I’ll begin with some extracts mainly from a book by Leonidas Koumakis entitled “The Miracle” and also from various websites, which contain historical information leading up to and including both the 1955 pogrom and the 1964 expulsions of Greeks residing in Constantinople, and a word about Turkish expansionism in Western Thrace. Afterwards will follow a brief account of my observations during my trip to Turkey and Pontos last year, in which the ongoing hidden persecution and repression of Greeks in Turkey is shown to be very much alive, followed by some suggestions for future action based upon a book which is banned in Turkey called “The Pontian Question in the United Nations” by Michalis Charalambidis, whose tireless activism on the Pontian question has led to the Pontian Genocide’s initial official recognition in Greece and Cyprus in 1994, and who was denied entry to the US last year at the Chicago airport, which was possibly the result of a smear campaign against him by the Turkish lobby in the US, and was therefore unable to attend the 2008 Genocide Conference in Chicago.
In 1928, the Turks burned Tatavla and renamed it Kurtulus.
In 1930, Greeks were banned from certain professions to prevent them from making money.
In 1931, the law on the “vilification of Turkism” was enacted, in which it was sufficient for 2 Turks to give false testimony and make vague claims that one had insulted Turkey or the Turks for that person to be sent to prison without bail. This led to the fear of speaking Greek in the street or any other public place, but only in the homes, lest Greeks were accused of insulting Turkey.
With the fall of Crete in May, 1941, Turkey devised a plan for the general mobilization of the non-Muslim population of Constantinople including Greeks, Armenians, and Jews; they were taken to forced labor camps in Anatolia as had also happened in 1914. A year later, under foreign pressure, the Turks were obliged to stop the mobilization procedure and release all those who had survived.
On November 11th, 1942, Law 4305 on capital property tax was passed in a single sitting of Turkish parliament, meant for the economic ruin of the non-Muslim population of Constantinople. The tax amount was arbitrary and very high with respect to a taxpayer’s salary and impossible to pay. The citizens had no right to discuss or appeal it. Within 15 days the citizens had to pay even if it meant selling off their entire property, otherwise they would be sent to a forced labor camp in Askale in Asia Minor, the Turkish equivalent of Siberia, and thus pay off their “debts”. In 1943 when the law was passed, 1,869 prominent members of the Christian community were sent to Askale once their property had been confiscated. Many of them died there as a result of the privations they suffered. At the end of WWII the Turks were obliged to release all the prisoners in the concentration camps. The prisoners who had survived gradually began to leave Turkey in fear of their lives.
In spite of Article 14 of the Treaty of Lausanne, on Imvros and Tenedos the Turks closed the Greek schools and banned the instruction of the Greek language. Greek children were sent to attend the Turkish schools. In 1943, the property owned by the monasteries at Lavra and Koutloumousion were confiscated and the buildings given to Lazes. In this way, the Greek population on Imvros and Tenedos was severely reduced. The Turks desired to remove all traces of Hellenism from these islands and to make them Turkish.
A large part of this negative mass psychology was also spawned by jealousy of the increasing economic prosperity of the Greeks of Constantinople. The Turkish propaganda led the Turks to believe that the Greeks, Armenians, and Jews and the other minorities who enjoyed most of the country’s wealth were to blame for Turkey’s misfortune and inability to make economic progress.
The Turkish Jew Sedat Simavi, working as a reporter on the newspaper Hurriyet, the daily circulation of which he helped increase from 11,000 to 600,000 copies in 1948, wrote many inflammatory anti-Greek articles, which influenced many other Turkish newspapers and helped set the general anti-Greek climate.
Another reporter on the newspaper Hurriyet, Hikmet Bil, was the leader of various organizations promoting the Turkishness of Cyprus, and also channeled inflammatory anti-Greek feeling to the masses.
In the early 1950s, Cyprus’ struggle for independence horrified the British who were afraid they might lose their bases on the island. Therefore they decided to use the precarious situation in Cyprus to set the Greeks and Turks against each other by making Turkey a present of part of the island in order that they might assume the role of “arbitrator” and thereby safeguard their own interests. This divide and rule policy set the stage for the 1955 Constantinople pogrom.
In the beginning of the 20th century there were 300,000 Greeks residing in Constantinople. By 1955 only 25,000 people were left, rather than the 450,000 that should have been their number given a normal rate of growth in that time period.
