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The Greeks and the Others. Greek Identity and the EU Conclusion. The Greek state, as is known today, is the product of century long process of military and political struggle. 1770-1850 , the belief that the modern Greeks are the descendants of the classical Greeks is overwhelming.

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the greeks and the others

The Greeks and the Others

Greek Identity and the EU



The Greek state, as is known today, is the product of century long process of military and political struggle.

  • 1770-1850, the belief that the modern Greeks are the descendants of the classical Greeks is overwhelming.
  • This belief is reinforced by the European admiration of classical civilization which was also prominent at the time.

This admiration of antiquity is also manifested by the choice of Athens as the capital by the Bavarian royal family that ruled Greece at the early stages of the Greek state.

  • The relation between ancient and modern Greeks was also intensified by the modern Greek language with its close relation to the ancient Greek.
  • The gap of 2000 years of history. Many things had changed and the geographical area known as Greece had gone through many cultural, social and political developments for those centuries.


  • The representatives of the Greek enlightenment contrasted the ancient Greece with Christian Byzantinism. The latter was often considered as a period of cultural darkness.
  • Yet, many considered themselves descendants of the Eastern Roman empire taking pride in orthodoxy and the victory against the infidels Ottomans

In 1880 these notions about the Byzantine empire changed and the Byzantine period was perceived more favorably.

  • In the Greek state, like in any other state, History became a tool for building national identity.
  • While in Greek education the students were learning about the civil war between Athens and Sparta there was no mention about the civil war during the War of Independence or during the WWII.
  • Idealized historical perspectives

“As a result, at the end of the nineteenth century, the Greek national myth settled on a direct line of ancestry linking the contemporary Greek nation-state with the heroes of Greek mythology, classical antiquity, the Hellenistic period, the transformation of the Eastern Roman Empire to the Byzantine Empire and the period of oppression under the Ottoman Empire.


This version of national history aimed to retain the reputation and glory of the past and the ‘virtues of the marvelous personalities’ of the nation’s history. The image of the glorious past and virtuous ancestors greatly influenced the way that modern Greeks perceived themselves and their neighbors.”


Idealization of the past

  • Concealment of the past
  • A perception that contradicted the pettiness and the problematic nature of everyday life.
  • Imperfection
  • Insecurity

This feeling was exacerbated when looking at the great powers of Europe. This inferiority complex leads to “defensive nationalism”.

  • Defensive nationalism uses fear (usually of an enemy)
  • This resulted in the underestimation of all the neighboring countries and ethnic groups that live in Greece, and the attempts to keep away those who are not or do not wish to become Greek.

“This attitude eliminated anything foreign, anything that did not conform to the national image. The neighbors (the other) were defined in distinction to the Greeks (the national self), and also whether they were considered friends or enemies. For example, Serbs were considered familiar, while Turks and Bulgarians were enemies.”


The case of Greece can be used as an example of a country obliged to take measures for the protection of minorities after every wave of expansion. In 1830, according to the Third Protocol of London, the Roman Catholic citizens of the new state were to be treated equally by the government in every respect. In 1864, according to the Treaty of London, the same applied towards the Roman Catholics of the Ionian islands. In 1881, the Muslims in Thessaly and Epirus were given religious freedom and autonomy in their communities. In 1913, the same right was given to the Muslims of Macedonia, Thrace and the Koutsovlachs


The Greek administration tried to assimilate the heterogeneous population that lived near its border. It was perceived that this population could cause problems in case of unrest. Certain measures were taken in order to alter the ‘ethnic’ character of these territories. Public servants from other regions were given economic motivation to work there. The Ministry of Education cooperated with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in order to increase the use of the Greek language among the minorities.


When Thessaloniki was annexed to Greece in 1912, the Sephardic Jews felt threatened. They were afraid that they would be marginalized within the northern part of the Greek state. The Greek government tried to persuade them that they had no reason to feel politically or economically threatened. They were free to have their own schools, organizations and groups, and even elected deputies to the parliament.


The multiethnic citizens of the Byzantine Empire and the diverse Orthodox populations which lived under the Ottoman empire were defined primarily through their faith

  • The Orthodox Church was recognized as the secular and religious representative of the Orthodox millet.

The Greek church was initially hostile to the Greek War of Independence.

  • After Greek independence and the creation of the modern Greek state, the Greek Church became autocephalous and independent from the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople in 1833.
  • The creation of the Greek state starts at the same time as the creation of the Greek church.

How to define the Greek nation?

  • The following debate continues till today.
  • 1) The liberal ideas of Enlightenment of the West=ancient Greece
  • 2) The Church and the Orthodox tradition in the East=Christianity


  • A synergy between the ancient and Byzantine heritage of Greece, “Helleno-Christianity” became the very foundation of the Greek national identity.

“Hellono-Christianity”became a term used by intellectuals to represent the historical and cultural continuity of ancient Greece, through Byzantium, into modern Greece.

  • History of the Greek Nation-Paparigopoulos vs. Fallmereyer

According to Yiannarasand other scholars, the multiethnic citizens of the Byzantine Empire and the diverse Orthodox populations which lived under the Ottoman empire were defined primarily through their faith.


According to Manitakis, the political aspirations of the Greek nationalist movements of Greek irredentism were encapsulated in the Megali Idea, which attempted to bring together the Church, the Greek Nation and their Byzantine past, for the political revival of the Byzantine Empire and Greece’s expansion to its pre-Ottoman territories.


“The bonds of Greek society and Orthodoxy are maintained through a variety of institutions (Church, State, Education) and cultural and religious activities. Helleno-Orthodoxy resonates in various aspects of contemporary Greek public life, including Church-State relations, state celebrations, popular religiosity, rites of passage and the education system.”

  • Lina Molotokos

Church as a department of State

  • “The Church of Greece is governed by its own Holy Synod but remains under the authority of the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs, which pays the salaries of priests and approves the enthronement of bishops and the licensing of church buildings for all religious denominations”

The socialist government of Pasok in 1981 had initially promised the constitutional separation of Church and State and the expropriation of Church properties.

  • The influence of the Greek church over the Greek electorate and society is overwhelming.

Civil marriage-1982

  • Removal of the statement of religion in the ID cards
  • Political Loss

The Greek membership in the European Union guarantees that, although it is a slow process, many more thing will change in the future.

  • Supreme Council of Ethnikoi Hellenes
  • An umbrella organization established in 1997 to defend and restore the ethnic, polytheistic, Hellenic tradition, religion and way in contemporary Greek society.
  • A union of many groups and organizations

It is estimated that perhaps 2,000 Greeks practice in the ethnic Hellenic tradition and another 100,000 have "some sort of interest"