The 1914 Cleansing of Aegean Greeks as a Trial Run for the Deportation of Armenians
In 1913-1914 the Ottomans implemented a program of expulsions and forcible migrations, focusing in Greeks of the Aegean region and eastern Thrace, whose presence in these areas was deemed a “threat to national security”. Many historians have treated the first persecutions of the Greeks in 1913–14 and the Armenian Genocide of 1915 as separate phenomena. One of the reasons is that they saw the Armenian genocide, with its widespread, large-scale, and systematic massacres and death marches, as more condensed in time and more radical in its intent and execution than other campaigns of destruction. Whereas interconnected policies of ethnic cleansing and genocide aimed at the homogenization of the Ottoman Empire were various aspects of CUP policies of what can be called “violent Turkification”.
The forceful expulsion of Ottoman Greeks of western Anatolia has many similarities with policy towards the Armenians.
In both the Greek and Armenian cases, the forcible removals and deportations were ostensibly carried out under a legal umbrella put in place as part of the Ottoman regime’s overall population policy, but in parallel with this legal framework, an unofficial plan was in place – one implemented by a shadow organization that undertook various acts of violence and terror against the empire’s Christians. Among the most striking examples of parallels between these two operations is the formation of Special Operations units, the conscription of the young males into labor battalions and participation of certain Ottoman officials, such as Şükrü Kaya, Nazım Bey and Mehmed Reshid who played a role in both.
These similarities in the methods used by the Ottoman government in driving out the Greek population in 1913-1914 with those used against the Armenians the following year can be seen as the first step of a policy that eventually became genocidal.
This presentation aims to take a closer look at these pre-war persecutions of Aegean Greeks as more than an isolated incident with little or no relation to other instances of CUP and Kemalist genocidal policies.