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Corruption in Greece is a legacy from Ancient Hellas

09 April 2014 / 11:04:49  GRReporter
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Polina Spartyanova
    Recently, the representation of "Transparency International" in Greece has published its latest report on corruption in the country, showing that corruption in the public and private sector has fallen by 15% over the past year. A total of 30% of Greek respondents in the poll state that they refused to pay when a bribe was demanded from them but, despite this, Greece remains the most corrupt country in the European Union for the second consecutive year.
    Margarita Dobreva, assistant professor at the Institute for Balkan Studies and Centre of Thracology at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, argues that the corruptness of the Greek people is rooted in Ancient Greece. At that time, the driving force for the Greeks was the Delphic temple of Apollo and the voice of his oracle. Consequently many ordinary people flocked to Delphi to obtain answers and guidance for their future and destiny. In return for the advice the Greeks left huge gifts to the oracle and so the term "gift-exchange" or to expect a certain favour in return for a gift to someone, entered their daily round. Later, Aristotle expressed his view of corruption, saying that in this way, the general interest is disregarded and only the interests of some social groups are served.
    Gift-exchange in ancient society continued during the next two millennia, being inherited from both Roman Greece and the Byzantine Empire. When the Ottomans conquered these lands, they too very easily adopted the Greek tradition of gift-exchange. It was common for them to always go to the rulers with gifts, although a request for assistance or favour was usually hiding behind this gesture. Over time, the gift-exchange in the Ottoman Empire grew into a "baksheesh" or "bribe". When the Sultan issued a document authorizing someone to occupy a certain post there was a charge and the higher in the hierarchy the post, the higher the amount of this charge, which was called "baksheesh". In terms of history, baksheesh is permanently intertwined in the Greek social and economic culture. At first the Greeks used it in the trade in the patriarchal post in Constantinople, when the richest people bid, offering exorbitant sums to be able to gain more influence over the Orthodox Christians.
    According to American history professor Barbara Jelavich, "When discussing corruption in the governing of the Balkans, we must remember that many practices that were unacceptable in Western Europe, the Balkans considered not only correct, but also admirable in some cases. For example, nepotism was a standard practice. It was considered normal for someone to appoint family members to high positions when he had power; this was a sign of affection and loyalty to his closest people." This was one of the main problems of the Ottoman Empire, which later led to its collapse and gradual disintegration, namely, that it was organized as a non-institutionalized country, based on family relations, where decisions were not taken on the basis of legal rules and regulations, but were made in the form of deals. If this phenomenon is viewed from today's perspective, it can be concluded that the Balkan nations still cannot shake off the corruption inherited from the Ottoman Empire and it has taken other forms and sizes in the recent history of the Balkans. And while many Bulgarians blame the 45-year totalitarian regime in Bulgaria and the following transition period for the corruption established at the highest echelons of power in the country, their Greek neighbours blame mostly the political elite and the government of their country.
    183 years after the creation of modern Greece "gift-exchange" is still present in the Greek culture, despite the historical and economic changes over the past few millennia. The Oriental corrupt habits that they have inherited and modified, and the exchange of gifts and favours that was typical for Ancient Greece remain in the newly established Greek administration, and many of the state and municipal employees in the country tend to be corrupted by power even to this day.

Tags: Corruption in GreeceOracle of DelphiAristotleOttoman EmpireBaksheeshBribe
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