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Unfinished Agenda

This chapter is based on a book by Stephen P.Ladas
called The Exchange or Minonties. Bulgaria, Greece
and Turkey, The Macmillan Company, New York, 1932

26. Population Transfer Between Greece and Turkey

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 Anatolia.

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 exchange.

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 districts.

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 outsideTurkey.

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.

Unfinished Agenda
Prafull Goradia
1. Why Transfer Population?
10. Frontiers
11. Financial Resources
12. Armed Forces
13. Pakistan and Communal Peace
14. Redrawing Boundaries
2. Unfinished Agenda of Partition
23. Two Nation Theory
24. Ethnic Cleansing by Pakistan
25. Get Out of Bangladesh
26. Population Transfer Between Greece and Turkey
3. Betrayal
4. Hindu Muslim Gulf
5. Theological Genesis of Separatism
6. Medieval Experience
7. Subcontinental Ummah is One
8. Separate Homeland For All Muslims
9. Ambedhar on Partition

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