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  • The Origin Of Greeks in Asia Minor and its distribution after 1914

    The origins of Greek population in Asia Minor 

    The origins of Greek population in Asia Minor dates back to more than 3000 years ago, even before the times of the Ancient Greek historian Herodotus and beyond the times of Homer.

    The first Greeks that came to Asia Minor were the “Aioli” on the 14thcentury BC and later the Ions, on the 8th century BC.

    From very early on (16th century BC) various Greek tribes (Cretans, Mycenaeans, etc.) had appeared in some fortified coastal positions. But the Ionic element, that appeared later prevailed, in the region, because it was the most populous and with the most complete social and religious organization.

    When the Greeks migrated to the coast of Asia Minor, this new area became the center of Hellenism.

    Ionia was the pioneer country of philosophers, which produced a large number of scholars such as the Milesian philosophers, Thales, Anaximander and Anaximenes. Also Pythagoras the Samian, and Clazomenian Anaxagoras.

    Leucippus, who is considered the father of the atomic theory, was also an Ionian, with the Abderite Democritus as his successor.


    A multitude of colonies were set up by the three ancient Greek tribes of historic times:.

    The Ionian Dodecapolis, (twelve cities) set up by the Ionians, with Miletus, Phocaea, Ephesus, Colophon and Chios, firdt, as the most important. Smyrna, which was originally an Aeolic colony, was later added to these cities. When it was first created, the first name was Tantalis. However, due to its destruction by an earthquake, it is claimed that it was rebuilt in its current position and took its name from the Amazon Smyrna, who had conquered Ephesus.

    The Doric Hexapolis, (six cities) set up by the Dorians (Cnidus, Halicarnassus, Cos and the three cities of Rhodes).

    The Aeolian Dodecapolis, set up by the Aeolians, with Lesbos and Tenedos as the most important.

    The western shores of Asia Minor were fringed with Greek colonies, reaching out past the Sea of Marmara (Propontis) and the Bosporus to the northern shores of the Black Sea (Euxine Pontos).

    The colonies, maintained their independence, although they shared the same political and religious image.

    This colonization was systematized, pre-planed and executed by well-organized cities.

    Later, the over populated Asia Minor cities, along with some Greeks from the mainland, moved to areas less populous, around the Black sea and Canckale (Hellespond) and the sea of Marmara (Propontis).  The new settlements provided the metropolis with much needed row material (leather, iron, gold).  These Greek colonies formed a New area, later called Pontos.

    The name Pontos, as a geographical area, was given by the Greek historian Herodotos and Xenophon to the coast of the Black sea, between Vatoum of Georgia  and Fasy river.

    The beginning of this colonization is dated around 800bc.

    The Byzantines gave them a special tax release, because there were placed at the borders of the empire and their main target was to protect the Empire( as well as their properties). These privileges made the inhabitants very proud of their origin and culture. They kept all their customs with fanaticism and passion.   Because of the riches of the area, the cities multiplied and flourished.     All the Asia Minor Greek colonies remained independent from the metropolis, as the issue of overpopulation was greater than any notion of imperialism.   The colonization brought power and wealth to Greece, encouraged trade and through this, the migration of art and the strengthening of the notion of the superior Greek mind among the nations of the area, that Greeks were calling at the time “barbarians” of the world.

    The first ancient residents of the interior of Asia Minor were the Hittites who were in decline and were pushed away very early by the Assyrians. The Greeks did not seem to have any problem with these ancient nations. The Phrygians, also inhabitants of the wider area of the continent, were a nation very similar to Greeks and proved to be very good neighbors.

    The Kingdom of Lydia, in spite of occasional raids, was friendly to Greeks and became an object of study and a source of inspiration for the Greek culture and civilization.

