Recovering Macedonia 9 - From a Majority to a Minority

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Recovering Macedonia Expiration of the Bucharest Treaty of 1913

Part 9 - From a Majority to a Minority

June, 2006


[Macedonia will remain occupied as long as the Macedonian people are unrecognized, abused and made to feel like strangers on their own native lands. It is a well known fact that Macedonia was invaded, occupied and illegally partitioned by Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria in 1912-1913 against the wishes of the Macedonian people. The Serbian occupied part, now known as the Republic of Macedonia gained its independence in 1991 and is today a sovereign state while the parts annexed by Greece and Bulgaria remain occupied.]

Despite all the minority agreements and promises of fair treatment for their newly subjugated Macedonian people, the Greek, Bulgarian and Serbian Governments not only maintained the status quo but began to accelerate the process of expulsion, denationalization and forced assimilation in Macedonia.

Following World War I, Greece and Bulgaria, according to the November 27, 1919 Minority Treaty convention, exchanged populations. Greece expelled some 53,000 (Wilkinson, 1951:262) "Slav speakers" to Bulgaria in exchange of 30,000 so called "Greeks" from Bulgaria.

Then with the breakout of the Turkish-Greek war in 1921 as a result of Venizelo's "Megali Idea" a policy to create a "Greater Greece" and bring together all "Greek peoples" under a single Greater Greek State, the Macedonians in Greece again became victims of yet another war. First it was Macedonian men sent to fight and die in Turkey for the glory of "Greater Greece" and later Macedonian lands were given away as Macedonia became a dumping ground for the Turkish refugees. Greece launched a major offensive against Turkey in March 1921 and by the end of the summer the Greek armies reached the Sakarya River, about forty miles west of Ankara.

The assault on Asia Minor was an "exclusively Greek initiative" without the blessing of the Entente Powers and as a result the Greeks found themselves alone and running out of ammunition. They knew they couldn't count on Italy or France for help but the realization of their predicament sunk in when Britain also refused to help them. By early autumn the Greeks were pushed back beyond the halfway point between Smyrna and Ankara, reaching an uneasy military stalemate. Realizing that they couldn't possibly win militarily or politically, the Greeks turned to the Paris Conference of March 1922 looking for a compromise. The compromise called for the withdrawal of the Greek armies and placing the Christian population under the protection of the League of Nations. Sensing a victory, Mustafa Kemal of Turkey insisted on an unconditional evacuation of the Greek forces, a demand unacceptable to the Greeks. Still counting on British help, in July 1922 the Greeks unsuccessfully attempted to get permission from their allies to enter Tsari Grad (Istanbul). Turkey launched a full-scale offensive on August 26, 1922 (a dark day for Greece and its Megali Idea) near Afyonkarahisar and forced the Greeks into a hasty retreat back to Smyrna.

On September 8th the Greek army was evacuated and the next day the Turkish army invaded Smyrna. The worst came on the evening of the 9th when outbreaks of killing and looting began, followed by a massacre of the Christian population in which 30,000 Christians, perished. As a result of the violence 250,000 people fled to the waterfront to escape the catastrophic disaster.

The Asia Minor campaign was over along with the "Megali Idea" of a Greater Greece. Worse yet, as a result of this catastrophic Greek fiasco, over one million Turkish Christians were displaced; most of them were moved to Macedonia. Their settlement affected the demography of the Macedonian landscape as well as the morale of the Macedonian population. An entire generation of young Macedonian men, who were drafted into the Greek military, were sent to the Asia Minor campaigns and many lost their lives. The Greek authorities never acknowledged their service and no compensations were ever paid to the families of those "breadwinners" who lost their lives. The reason for the omission, according to Greek authorities, those who fought for Greece from Macedonia "were not Greeks but Bulgarians". How convenient! This is how Greece treated and is still treating its noble citizens of Macedonian descent!

I just want to mention here that many Greeks blame this catastrophe on the Turks and believe the Turks were at fault. How can Turks be at fault when it was Greece that unlawfully and without provocation attacked and invaded Turkey?

By the Treaty of Lausanne in July 1923, the Greco-Turkish war came to an end and Greece and Turkey signed a population exchange agreement.

It is important to understand that the selection criteria for the population exchanges were based strictly on religion. In other words, Greece agreed to accept a Christian population regardless of ethnicity or language. Similarly Greece agreed to expel a Muslim population regardless of what ethnicity it belonged to and what language it spoke. As a result, Greece exiled many Macedonians from Greek occupied Macedonia simply because they were of the Muslim faith.

