GENOCIDE of the PONTIAN GREEKS
Background Paper on the Pontian Genocide
By Akis Haralabopoulos email@example.com
Pontus means "sea" in Greek and is located in the south-eastern littoral of the Black Sea. Its connection with Hellenism stretches back to pre-historic times to the legends of Jason and the Argonauts quest for the Golden Fleece and to Heracles obtaining the Amazon Queen's girdle. The coastal region was colonised by the Ionians, especially the city of Miletus which founded Sinope (785 BC), Trapezunta (756 BC) and the numerous other cities along the coast from Heracleia to Discurias in the Caucasus. The Hinterland was gradually Hellenised and this was completed after Alexander's conquests. Its contribution to Hellenism in those 2800 years has been enormous: Diogenes hailed from Sinope and Strabo from Amaseia, it was here that Xenophon found a safe haven, that the great Comneni dynasty reigned, the home of Cardinal Bessarion and the Hypsilandis family; it was also the last Greek territory to fall to the Turks (in 1461). Many famous churches, monasteries and schools are a testament to the resilience of Hellenism. The Pontians are a distinct Greek people with their own dialect, dances, songs and theatre.
For the Pontian Greeks all ended in tragedy in the years 1914-22. Of the 700,000 Greeks living in Pontus in 1914, 300,000 were killed as a result of Turkish government policy and the remainder became refugees. Three millenia of the Greek presence was wiped out by a deliberate policy of creating a Turkey for the Turks. The Pontian people were denied the right to exist, the right of respect for their national and cultural identity, and the right to remain on land they had lived on for countless generations.
The turning point in the treatment of Greeks in Turkey was the alliance between Germany and the Sultan that commenced after the Treaty of Berlin 1878. Germany regarded Anglo French protection of Christians as an obstacle to its interests and convinced the Turkish authorities that the Greeks were working for the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. Germany opened the Berlin Academy to Turkish military officers and General Gotz was appointed to restructure the Ottoman armed forces. The successful national movements in the Balkans posed a threat that the same would occur in Asia Minor. After the Balkan Wars the Young Turks decided that Asia Minor would be a homeland for Turks alone and that the Greeks and Armenians had to be eliminated. The outbreak of World War I made this possible and Germany willingly sacrificed the Christian minorities to achieve its aim in the Middle East. However, it is the German and Austrian diplomats reports that confirm that what took place was a systematic and deliberate extermination of the Christian population. Genocide. Not security or defence measures, not relocations of population (why forcibly relocate populations?) not war, not retaliation in response to the activities of Pontian guerillas or Russian invasion but GENOCIDE.
Terrorism, labour battalions, exiles, forced marches, rapes, hangings, fires, murders, planned, directed and executed by the Turkish authorities. This can be corroborated by the German and Austrian archives now made public:
24 July 1909 German Ambassador in Athens Wangenheim to Chancellor Bulow quoting Turkish Prime Minister Sefker Pasha: "The Turks have decided upon a war of extermination against their Christian subjects."
26 July 1909 Sefker Pasha visited Patriarch Ioakeim III and tells him: "we will cut off your heads, we will make you disappear. It is either you or us who will survive."
14 May 1914 Official document from Talaat Bey Minister of the Interior to Prefect of Smyrna: The Greeks, who are Ottoman subjects, and form the majority of inhabitants in your district, take advantage of the circumstances in order to provoke a revolutionary current, favourable to the intervention of the Great Powers. Consequently, it is urgently necessary that the Greeks occupying the coast-line of Asia Minor be compelled to evacuate their villages and install themselves in the vilayets of Erzerum and Chaldea. If they should refuse to be transported to the appointed places, kindly give instructions to our Moslem brothers, so that they shall induce the Greeks, through excesses of all sorts, to leave their native places of their own accord. Do not forget to obtain, in such cases, from the emigrants certificates stating that they leave their homes on their own initiative, so that we shall not have political complications ensuing from their displacement.
31 July 1915 German priest J. Lepsius: "The anti-Greek and anti-Armenian persecutions are two phases of one programme - the extermination of the Christian element from Turkey.
16 July 1916 German Consul Kuchhoff from Amisos to Berlin: "The entire Greek population of Sinope and the coastal region of the county of Kastanome has been exiled. Exile and extermination in Turkish are the same, for whoever is not murdered, will die from hunger or illness."
30 November 1916 Austrian consul at Amisos Kwiatkowski to Austria Foreign Minister Baron Burian: "on 26 November Rafet Bey told me: "we must finish off the Greeks as we did with the Armenians . . . on 28 November. Rafet Bey told me: "today I sent squads to the interior to kill every Greek on sight." I fear for the elimination of the entire Greek population and a repeat of what occurred last year" (meaning the Armenian genocide).
13 December 1916 German Ambassador Kuhlman to Chancellor Hollweg in Berlin: "Consuls Bergfeld in Samsun and Schede in Kerasun report of displacement of local population and murders. Prisoners are not kept. Villages reduced to ashes. Greek refugee families consisting mostly of women and children being marched from the coasts to Sebasteia. The need is great."
19 December 1916 Austrian Ambassador to Turkey Pallavicini to Vienna lists the villages in the region of Amisos that were being burnt to the ground and their inhabitants raped, murdered or dispersed.
20 January 1917 Austrian Ambassador Pallavicini: "the situation for the displaced is desperate. Death awaits them all. I spoke to the Grand Vizier and told him that it would be sad if the persecution of the Greek element took the same scope and dimension as the Armenia persecution. The Grand Vizier promised that he would influence Talaat Bey and Emver Pasha."
31 January 1917 Austrian Chancellor Hollweg's report: ". . . the indications are that the Turks plan to eliminate the Greek element as enemies of the state, as they did earlier with the Armenians. The strategy implemented by the Turks is of displacing people to the interior without taking measures for their survival by exposing them to death, hunger and illness. The abandoned homes are then looted and burnt or destroyed. Whatever was done to the Armenians is being repeated with the Greeks.
Thus, by government decree 1,500,000 Armenians, 750,000 Assyrians, and 300,000 Pontian Greeks were annihilated through exile, starvation, cold, illness, slaughter, murder, gallows, axe, and fire. Those who survived fled never to return. The Pontians now lie scattered all over the world as a result of the genocide and their unique history, language (the dialect is a valuable link between ancient and modern Greek), and culture are endangered and face extinction.
A double crime was committed - genocide and the uprooting of a people from their ancestral homelands of three millenia. The Christian nations were not only witnesses to this horrible and monstrous crime, which remains unpunished, but for reasons of political expediency and self interest have, by their silence, pardoned the criminal. The Ottoman and Kemalist Turks were responsible for the genocide of the Pontian people, the most heinous of all crimes according to international law. The international community must recognise this crime.
Produced by the Hellenic Council of New South Wales May 1996
"The Turk is the only master in his country. Those who are not pure Turks have one right in this country: The right to be servants, the right to be slaves"
Turkish Minister of Justice. Newspaper Milliet, September 30, 1930.