Academic journal article Review of European Studies

Greeks' Identities in Smyrna, 19th - 20th Century Local and Global Parameters

Academic journal article Review of European Studies

Greeks' Identities in Smyrna, 19th - 20th Century Local and Global Parameters

Article excerpt


In this research we pose an historic question about the Greek identities that have been grown and excelled in Smyrna, in the late of 19th-20th century. The basic elements for the construction of the Greek identity were the orthodox Christian religion, the language, the origins from ancient times, and the education. The awakening of the Greek national consciousness in the years of the Ottoman Rule relied mainly on the use of the Greek language, as it was grow, secretly or openly, by the church.

The historical context refers to the 19th and the 20th century and we focus on the construction of the Greek Identities. The specific historic place is Smyra.

The methodology that we use is the historic qualitative analysis of historic archives. We assume that the factors that compromise the Greek identity come from the religion, the education, the ethnicity, the culture, the citizenship, the locality and the relations with the other population they lived with.

Keywords: nationality, identities, citizenship

1. Introduction

The identity of the Greeks of Smyrna (Ismir) is studied through the contrast of the image they had of themselves versus the one they had about the Ottomans, Europeans and other nationalities living in Smyrna in the late of 19th-20th century. The historical era in this issue refers to the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, the decisions of the Young Turks and the Kemalist governments for radical changes in order to create a net national Turkish state in 1922, until the violent expulsion of the Greek population from Asia Minor.

Smyrna was a city on the shores of western Asia Minor, which, since the 18th century, was the most important commercial port in the East. From there, in the early 20th, materials for industrial textiles (wool, cotton, silk) and agricultural products (cereals, raisins, figs, tobacco) were exported to the West Raw, worth more than 135.000.000 francs. At the same time there were imported goods worth more than 120.000.000 (Issawi, 1980: 188; Kontogiannis, 1995: 302-304). The growth has brought diverse populations in the region, resulting Smyrna, in the early 20th century, to become a multicultural society with Greeks, Ottomans, Armenians, Jews, Europeans and Levantines (Notaras, 1972: 13, 23). In that society Greeks had the dominant position, both in a demographic and economic level (Panayotopoulos, 1983: 87-128).

The Ottomans' tolerance of the monotheistic religions, in specific of the peoples of the Bible, as Christians and Jews, in accordance with the paragraph of the Koran (Bostom (ed.) 2005: 226; Kitromilidis, 1971: 327), gave privileges to the Greeks of the Ottoman Empire and did not prevent Greeks to organize Greek communities and local dioceses. The Ottoman system of organization, since the 15th century, was the "millet" system, which differentiated the religious communities and accepted the Greek Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Cathedrals and the Elders of the Greek communities, as leaders of the Greek Communities who together promoted the religious, educational and social autonomy of the Greeks (Kitromilidis, 1983: 34). Their main task was to maintain the educational institutions, the church funds, and the income from bequests and real estate, which belonged to schools or churches (Vakalopoulos, 1998: 323-324).

The millet repealed by the proclamation of the Tanzimat reform decree, Hatti-Sheriff (1839) and Hatti-Humayun (1856) (Inalcik, 1978: 616; Inalcik, 1964: 56-57, 60-62; Lewis, 1963: 109-113; Davison, 1963: 413). Tliese reformations gave the rights of equality to all the peoples of the Ottoman Empire. Although they removed the Patriarchate's benefits, arising from the Orthodox Christian religion, they allowed the creation of Greek Societies and educational, musicians, gymnasts, religious Fraternities. The "Hellenic Literary Society of Istanbul", the "Ministry of Education of the unredeemed Hellenism", as featured (Stavrou, 1967: 320; Mamoni, 1983-1: 291), took the responsibilities of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. …

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