The November 1925 issue of National Geographic Magazine best illustrates the magnitude of the human wave, the audacity of the Greek and Turkish authorities and the total disregard for human life. "History's Greatest Trek, Tragedy Stalks the Near East as Greece and Turkey Exchange Two Million of their People. ...1922 began what may fairly be called history's greatest, most spectacular trek-the compulsory intermigration of two million Christians and Muslims across the Aegean Sea." "...the initial episodes of the exchange drama were enacted to the accompaniment of the boom of cannon and the rattle of machine gun and with the settings pointed by the flames of the Smyrna holocaust." (Page 533, Melville Chater, National Geographic, November 1925)

"Stroke of the Pen Exiles 3,000,000 People. It is safe to say that history does not contain a more extraordinary document. Never before in the world's long pageant of folk-wanderings have 2,000,000 people-and certainly no less than 3,000,000 if the retroactive clause is possible of complete application-been exiled and re-adopted by the stroke of the pen" (Page 569, National Geographic, November 1925). "Even if regarded as a voluntary trek instead of a compulsory exchange, the movement would be without parallel in the history of emigration." "One might just add that history has never produced a document more difficult of execution. It was to lessen these difficulties that exchangeability was based in religion and not race. Due to five centuries of Turkish domination in Greece, the complexities in determining an individual's racial status are often such as would make a census taker weep." (Page 570, National Geographic, November 1925)

"Greece with one-fifth Turkey's area has 1,500,000 more people. Turkey with a population of 5,000,000 and naturally rich territory contains only 15 people to the square mile...Greece, with less than one fifth of Turkey's area, emerges with a population exceeding the latter's for the fist time by 1,500,000 people averaging 123 to the square mile." (Page 584, National Geographic, November 1925)

"History's Greatest Trek has cost 300,000 lives. Conservative estimates place it at 300,000 lives lost by disease and exposure." (Page 584, National Geographic, November 1925) "The actual exchange was weighted very heavily in Turkey's favour, for some 380,000 Muslims were exchanged for something like 1,100,000 Christians." "The total population in Greece rose between 1907 and 1928 from 2,600,000 to 6,200,000." "After the Greek advances of 1912, for instance, the Greek elements in Greek Macedonia had constituted 43 percent of the population. By 1926, with the resettlement of the refugees, the Greek element has risen to 89 percent." (Page 121, Richard Clogg, A Short History of Modern Greece).

Please note that Clogg uses the words "Greek element" and not "ethnic Greeks" (if there is such a thing?) when referring to the population in Greek occupied Macedonia. What exactly did he mean by "Greek element"?

The "Greek element", as he calls it is not Greek at all. It consists of Vlachs, Albanians and some Macedonians mainly those affiliated with the Greek Church. There were no "ethnic Greeks" living in Macedonia prior to its colonization by the Turkish refugees.

Many people of Turkish speaking Eastern Orthodox stock were exchanged with Sunnite Muslims of Greece. The Turkish speaking Karamanlides were sent to Greece, while Greek speaking Cretan Muslims were deported to Turkey. The Karamanlides lived in Karaman or Cappadocia and may have been Orthodox Christian by religion but they spoke and wrote Turkish and considered themselves to be Turks. When the time came for them to leave for Greece, they were reluctant and while living in Greece were regarded as "foreigners".

In 1924, 31 of the 81 orthodox cities and villages in Cappadocia spoke so called "broken Greek" which Greeks from Greece proper could not understand and the other 50 spoke Turkish only. Also, Christians living in the larger cities like Caesaria, Nigdi, Neapolis, Prokopi, etc spoke Turkish only. Christians living in the eastern provinces of Asia Minor like Pamphylia, Isavria, Cappadocia, Kilikea and Lycaonia from whom the Karamanlides originated and were not Islamized, also spoke Turkish only.

In my estimation it is doubtful that the actual population of "Greeks" present in Greek occupied Macedonia prior to the arrival of the Turkish settlers was 43% as Clogg and others claim. A more accurate estimate would be 3%, representing the new Greek settlers mainly business opportunists already there, the Greek administration, police and military types that arrived and settled in Macedonia between 1912 and 1922. Further proof of the low existence of so called "Greeks" in Macedonia can be found in the 1911 edition of Encyclopedia Britannica under the heading "The Outline of the Macedonian Problem". According to Encyclopedia Britannica, the total population living in Macedonia was 2.2 million consisting of 1.3 million Christians, 800 thousand Mohammedans and 75 thousand Jews. Among the races [ethnicities probably determined by language] living in Macedonia included are 1.15 million Slavs, 500 thousand Turks, 120 thousand Albanians, 90 thousand Vlachs, 75 thousand Jews, 35 thousand Gypsies and 25 thousand Greeks. If we go by these stats, the so called "Greek speaking" population living in Macedonia in 1911 amounted to no more than 1.1% of the total population. Hardly the 43% presented by Clogg. What Clogg is referring to by this 43% is most probably the Macedonian Christian population affiliated with the Greek Church which by no means was "ethnic Greek" or Greek speaking.

