1922 01 The Greco Turkish War - Identity Politics at its Worst

Author: @Spartacus
Status: Writing

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1922 01 - I can provide you with information on the forced assimilation of Bulgarians in Macedonia and Thrace following WW1 as it is a huge part of the identity politics.

From 1878 until basically the end of WW1 the region of Vardar Macedonia and a good chunk of Aegean Thrace was always considered to have a majority Bulgarian population, however that changed at the end of The Great War. In 1919, both Serbia and Greece would publish propaganda maps that claimed their respective majorities in Bulgarian lands (example of Serbian propaganda: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jovan_Cvijić#/media/File:Cvijic,Jovan-_Breisemeister,William_A.-Carte_ethnographique_de_la_P%C3%A9ninsule_balkanique(pd).jpg). These included a Serbian majority in the entirety of Macedonia and North-western Bulgaria and a Greek majority in the entirety of Thrace, proceeding up north all the way to Plovdiv. These were both designed to justify territorial claims against Bulgaria and were used as arguments during the finalizing of the Treaty of Neully (side note: based on its size and economy Bulgaria received the harshest treatment out of all Central Powers; the treaty even states that Bulgaria cannot stake claim to any territory in… China).

At various points during the negotiations Greek PM Venizelos even brought up the idea of Bulgaria being annexed by the victorious nations, but that idea was shot down by US President Woodrow Wilson. During the actual conference the US delegation was very sympathetic to the Bulgarian cause, Wilson even openly stated that: “The American delegation sees as unfit to punish a nation with the loss of territory to which it has a justified ethnic and economic claim.” However he was overturned by France and the UK. Italy was also sympathetic towards the Bulgarian cause as they felt threatened by Greece’s rapid expansion in the Aegean.

After the treaty was signed by Prime Minister Stambolyisky (he had the option to object however he was warned that if that happened then the other nations would declare war on Bulgaria) hundreds of thousands of Bulgarian refugees flocked into the country, while those who remained were treated to harsh assimilation policies:

  • In Serbia, the declaration of a Bulgarian identity was punishable by death; Bulgarian churches and schools were shut down; rape and other atrocities by Serbian soldiers were commonplace. Some of those are described in the book „La Guerre Revient“ (“Black Hand over Europe”) by French author Henry Pozzi.
    On the topic of Bulgarians in Macedonia (translated from Bulgarian version of the book since I don’t have access to the English version): “On a hill between Skopje and Veles (4 women) refuse to say where their men ran off to and they were beaten by Serbian soldiers, while parts of their bodies were poured with gas and lit on fire. A 16-year old girl from (a small village) was arrested for singing a Bulgarian song. She was stripped naked, whipped and then raped by seven Serbian officers. In Kachanik (a man) was trialled for providing shelter to IMRO guerrillas and was crucified. (In another town six people) were beaten to death in front of the other villagers after being accused of assisting the IMRO. This was done in front of (the head of Security in the Vardar banovina) and for his ‘accomplishments’ he was made Minister of Internal affairs.”
  • A similar policy was carried out in Southern Dobrudja which was given to Romania, however it was nowhere near as harsh as in Macedonia.
  • In the new Greek lands Bulgarians were outright forced to leave and were not even allowed to take their belongings with them. Everything they left behind was confiscated by the Greeks.

In the early 1920s Stambolyisky had established a ‘Agrarian dictatorship’ in Bulgaria and spoke out against many nationalist elements within Bulgaria, most notably the IMRO, who by this point were the only people capable of defending the Bulgarian population in Macedonia, carrying out many terror attacks against the Serbian forces. Bulgarian politicians who spoke out against them were also being assassinated. The Agrarian government was also despised by the old General staff, who were also subjected to smear campaigns by the government. All of this would culminate in a massive coup against the Agrarians in 1923. Stambolyisky would escape the capital, but was hunted down by IMRO fighters, tortured and executed.

