Population exchange between Greece and Turkey

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Declaration of ownership for the resettlement of Greeks from Yena ( Kaynarca ) to Thessaloniki (December 16, 1927).

The so-called population exchange between Greece and Turkey ( Greek Ἡ Ἀνταλλαγή I Antallagí , Ottoman مبادله Mübâdele ) was a forced resettlement that was contractually agreed after the First World War and the subsequent Greco-Turkish War . This forced relocation affected all Greek Orthodox citizens of the Ottoman Empire who lived in what is now Turkey (at that time without the Hatay province ), as well as all Muslim citizens of Greece (at that time still without the Dodecanese ). Those affected were given the citizenship of the host country. The Greeks living in Istanbul and on the Dardanelles Islands Imros (Turkish: Gökçeada ) and Tenedos (Turkish: Bozcaada ) as well as the Western Thrace Turks living in the Greek part of Thrace were allowed to stay and retain their citizenship . Both the government of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey and the Greek government supported this forced relocation.

The decisive criterion for the forced relocation was not the language of the persons concerned, but their nationality and the religious community to which they belonged. The population exchange led to an end of the since ancient times existing Greek community in Anatolia and an end to the existing for almost 500 years, Muslim communities in Greece. From both countries became a religious group by the end of the Ottoman Empire to the minority in the respective nation-state had become recognized, while at the same people that you as members of the respective titular looked, for immigration were forced.

The " Convention on the Exchange of Population between Greece and Turkey " was signed in Lausanne on January 30, 1923 by the governments of Greece and the government of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey . It affected 1.6 million people (about 1.2 million Anatolian Greeks and 400,000 Muslims in Greece).

The treaty had retroactive effect for most of those affected: It also applied to all Muslim Greeks and Greek Orthodox Ottomans who had fled to the other country since the outbreak of the First Balkan War on October 18, 1912. (Article 3). After the defeat of the Greek army in western Anatolia in September 1922 and the fire in Smyrna , the vast majority of Greeks from Asia Minor had already been expelled. The expulsion of the Pontic Greeks from the Turkish Black Sea coast was still ongoing at the beginning of the negotiations in Lausanne. According to calculations by Nikolaos Andriotis, over 900,000 refugees arrived in Greece in autumn 1922 (including 50,000 Armenians ).


All affected areas belonged to the Ottoman Empire until the late 19th century ( Thessaly ) and early 20th century . The First Balkan War enabled Greece to expand its territory to include parts of the Ottoman province of Eastern Rumelia as well as Epirus , Crete and the islands in the Aegean Sea . At the end of the First World War , the eastern part of the Macedonia region , which had belonged to Bulgaria since 1912 , and western Thrace were added. The Muslim population of these regions thus became a minority and the Aegean Islands and Thrace became border regions between Greece and the Ottoman Empire.

The Turkish part of the forced resettlement was a late consequence of the First World War . The Ottoman Empire had lost the First World War and in 1920 signed the Treaty of Sèvres , which only provided for a small Ottoman rump state in Anatolia and various zones of occupation. The Turkish national movement under Mustafa Kemal Pasha successfully waged the Turkish Liberation War against the implementation of this treaty . The aim of the national movement was an independent state with a Muslim majority population within the boundaries of the National Pact . The pact strictly rejected Armenian and Greek territorial claims on parts of Anatolia and Thrace. Since such claims were always made with reference to the percentage of the population, it was part of the policy of the Turkish national movement to fend off them by deliberately driving out the minorities in the areas under their control. With the victory of the Turkish national movement, the Treaty of Sèvres was finally overtaken; a new peace treaty had to be negotiated. For this purpose the Peace Conference was organized in Lausanne , in which Greece and Turkey as well as all the victorious states of the First World War took part. At this conference in January 1923 the convention on the Greek-Turkish population exchange was negotiated and signed. The peace negotiations then continued and the Treaty of Lausanne was signed in July 1923.


When the exchange came into effect on May 1, 1923, most of the pre-war Greek Orthodox population of Aegean Turkey had already been expelled. The majority were expelled with the retreating Greek army and fled to Greece from the coasts after taking Izmir . In fact, the exchange only affected the remaining Greeks in Central Anatolia (both Greek and Turkish speaking), Pontos and Kars - a total of 189,916 people. Conversely, 354,647 Muslims were resettled from Greece to Turkey. Official statistics later counted 499,000 exchanges from Greece in Turkey. The difference between the two numbers is probably due to the fact that around 150,000 of them had immigrated since the beginning of the Balkan Wars.

