About one-fourth of the workers in Greece earn their living by farming, and agriculture is an important economic activity. But mountains cover most of Greece, and the land is rocky with little fertile soil. A Greek legend tells that God sifted the earth through a strainer while making the world. He made one country after another with the good soil that sifted through, and threw away the stones left in the strainer. According to the legend, these stones became Greece.
No part of Greece is more than 85 miles (137 kilometers) from the sea. The Greeks have always been seafaring people. About a fifth of Greece consists of islands. The mainland makes up the southern tip of the Balkan Peninsula, extending into the Mediterranean Sea. Many ancient Greek legends, including those about Ulysses and Jason, center on sea voyages. Today, Greece has one of the largest merchant fleets in the world.
The Greeks came under the control of invaders for more than 2,000 years. They lost their independence to the Macedonians in 338 B.C. The Greeks did not regain their independence until A.D. 1829, from the Ottoman Empire. Since then, Greece has had many serious political problems, largely because of weak or undemocratic governments.
In ancient times, the Greeks established the traditions of justice and
individual freedom that are basic to democracy. Their arts, philosophy,
and science became foundations of Western thought and culture. See
the World Book article on GREECE, ANCIENT.
Executive power is exercised by the Cabinet, which consists of the prime minister and various departmental ministers. The Cabinet forms and directs general governmental policy. The president appoints the departmental ministers on the advice of the prime minister.
The parliament, Greece's lawmaking body, is called the Vouli. It consists of one house. The Vouli has 300 deputies. Deputies are elected to four-year terms.
Local government. For the purpose of local government, Greece is divided into 51 nomoi (departments) and Mount Athos, a self-governing community of monks. Each of the nomoi is headed by a nomarch (governor) appointed by the national government to a three-year term. Nomarchs maintain public order, administer the civil service, and collect taxes. Nomoi, in turn, are subdivided into 147 eparchie, or smaller administrative districts. City, town, and village governments consist of an elected chief executive--either a mayor or a president--and an elected council.
Politics. Greece has two major political parties: the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) and the New Democracy Party. PASOK supports strong government influence in the economy. The party has been critical of Greece's membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union. NATO is a military alliance of Western nations, and the European Union is an organization of European nations that cooperate with one another in economic and political matters. PASOK has also opposed the continuing presence of United States military bases in Greece.
The New Democracy Party favors a free market economy with limited government interference in private business. The party supports Greece's membership in NATO and the European Union, and it approves of the presence of U.S. military bases.
Greece also has a number of smaller political parties, including the Communist Party of Greece. Greeks who are at least 18 years old can vote.
Courts. The Special Supreme Tribunal is the highest court in Greece. It has 11 members. The court rules on the constitutionality of laws in some cases, and it decides election and referendum disputes. The regular court system consists of administrative, civil, and criminal courts; appellate courts; and a Supreme Court. Judges are appointed for life by the president.
Armed forces. Because of tensions with its neighbors--particularly
Turkey--Greece devotes a substantial portion of its national budget to
defense. Greece's army, navy, and air force have a total of about
170,000 troops. Greek men are required to serve from 19 to 23 months
on active duty in the armed forces and are eligible for the draft at age
Population. Greece's capital, Athens, is also its largest city. About 30 percent of all Greeks live in Athens or its suburbs. Thessaloniki is the country's second largest city. The most densely populated areas of Greece are the coastal and interior plains. The mountainous areas are lightly populated, as are many of the Aegean Islands.
Ethnic Greeks make up about 98 percent of Greece's population. Turks form the largest ethnic minority. They comprise about 1 percent of the population of the country.
Ancestry. Greeks are descendants of the ancient Indo-Europeans. Various groups of people invaded Greece and settled there. As a result, some segments of the population have been influenced by such ethnic groups as the Italians, Slavs, and Turks.
Language. Greek is the official language of Greece. The
people use a modern form of Greek called demotic. It includes words
and phrases borrowed from many languages, especially English, French, Italian,
Slavic, and Turkish. See GREEK LANGUAGE.
City life. Nearly two-thirds of Greece's people reside in urban
areas. Most Greek cities consist of old and modern sections.
The old section of a Greek city has low buildings, narrow streets, and
few sidewalks. The modern section usually has tall apartment buildings,
wide streets, and modern shopping areas. Urban lifestyles in Greece
are similar to those in other Western nations. Greek cities boast
modern mass transit systems and an abundance of shopping centers and drive-in
restaurants. Most city dwellers work in tourism, commerce, or shipping.