In 1955 in Thessaloniki, Oktay Engin, a Muslim student at Thessaloniki University’s Law School who came from Komotini, Thrace, delivered a bomb to the guard at the Turkish consulate in Thessaloniki, Mehmet Hasanoglu. The guard planted the device in a garden shared by the Turkish consulate and the house where the Turks believe Kemal Ataturk was born. The bomb went off but caused no damage, apart from shattering a few windows. The bomb explosion was merely a pretext to blacken Greece’s name. And this is precisely what happened: two Turkish newspapers had already prepared special editions with prefabricated texts full of disinformation and doctored photographs for September 6th, 1955. The BBC transmitted the news 5 whole hours before the bomb exploded! These false news reports infuriated the Turkish people, and subsequently large groups of people in trains and military vehicles were transported from Anatolia to Constantinople by the Turkish authorites. Later on the same day the pogrom in Constantinople took place, which was not only not hindered by the police and state security forces, but assisted and guided by them. Shortly after these events, Oktay Engin was arrested by the Greek police. When he was released the following year, he escaped to Turkey where he was welcomed as a national hero. He was later made Chief of Police in Ankara.
On September 6th 1955 the Turks staged a pogrom against the Greeks in Constantinople and their property, raping at least 200 women, killing 30 Greeks and 1 Armenian including two clerics, severely wounding 32 Greeks, performing forced circumcisions on many men, mainly priests, after which an Armenian priest died, destroying 5,000 shops and stores, plundering and destroying 110 Greek restaurants and hotels, completely demolishing 21 Greek factories, 27 Greek pharmacies, all of the city’s 26 Greek schools, and 5 athletic centers, smashing to pieces the offices and printing presses of the city’s three big Greek newspapers, destroying the tombs of the Patriarchs and the tombstones and crosses in the Greek cemetery at Sisli and even opening up the most recent graves and removing the bodies and hacking them to pieces with knives, looting 2,600 homes and setting fire to or ravaging 73 Greek churches, vandalizing several prominent Greek monuments such as the Marasleios School, The Monestary of Valoukli, the Zappeio School for Girls, the Theological School of Halki which was eventually closed down by the Turks in 1971 and remains so to this day, and many other sites, all within the space of six and a half hours, and was carried out under the guidance and organization of the official Turkish state. The number of Greeks who were forced to leave Turkey by 1960, as a result of these events, is estimated at around 9,000.
Five years later when a military coup overturned the government of Adnan Menderes in May, 1960, the prime minister and his foreign minster, Fatin Rustu Zorlu, were sent to appear at a court martial on the island of Plati. At the trial, both men were found guilty of, among other charges, the organization and execution of the acts of vandalism carried out on the night of September 6th, 1955. The trial verdict said they were found guilty not because they organized the pogrom but because of the bad publicity and damage to Turkey’s international image which the incidents provoked. A few weeks after the incidents, the village of Gerze in Asia Minor, from where most of the Lazes who had been involved in the rioting came, was totally destroyed in a major fire, while two other villages whose inhabitants also took part in the raid were razed to the ground in a powerful earthquake!
In 1963, the Anglo-Turkish alliance in Cyprus had brought Greece to the brink of war with Turkey. After condemning to failure all the attempts to draw up a Cypriot constitution, the Turks tried to invade Cyprus using their fleet, but were stopped by US intervention. This turmoil led to the expulsions of Constantinople Greeks in 1964.
In March of 1964 Turkey denounced the Trade, Establishment and Shipping Agreement signed by Greece and Turkey on October 30th, 1930. The result was the persecution and deportation of the Greeks who stayed on in Constantinople.
Greek properties in Constantinople were confiscated through a secret decree passed in 1964, denying people of Greek descent the right to buy or sell property.
The final act of the decades-old Turkish plan to rid Constantinople of its Greek population was fully under way in 1964, during which 57,000 Greeks were callously turned out of their homes and deported on a variety of senseless pretexts and without the slightest grounds for doing so and on the basis of a heartless procedure. Greeks forced to flee were only allowed to take essential items of clothing only. Everything else – all of their lives’ possessions – were confiscated for plunder by the Turkish authorities.