In Greece, the forced relocation was regarded as part of the events known as Asia Minor Catastrophe (Μικρασιατική καταστροφ endgült) - the final expulsion of the Greeks of Asia Minor marked the end of a series of coercive measures that began during the Balkan Wars and continued with the persecution of Greece during the First World War Ottoman Empire continued. These took place before and later at the same time as the Armenian genocide .

The expulsions at the end of the Greco-Turkish war also affected people who were later not included in the exchange convention. These include the surviving Armenians , especially from Izmir / Smyrna, and Greeks who had Greek citizenship .

Affected groups

The convention affected almost all Greek Orthodox Christians (Greek or Turkish speaking) from Asia Minor, who until 1912 had lived mainly on the coasts, but also in inland groups in smaller groups. A special group were the Cappadocian Greeks, the Karamanlı (Καραμανλήδες) or Karamanlids , who were Turkish-speaking Greek Orthodox Christians who wrote Turkish with the Greek script . They were only relocated under comparatively orderly conditions after the exchange convention had been signed.

Most of the other Greek Orthodox Christians of Anatolia, namely those from the Ionia region (Izmir and Aivali ), the Pontus region (Trabzon, Samsun ), the former Russian Caucasus province of Kars ( Kars Oblast ), Bursa , the Bithynia region (v. A. Nicomedia / İzmit ), Chalcedony ( Kadıköy ) and from Eastern Thrace were already living in Greece when the Lausanne Conference began. Those who came from the Aegean coast had often left their homeland as early as 1913-14 when the Young Turkish government expelled them from there, but had then returned. Together with the rest of the Christian Orthodox population, they were finally expelled between 1920 and 1922 when the Turkish army recaptured western Anatolia in the course of the Greco-Turkish war .

Religion, not ethnicity or mother tongue, was used as the criterion for population exchange . Therefore, the forced resettlement also affected many Muslim groups who were not considered Turks or who did not see themselves as such. Among the approximately 500,000 people who came from Greece were Turkish-speaking Muslims, but also Roma , Pomaks , Çamen , Megleno-Romanians and the Dönme of Jewish origin , whose ancestors converted to Islam in the 17th century, as well as the Greek-speaking Muslims from Crete . Among the affected Muslims there were on the one hand those who had fled since the beginning of the Balkan Wars and on the other hand those who were only relocated in a relatively orderly manner after the exchange convention had been signed.


According to the Convention, the Muslims of Western Thrace ( Western Thrace Turks ), the Greeks of Istanbul (of whatever nationality, provided they could prove that they had lived there since 1918), and the Greek Orthodox population of the islands of Tenedos ( Bozcaada ) and were excluded from the forced resettlement Imros ( Gökçeada ) (Art. 2). The Muslim Tschamen ( Albanians in Greece ) were classified as "of Albanian descent" in 1926 and were thus exempt from forced resettlement to Turkey. According to a decision of the mixed commission of 1928, the Arabic-speaking Greek Orthodox residents in southern Turkey were also allowed to stay, as they were not subject to the Istanbul patriarchate.

As residents of the multi-ethnic Ottoman Empire , many people were multilingual and did not see themselves as part of a nation . The religion, however, could be clearly identified. Thus was the conversion a way to avoid the forced relocation. Christian women in Turkey also had the opportunity to marry a Muslim and thus become part of his household. Indeed, as word of the proposed exchange spread in Turkey, there was a noticeable number of conversions and interfaith marriages. However, the Turkish government later only recognized marriages that had been concluded before the exchange convention was signed, regardless of whether the women had converted or not.

After agreeing to the Istanbul Greeks' right to stay at the Lausanne Conference , the Turkish delegation demanded that the Ecumenical Patriarchate should be included in the population exchange. That would have meant that it would have had to move from Istanbul, where it has been and has been based since Byzantine times, to Greece. At the same time, attempts were made to give the Turkish- speaking Karamanlı Christians living in Central Anatolia the prospect of staying by establishing a Turkish Orthodox patriarchate. However, the Turkish negotiators were unable to assert their demands for the Ecumenical Patriarchate to be expelled and the Karamanlı were included in the forced relocation. Only the family of the Turkish Orthodox Patriarch, Baba Eftim I , recognized by Turkey , was allowed to stay in the country.

Integration of those affected

The displaced or resettled had to struggle with considerable problems for a long time in both countries. This particularly affected those groups whose language and culture did not meet the expectations of the host country. In Greece, Turkish-speaking migrants, as well as Pontus Greeks , whose language was very different from modern Greek , were discriminated against because of their language. The experience of poverty, rejection and unemployment of the migrants led to the formation of a subculture in the big cities, in which the music style Rembetiko emerged. Until well into the second half of the 20th century, many Greeks who came from refugee families identified with this origin.

