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Greek immigrants on deck of a ship heading to America – Ph. Ladis, Mnimes editions, Athens



Greco-Turkish War
Asia Minor Campaign

Immediately after World War I Greece became involved in the Asia Minor campaign. Nation-wide exhaustion from continuous military involvements, took its toll in political affairs in Athens. In return for the contribution of the Greek army in the war effort, the 1920 Treaty of Sèvres, which ended the First World War in Asia Minor and in parallel determined the future of the Ottoman Empire, assigned eastern Thrace and the millet of Smyrna to Greece.

Around that time Mustafa Kemal, the leader of a group of Turkish revolutionaries, was forming the Turkish National Movement in Anatolia. The revolutionaries refused to acknowledge the Treaty of Sèvres and prepared for defence of what they believed was their national land given up by the weak Ottoman government to the enemy.Greek soldiers land in Smyrna in May 1919 - Photographic Archive of the War Museum in Athens

On May 15 May 1919, Greek troops landed at Smyrna (Izmir) and occupied the city and the surroundings under cover of the Greek, French, and British navy. The Greeks already occupied Eastern Thrace.

The Greeks of Smyrna and other Christians, who formed the majority of the city's population, greeted the Greek troops as liberators. By contrast, the Turkish population saw this as an invading force as they resented the Greeks and preferred to be under Turkish rule. The Greek landings were met by sporadic resistance, mainly by small groups of irregular Turkish troops in the suburbs. However, the majority of the Turkish forces in the region either surrendered peacefully to the Greek Army, or fled to the countryside.

During the summer of 1920, the Greek army launched a series of successful offensives in the directions of Meaneder (Menderes) Valley, Peramos and Philadelphia to create a defence zone for Smyrna.. Therefore, the Greek zone of occupation was extended over all of Western and most of North Western Asia Minor. Top

Greek expansion

While the Asia Minor campaign was under way, the living conditions of the soldiers were deteriorating. This fact increased the discontent of the soldiers and allowed the development of anti-war propaganda. In the photo soup kitchen of the companies - Photographic Archive of the War Museum in AthensIn October 1920, the Greek army advanced further east into Anatolia. This advance began under the liberal government of Eleftherios Venizelos but, soon after the offensive began, Venizelos lost the general elections of December 1920 and was replaced by Dimitrios Gounaris, who appointed inexperienced monarchist officers to senior commands. King Constantine assumed personal command of the army at Smyrna (Izmir). The objective was to defeat the Turkish Nationalists and force Kemal into peace negotiations. The advancing Greeks met little resistance as the Turks managed to retreat in an orderly fashion and avoid encirclement.

The Greek advance was halted for the first time at the First Battle of Inonu on 11 January 1921. This development led to Allied proposals to amend the Treaty of Sevrès at a conference in London where both the Turkish Revolutionary and Ottoman governments were represented.

Although some agreements were reached with Italy, France and Britain, the decisions were not agreed by the Greek government who believed that they still had the strategic advantage and could negotiate from a stronger point. The Greeks initiated another attack on 24 March (second Battle of Inonu), to be resisted fiercely and finally defeated by the Kemalist troops on 30 March 1921. The British favored a Greek territorial expansion but refused to offer any military assistance in order not to provoke the French. The Turkish forces however received significant assistance from the Soviet Union.Mustafa Kemal

In June 1921, a reinforced Greek army advanced afresh to the River Sakarya (Sangarios in Greek), less than 100 km (62 miles) west of Ankara. It was envisaged that the Turkish Revolutionaries, who had consistently avoided encirclement would be drawn into battle in defence of their capital and destroyed in a battle of attrition. Meanwhile, the new Turkish government at Ankara appointed Mustafa Kemal as the commander in chief. The advance of the Greek Army faced fierce resistance which culminated in the 21-day Battle of the Sakarya (or Sangarios in Greek) (23 August - 13 September 1921). The ferocity of the battle exhausted both sides to such an extent that they were both contemplating a withdrawal, but the Greeks were the first to withdraw to their previous lines.

