Greece Identity Card

Country name:
~ conventional long form: Hellenic Republic
~ conventional short form: Greece
~ local long form: Elliniki Dhimokratia
~ local short form: Ellas or Ellada
Area: 131,940 sq km
Coastline: 13,676 km
Highest point: Mount Olympus 2,917 m
Population: 10,668,354
Density: 80/km2
Population growth rate: 0.19%
Language: Greek
Religions: Greek Orthodox 98%, Muslim 1.3%, other 0.7%
Government type: parliamentary republic
Capital: Athens
GDP - per capita: $21,300
Inflation rate: 2.9%
Currency (code): euro (EUR)
Vehicle Country Id-Code: GR
Calling code: +30
Internet country code: .gr
Time Zone: + 2.0 H


Oia at night a village on Santorini

If ruins of the past, relics and antique collections are something that mesmerizes you, Greece is the place where you can take refuge to quench this thirst. Greece, officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country with ancient past. It situated on the Mediterranean shores and tail end of Balkan Peninsula. Athens is the capital and the largest city of this country with the highest number of residents.
Greece witnessed one of the earliest civilizations of the world and classical Greek architecture continues to inspire and amuse people till date. The most famous building of ancient Greece - The Parthenon, or temple of Athena, graces the Acropolis of Athens. Another great contribution to world architecture was the Greek invention of the theatre. It looks like a D shaped construction with tiers of seating round the curved sides and the stage at the straight edge. Glimpses from the most popular Byzantine style of church architecture are scattered everywhere.
Anecdotes from the world famous Greek mythology pour in from every nook and corner of the country. Ancient Greek literature is still read today including the epic poems of the Trojan War, The Iliad and The Odyssey and so on. The religious chants of Byzantine origins are oldest music of the world that enjoys an avid audience base.
The serene Greek shores and Mediterranean weather complements many water sports activities like sailing, windsurfing, water skiing and scuba diving. The country's main contribution to the world of sport has, of course, been the establishment of the Olympic games. The first Olympic games of the modern era were held in Athens in 1896. Greece's climate and coastline as well as its history and architecture attract many tourists every year.

The Parthenon


Greece, situated on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, is reputed as one of the most mountainous countries of Europe with about 80% its area consisting of mountains or hills. It shares boundaries with Bulgaria, the F.Y.R.O.M., and Albania to the north and with Turkey to the part of east. The rest of eastern part is guarded by the Aegean Sea. The Ionian and Mediterranean Sea lies on the west and south.
The total coastline area of Greece is more than 15,000 kilometres and the land boundary is of 1,160 kilometres. The Greek Islands are generally subdivided into two groups, according to location. The Ionian Islands (including Corfu, Cephalonia, and Leucas) lie to the west of the mainland and the Aegean Islands (including Euboea, Samos, Chios, Lesbos, and Crete) are situated to the east and south. Crete is the largest island. There are numerous other smaller islands of which few are inhabited.
Western Greece contains lakes and wetlands. The north-central part, Epirus, and western Macedonia are all, mountainous. The mountain range of Pindus extends from northwest Greece to the Peloponnese. Mount Olympus, rising to 9,570 ft (2,909 m), is the highest point in the country. The large mainland lies at the southern end of the Balkans that is separated from the Peloponnesus peninsula by the canal of the Isthmus of Corinth. Plains are mainly found in Eastern Thessaly, Central Macedonia and Thrace. The Central and Western Greece area contains high, steep peaks dissected by many canyons. The Vikos gorge is the second largest one on earth after the Grand Canyon in the US.

Agios Nikolaos on Crete

The climate of Greece is basically Mediterraneanin nature, that is, hot summers with mild winters. But the weather pattern can be divided into three distinct classes, namely, Mediterranean, Alpine and Temperate. The first one features mild, wet winters and hot, dry summers. Alpine is found primarily in Western Greece and the Temperate climate is found in Central and Eastern Macedonia with cold, damp winters and hot, dry summers.
Environmentally, Greece is a rich country with a minefield of natural treasure. It has over six thousand species of flowering plants and herbs. The surrounding seas are home to a wide variety of life, including jelly fish, octopus, sea horses, dolphins and sea turtles. Greece's forests provide a home to Western Europe's last brown bears and lynx as well as other species like Wolf, Roe Deer, Wild Goat, Fox and Wild Boar among others.
But nowadays due to deforestation, soil erosion and air and water pollution the ecological balance is dwindling. Athens has one of the world's worst air pollution problems, which has seriously damaged the statues and buildings of the Acropolis.
Greece is also very densely populated. Of the total count, 58.8% lived in urban areas, whereas only 28.4% lived in rural areas. The population of the two largest cities in Greece, Athens and Thessaloniki, reached almost 5 million in Athens while in Thessaloniki it was slightly over the 1 million. The immigrants in Greece form a major part of the residents of which 65% are Albanians. Muslims are the largest religious group in this country, closely followed by Pomaks, various Roma groups, Turkic-speakers and Jews.