There is a lot more to the craziness and if you want it just let me know.


1922 01 I mostly know about the battles of the Greco-Turkish War and not so much about the politics, and I may have done a few mistakes:
The war mainly originates from the Megali Idea(Greek for “Big Idea”). This was a concept created after the Greek War of Independence, which stated that lands historically inhabited by Greeks under the control of the Ottoman Empire would be liberated and incorporated into the Greek State. During the National Schism, the Entente had promised many of these lands to them, if they joined the war on their side.
After the war ended, the Ottoman Empire was partitioned. Many other members of the Entente laid claims to Anatolia, including Italy, France, and the United Kingdom. Italy, in particular, wanted a big share of the west and south Anatolian Coast and had conflicting claims with Greece. On April 30, an Italian warship was sent to Izmir/Smyrna to show the opposition against the Greek Campaign. Additionally, they landed troops in Antalya, occupying much of the area around it. On May 15, Greek forces(plus some Armenian volunteers) also landed in Smyrna, where they met very little resistance by the Turks.
Until the summer of 1920, there were no major battles. At the same time, Turkish revolutionaries were rising up against the Sultan, whose forces were supported by the British to ensure stability in the region. After a failure to succeed in defeating them in the north-west coast, Britain asked for the help of the Greek army, who were more than happy to help. In the offensive, the Entente forces managed to capture the region south of the Sea of Marmara. For the help they gave, the Treaty of Sevres was signed giving Eastern Thrace(except Istanbul) to Greece.
In October, a new offensive was launched to force the Turks to sign the treaty of Sevres. But, during the offensive, King Alexander of Greece died and elections were held. The population, tired of war, voted for the monarchists instead of the Liberals. The new government replaced generals who were supporters of Venizelos, and instead gave the position to inexperienced supporters of the monarchy.
Slowly, the army of the Turkish nationalists was becoming more well-armed and received support from the Soviets. They were able to stop the Greeks two times at İnönü and had signed separate peace treaties with France and Italy. After they failed to decisively beat the Turks in the Battle of Afyonkarahisar-Kütahya-Eskişehir, the Greeks halted their advances.
The Greeks reached their peak territorial extent in the Battle of Sakarya, where they were forced to retreat. The war reached a stalemate and Kemal didn’t accept any Allied peace offers, as he had the upper hand in the war now. The Turks launched a counter-attack, negating the advances the Greeks made over 2 years. By September 1922, any Greek troops had left Anatolia. In Smyrna, many atrocities were committed against Greek and Armenian residents. The Turks took over Istanbul from the Allies and went up to the Maritsa river. Later, a peace treaty (Treaty of Lausanne) was signed, and population exchanges happened between the two sides.

Later, I may also write about Interwar China and the Warlord Era. I hope I helped!

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Hi Spartacus! I was going to sent you anyway! I hope you manage to see the photos and videos I sent, with this tight schedule!

I can help in any way you want with the Greco-Turkish War!

That would be awesome - the pics are already a great help! What I would really need is a concise timeline of the key events. It’s enough in a list form. Feel free to add anything you think I should focus on especially. Links to bios of the main characters would be great as well (I think I have it down, but at the rate I’m going I’m scared of missing anyone important). If you can, try to include the Turkish perspective as well - we need to stay as balanced as possible, even in the cases where it’s hard to do so.

Now, the tack that I want to take with this is to show the tragic effects of going to war over region that isn’t clearly in one camp or the other - or if you like of mixed ethnicity. I want to put focus on the displaced people and the massacres. Obviously this leads to a predominantly Greek tragedy, but we need to consider the Muslim ethnicities that were victims of the conflict as well. The underlying reason is that the Greco-Turkish war was not only arguably the biggest ethnic tragedy of the period in itself, but symptomatic for the border conflicts of the interwar decades.

Your help is hugely appreciated.

