Greece country profile

Map of Greece

The historical and cultural heritage of Greece continues to resonate throughout the modern Western world - in its literature, art, philosophy and politics.

Situated in the far south of the Balkan peninsula, Greece combines the towering mountains of the mainland with over 1,400 islands, the largest of which is Crete.

Post-World War II Greece saw rapid economic and social change, with tourism and shipping becoming major contributors to the economy.

The global financial crisis of the late 2000s had a devastating effect on Greece, as the legacy of high public spending and widespread tax evasion combined with the credit crunch and the resulting recession to leave the country with a crippling debt burden.


The Hellenic Republic

Capital: Athens

  • Population 11.4 million

  • Area 131,957 sq km (50,949 sq miles)

  • Major language Greek

  • Major religion Christianity

  • Life expectancy 78 years (men), 83 years

  • Currency euro


President: Prokopis Pavlopoulos

Image copyright Getty Images

Born in 1929, Prokopis Pavlopoulos, a veteran politician of the centre-right New Democracy Party was elected president by parliament in February 2015.

The vote was the fourth attempt to elect a successor to Karolos Papoulias, of the Pan-Hellenic Socialist Movement (Pasok), after previous failures triggered the downfall of the government of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and snap parliamentary elections.

The presidency is a largely ceremonial post, as executive power resides with the prime minister.

Prime Minister: Alexis Tsipras

Image copyright Getty Images

Alexis Tsipras swept into power by winning snap elections in January 2015 on promises to ease the tough austerity imposed on Greece as part of international bailouts.

He vowed to renegotiate the bailouts worth €240bn (£179bn; $268bn) granted by the European Union, European Central Bank, and International Monetary Fund to keep heavily indebted Greece afloat in return for painful government spending cuts and restructuring.

But the creditors refused to budge, and Mr Tsipras - after winning a "No" vote to the bailout package in a referendum that only left Greece facing even tougher requirements - bowed to their conditions in dramatic negotiations in the summer of 2015.


Image copyright Getty Images

Television is Greece's most popular medium. Established privately-owned networks operate alongside the public broadcaster ERT.

The government has sought to regulate the TV sector, and five national networks were licensed in 2018.

Media outlets have had to weather Greece's economic crisis. Some outlets have made cuts and others have closed altogether.

Read full media profile


Some key dates in Greek history:

1821-1829 - Greek War of Independence from Ottoman Empire.

1832 - Prince Otto of Bavaria is chosen as the first king of independent Greece.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption View of Athens from the Acropolis

1919-22 - Greco-Turkish War - Greek invasion of Asia Minor prompted by the collapse of the Ottoman Empire after World War 1 is defeated by Turkish forces.

1924 - Greeks vote for the abolition of the monarchy, country becomes republic.

1936 - General Ioannis Metaxas appointed prime minister, establishes right-wing dictatorship.

1940 - Italian dictator Benito Mussolini's forces attack Greece from Italian-held Albania, but are repelled.

1941 - Metaxas dies. Greece falls to German forces.

1942 - 1944 - Fierce resistance to the occupation by communist and royalist factions alike.

1944 - British and Greek forces combine to force Nazi withdrawal.

1946 - 1949 - Royalist parties win elections. Ensuing civil war ends with defeat of communist forces.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Ships pass through the Corinth canal

1952 - New constitution declares Greece a kingdom ruled by parliamentary democracy. Greece joins Nato.

1967 - Group of army officers seize power in military coup. Elections are postponed indefinitely and Col George Papadopoulos takes office as prime minister.

1973 - Greece declared a republic, the monarchy is abolished and Papadopoulos assumes the presidency.

1974 - A Greece-backed coup against President Makarios of Cyprus is followed by Turkish invasion and occupation of north of the island.

1975 - New constitution declares Greece a parliamentary republic with some executive powers vested in a president.

1980 - Conservative Constantine Karamanlis elected president.

1981 - Greece joins EU. Andreas Papandreou's Socialist Party (Pasok) wins elections.

2008 - World credit crunch plunges Greece into a severe government debt crisis, resulting in tight austerity and a dramatic fall in living standards.

Related Topics

More on this story

Around the BBC

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites