Professors at the University of Thessaly Byron Kotzamanis and E. Androulaki are working on a research paper shedding light on the population growth of modern Greece from its foundation in 1828 to date.
The turbulent history of modern Greece, as noted by the two researchers, resulted in the stabilization of the country’s territorial boundaries in 1947 with the annexation of the Dodecanese. During this first period (1830-1947), the country’s territory grew larger by firstly embodying territories and their populations and secondly by welcoming new parts of Hellenism that were returning back to their motherland.
After World War II, according to experts, Greece was a small country of Southeastern Europe with a population of 7.5 million spread in 132,000 km2. Looking back to the first period, the Greek state in 1828 comprised only of the Peloponnese, mainland Greece and the Cyclades (47,000 km2, 753 thousand inhabitants), while a quarter of a century later (1864) the integration of the Ionian Islands increased the country’s population to 1.365 million.
With the integration of Arta and Thessaly in 1881 the population growth rates increased even more surpassing for the first time two million people in number. The end of the Balkan Wars found Greece gained both in territorial and demographic terms. It had doubled its territory (121 km2) and more than doubled its population (4,775 million). The temporary annexation of Western Thrace and the islands of Imbros and Tenedos (1919-1920) will be followed by the Lausanne Treaty. This treaty resulted in the final annexation of Western Thrace, but also in massive population exchanges in the wake of the Asia Minor disaster and significant increases in the population growth of the country between 1920 and 1928.
The massive exodus of Greek populations from Kemalist Turkey was preceded by the return of the Greek minorities from the Eastern Balkan countries of Bulgaria and Romania, where nationalist parties were beginning to gain power. After the Greco-Turkish war (1919-1922) the Greeks from Constantinople and Egypt also returned to Greece. On the other hand, during the decade 1940-1950 minority populations of Northern Greece fled the country as well as some tens of thousands of residents of northern Greece who found shelter in the socialist countries after the defeat of the Democratic Army in the Civil War.
On the eve of the Nazi attack against Greece in 1940, the country’s population numbered 7.34 million. The war losses to follow were balanced with the annexation of the Dodecanese in 1947. Right before the Civil War broke out, Greece had its definitive borders of 132,000 km2 and a population of 7,563 million inhabitants. Since then, any changes in the size of the population are solely due to the difference between the natural balance (births and deaths) and migratory balance (departing and arriving migrants).
According to the study, Greece’s population continued to increase smoothly in the second half of the 20th century although with a clearly differentiated pace reflecting the different rates between natural and migratory balance. Thus, in the first two postwar decades characterized by relatively high positive natural balances (significant surplus of births per year), the massive external migration to transoceanic countries initially and afterwards to Western Europe played a negative role causing a drop in the average annual rates of the population growth.
In the transition period 1971-1981, the natural balance was shrinking but, according to Mr. Kotzamanis, there was a significant wave of Greek migrants from the previous period returning to the motherland while migration from Greece to other countries slowed down, which resulted in both the natural and migratory balance to be positive and equal to a significant increase in the country’s population (addition of 970,000 people). Experts believe that this will probably be the last time that Greece will record such a positive population growth.
After 1981, the natural balance tends to zero (reduced birth rates and increased mortality due to aging) and any growth recorded in the population after 2000 is attributed to positive migratory balances. However, the crisis brought a change in these positive balances, since part of the migrants who visited Greece before 2010 are now returning to their own countries, while simultaneously more and more Greeks travel abroad in search of better job prospects.
The two authors conclude that the above mentioned trends and the impact of the ongoing crisis (reduced procreation and increased mortality rates) will inevitably lead to a decrease in the population of Greece to the extent that both natural balances (births-deaths) and migratory balances (arriving-departing) will now be negative.