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Ελληνική Δημοκρατία
Ellinikí Dhimokratía
Flag of Greece Hellenic Republic: Coat of Arms
( National Flag) ( Coat of arms)
National motto: Ελευθερία ή Θάνατος
( Greek: Liberty or Death)
Official language Greek
Capital Athens
Largest city Athens
Government Democratic parliamentary republic
President Károlos Papoúlias
Prime Minister Kóstas Karamanlís
- Total
- % water
Ranked 70th
309,050 km² including islands, rivers, lakes, islets and Aegean Basin
- Total (2004)
- Density
Ranked 74th
- Declared
- Recognized
From the Ottoman Empire
25 March 1821
- Total
- GDP per capita
( IMF 2006 est.)
2.800 billion ( 26th)
,800( 25th)
HDI (2003) 0.912 ( 24th) – high
Currency Euro (€)1
Time zone
- in summer
EET ( UTC+2)
National anthem Hymn to Freedom (Ύμνος εις την Ελευθερίαν)
Internet TLD .gr
Calling Code +30
1 Prior to 2001: Greek Drachma.
Greece, ( Greek: Ελλάδα Elládha or Ελλάς Hellás), officially the Hellenic Republic (Greek: Ελληνική Δημοκρατία Ellinikí Dhimokratía), is a country in southern Europe on the 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, North Africa, and the Middle East.

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Name - Contents

The historical name of Greece in Greek is Ἑλλάς Ellás /ɛˈlas/. This name is also written as Hellas in English, following the ancient Greek pronunciation /hɛˈl:as/. In Modern Greek, it is called more commonly Ελλάδα Elládha /ɛˈlaða/.In most European languages, however, the name of Greece comes from the ancient root Γραικός Graikós (via Latin Graecus): English Greece, French Grèce, German Griechenland, etc. In most Middle Eastern and Eastern languages, it comes from the root Ἰωνία Iōnía: ( Turkish Yunanistan, Arabic and Urdu: يونان (Yawnan). In only a few languages is the "Hellas" root the basis of the local name: Norwegian, Chinese, and Vietnamese.Some Greeks prefer the name Hellas for the country and Hellenes for the people even in English.

International abbreviations
  • GR: used on Greek number plates to indicate the country of registration of the vehicle.
  • gr: used to indicate the Greek provenance of websites, as in '.gr'.
  • GRE: used at international sporting events.
(El or el is used on documents by the European Union to indicate the Greek language, not the country).

History - Contents

Prehistory and antiquity
The shores of Greece's Aegean Sea saw the emergence of the first civilizations in Europe, namely the Minoan and the Mycenaean. After this, a Dark Age followed until around 800 BC, when a new era of Greek city-states emerged, establishing colonies along the Mediterranean, and a new alphabet was introduced. [1]. Plato described how the Greeks live round the Aegean Archipelago "like frogs around a pond"; their name has always been associated with the sea.

Roman rule and Middle Ages
Militarily, Greece itself declined to the point that the Romans conquered the land ( 168 BC onwards), though, in many ways, Greek culture would in turn conquer Roman life. Greece became a province of the Roman Empire, but Greek culture continued to dominate the eastern Mediterranean. When the Roman Empire finally split in two, the Eastern Roman Empire, known as the Byzantine Empire, centered around Constantinople (known in ancient times as Byzantium), remained Greek in nature, encompassing Greece itself. From the 4th century to the 15th century, the Byzantine Empire survived eleven centuries of attacks from the north, west and east until Constantinople fell on May 29, 1453 to the Ottoman Empire, when Constantine XI, the last emperor of the Palaeologus dynasty, fell. Greece was gradually conquered by the Ottomans during the 15th century.

