The history of population transfer in Europe dates back to 22 September
1609 AD when, by a Spanish royal order, 300,000 Moriscos were expelled. A Morisco or a
little Moor was a Spaniard of European descent who had been converted to Islam seven
centuries earlier and who refused to return to the Christian fold. Many of them were
suspected of religious perfidy and political infidelity for over a century. They were
resettled in Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia.
The next milestone in the history of population transfer was when on 18
October 1685, Louis XIV, the Grand Monarch of France revoked the Edict of Nantes. More
than nine decades earlier. by this edict King Henry IV had granted to the Protestants of
the country, called Huguenots, the right to worship freely. As a result of the revocation,
within the following few years some 400, 000 Huguenots emigrated to England, Prussia.
Holland and America.
So much for what we in India would call medieval history. Soon after
World War I ended. in 1919 Bulgaria and Greece signed at Neuilly a convention for the
reciprocal migration of ethnics living in each other's country.
This exchange of peoples was followed in 1923 with a Turko-Greek
convention for the compulsory exchange of their respective ethnics. This convention was a
result of the declaration by Turkey that it would refuse to allow the repatriation of over
a million Greeks who were driven from or had left Turkey since 1912. Thus the convention
chiefly served to register and confirm an accomplished fact, although it also permitted
Greece to compel its Muslim population to emigrate to Turkey.
The seeds of the Turko-Greek conflict were sown with the Muslim
conquest of Constantinople and the empire surrounding it way back in 1453. Over the
centuries conversions took place and Greece and other areas in the vicinity had to suffer
oppression by the Ottoman rulers. During World War I. the rulers intensified the work of
Ottomanising the empire and its people. The intention was to make Turkey into a
homogeneous state by either assimilating, or by eradicating people. or by expelling the
minorities. Many Christian Greeks fled to Greece.
In the fall of 1922 the Greco-Turkish War, a sequel of World War I was
caused by the occupation of Smyrna land Western Asia Minor by Greece at the behest of the Allies
and came to an abrupt end with the decisive victory of the Turks and the precipitate
retreat of the Greek army.
As a result, almost a million people were thrown on the borders of
Greece in the space of a few months. Following the Convention of Lausanne of 1923, the
remaining Greeks in Turkey, excluding Constantinople or Istanbul, where the Eastern Church
is headquartered, left the country under the auspices of the Mixed Commission. The total
was over 150,000 persons. Under the same convention, the Muslims of Greece, with the
exception of those resident in Western Thrace, were compelled to leave for Turkey. They
numbered about 400,000.
The Turkish government was well aware that the Greek government would
never, of its own will, consent to receiving the Greeks in exchange for the Muslims living
in Greece. It decided, accordingly, to force the hand of the Greek government by expelling
the Greeks from the Aegean coastregions, or deporting them into the interior of Anatolia
with the intent of harassing them. The systematic implementation of this plan began in
early 1914. Within a few months 150,000 Greeks were forced to leave the western coast of
Asia Minor to seek refuge in Greece. Another 50,000 were deported to the interior of
Mr. Venizelos, representing Greece, responded to theTurkish Minister,
accepting the proposal of an exchange of population, provided the free and spontaneous
character of the emigration was secured and the properties of the emigrants were appraised
and disposed off. He also proposed that the exchange be extended to Thrace. The
Greco-Turkish Agreement of 1914 may be deemed to be the forerunner of the Convention of
Neuilly of 1919 and the Convention of Lausanne of 1923.
The convention of 30 January 1923 regarding the exchange of Greek and
Turkish populations, was a part of the peace settlement with Turkey. It was proposed that
the exchange should be carried out within three months. Lord Curzon, the British Foreign
Secretary, expressed his preference for a compulsory exchange, as only in this way could
the expected results be obtained. On a voluntary basis the exchange would take months, whereas
what was wanted was first, to get the Turkish population into Eastern Thrace... and,
second, to provide for the accommodation in Greece of the refugees. He also proposed
to exempt the Greeks of Constantinople from the exchange in the interests of Turkey and to
set against these people the Turkish population of Western Thrace.
Lord Curzon said that he deeply regretted that the solution should be
the compulsory exchange of population, a thoroughly bad and vicious solution, for which
the world would pay a heavy penalty for a hundred years to come. He detested having
anything to do with it. But to say it was a suggestion of the Greek government was
ridiculous. It was a solution enforced by the action of the Turkish government in
expelling these people from Turkish territory. In reply to this Ismet Pasha of Turkey
remarked that Lord Curzon had said that he detested the compulsory exchange of
populations; but at the meeting of the Commission on the 1st December, Lord Curzon
had declared that no solution was possible except the exchange of populations, and that,
as voluntary exchange could not give any result, recourse must be had to compulsory
The convention and the protocol were signed at Lausanne on 30 January,
1923. The convention was to come into force, in accordance with its 19 articles
immediately after the ratification of the Treaty of Peace by Greece and Turkey. The Treaty
of Peace between the British Empire, France, Italy, Japan, Greece, Rumania, the
Serb-Croat-Slovene state, and Turkey, signed at Lausanne on 24 July 1923, was ratified by
Turkey on 23 August 1923, and by Greece on 25 August 1923.
The convention concerning the exchange of Greek and Turkish populations
consisted of 19 articles.Article 1 laid down the principle of compulsory exchange by
providing as follows:
As from 1st May, 1923, there shall take place a compulsory exchange
of Turkish nationals of the Greek Orthodox religion established in Turkish territory, and
of Greek nationals of the Moslem religion established in Greek territory. These persons
shall not return to live in Turkey or Greece respectively without the authorization of the
Turkish Government or of the Greek Government respectively.
