Greeks constitute an ethnic group of great longevity, tracing their origins to the first appearance of complex society in southeastern Europe. A common sense of Culture, language, and religion signified by the term "Greek" (Hellene) developed in antiquity and has endured, with changes, to the present. Greek identity today emphasizes early Greek civilization, the Christian traditions of the Byzantine Empire, and the concerns of the modern Greek nation established in 1831. Throughout Greek history, members of other groups were periodically assimilated as Greeks, while Greeks themselves migrated in a worldwide diaspora. The ethnic Greeks now residing outside the Hellenic republic equal those within. This article, however, is restricted to the latter.
Location. The southernmost extremity of the Balkan Peninsula, Greece is located between 34° and 41° N and 19° and 29° E. It contains 15,000 kilometers of coastline and over 2,000 islands fanning into the Mediterranean Sea. The total land surface is 131,947 square kilometers, of which 80 percent is hilly or mountainous with only scattered valleys and plains. Nine geographical regions are generally recognized. Macedonia, Epirus, and Thrace form Greece's northern border with Albania, Macedonia (that section of what was Yugoslavia that is now seeking recognition as a separate nation), Bulgaria, and Turkey. The southern mainland includes Thessaly, central Greece, and the Peloponnesos. The Ionian Islands to the west of the mainland, the Aegean Islands (Including the Cyclades and Dodecanese) to the east, and Crete to the south constitute the major island regions. The climate varies from Mediterranean to central European with generally hot, dry summers and cool, wet winters.
Demography. The 1991 Greek census recorded 10,042,956 citizens, of whom 96 percent were ethnic Greeks. There were also small numbers of Jews, Turks, Slavo-Macedonians, Gypsies, Albanians, Pomaks, Armenians, Lebanese, Filipinos, Pakistanis, North Africans, recent refugees from eastern Europe, and transhumant shepherd groups, Including Koutsovlachs, Aromani, and Sarakatsani. The national population has increased greatly from its 1831 level of 750,000, because of territorial accretion, the immigration of Greeks from outside Greece, and a rate of natural increase annually averaging 1.5 percent prior to 1900 and 1 percent thereafter. This growth was countered, however, by massive emigration to North America, northern Europe, Australia, and other locations throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The once sizable Turkish, Bulgarian, and Serbian populations living within current Greek boundaries also fell to minimal levels after several treaties and population Exchanges around the time of World War I.
Linguistic Affiliation. The primary language of Greece is Greek, an Indo-European language first attested around 1400 B.C. Modern Greek has two major forms: katharevousa, a formal, archaizing style devised by Greek nationalist Adamantis Korais in the early nineteenth century; and dimotiki, the language of ordinary conversation, which has regional variations. Many Greeks mix these forms according to demands of context and meaning, and the choice of one or the other for schooling and public discourse has been a political issue. Hellenic Orthodox church services are conducted in yet another Greek variant, koine, the language of the New Testament. While 97 percent of Greek citizens speak Greek as their primary language, there are small groups who also speak Turkish, Slavo-Macedonian, Albanian, Vlach (a Romanian dialect), Pomak (a Bulgarian dialect), and Romany.