Although Greek cities are remarkably free of slums, population growth has led to housing shortages in many Greek cities. Industrial growth and the increased use of automobiles have led to problems of urban pollution. In Athens, air pollution poses a health hazard and has damaged the city's ancient ruins. Athens has tried to ease this problem by tightening controls on industry, by banning automobiles from certain sections of the city, and by limiting the number of automobiles moving through the city each day.
Rural life. Since the 1960's, the population has declined in rural areas--especially in the mountains--as people have left farms to seek jobs in the cities. As a result, many small farms in the mountains have been abandoned. Today, the largest Greek farms lie in the coastal and interior plains, where irrigation produces high crop yields. These profitable farms have led to an improved quality of rural life. Houses are centrally heated and have indoor plumbing and electricity. Modern, paved roads link rural settlements to cities and towns.
Rural Greeks are strongly attached to their communities. Many Greeks who have migrated to the cities own land and a summer house in their rural village.
Clothing. Today, Greeks wear Western-style clothing. Traditional dress, such as braided jackets and pleated kilts for men, are worn only during public social events or celebrations. Traditional dress varies from region to region.
Food and drink. The Greek diet includes a variety of meats, such as lamb, chicken, pork, and beef, and many fresh vegetables, such as tomatoes, eggplant, and beans. Meats and vegetables are often combined in stews. Greeks enjoy many different cheeses, some of which are regional specialties.
The Greeks eat more lamb than any other meat. They also serve a wide variety of fish and other seafood from the Mediterranean Sea. They almost always cook food in olive oil and often use olive oil for flavoring. Greek cooking also uses oregano, garlic, onions, and fennel (an herb related to parsley) as seasonings.
Popular Greek dishes include soupa avgolemono (lemon-flavored chicken soup), dolmathes (vine leaves filled with rice and ground meat), moussaka (layers of eggplant and ground meat), and souvlaki (meat cooked on a long pin, usually with onions and tomatoes). Also popular are olives and feta (a cheese made from sheep's or goat's milk). Fresh fruit is a common dessert. Greeks also enjoy a wide variety of sweet pastries.
Popular beverages include beer and retsina (a white wine flavored with pine resin). Greeks like to drink ouzo (a strong, anise-flavored liquor) and brandy. Favorite hot beverages include tea and a dark, thick coffee.
Recreation. Greeks enjoy sports, particularly soccer and swimming. They also enjoy socializing in outdoor theaters, cafes, and restaurants. On weekends and holidays, Greeks like to travel to visit with friends and relatives in other parts of the country.
Religion. About 98 per cent of Greece's people belong to the Greek Orthodox Church. Greek Orthodoxy is the nation's official religion, but everyone has freedom of worship. The Greek Orthodox Church is a self-governing member of the Eastern Orthodox Churches. It is headed by the archbishop of Athens, who is called the primate of Greece (see EASTERN ORTHODOX CHURCHES). But Crete, the Dodecanese Islands, and the communities of monks on Mount Athos are under the spiritual jurisdiction of the ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople. The Greek government pays the salaries of Greek Orthodox clergy. Other religious groups in Greece include Roman Catholics, Jews, Protestants, and Muslims. Muslims live mainly in Thrace.
Most Greeks attend church during such events as baptisms, weddings, and funerals, and during the major religious holidays of Easter and Christmas. Easter is the most important religious holiday in Greece. The people serve lamb feasts on Easter Sunday. Instead of giving presents on Christmas, many Greeks do so on St. Basil's Day, which falls on New Year's Day. See BASIL, SAINT.
Greek Orthodox festivals are an important part of the people's lives. They help to maintain religious influence throughout the country. Every major settlement has a patron saint. The people may go to church on the evening before the saint's yearly feast day, as well as on the feast day. After the evening service, they enjoy food and wine, and they sing and dance far into the night.
Education. Greek law requires children to go to school from the age of 6 through 15. Elementary school lasts through the sixth grade and is followed by a six-year high school program. All public education in Greece is free.
Greece has a strong educational tradition. Most of the country's adult population can read and write. For Greece's literacy rate, see LITERACY (table: Literacy rates). Enrollment in higher education programs has increased greatly since the 1960's.
Greece has 16 universities and colleges. The largest are the Aristotelian University of Thessaloniki and the University of Athens. There are also a number of schools for archaeology and for the fine arts.
Arts. The most famous artist born in Greece was probably Domenikos Theotokopoulos. He became known as El Greco (the Greek) in Spain, where he did most of his painting during the late 1500's and early 1600's. Important Greek writers of the 1800's and 1900's include the poets George Drosines, Kostes Palamas, and Dionysios Solomos. Others were Nikos Kazantzakis, a novelist, and Alexander Papadiamantis, known for his short stories. Two Greek poets have won the Nobel Prize for literature. George Seferis won the prize in 1963, and Odysseus Elytis received the award in 1979. Important Greek musicians of the 1900's have included the composers Manos Hadjidakis, Nikos Skalkottas, and Mikis Theodorakis; the conductor Dimitri Mitropoulos; and the opera singer Maria Callas.
