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The Greek Genocide : Thracian Greek Genocide as case study

The Greek Genocide : Thracian Greek Genocide as case study

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Published by David Fotis Cheung
The Thracian Greek Genocide perpetrated by Ottoman Turk and Young Turks around April 1914
The Thracian Greek Genocide perpetrated by Ottoman Turk and Young Turks around April 1914

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Published by: David Fotis Cheung on Apr 06, 2013
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THEOFANIS MALKIDISThe Genocide of the Greeks: A Case Study of the Region of Thrace
Introduction
The beginning of the Greek presence in Thrace starts from the age of mythology and up to the present historical narrative.The myth continues with Frixos and Elli, who carried the Golden Fleece to the area and became the reason for the trip of the Argonauts.Having Jason as their leader, and representatives from all the Greek cities as payment, the Argonauts reached Kolhida and transformed the axenos(unfriendly) sea to Euxeinos (friendly) Pontus, and the ancient Greek cities, makes new colonies – cities of major importance since the 8th century B.C..The evidence for the wealth, prosperity and the Greek essence of those colonies is proved through the descriptions of many both Greek and other scientistsand philosophers. The great Greek historian Herodotus writes for the nation of Thracians, second in the world after the Indians.The Greek King Filippos ΙΙ, reorganized Thrace as a prefecture, whereas the empire of his son, Alexander the Great included the Thrace and great fighters.During the Roman period, Christianity is spread through the teaching of St Paul and his students. Moreover, the monasteries and churches become cradlesof faith and ethnic consciousness.Christianity, using the Greek language, became widely spread throughout Thrace.Constantine the Great gave great attention to Thrace, with the transfer of the capital of Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantine Empire) in Constantinople(ancient Greek colony of Megara, Byzantium)Generally during the era of the Byzantine Empire, Thrace was signified as an important centre of Hellenism. As a result of the conquest of Constantinople came slaughtering, plunder, flee towards Western Europe and the Balkan countries, as well as forcibleislamification. Among the peoples that were forced to change faith the phenomenon of crypto-Christianity was noticed, as well as the maintenance of the Greek language,a phenomenon that is also noticed in current times, too.Since the beginning of the 18th century the Greeks of Thrace are re-capturing their lost identity and are mobilizing once again their spirit and abilities.The Greeks of the area are regaining their lost faith to freedom and are longing for their ethnic liberation.The establishment of “Filiki Eteria”, that promoted the Greek Revolution, takes place in a powerful economical and political centre, Odissos, with theThracian mayor G. Maraslis.In a very short time, the Thracian Hellenism regained the commerce mobility of the entire Thrace. Thus, the economic prosperity in the wider area had as aresult the intellectual and artistic renaissance, as well as a demographic boom. As mentioned above, the Thracian Hellenism, since the fall of the Byzantine Empire (1453) encountered constant persecutions and efforts towards massforcible islamification and turkification, having an outmost peak the extremely well organized, planned, and scheduled in a systematic way and efficientlypromoted genocide in the very beginning of the 20th century.The Headquarters the Ministries of External Affairs of Europe and the U.S.A. are still undeniable witnesses for the conviction of the crimes that werecommitted by the Ottoman state against the Greeks of Pontus, Thrace, Ionia (Asia Minor), Cappadocia, crimes that resulted in the violent expatriation of millions of Greeks, abandoning their fortunes and the civilization of their creative and evolutionary presence in those areas.The first phase of the Genocide of the Thracian Greeks is traced in 1908 and lasts until the beginning of World War I, when the Eastern issue, the rise of theYoung -Turks in powerful positions in the ottoman empire, the Balkan Wars and Germany’s assistance as a strategic ally of the Ottoman state, created theright conditions for the initiating the expulsions of the Thracian Greeks. During that period, there are no longer declarations by the Young- Turks about fair and equal treatment of all in the state; on the contrary the Greeks are to be exterminated. Major part in this extermination has the “Special Organization”,which, having a Para-military structure makes the Greeks and the Armenians a target.The second period started in 1914, when the conflicts that arose during World War I, promoted the genocidal policies[1]. The Young -Turk government ordersa number of actions