Athanasios Grammenos

Between memory and ‘amnesia’: The Greek State and the political retention of the Ottoman Greeks’ genocide

The Minor Asia Catastrophe, a consequence of the Greek-Turkish War (1919-1922), and the ethnic cleansing of Near East’s populous Greek element, are the most traumatic landmarks of modern Greek history. The “Greek continuum” to the East, in metropolises where robust Greek communities used to live since the antiquity, ceased to exist and the Greek presence in major Asian metropolises was violently suspended.

Accountable for the disaster is primarily the revolutionary regime of the Young Turks, which set in motion a nationalist plan for the homogenisation of the Ottoman Empire; however, the Greek governments of that time did serious mistakes and oversights. Contenting political forces in Greece, exploited the fate of the Ottoman Greeks in their efforts to gain power domestically. The Greeks of Minor Asia and Pontus not only were never asked for their future, but as Mustafa Kemal was heading to Izmir to burn it down, Greece denied them the right to either defend themselves or flee to Greek territory.

When the war was over and a million Ottoman Greeks ended refugees in Greece, local political elites supported by part of the Press adopted behaviour patterns of exclusion, considering the refugees second category citizens. Officially, the memory of the Near East was silenced and the refugee identity marginalised. Today, the political handling remains intrinsically contradictory.
This paper aims to study the ideological concepts in Greece vis-à-vis the memory of the Ottoman Greeks, to analyse the code conducts of the political agents and extract theoretical conclusions for the contemporaneity of the Eastern Question.