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I can sent a list, and small summary-bios, even for Kemal which is the most known protagonist… I can sent maps as well… as a Greek I recognize that in war zone and during the retreat, the Greek army committed war crimes (sidenote: Prince Philip’s (Queen Elizabeth’s husband) father, was called by the Greeks “the arsoner” cause he had a habit of burning turkish villages).
We can focus to the fact that after the Young Turks, the old multinational world was dying, and the nation-states that arose were not tolerant for minorities, the antithesis of the war, when the Anatolian Greeks and Armenians viewed the Greek army as liberator and the Turks as occupying force, etc…
What’s the deadline?

If we had more time it would be a much better summary… anyway, here it is, tomorrow I’ll send maps as well !

The Greeks inhabited Anatolia even before the fall of the Hittite Empire (12th century BC), and the semi-mythical age of the Trojan War. The first Greek cities of Western Anatolian coast became major economic and cultural centers and were pioneers in the birth of Western philosophy, centuries before Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. They founded colonies from the northern Anatolian shores (“Pontus”) to western Europe (Marseille). After Alexander the Great, the spread of Greek Culture Hellenized most of the other Anatolian peoples, until the arrival of Turks in Anatolia, in 1071 (Battle of Manzikert).
The amount of the Greeks living in the Ottoman Empire until the Great War varies from account to account. Most records and researches estimate a number from 1,7 to 2,5 million native Greeks (1, 729, 738 in 1914, according to the Ottoman government, c. 10% of the population). As the ottoman census system accounted Muslims, regardless of nationality, as one entity, the Greeks were considered the second largest ethnicity in the state. By then Greeks were concentrated in Eastern Thrace, Western Anatolian and Pontic coasts.
With the rise of the Young Turks, non-Muslims became an obstacle. They were the bourgeoisie class of the empire (and the Young Turks wanted a Turkish bourgeoisie), and their existence nullified the claim that the Ottoman empire was solely Turkish. Before WWI, 50% of invested capital in industry was Greek, as was the 60% of manufacturing. In 1912 out of 18.063 trading offices in the Ottoman empire, 46% were Greek, 23% were Armenian and 15% were Muslim. In 1914, out of 6.507 industries and crafts 49% was Greek, as was the 46% of bankers, 52% of doctors, 49% of pharmacists, 52% of architects, 37% of engineers and 29% of lawyers . In Constantinople the Greeks were c. 30% of the population and controlled the economic life of the capital . The Greeks, along with the rest minorities, supported the Young Turks’ revolution and their proclamations about reforms.
Even before the start of WW1, Greeks were persecuted, mainly from the “Special Organization” (Teşkilât-ı Mahsusa), a secret special force of the stated. Areas deemed important for the national security (Eastern Thrace, Gallipoli, Pontus) were evacuated from Greeks, villages were burned, women and children killed, an economic boycott was initiated, Greek businesses and real estate were confiscated and, in many cases, foreign observes drew parallels with the Armenian Genocide. On the other hand, the main reason for Greece entering WW1 with Entente’s side was the promise that she would be rewarded with western Anatolia. When the war finished, it seemed natural for the Western public opinion that the Ottoman Empire would be punished.
The internal strife between Entente powers, mainly the British and French desire to blockade Italy for expanding in Anatolia, gave the chance to Greek PM Eleftherios Venizelos to promote the Greek administration of the Aydin Vilayet, presenting the deploring situation of the Christians in the area even after the armistice. Venizelos was granted a landing and on May 15, 1919, Greek troops landed on Smyrna, which was a Greek-majority city at the time. As was natural, they were greeted by the Greeks and Armenians as liberators, after 6 centuries of Ottoman rule.