taken in order to further continue the extermination of the Greeks, together with the genocide of the Armenians[2].In December 1916 the majors Enver, Cemal and Talat, leaders of the Young- Turks party, advanced an extermination project against the non-combat Greekcivilians of Thrace, that aimed at the immediate extermination of men only, aged 16-60 years old, and general exile of all men, women and children from thevillages in the inner Anatolia, having a master plan of slaughtering and extinction”. At that time, genocide was already taking place, the Armenian genocide,with 1.500.000 victims. The Ottoman state is at war with the Entente Forces and the realization of the structured genocide plan appears easier than ever.The extinction plan is realized through the participation of both military and paramilitary forces and targets towards the murder or deportation of the men inconcentration camps, and the total extinction of women, children and the elderly.The era 1919-1923 is the third, last and more intense face of the genocide, as the establishment of Mustafa Kemal (Ataturk) in the interior of the Ottomanstate which is coincident with the establishment of the Soviet Union and the aid provided towards the nationalistic movement of Kemal, the Greekestablishment in Ionia and Thrace, as well as the change of course in the exterior policy affairs of the great European forces.The Ottoman, Young-Turks, and Kemalist authorities pre-planned and realized the genocide. The orders for the deportations of the Greek populations toKurdistan, Syria and elsewhere, either in the form of governmental decisions, either as a bill of the National Assembly, such as 1041 of the 12th June 1921and 941 of the 16th June in the same year, had been signed both by the Young-Turks and Kendal himself.Consequently until 1923, the Young-Turks and the Kemalists, having taken harsh measures against the Greeks of Thrace, through the means of expel, rape,slaughtering, deportations and hangings, exterminated hundreds of thousands of Greek in Pontus, as well as in Ionia (Asia Minor) and in Thrace.
 
 Among the victims of the genocide there were a great number of women and children, groups of the Greek population that consisted of a particular plan of the extermination plan.This can be verified through the reports and documentations of the foreign ambassadors, consuls, embassies, and others, where one can find references onthe acts of slaughtering and brutality[3].Former ambassador of USA in Constantinople Henry Morgenthau says:
«The martyrdom of the Greeks, therefore, comprised two periods: that antedating the war, and that which began in the early part of 1915. The first affected chiefly the Greeks on the seacoast of Asia Minor. The second affected those living in Thrace and in the territories surrounding the Sea of Marmora, the Dardanelles, the Bosporus, and the coast of the Black Sea. These latter, to the extent of several hundred thousand, were sent tothe interior of Asia Minor. The Turks adopted almost identically the same procedure against the Greeks as that which they had adopted against the Armenians. They began by incorporating the Greeks into the Ottoman army and then transforming them into labour battalions, using them tobuild roads in the Caucasus and other scenes of action. These Greek soldiers, just like the Armenians, died by thousands from cold, hunger,and other privations. The same house-to-house searches for hidden weapons took place in the Greek villages, and Greek men and women werebeaten and tortured just as were their fellow Armenians. The Greeks had to submit to the same forced requisitions, which amounted in their case,as in the case of the Armenians, merely to plundering on a wholesale scale. The Turks attempted to force the Greek subjects to becomeMohammedans; Greek girls, just like Armenian girls, were stolen and taken to Turkish harems and Greek boys were kidnapped and placed inMoslem households. The Greeks, just like the Armenians, were accused of disloyalty to the Ottoman Government; the Turks accused them of furnishing supplies to the English submarines in the Marmora and also of acting as spies. The Turks also declared that the Greeks were not loyal to the Ottoman Government, and that they also looked forward to the day when the Greeks inside of Turkey would become part of Greece.These latter charges were unquestionably true; that the Greeks, after suffering for five centuries the most unspeakable outrages at the hands of the Turks, should look longingly to the day when their territory should be part of the fatherland was to be expected. The Turks, as in the case of the Armenians, seized upon this as an excuse for a violent onslaught on the whole race. Everywhere the Greeks were gathered in groups and,under the so-called protection of Turkish gendarmes, they were transported, the larger part on foot, into the interior. Just how many werescattered in this fashion is not definitely known, the estimates varying