Despite numerous studies about Greece, not much is known about its political and economic geography. The present sources do not provide a full image. This essay investigates Greece’s political, economic, and historical geography as well as its environmental aspects, human development, sustainability, climate, culture, and so on. The purpose of this research is to compose a country briefing. This study draws upon both primary and secondary sources that include various researches and articles related to the topic. In addition, this paper seeks to examine the political, economic, and other factors that have shaped Greece as it is today. This research will contribute to the future study on similar topics.
Keywords: Greece, political geography, economic geography, climate.
Greece (officially known as the Hellenic Republic) is considered the cradle of the Western civilization and one of the most popular tourist destinations of the world. It is the birthplace of Western drama, major mathematical and scientific principles, political science, historiography, the Western literature, the Olympic Games, Western philosophy, and democracy. Greece has a great variety of modern and ancient attractions such as archaeological cities and museums of the Antique era. These historical monuments have inspired modern culture and education around the globe. Thus, Greece is a European country with rich traditions, culture, and diverse political, economic, and historical geography that has formed during more than 30 centuries.
Greece is a European country since it is located southeast of the European mainland, occupying the largest part of the Balkan Peninsula. The largest city and the nation's capital is Athens. The second most populated city in Greece is Thessaloniki. Greece is about the same size as the UK, with an area of approximately 132 km². The country shares land borders with Turkey, Bulgaria, the Republic of Macedonia, and Albania. Over 200 Greek islands are inhabited, while almost 3,000 are scattered around the eastern Mediterranean. At the same time, Greece is one of the most mountainous European countries, with the Mount Olympus being the highest peak. Thus, Greece is a European country located on the Balkan Peninsula.
The physical geography of Greece is diverse. The country is situated on the large Peloponnese and the Chalcidice peninsulas (projected from the Balkan Peninsula). The main island groups include the Sporades, the Northeast Aegean (west of the mainland), the Ionian (to the east and south), the Dodecanese, the Cyclades, and the Argo-Saronic; Evia and Crete are two largest islands. Thus, Greece is located both on the mainland and the Greek islands.
The historical geography of Greece began forming more than 30 centuries ago. By the 5th century BC, Greeks had organized themselves into poleis (independent city-states), such as Marseilles, Byzantion, Ephesus, Sparta, and Athens, with different styles of governance (oligarchy, democracy, and tyranny). Each polis had its own government, currency, dialect, and laws. In the 4th century BC, Greece was conquered by Macedonians. In the 2nd century BC, the land-mass of Greece became a part of the Roman Empire. However, the Greek language spread throughout the Mediterranean area since the Romans had preserved the Greek architecture, philosophy, history, and culture. After the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, Greece came under Byzantine control. In 1453, when Constantinople fell, Greece also went under the Ottoman control for nearly four centuries. In the 19th century, Greece declared its independence from the Ottoman Empire. In 1947, it reached its present configuration by using various means to extend the territory into the Aegean, Crete, Macedon, Thessaly, and the Ionian islands. During WW2, Greece was occupied by Germans, and this occupation resulted in a violent civil war that broke out between the western-backed government forces and communists. In 1975, Greece became a democratic republic. In 1981, Greece joined the European Union. In 2001, it adopted the euro as its currency. Thus, the multitude events of Greece’s history shows the development of its historical geography.
The cultural geography of Greece has evolved over centuries starting from the Antique era. It reflects the country’s location at the crossing point where the East meets the West. That is why contemporary Greek traditions and culture are diverse and rich. Social organizations have been shaped from the idea of family; therefore, Greek society consists of close-knit families where the institution of marriage plays a crucial role. Some traditions and customs in Greece stem from paganism (in the East of the country), but the majority of them are of a religious nature (the rest of the country). The Greek Orthodox Church is an integral part of life in Greece, and religion is practiced by the majority of people. Thus, the Greek culture combines the elements of both Eastern and Western civilizations.
