Zeynep Türkyılmaz

“When disaster and calamity of misery become their inseparable companion:” Pontus Between Two Deportations (1916-1921)


My project investigates the forced deportations of the Greek Orthodox communities of Pontus, Black Sea region of the Ottoman Anatolia in 1916 and 1921. These two consecutive deportations – or transfer of Greeks to the interior, Rumların dahile sevki, as it was officially named- resulted not only in displacement of a ethno-religious community and culture deeply rooted in the land and landscape, but also in an abrupt annihilation of an exceptional form of co-existence, which had existed for several centuries. Indeed the Greeks of Black Sea had escaped most of the traumatic events that targeted other Christian populations of the empire in the nineteenth century. Yet not only these two deportations labeled Pontic Greeks as a community of rebels, brigands and traitors, but also ensuing militia attacks help de-Hellenized the entire region even before the population exchange of 1923-24. These deportations, however, have hardly attracted attention of the scholarly community of historians and genocide specialists, perhaps with the exception of minority group of Pontic researchers. If the Pontic deportations and massacres are at all addressed in the modern Turkish or Ottoman historiography, they are either justified as the suppression of a local treacherous secessionist uprising against the Ottoman-Turkish center, or misconstrued as exigencies and chaos of wartime. In this presentation, I will discuss the much ignored first wave of forced deportations carried out between 1916-7, focusing particularly on the processes of decision-making, its reception and eventually its implementation.