anywhere from 200,000 up to 1,000,000. These caravans suffered great  privations, but they were not submitted to general massacre as were the Armenians, and this is probably the reason why the outside world hasnot heard so much about them. The Turks showed them this greater consideration not from any motive of pity. The Greeks, unlike the Armenians,had a government which was vitally interested in their welfare. At this time there was a general apprehension among the Teutonic Allies that Greece would enter the war on the side of the Entente, and a wholesale massacre of Greeks in Asia Minor would unquestionably have produced such a state of mind in Greece that its pro-German king would have been unable longer to keep his country out of the war. It was only a matter of state policy, therefore, that saved these Greek subjects of Turkey from all the horrors that befell the Armenians. But their sufferings are still terrible, and constitute another chapter in the long story of crimes for which civilization will hold the Turk responsible»
[4].Through these testimonies / sources, one can easily come to the conclusion that the Ottoman Army and the Para-military forces actually pre-planned andpracticed policies of extermination against the women and children[5]. Violently abducting the women and holding them against their will in Turkishresidencies, violently subjecting them to islamification, the violent rapes and pregnancies by force, the murdering of the pregnant women, the violentabduction of young children, even infants from their mothers, their families and their adoption by Turkish families. All in all, here had been violentdetachment- removal of young children from one ethnic group to another, which is one of the greatest issues of committing genocide.The genocide forced the surviving Greeks of Thrace, to abandon their homeland.The final chapter of this mass murder deals with the forcible removal of the survivors from their homeland.With the treaty referring to the population exchange, signed both by Greece and Turkey in 1923, the uprooting of the Thracian Greeks from their land iscompleted, closing the issue of one of the bloodiest mass murders in the History of mankind. After 27 centuries of presence, prosperity and contribution of a historical nation, the Greeks of Thrace, as well as those of Pontus, Ionia (Asia Minor),Cappadocia, abandoned the land of their ancestors, their homes, churches, graves, and a culture of world wide appeal.The Greeks of Thrace nowadays in Greece, in the U.S.A., in Canada, in Australia, in Europe, and throughout the world wants justice to be attributed in thename of their ancestors that were murdered during the genocide from the Ottoman State. A genocide that consists part of a greater crime committed againstthat cost the life of 2.750.000 Greeks, Assyrians and Armenians, who lived in the Ottoman state in the beginning of the 20th century[6].
The ethnic composition of Thrace in the 18th and 19th century
Numerous Western European travellers in this period confirmed the predominant Greek character of the area and the persecutions of the Greeks inThrace[7]. The German geographer and physician Ami Boué (1794-1881), who disagreed with the language criterion for the determination of the nationalidentity of the populations in this part of the Ottoman state, underlined the Greek character of Eastern Thrace and the statistical domination of the Greekelement in the entire vilayet (province) of Adrianople[8]. He specifically reports that Greeks resided in the whole south plain of Thrace and at the coastline of Euxeinus Pontos. The Greek element is everywhere: in Raidestos, Evros, Adrianople, Phillipoupolis[9], Eski-Zagra, and in other many places. Hellenism[10].It is significant to note that the English diplomatic representative Steven Francis . Clair [ wrote on the 20th of August 1863 in a letter that the Bulgarians atthe coast of Euxinos Pontos were completely assimilated to the Greeks and that they had been Hellenized[11].The rare presence of the Muslim element in Eastern and Western Thrace is pointed out by the German botanic August Heinrich Rudolf Grisebach(1814-1879) who reported that he had met unmingled Turkish villages only in the area of Ainos and that the whole area from the South and South-East of  Andrianople to Propontis and the Straits was actually Greek[12].In confirmation of the above, we have the statistics of the province of Andrianople in 1873 in which the Greek predominance the whole South of Thrace isunderlined. Hence, for example in the districts (“kazas”) of Adrianople, Dydimotichon, Saranta Ecclesiae and Xanthi 50,028 Turks are mentioned in contrastto 123,011 Christians; in the sanjak of Thracian Callipolis 12,286 Turks and 42,401 Christians and in the sanjak of Raidestos 11,805 Turks and 30,074Christians[13].The French traveller and economist Adolphe Jérôme Blanqui (1778-1854) reached similar conclusions, speaking about the statistical pre-domination of Greeks over the Turks with the Rhodopes Mountains as a natural border, and contrasting the corresponding Slavic domination with Ainos as a border[14].The prominent French geographer Auguste Viquesnel (1800-1867) also noted the numerical domination of Greeks in the most important urban centres of theThracian littoral from Constantinople to Ainos, Sylebria, Heraclea, Raidestos, Ganochora, Dydimotichon, Ortakoy, Lititsa and other places.[15]
 