Many Greeks are skilled weavers of colorful rugs or articles of clothing. Embroidery is another important handicraft in Greece. Greek silversmiths hammer silver into heavy necklaces and other beautiful jewelry. Traditional Greek folk dances are held at local festivals and other celebrations. The people dance to folk music that features clarinets and bouzouki (a stringed instrument that resembles a mandolin). Festivals of ancient Greek dramas are held regularly in bowllike outdoor theaters that were built before the time of Christ.
Mountains divide Greece into many land regions. High peaks cut off valleys and plains from one another. The Pindus Mountains, for example, form a barrier between the east and west sections of the mainland. These heavily forested mountains rise over 8,000 feet (2,400 meters) above sea level. Water also shapes the land regions of Greece. Long arms of the sea reach into the coasts, forming many peninsulas. Greece's hundreds of islands together make up about 20 per cent of the country.
Greece has nine main geographic regions. They are: (1) Thrace, (2) Macedonia, (3) Thessaly, (4) Epirus, (5) Central Greece and Euboea, (6) the Peloponnesus, (7) the Ionian Islands, (8) the Aegean Islands, and (9) Crete.
Thrace lies in the extreme northeastern section of Greece, west of Turkey and south of Bulgaria. The region is dominated by the massive, barren Rhodope Mountains near the Bulgarian border and a narrow plain along the coast. An oriental variety of tobacco is grown in the region. Thrace is the home of Greece's largest group of Turkish-speaking Muslims.
Macedonia extends westward from the region of Thrace. It includes portions of the Pindus and southern Balkan mountains, as well as several fertile valleys. Macedonia ranks as the most productive agricultural region of Greece, boasting two rich agricultural plains--Thessaloniki and Serrai. Major crops include corn, cotton, fruits, rice, tobacco, and wheat. Thessaloniki, the region's largest city, is second only to Athens in size and industrial production. It is also a major port. Ptolemais, in the Pindus Mountains of western Macedonia, is the site of the country's principal lignite mines. The self-governing religious community of Mount Athos lies on the easternmost prong of the Khalkidhiki Peninsula in eastern Macedonia. There, about 2,000 monks live in 20 monasteries.
Thessaly, which lies south of Macedonia, is a large plain nearly surrounded by tall mountains. The mountains include 9,570-foot (2,917-meter) Olympus, the highest peak in Greece. Thessaly has long been an important grain-growing area, and wheat is still a major crop. Thessaly also grows more cotton than any other region. Other crops include olives and vegetables. The port city of Volos is the commercial center of the region.
Epirus is a small, sparsely populated region that lies in the northwestern part of the country between Albania and the Gulf of Amvrakia. Its mountainous terrain makes travel difficult. Ioannina, which lies in a major valley, is the largest city in Epirus. Crops grown in the region include citrus fruits, grapes, and rice. Sheep graze in the mountains, and wool is an important product.
Central Greece and Euboea, located south of Epirus and Thessaly, is a region of mountains and hills, small valleys, and many islands. It makes up only about one-fifth of Greece but has nearly half the total population. The Greater Athens area is the nation's leading communications, financial, industrial, and transportation center. It includes the port city of Piraeus and many coastal industrial cities and tourist attractions. In addition to the famous ancient ruins in Athens itself, there are those of Eleusis and other nearby historic sites. The region produces cotton, figs, grains, and olives. Marble and lead are important mineral products. Bauxite is mined at Mount Parnassos, and a large aluminum factory operates on the Gulf of Corinth.
The Peloponnesus is a large peninsula with small valleys and rugged mountains and coastlines. The Corinth Canal cuts through the isthmus that connects the region with the rest of the mainland, making it almost an island. Maquis and scattered pine forest make up the principal plant life. Crops, principally citrus fruits, grapes, olives, and vegetables, grow on less than 20 per cent of the land area, mainly in the coastal plains. The Peloponnesus is one of the most historically famous parts of Greece. Ancient temples and ruins stand at Corinth, Epidaurus, Mycenae, Navplion, Olympia, and other historic sites.
The Ionian Islands lie in the Ionian Sea, west of the Greek mainland. The largest and most heavily populated ones are Cephalonia, Corfu, Leucas, and Zante. One tourist attraction is the island of Ithaca, home of Ulysses in the epic poem The Odyssey. Crops grown in the Ionian Islands include citrus fruits, grapes, olives, and vegetables. Sheep and goats graze on the mountains.
