Economic Change and the National Question in Twentieth-Century Europe

By Alice Teichova; Herbert Matis et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TEN
National integration and economic change in Greece
during the twentieth century
Margarita Dritsas

INTRODUCTION

Modern economic development in Greece was a process that unfolded parallel to political and territorial integration of the various regions that were liberated in the process of the breaking up of the Ottoman Empire at different points in time between 1821 and 1948. 1 Perhaps the most critical moment was when, in the wake of the First World War and during the final break-up of the Ottoman Empire, eastern Thrace and the region of Smyrna were placed under Greek control. The age-old irredentist dream of a 'Great Greece' extending over 'two continents and five seas' 2 and encompassing ancient lands where Hellenism survived and prospered despite repeated conquests from outside, became real. However, it proved a short-lived experience as Turkish nationalism, which had also grown since the end of the nineteenth century, was determined not only to overturn the corrupt and declining empire but also to cleanse it of all foreign economic domination (Greek, Armenian and so on). In 1922, the defeat of Greece by Turkey, after an ill-planned Greek campaign eastwards from Smyrna, resulted in territorial and unprecedented human loss for Greece. Eastern Thrace and the islands of Imvros and Tenedos were lost to Turkey and the Greek populations, which during previous centuries had prospered especially in the Aegean coastal areas of Asia Minor, were expelled or annihilated. 3 Henceforth, Greece's frontiers became fixed and attention was turned towards domestic economic development.

The two processes of nation-building and economic development did not have the same intensity and rhythm. Economic nationalism developed gradually and it implied, on the one hand, as in every case of late development, official action by the state and, on the other, spontaneous and/or concerted action by various social groups. This chapter attempts to establish, first, the determinants of the national effort and policy and, secondly, the consequences of national integration. 4

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