Ottoman Period
Theod.Vryzakis,The sortie of Messologhi
Theod.Vryzakis,The sortie of Messologhi
While the Ottomans were completing the main conquest of the Greek Mainland, two Greek migrations occurred. The first migration saw the Greek intelligentsia migrate to Western Europe - especially to Italy - and contribute to the advent of the Renaissance. The second migration of Greeks left the plains of the Greek peninsula and resettled in the mountains, the islands and Greek regions outside Ottoman control. In the mountainous regions, the Ottomans were unable to create a permanent military and administrative presence. As a result some Greek mountain clans across the peninsula, as well as some islands, were able to maintain a status of independence. The Sphakiots of Crete, the Souliots from Souli of Epirus, and the Maniots from Mani of Peloponnesus were the most resilient mountain clans throughout the Ottoman Empire. By the end of the 16th century and until the 17th century, Greeks began to migrate back to the plains and cities, adding to the increasing urban population. The millet system contributed to the ethnic cohesion of Orthodox Greeks by segregating the various peoples within the Ottoman Empire based on religion. The Orthodox Church, a religious institution with a keen sense of its national character, contributed to the Greeks from all geographical areas of the peninsula (i.e. mountains, plains, and islands) to preserve their ethnic, cultural and linguistic heritage during the years of the Ottoman rule (although at the time it was not strictly speaking a "Greek" church - the Greek Church was instituted after the liberation). The Greeks who remained on the plains during Ottoman occupation were either Christians, who dealt with the burdens of foreign rule, or to a considerable extent Crypto-Christians (Greek Muslims who were secret practitioners of the Orthodox faith) in order to avoid heavy taxation. The Greeks who converted to Islam and were not Crypto-Christians became Turks in the eyes of Orthodox Greeks. Therefore, there was no recognition of "Greek Muslims", or of "Christian Turks". As a result, religion played an integral part in the formation of the Modern Greek and other post-Ottoman national identities.

Creation of the modern Greek state
The Ottomans ruled Greece until the early 19th century. In 1821, the Greeks and their allies 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 the Massacre of Chios by Eugène 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 eventually forced to give in by the direct military intervention of France, Great Britain and Russia. This was the prelude of the so called " Eastern Question", the gradual dismemberment of the decaying empire by the western powers. The Russian ex-minister of foreign affairs, Ioannis Kapodistrias, himself a Greek noble from the Ionian Islands, was chosen as President of the new Republic following Greek independence. However, that republic was soon dissolved by the Great Powers which then installed a "Greek" monarchy. The Great Powers did not wish the Greeks to govern themselves and also claimed that they were not capable to do so; as such they looked elsewhere for a prospective monarch. The first king, Otto of Bavaria, was of the German House of Wittelsbach and the subsequent line was from the Germano-Danish House of Oldenburg. During the 19th and especially the 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 (the Ionian Islands were donated by Britain upon the arrival of the new king from Denmark in 1863, and Thessaly was ceded by the Ottomans without a fight). Greece would slowly grow in territory and population until reaching its present configuration in 1947.

World War I and its aftermath

Eugène Delacroix, Massacre at Chios
Eugène Delacroix, Massacre at Chios
In World War I, Greece sided with the entente powers against the Ottoman Empire and the other Central Powers. In the war's aftermath, the Great Powers awarded a small part of Asia Minor to Greece, centered around the city of Smyrna (known as Izmir today) which had a majority Greek population. At that time, however, the Turkish nationalists, led by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, denounced the Sultan's government in Istanbul and formed a new one in Ankara. During the Greco-Turkish War (1919-1922) the Turks eventually defeated the Greek armies and regained control of Asia Minor. Soon afterwards, the Treaty of Lausanne was signed, fixing the borders to this date. A population exchange was included in the agreement and immediately afterwards, around five hundred thousand Turks (including Muslim Greeks) then living in mainland Greek territory left for Turkey in exchange for more than 1.22 million Greek residents of Asia Minor (excluding Constantinople, Imvros and Tenedos).In 1936, General Ioannis Metaxas established an authoritarian conservative dictatorship in Greece, seen as similar to Antonio Salazar's " New State". Greece under Metaxas is also compared to Spain at the time, although it lacked the political violence associated with Francisco Franco's regime.