The Aegean Islands lie in the Aegean Sea between the Greek mainland and Turkey. These islands are rocky, and few people live there. The northern islands include Chios, Lesbos, Limnos, Samothrace, Thasos, and the Northern Sporades group. To the south are the Cyclades group and the Dodecanese Islands. Major tourist attractions in the Aegean Islands are Rhodes, Delos, Tinos, Paros, Mikonos, and Siros. Another attraction is the island of Thira, which some historians believe is the lost continent of Atlantis.
Crete, in the Mediterranean Sea, is the largest Greek island.
It consists mainly of hills and mountains with some fertile valleys.
A narrow plain extends along the northern coast, which contains the largest
cities and some light manufacturing. Along the southern coast, mountains
slope steeply to the sea. The major tourist attraction is the famous
ruins of Knossos, the center of the ancient Minoan civilization.
Greece has a so-called Mediterranean climate, with mild, wet winters and hot, dry summers. However, the climate varies sharply between the mountainous interior and coastal regions. Temperatures average about 40 °F (4 °C) in winter and above 75 °F (24 °C) in summer in coastal locations.
In much of Greece, about three-fourths of the total rainfall occurs in winter. Snow is rare in the lowlands but falls in the high mountains. During the summer, skies are nearly cloudless, and cool sea breezes blow along the coasts every day.
Westerly winds are responsible for most of Greece's rain and snow. These warm, moist winds cool as they rise along the west-facing mountain slopes. As they cool, they drop moisture in the form of rain and snow. Because of this pattern, most of the western mountain slopes are wetter and greener than the eastern slopes.
The precipitation (rain, snow, and other forms of moisture) in Greece decreases from the northwest to the southeast. It ranges from more than 60 inches (150 centimeters) a year in northern areas of the Pindus Mountains to less than 15 inches (38 centimeters) on the island of Kea in the Cyclades. The rain usually falls in heavy but brief showers.
Nearly all of Greece's rivers dry up in summer because of the lack of rain. As a result, fresh water must be stored during the winter for use in summer.
The economy of Greece was almost destroyed during World War II (1939-1945)
and during the Greek civil war (1946-1949). Although still weak by
Western European standards, the Greek economy has expanded greatly since
the 1950's. The economic expansion has resulted largely from government
programs, economic aid from the United States, and trade with the Middle
East and with members of the European Union. The European Union is
an organization of European nations that cooperate with one another in
economic and other matters (see EUROPEAN UNION).
Service industries, taken together, account for more than 60 percent of Greece's gross domestic product (GDP)--the total value of goods and services produced within a country in a year. Service industries employ more than 50 percent of the country's workers. Community, social, and personal services produce a larger portion of the GDP than any other industry. This industry includes such economic activities as education and health care. Other important service activities include banking, government services, trade, and transportation. Tourism benefits many of Greece's service industries.
Manufacturing accounts for about a fifth of the nation's GDP and employs about a fifth of all Greek workers. Leading industrial products include beverages, cement, chemicals, cigarettes, clothing, fertilizers, footwear, processed foods, and textiles. Greece also produces fabricated metals, petrochemicals (chemicals made from petroleum or natural gas), paper, pharmaceuticals, and rubber products. Industrial activity is heavily concentrated in Athens and Thessaloniki.
Agriculture contributes less than 15 percent to Greece's GDP and employs roughly 20 percent of the work force. Greece has dry summers and little fertile soil, and about four-fifths of the land is mountainous. Most Greek farms are small and fragmented. They average 8 acres (3.2 hectares) in size. Crops grow on about 40 percent of the total land area. Another 40 percent of the land consists of pastures or meadows.
Wheat is Greece's main crop. Other major crops include corn and other grains, cotton, olives, oranges, peaches, potatoes, sugar beets, tobacco, and tomatoes. Greece is among the world's leading producers of olives and raisins.
The most important livestock raised in Greece is poultry. Greek farmers also raise sheep, goats, hogs, and cattle. Greece imports much of its livestock, meat, and dairy products from other countries.
Tourism benefits many of Greece's industries. Many tourist hotels and other facilities have been built since the 1950's, and tourism has increased rapidly. Athens, one of the world's most historic cities, attracts more than 90 percent of the tourists who come to Greece. The Acropolis, the center of ancient Athens, is the most famous attraction. The Acropolis includes the beautiful ruins of the Parthenon and several other ancient temples standing on this rocky hilltop. See ACROPOLIS; PARTHENON.