    Babylonias and Assyrians were also present in the area when a new vigorous tribe appeared on the eastern border of the ancient civilized world. They came from the grasslands of Turkestan, of Central Asia, with their sheep and horses. They made their home on the high mountain-walled plateau between the Caspian Sea and the Persian Gulf.
    The newcomers called themselves Irani (Aryans) and their new homeland Irania (now Iran). They came to be called Persians because Greek geographers mistakenly named them after the province Parsa, or Persis, where their early kings had their capital. The Persians and their close relatives, the Medes, resembled the Semites, but they spoke a different language. The Medes, by the 6th century BC, had built a large empire. They ruled the Persians to the east and the Assyrians to the west. In 550 BC Cyrus the Great of Persia conquered the Medes, then pushed on to further conquests.
    Next, Cyrus conquered Lydia, ruled by King Croesus. This victory gave him possession of the Greek seaboard cities of Asia Minor. In 500 BC the Greek cities of Asia Minor rebelled.  The Persians, a nation of highlanders, with mainly military culture, became a real threat for the Greeks and the Greek civilization of Asia Minor.

    In the second half of the 4th century BC, the Greeks, led by Alexander the Great, conquered most of the, then known, world and sought to hellenize it.

    Alexander the Great gave the Greek Towns their independence and his successors managed to retain most of their liberties. The Romans left their laws and instigated the foundations for trade and commerce that was retained through the medieval times and the Byzantine period, which lasted over 1000 years.

    The intrusion of Ottomans, around 1350a.c., was a real catastrophe for the Greek towns and their civilization from which it took more than three hundred years to recover.

    The Ottomans were a nation of nomads that dissented from the north. They were a “theocratic” state and its political system was based on a hierarchy with the Sultan at the top, which had the absolute divine rights.
    The Ottomans divided the community into “millets”: Geographical or and Ethnic, Armenian, Catholic, Jewish, and Greek. The Ottomans gave to the millets significant autonomy. The leader of each millet was usually the religious leader that was responsible for its obedience to the Sultan. The head of the Orthodox millet was the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. The Patriarch had much power and played an important role to the development of the Greek Orthodox society.
    The Ottoman state had, due to lack of proper centralized administration, a very-decentralized system. They even accommodated local military leaders. Later, the Empire was divided into regions that were governed by “Pashas”. Official contact was limited to tax collection and military conscription.
    Orthodox priests and Christian primates collected taxes and maintained order but, on the other hand,, the same people contributed to the preservation of Greek language, Greek traditions and a sense of National identity.
    The Ottoman system discriminated the non-Muslim population by imposing special taxes like the “cizye”, a “per head” tax and tax for freedom.
    During the Ottoman’s domination, quite a few Greeks emigrated   to many countries around the area i.e: Romania, Russia, etc and formed various communities (Communities of “Diaspora”). Greeks were very industrious and maintained strong trading links between the Ottoman Empire and the outside world.
    These communities also played an important role in the preservation of Greek identity of the ‘Asia Minor communities. of the 19th

    There are many scholars who believe that, the Ottoman Empire, was the natural continuation of the Byzantine Empire and it was a grave mistake that the Greeks did not maintain a better relation with the Ottomans. This would have helped the Ottoman Empire to survive, to the benefit of a real multinational state that would eventually evolve instead of a pure nationalistic Turkish state.

    See: The History of Ottoman Empire 1280-1924. By D. Kitsikis Visiting Professor to the University of Bogazitsi, Consultant to the Turkish President Tourgout Ozal

    The truth is that, the Ottoman era, the Greeks of Asia minor, had found a way to survive, once more, just like the Roman times. They took part in the government, and introduced culture and ways of life.

    During the Renaissance, at the end of the 18th century and at the start of the decline of the Ottoman Empire, a new wave of massacres took place, especially in Constantinople and Smyrna that were the main centers of Greek population.

    In spite of this, still, it was possible, for the Greek towns to flourish. That was until the new wave of persecutions started by the “New Turks” in 1914 / 1915 and continued through the “first world war”.

    The main target was the Greek and other Christian population on the coast of Asia Minor.

    This is the time that 800.000 Armenians were killed and 200.000 were expelled.

