Courtesy Reuters

Greece and Her Refugees

THE exchange of populations between Greece and Turkey of 1922-24 was unique in world history in its combination of four elements: first, this "swarming" of two human hives was compulsory and resulted from military events; second, no economic motives were directly involved, no impulse but that of nationalism; third, populations were uprooted which had been indigenous, in the one case for four centuries and in the other for thirty, and, finally, the scale was unprecedented. At the time of the Greek disaster in Asia Minor 800,000 Greeks fled across the Aegean Sea to the mainland and islands of Greece, most of them destitute, and 200,000 more with their household goods and flocks trekked out of eastern into western Thrace and Macedonia. With the latter arrivals expelled from Constantinople and the "voluntary" migrants from Bulgaria, Greece has had to receive and to absorb into her national life some 1,400,000 persons, or about 26 percent of her former population of approximately 5,375,000 people.[i]

The growth of the demand for an exchange of populations requires a little explanation. The demand originated with Turkey, and was one of the bitter consequences of the contraction that took place when Turkish imperialism had spent its strength. As long as Turkey was sovereign over Balkan regions which contained subject populations -- Serbians, Bulgarians, Greeks -- far more numerous than the Turks in the same districts, toleration of their existence there was necessary; their expulsion would have left Macedonia a waste, for there were no Turks to place there. But there came a time when Serbia, Bulgaria and Greece felt themselves strong enough in union to throw off Turkish rule over that part of the Balkan peninsula which was filled with a population united to them respectively by ties of religion, of sentiment, and to a certain extent of race. The young Balkan nations expanded at Turkish expense and divided up old Macedonia and Thrace; the Turks were thus driven almost completely out of Europe and back into their own ancestral home in Asia

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