The Peloponnesus has the most varied ruins of ancient Greece. It includes such historic areas as Corinth, Epidaurus, Mistra, Mycenae, Olympia, and Sparta. In northern Greece are Thessaloniki and Ioannina, centers of the old Byzantine Empire. Other popular tourist areas include the religious community of Mount Athos--though women are not allowed there--and the islands of Corfu, Crete, Mikonos, Rhodes, Thasos, and Thira.
Mining. Greece has varied but limited mineral deposits. Low-quality brown coal called lignite is the major mineral product. About 90 percent of it is used to generate electric power. The largest lignite deposits are in the Ptolemais basin of the Pindus Mountains, the island of Euboea, and the central Peloponnesus. Other important minerals include bauxite, the ore from which aluminum is made; and chromite, from which stainless steel is made. Greece also produces barite, iron ore from pyrite, lead, magnesite, and nickel. Greece has large deposits of marble and clays. The country has only one important petroleum deposit, near the island of Thasos in the Aegean Sea.
Foreign trade. Greece's most important exports are cement and cement products, clothing, metal products, olive oil, petroleum products, prepared fruits, and textiles. Major imports consist of chemicals, machinery, basic manufactured goods, meat, petroleum and petroleum products, and transportation equipment.
The value of imported products is more than double that of the country's exports. The difference is made up by income from shipping and tourism, and by money sent home by Greeks who live or work elsewhere.
Germany is Greece's main trading partner. Other leading trading partners include Britain, France, Italy, and the United States. About half of Greece's trade is with other EC member nations.
Energy sources. In 1961, about 45 percent of the dwellings in Greece had no electricity. Since then, power production has increased enormously. By 1990, only a few remote areas were still without electricity. Plants that burn lignite or petroleum produce most of Greece's electric power. Greece also has several hydroelectric plants, most of which are on the Akheloos River and other rivers in the Pindus Mountains.
Greece has only limited deposits of petroleum and natural gas. Consequently, it imports most of its crude petroleum and natural gas. But Greece is exploring methods of electricity production involving solar, geothermal, and wind power in order to reduce its dependence on imported petroleum.
Transportation. The mountains of Greece make transportation difficult, and most overland routes go through valleys and natural breaks in the mountains. The principal highway and rail routes connect Athens and Thessaloniki, the country's two largest cities. Most of the roads and highways have hard surfaces. Greece has about 1 automobile for every 7 people. The railroad system, owned by the government, links Greece's major cities and provides international connections.
The Greek merchant fleet ranks among the largest in the world. It consists of about 1,800 ships of at least 100 gross tons each. Piraeus, near Athens, is Greece's leading port, followed by Thessaloniki. A fleet of small ships provides transportation among the islands. None of the rivers can be traveled because they flow too swiftly during the wet season and dry up in summer.
Greece has more than 30 commercial airports, the largest of which is located in Athens. Olympic Airways, the national airline, flies within Greece and to most major international cities.
Communication. Greece has more than 100 daily and weekly newspapers. The largest daily newspaper, the Ta Nea of Athens, sells over 155,000 copies daily.
The government owns the telephone and telegraph system, the radio broadcasting
system, and the television networks. Greece has an average of 1 radio
for every 2 people and 1 television set for every 5 people. Motion
pictures are a popular form of entertainment in Greece, and more than 140
are produced in the country each year.
The recorded history of Greece dates from about 3000 B.C. For Greece's
history before A.D. 1453, see GREECE, ANCIENT; ROME, ANCIENT; BYZANTINE
Ottoman rule began to spread throughout the Greek lands during the 1300's. These lands were once part of the Byzantine Empire, which had broken up into small states. In 1453, the Ottomans captured the Byzantine capital, Constantinople (now Istanbul, Turkey), and made it the capital of the Ottoman Empire. They had won almost all the Greek lands by then. The Ottomans were Muslims, but allowed religious freedom to the Greeks, who were Christians. They also let the Greeks have much local self-government.
A Greek national revival developed during the 1700's, toward the end of Ottoman rule. The Greeks' desire for independence was strengthened by greater prosperity and education. The Greek merchant class increased in size and wealth. The Greeks expanded their manufacturing and trading operations, and developed a large merchant fleet. They built a large number of new schools, and many Greeks studied in more advanced countries. The people became deeply interested in their ancient past and their folk culture. They also began to share in the scientific learning of the West. In 1814, Greek merchants in Odessa, Ukraine (then a part of the Russian Empire), formed the Philike Hetairia (Friendly Society). This group organized a movement against the Ottomans that led to a Greek revolt.
