The Greek-Turkish Population Exchange

  • Citation: Shields, Sarah. “The Greek-Turkish Population Exchange: Internationally Administered Ethnic Cleansing.” Middle East Report 267 (2013): 2–5.
    • Topics:
    • Regional Studies
    • Keywords:
    • Ottoman empire
    • Greek Orthodox Christians
    • Turkish populations
    • nationalism

Turkish and Greek historians have agreed that the ethnicized religious identity mobilized by the population exchange consolidated a new kind of national solidarity. Moreover, the narratives of victimization, prevalent in both modern Greece and modern Turkey, certainly have compelling dimensions in creating a common enemy and a national “history.” As Anastasia Karakasidou points out, however, these collective “memories” obfuscate as much as they reveal. In the years before the Balkan wars, people worked together, lived as neighbors and depended on each other in a web of economic relationships. In the area of Macedonia on which she focuses, “the cultural field of late Ottoman-era Guvezna and the neighboring settlements with which its inhabitants traded was both fluid and diverse, with shifting boundaries of identity, interest and solidarity.” These complex relationships were supplanted by a nationalist history that “emphasized the collective destiny of the nation, and collapsed the personal experiences and memories of individuals with those of the new national group.” Although their integration into the new Greece strengthened the narrative, and the refugees willingly took on their new Greek identity, they were unable entirely to forget or elide their customs and heritage; they continued for decades to be referred to by others as “refugees,” and to refer to the place they had left as their “country.”

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