World War II

On 28 October 1940, the Italian dictator Mussolini called on the Greeks to allow the troops to enter the country and to surrender its arms. Though Greece was alone and most of Europe occupied by the Axis, the Greek government gave a simple negative response (see Oxi Day)- thereby immediately siding with the Allied. The Italian troops poured over from Albania. The Greek counter-attack along the Albanian front gave the Allies their first victory against the Axis forces (see Greco-Italian War). Eventually, Mussolini's armies were saved from defeat with the intervention of Italy's Axis ally, Germany since Hitler and his generals needed to secure their strategic southern flank. German forces whose ranks included troops from Hungary, Bulgaria, and Italy successfully invaded Greece, overran and occupied Greece in April-May 1941. Germany held onto the country until 1944, when the Greek resistence and British, Australian and New Zealand forces liberated the country.In May 1941, 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, it is pointed out by historians that this, and the whole Greek campaign, 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, hundreds of 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 their Jewish co-citizens. The Jewish community of Thessaloniki suffered the heaviest toll by far. The Greek economy languished. After liberation, Greece experienced an equally bitter Greek Civil War between the communist-led Democratic Army and the Hellenic Army that lasted until 1949, when the communists were defeated in the battle of Grammos-Vitsi.

Post-war development and turmoil

During the 1950s and 1960s, Greece experienced gradual and consistent economic growth, aided by significant grants and loans by the United States through the Marshall Plan. However, starting in 1965, a series of turbulent political events unfolded that led to severe political uncertainty. The crisis eventually got out hand for both the elected government and King Constantine II and ended dramatically in the early hours of April 21, 1967. That morning, a coordinated effort by a number of Generals and other military officials succeded in a coup d'etat and they soon managed to establish a fierce military junta. General elections planned by the conservative government to be held on May 28 never took place. In the following years, a number of supporters of the left wing as well as a number of politicians and communists were arrested and brutally tortured by the regime. Other polititians, however, evaded capture and found political refuge in such European countries as France and Sweden. Nevertheless, the then head of state, former King Constantine officially acknowleged the new regime and it was duly recognized by the international community. Diplomatic relations contiuned unabated. In 1973, however, the junta abolished the Greek monarchy. Later that same year, in October of 1973, the head of the junta, colonel George Papadopoulos appointed politician Spiros Markezinis as the Prime Minister. A few weeks later on November 14, law students that opposed the regime realized that the obvious parody of a government would not end unless they took action. They took control of the Athens Law School and in so doing inspired the students of the Athens Polytechnic School, who imitated them.It should be noted that institutions of higher education in Greece are considered to provide political asylum. By November 16, however, the streets around the Polytechnic School resembled a battlefield, leaving no choice for the junta than to respond with military tactics. In the early hours of November 17, a tank smashed the gate of the Athens Law School causing tragic bloodshed. More than 20 students were killed. However, the now-famous Athens Polytechnic Uprising marked the beginning of a series of events that would eventually result to the end of Papadopoulos' rule. One week later, on November 25 both Papadopoulos and Markezinis were overthrown by a countercoup headed by junta hardliner Brigadier Ioannides. A new head, Phaedon Gizikis, and a new Prime Minister, Adamantios Androutsopoulos, were appointed by the regime. Ioannides, however, had even more in his mind. The following July, he backed a planned coup d'etat to overthrow the Cypriot President, Archibishop Makarios. This gave a pretext for neighbouring Turkey to intervene militarily, alledgedly to protect the Turkish minority that resided on the island. Turkey invaded Cyprus on July 20, 1974 and managed to occupy the northern part or a third of its territory. The colonels did not succeed in either predicting the Turkish action or in effectively mobilizing their armed forces in order to prevent it. This signaled the end for the regime that collapsed within a matter of days.

