GREECE

by steven hutchison

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Facts about Greece

Greece

is a small country where European civilization started about 2,500 years ago. In those days, Greece controlled much of the land bordering the Mediterranean and Black seas. Athens is the capital and the largest city of Greece. In Athens and many other parts of Greece, magnificent ruins stand as monuments to the nation's glorious past.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 second largest city. The most densely populated areas of Greece are the coastal and interior plains. The mountainous areas are lightly populated. So are many of the Aegean Islands. Ethnic Greeks make up about 95 percent of Greece's population.

Local government. Greece is divided into 13 regions. The regions are further divided into 51 units called nomoi. Each of the nomoi is headed by an elected governor. Mount Athos, a self-governing community of monks, is an independent district that is not part of a region. Local municipalities and communities are governed by an elected chief executive—either a mayor or a president—and an elected council.

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Politics. Greece's main political parties include the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK), the New Democracy Party, and the Radical Coalition of the Left (SYRIZA). PASOK supports social welfare programs and government intervention in the economy to protect workers. The conservative New Democracy Party favors a free market economy with limited government interference in private business. SYRIZA, a leftist party formed in 2004, operates as an opposition group to both PASOK and the New Democracy Party. The three parties differ in their approaches to the economy and to Greece's role within the European Union, as well as to other issues. Smaller political parties include the Communist Party of Greece and the right-wing extremist group Golden Dawn. Greeks who are at least 18 years old are required to vote.

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Armed forces. Greece has an army, navy, and air force. Because of tensions with its neighbors—particularly Turkey—Greece devotes a substantial portion of its national budget to defense. Greek men are required to serve up to 9 months on active duty in the armed forces. They become eligible for the draft at age 18. Greek women may volunteer for military service.

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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.

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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.

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Religion. About 98 percent 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. The archbishop is called the primate of Greece (see Eastern Orthodox Churches). Another archbishop, the ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople, has spiritual jurisdiction over some parts of Greece. They include Crete, the Dodecanese Islands, and the communities of monks on Mount Athos. 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 years day Shaped much like a large leaf, Peloponnese was traditionally called Morea, which means mulberry leaf. Located in the southernmost region of both Europe and Greece, Peloponnese is a wide peninsula connected to the mainland by the Rio-Antirrio bridge. Interspersed with classical Greek temples, Venetian fortresses, Byzantine churches and Mycenaean palaces, Peloponnese echoes the ancient cultures and events from its extensive history. look at the picture belo to see what Peloponnese looks like

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