Ten Paragraphs of Recent Greek History
Ever since Moses led the children of Israel out - of bondage in Egypt the story of the Exodus has thrilled the human heart. It was the birth of freedom to a race, the beginning of the history of a nation.
Only six years ago there occurred another exodus, not far from the scene of the first. This time the fleeing multitude were Greeks and the pursuers were Turks. The sea to be crossed was the Aegean. No Providence intervened to protect the innocent and destroy the guilty. The righteous were slaughtered by the tens of thousands, whilst the guilty remained unharmed at the scene of their crimes. Yet much the same final result has issued from the second exodus as issued from the first. The flight of the Greeks from Asia Minor was the birth pangs of the Greek Republic. Out of their bitter tribulations has arisen a new nation, welded by suffering into a closer bond of union, and destined, I believe, to revive in great measure the ancient glories of that rocky land where Western civilization was born.
I would not presume to write upon so great a theme were it not that I was an eye witness of some of its most significant events, and was, moreover, privileged to have a guiding hand in several of them. This book is written in part to add to the data available to those later historians who will describe this crucial epoch in the life of a great people. I shall hope it will find present acceptance with the general public by reason of the intrinsic interest of the subject.
First, let me crowd eleven years of recent Greek history into ten short paragraphs.
In 1913 the Turks, having determined to drive the Greeks out of Asia Minor, began a systematic deportation of whole Greek settlements there. Resistance at Phocaea, northwest of Smyrna, led to the massacre of fifty Greeks. To facilitate these deportations, the Turkish Government bought a warship from Brazil for the purpose of destroying the Greek Navy, so as to have a free hand in the Aegean Sea. The Greeks then bought from the United States the battleships Idaho, and Mississippi, thus checkmating the Turkish scheme.
In 1915 King Constantine of Greece, who was the Kaiser's brother-in-law, dismissed the Prime Minister, Venizelos, who was pro-Ally.
In 1916 Venizelos set up a secessionist government at Salonica, and soon had a considerable Greek army fighting with the Allies against Bulgaria and Turkey.
In 1917 Constantine abdicated, under Allied pressure, and his son Alexander became King, with Venizelos as Prime Minister.
In 1918 Greece had 250,000 soldiers in the Allied offensive in Macedonia that led to the capitulation of Bulgaria and Turkey.
In 1919 the Treaty of Versailles was signed, leaving the question of Turkey to be settled by a separate treaty. Greek troops were landed at Smyrna, at the request of the Supreme Allied Council, to patrol western Asia Minor, while the Allies were deciding what should be the ultimate fate of Turkey.
In 1920, by the Treaty of Sevres, the Allies announced their decision regarding Turkish territory. By this treaty Smyrna and the Ionian hinterland were placed under Greek administration for nine years. Thereupon the Turkish Nationalists revolted as a protest against the treaty. They set up a government at Angora under Mustapha Kemal and organized an army to defend Asia Minor. In Greece, King Alexander died of a monkey bite, Venizelos was defeated in the general elections, and Constantine returned to Athens as King.
In 1921 the Allied powers agreed to reconsider the Treaty of Sevres, and held a conference at London for this purpose. The Greek representatives rejected the alternative treaty proposed by the conference, and the Greek Army started a military offensive against the Turkish Nationalist positions in Asia Minor. Constantine proceeded to Smyrna to direct this offensive in person, and the Greek Army penetrated Asia Minor to a point within sixty miles of Angora, where it was disastrously defeated by the Turks.
In 1922, after frightful mismanagement of the situation by Constantine and his government, the Turks entered Smyrna. They massacred a large proportion of the Greek population, burned the Greek quarter, and deported hundreds of thousands of Greek civilians -in the most barbarous manner. The Greek Army revolted and forced Constantine to abdicate again; whereupon his son, George II, became King. The League of Nations sent Dr. Fridtjof Nansen to study the problem of the Greek refugees from Smyrna and other parts of Asia Minor, who had been landed penniless in Greece, where they were now in danger of starvation. Dr. Nansen reported that they could be effectually aided only by helping the Greek Government to raise a foreign loan for this purpose.
In 1923 the League of Nations created the Refugee Settlement Commission, to handle this whole problem on the scene in Greece. This Commission was to have four members—one American, one Britisher, and two Greeks, the American to be the chairman. I was offered the post, accepted it, and hence this book.