Over the years Turkey has exploited the civilized nature of Greece by its expansionist aims in Western Thrace. The Muslim children have been “turkified” through education and training. Muslims who are not Turks have been given a Turkish consciousness. Also agencies have been set up that faithfully carry out Turkey’s strategic goals. The Muslims of Western Thrace have organized themselves and made constant protests for no reason whatsoever, supposedly about the oppressive conditions under which they live in Greece, in order to have a greater say regarding the minority it had created in Greece. The region has been inundated with Turkish agents who have systematically incited nationalist fervor amongst the Muslim population. The clerics have also embarked upon an intense propaganda program. The number of Muslim seminaries increased from a total of 85 in 1920 to 320 by 1996.
Before the population exchange between Turkey and Greece under the terms of the Treaty of Lausanne, in 1923 there were 315,000 Christian Greeks living in Constantinople, Imvros, and Tenedos. By 1993 that number dwindled to 5,000. On the other hand, the number of Muslims living in Western Thrace increased from 80,000 to 150,000 during this same period.
Turkey must apologize to Greece and the international community for the 1955 pogrom and the 1964 expulsions waged against the Greeks of Constantinople, and allow for their restoration, analogous to the Muslim population of Western Thrace as stipulated by the Treaty of Lausanne, and by the fact that the city of Byzantium (later renamed Constantinople) was founded by Greek colonists from Megara in 667 B.C. and named after their king Byzas, and has for the most part been inhabited by Greeks since then. Turkey must also cease its illegal expansionist efforts not only in Western Thrace, but in the Aegean Islands and Cyprus, and indirectly in the Muslim bow in the Balkans surrounding Greece - Albania, FYROM, and Bulgaria – which all serve its irredentist Pan-Turkist ideology.
America and NATO must also apologize to the Greeks because in 1955 Turkey was a member of NATO and a recipient of American economic and military assistance. The failure of America and NATO to condemn Ankara, to impose sanctions on Turkey, or to vigorously protest the pogroms demonstrates that the western powers remain to the present day accomplices in the systematic genocide of Hellenism.
The Greeks and Turks must work together to achieve mutual respect and understanding based on our common love for truth and justice, and end Turkey’s insatiable desires for territorial conquests and hegemony.
2008 Trip to Turkey and Pontos
As is well known, the Church of Agia Sophia in Constantinople has been blasphemed by the Ottomans by its conversion into a mosque, and by the crypto-Jew Kemal Ataturk by its conversion into a museum. Other blasphemies which exist within Agia Sophia are the defacement of most of the Orthodox symbols, which have been replaced by Moslem ones, at least one portrait of the Hitler to the Pontians, Kemal, located in the narthex (and in practically every building in Turkey), and last but not least, the presence of the tomb of Enrico Dandolo, Doge of Venice, who sacked Constantinople during the 4th crusade.
In Trapezounta, Pontos, I witnessed another blasphemy against the Agia Sophia Church there, which has also been turned into a museum, and many of whose icons have been sacrilegiously violated.
In the mountainous crypto-Christian village of Livera in Matsouka, Pontos, in the mayor’s library, was an entire bookcase of books in Greek, with topics ranging from the lives of Pontian saints to Pontian history including the genocide to the Pontian dialect among others. Another bookcase contained a small flag of Greece, a Bible, and a copy of the national icon of the Pontians, that of Panagia Soumela. However, evidently out of fear of persecution by the Turkish state, these obviously Pontian crypto-Christians claimed to be “Turkish” and did not come out and say they were Christians. As I was leaving, a villager pointed to a mosque and exclaimed “that used to be St. George’s Church”. Over the years, the Turks have either destroyed churches or converted them into mosques (and now even “museums”). Christians have not been allowed to build new churches, except upon the ruins of older churches (I question whether even this policy is currently in effect).
The famous Panagia Soumela monastery, which once housed the icon of Panagia Soumela mentioned above, which was painted by Apostle Luke himself, is regularly frequented by crypto-Christians, especially in August for the Dormition feast. It was a functioning monastery as late as the early 20th century, but was finally abandoned during Kemalist times. Now it serves as nothing more than a tourist attraction. In August two festivals are held in Turkey. The first is held in Chaykara on August 19th commemorating the Transfiguration of the Lord according to the Old Calendar. The second is held in the Panagia Soumela Monastery on August 28th commemorating the Dormition of the Theotokos, also according to the Old Calendar. It’s interesting to note that the persecuted crypto-Christians have managed to retain the canonical Old Calendar, while the majority of Greeks of Greece and the diaspora have unfortunately adopted the Papist, Masonic New Calendar. Please see www.genuineorthodoxchurch.net to learn more about the Old Calendar Church.