Article 2 defined the persons who were not to be included in the
exchange. These were the Muslims of Western Thrace and Christian Greeks of Constantinople.
Article 3 stipulated that the Muslims and Greeks who had left the Greek and Turkish
territories respectively since 18 October, 1912, were to be considered as included in the
exchange. The first instalment of Greeks sent to Greece were all to be able bodied men
belonging to the Greek population detained in Turkey and whose families had already left
Turkish territory. In this respect the protocol annexed to the Convention provided that,
by way of exception to Article 1 of the convention, such able bodied Greeks were to be
released by the Turkish government on the signing of the Treaty of Peace and the
facilities for their departure were to be provided at the same time. It was further
stipulated, in Article16, that no pressure would be exercised on the other people to leave
before the date fixed for their departure by the Mixed Commission. Also, persons exempted
from the exchange were free to exercise their right to remain or return to the excepted
No obstacle was to be placed in the way of the departure of a person
belonging to the populations which were to be exchanged. Convicts and persons to be tried
for crirmes were to be handed over to the authorities of the country whither they were
going. Persons who had already departed were to acquire the nationality of the country of
destination on the date of signing of the convention. Persons who left in the future,
would lose the nationality they had and acquire the nationality of the country of
destination on their arrival in the territory of the latter country (Articles 6 and 7).
The exchange would not prejudice the rights of property and monetary
assets of the exchanged people. They were to be free to take away or arrange for the
transport of their movable property. They could also leave behind property, in which case
the local authorities were to draw up an inventory and valuation of such property.
Immovable and movable property of the exchanged populations was to be sold off by the
Mixed Commission. This included property of persons who had departed since 18 October
1912, independently of any measures taken with respect to such property, such as
confiscation, forced sale etc. Expropriated property was to be appraised afresh by the
Mixed Commission. Damages to, or revenues from such properties of refugees were to be
appraised by the Mixed Commission (Articles 5, 8, 9 and 10).
The Mixed Commission was to consist of four members representing
Greece, four representing Turkey, and three chosen by the League of Nations from among
nations of countries which did not take part in World War I. The commission was
constituted on 17 September 1923, less than a month after the coming into force of the
convention, and met for the first time at Athens on 8 October 1923. The commission to
supervise and facilitate the execution of the convention was to be set up within a month
from the coming into force of the convention. Its constitution, duties and powers were
determined by Articles 11, 12 and 13.
The sums due to the exchanged population of each country on account of
property liquidated by the Mixed Commission was to constitute a government debt from the
country where the liquidation took place, to the government of the country to which the
proprietors emigrated. The exchanged populations were entitled, in principle, to receive
in their new country property of a value equal to and of the same nature as that which
they had left behind. Provisions were made for settlement of accounts between the two
governments as a result of the liquidation (Article 14).
Besides the convention concerning the exchange of Greek and Turkish
populations. two other agreements were signed at the close of the conference at Lausanne.
They were meant to extend the benefits of the convention to Muslims who had left Greece
prior to 1912, and imposed on the Greek government the obligation to buy the properties of
such persons situated in the old provinces of Greece.
The Declaration as to Muslim properties in Greece, signed at Lausanne
on 24 July 1923 stipulated that the property rights of Muslims who were not included in
the provisions of the convention concerning the exchange of populations, and who had left
Greece, including the island of Crete, before 18 October 1912, or who had always resided
outside Greece, should not be prejudiced. These persons were to have the right to freely
dispose off their properties.
The Muslims might ask the good offices of the Mixed Commission for the
sale of their properties. This would not however involve any obligation on the Greek state
to buy such properties. The Declaration was made on condition of reciprocity in favour of
Greek proprietors who had left Turkey before 18 October 1912, or who had always resided
The only criterion of the exhange ability of a person, besides the feet
that he was a national of the country which he was compelled to leave, was that of religion.
The result would be that the Albanian Muslims resident in Greece and Armenians,
Syrians, Russians, Rumanians, etc., of the Greek Orthodox religion in Turkey would be
compelled to emigrate.This consequence would be avoided if the criterion of religion was
understood in a broader sense by the Turkish rulers. Indeed, it was not meant to be taken
strictly as an equivalent to faith or creed, but as a compound of ethnological, political
and religious elements. Religion was a safe criterion, less as a demarcation between the
followers of two different faiths, than as a sharp dividing line between the two ethnic
peoples and, to a certain extent, political entities. The Greek Orthodox religion was an
ethnic entity within the Turkish Empire, having as its head the Greek Oecumenical
Patriarch of Constantinople. He was recognized by official acts of the empire as the head
of the Greek church as well as of the Greek nation, and he was given not only religious
but also administrative and judicial powers within that nation. When Greece became an
independent state in 1830, its people maintained a spiritual connection with the Greek
Oecumenical Patriarch and that part of the Greek nation remaining under Turkish rule.
Thus, the Greek Orthodox religion was in a sensethe external link of union between the two
parts of the Greek nation, the free and the unredeemed. As such, it was considered the
best criterion for defining Greek national minorities in Turkey.
It is uncanny how comparable the situation in Greece and Turkey
was in 1923 with the conditions prevailing in the Indian subcontinent in l 947. The pains
taken by the League of Nations to the last detail in order to facilitate the exchange of
population are remarkable.