On the other side, while generally the Ottoman forces surrendered, the Greek landing shocked Turks. While they were willing to accept a short-term mandate by Western Powers, the Greeks were different case. The native Greek population and the long historic connection of the area with Greeks seemed to be a solid case for the annexation of Western Anatolia to Greece. Also, hundreds thousand Circassians and Turks became refugees after the Russian persecutions and the Balkan Wars, and they were seeing their world shrinking. The landing of the “eternal enemy” to Anatolia, was an existential threat for Turks. During this danger, many of the perpetrators of the Armenian Genocide and other war crimes during WW1 are now considered heroes from large parts of the Turkish public. They take refugee in the national cause of Kemal.
As the Greek troops were welcomed as liberators by the Greeks, they were attacked in the same day by Turkish soldiers and irregulars. During the next few days the violence rose from all sides, as Turkish irregulars hit Greek troops and villages inside and outside the occupation, and the Greek Army, along with Anatolian Greeks willing to commit reprisals, stroke back with similar manner, against irregulars and civilians alike.
4 days after the landing, on May 19, Mustafa Kemal, the hero of Gallipoli, landed to Samsun willing to gather troops and initiate an independence struggle. The Greeks in Pontus, far from the Greek army and having no chance of annexation with Greece, are forming partisan bands to defend themselves.
• June 22, 1919, Amasya Circular
• 4-11 September 1919, Sivas Congress
• October 22, 1919, Amasya Protocol
Now, when the Ottoman parliamentary elections took place, in December 1919, the overwhelming majority in the house was the pro-Kemal “Association for the Defense of the Rights of Anatolia and Rumelia”
• February 12, 1920, “National Oath
When the Parliament adopted the “National Oath”, the Entente occupied Constantinople on March 16, arresting several MP’s and the sultan dissolved the house on April 11. Mustafa Kemal called for a national election to establish a new Turkish Parliament seated in Ankara – the “Grand National Assembly” (GNA). On 23 April 1920, the GNA opened with Mustafa Kemal as the speaker; two sources of authority were existing in Turkey.
By then it was evident that the Greek Army was facing a difficult task. While it was a battle-hardened force, having better numbers and equipment in comparison with the Turkish irregulars, it was forced to expand the area of operations to control the bases of the latter. This led for the need for more and more Greek troops and materiel in Anatolia. The Treaty of Sevres (August 20, 1920) was a triumph for Venizelos foreign policy (Eastern Thrace was annexed with Greece, except Constantinople, Smyrna prefecture was under Greek control, but Ottoman sovereignty, and after 5 years a plebiscite under the League of Nations would decide the fate of the area), but it was evident that Greece had to earn by arms what she accomplish with diplomacy. At the same time, the national division, the quasi-civil war from WW1, was very much alive. A few days after the Treaty of Sevres, Venizelos survived an assassination attempt in Paris by two exiled royalist officers. On October 25, 1920, king Alexander of Greece died in a freak accident: He was bite by a makaka monkey in the royal menagerie and the trauma was infected.
Venizelos had promised for elections, for he did not wanted to be viewed as a dictator (he rose in power with the help of the Entente armies in June 1917). In result, the Greek people, tired with the state of constant war since 1912, voted for the Royalists (November 1, 1920). Venizelos quit politics and went to France and the new government set for a Plebiscite concerning the return of the exiled king Constantine, Alexander’s father. Despite the warnings of the Entente powers to not bring him back, the royalists leaders hide this from the public, and the referendum on November 22, 1920 resulted in 99% in favor of his return (Venizelists abstained). In result, the Entente powers did not recognized Constantine as head of state and froze all loans to Greece. After the French elections of 1920, the new French government saw Greeks as the proxy of British interests in Middle East and approached Kemal.
