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People, Language & Religion


The Greek people are only partly descended from the ancient Greeks, having mingled through the ages with the numerous invaders of the Balkans.

About 98% of the population is Greek. Minority groups include Turks, Macedonian Slavs, Albanians, Armenians, Bulgarians, Jews and Vlachs. Although the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne provided for an exchange of most Greek nationals in Turkey and Turkish nationals in Greece, the Turks of western Thrace were allowed to stay.


Modern Greek, the official language, is the first language of about 99% of the population. English, learned mostly outside the school system, and French are widely spoken. Turkish and other minority languages, such as Albanian, Pomakic, Kutzovalachian and Armenian, also are spoken. The vernacular and the language of popular literature are called dimotiki (demotic). The official language – katharevousa – generally used by the state, the press, and universities, employs classical terms and forms. In 1976, the government began to upgrade the status of dimotiki in education and government. The liturgical language is akin to classical Greek.


Under the constitution, the Eastern Orthodox Church of Christ is the prevailing religion of Greece, but religious freedom is guaranteed. The church is self-governing under the ecumenical patriarch resident in Istanbul, Turkey, and is protected by the government, which pays the salaries of the Orthodox clergy. The government does not keep statistics on membership in religious groups. However, it is estimated that about 97% of the population are nominally members of the Eastern Orthodox Church. Official estimates place the number of Muslims between 98,000-140,000 people, with most living in Thrace.

Judaism has existed in Greece for more than 2,000 years. Sephardi Jews had such a large presence in the city of Thessaloniki that their traditional language, Ladino, had been spoken by the non-Jews of the city as well. Few Greek Jews survived the Holocaust, and today the Jewish community is estimated to number around 5,500.

Greek members of Roman Catholic faith (including both Byzantine Greek Catholics and Latin Catholics) are estimated at 50,000 with the Roman Catholic immigrant community approximating 200,000. Old Calendarists account for 500,000 followers. The Jehovah's Witnesses report having 30,000 active members. Protestants including Evangelicals stand at about 30,000. Free Apostolic Church of Pentecost and other Pentecostals denominations are about 12,000. Mormons can also be found with 420 followers, and Scientologists with 500 followers.

The ancient Greek religion has also reappeared, with approximately 2,000 adherents, comprising 0.02% of the general population. Some of these Greek religionists have made claims that they are not reconstructionists but are just people coming out of the closet.





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