I also do not agree with the idea that the entire refugee population that was settled in Macedonia from Turkey was "ethnic Greek" or "Greek speaking" as Greek authorities would like to portray it. In any case, assuming that the total population of settlers from Turkey (89%-43%) was 46% and that from Greece was 3% then by 1932 there were 49% newcomers and 51% indigenous people living in Greek occupied Macedonia.

I call the settlers "newcomers" because there is no proof that they were in any way "Greek". Yes, the Turkish refugees were Christians but that does not mean that they were actually "ethnic Greeks".

"If Greece exists today as a homogeneous ethnos, she owes this to [the Asia Minor Catastrophe]. If the hundreds of thousands of refugees had not come to Greece, Greek Macedonia would not exist today. The refugees created the national homogeneity of our country. (Antonios Kandiotis, Metrpolite of Florina, Page 141, Anastasia Karakasidou, Fields of Wheat, Hills of Blood) Surprisingly (and shamefully) after knowing all this, Greece still claims its population to be homogeneous and directly descendent from the ancient peoples of the ancient City States and of the ancient Macedonians.

According to Karakasidou, almost half of the refugees from Turkey were settled in urban centers and rural areas in Macedonia. "Searching for locations in which to settle this mass of humanity, the Greek government looked north to the newly incorporated land in Macedonia..." " 1930, 90 percent of the 578,844 refugees settled in rural Greece were concentrated in the regions of Macedonia and western Thrace. Thus Macedonia, Greece's newly acquired second 'breadbasket' (after Thessaly), became the depository for East Thracian, Pontic, and Asia Minor refugees." (Page 145, Anastasia Karakasidou, Fields of Wheat, Hills of Blood)

If we take into consideration that most of the population imported from Turkey into Macedonia was ethnically "unknown" or non-Greek and the fact that very few so called "Greeks" from Greece proper settled in Macedonia we can conclude that Greek occupied Macedonia was settled by a number of non-Greek ethnicities.

It is not ridiculous to assume that Greek occupied Macedonia after the settlements consisted of 51% indigenous people, predominantly Macedonians and 49% of newcomer settlers mostly of non-Greek (Turkish, Armenian, Albanian, Vlach, Patriarchic Macedonian, etc) origins.

In other words the demographic composition of Greek occupied Macedonia after the arrival of the Asia Minor refugees still consisted of a Macedonian majority and a slew of unidentified other minorities.

A census done by the Greek government in 1928 reported that there were 81,984 "Slavophones" in Greece. Interestingly, the number of Macedonians drastically fell between 1903 and 1928, supporting the idea that Macedonia was being Hellenized.

Bearing in mind the stats presented in the 1911 edition of Encyclopedia Britannica, 1.15 million Slav speakers lived in Macedonia. Since Greece occupied 51% of Macedonia in 1912, 1913 we can safely assume that 51% or more of the total Slav speaking population which lived in Macedonia ended up under Greek control. 51% amounts to approximately 600,000 people. Thus, according to 1928 Greek stats, in less than 30 years approximately half a million Macedonians became Hellenized and made into "pure Greeks".

I am using the term "Macedonians" instead of "Slavophones", even though Greece did not recognize them as such and considered them to be Bulgarian speakers, which explains why Professor R. A. Reis, who was commissioned by the Greek government to ethnologically study the new territories, felt compelled to insist that "those you call Bulgarophones, I will simply call them Macedonians" (Reiss, 1915:3).

The numbers really get confusing when we add the Bulgarian and Serbian views. According to the Bulgarian Rumenov, in 1928 there were a total of 206,435 "Bulgarians" living in Greek occupied Macedonia. The Serb Bora Milojevich pegs the numbers at 250,000 "Slavs". Belgrade's "Politika" in its 6164 issue published June 24, 1925 gave three times greater numbers for the Macedonians in Greece than official Athens: "The Greek government must not complain that we are pointing to the fact that the Macedonian population of West Macedonia - 250,000 - 300,000 - is the most unfortunate national and linguistic minority in the world, not only because their personal safety is endangered, but also because they have no church or school in their own language, which they had during Turkish rule."