Independence. The Greek War of Independence began in 1821. Greek fighters swept down from the mountains and defeated the Ottomans in the Peloponnesus, in Rumely in central Greece, and on many islands in the Aegean Sea. The Greeks held out against repeated Ottoman attacks. In 1825, Egyptian forces allied with the Ottoman Empire invaded the Peloponnesus, and an Ottoman army moved into Greece from the north. Together, they overran the regions that had been freed by the Greeks. But the Ottomans and Egyptians could not defeat the Greeks nor end the revolution.
In 1827, Britain, France, and Russia agreed to use force if necessary to end the fighting and make Greece a self-governing part of the Ottoman Empire. But the Ottomans refused to give up control of Greece. On Oct. 20, 1827, a combined fleet of the three European powers destroyed the Ottoman and Egyptian fleet in the Battle of Navarino off the Peloponnesus. Russia declared war on the Ottoman Empire in 1828, and the Ottomans left Greece to fight the Russians. The Egyptians withdrew in 1829, and Greece became independent.
In an agreement called the London Protocol of 1830, Britain, France, and Russia recognized Greece's independence and pledged to protect it. In 1832, they named a Bavarian prince, Otto, to be the first king of Greece. They also established Greece's borders.
The new Greek kingdom had fewer than 800,000 people and covered less than half of present-day Greece. About 3 million Greeks lived in what remained Ottoman territory, and 200,000 Greeks lived in the British-controlled Ionian Islands. Greece's expansion to include all these territories became known as the Megali Idea (Great Idea) and was the nation's supreme goal.
Otto I, also called Otho I, was chosen in 1832 to become king of Greece. The country had no constitution, and the king, assisted by a few Bavarian advisers, had unlimited power. Neither the people nor individual Greek leaders had any real influence in the government. Great political discontent developed. The country also had serious financial difficulties. In 1843, a peaceful revolution expelled Otto's Bavarian advisers and forced him to accept a constitution that established Greece as a constitutional monarchy in 1844. In 1853, the Crimean War began between Russia and the Ottoman Empire. Otto supported Greek attempts to fight the Ottomans and free the Greeks under them. But the British and French, who helped the Ottoman Empire fight Russia, landed in Greece to stop these attempts. A revolt in 1862 forced Otto to give up the throne. He was replaced in 1863 by a Danish prince, who became George I.
George I gave Greece a much more democratic government than that of Otto. In 1864, a new constitution limited royal power and gave much power to an elected Parliament. Also in 1864, Britain turned over the Ionian Islands to Greece. In exchange, George pledged to discourage Greek revolts in Ottoman territory.
During the 1880's and 1890's, Greece made great progress. Roads and railroads were built and the merchant fleet was expanded. In addition, the educational system and other social services were improved.
In 1881, Greece acquired the region of Thessaly and the district of Arta in southern Epirus from the Ottoman Empire. The transfer had been suggested by the great European powers at the Congress of Berlin in 1878. In 1897, during a revolt in Ottoman-held Crete, war broke out between Greece and the Ottoman Empire. The European powers arranged peace after severe Greek defeats, and set up self-government for Crete in 1898 under a Greek high commissioner.
A group of young Greek army officers called the Military League organized a peaceful revolt in 1909. The league was protesting against political confusion and economic difficulties that had developed in Greece. The league called on Eleutherios Venizelos, a Cretan leader, to be its political adviser. The Parliament agreed to the league's demands for changes in the constitution, and Venizelos became prime minister in 1910. He carried out sweeping reforms in the Greek economy, armed forces, and civil service. Venizelos served as prime minister during much of the period until 1933.
Venizelos helped organize the Balkan alliance of Greece with Bulgaria, Montenegro, and Serbia. This alliance led to the two Balkan Wars of 1912 and 1913. In the first war, the four Balkan countries defeated the Ottoman Empire and took most of its European territory. In the second war, Bulgaria, dissatisfied with its gains, attacked its allies but was defeated. As a result of the Balkan Wars, Greece gained the island of Crete, southern Epirus, part of Macedonia, and many Aegean Islands.
King George was shot by an assassin in 1913. His son, Constantine I, succeeded him.
World War I began in 1914. Venizelos urged that Greece fight with the Allies against Germany and its partners. But King Constantine, whose wife was a sister of Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, kept Greece neutral. Venizelos started a revolutionary movement. It was supported by the Allies, who had established a military base at Thessaloniki. In 1917, Constantine was forced to give the throne to his son, Alexander I. Greece entered the war on the side of the Allies on July 2, 1917.
Thousands of Greek troops joined the British, French, and Serbians at their Thessaloniki base, from which they attacked the Bulgarians and Turks. In September 1918, the Greeks and other Allied forces moved north. They defeated the Bulgarians, who signed an armistice at Thessaloniki. The entire war ended on November 11.