    Also,800.000 Greeks were killed and 1.500.000 Greeks were expelled. Persecutions also took place in Pontos, where almost half a million people were percecuted and in Amiso, in Zougkouldak, in Inempolou, in Sinopi, in Kerasounda, in Tapezounda etc.

    The circle of persecutions ended with the full expulsion of the Greek population, during the summer of 1922, with the defeat of the Greek Army. This is the time when the three thousand years old history of the Greek civilization in Asia Minor ended.

    J.  Gerard, at the introduction of G. Hortons book (American Concelor in Smyrna in 1922), says:

    “…..the fact that twenty centuries after Christ, a small nation like the Turks, has committed such crimes against civilized word and civilized people, should have made this civilized word think seriously.  We refused to listen, the desperate screams of Christians, when America was their only hope. And now, we still have a tendency to cover up their crimes, in order to gain benefits from them…”

    These words have a special meaning, when a third party phrases them… An independent voice is more accurate than the parties involved.

    And the question that comes to once mind, naturally, is “How did the Greeks manage to stay, on the coast of Asia Minor and survive for three thousand years?  They survived withstanding confrontations with so many different nationalities, that existed in the interior, in spite the geographical position, which was unquestionably, too vulnerable”. The answer may exist among the pages of a book written by Felix Sartiaoux, “L’Asie Mineure Grecque.”

    Felix Sartiaoux was a French man from the French Ministry of Culture, sent to Asia Minor by the  Ministry in 1912.

    “The Greeks, over all these years, were the link among the Mediterranean populations and the populations of the interior, as well as the carriers of wealth in the wider peninsula. They have never been absorbed or integrated with the rest of the nations of the interior. They retained their individuality, their love for independence and freedom, their characteristic curiosity their thirst for education and their communal life that never created one separate State because they always felt part of the mainland of Greece.

    Their roots did not survive, because of a special underlying strength, quite the opposite. Their position was totally vulnerable. Their survival was due to the weakness of the nations in the interior, a weakness, nevertheless, that had enormous fluctuations.

    The Greek population created roots and survived because they felt that they had something to preserve, their civilization, that they were placing above their lives.

    They had the sense that they were the vehicle of a very special and unique civilization, that they had themselves helped to propagate all over, in the interior of Anatolia, in Italy in Spain, but the main mass of this population wanted to stay there, at the source of all this in “Ionia”.

    They created colonies, commercial and trade-centers, they allowed themselves to live for years, in isolation, separately among alien communities.

    The same thing can be said about the Jews. There are certain similarities with the Jews, the difference being that the Jews did not manage to maintain their own homeland; they maintained only their religion.

    The Greeks did not survive because of their religion, although religion played its roll, it is their civilization mainly that helped them to maintain a homeland and keep their national identity, even when they were living in communities   in other countries.

    Information about the spread of Greek population in Asia Minor and East Thrace before 1922

    Alasata                                                                        15.000

    Krini (Tsesmes)                                                          8.036

    Vourla     35.000
    Dikeli       8.000
    Ai Vali (Kidonies)     16.500 (46.000 with surrounding areas)
    Nikomedia (Izmit)     85.000
    Sinopi     50.000
    Peramos (Karsi Yiaka) in Kyzikos peninsula.       5.000
    Kyzikos Peninsula (38 Greek Villages on the Peninsula including Artaki.) Total population.   To be filled
    Kirkagats 5.000 (1.000 Armenians)
    Pergamos       5.000


    Kinikio close to Pergamos




    Μπουνάρμαπασι Bounarmapasi (Pinarbasi)           800
    Αγιασμάτι Agiasmati (Altinova)        1.500
    Τζιμόβασι Gimovasi (Gumaovasi)        1.500
    Panormos (Bandirma)       12.00
    Aidin (Giousel Hisar)       9.000
    Livisi (Kayiakoi)       6.000 (The total population was exterminated)
    Prousa      278.400
    Trapezounta      353.500
    Total Greek population in the area around Smyrna covering 60.000 sq klm . (For comparison purposes note that in the beginning of the century the Athens population was 150.000. While the total population of mainland Greece was 4.500.000)   800.000

    (Population density:13 Greeks per square klm) More than the average population of all other nationalities together. (300.000 were living in the city of Smyrna).

