Population exchange between Greece and Turkey
The 1923 population exchange between Greece and Turkey (Greek: Ἡ Ἀνταλλαγή, Turkish: Mübadele) was based upon religious identity, and involved the Greek Orthodox citizens of Turkey and the Muslim citizens of Greece. It was a major compulsory population exchange, or agreed mutual expulsion.
The "Convention Concerning the Exchange of Greek and Turkish Populations" was signed at Lausanne, Switzerland, on 30 January 1923, by the governments of Greece and Turkey. It involved approximately 2 million people (around 1.5 million Anatolian Greeks and 500,000 Muslims in Greece), most of whom were forcibly made refugees and de jure denaturalized from their homelands.
By January 1923, the vast majority of Asia Minor Greeks and Pontic Greeks had already fled during the recent Greco-Turkish War; nonetheless, they were taken into account in the convention. According to calculations, during the autumn of 1922, around 900,000 Orthodox refugees had arrived in Greece (including 50,000 Armenians).
After the Ankara-based government of the Turkish National Movement rejected the Treaty of Sèvres that had been signed by the Istanbul-based Ottoman government, a new peace conference was organised at Lausanne, Switzerland, in order to draft a treaty to replace the Treaty of Sèvres. While the Lausanne Peace Conference was ongoing, but separate from it and its resulting Treaty of Lausanne, the "Convention Concerning the Exchange of Greek and Turkish Populations" was signed at Lausanne on 30 January 1923 by the governments of Greece and Turkey at the insistence of Eleftherios Venizelos and Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. The convention had a retrospective effect for all the population moves which took place since the declaration of the First Balkan War, i.e. 18 October 1912 (article 3).
By the time the Exchange was to take effect, 1 May 1923, most of the pre-war Orthodox Greek population of Aegean Turkey had already fled. The Exchange involved the remaining Greeks of central Anatolia (both Greek- and Turkish-speaking), Pontus and Kars, a total of roughly 189,916. 354,647 Muslims were involved.
The agreement therefore merely ratified what had already been perpetrated on the Turkish and Greek populations. Of the 1,300,000 Greeks involved in the exchange, only approximately 150,000 were resettled in an orderly fashion. The majority had already fled hastily with the retreating Greek Army following Greece's defeat in the Greco-Turkish War, whereas others fled from the shores of Smyrna. The unilateral emigration of the Greek population, already at an advanced stage, was transformed into a population exchange backed by international legal guarantees.
In Greece, it was considered part of the events called the Asia Minor Catastrophe (Greek: Μικρασιατική καταστροφή). Significant refugee displacement and population movements had already occurred following the Balkan Wars, World War I, and the Turkish War of Independence. These included exchanges and expulsion of about 500,000 Muslims (mostly Greek Muslims) from Greece and about 1,500,000 Greeks from Asia Minor, Trabezond/Pontus, Kars, and Eastern Thrace to Greece.
The convention affected the populations as follows: almost all Greek Orthodox Christians (Greek- or Turkish-speaking) of Asia Minor including the Greek Orthodox populations from middle Anatolia (Cappadocian Greeks), the Ionia region (e.g. Smyrna, Aivali), the Pontus region (e.g. Trapezunda, Sampsunta), the former Russian Caucasus province of Kars (Kars Oblast), Prusa (Bursa), the Bithynia region (e.g., Nicomedia (İzmit), Chalcedon (Kadıköy), East Thrace, and other regions were either expelled or formally denaturalized from Turkish territory. These numbered about half a million and were added to the Greeks already expelled before the treaty was signed. About 500,000 people were expelled from Greece, predominantly Greek Muslims, and others including Turks, Muslim Roma, Pomaks, Cham Albanians, Megleno-Romanians, and the Dönmeh.
The time the conference in Lausanne took place, the Greek population had already left Anatolia, with an exception of 200,000 Greeks, who stayed after the evacuation of the Greek army from the region. On the other hand the Muslim population in Greece, not having been involved to the recent Greek-Turkish conflict in Anatolia, was almost intact.
Due to punitive measures carried out by the Republic of Turkey, such as the 1932 parliamentary law which barred Greek citizens in Turkey from a series of 30 trades and professions from tailor and carpenter to medicine, law, and real estate, the Greek population of Istanbul, as well as that of Imbros and Tenedos, began to decline, as evidenced by demographic statistics.
Most property abandoned by Greeks who were subject to the population exchange were confiscated by the Turkish government by declaring them “abandoned” and therefore state owned. Properties were confiscated arbitrarily by labeling the former owners as “fugitives” under the court of law. Additionally, real property of many Greeks was declared "unclaimed" and ownership was subsequently assumed by the state. Consequently, the greater part of the Greeks' real property was sold at nominal value by the Turkish government. Sub-committees that operated under the framework of the Committee for Abandoned properties had undertaken the verification of persons to be exchanged in order to continue the task of selling property abandoned.
The Varlık Vergisi capital gains tax imposed in 1942 on wealthy non-Muslims in Turkey also served to reduce the economic potential of ethnic Greek business people in Turkey. Furthermore, violent incidents as the Istanbul Pogrom (1955) directed against the ethnic Greek community greatly accelerated emigration of Greeks, reducing the 200,000-strong Greek minority in 1924 to just over 2,500 in 2006. By contrast the Turkish community of Greece has increased in size to over 100,000.
The population profile of Crete was significantly altered as well. Greek- and Turkish-speaking Muslim inhabitants of Crete (Cretan Turks) moved, principally to the Anatolian coast, but also to Syria, Lebanon and Egypt. Some of these people identify themselves as ethnically Greek to this day. Conversely, Greeks from Asia Minor, principally Smyrna, arrived in Crete bringing in their distinctive dialects, customs and cuisine.
According to Bruce Clark, leaders of both Greece and Turkey, as well as some circles in the international community, saw the resulting ethnic homogenization of their respective states as positive and stabilizing since it helped strengthen the nation-state natures of these two states.
At the same time, forced deportation has obvious challenges: social, such as forcibly being removed from one's place of living, and more practical such as abandoning a well-developed family business. Countries also face other practical challenges: for example, even decades after, one could notice certain hastily developed parts of Athens, residential areas that had been quickly erected on a budget while receiving the fleeing Asia Minor population. To this day, both Greece and Turkey still have properties, and even entire villages such as Kayaköy that have been left abandoned since the exchange.
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- Cretan Turks
- Greek Muslims
- Vallaades - Greek-speaking Muslims of Greek Macedonia
- Cappadocian Greeks
- Fridtjof Nansen
- Greco-Turkish War (1919–1922)
- Greek genocide
- Greek refugees
- Greeks in Turkey
- Pontic Greeks
- Caucasus Greeks
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- Text of the population exchange convention
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