The French discoverer and geographer Guillaume Lejean (1828-1871) pointed out that along Evros and in the whole Eastern Thrace and Bosporus, Greekrural population dominated, preventing, by its presence, the eventual settlement of Turkish refugees.[16]. Similar conclusions were reached by the Frencharchaeologist Albert Dumont (1842-1884), who by presenting many statistical data regarding the demographic and ethnological composition of the biggestand smallest urban centres of Eastern Thrace, noted that the entire littoral from Constantinople to Callipolis was resided exclusively by Greeks.[17] In hisNouvelle Geographie Universelle of 1876, Elisée Reclus (1830-1905) points out that the population of the villages and of the plain in the interior of Thracewere constituted by Greeks. The entire Eastern Thrace from Bosporus to Andrianople and from the Dardanelles to the Gulf of Pyrgos comprised an integralpart of the Greek character.[18]The ethnographic maps of European Turkey that were issued during the last quarter of the 19th century, trace with analytical data the ethnic composition of Ottoman Thrace. For instance, the map of A. Synvet, a Greek schoolmaster of Constantinople, estimates the Greek residents of Thrace, except for theGreek populations of Constantinople, the dioceses Derka and Varna, as 380,000, including the 68,000 Greeks of Eastern Rumelia that came under themetropolis of Phillipoupolis[19], Anchialos, Mesembria and Sozoagathoupolis[20]. The ethnographic map of Edward Stanford (1877) points out the absenceof a stable Slavic population at the south of Phillipoupolis and identifies the dominant presence of the population in Eastern and Western Thrace and inevery urban center from Constantinople to Evros[21]. [22]In the late 18th century, the Marseillan Peyssonel refered analytically to the trade of Euxinos Pontos and to the offshore urban centers. Sozopolis was then aremarkable trade center with a good port and a rich import trade made by numerous ships.[23] [The French geographer Jean Baptiste Lechevalier (1752-1836) reports that Sozopolis was inhabited exclusively by Greeks and that it exported rural products. According to Lechevalier, Pyrgos was one of themost important trade centers of Euxinos Pontos where products from Russia, France, Venice, Constantinople, Smyrna, Thessaloniki, Cairo, and Brussawere stored.[24] Élie de la Primaudaie speaks about Greek Mesembria while undoubtedly Varna, from the end of the 18th century, was the biggest tradecenter of the littoral of Euxinos Pontos where about 15,000 - 16,000 Greeks, Turks, and Armenians lived and had trade shops[25] Varna was the biggesttrade storage of rural products of Euxinos Pontos that were transported every year by 300 Greek and Turkish ships to Constantinople. Particularly relevantwas the trade of nuts while the Greeks in Varna were responsible for the production of wine[26]. During the second decade of the 19th century there wasmuch activity in Rouchstouk which was then inhabited by 18,000 - 20,000 Greeks[27], according to Ludwig von Stürmer while the US representative Henry Alexander Scammel Dearborn (1783-1851)points out that Sozopolis was resided exclusively by Greeks who were exporting wood and wine[28]. Heestimates the population of Varna at 16,000 Greeks, Turks, and Armenians[29] and this information is confirmed by Thielen.[30]Thrace during the period 1875-1924: Persecutions, tortures, refugees
Northern Thrace (Eastern Rumelia):
 At the end of the 19th century the Bulgarians were trying to dominate the area since they had two important advantages: the first was that they borderedThrace and the second was that Turkey was unable to counter the infiltration of Bulgarian guerillas (komitadji, in Slavonic language komitatsi: a member of asecret revolutionary organisation; a rebel) in Thrace.With the establishment of the Bulgarian Exarchate (1870) by the Ottoman authorities, that led to a split from the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the nationalawakening of Bulgarians, the Preliminary Treaty of San Stefano (1878) and the subsequent Berlin Peace Conferenfce (1878), the Greeks and Bulgarians of Macedonia and Thrace were confronting each other through vicious battles, taking place in the last quarter of the 19th century and the early 20thcentury[31]. Article 10 of the Ottoman firman, establishing the Bulgarian Exarchate, expanded the jurisdiction of the Exarchate to Ottoman regions, whereGreek and Bulgarian populations were mixed and aggravated the antagonisms between Greeks