ioannina 9,203 3,553 353,820
7 Ionian Islands Corfu 2,307 891 212,984
8 North Aegean Mytilene 3,836 1,481 206,121
9 Peloponnese Kalamata 15,490 5,981 638,942
10 South Aegean Ermoupoli 5,286 2,041 302,686
11 Thessaly Larissa 14,037 5,420 753,888
12 West Greece Patras 11,350 4,382 740,506
13 West Macedonia Kozani 9,451 3,649 301,522
- Mount Athos (Autonomous) Karyes 390 151 2,262

Foreign relations

Greece is a member of the European Union since 1981,[9] a member of the Economic and Monetary Union of the European Union since 2001, NATO since 1952,[10] the OECD since 1961,[11] the WEU since 1995, a founding member of Black Sea Economic Cooperation and a member of ESA since 2005.

Prominent issues in Greek foreign policy include the enduring dispute over Cyprus, differences with Turkey over the Aegean sea, as well as the naming dispute with the Republic of Macedonia, which Greece refers to internationally by the provisional reference "the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia".


The Parthenon on the Acropolis of Athens.

25 March 1821: Germanos of Patras, blessing the Greek flag at Agia Lavra. Painted by Theodoros Vryzakis, 1865.

(centre) and (seated, with back to camera) in 1913, during the King ConstantineEleftherios VenizelosBalkan Wars.

Greece was the first area in Europe where advanced early civilizations emerged, beginning with the Minoan civilization in Crete and then the Mycenean civilization on the mainland. Later, city-states emerged across the Greek peninsula and spread to the shores of Black Sea, South Italy and Asia Minor reaching great levels of prosperity that resulted in an unprecedented cultural boom, expressed in architecture, drama, science and philosophy, and nurtured in Athens under a democratic environment. Athens and Sparta led the way in repelling the Persian Empire in a series of battles. Both were later overshadowed by Thebes and eventually Macedon, with the latter under the guidance of Alexander the Great uniting and leading the Greek world to victory over the Persians, to presage the Hellenistic era, itself brought only partially to a close two centuries later with the establishment of Roman rule over Greek lands in 146 BC. Many Greeks migrated to Alexandria, Antioch, Seleucia and the many other new Hellenistic cities in Asia and Africa founded in Alexander's wake.

The subsequent mixture of Roman and Hellenic cultures took form in the establishment of the Byzantine Empire in 330 AD around Constantinople. Byzantium remained a major cultural and military power for the next 1,123 years, until the Fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks in 1453. On the eve of the Ottoman conquest, much of the Greek intelligentsia migrated to Italy and other parts of Europe not under Ottoman rule, playing a significant role in the Renaissance through the transmission of ancient Greek works to Western Europe.[15] Nevertheless, the Ottoman millet system contributed to the cohesion of the Orthodox Greeks by segregating the various peoples within the empire based on religion, as the latter played an integral role in the formation of modern Greek identity.

After the Greek War of Independence, successfully waged against the Ottoman Empire from 1821 to 1829, the nascent Greek state was finally recognized under the London Protocol. In 1827, Ioannis Kapodistrias, from Ionian Islands, was chosen as the first governor of the new Republic. However, following his assassination, the Great Powers installed a monarchy under Otto, of the Bavarian House of Wittelsbach. In 1843, an uprising forced the King to grant a constitution and a representative assembly. Due to his unimpaired authoritarian rule, he was eventually dethroned in 1863 and replaced by Prince Vilhelm (William) of Denmark, who took the name George I and brought with him the Ionian Islands as a coronation gift from Britain. In 1877, Charilaos Trikoupis, who is attributed with the significant improvement of the country's infrastructure, curbed the power of the monarchy to interfere in the assembly by issuing the rule of vote of confidence to any potential prime minister.

As a result of the Balkan Wars, Greece successfully increased the extent of her territory and population, a challenging context both socially and economically. In the following years, the struggle between King Constantine I and charismatic Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos over the country's foreign policy on the eve of World War I dominated the country's political scene, and divided the country into two opposed groups.