Newfound stability

In the evening of July 23, 1974, ex Premier Constantine Karamanlis was invited back from Paris where he had found a political refuge. In the morning hours of the following day, the plane carrying him landed in Athens amidst massive celebrations by cheering crowds that could not believe that the ordeal they had to endure for seven years was over. Karamanlis was immediately appointed as the interim prime minister under President Gizikis. Karamanlis founded the conservative Nea Dimokratia party and he then won the elections. Democracy had finally been restored and a democratic republican constitution came into force in 1975. In addition, a referendum held that same year, confirmed the will of the overwhelming majority of the Greek people to abolish the monarchy - this time democratically. Therefore former King Constantine II and his family remained in Britain and were not allowed free access to the country until 2004. Meanwhile, yet another prominent figure of the past, charismatic politician Andreas Papandreou had also returned from the United States and he had already founded the Panhellenic Socialist Party or PASOK. Karamanlis won the 1977 parliamentary elections as well but he resigned in 1980, giving his way to George Rallis. However, Papandreou won the elections held on October 18, 1981 by landslide and he formed the first socialist government in the history of the nation. Papandreou dominated the Greek political course for almost 15 years, up until his death in June 23, 1996.

Europoean union

The country became the tenth member of the European Union in January 1, 1981. Over the course of the last 25 years, and particularly during this past decade, Greece has experienced a remarkable economic growth. Massive, widespread investments in industrial enterprises and heavy infrastructure as well as funds from the European Union and impressively growing revenues from tourism, shipping and services have greatly raised the standard of living to unprecedented levels. The country adopted the Euro in 2001. With a GDP per capita now standing at $ 22,800 and a growth rate well above European Union's average, Greece is a prosperous nation. Nevertheless, everyone agrees that the government still has to deal with certain economic issues so as to enable the country to use its full potentials and reach the standard of living of the richest nations in Europe.In June 2002, Greek police achieved a major breakthrough in dealing with domestic terrorism when it managed to arrest the members of the notorious Nonember 17 terrorist group. The group had formed in 1974 and it was responsible for the killing of several American, British and Turkish officials residing in Greece as well as for the killing of prominent Greek politicians (such as Pavlos Bakoyiannis). The trial of those arrested was held in March 2003 and all of them are now behind bars. Still, many people do believe that certain members have escaped arrest.

Greco-Turkish relations
As far as Greco-Turkish relations are concerned, these have improved substantially over the last 6 years, after successive earthquakes hit both countries in the summer of 1999. The so called earthquake diplomacy came after an unprecedented outpouring of sympathy and generous assistance provided by ordinary Greeks and Turks in each of those cases. Greece was the first one to take the initiative to provide valuable help after a monstrous, magnitude 7.4 earthquake leveled much of the Turkish northwest on August 17, 1999, killing more than 17,000 people. Turks also responded immediately after a magnitude 5.9 quake jolted Athens on September 7 of that same year, killing 143 people. These generous, brave acts took many foreigners by surprise and led to a considerable breakthrough in bilateral relations, marred by decades of hostility over territorial disputes and the situation in the divided island of Cyprus. In January 1996, the countries reached the brink of war over the tiny, uninhabited islets of Imia, situated in the southeastern Aegean Sea. While Greece insisted that according to all treaties and conventions the islets belong to Greece, Turks claimed that the relevant articles were rather unclear. The crisis escalated within only a few days and it was only after the personal intervention of President Bill Clinton that it came to an end. Ten years later, Greece has become one of the chief advocates of Turkey's struggle to enter the European Union while Greek prime minister, Kostas Karamanlis was one of the best men in the wedding of the daughter of Turkey's premier.On September 5, 1997, the International Olympic Commitee awarded the 2004 Olympic Games to Athens. The massive preparations that followed literally transformed the Greek capital. Some concerns were raised by certain foreign media over Greece's ability to meet specific construction deadlines as well as its ability to handle a potential terrorist attack. However, Greece triumphantly proved all those who questioned its abilities wrong and immediately after the closing ceremonies many of those media actually apologized, admitting that they were overreacting. The 2004 Olympic Games were globally hailed as a spectacular success. [2].