    Total Greek population in Asia Minor excluding Smyrna area and Pontos             1.600.000
    The total number of Greek refugees that reached Greece 1.600.000 (400.000 from East Thrace)
    The total number of Greek refugees dispersed in various countries around the world.               300.000
    The total Greek population in Asia Minor during 1900  excluding Pontos            2.500.000
    Total estimated number of people killed excluding Pontus. (Number estimated by the Greek Historians Kitromilidis and Alexandris information published in the newspaper Asia Minor Echo, Number 370)               800.000
    Greek Population in Thrace and Constantinople before 1922
    Constantinople  “Alfred Berl, L’Hellenism en Thrace et a Constantinople.”              450.000
    Adrianopolis               508.000

    It is very important to mention that 50% of the capital invested in the Turkish economy belonged to Greeks of  Asia Minor. 

    Also, out of the 18.063 trading companies in Turkey, 46% belonged to Greeks,

    23% to Armenians and

    15%  to Muslims,

    46% of the Banking sector belonged to Greeks,

    as well as 52% of the  doctors were Greeks,

    49% of the pharmacists,

    52% of the Architects.

    37% of the engineers and

    29% of the solicitors.

    Further 528 from a total of 654 wholesale companies belonged to Greeks.

    Hence almost all middle class in Asia Minor was Greek.

    The disperse of  2.500.000 Greek population from Turkey to the rest  of the world, as Refugees

    After the destruction of the Greek army during 1922, all Greek population including most Christian minorities were either exterminated or fled all over the world or moved to Greece by the exchange  treaty of Lausanne  during 1923-24.

    The number of Greek Christian refugees that went to Greece counted approximately 1.5 millions.

    The number of Turkish Muslim population exchanged who went to Turkey was approximately 600.000

    Some Greeks remained Istanbul, around 250.000 and some in the islands Imbros and Tenedos under certain rules.

    Some Muslims remained in West Thrace, around 150.000

    Many thousands of Greeks were massacred, during the years   1914 to 1924. The numbers are considered to be more than 500.000 most of whom were from Pontus (360.000).

    But it is even more important how many fled to Soviet Union and other countries around Black Sea and how these people survived or how much they suffered by the communist regimes during the years that followed.

    Hence the damage that Hellenism suffered from Turkey is unsurmountable.

    It is worth looking the stories of these populations in addition to population exchange figures, which after all, contributed to the revitalization of the Greek mainland.

    Extracts Translated to English from an article written by Michael Stoukas, published in newspaper το ΘΕΜΑ 

    “The persecution of the Greeks of the USSR by the Stalinist regime (Part A, 1936-1938)”

    Link for the full article in Greek:


    Many expatriates who had taken refuge as refugees in southern Russia and Transcaucasia and had not managed to leave for Greece, were imprisoned in the USSR. and they waited under dramatic conditions in the ports of the Black Sea to depart for Greece. The Greek campaign in Ukraine (1919) and the Lenin-Kemal rapprochement contributed to the deterioration of the climate

    In 1923 it is estimated that the Greeks living in Russia, Ukraine etc. were between 300,000 and 440,000..

    Mainly after 1926 there was a great development of (Greek) Pontic culture, the Greek press, Greek-language education and literature.

    Thus three regions were established in southern Ukraine (Donetsk, Mariupol and Magus in 1928) and one in southern Russia (Krimsk 1930), while an attempt was made to establish another one in Abkhazia.
    The development of the national consciousness of the Greeks was strengthened by the establishment of libraries, reading rooms, theaters and cultural clubs. Greek-language literature between 1917-1937 developed rapidly, surpassing even the most optimistic predictions of intellectuals of Greek origin.