In the aftermath of WWI, Greece fought against Turkish nationalists led by Mustafa Kemal, a war which resulted in a massive population exchange between the two countries under the Treaty of Lausanne.[16] According to various sources, several hundred thousand Pontic Greeks died during this period. Instability and successive coups d'état marked the following era, which was overshadowed by the massive task of incorporating 1.5 million Greek refugees from Asia Minor into Greek society. The Greek population in Istanbul had shrunk from 300,000 at the turn of the century to around 3,000 in the city today. On 28 October 1940 Fascist Italy demanded the surrender of Greece, but Greek dictator Ioannis Metaxas refused and in the following Greco-Italian War, Greece repelled Italian forces into Albania, giving the Allies their first victory over Axis forces on land. The country would eventually fall to urgently dispatched German forces during the Battle of Greece. The German occupiers nevertheless met serious challenges from the Greek Resistance. Over 100,000 civilians died from starvation during the winter of 1941–42. In 1943 virtually the entire Jewish population was deported to Nazi extermination camps.

After liberation, Greece experienced a bitter civil war between communist and anticommunist forces, which led to economic devastation and severe social tensions between rightists and largely communist leftists for the next 30 years. The next 20 years were characterized by marginalisation of the left in the political and social spheres but also by rapid economic growth, propelled in part by the Marshall Plan.

King Constantine's dismissal of George Papandreou's centrist government in July 1965 prompted a prolonged period of political turbulence which culminated in a coup d'état on 21 April 1967 by the United States-backed Regime of the Colonels. The brutal suppression of the Athens Polytechnic uprising on 17 November 1973 sent shockwaves through the regime, and a counter-coup established Brigadier Dimitrios Ioannidis as dictator. On 20 July 1974, as Turkey invaded the island of Cyprus, the regime collapsed.

Former premier Konstantinos Karamanlis was invited back from Paris where he had lived in self-exile since 1963, marking the beginning of the Metapolitefsi era. On the 14 August 1974 Greek forces withdrew from the integrated military structure of NATO in protest at the Turkish occupation of northern Cyprus.[22][23] The first multiparty elections since 1964 were held on the first anniversary of the Polytechnic uprising. A democratic and republican constitution was promulgated on 11 June 1975 following a referendum which abolished the monarchy. Meanwhile, Andreas Papandreou founded the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) in response to Karamanlis's conservative New Democracy party, with the two political formations alternating in government ever since. Greece rejoined NATO in 1980. Traditionally strained relations with neighbouring Turkey improved when successive earthquakes hit both nations in 1999, leading to the lifting of the Greek veto against Turkey's bid for EU membership.

Greece became the tenth member of the European Communities (subsequently subsumed by the European Union) on 1 January 1981, ushering in a period of remarkable and sustained economic growth. Widespread investments in industrial enterprises and heavy infrastructure, as well as funds from the European Union and growing revenues from tourism, shipping and a fast-growing service sector have raised the country's standard of living to unprecedented levels. The country adopted the Euro in 2001 and successfully hosted the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.


Flag National emblem

Greece is a country in southeastern Europe, situated on the southern end of the Balkan Peninsula. The country has borders with Albania, the Republic of Macedonia and Bulgaria to the north, and Turkey to the east. The Aegean Sea lies to the east and south of mainland Greece, while the Ionian Sea lies to the west. Both parts of the Eastern Mediterranean basin feature a vast number of islands, islets and rock islands.

Modern Greece traces its roots to the civilization of ancient Greece, generally considered to be the cradle of Western civilization. As such, it is the birthplace of democracy,[6] Western philosophy,[7] the Olympic Games, Western literature and historiography, political science, major scientific and mathematical principles, and Western drama,[8] including both tragedy and comedy.

Greece is a developed country, a member of the European Union since 1981, a member of the Economic and Monetary Union of the European Union since 2001, NATO since 1952, the OECD since 1961,, a founding member of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation and a member of ESA since 2005. Athens is the capital; Thessaloniki, Patras, Heraklion, Larissa, Volos, Ioannina, Kavala, Rhodes, Chania and Serres are some of the country's other major cities.