So the "real" number of Macedonians living in Greek occupied Macedonia in the late 1920's is unknown and to this day remains disputed in Balkan documents. Unfortunately, Greek governments will not allow anyone, including neutral observers to conduct statistical studies. If we follow the "Greek example" we will note that according to Greek Stats, Greece is populated by 98% "pure Greeks" and 2% "Muslim Greeks". In other words Greece, to this day, has no creditable population statistics that are based on ethnic composition.

Without a clear definition of what a "pure Greek" is one cannot accurately interpret what that means. However, looking at the numbers one can speculate that Greece may still be using religious affiliation to define its demographics. The numbers 98% Orthodox Christians and 2% Muslims most accurately represent Greece's demographics. Unfortunately, religious affiliation hardly speaks of the various ethnicities that make up that population. So, what exactly is the Modern Greek nation made up of outside of Orthodox Christians and Muslims? Who are the "ethnic groups" living in Greece today?

To answer this question we need to go back to the time before Greece became a State and examine the ethnic composition of the populations living on those lands that now make up Greece. Before Greece became a State for the first time in 1829, its ethnic composition consisted of a Majority of Albanians, Turks, Vlachs and Slav speakers. If there were any so called "Greeks" they were a small minority. As Greece acquired Epirus and Thessaly, more Albanians, Vlachs, Slav speakers and Turks were added to its Population. In 1912, 1913 as Greece acquired 51% of Macedonian territories, it added a large portion of Macedonians (or Slav Speakers as Greece like to call them), Vlachs, Albanians, Turks, Roma and Jews to its total population.

Since then Greece expelled a number of Macedonians to Bulgaria because they were affiliated with the Exarchate Church, and imported some so called "Greeks" from Bulgaria. Through the 1920's Greece expelled a sizable Muslim population and added a large number of Christian Turks from Asia Minor and other regions of Turkey as indicated earlier. Thus, ethnically speaking at the end of the 1920's even after all the population exchanges, Greece remained predominantly the same; made up of Slav Speakers, Turks, Albanians, Vlachs, Roma and Jews.

There is no doubt that the Slav speakers in Greece are Macedonian and will declare themselves as Macedonians should Greece allow them to do so under the right conditions. If we examine the situation in the Republic of Macedonia in the 1920's and today we will see that in the 1920's there were no Macedonians registered to live in that territory. There was a large Majority of "Slav Speakers" referred to as "Serbians" by the Serbian Sate and smaller minorities of Albanians, Vlachs, Roma, Jews, etc. The situation however in the 1990's became different. The so called Serbians were not Serbians at all but Macedonians. The only Serbians registered as Serbians in the Republic of Macedonia in 1990 were the Serbian settlers who came with the army and administration in 1912, 1913 when Macedonia was invaded, occupied and partitioned by Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria. All the so called "Slav speakers" of the late 1920's declared themselves as Macedonians in the 1990's. So, if we examine today's demographic statistics of the Republic of Macedonia we will find a large Majority of Macedonians living there with well represented minorities of Albanians, Vlachs, Roma, Serbians, etc., or minorities of the same ethnicities and somewhat same proportions that lived on the same soil in the late 1920's.

Now if we apply the same conditions to the Greek occupied territories and adjust for the population exchanges of the 1920's we can deduce that the population living in Greek occupied Macedonia is predominantly ethnic Macedonians, Turks, Vlachs, Albanians, Roma, etc. Proportionally, when stacked against the entire population living in Greek occupied Macedonia the Macedonian population may be a minority (30% to 49%) but given the number of other ethnic minorities such as the Asia Minor Turks, Albanians, Vlachs and Roma and their numbers, the Macedonian population may be close to being the majority. In other words, the Macedonians in Greek occupied Macedonia may outnumber all of the other individual ethnic groups.

As I said, the only way to prove or disprove this is by Greece recognizing the various ethnicities living on its soil and by creating the right climate for them to self-declare. To be continued...


Clogg, Richard. The Struggle for Greek Independence Essays to mark 150th anniversary of the Greek War of Independence. Archon, 1973.

Karakasidou, Anastasia N. Fields of Wheat, Hills of Blood. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1997.

National Geographic, November 1925

Stefou, Chris. History of the Macedonian People from Ancient times to the Present. Toronto: Risto Stefov publications, 2005

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