Population distribution of Asia Minor before 1922

How many were the Greeks of Asia Minor in 1920?
The Hellenism of Asia Minor in the 1910s – The Metropolises of the Asia Minor area – The persecutions of the Greeks by the Turks (1913-1918) – Turkophony: a problem of the Greeks of Asia Minor.
In our article published on 27/11/2023 entitled “How the Greek Army reached 60 kilometers outside Ankara”, among the more than 280 comments there were some who said that the Asia Minor Campaign was poorly conducted because there were no Greek populations in the area so that the operation of our Army is nationally justified and also, that these populations help the Greeks as would happen, for example, in Northern Epirus, where almost exclusively Greeks lived.

In short, some consider it to be a form of imperialist campaign. Of course, all this is not accompanied by the citation of data on how many Greeks there were in Asia Minor at the beginning of the 1920s. In his book “THE MYSTERIES OF AEGEIDOS”, Spyridon G. Ploumidis (published by the bookstore of HESTIA) cites in detail and official data on the composition of the Asia Minor population. In another particularly rare book, the “GEOGRAPHY OF ASIA MINOR” by Pantelis M. Kontogiannis (first edition Athens 1921, reprint 1995) there are details on the panspermia of the peoples who lived in Asia Minor and a detailed reference to its cities and towns, with reference to their population composition. From these two books and the “HISTORY OF THE GREEK NATION” by EDTOTIKI ATHINOS, we drew information for our today’s article.

The peoples of Asia Minor in 1920.

As Pantelis M. Kontogiannis writes, Turks and Greeks mainly lived in Asia Minor. Jews, Armenians and Levantines (descendants of the Franks who settled in the area since the time of the Crusades) and various other peoples still lived there. The Greeks were about half of the Turks. There were still many peoples who were considered Turks because they were Mohammedans. Kontogiannis believes that these were the remnants of old inhabitants who converted to Islam and mixed with others. According to Kontogiannis, these peoples were the Giurouks, the Zeibekis, the Afsaris, the Tonialides, the Ophites, the Lazoi, the Ansarites or Fellachis and the Athiganos. With the opportunity to note here that Gypsies in the Byzantine years were called the members of a religious sect (we will write more soon) and they had absolutely nothing to do with today’s Roma-Mohammedans in religion, but no, and Turks in terms of origin were another category of its inhabitants. M. Asia, that is, the “muajir” immigrants, as the Turks called them, who came from countries that were separated from the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century. They settled in Asia Minor. In fact, Turkey also offered them facilities to strengthen the Turkish element of the population. These were: the Kurds, the Circassians, the Tatars, the Georgians, the Bosnians and the Pomaks, while after the establishment of the Greek state in 1830, many Turks living in Greece settled there, and after 1897, many Turkish Cretans also settled there. The Greeks lived in Asia Minor for thousands of years. They were densely settled on the northern and western coasts of the peninsula, more sparsely on the central plateau and even more sparsely in the areas beyond Antitaurus and Paryadros (mountain range between the river Ali and Armenia). The Greeks of Asia Minor were descendants of the ancient Greeks of the colonies but also of the local inhabitants of Asia Minor who were Hellenized by Alexander the Great and the Byzantines. In the 19th century the Greek element in Asia Minor was strengthened by Greeks from the islands of the Eastern Aegean, mainly Lesbos but also Epirus. Smyrna, Kydonias, Adana, Tarsos and Mersina were the cities where they mainly settled. Although several Greeks lost their mother tongue at some point and gradually became Turkish-speaking, with the establishment of schools they almost completely regained the knowledge of Greek. Finally, the Greek population in Pontus was dense and compact, constituting the majority of the inhabitants, although many Pontians had migrated to the Caucasus and the Crimea.
According to Pantelis Kontogiannis, the Turks of Asia Minor had a diverse character and type. The Turks of Asia Minor were exogamous Christians who absorbed the real Ottoman Turks. The Turks of Phrygia and Pisidia were descendants of the Christians of those regions who had converted to Islam. According to the German Philippson “the Turks of Caria and Lycia again preserve their purest Greek type”. The other peoples of Asia Minor were: Armenians, Jews (about 60,000), Levantines, Turkomans, genuine Turks of Turkestan descent, Kizilbasids (Red-headed) or Takhtazis (sawyers), a nomadic tribe of Mongolian origin according to Philippson, Chetmids or Tsepnids of Mongolian of origin, Yuroukoi (Yourukides) a nomadic tribe who respected the Greeks, Zeibeki, Afsari who came from NW Persia, Tonialides, Greek-speaking Mohammedans in religion, Lazoi, Ophites (Oflides) who lived near the river Ofis, descendants of Greeks of the area, Felahs who although Muslims were not committed to Islam, Athigans (known today as Roma), Kurds, Circassians, Tatars, Georgians, Bosnians and Pomaks who settled there after 1878, Turkish Cretans, Arabs, Orthodox and Muslims, Maronites who lived in Cilicia , a few Persians, Afghans living in Tarsus, a few Europeans settled in the commercial centers and Albanians scattered in many parts of Asia Minor.