In Trapezounta I had dinner at a restaurant owned by a “Turkish” Pontian who fluently spoke the Pontian dialect. Unfortunately, he was also a victim of the repressive nature in Turkey and insisted that he was “Turkish” and that his parents merely spoke Pontian and he learned it from them.
In Caesaria of Cappadocia are numerous ancient cave churches. Many Orthodox luminaries such as St. Basil the Great hailed from this area. Its Orthodox activity dates back to the dawn of Christianity. Of course now it is nothing more than a tourist attraction. But it was a very edifying experience to see the ancient iconography, and to witness a Turkish Christian singing a Christian song in the altar of a cave church. Not so edifying was hearing a Turkish tour guide lying to his patrons by telling them that various Orthodox saints depicted on the walls were “Turkish”. Fortunately they were smart enough to see through his lies and told him so.
In Mersin I met up with an islamized Pontian kemenche or lyra player. He knew all of the melodies of the traditional Pontian songs. I accompanied him to his cousin’s circumcision party, during which I witnessed various Turkish music and dancing, which bore a striking resemblance to that of the Pontian. Instruments used were the kemenche, daouli, and zourna. It appears that the Turks are allowed to maintain the Pontian music and dance, but not the Pontian dialect. I was not able to find in any stores Pontian music with Pontian lyrics, but rather only with Turkish lyrics. I was told that a young Pontian musician recently got in trouble with the authorities for releasing a cd with Pontian lyrics.
In the above account, we see the recurring themes of repression of the Pontian dialect, culture, and Orthodox faith, and the desecration of Orthodox churches, monasteries, and holy sites. Seeing that the Pontians could not be obliterated by physical genocide, the Turks have now resorted to the more sinister cultural genocide. And since language and faith are two of the chief characteristics that define a people, it makes sense that these are their main targets. But, as history has proven, thanks to the resilience of this ancient Pontian people, bearers of the Greek language which God has deigned to have much of the New Testament written in, and bearers, albeit secretly, of the Genuine Orthodox faith, the only true faith revealed by God to man, and bearers of the apothegm Η Ρωμανία κι’ αν επέρασεν, ανθεί και φέρει κι’ άλλο (Though ΡΩΜΑΝΙΑ has passed, it blooms and brings forth more), and by God’s grace, this people shall never die.
Suggestions for Future Action
More information must be obtained on the situation and on the conditions of life of the Pontians in the countries of the former Soviet Union, and in the likely event of these Pontians wishing to emigrate, they should have the opportunity to choose their destination. Were the conditions given - normal conditions of cultural, social, and economic life - the Pontians never having resigned their rights on their property, nor their right to return to their homelands in historic Pontos, and Asia Minor being a territory of Greek character, the Pontians should be able to return to their Pontian homeland in present Turkey.
Interventions towards the alleviation of the lack of freedom of expression of the Pontians in Turkey must be taken.
Efforts must be continued to internationalize the Pontian issue and gain recognition of the genocide.
Memorials commemorating the Pontian holocaust must be erected in all places where Pontian life continues.
Turkish society must shatter, once and for all, those psychological, ideological, and cultural norms and symbols that allow the recurrence of cycles of violence and pogroms, such as the statue of Topal Osman – butcher of Hellenism, symbol of violence and hatred – in Kerasounta, and the statue of Kemal Ataturk – the Stalin to the Pontians – in Trapezounta. These statues must be replaced with monuments dedicated to the Pontian holocaust.
The criminal media must end its censorship and broadcast the truth about the Turkish, Kemalist gulags and all perpetrators must be brought to justice under an international court.
Cultural capitals of the world such as Smyrna and Constantinople must be reestablished.
The Greek government is obliged to introduce the Pontian Genocide to international organs such as the European Union and the United Nations. Greece has to include the Pontian Genocide in considering its foreign relations with Turkey. In all official meetings, the government is obliged to put this issue on the agenda. The culpable Turkish state’s recognition of the genocide and the subsequent restitution to all of its victims for all of the pain and suffering caused must be a leading factor for its acceptance into the European community.