That was the furthest in Anatolia the Greeks would advance, and within few weeks they withdrew orderly back to the lines they held in June, intending at least to protect the Smyrna area. Top

Outcome of the Greek offensive

The Greek defeat can be largely attributed to a lack of whole-hearted Allied support, as King Constantine was reviled by the British for his pro-German policies during WWI (in contrast to former Prime Minister Venizelos). By contrast, the Kemalist Turks enjoyed significant Soviet support. The Turks also received significant military assistance from Italy and France, who threw in their lot with the Kemalist against Greece which was seen as a British alley. The Italians used their base in Antalya to arm and train Turkish troops to assist the Kemalists against the Greeks.

Commander-in-chief Leonidas Paraskevopoulos announces the mobilization of the inhabitants of Asia Minor. Next to him, in the balcony of the Bishopric building, the Bishop of Smyrna Chrysostomos as well as the Psaltoff brothers and the publisher of Amalthia, Socratis Solomonidis, can among others, be seen - Archeio Enosis SmyrnaionHowever, the main reason for the Greek defeat was the poor strategic and operational planning of this ill-conceived advance and attacks. Although the Greek Army was not lacking in men, courage or enthusiasm, it was lacking in nearly everything else due to the poor Greek economy, which could not sustain long-term mobilization and had been stretched beyond its limits. Very soon, the Greek Army exceeded the limits of its logistic structure and had no way of retaining such a large territory under constant attacks by regular and irregular Turkish troops fighting in their homeland.

Having failed to reach a military solution, Greece appealed to the Allies for help, but early in 1922 Britain, France and Italy decided that the Treaty of Sèvres could not be enforced and had to be revised. Parallel to their decision, with successive treaties, Italian and French troops evacuated their positions leaving the Greeks exposed.

In March 1922 the Allies proposed an armistice but Kemal feeling that he now had the strategic advantage, declined any settlement while the Greeks remained in Anatolia and intensified his efforts to re-organize the Turkish military for the final offensive against the Greeks. At the same time, the Greeks strengthened their defensive positions but were increasingly demoralized by the inactivity of remaining on the defensive and the prolongation of the war. The Turkish offensive was launched on 26 August, defeating the Greeks at the Battle of Dumlupinar near Afyon on 30 August 1922 (celebrated as the Victory Day and a national holiday in Turkey). Top

Turkish offensive

Having breached the Greek defences, the Turks advanced very rapidly to Smyrna (Izmir), which they captured after the withdrawal of the Greek troops. During the confusion and anarchy that followed, a great proportion of the city was set on fire. The fire in the city expanded from the burning of Greek and Armenian Quarters of Smyrna by the Turkish Army and the properties of the Greeks were pillaged. The last hours of the Greeks in Smyrna. Crowds of refugees thronged the waterfront seeking a means of salvation, while at the back the burning buildings can be seen - Photo historical Archive of the Municipality of Nea Smyrni, Athens

A massacre of a significant part of the Christian population, including the lynching and brutal murder of the Greek Orthodox Bishop Chrysostomows of Smyrna by the Turkish Army, occurred during the days remembered by the Greeks as "the Catastrophe of Smyrna". However, the majority of the Greeks managed to seek refuge on Greek and Allied ships at the harbor of Izmir (Smyrna) and other coastal towns.

With the possibility of social disorder once the Turkish Army occupied Smyrna, Kemal was quick to issue a proclamation, sentencing any Turkish soldier to death who harmed non-combatants. Few days before the Turkish invasion of the city, Kemal's messengers gave out leaflets with this order written in Greek. These orders were largely ignored, and Nasruddin Pasha, the commander of Turkish forces in the Smyrna district gave orders contradicting those of Kemal. Nasruddin Pasha's orders were largely followed and the Greek and Armenian civilian population of Smyrna suffered heavily at the hands of the Turkish army. Top

Asia Minor Catastrophe

The Armistice of Mudanya was concluded on 11 October 1922, with the Allies retaining control of east Thrace and the Bosporus but the Greeks evacuated these areas. The agreement came into force starting 15 October, one day after the Greek agreed to sign it. The Armistice of Mudanya was followed by the Treaty of Lausanne, under which a significant provision was the exchange of populations.