Politics - Contents

Kostas Karamanlis, Prime minister of Greece
Kostas Karamanlis, Prime minister of Greece
The 1975 constitution includes extensive specific guarantees of civil liberties. The President of the Republic, elected by an increased majority of the Parliament for a term of five years, is nominally the Head of State.However, it is the Prime Minister and cabinet, as well as the Vouli (parliament) that play the central role in the political process, while the president performs limited governmental functions, in addition to ceremonial duties.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% minimum of the total national vote to gain representation. Typically, a 42%+ is sufficient to guarantee the rule by a single party.Greek parliamentary politics hinge upon the principle of the "dedilomeni", the "declared confidence" of Parliament to the Prime Minister and his/her administration. This means that the President of the Republic is bound to appoint as Prime Minister a person who will be approved by a majority of the Parilament's members (i.e. 151 votes). With the current electoral system, it is the leader of the party gaining a plurality of the votes in the Parliamentary elections who gets appointed Prime Minister. An administration may, at any time, seek a "vote of confidence"; conversely, a number of Members of Parilament may ask that a "vote of reproach" be taken. Both are rare occurrences with usually predictable outcomes as voting outside the party line happens very seldom.

Geography - Contents

Administrative division.
Administrative division.
Map of Greece
Map of Greece
Greece from orbit
Greece from orbit
Greece 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, Kos, Euboea and the Dodecanese and the 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. Approximately 8% of the nation's territory is covered by forests.Four fifths of Greece consist of mountains or hills, making the country one of the most montainous in Europe. Western Greece contains a number of lakes and wetlands and it is dominated by the Pindus mountain range. Pindus has a maximum elevation of 2,636 m and it is essentially a prolongation of the Dinaric Alps. The range continues through western Peloponnese, crosses the islands of Kythera and Antikythera and find its way into southwestern Aegean, in the island of Crete where it eventually ends. (Actually the islands of the Aegean are peaks of underwater mountains that once consisted 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 hundrends of thousands of tourists who visit the area each year. Special lifts transfer visitors to the scenic monasteries that lye on top of those rocks. Meteora are situated in the Trikala prefecture. The Vikos-Aoos Gorge is yet another spectacular formation and it is the second largest canyon on Earth, second only to the Grand Canyon. The Vicos-Aoos Gorge is a popular hotspot for those in fond of extreme sports. Mount Olympus is the tallest mountain in the country, located in the northern Pieria prefecture, near Thessaloniki. Olympus has a height of 2,917 m at its tallest peak. Once considered the thrown of the Gods, it is today extremely popular among hikers and climbers who deem its height as a challenge. Moreover, northeastern Greece features yet another high altitude mountain range, the Rhodope range, spreading across the prefectures of Eastern Macedonia and Thrace; this area is covered with vast, thick, ancient forests including the famous Dadia.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. Volos and Larissa are the two largest cities of Thessaly.Greece's climate consists of three types that influence well defined regions of its territory. Those are the Mediterranean, the Alpine and the Temperate types. The first one features mild, wet winters and hot, dry summers. The Cyclades, the Dodecanese, Crete, Eastern Peloponessus and parts of the Sterea Ellada refion are mostly affected by this particular type. Temperatures rarely reach extreme values although snowfalls do occur occasionally even in the Cyclades or Crete during the winter months. The Alpine type is dominant mainly in Western Greece ( Epirus, Central Greece, Thessaly, Western Macedonia as well as in the western and central parts of Peloponessus, including the prefectures of Achaea, Arkadia and parts of Lakonia, where the Pindus range passes by). Finally the Temperate type affects both Central and Eastern Macedonia as well as Thrace, mainly affecting the cities of Komotini, Xanthi and the towns of northern Evros; it features cold, damp winters and hot, dry summers. Athens is located in a transitional area featuring both the Mediterranean and the Alpine types. The city's northern suburbs are dominated by the Alpine type while the downtown area and the southern suburbs enjoy a typical Meditteranean type.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 endagered brown bear , the lynx, the Roe Deer and the Wild Goat.

