Greece has a political history of almost two centuries. During these centuries, Greece managed to move from the political backwaters and tyrannical government of Europe to a democratic setup. Greece was founded after the War of Independence by the Ottoman Empire.
Greece in the Ottoman Empire
Greece’s independence in 1830 from the Ottoman Empire was a result of the revolt against this empire in the early 19th century. When the classical era ended in Greece, it was majorly controlled by different empires like the Roman Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and the Byzantine Empire. The Roman and the Byzantine Empires were influenced by the ancient Greek civilization.
The Greek Ottoman Empire
After the fall of Constantinople in 1453, the Ottoman Empire recognized the Orthodox Church and Patriarch of Constantinople as not only the spiritual but also the political leader of the Greek Christian Orthodox Community. In turn, the Christian Orthodox Church was granted several privileges including autonomy and judicial powers in some private law disputes. Eventually, the Greek Christian Orthodox Commonwealth became so powerful that even the highest-ranks in the political arena were given to the members of the commonwealth at the beginning of the 19th century.
In the first half of the 19th century, communities of Greek-speaking Orthodox Christians were formed, which was in many ways the beginning of Greek enlightenment. It was during this period that major works were translated into Greek and schools teaching Greek were set up in commercial centers. This enlightenment undermined the authority of the Church and created a fertile ground for a national, liberal, and democratic movement.
The Greek War of Independence
The Greek War of Independence was triggered by the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars and was organized by unlikely revolutionaries. These revolutionaries founded a secret organization known as FilikiEtairia to incite a revolution in the Balkans. However, there were still many who did not believe in the fact that the Greeks were ready for a revolution and the international situation was hostile to revolutions after the Congress of Vienna. However, amidst all this, Greeks took advantage of the fact that Ottomans were distracted by the uprising of Ali Pasha of Ioannina, a warlord who challenged the Ottoman Empire. This uprising kept the Ottoman armies occupied for a long time and therefore the Ottomans were unable to quash the insurgents in the Greek Peninsula. The FilikiEtairia was able to start the revolution in 1821.
The Greek War of Independence struck a chord with not only the thinkers and activists but also poets and thinkers. The first victories of the Greeks in Central Greece and Pelopenneseand how the revolutionaries presented themselves had two results- the local insurgency became an international event and many influential Europeans decided to support the revolution. This gave rise to the Philhellenic Movement which was instrumental in the liberation of Greece.
After the War towards a Democracy
From 1925 to 1935, Greece was a republic. In 1940, Greece was attacked by the Italians and after 1941, the German occupation forces controlled political power in the country. In 1946, the Greek monarchy returned to power. The civil war also came to an end when the Communists were defeated by the Royalists with the help of the British and United States military assistance in the year 1949.
However, during these years between 1949-64, Greece was politically controlled by successive conservative governments. In 1964, a coalition called the Center Union came to political power in the country. This era was marked by continuous political crisis and the country remained polarized between the left and the right and this led to the establishment of the military junta in 1967. This period was marked by political difficulties, disputes with Turkey and growing inflation led to a transformation to civilian rule in the country.
Today, after several years of military influence, Greece has become a parliamentary democracy with a unicameral parliament. The political power rests with the premier and the ceremonial role lies with the president.