This exchange of populations involved some two million persons, most forcibly made refugees and denaturalized from homelands for centuries or millennia, in a treaty promoted and overseen by the international community as part of the Treaty of Lausanne.

The persecution of the Greeks was one of the practices pursued by the Young Turks during the Balkan and the First World War. In the photograph Greeks of Asia Minor are conveyed by railway to labour battalions in the interior of Anatolia – G. Christopoulos, Istoria tou Ellinikou Ethnous - Ekdotiki Athinon, AthensThe document about the exchange of Greek and Turkish populations was signed at Lausanne, Switzerland, on 30 January 1923, between the governments of Greece and Turkey. The exchange took place between Turkish nationals of the Greek Orthodox religion living in Turkish territory and of Greek nationals of the Muslim religion living in Greek territory.

Many huge refugee displacements and movements occurred in the upheaval following the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire and its evolution into modern Turkey, especially following the Balkan Wars, World War I, and the Greco-Turkish War (1919-1922), which was part of the Turkish War for Independence. These included smaller exchanges of Greeks and Slavs, and Turks and Bulgarians.

In Greece this was called the "Asia Minor Catastrophe" as it involved the expulsion of about one third of the Greek population from millennia old homelands. While the populations which were expelled suffered greatly, both the nation states of Greece and Turkey, as well as the international community, saw the resulting ethnic homogenization of their respective states as positive and stabilizing.

The remnants of the Greek Army made their way to the islands of the Eastern Aegean, where the Army's resentment at the political leadership in Athens resulted in the outbreak of the 1922 Revolution on 11 September led by Plastiras, Colonel Stylianos Gonatas and Commander Phokas.

Photo of the entrance of the leaders of the Revolutionary Committee N. Plastiras, St. Gonatas and D. Phokas in Athens on 15 September 1922. The people of Athens received them with a warm welcome - Photographic Archive of the History Foundation of Eleftherios Venizelos, AthensHaving the support of the Army, the (mostly Venizelist) Navy, and the people, the Revolution quickly assumed control of the country. Plastiras forced King Constantine to resign, called upon the exiled Venizelos to lead the negotiations with Turkey which culminated in the Treaty of Lausanne, and set about to reorganize the Army to protect the Evros line against any Turkish advance into Western Thrace. One of the most controversial acts of the revolutionary government was the trial and execution of six royalist politicians, including former PM Dimitrios Gounaris and the former Commander-in-Chief, General Hatzianestis, on 28 November 1922 as those mainly responsible for the Asia Minor Disaster, in the infamous "Trial of the Six".

Plastiras faced multiple challenges in governing Greece. The 1,3 million refugees from the population exchange had to be catered for in a country with a ruined economy, internationally isolated and internally divided. The Corfu incident and a botched Royalist counter-coup in October 1923 were evidence of this.

After the failed royalist coup, King George II was forced to leave the country. Nonetheless, he managed to restore some order to the state and to lay the groundwork for the Second Hellenic Republic. After the elections of December 1923 for the new National Assembly, he resigned from the Army on January 2, 1924, retiring to private life. In recognition of his services to the country, the National Assembly declared him "worthy of the fatherland" and conferred to him the rank of Lieutenant General in retirement.

As part of the Treaty of Lausanne almost all Greeks (including Turkish speaking Christian population Timelinein middle Anatolia), about 1.5 million from Turkish Anatolia and Turkish Thrace were expelled or formally denaturalized and about 500.000 predominantly Turks (including Muslim population from Crete speaking a dialect based on Greek language with additional Turkish words, Muslim Roma, Pomaks, Cham Albanians and Megleno-Romanians) were expelled from Greece. The Greeks of Istanbul, Gökçeada (Imbros in Greek) and Bozcaada (Tenedos in Greek), as well as the Turks and other Muslims of Western Thrace were exempted from this transfer. Top


   Greek expansion
   Outcome of the Greek offensive
   Turkish offensive
   Asia Minor catastrophe

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