Economy - Contents

Greece has a capitalist economy with the public sector accounting for a considerable part of GDP. The Greek tourism industry remains thriving and its contribution in the growth of the GDP is considered important through foreign exchange earnings. What is more, Greece is a global leader in shipping (ranking first in terms of ownership of vessels and third by flag registration) [3]. Exports of manufactured goods including telecommunications hardware and software, agricultural products, other foodstuff and fuels also account for a significant part of Greek income. Moreover, the country is the largest investor in southeastern Europe as far as the previous sectors are concerned. Since Greece became a full member of the European Union, back in 1981, it has been a beneficiary of cohesion funds, along with Portugal, Spain and Ireland. Those funds have proven to be particularly helpful in the nation's remarkable economic development of the last 25 years.
Greek euro coins
Greek euro coins
The country enjoys a high standard of living, ranking 24th on the 2005 Human Development Index and 22nd on The Economist's 2005 world-wide quality-of-life index [4]. Average per capita income in 2005 was estimated at ,800 [5]. The Greek Economy has seen uninterrupted strong growth since 1992 and above the EU average continuously since 1994. Part of the Greek economy's impressive growth is attributed to the fact that the previous government tightened fiscal policy regulations in the run-up to the country's entry into the Eurozone, set on January 1, 2001( Greek euro coins). Also liberalisation of domestic markets, a modernised banking system, as well as massive investment ahead of the 2004 Olympic Games, have fueled the Economy. Moreover, Greece has been a net importer of foreign workers, mainly from neighbouring Albania, Pakistan and Eastern Europe, since the early 1990s.Today the country is dealing with various challenges, including the reduction of unemployment which currently stands at slightly below 10%, the reform of the social security system, the privatization (at least in part) of the public sector, the overhauling of the tax system and the further reduction of certain bureaucratic inefficiencies. Forecasts predict that 2006 will be yet another year of substantial economic growth, estimated to reach 3.7%, well above the European Union's average. The reduction of the fiscal deficit to the Eurozone target of 3% of GDP has also become a key issue. Shortly after its election, the new conservative New Democracy government revealed to the Eurostat agency that the previous figures supplied to it by the PASOK government as the basis of the Greek entry into the Eurozone were not correct. Under a negotiated agreement, the EU gave Greece a two year deadline (budgets of 2005 and 2006) in order to bring the deficit in line with the criteria of the European stability pact. Indeed, in 2005, the government managed to reduce the fiscal deficit by almost two percentage points and the goal of reaching the 3% target by the end of 2006 seems realistic.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.

