THE EXTERMINATION OF THE GREEKS OF PONTUS
By DR. JORDAN TSOLAKIDES

The Greek Star


The beginning of the 20th Century was a turbulent time for the Ottoman Empire. On July 21, 1908, a telegram was dispatched to the Sultan in the name of a committee demanding the restoration of the constitutional rule. The Sultan, Abdul Hammit, deposed and exiled to Thessaloniki was interned in the villa Alatini. Nationalism was rising. The young officers of the committee organized the committee for the Union and Progress declaring equality and justice. "We are all brothers" declared Enver Bay, the strong man of the ruling triumvirate in Macedonia. Eventually the committee took full power as absolute rulers of the Ottoman Empire. Their aim was to convert all none Muslim Christians and the non Turkish Muslims such as Arabs into Turks through a planned Turkification process. A concept of a Turkish nation derived from the old Ottoman State introduced by a young poet, Mehmed Emin, a sense of nationhood in the name of Turk, which became the basis of the Turanianism. The committee adapted this concept and started an annihilation program for those who refused to become Muslims and identifying themselves as Turks.

By the end of 1913 the committee of Union and Progress headed by Enver now a Pasha was in complete control over the empire. Jewal Pasha and Talaad Pasha were the other two members of the triumvirate. This is the group that planned and carried to execution a horrendous program of complete elimination of Christian population, especially the prosperous Hellenic population. They are called internationally "Young Turks" and are responsible for the genocide of more than 300,000 Pontians and numerous other Greeks, the "Giaours" in Asia Minor. The resistance of Pontians is legendary, fighting against an empire.

The history of Anatolia Hellenism of the early 20 century of Pontus and Cappadocia has not been researched thoroughly. The Pontian Hellenes were sacrifice in the altar of their Hellenism and Christianity. Thousands converted to Mohammedanism to avert persecution. Yet many remained secretly Christians despite the severe punishment imposed by the Ottoman authorities. They are living today in the land of Pontus but also spread all over Asia Minor, as witness and evidence of the oppression and persecution of the Hellenic populations of the area. They are Christians of Hellenic descent who do not dare even today to declare openly their religion. The subject of these cryptochristians in Turkey has been extensively studied and reported by professor K Fotiades.

The genocide of the Hellenes of Pontus and Asia Minor that happens in the same time with the Armenian genocide (1915-1919) is still unknown to the public and the scientific community at large. All the evidence of this genocide accumulated in the archives of ministries of foreign affairs of several countries is waiting to be uncovered. Professor Fotiades's research in the history of Pontian Hellenism offers an invaluable service with the publication of his 14 Volume work.

According to professor Fotiades, the genocide of the Pontian Hellenes compares to similar acts against the Armenians and remained in the shadows either because of the tragic conditions of Armenian people or because it was suppressed by governments and diplomatic orders in the name of some mutual benefits to them: The ethnic cleansing applied by the Turks aimed first to exterminate the whole Christian population of the area and also to make all other Muslim communities Turkish. Sandiaur writes that the "Young Turks" revealed a diabolic plan that never before was conceived by the human mind. Continuous marches without destination, imprisonment, food deprivation were all applied under a master plan. In addition attacks by irregular army units (Tsetes) to Christian villages; with plunder, rape, and execution, to force upon them Islamization was an every day event in the life of the Greeks of Pontus. The "Young Turks" justified all these as a necessary outcome of military operations for security reasons. A report by the German ambassador Matternich states that the Turks tried to justify the persecution of the Greeks insisting that the Russians had armed the local population and that they were afraid of a Greek Revolation. The persecution continued till 1923.

Mustafa Kemal during a visit to Sampsount on May 19, 1919, met the well-known in the area terrorist Topal Osman in Havza and promised him all the help he needed in order to continue his actions against the ethnic Greek Pontians of the area. Topal Osman also received help from regular army and the local political authorities.

