Ethnic Cleansing in Asia Minor and the Treaty of Lausanne

By Kaloudis, George | International Journal on World Peace, March 2014 | Go to article overview

Ethnic Cleansing in Asia Minor and the Treaty of Lausanne


Kaloudis, George, International Journal on World Peace


The Greek political landscape, from the beginning of World War I, was characterized "by a mixture of conflicting foreign policy objectives, fundamental constitutional controversies, personality clashes, and sheer emotionalism. Its chief protagonists were two strong-willed men engaged in a power duel accentuated by different perceptions of the national interest: King Constantine I, and Eleftherios Venizelos, the country's Prime Minister and its most powerful political personality."1 The relationship between these two men was of paramount importance in regards to two of the most significant events in modern Greek history, the Ethnikos Dikhasmos or National Schism and the Ethnike Katastrophe or National Catastrophe. What followed these events affected not only Greece, but Turkey and the international community as well.

While King Constantine wished for Greece to remain neutral during World War I, Prime Minister Venizelos wished to enter the war on the side of the Allies; and to enter the war as soon as possible. King Constantine did not agree with the Prime Minister and did not share his confidence in an Allied victory. The King believed that neutrality would best serve the interests of Greece. There was strength to the arguments made by both men. When Venizelos attempted to secure the King's consent for Greece to participate in the Gallipoli campaign on the side of the Entente, the two leaders disagreed so violently the King dismissed the Prime Minister despite the large majority held in parliament by Venizelos' Liberal Party. Venizelos was reelected the same year and this time he convinced the King to allow English and French troops on Greek territory to protect Serbia. Allied troops landed in Thessaloniki. Shortly thereafter the King's sympathy toward Germany re-surfaced and Constantine forced the Prime Minister to resign in 1915. "The stage was set and the lights dimmed for the drama of the long struggle between the two men which was to plunge the monarchy and the 'constitutional question' of the [KJing's powers into the political arena until they became the chief cause of dispute between political parties for many years and finally affected the whole Greece's political life."2

Prime Minister Venizelos argued that the King had exceeded the powers afforded to him by the constitution. In accordance with the 1864 constitution and its 1911 modified version, King Constantine was given a lifelong tenure and was to exercise only the powers conferred upon him by the constitution. But the constitution did not make it clear if the King, in the exercise of his right to appoint and dismiss ministers, had the power to dismiss a prime minister whose party had the majority in parliament and do it twice during the same year (1915). The King's actions gave the Entente as guaranteeing powers an excuse to intervene in the affairs of Greece, and Venizelos a cause for making a revolutionary move. In 1916 the Allies flagrantly interfered in the domestic affairs of Greece. They demanded a new Greek government, the dissolution of parliament, and the demobilization of the Greek army. In October of the same year Venizelos established a rival provisional government in Thessaloniki. Now Greece had two governments, one in Athens and the other in Thessaloniki. The Allies imposed a blockade against areas controlled by the royalists and demanded the King's abdication.

Even though the King did not formally abdicate, he left Greece in 1917 and chose his second son, Alexander, to succeed him, which made it possible for Venizelos to return to Athens. Venizelos was now free to join the Allied cause and Greece entered the war on June 29, 1917. The conflict between Constantine and Venizelos involved much of the Greek population. Venizelists who lived in areas under royal control were harassed and purged from civil service and government. The Archbishop of Athens pronounced an anathema on Venizelos and his supporters. When Venizelos returned to Athens as the Prime Minister of the entire country, the purges committed by the royalists were now matched by the Venizelists themselves. …

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