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The newer settlements of Asia Minor

The newer settlements of Asia Minor

My views on the Hellenism of Asia Minor have often sparked objections from critics who claim that the Greek populations that were expelled in 1922 had lived in the area since ancient times. I have tried to explain that there is evidence to back the presence of Pontic Greeks as far back as the Byzantine years. The same, however, cannot be said about the Greek populations on the western coast of Anatolia, who systematically settled in Asia Minor as of the late 17th century.

The cultivation of the Greek language was a way to preserve identity. In his monumental work “The Decline of Medieval Hellenism in Asia Minor and the Process of Islamization from the Eleventh through the Fifteenth Century,” Greek-American historian Speros Vryonis explains that the Greeks had suffered extinction in many areas.

Pantaleon Sevastopoulos, a British citizen, in 1733 placed the Evangelical School of Smyrna (modern-day Izmir) under the protection of the British Consulate to protect the community from mistreatment by the Ottoman administration. In 1773, the Christian residents of Aivali (today’s Ayvalik) were granted privileges that amounted to autonomous status. The Ottomans evidently appreciated the economic growth spurred by the Greek settlers.

Aivali was inhabited by settlers from the Peloponnese and the Aegean islands and saw a boom in the food oil and soap trade. Greeks from Lavrio and Mytilene who had worked in the mines moved to Pergamon and Balia. The Erythrae peninsula (Cesme) was settled by Chiotes.

Aydin was inhabited by Greeks from the Zagoria villages in Epirus, Apollonia saw new populations arriving from Mani, while Kula had settlers move in from the eastern Aegean island of Samos. Many of the newcomers worked on the railways, as the Ottoman Empire had granted concessions to the British to build the Smyrna-Aydin line in 1856. The Bosporus-Ankara line, via Eskisehir and the Afyonkarahisar-Iconium (known today as Konya) line and from there to Adana, served as a network of Greek commercial interests.

From the ancient settlements of Pontus to the vilayet of Iconium, Greek populations used the Greek alphabet to write their form of Turkish, known as the Karamanlidika dialect

Region by region, the Greeks of Asia Minor maintained their peculiarities. From the ancient settlements of Pontus to the vilayet of Iconium, Greek populations used the Greek alphabet to write their form of Turkish, known as the Karamanlidika dialect. Meanwhile, Greek nationalism originated from the urban centers and not from the Turkish-speaking province of the east.

“Giaour Smyrna” (Infidel Smyrna), as the Muslims called it, the capital of all activity Greek, remained the center of Hellenism until Turkish troops entered the city in September 1922.


Thanos Veremis is professor emeritus of political history at the University of Athens.

Source : Newsroom Σύνδεσμος

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