As for the political geography of Greece, it is modeled after the French system. The constitution establishes that Greece is a parliamentary republic with a single legislative body. The prime minister is the head of the government, while the President is a formal head of the state. Governmental functioning is centralized and highly hierarchical. After a municipal reorganization, in order to strengthen the power of the local government, smaller communities were combined into larger ones. Thus, Greece is a classical centralized parliamentary republic.
The economic system of Greece is based on tourism that is also the main source of foreign exchange. Greece is a developed country with relatively high standards of living. The second key element that determines the economic growth is shipping and international trade. Apart from tourism and shipping, the main industries that support the Greek economy are petroleum, mining, textiles, food, and tobacco. Thus, the economic geography of this country is based on international trade and tourism.
Generally, several environmental aspects in modern Greece deserve attention, especially water and air pollution. Thus, Greece’s pollution problems come from unregulated urban growth, an unbalanced industrial development, and complete disregard for environmental protection measures. Air and water pollution are significant problems since they are caused by agricultural chemicals (sewage, pesticides, and fertilizers) and industrial pollutants. The majority of the country’s industrial facilities are located in the area of the Gulf of Saronikos, which makes it one of the most polluted areas. Thus, Greece’s main environmental problems are water and air pollution.
The climate in Greece is Mediterranean, with wet, cool winters (severe in the northern mountain regions) and dry, hot summers. Sea breezes moderate the summer heat. The annual rainfall varies from approximately 40 to 81 cm in the south and 50 to 120 cm in the north.During the last years, Greece’s annual temperature has showed a trend of significant increase. Over the last decade, scientists observed a progressive increase of temperature over the land of approximately 7-10 °C that seems to be a result of a global climate change. Greece’s warm Mediterranean climate becomes even warmer due to global warming.
Due to the recent economic crisis, Greece’s sustainability has become highly questionable. Its economic difficulties have been brewing for years. As the result of the economic crisis, Greece has lost international cost competitiveness that resulted in decreased levels of foreign investments, deteriorating international investment position, and huge budget deficit and national debt. Thus, in the recent years, Greece has experienced the economic crisis that results in negative rates of economic growth and that has no end in sight.
According to the official 2011 census, the population of Greece is about 11 million. In the recent years, immigration has become the only source of population increase. About 10% of the registered Greek population is foreigners. Thus, at the moment, due to a great number of immigrants, Greece experiences population growth.
The recent economic crisis has brought extreme poverty to the Greek population. Thus, almost 13% of Greeks live in poverty. Therefore, in the mid-2000s, about 1.5 million Greek citizens fell below the extreme poverty line. That is why according to Stamatelatos, Greece recognized as the last in the rankings among the 28 member states of the European Union. The report by Stamatelatos reflects the competitiveness of the Greek economy, social cohesion, and the impact of the financial crisis on society. Furthermore, report on social justice of the EU demonstrates that Greece faces serious economic problems. Moreover, the report indicates that the gap between Romania (the second worst in the rankings) and Greece grows. The local economy loses human capital - its most important comparative advantage, while the economic and social inequality has become structural and permanent. Furthermore, the report shows that the gap between the South and North of Europe also widens. Thus, the economic crisis had caused an increase in Greece’s poverty levels which, in its turn, has caused an increase in economic and social inequality.
In Greece, human development is determined by the antique, medieval, and modern eras of Greek history. These periods had both direct and indirect impact on the national happiness, quality of life, and human development. In 2014, Greece was ranked 29th in the world by human development index.Thus, the latest research shows the decrease in Greece’s quality of life.
To conclude, Greece a country is located southeast of the European mainland in the Balkan Peninsula. Its territory also includes the Greek islands. The historical geography of Greece has been formed during more than 3,000 years. Greece is a parliamentary republic and a cradle of democracy. Its culture has the elements of both the Western and Eastern civilizations. The economics of Greece is based on tourism and international trade. Environmental problems experienced by the country are air and water pollution. Greece’s climate is Mediterranean. Recently, Greece has experienced a severe economic crisis. However, the population grows due to the great number of immigrants. About 15% of Greeks live in extreme poverty, which is the highest number throughout the last decade. According to human development index for the last years, the quality of life in Greece had significantly decreased.