Porch of Maidens Erechtheum (Athens - Acropolis)


Thessaloniki The White Tower

Considered as the cradle of Western civilization Greece has a vast history. The ancient Greek culture extensively influenced the socio-economic paradigm in Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East.
It is believed that the first civilizations in Europe, namely the Minoan and the Mycenaean, emerged on the shores of Greece's Aegean Sea. The earliest human remains found here are those of Neanderthal man. At around 6000 BC there are evidences of communities of Neolithic farmers. The Minoan rule collapsed around 1400 BC, perhaps as a consequence of earthquakes and the great explosion of Santorini. Mycenae in the Peloponnese became the next dominant power.
This period is said to be that of the Trojan War but not much distinct information is available about this time and the Dark Age followed. It was around 800 BC, when a new era of Greek city-states emerged establishing colonies along the Mediterranean in Sicily and Italy and as far away as Spain.
Later came the days of the empire of Alexander the Great who invaded and conquered Persia, Egypt and marched as far as India before his death in 323. Rome, the next great power in the Mediterranean eventually conquered Greece in 146BC. In 330 AD the Roman emperor Constantine moved his capital to the Greek city of Byzantium that marked the beginning of the famous Byzantium culture. Though Greece was a province of the Roman Empire, but its culture overpowered the eastern Mediterranean region.
Byzantium fell to the Turks in 1485 and Greece came under Ottoman rule. As the Turkish Empire weakened in the nineteenth, the Balkan Wars (1912-13) finally drove the Turks from Europe.
Greece sided with the Allies in World War I and was allocated a large portion of western Asia Minor in the division of the Turkish Empire. Greece also made an important contribution to the Allied efforts in World War II. In the 1950s and 1960s, it gradually developed with the help of Marshall Plan and profits from the tourism sector. Greece was a charter member of the UN and became a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1951.
In 1967, the Greek military seized power through a coup and remained in control until 1975. Their attempt to unite Cyprus with Greece provoked a Turkish invasion of the island. The army then mutinied, deposing the Junta and Greece, returned to civilian rule. Finally in 1975, following a referendum to confirm the deposition of King Constantine II, a democratic republican constitution came into force.
Greece continues to experience tensions with Turkey over a disputed, unpopulated 10-acre island and over Cyprus, which is divided into Greek and Turkish sectors. Today Greece has developed with the stable economic policies and prosperity followed. It joined the European Union in 1981 and became the 12th member of the euro zone in 2001.

Crete Knossos Palece (North entrance)


The economy of Greece tends to be a balanced system that thrives to give importance to all sectors of the economy. It displays a mixed capitalist feature with an emphasis on agriculture and public sector that accounts for about half of GDP. Due to long spells of war and invasions, the Greek economy plunged deep below and figured as one of the poorest countries of Europe. It became a member of the European Community in 1979 and benefited substantially from EU aid.
Gradually, the economy improved steadily over the last few years, as the government tightened fiscal policy to ensure Greece's entry into the Eurozone on January 1, 2001. The earnings from merchant shipping played an important role in reviving the economy. But it was tourism that emerged as the major earner of foreign currency. Remittances, money sent from relatives overseas, also contributed in reviving the economy. The profits from the success of 2004 Olympics held in Greece came as a great help to the financial sectors.
The expanding services sector and telecommunications industry of Greece has pushed not only the domestic economy but made its mark in the neighbouring regions too. Moreover, the export of manufactured goods, including telecommunications hardware and software, foodstuffs, and fuels accounts for a large part of the rest of Greek income.
The resources of the sea like fish and sponges are also important source of revenue generation.
The most evident mineral deposits are the petroleum and gas fields in the Aegean Sea and bauxite and iron ore on the mainland.
The country has also banked on a unique source; a net importer of labour and foreign workers (mainly from Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Pakistan, and Africa) thus saving on labour cost. The average per capita income of Greece in 2004 was estimated at $22,000. The Bank of Greece, now a subsidiary of the European Central Bank, functions as the nation's central bank.
The economic policies have definitely raised the quality of life of a Greek citizen. But other glaring issues like unemployment, privatising of several state enterprises, social security reforms, overhauling the tax system, and minimising bureaucratic inefficiencies are yet to be resolved.

The Acropolis of Athens


Beginning from the Roman and Ottoman invaders to military dictatorship, the power platform of Greece witnessed rise and fall of numerous authorities. Finally in 1974, the democratic elections and a referendum created a parliamentary republic and abolished the monarchy. The constitutional features settled in 1975 included guarantees of civil liberties.
The political structure of Greece considers the President of the Republic as the Head of State.
He is elected by an increased majority of the Parliament for a term of five years. However, the president performs very limited governmental functions and is limited to ceremonial duties.
The prime minister and cabinet handle the political process and lead the country. Greek parliamentary politics follows the principle of the "dedilomeni" or "declared confidence" to the Prime Minister and his/her administration. This means that the President of the Republic is compelled to appoint a person as Prime Minister who will be approved by a majority of the Parilament's members (i.e. 151 votes). Greeks undertake a countrywide vote to elect the 300 members of the country's unicameral parliament (the Vouli ton Ellinon). But elections can occur at more frequent intervals under special circumstances.
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 an electoral system to ensure that the party that leads in the national vote will win a majority of seats. According to the regulations a party must receive 3% of the total national vote to gain representation. There are also provisions for a "vote of confidence" and conversely "vote of reproach" but both are rare occurrences.

Agios Stephanos on Corfu island



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