On the other side, the newly formed USSR viewed Kemalist Turkey as a natural ally against the capitalist western powers. Soon, Kemal gained valuable diplomatic and material support. The Treaty of Moscow, known as the “Treaty of Brotherhood” (March 16, 1921) was a major boost for the Turkish National Movement, in financial and materiel terms. (In 1920 alone, Bolshevik Russia supplied the Kemalists with 6,000 rifles, over 5 million rifle cartridges, and 17,600 shells as well as 200.6 kg (442.2 lb) of gold bullion. In the subsequent two years the amount of aid increased)
• First Battle of İnönü 6-11 January 1921
• Second Battle of İnönü March 23 – April 1 1921
The diplomatically isolated Greek Royalist government, chose to end its deadlock by launching an all-out attack against Ankara, the headquarters of the Turkish national movement. In late May 1921, king Constantine, moved to Anatolia as the only Field Marshal of the army, to lead the attack
• Battle of Kütahya–Eskişehir July 10-24, 1921
Battle of Sakarya/Sangarios, the climactic battle of the war, August 23 – September 13, 1921, Greek advance stopped 40 km from Ankara. The Greek army had, by know, the same problem Napoleon had in Russia. Overextended supply lines, weak logistics, the whole economy of the country started to crumble. The soldiers, far from the Greek inhabited land on the coast, were entrenched and ill-equipped in a far, barren Turkish land. Demoralization of the Greek soldiers.
• August-September 1921: The Amasya Trials
Treaty of Ankara, October 20, 1921, France withdraws from Anatolia, adopts a pro-Kemal stance.
• February – March 1922: Conference of London decided that the Treaty of Sevres needed to be revised. Proposal of an armistice by the Great Powers. Kemal, now having the advantage, declined any compromise while Greek army was still in Anatolia
The royalist government proceeded, in April, to an extreme measure: It divided the banknotes. The left side was used as the currency at half the value of the entire banknote. The right-hand side of the bill was exchanged with interest-bearing admission at half the value of the entire bill.
Voices in Greece to end the campaign, imprisonment of politicians, anti-war communist propaganda within Greek army ranks, further demoralization.
Battle of Dumlupınar, 26-30 August 1922, the last battle of the war. Most of the Greek army is destroyed. The remnants of the army retreated to Smyrna. Retreating Greek soldiers commit war crimes against Turkish civilians. Greek army evacuates Anatolia. Anatolian Greeks follow the Greek army.
• September 8, 1922. Turkish Army enters Smyrna. Initiation of mass war crimes against Greek civilians in western Anatolia.
• September 13, 1922. Great Fire of Smyrna. Complete destruction of the Greek and Armenian quarter of the city, c. 100.000 civilian victims, Greeks and Armenians. Survivors from all Western Anatolia are moving to the opposite Greek islands with every available mean. Albeit a matter of nationalistic debate between official historiographies, most sources (even some Turkish) agree that the fire started from the Turks.
• Armistice of Mudanya (October 11, 1922)
Convention Concerning the Exchange of Greek and Turkish Populations (January 30, 1923). 1,5 million Anatolian Greeks are compulsory exchanged with 355.000 Muslims of Greece. Only exceptions the Greeks of Constantinople and the Muslims of Western Thrace. The first formal and compulsory exchange in history. ¼ of Greece’s population are refugees. Huge humanitarian issue. Many refugees had different cultural background from mainland Greeks and many of them even didn’t know the Greek language. For the next years the main issue of Greek politics is the settlement and assimilation of refugees in Greek society.
• Treaty of Lausanne. 24 July 1923. Establishment of modern Republic of Turkey.