In Turkey , Greek-speaking Muslims from Crete were also discriminated against for a long time. A selective organization of the refugees can be demonstrated for the 1920s, but not for the decades afterwards. This may have to do with the fact that those exchanged made up a comparatively small part of the population, which made their integration easier. Their economic situation is also likely to improve faster than that of the forced migrants in Greece. Since 1999 there has been a civil society organization in Istanbul again in which the descendants of the forced migrants from Greece have come together. They organize trips and cultural events, often together with Greek partner organizations.


Effects of population exchange on the population of Greece

The Muslims in Western Thrace (estimated around 105,000–120,000) and the Muslim Chamen Albanians were officially excluded from the population exchange, as were the 110,000 Greeks in Constantinople ( Istanbul ) and the population of the Aegean islands Imbros ( Gökçeada ) and Tenedos ( Bozcaada ). In the decades that followed, the affected sections of the population in Turkey and Greece were nevertheless discriminated against with various measures and more or less urged to emigrate.

Due to various punitive measures, the Greek population in Turkey began to shrink. A parliamentary resolution in Turkey in 1932 excluded Greek citizens from 30 commercial and other professions. Most of the property of displaced Greeks has been confiscated by the Turkish government, either by declaring it "abandoned" or by court order calling the owners "refugees". Between 1942 and 1944, a wealth tax ( Varlık Vergisi ) was levied, which, due to the highly unequal tax rates for different population groups, was primarily a burden on non-Muslims in Turkey. This tax also served to reduce the economic potential of ethnic Greek businesspeople in Turkey. Above all, the 1955 pogrom in Istanbul , which was mainly directed against the Greek community, forced the emigration of Greeks. While 110,000 Greeks still lived in Turkey in 1923, Human Rights Watch estimates the number was down to 2,500 in 1992 .

The Turks in Greece also suffered from discriminatory measures aimed at driving them out of Greece or at least hindering their integration into society. The Nationality Law, according to Article 19, allowed the state to arbitrarily withdraw nationality from non-ethnic Greeks. In the period from 1955 to 1998, around 60,000 Turks lost their Greek citizenship in this way (the regulation was abolished in 1998). In 1951, according to the official census, 112,665 Turks lived in Greece, in 1999 it was an estimated 80,000 to 120,000. Without emigration, however, a figure of around 300,000 would have been expected in 1999 (based on around 110,000 Turks in 1951 with a cautiously estimated growth rate of 2% per year without emigration). It should be noted that the consequences of the Greek civil war in the same period also led to a significant emigration of ethnic Greeks from Greece, especially from the structurally weak north of Greece, where many Turks lived.

The population structure of Crete also changed significantly. Greek- and Turkish-speaking Muslim residents of Crete moved away, mainly to the Anatolian coast, but also to Syria , Lebanon and Egypt . On the other hand, Greeks from Asia Minor, especially Izmir, came to Crete, bringing with them their typical dialects, customs and cuisine.

According to the British journalist Bruce Clark, author of a standard work on population exchange, both the governments of Greece and Turkey saw the ethnic homogenization of their respective states as positive and stabilizing, as it helped them to establish the image of a nation state.

