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The Hellenic Republic is a country in the southeast of Europe on the southern tip of the Balkan peninsula. Bounded on land by Bulgaria, the 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 civilisation, Greece has a long and rich history during which it spread its influence over three continents.

Ελληνική Δημοκρατία
Elliniki Dhimokratia
(In Detail)
National motto: Eleftheria i thanatos
(Greek: Liberty or Death)
Official language Greek
Capital Athens
President Kostis Stephanopoulos[?]
Prime minister Konstantinos Simitis[?]
 - Total
 - % water
Ranked 94th
131,940 km²
Population  - Total (2000)  - Density Ranked 70th10,623,835 80.5/km²
Independence - Declared - Recognised From the Ottoman EmpireMarch 25, 18211828
Currency Euro¹, Greek euro coins
Time zone UTC +2
National anthem Imnos pros tin Eleftherian
Internet TLD .GR
Calling Code 30
(1) Prior to 2001: Greek drachma

Table of contents

History Main article: History of Greece

The shores of the Aegean Sea saw the emergence of the first civilisations in Europe, namely the Minoan and Mycenaean civilisations. After these has subsided a Dark Age followed until around 800 BC a new Hellenic Greece 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.

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. The Byzantine Empire survived numerous centuries of attacks from the west and east until Constantinople fell in 1453 to the Ottoman Empire. Greece had gradually been conquered by the Ottomans during the 15th century.

Ottoman rule remained until in 1821 the Greeks declared their independence. After the Greek War of Independence was concluded in 1828, Greece was then established as a monarchy in 1833. During the 19th and early 20th centuries Greece sought to encompass the Greek-speaking population of the Ottoman Empire, slowly growing in territory and population until it reached its present size in 1947.

After World War II, Greece experienced a civil war that lasted until 1949 after which it joined NATO in 1952. On April 21, 1967 the military seized power in a coup d'etat that also abolished the Greek monarchy. Conflict over the issue of Cyprus led to the collapse of the military junta in 1974 and the establishment of a democratic republic in 1975. Greece joined the European Union in 1981.

Politics 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 5-year term and can be reelected once.

Members of Greece's unicameral parliament (the Vouli ton Ellinon) are elected by secret ballot for a maximum of 4 years, but elections can be called earlier. Greece uses a complex reinforced proportional representation electoral system which discourages splinter parties and makes a parliamentary majority possible even if the leading party falls short of a majority of the popular vote. A party must receive 3% of the total national vote to qualify for one of the 300 parliamentary seats.

Peripheries Main articles: Peripheries of Greece

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

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

Geography Main article: Geography of Greece

The country consists of a large mainland, the southern end of the Balkans, and the Peloponnesus peninsula, connected to the mainland by the Isthmus of Corinth. With the mostly internal Aegean Sea there are numerous islands, including Crete, Rhodes, Euboea, and the Dodecanese[?] and Cycladic groups. 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.

Economy 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 3.3% of GDP. 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 3%-3.5% in 2002.

Demographics Main article: Demographics of Greece

Most Greeks (98%) adhere to the Greek Orthodox Church, which is under the protection of the state that also pays the clergy's salaries, and Eastern Orthodox Christianity is the "prevailing" religion of Greece according to the constitution. The Greek Orthodox Church is self-governing but under the spiritual guidance of the Ecumenical Patriarch in Constantinople.

A Greek Muslim minority (of 1.3%), concentrated in Thrace, was given legal status by provisions of the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923 and is Greece's only officially recognised minority.

Culture Main article: Culture of Greece

Miscellaneous topics

External links

  • Greece Now (http://www.greece.gr/index.htm) - Government sponsored e-zine on Greek life
  • Government.gr (http://www.government.gr/index) - Official governmental site (mainly in Greek)
  • Hellenic Parliament (http://www.parliament.gr/english/organwsh/default.htm) - Official parliamentary site

European Union:
Austria  |  Belgium  |  Denmark  |  Finland  |  France  |  Germany  |  Greece  |  Ireland
Italy  |  Luxembourg  |  Netherlands  |  Portugal  |  Spain  |  Sweden  |  United Kingdom

Countries acceding to membership on May 1, 2004:
Cyprus  |  Czech Republic  |  Estonia  |  Hungary  |  Latvia  |  Lithuania  |  Malta  |  Poland  |  Slovakia  |  Slovenia

Countries of the world  |  Europe

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