How many were the Greeks of Asia Minor?

The total number of Greek Orthodox inhabitants of Asia Minor who also defined themselves as Orientals or Asians Minor cannot be determined precisely but with a relatively satisfactory approximation. In 1907 the former Consul General of Smyrna Stamatios Antonopoulos estimated that the Greeks made up 2/10 and “more” of the Asia Minor population.

In 1910 the Association of Asia Minor “The East” raised (exaggeratedly anyway) the number of Greeks in Asia Minor to 3-4 million. According to a more sober assessment of the Association in 1918 “the climate in Asia Minor (ecclesiastical district) of the Patriarchal Throne of Constantinople” included 2,151,418 Greeks residing in 1,410 cities, towns and villages (pure or mixed) throughout Asia Minor. The Association clarified, however, that to the above should be added 1,935,000 “crypto Greeks”, i.e. converts to Islam (Stavriotes, etc.)

At the end of 1914, the Ottoman ambassador to Greece, Galip Veys, admitted that “Greece has two and a half million compatriots in Turkey”. The Joint Commissariat of the Freedmen that was established in 1917 at the initiative of the “East” Association mentioned 2 million Greeks. The Greek state estimated in 1912 the Greek population of “mainland” Asia Minor (excluding the administrations of Constantinople and the Dardanelles) at 1,692,374 (out of a total of approximately 10 million inhabitants). Based on Ottoman censuses, Kemal Karpat estimated the Greek population of Anatolia at 1,498,540 in 1914. According to current findings of the Center for Asia Minor Studies, the Greek Orthodox population of Asia Minor in 1913 amounted to 1,547,952. So even with the most moderate analyzes from the Greek side, the Greek population was at least 10-15% of the entire population of Asia Minor.

The Greek Orthodox Metropolises of Asia Minor and the economic dominance of the Greeks

Before the disaster of 1922, 23 Greek Orthodox Metropolises of the Ecumenical Throne were operating in Asia Minor, the following: Caesarea, Ephesus, Kyzikos, Nicomedia, Nicaea, Chalcedon, Amasia, Prussia, Neocaesarea, Iconium, Trebizond, Pisidia, Smyrna, Ankara, Philadelphia, Chaldeia (or Kerasundos), Kolonia, Pro(i)konnisos, Heliopolis, Rodoupolis, Krinis, Kydonia and Dardanelles. According to data available to Eleftherios Venizelos in 1915, the settlements (cities, towns and villages) in which Asia Minor Hellenism lived at that time “self-supported Greek schools, hospitals, churches, orphanages, monasteries” (that is, it had a well-organized and recognized community self-government, was 576. The KMS researchers identified a total of 2,163 Greek Orthodox (self-governing and non-self-governing) settlements in the Asia Minor peninsula in 1912-1913. The Greek Orthodox populations, despite the relative dispersion in the Asia Minor area, were concentrated mainly in the regions of Western Asia Minor, the Pontus , Cappadocia and Cilicia (the communities of Adana, Mersina and Tarsus were subordinate to the Arabic-speaking Throne of Antioch). The capital of Hellenism in the Ottoman Empire was Constantinople, while Smyrna was considered the “home of letters and culture of Asia Minor”. .

As we mentioned, the Greek presence in Asia Minor was especially strengthened in the second half of the 19th century. The impressive concentration of the Greek population was characterized by the German Byzantine scholar Karl Krumbacher as a “re-Hellenization” (Ruckhellenisierung, 1886) of the coasts of Asia Minor and was accompanied by the flourishing of its economic activities. In the last quarter of the 19th century, the Greeks dominated economically in trade, financial activities, the liberal professions and agriculture in a zone that stretched deep inland for hundreds of kilometers from the western coast along the Meander River valley and the railway lines of Aydin and Kasamba.

In the vilayet of Aydin/Smirni in the 1880s, Greeks made up 80.1% of the rural population and owned 67.7% of the small farms in the area. In 1911, 50% of the vilayet’s foreign trade was also in Greek hands.

In 1920, of the 391 industries and crafts in Smyrna, 344 were Greek-owned. Since 1909 there has been a declining demographic course of Hellenism due to the compulsory conscription of Christian males which led many fugitives to emigration but also due to economic migration from the countryside to the large urban centers and America.