Web links

Commons : Population exchanges between Greece and Turkey  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Stephen Ladas: The Exchange of Minorities: Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey . MacMillan, New York 1932, pp. 337 .
  2. ^ A b c d e Onur Yıldırım: Diplomacy and Displacement: Reconsidering the Turco-Greek Exchange of Populations, 1922-1934 . Routledge, New York, London 2006, ISBN 978-0-415-97982-5 , pp. 113 .
  3. Gilbar, Gad G .: population dilemma in the Middle East: Essays in Political Demography and Economy . F. Cass, London 1997, ISBN 0-7146-4706-3 .
  4. Kantowicz, Edward R .: The rage of nations . Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, Mich 1999, ISBN 0-8028-4455-3 , pp. 190-192 .
  5. Crossing the Aegean: The Consequences of the 1923 Greek-Turkish Population Exchange (Studies in Forced Migration) . Berghahn Books, Providence 2003, ISBN 1-57181-562-7 , pp. 29 .
  6. ^ Günter Seufert : The Kurds and other minorities, in: Udo Steinbach (Ed.): Country Report Turkey, Bonn 2012, p. 255
  7. ^ Text of the population exchange convention
  8. Nikolaos Andriotis (2008). Chapter The refugees question in Greece (1821-1930) , in " Θέματα Νεοελληνικής Ιστορίας ", ΟΕΔΒ ( "Topics from Modern Greek History" ). 8th edition
  9. ^ A b c d Ellinor Morack: The Dowry of the State: The Politics of Abandoned Property and Nation-Building in Turkey, 1921-1945 . Bamberg University Press, Bamberg 2017, ISBN 978-3-86309-463-8 , pp. 293 ( uni-bamberg.de [PDF]).
  10. ^ Spyros A. Sofos, Umut Özkirimli: Tormented by History: Nationalism in Greece and Turkey . C Hurst & Co, 2008, ISBN 1-85065-899-4 , pp. 116-117 .
  11. ^ Hershlag, Zvi Yehuda: Introduction to the Modern Economic History of the Middle East . Brill Academic Pub, 1997, ISBN 90-04-06061-8 , pp. 177 .
  12. ^ Matthew J. Gibney, Randall Hansen .: Immigration and Asylum: from 1900 to the Present, Volume 3 . ABC-CLIO, 2005, ISBN 1-57607-796-9 , pp. 377 (The total number of Christians who fled to Greece was probably in the region of I.2 million with the main wave occurring in 1922 before the signing of the convention. According to the official records of the Mixed Commission set up to monitor the movements , the "Greeks' who were transferred after 1923 numbered 189,916 and the number of Muslims expelled to Turkey was 355,635 [Ladas I932, 438-439]; but using the same source Eddy 1931, 201 states that the post-1923 exchange involved 192,356 Greeks from Turkey and 354,647 Muslims from Greece.).
  13. Renée Hirschon .: Crossing the Aegean: an appraisal of the 1923 Compulsory Population Exchange between Greece and Turkey . Berghahn Books, 2003, ISBN 1-57181-562-7 , pp. 85 .
  14. ^ Richard Clogg: A Millet Within a Millet: The Karamanlides . In: Dimitri Gondikas; Charles Issawi (Ed.): Ottoman Greeks in the Age of Nationalism: Politics, Economy and Society in the Nineteenth Century . Princeton University Press, Princeton 1999, pp. 115-162 .
  15. ^ Ellinor Morack: The Ottoman Greeks and the Great War: 1912-1922 . In: Helmut Bley; Anorthe Kremers (Ed.): The World During the First World War . Klartext, 2014, ISBN 978-3-8375-1042-3 , p. 213-228 .
  16. Lausanne Peace Treaty VI. Convention Concerning the Exchange of Greek and Turkish Populations Signed at Lausanne, January 30, 1923. Retrieved February 20, 2020 .
  17. Lambros Baltsiotis: The Muslim Chams of Northwestern Greece: The Grounds for the expulsion of a "non-existent" Minority Community . In: European Journal of Turkish Studies . tape 12 , 2011 ( openedition.org ).
  18. Ramazan Tosun: Türk Rum Nüfus Mübadelesi ve Kayseri'deki Rumlar . Tolunay, Niğde 1998, p. 90 .
  19. Renée Hirschon: Heirs of the Greek Catastrophe: The Social Life of Asia Minor Refugees in Piraeus . Clarendon, Oxford 1989.
  20. ^ Association of Lausanne Exchange Migrants. Retrieved February 20, 2020 (Turkish, English).
  21. Greece: The Turks of Western Thrace Human Rights Watch, January 1, 1999. Quotation: “Turkey allowed those ethnic Greeks residing in Istanbul before October 1918 - some 110,000 - to remain, along with the Orthodox Patriarchy; reciprocally, Greece would allow a similar number of ethnic Turks, estimated at between 105,000-120,000, to remain in Thrace. "
  22. Speros Vryonis: The Mechanism of Catastrophe: The Turkish Pogrom of September 6-7, 1955, and the Destruction of the Greek Community of Istanbul . Greekworks, New York 2005, ISBN 0-9747660-3-8 ( abstract ).
  23. Angelos Tsouloufis: The exchange of Greek and Turkish populations and the financial estimation of abandoned properties on either side . In: Enosi Smyrnaion . 1, No. 100, 1989.
  24. Anastasia Lekka: Legislative Provisions of the Ottoman / Turkish Governments Regarding Minorities and Their Properties . In: Mediterranean Quarterly . 18, No. 1, ISSN  1047-4552 , pp. 135-154.
  25. ^ Metin Herer: Turkey: The Political System Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow. In: Contemporary Turkey: Society, Economy, External Policy , Athens, 2002, pp. 17-19.
  26. ^ The Greeks of Turkey Human Rights Watch, March 1992.
  27. Greece: The Turks of Western Thrace Human Rights Watch, January 1, 1999
  28. Bruce Clark: Twice A Stranger: How Mass Expulsion Forged Modern Greece and Turkey . Granta, 2006, ISBN 1-86207-752-5 .