The causes of the massacre of the Greeks during the Greco-Turkish war (1919-1922) are the consequences of the events produced since the occupation of Greece by the Ottomans in 1430 and the capture of Constantinople in 1453 by the Turks.
Despite the bloody massacre that lasted three days during the Ottoman occupation of Constantinople, Christians and Jews, peoples of the Book, were integrated into the Empire. Their communities were grouped together by the Millet system, a status of semi-autonomy in which the Turks officially recognized, according to denominational ties, their role as protectors.
They therefore leave the communities to self-administer financially, judicially and educationally. The Ottomans imposed a tax (jizîa) on them in exchange for their exemption from service in the army, while allowing them to freely practice their religious rites, with however certain restrictions imposed by Islamic law. These instructions reinforce in the People of the Book their desire for liberation from Ottoman power.
This did not prevent many Millet members from leading a comfortable life, especially in town. They worked in trade and services with Europe and were prosperous, their economic and educational standard of living being higher than that of the Muslims, since they attended the schools and universities of the foreign missions which the Muslims avoided. It should be noted that the vast majority of conversions were made among poor Christians in order to avoid paying the tax (jizîa). The Ottomans seeking neither to impose the Turkish language on them nor to convert them to Islam.
In the 19th century, the situation of non-Muslims changed with the tanzimat which were reforms in the Ottoman Empire. Begun in 1839, they ended in 1876. The reforms provided for the equality of all subjects of the Empire, without distinction of religion or national identity. Sultan Mahmoud II foreshadowed these reforms with an official declaration of 1830: “I make the distinction between my subjects, the Muslims in the mosque, the Christians in the church and the Jews in the synagogue, but there is no difference between them to some other extent. My affection and my sense of justice for all of them is strong and they are indeed all my children. »
These reforms tangibly improved the status of Christians and Jews within the Empire and allowed them to enter prestigious positions in the state and in the army, in view of the fact that they were better educated. than Muslims. This situation has certainly developed their loyalty to the state, but there remained, in their hearts, a certain feeling of bitterness, which all occupied people feel.
During this period, Greece declared the war of independence (1821-1829). It was bloodthirsty and experienced several massacres, the most important being that of Tripolizza in the Peloponnese in 1821, committed by Greek insurgents, in which approximately 30,000 Muslims perished. It was followed by the Isle of Scio Massacre in 1822, immortalized in Eugène Delacroix’s painting, in which tens of thousands of Greeks are massacred by the Turks. After this massacre, philhellenism spread rapidly throughout the Hellenistic world, of which the Greeks of Anatolia were a part, and reached the highest dignitaries of the region. This situation pushes the Christians of Anatolia of Greek origin to be torn between their loyalty to the Ottoman State and their belonging to the Greek world.
The Committee of Union and Progress, a modernist and reforming Ottoman nationalist political movement, seized power in Turkey in 1908. It was part of the wave of nationalist movements widespread in Europe at the time. Instead of the existing community division based on Islamic Sharia, a new ethnic division is established in which the Turkish ethnic group is considered superior to the others. This movement is responsible for the Adana massacre of 1909 which caused the death of 20,000 to 30,000 Armenian victims, that of 1,300 Assyrian victims and the massacre of Armenians, Assyrians-Chaldeans and Syriacs in 1915 which made 1,200,000 victims.
The confrontation between Turkish nationalism and Greek nationalism was therefore looking for an opportunity, the Greco-Turkish war of 1919-1922 was to offer it. This war was linked to the division of the Ottoman Empire between the Allies after the First World War and to the claim by Greece, during the Peace Conference of 1919, of territories in Asia Minor. Greece supported the Great Idea (Megali Idea) created in 1844, consisting in reconstituting the ancient Greek world around the Aegean Sea, Anatolia belonging to the Greek world since Antiquity. The Megali Idea is gaining momentum among the Micrasiate Greeks claiming their belonging to the Greek world, which will cause the mistrust of the Ottomans.
In 1919, the Greek forces occupied Smyrna (Izmir), encouraged by the English, under the pretext of protecting the Orthodox populations. The offensive ended in August 1921, following the occupation by the Greeks of several territories of Turkey.
The Treaty of Sèvres which provides for the partition of Turkey after its defeat in the First World War is rejected by Turkish revolutionaries who then launch a counter-attack. The Greek positions fell on August 30, 1922 and the Greek army was defeated. The Turkish army, against the orders of its leader Atatürk, commits a large-scale massacre against the Greeks of Anatolia.
By the end of 1922, most Greeks in Asia Minor fled or were executed. Those who remained were then transferred to Greece, as part of the exchange of populations between Greece and Turkey in 1923, formalized by the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923, signed following the victory of the Turkish army over all the foreheads. This victory unified Turkey within its current borders and provided for the transfer of 1,350,000 Christians from Turkey to Greece, while 350,000 Muslims from Macedonia were to leave Greece and settle in Turkey. Among the victims is Metropolitan Chrysostom who was tortured and killed in Izmir by the Turks because he refused to leave the city and abandon his followers.
As has been demonstrated throughout this text, the causes of the massacre of the Greeks are therefore not the only products of the moment. They are due to a long series of events that began since the occupation of Greece and Asia Minor by the Turks who imposed restrictive measures on the “people of the Book” according to the Islamic Sharia, the war of independence of Greece accompanied by bloody massacres which created a national feeling philhellenism, followed by the Megali Idea the national policy of the Union and Progress committee which committed massacres against Christians and then the occupation of Greece of Smyrna (Izmir) which set fire to the powder.
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The causes of the massacre of the Greeks during the Greco-Turkish war (1919-1922) are the consequences of the events produced since the occupation of Greece by the Ottomans in 1430 and the capture of Constantinople in 1453 by the Turks. which lasted three days during the Ottoman occupation of Constantinople, Christians and Jews, peoples of the Book, were…