The peace treaties that followed World War I gave Greece most of the territories it had long sought. From the Ottoman Empire, Greece got eastern Thrace; some islands in the Aegean Sea, including two at the entrance to the Dardanelles; and temporary control of the Smyrna (now Izmir) region in Asia Minor. The Greeks gained western Thrace from Bulgaria.
King Alexander died in 1920, and Constantine I returned to the throne. In 1921, Constantine renewed the war against the Ottoman Empire by sending Greek forces into Asia Minor. The Ottomans dealt the Greeks a crushing defeat in 1922, and a military revolt forced Constantine from the throne. His son, George II, replaced him. A revolution ended the Ottoman Empire in 1922. It became the Republic of Turkey the next year.
In 1923, under the Treaty of Lausanne, Greece returned the Turkish territories it had gained after World War I. The treaty also provided for ending the tensions produced by Turkish rule over Greeks. It required over 1,250,000 Greeks in Turkey to move to Greece and 400,000 Turks in Greece to move to Turkey. After the Greek migration, the only Greeks under foreign rule were in northern Epirus in Albania, British-held Cyprus, and the Italian-held Dodecanese Islands.
Between world wars. Another military revolt forced George II from the Greek throne late in 1923. The next year, Greece declared itself a republic. The republic lasted until 1935, and this period was one of great political confusion and economic weakness. The people were divided between the republicans, who supported the republic, and the royalists, who wanted a king. Also, Greece's economic resources could not keep up with its population, which had been swollen by the refugees from Turkey and by a high birth rate. The worldwide economic depression of the 1930's further weakened the Greek economy and the government.
The royalists returned to power in the elections of 1933. Two unsuccessful republican revolts took place, in 1933 and 1935. The government recalled George II to the throne later in 1935. The 1936 elections left the royalists and republicans almost evenly matched in Parliament. The balance of power rested with the Communists, who held 15 of the 300 seats. As a result, George permitted General Joannes Metaxas to establish a military dictatorship. On Aug. 4, 1936, the king dissolved Parliament without fixing a date for new elections and suspended the main provisions of the constitution. Metaxas remained dictator until his death in 1941.
World War II began in 1939, and Greece declared its neutrality. But on Oct. 28, 1940, Italy attacked Greece. Metaxas had refused to permit Italian troops to build military bases there. The Greek forces were heavily outnumbered, but they pushed the Italians back deep into Albania. Germany came to the aid of Italy. On April 6,1941, German forces poured into Greece and quickly defeated the defenders.
The Germans and their allies occupied Greece during the war. The Greeks suffered starvation, mass executions, and other tragedies, and their economy was almost destroyed. But they organized one of the best underground movements in all Europe. The largest and most effective of the several secret Greek resistance groups was the Communist-led National Liberation Front, known as EAM. Its military arm was the National Popular Liberation Army, or ELAS.
The Germans began to withdraw from Greece in September 1944, and British forces landed in October. The British found EAM in control of most of Greece. Civil war broke out in Athens in December, and the British fought ELAS until early in 1945, when ELAS stopped fighting and agreed to break up its forces. The war in Europe ended in May 1945. Greece became one of the original members of the United Nations later that year.
Elections were held in March 1946 and a royalist government was formed. In September, a referendum that was held favored having a king, and George II returned to the throne. By the end of 1946, Communist-led rebels had begun to revolt against the government. Great Britain had supported the government by giving Greece economic support and military aid against the rebels, but it could no longer afford to do so. Under the Truman Doctrine, announced in March 1947, the United States took over the British support of Greece. A long, bitter civil war followed. By October 1949, the rebels were defeated, but only after the United States provided the government with massive military aid.
King George died in 1947 and was succeeded by his brother, Paul I. Greece acquired the Dodecanese Islands under a 1947 peace treaty with Italy.
The 1950's brought economic recovery and political stability. Greece joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1952. In 1953, Greece allowed the United States to set up military bases on its territory.
During the 1950's, a serious dispute developed between Greece and Turkey over Cyprus, a British island colony off Turkey. Greeks made up about 80 per cent of the island's population, and the rest were Turks. The Greeks of Cyprus demanded union with Greece and organized a revolutionary movement. The Greek government supported this demand, but Great Britain--supported by the Turkish government--and Turkish Cypriots opposed it. After severe tensions, an agreement between Greece, Turkey, and Britain led to independence for Cyprus in 1960. See CYPRUS (History).