    However, during  the civil war in USSR, thousands of Greeks were unjustly lost by the weapons of Belarusians, the Bolsheviks and anarchists. Each side wanted Greeks to join them, but unfortunately the result was always negative.

    On  December 13, 1923,  Lenin was forced to abdicate. A fierce battle for his succession followed, among Stalin, Trotsky, and,  the rest of the communist leaders. The final winner was Stalin,

    The Soviet authorities were looking for ways to get rid of the Greeks of certain areas,, where many refugees had taken refuge between 1917-1920.

    Greeks reacted to the collectivization implemented by Stalin at the time, and were displaced to various areas of the USSR or evicted from their fields and homes, even if they were smallholders.

    The famine of 1931-1933 caused new sufferings and persecutions against the Greeks. Deaths from starvation caused illegal internal movements of Greeks to the Greek communities of the Transcaucasia in order to survive. In the same period, other Greeks were displaced to Siberia, mainly from southern Russia, the Crimea. Displaced from Krasnodar at that time, they established some of the first communities of Greeks in Siberia and Central Asia.

    The hundreds of thousands of our compatriots who lived in the USSR, were in the overwhelming majority (if we exclude wealthy Greeks from Odessa, Rostov and some other areas), in a tragic situation.
    Particularly bad were the conditions for the thousands of poor landless Greek farmers of Transcaucasia. This situation worsened with the new persecutions, executions, exiles and forced movements of thousands of expatriates from the Transcaucasia and the Black Sea coasts to Siberia and Central Asia, which began in 1936.

    Soon the persecution of Greeks, especially those living in the Russian SSR, took the form of pogroms. Large areas with a solid Greek population began to be “cleansed”. In the Donetsk region, which was generally among the most suffering, between 1937-1938, many Greeks were executed or sentenced to forced labor in concentration camps.

    In August 1938, most of the 104 Greek schools were closed. Many Greek teachers were arrested. Also, newspapers, publishing houses, printing houses and Greek theaters were closed.

    The Greek churches were not spared. Other temples were turned into granaries, others into student dormitories, others into party offices or stables, while others were completely destroyed. Clergymen, singers, candle lighters and churchgoers were arrested. The example of the village of Kvirike in the Vatum area is typical. Together with the Greek priest, they arrested the chanters and many women who insisted on going to church. They were deported to Tashkent (Uzbekistan).
    In the village of Mertsan, of its 1,500 Greek inhabitants, 175 were executed, died in Siberia or were arrested. In the Sochi region, within a six-month period, 70% of adult Greek men were arrested. And those who were sentenced to forced labor were sent to Siberia and worked, under miserable conditions, 12-16 hours a day. Most of them were dying.

    From December 1937 and throughout 1938, the Stalinist authorities began the purges of Greeks in the Mariupol area. All the men, aged 17 and over, were summarily tried by set-up courts and sent to forced labor camps in Arkhangelsk, Komi and Siberia on charges of trying to establish an independent Greek state.

    Greeks in today’s Romania

    The presence of the Greeks in today’s Romania dates back to ancient times. The Milesians founded in the 7th century BC. at the mouth of the river Istro (today’s Danube) the first colony, named Istria, where ruins of temples of Zeus, Apollo, Poseidon, Hermes, Demeter and other ancient Greek deities were found. The Milesians also founded the city of Tomis, today’s Constanta, where coins depicting figures of ancient gods were found. In the 6th BC century again the Milesians founded the city of Kallatis, today’s Mangalia, whose inhabitants had the common pan-Hellenic religion1. Two other important colonies were Aegissos, today’s Tulcea, and Axioupoli, today’s Cernavoda, which together with the previous three formed an alliance, the “Commonwealth of the Greeks”, based in Tomi.

    Constantly Greek ships approached the coastal cities, and as a consequence there was the settlement of Greeks, at first in small numbers, but after the fall of Constantinople the flow to the north began to increase, especially during the last three centuries, when the Sublime Gate inaugurated the placement Greeks from the Fanari as rulers in Moldowallachia, which was under a regime of semi-independence from the Ottoman State