Return to Trebizond April 21, 2010Posted by Yilan in Turkey, Yunanistan.
Tags: Greece, Population exchange, Turkey
In 1923, modern Turkey was formed out of the ashes of the Ottoman Empire — and one of the great expulsions of the 20th century took place. What happened was rivaled only by the 1947 partition of India, Stalin’s forced relocations of ethnic minorities and the expulsion of ethnic Germans from Eastern Europe in 1945… ah hell, this was a bloody century.
But in Greece and Turkey, the population exchange occurred. 1,300,000 Greeks were expelled from Turkey either in the fighting following Greece’s invasion of Anatolia or the subsequent official population exchange; 500,000 Turks were expelled from Greece.
But it was not as simple as people just being Greek or Turks. The determination of ethnicity was made purely around religious lines; if you were born Christian, you were Greek. If you were born Muslim, you were Turk.
This led to some complications. Tens of thousands of Greek-speaking Muslims lived in both Greece and Turkey as the descendents of converts. Some even spoke archaic dialects of Byzantine Greek. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of Greeks living in Anatolia and Thrace spoke Turkish as their first language and spoke little, if any, Greek.
Some of the descendents of the expelled Greeks made their way to the modern nation-state of Greece. Others emigrated to the New World, Australia, western Europe… anywhere they could make a fresh start.
The founding of modern Greece and Turkey in 1923 with the Lausanne treaty came with a huge exchange of populations on religious grounds.
Hundreds of thousands of Christian Pontic Greeks left the city of Trebizond on the Black Sea and the surrounding area and half a million greek Muslims moved in.
After years of political division, the descendents of those dissipated communities are beginning to come together to celebrate their shared heritage in music and song.
Greek Orthodox Christians with roots in Trebizond come from all over the world to celebrate the feast of the Virgin Mary. Muslims come to the festival, too, as do Russians of greek descent. All three nations converge at this cultural crossroads. In particular at the monastery of Soumela up in the mountains.
What happens at the monastery is amazing. Jingoistic ethnic Greek politicians from Russia attempt to score brownie points through religious warfare. Veil-wearing, conservative Muslims show up speaking passable Greek dialect and calling each other by nicknames traceable to the Byzantine Empire. Secular Turkish city slickers from Istanbul watch uncomfortably. It’s just another day in a forgotten corner of the world.