Tourism - Contents

Greece has traditionally been one of the most popular tourist destinations on a global basis and each year, particularly in the summer months, the nation's numerous cosmopolitan islands get literally packed with millions of international visitors. Unparalleled natural beauties, golden beaches, idyllic sunsets, a legendary nightlife and the world famous Greek cuisine combined with a unique hospitality and an impressively developping tourist infrastracture make Greece an irresistable hotspot for many. The spectacular success of the 2004 Olympic Games boosted the country's international prestige even further and reaffirmed its status as one of the safest places to be. In 2004, Greece ranked 12th in terms of international tourist arrivals when more than 14.2 million visitors came to the country, many of which combining both vacations and attendance of Olympic athletic events. In 2005, however, those numbers increased by 14%, surpassing 16.1 million arrivals. In 2006, those figures are only expected to grow bigger.The New Democracy government, that took power in March 2004, established a brand new Ministry of Tourism headed by Mr. Dimitris Avramopoulos. Mr Avramopoulos proved to be a particularly competent man, determined to massively promote the nation to new, emerging markets in addition to the traditional ones, through various means of communication. For instance and among other initiatives, Helena Paparizou, the winner of the 2005 Eurovision Song Contest was recently designated as the official ambassador of the [ Hellenic Tourism Organization]. An interesting fact that is attributed in all those efforts is that according to a survey conducted in China in 2005, Greece was voted as Chinese' people number one choice. On February 14, 2006, Ms Fani Palli- Petralia was appointed as the new minister of Tourism as a result of an extensive cabinet reshufle. Mr. Avramopoulos was appointed as the new Health Minister.Overall, this year the Greek Ministry of Tourism plans to invest more than 30 billion euros in the tourism industry, one of the most essential sectors of the Greek economy. That is 4 times more than the amount spent in 2002 by the previous government. What is more, the government intends to promote winter tourism in Greece, something that could potentially double international arrivals.Apart from Athens, other top ranking tourist destinations include the islands of Myconos, Santorini, Rhodes, Crete, Corfu, Paros, Ios, Kos, Kefallonia, Zakynthos and Hydra as well as the northern Halkidiki peninsula.

Demographics - Contents

The population of Greece is (officially) 98% Greek [6] although Greece has various linguistic and cultural minorities. A non-comprehensive list of these would include Turks, Macedonian Slavs, Pomaks, and various Roma groups. A number of religious minorities exist, including the Muslim minority in western Thrace, which makes up about a third of that region's population.About 60-65% of Greek immigrants have come from Albania (following the fall of communism) although some 200.000 have been documented as ethnic Greeks or homogeneis. The other principal nationalities are, according to residence permit data, Bulgarians, Armenians, Romanians, Ukrainians, Pakistanis and Georgians; overall, over 180 different nationalities have been recorded. The legal status of immigrants has been very tenuous since the 1990s (as throughout the European Union), with high levels of illegality. Since 1997 three legalization programmes were enacted by the Greek state [a fourth went through in 2005].Several prominent Greek sportsmen migrated to Greece as ethnic Greeks from Albania and Georgia in the 1990s, including legendary weightlifters Pyrros Dimas and Kakhi Kakhiashvili.

The majority of Greeks (95-98%) have at least nominal membership in the Eastern Orthodox Church. 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, Corfu, and the Cyclades islands of Syros, Paros, Tinos, 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 Hellenic polytheism, the ancient Greek pagan religion. See also: Greek Orthodox Church.Prior to Ottoman rule, Greece was part of the 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 prosletization - 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, strengthened the bond between religion and the state. Most Greeks, even many non-practicing Christians, revere and respect the Orthodox Christian faith; even the majority of non-beliving, secular Greeks feel culturally attached to their Church. Most Greeks attend Church during the 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 in certain areas. 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. Non Greek Orthodox members of parliament are sworn in accordance to their own faith. 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.One small part of Greece, Mount Athos, is recognised by the Greek constitution as an autonomous monastic republic, although foreign relations 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. Jews have been present in Greece for the last 2000 years. The earliest reference to a Greek Jew is in an inscription, dated c. 300-250 BCE found in Oropos, a small coastal town between Athens and Boeotia, and refers to him as "Moschos, son of Moschion the Jew" who was in all likelihood, a slave. The first Greek Jewish population became known as the Romaniotes and their language became known as Yevanic (from the Hebrew word for Greece: יון/Yavan). From the 16th century onwards, Salonica, a city in northern Greece, had one of the largest (mostly Sephardic by then) Jewish communities in the world and a solid rabbinical tradition. On the island of Crete, the Jews played an important part in the transport trade. During World War II, when Greece was occupied by Nazi Germany, 86% of the Greek Jews were murdered by the invading Axis and only a minority survived and most of them have emigrated to Israel. Greece's Jewish community today is estimated at 4,500.
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