National Revival and Expansion
King George's reign began with a good omen: as a kind of dowry, Great Britain yielded the Ionian islands to Greece- the first addition of territory since independence. In the same year a new constitution was adopted, augmenting democratic freedoms and strengthening democratic institutions. However, the last three decades of the 18th century were marked by a chain of events moving Greece from progress and national accomplishments to the brink of catastrophe.
It was during this period that under the wise leadership of reformist Prime Minister Harilaos Trikoupis, serious steps toward industrialization were made, communications and infrastructure, especially railroads, improved considerably, the armed forces were modernized. It was during this period that, as a result of Russia's victory over the Ottoman Empire in 1877-78 Thessaly and a part of Epirus were ceded to Greece. It was, however, during the same period that Greece's conflicts with its neighbors to the north particularly Bulgaria were aggravated; that Prime Minister's, Theodoros Deliyannis' populism and adventurism led to Greece's humiliating defeat in a "Thirty Day War" against the Turks in Thessaly. It was, finally, in the same period that the bankruptcy of the Greek state was officially declared. A by-product of gloomy economic prospects was a wave of emigration. It has been estimated that from 1890 to 1914 more than 350,000 Greeks, nearly one-sixth of the entire population, left their homeland mainly for the United States.
Popular discontent against the political establishment led to the Goudi military coup in 1909. From Goudi in the outskirts of Athens, a group of army officers, calling themselves "the Military League", issued an ultimatum to the government demanding a series of reforms of military and non-military nature. The ensuing developments brought to the forefront of the national political stage a young lawyer, Eleftherios Venizelos, who had made a name for himself in the politics of his native Crete, autonomous region since 1897. With the blessing of the League and after a landslide victory of his Liberal Party in the 1910 elections Venizelos, a visionary, charismatic statesman, implemented a daring program of domestic reforms aimed at economic, social and political modernization. These reforms gained the support of business interests, while at the same time appealing to the rising working class and the politically strong agricultural population.
Venizelos guided Greece successfully not only in peace but in war too. When the perennial turmoil in the Balkans erupted into armed conflicts (with the fate of and claims over Macedonia becoming a burning issue) Greece was the undisputed winner.
The anti-Ottoman alliance (Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece and Montenegro) defeated the Turks in the first Balkan War (1912-13), whereas in the second Balkan War that followed soon, Greece, Serbia and Romania beat Bulgaria and thwarted its expansion ambitions. Greece emerged from these wars with impressive territorial gains -Epirus, Macedonia, all Aegean Islands except the Dodecanese. These gains added some 70% to its land area, while the population increased from 2,800,000 to 4,800,000. By the summer of 1913 Greece had become a significant Mediterranean and Balkan power. Venizelos' leadership had infused dynamism and self-confidence into the Greek people and had given a new flare to the nation's aspirations for the realization of the age-long "Great Idea", i.e. the restoration of Greece's old grandeur, might and territorial wholeness.
The Turbulent Reign of King Otto The First Greek Constitution
World War I The Catastrophe in Asia Minor
After Kapodistrias' assassination, the three "Protecting Powers", Great Britain, France and Russia, selected 17-year old prince Otto, second son of King Ludwig I of Bavaria, as king of Greece.
The Second World War The Post-War era
Immediately after the start of World War I a fundamental dispute between King Constantine and Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos erupted over the question of Greece's participation in it.
Greece and the European Union
The outbreak of World War II in 1939 found Greece under an authoritative regime headed by Prime Minister Ioannis Metaxas, whose intention was to keep Greece out of the hostilities.
Greece is a full-fledged member of the European Economic & Monetary Union within the broader European Union. It took 40 years of hard efforts to achieve this goal.