How many Greeks were deported to the Ottoman Empire between 1913-1918

The rise of Turkish nationalism after the rise of the Young Turks (1909) is largely due to the territorial shrinking of the Ottoman Empire. The loss of Albania and Libya in 1912, the occupation of the Dodecanese by the Italians and the defeat of the Turks in the First Balkan War. The theorist of the ideology of nationalism was the intellectual Ziya Gokalp (1876-1924). The prelude to the persecution of the Greeks was the commercial blockade of 1909 and 1911. The persecutions began at the end of 1913 with the violent expulsion of the Greeks of Eastern Thrace. In May 1914, under the guidance of the Germans, they expanded into Western Asia Minor. In the place of the uprooted Greeks, Muslims from areas lost to the Ottoman Empire settled. Hundreds of thousands were also expelled from Pontus.

From 1913 to 1918, 298,449 Greeks were expelled from Asia Minor, 257,019 from Pontus and 218,447 from Eastern Thrace. A total of 773,915 Greeks were expelled from the territories of the Ottoman Empire (Source: Analytical Tables of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Rene Puaux’s book “La deportation et le rapatriement des Grecs en Turduie”, Paris, 1919, p. 8). We will deal with the persecution of the Greeks in the Ottoman Empire between 1913-1918 in our next article.

Turcophony: a problem of the Greeks of Asia Minor

As we mentioned earlier too many of the Greeks of Asia Minor were Turkish speakers. The acquisition of national consciousness and the transition from the centuries-old reality of the millets to the verbal education of the modern nation was not an easy process. There were also differences from place to place. Thus in Smyrna, according to Gaston Deschamps who visited the region in 1888-1889, the Greeks considered themselves to be in their homeland, they raise the blue and white flag without anyone’s permission, they consider themselves almost equal to the Turks and they are committed to the Great Idea. On the contrary, others such as the Orthodox inhabitants of Nazli (47 km east of Aydin) were mostly Turkish speakers, they spoke of Greece as if they were referring to a state across the ocean and had nothing to do with Greek cities.

Gradually the expansion and qualitative upgrading of Greek schools, the fight against Turkish speaking, the construction of magnificent temples and modern schools, the introduction of modern pedagogical methods and new courses (Greek and Latin Philology, Geography, Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Botany, Zoology, etc. a.) significantly contributed to the change of this situation.

“Asiatic Hellenism” as the Greeks of Asia Minor were called by many, until 1914 was relatively ignorant of nationalism and Redemption Hellenism. Until then, the Greek Orthodox communities of Asia Minor were dominated by ethnicity and not nationalism. As Spyridon Ploumidis writes: “The year 1914 and the unprecedented anti-Hellenic persecution that was unleashed that year is the turning point in the political self-awareness of the Greek Orthodox inhabitants of Asia Minor, which marked their massive shift (for reasons of survival) towards emancipation and their two-way close connection with the foreign policy and political-military choices of the Greek state.


This was the population composition of Asia Minor and the wider region shortly before the Asia Minor campaign. In the Greek memorandum of December 17/30, 1918, submitted by Eleftherios Venizelos to the Peace Conference, it was stated that the Greek population was: in the vilayet of Aydin, 622,810, in the vilayet of Proussa, 278,421, in the independent sanjak of Ismit, 73,134, in the independent sanjak of Dardanelles, 38,830 , in Imbro 8,125 (all Greeks) and in Tenedos 3,752 Greeks in the overwhelming majority. But also for the Greek populations that did not live in the area claimed by Greece, he proposed an exchange with the Muslims of the zone that would be given to Greece. At that time, Smyrna had 350,000 inhabitants, of which 200,000 were Greeks. At the same time, 364,459 Greeks, 449,114 Muslims, 4,331 Bulgarians, 159,193 Armenians, 46,521 and others of various nationalities (150,005) lived in the Constantinople vilayet. In other words, a total of 1,173,673 people lived there, 1/3 of whom were Greeks.

Any correlation with Turkey’s current population figures is misplaced. In P. Kontogianni’s book there are important details about all the cities, towns and villages of Asia Minor which are impossible to list here. The goals for the expansion of Greece in Asia Minor and the return of Constantinople to our country in 1918 were, we believe, realistic. A series of mistakes on the Greek side, the change of leadership and policies in European states, Soviet aid and Kemal’s foresight had the results we all know…

Sources: SPYRIDON G. PLOUMIDIS, “THE MYSTERIES OF AEGEIDOS”, HESTIA bookstores, Third edition 2020
Pantelis M. Kontogiannis, “GEOGRAPHY OF ASIA MINOR”, First edition 1921, Reprint, 1995