Clash of modern nationalisms (here the Greek and the Turkish here), led to the cleansing of minorities, the creation of centralized nation-states and to innumerable suffering of civilians.
Unwillingness of modern Turkey to recognize the genocides of the Anatolian Christians during WW1 and the Turkish War of Independence. Still an issue to modern politics.

Dude! you’re an absolute star - that is a great, great help.

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My area of interest is Transcaucasia and Iran, so if you have an idea to include these regions to 1920-03, I will definitely help you, or even can write entire section for you under you guidance. I can also help you with 1922-01, since it is not far from my area of interest and it will be easy to research for me. I can also write section for ethnic cleansings in 1922-01, since I am also researching Turkish-Christian strife during WW1 and after it. I can do fact checking for 1922-01 and 1924-01 as well


I agree with the most (I’m Greek). In the treaty of Neuilly Greece and Bulgaria agreed to a voluntary population exchange, but in reality the Bulgarians in Greece and the Greeks in Bulgaria had no other choice but to move. Only the Bulgarians of West Macedonia remained in Greece, and the state initiated assimilation policies, especially during Metaxas dictatorship. Because of these, the Bulgarian occupation of Eastern Macedonia during WW2 was particularly brutal


When is deadline, I mean when you’ll start filming

We intended to shoot this one already last week, but we didn’t make it on time and Indy is working on TGW now - next shooting session is second half of June.

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Since we have more time now, I’ll update the text about the Greco-Turkish war…

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I’m going to add something to the Bulgarian side.

One of the territories that suffered the most from the Neully treaty were the so called Western Outlands: parts of Northwestern Bulgaria that mostly revolve around the tows of Tsaribrod and Bosilegrad plus some 118 villages. These lands hold a key strategic position and by controlling them one can easily cross into Sofia without meeting much resistance. Serbia had claimed these lands for decades (as they did many of the Bulgarian territories north and south of Sofia), going back as fat as 1833.

At the time of the Paris Peace Conference the territories (which span some 1545 sq. km) had a population of 64 509 people - 54 758 Bulgarians; 8 637 Vlachs; 549 Roma and only about 159 Serbians. It had around 120 Bulgarian schools and 45 Bulgarian churches, pretty much all of whom would be closed down or converted to Serbian ones. Furthermore, in 1920 the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes passed a law that forbid national minorities and ethnic Bulgarians were forced to accept Serbian last names.

The Western Outlands had other problems as well. When the new map was drawn it defied any sense of ethnic or reasonable borders. Even the French committee (it was a joint French-British-Japanese-Serb-Bulgarian committee overseeing it) which was in charge of marking the new border was appalled at the way this was being setup. Put simply, the borders would pass through everything - entire villages, farmlands, houses, graveyards and even individual graves. One of the contemporaries described it as: ‘we ended up in a situation where the dead man’s head was on one side of the border and the rest of his body was on the other.’
To add some salt to the wound, Bosilegrad was actually burned down entirely by Serbian rebels who entered the town on May 15th, 1917; killing around 40 unarmed civilians, including two children, one of whom was burned alive.

  • This was covered in the Great War, Week 147 video, though it should be noted that Indy incorrectly refers to Bosilegrad as a Serbian city which was predominantly Bulgarian: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7a_KPzQ9IgQ

Back to the Western Outlands, the news that they would be occupied by Serbia led to a mass exodus from those lands and it couldn’t have happen at a worse time: there was heavy snowfall in the winter of 1919 and there were many refugees that froze to death while trying to reach the interior of Bulgaria. This was problematic because the Bulgarian government was already dealing with an overwhelming refugee influx from Macedonia, Thrace and Dobrogea and so they tried to negotiate. Tensions eased after the (let’s call them) Western Outlanders were told that Serbian troops would not occupy those areas until late 1920, ie a year from now. Many of the refugees returned to their homes for the time being, though more of them died on the way back.

Negotiations with the refugees was handled personally by Alexander Stambolyisky. To backtrack a little bit, when the Treaty of Neully was first presented to Bulgaria it was supposed to be signed by then Prime Minister Teodor Teodorov, however when he read the conditions he absolutely refused to sign them, returned to Bulgaria and resigned from his position. Stamboliysky, fearful that this might lead to another war, instantly got on the train to France where he signed the treaty. Reports say that once he was finished signing it, he broke his pen as a sign of protest. By the time he returned to Bulgaria, news of the conditions reached the people and he was met with massive protests. Actually, the final train stop before Sofia back then was at Bosilegrad. When he was met with protesters Stambolyisky merely told them: “You are not forgotten. We will be back for you.”


Some links:


Greatly appreciated as alway, your input is awesome!

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