The ultimate aim of the Kenalist was the same as the earlier applied plan of the "YoungTurks", make the area of Asia Minor pure Muslim and Turkish. All these events took place under the eyes of the big powers who knew what was happening but did not intervene to stop it.

Professor Chris Gianriaras gave a moving and deeply philosophical speech at a memorial for the Genocide of Pontus Greeks. An abridged portion of his remarks is cited below in translation from the Greek language.

"We mourn for the Genocide of Pontian Hellenes, but we do not adapt a role of a victim which would have been the easy solution to escape from our historic challenges. Every annual gathering in memory of Pontian Genocide is obliged to declare unretractably an insistent in the self consciousness of Hellenism, not emotional, ideological and rhetorical not a cheap demagogue and nationalistic peddling, but insistence in the cultural identity of Hellenes. That is in the timeless continuity of the Hellenic tongue; in the primary Hellenic identity of politics as a common contest in social relations; to the Hellenic insistence on a meaning of the human existence and coexistence on a metaphysical axis; to the certainly that the democracy achievement is unattainable without a realistic respect of the 'Holy.' There cannot be democracy without Parthenon, and Agia Sophia.

"The Pontian Hellenism left to us measures of nobility, aristocracy of ethics. Organizing annual gatherings in memory of their holocaust this nobility is what we want to preserve as a daring political demand. We are ready often with naivety exaggerations, to forgive the perpetrators of the Genocide, to coexist with the neighboring people in peace. But it is an unbearable grief this nobility of the people's feeling to be translated by the political leadership to a foreign policy undignified and with servility.

"The prime minister of the neighboring country stated that the erection of a tomb dedicated to the mass murder of the Pontian Hellenes offends the sensitivities of the Turkish people. Once again we did not hear from Hellenic formal lips, not a single word, cool and polite, but with dignity and self respected, for a reply. In a day of memory and grief for the horrible holocaust, the extermination of 353,000 Hellenes of Pontus and the uprooting form their fatherland another 500,000 condemned to the misery of refugee, the meaning of this gathering cannot be but only a realistic political bind. That we will disapprove always with our vote, every political leadership, be it superficial of actual ideological position, which ostentatiously ignores the sensitively of our people to this Holocaust of the pontians and Asia Minor Hellenism.

"Good neighboring relations yes, friendship and cooperation wherever is possible also, but to the severe and austere faces of the neighborhood leaders let the Hellenic politicians cease to counteroffer plethoric cordiality and courteousness of necessity fit for slaves. Perhaps it may be the superpower that demands the entry in the European Union without restrictions and with the smallest offering in exchange, of an Asiatic people of a nightmarish underdevelopment stage. A state which only submits to the demands of the powerful and lacks back spine of historic and cultural self-consciousness is pushed on the edge of international relations despised and in disrespect. The crime of ethnic cleansing from Pontus to Asia Minor expanded to Imbros and Tenedos to Constantinople; and the Northern Cyprus, shows the challenge to Hellenism continues. The Hellenic Society organizing the annual gathering in memory of the Pontian Hellenes holocaust should function as a daring political demand to the professional politics to respect the sensitivities of the Hellenic Society.

"Hellenes should cease being ashamed for the colorless, tasteless and odorless, from the historic and cultural perspectives, exercise of our foreign policy. 'We want not only the actions but also the political and diplomatic exchanges to reflect self respect and self dignity. The Greek Parliament should work diligently to multiply the number of countries willing to recognize officially the genocide of the Pontian Hellenism. Today as a symbolic coincidence the life rhythm of Greece is determined unwillingly by the State TV channels, that is again by the political leadership. Here we insist on organizing memorials of the lost nobility of the Pontian Hellenes.

Our only hope is the saying of Makriyiannis that: "Luck keeps Hellenes always a few. At the beginning and end, past and till now. All the beast fighting to eat us, but can not do it. They eat from us and still there remains a yeast. For this yeast we hold this ceremony."

Turkey is again boiling in a nationalistic upheaval countered by a Muslim religion re-establishing itself in the public domain.




(Posting date 15 May 2007)

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