and Bulgarians in Macedonia and Thrace[32].During the Berlin Peace Conference (1878) the Russian plans were revised and Ottoman Rule was maintained in Macedonia and Thrace. RegardingEastern Rumelia, an autonomous rule was foreseen after the withdrawal of the Russian army, which finally withdrew on August 1879 thus facilitating thedominance of the Bulgarian element in Northern Thrace. Thus, the British altered their plans, in the hope that with the establishment of a self-governingprovince in Eastern Rumelia, the power of the Bulgarians would be counterbalanced by the large Greek and Turkish elements. Although the Law for autonomy of East Rumelia secured, at least theoretically, equal rights for Greeks, Bulgarians, and Turks, in reality, it paved the ground for the eventualincorporation of this province into Bulgaria. Even the Greek consul in Philippoupolis, Athanasios Matalas, despite his attempts to secure Greek interests,suspected that East Rumelia sooner or later would become part of Bulgaria[33]. With the signing of the Treaty of Berlin (1878), the entire region of Thrace,apart from the districts (“sanjaks”) of Philippopolis and Selimnos and a part of sanjak of Andrianople that constituted East Rumelia, was divided into thevilayet of Constantinople and the vilayet of Andrianople[34]. The first included the administrative parts of the larger province of Constantinople, Peran andCatalza. The second - the province of Adrianople - included the sanjaks of Adrianople, Saranta Ecclesiae, Gioumoultzin (Komotini), Callipolis, Raidestos andDede-Agach (named later Alexandroupolis). In Eastern Thrace, the Greek element represented 37 – 39 % of the total population, Turks 42 - 47 % andBulgarians 11 %.[35] In East Rumelia, the ethnic composition changed in 1885 after theexpulsion of the Turkish population and the domination of theBulgarians. The occupation of East Rumelia by the Bulgarian army in 1885 worsened Greek-Bulgarian relations, causing high tensions in the area, anduprooted all Greeks in Thrace and Macedonia. Indicative is a report of the Greek consul in Thessaloniki, P. Logothetis, who wrote on the 1st of October 1885: “Hellenism resents the news that are transmitted by telegraphs from Europe, which are trying to eliminate the rightful desires of Greeks, where Greekeducation excels with great unique institutions, where Greek trade distinguishes, where the Greek population is 250,000 and the Bulgarian is only 2,000”[36]. After 1885 the countdown for Greeks begain in East Rumelia, which reached its apex in 1906 after anti-Greek persecutions that broke out in the mostimportant urban centers of this province. In the meantime (1886-1906) two plans were put into effect: the first was the policy of the Bulgarization of the Greekpopulations in East Rumelia with the obligatory introduction of the Bulgarian language in Greek schools and the subsequent abolition of the Greek language.The second was the occupation of the Greek commercial element and the occupation of the Greek Orthodox churches and monasteries in Stenimachos,Philippoupolis, Kavakli, and Kouklena by the Bulgarians. Especially after the Revolution of Iliden (1903) the Bulgarians unleashed a ferocious paramilitaryarmy which tried to incorporate Northern Greece into Bulgaria.From the summer of 1906, Greek educational and ecclesiastical institutions were oppressed in all East Rumelia. This persecution started from Varna andexpanded to the entire East Romulia with attacks against eminent teachers and priests taking the form of beatings and even assassinations. At the sametime, the Bulgarian population and the Bulgarian state/ destroyed Greek institutions, such as schools, churches, hospitals, unions etc., stole by Bulgarianauthorities their belongings and forbade the Greek language at schools. On August 1905 Anchialos was set on fire after a battle with 12,000 Bulgarians,most of them members of paramilitary groups. The slain Greeks, who were in most cases old people or children, were burnt in their homes, numbered over 100. In Pyrgos, Mesembria the property stolen from the Greeks was estimated at more than 2,000,000 gold francs (approximately 20.000.000 Euro) .In July 1906 terrorism was intensified through robberies, arson, beatings, assassinations and vandalism. In Philippoupolis the Greek Orthodox cathedral wasdamaged as were 113 houses of worship in the area. The Maraslios School was set on fire and its library was destroyed while another 66 schools weredestroyed including the Zariphios School - a boarding house for female students. The property belonging to the community of Philippoupolis, confiscated on6/8/1906, was of immeasurable value. The persecution reached the Greek cities of Stenimachos, Varna, Mesembria, Sozopolis, Pyrgos, Agathoupolis,Kavakli, and Artaki. 88 Greek communities were decimated and their fortune - of great value - had been expropriated by the Bulgarian state without

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