In 1952, Greek law gave women the right to vote and hold political office. Field Marshal Alexander Papagos, head of the Greek Rally party, became prime minister that year. He held office until his death in 1955. Constantine Caramanlis, head of the National Radical Union party, succeeded him. Under Caramanlis, Greece's economy expanded rapidly with continuing U.S. aid. The government improved finances, controlled rising prices, and encouraged the expansion of agriculture and industry. In 1955, Greece's first nationwide electric power system was completed. Caramanlis resigned in 1963.
The revolt of 1967. George Papandreou of the Center Union party became prime minister of Greece in November 1963. Earlier, he had charged that the elections of 1961 had been rigged. He had also suggested that the army, with support from the monarchy, stood in the way of democracy. King Paul died in 1964, and his son came to the throne as Constantine II. Constantine clashed with Papandreou over the king's political powers and control of the armed forces. Constantine dismissed Papandreou in 1965. Political confusion developed, and the government remained shaky. In an effort to achieve a stable government, Parliament was dissolved on April 14, 1967, and new elections were called for May 28. But these elections never took place.
On April 21, 1967, Greek army units equipped with tanks and armored cars seized the royal palace, government offices and leaders, and radio stations. Three army officers then set up a military dictatorship. This junta consisted of Colonel George Papadopoulos, its leader; Brigadier General Stylianos Pattakos; and Colonel Nicholas Makarezos. The junta suspended important liberties guaranteed by the constitution. It prohibited all political activity, and made mass arrests. It replaced the leader of the Greek Orthodox Church, imposed harsh controls on newspapers, and dissolved hundreds of private organizations of which it disapproved.
Constantine remained head of state, though powerless. On Dec. 13, 1967, he tried to overthrow the junta. He failed, and he and his family then fled to Italy. The junta named a regent to substitute for the king.
Papadopoulos named himself prime minister and minister of defense. He pardoned many political prisoners, but kept about 2,000 others, mostly Communists, in prison. He loosened some controls on the press. To win popularity, he canceled bank debts of the peasants. In 1968, the junta had a new constitution drawn up. The constitution provided for a stable government, but at the expense of democracy. It increased the prime minister's power and suspended freedom of the press, parliamentary elections, and various individual rights.
The restoration of democracy. In May 1973, a group of naval officers led an unsuccessful mutiny aboard a Greek destroyer. The government said the mutiny was part of an attempted coup supported by King Constantine. In June, Papadopoulos announced the end of the monarchy and proclaimed Greece a republic. He became president in August and began to prepare the country for parliamentary elections. On Nov. 25, 1973, a group of military officers who opposed Papadopoulos's liberalizing policies overthrew the government. The group's leader, Lieutenant General Phaidon Gizikis, became president.
The conflict between Greece and Turkey over Cyprus was renewed in 1974, when Greek officers led Cypriot troops in overthrowing the government of Cyprus. Turkey claimed that Greece had violated the independence of Cyprus, and Turkish troops invaded the island. After several days of fighting, a cease-fire was signed to prevent full-scale war between Greece and Turkey.
The crisis in Cyprus and economic recession paralyzed Greece's military government. Shortly after the cease-fire was signed, the government collapsed. Military leaders invited Constantine Caramanlis, who had opposed Greece's military government, to become prime minister again. On July 24, 1974, Caramanlis was sworn in as prime minister of a civilian government.
In November 1974, Greece held its first free elections in more than 10 years. Caramanlis's New Democracy Party won the elections by a wide margin. In December, Greek voters chose to make the country a republic rather than a monarchy. Parliament adopted a new constitution in 1975. Civilian control over the military was gradually established. Papadopoulos, Pattakos, and Makarezos were found guilty of treason for their roles in the 1967 revolt. They received sentences of life in prison. The New Democracy Party retained its majority in 1977. In 1980, Caramanlis resigned as prime minister, and George Rallis succeeded him. In 1981, Greece joined the European Community. In 1993, the European Community was incorporated into the European Union, which works for both economic and political cooperation among its member nations.
Recent developments. In October 1981, the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) party won control of Parliament and became the first socialist government in the history of Greece. As head of the party, Andreas Papandreou--son of former Prime Minister George Papandreou--became prime minister. The government increased social benefits and personal incomes.
In June 1985, PASOK won elections again, and Papandreou began a second term as prime minister. PASOK was defeated in June 1989. A coalition government was formed. Because of political instability, it collapsed in early 1990, and elections were held in April. The New Democracy Party won control of Parliament. Constantine Mitsotakis became prime minister. PASOK won elections in October 1993. Papandreou again became prime minister. In January 1996, he resigned because of ill health, and Costas Simitis replaced him. Papandreou died in June. In October, PASOK won elections, and Simitis remained prime minister.