On May 19 we commemorate the Pontian Genocide where 350,000 Pontian Greeks were slaughtered by Turkish troops and Kurdish para-militaries in lost Greek cities such as Bafra, Samsunda, Kerasous, and Trapezunta. The victims were numerous and entire populations were almost erased from existence. In the years 1914-22 and out of the 700,000 Greeks living in Pontus in 1914, almost 300,000 were killed as a
result of Turkish government policy and the remainder became refugees.
Three Milena of the Greek presence was wiped out in a flash by a barbaric and deliberate
policy of creating a Turkey for the Turks.
The Pontian people were
totally denied the right to exist, the right of respect for their national and
cultural identity and they were especially denied the right to remain on land they had lived on for countless generations.
It was indeed a well organized Genocide.
On May 19, 1919, the Pontian Greeks began becoming victims of a satanic goal of the young Turks and kemalism, and were butchered for a homogenised Turkish Asia Minor, free from minorities. The homogenity was also a “Trojan horse” that Germany (which was allied with the Ottoman empire) invested in to win economical, political and military advantages in Asia Minor and nearby areas and therefore didn’t hesitate to sacrifice the Christian population of Anatolia. With support and guidance of the German colonel Liman von Sanders, Turkey started the mobilization of the Christians to the work battalions which in reality were death camps.
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.
TURNING POINT – GERMAN-TURK ALLIANCE
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 defense 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 program – 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 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.
MEANWHILE IN TURKEY….
And while Greeks mourn for the dead today, in Turkey May 19 has a totally different meaning. As seen in the photo above, this is just one event in a series of events that are organized every year between and May 1-27 in to commemorate the landing in Samsunda (today Samsun) by Kemal. For this, they construct a flag that has a length of some 1,919 meters and it is then paraded around town by thousands of schoolchildren in a festive atmosphere.
So the obvious question is how can Greece and Turkey ever come close to one another, when on the West they mourn for their dead, and on the East they celebrate the slaughter of Christians?
As Hellenes, we are obligated to seek recognition and promote awareness of these tragic events even if we are not Pontian. Once an acknowledgement is made, and a sincere apology is offered by the Turkish government, forgiveness and reconciliation might be able to follow and then this could maybe begin to mend the Greek-Turkish relations. But as long as we continue to witness celebrations being held (such as the above) over an event that is too barbaric to even describe, then what sort of friendship can these two nations ever have?
We must speak to our leaders about these types of shameful acts, and get them to recognize them for what they are “a genocide”, so that we can prevent such crimes from ever being repeated again.