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The 1923 population exchange between Greece and Turkey was the first compulsory large-scale population exchange, or agreed mutual expulsion of the 20th century. It involved approximately 2 million people, most of whom were forcibly made refugees and de jure denaturalized from their homelands. The "Convention Concerning the Exchange of Greek and Turkish Populations" was signed at Lausannemarker, Switzerlandmarker, on the 30th January 1923, by the governments of Greecemarker and Turkeymarker. The exchange was based on religion, and involved the Greek Orthodox citizens of Turkey and the Muslim citizens of Greece.


Following the defeat of the Greek army in August 1922, a Peace Conference was organised at Lausanne, Switzerland in order to draft a new treaty to replace the Treaty of Sevres, which under the new government of Kemal Pasha, was no longer recognised by Turkey. The "Convention Concerning the Exchange of Greek and Turkish Populations" was signed at Lausannemarker, Switzerlandmarker, on 30 January 1923, by the governments of Greecemarker and Turkeymarker at the insistence of Kemal Ataturk.

By the time the Exchange was to take effect (1st of May 1923), most of the pre-war Orthodox Greek population of Turkey had already fled. The Exchange therefore only involved the Greeks of central Anatolia (both Greek and Turkish speaking), and the Greeks of Pontus, a total of roughly 189,916. The total number of Muslims involved was 354,647.

The agreement therefore merely ratified what had already been perpetrated on the Greek population. Of the 1,300,000 Greeks involved in the exchange, only approximately 150,000 were resettled in an orderly fashion. The majority fled hastily with the retreating Greek Army following Greece's defeat in the Greco-Turkish War (August 1922), whilst others fled in scenes of indescribable panic from the shores of Smyrna. The unilateral emigration of the Greek population, already at an advanced stage, was transformed into a population exchange backed by international legal guarantees.

In Greece, it was considered part of the events called the Asia Minor Catastrophe ( ). Significant refugee displacement and population movements had already occurred following the Balkan Wars, World War I, and the Turkish War of Independence. These included exchanges and expulsion of about 500,000 Turks from Greece and about 1,500,000 Greeks from Asia Minor, Anatolia and Eastern Thrace to Greece.

The convention affected the populations as follows: almost all Greek Orthodox Christians (Greek- or Turkish-speaking) of Asia Minor including a Turkish-speaking Greek Orthodox population from middle Anatolia (Karamanlides), the Ionia region (e.g. Smyrnamarker, Aivalimarker), the Pontus region (e.g. Trapezunda, Sampsunta), Prusamarker (Bursa), the Bithynia region (e.g., Nicomediamarker (İzmitmarker), Chalcedonmarker (Kadıköymarker), East Thrace, and other regions were either expelled or formally denaturalized from Turkish territory. These numbered about half a million and were added to the over one million Greeks already cleansed by the Turkish army before the treaty was signed. About 500,000 people were expelled from Greece, predominantly Turks, and others including Greek Muslims, Muslim Roma, Pomaks, Cham Albanians, and Megleno-Romanians.


The Turks and other Muslims of Western Thrace were exempted from this transfer as well as the Greeks of Istanbulmarker and the Aegean Islands of Imbrosmarker (Gökçeada) and Tenedosmarker (Bozcaada). Due to punitive measures carried out by the Republic of Turkeymarker, such as the 1932 parliamentary law which barred Greek citizens in Turkey from a series of 30 trades and professions from tailor and carpenter to medicine, law, and real estate, the Greek population of Istanbul began to decline, as evidenced by demographic statistics. The Varlık Vergisi capital gains tax imposed in 1942 on wealthy non-Muslims in Turkey also served to reduce the economic potential of ethnic Greek businesspeople in Turkey. Furthermore, violent incidents as the Istanbul Pogrom (1955) directed against the ethnic Greek community greatly accelerated emigration of Greeks, reducing the 200,000-strong Greek minority in 1924 to just over 5,000 in 2005. By contrast the Muslim community of Greece has increased in size to over 100,000 since the signing of the Lausanne Treaty, while Greece is also host to tens of thousands of Muslim immigrants.

The population profile of Cretemarker was significantly altered as well. Greek and Turkish speaking Muslim inhabitants of Crete (Cretan Turks) moved, principally to the Anatolian coast, but also to Syria, Lebanon and Egyptmarker. Some of these people identify themselves as ethnically Greek to this day . Conversely, Greeks from Asia Minor, principally Smyrna, arrived in Crete bringing in their distinctive dialects, customs and cuisine.

The expelled populations suffered greatly. According to Bruce Clark, leaders of both Greece and Turkey, as well as some circles in the international community, saw the resulting ethnic homogenization of their respective states as positive and stabilizing since it helped strengthen the nation-state natures of these two states.

At the same time, forced deportation has obvious challenges: social, such as forcibly being removed from one's place of living, and more practical such as abandoning a well-developed family business. Countries also face other practical challenges: for example, even decades after, one could notice certain hastily developed parts of Athens, residential areas that had been quickly erected on a budget while receiving the fleeing Asia Minor population.

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  1. According to figures presented by Prof. Vyron Kotzamanis to a conference of unions and federations representing the ethnic Greeks of Istanbul. "Ethnic Greeks of Istanbul convene", Athens News Agency, 2 July 2006.

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