Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew: "Today marks the 65th anniversary of that tragic night of September 6-7, 1955, when barbarism destroyed homes, shops, churches, and law-abiding and innocent people. Even their cemeteries were desecrated, and the mob disrespected our dead. There was no trace of culture, no trace of sensitivity.”
65 years ago, the Turkish state organized and directed the destruction, by a Turkish mob, of the Hellenism of the city of Constantinople. Not even the Patriarchate itself was respected. The photograph of Patriarch Athenagoras – formerly Archbishop of America – amid the ruins of a church, by the heroic photographer Dimitris Kaloumenos – is one of the most tragic and important photographs in the modern history of Hellenism.
After that, many Greeks of the city left, but a small number of impressive Hellenes stayed behind.
These facts and events are of paramount importance in and of themselves, but they also have a broader meaning. They are a part of an older, longer story. They are the continuation – but also the tragic new beginning – of an old Turkish strategy of targeting the Christian minorities (mainly the Greeks) and Greece itself.
Between 1894 and 1924, from the reign of Sultan Abdul Hamid to the regime of Kemal Ataturk, Turkey's policy towards the Christian population was unchanging. After three waves of brutality, Turkey’s Christian population – Greeks, Armenians, Assyrians – was reduced from 20% to 2%. Yes, ethnic cleansing was a consistent policy of the Turkish state, regardless of the country's ruler.
This historical truth was proven beyond any doubt by the book of two Israeli researchers, who based their findings on Turkish (and other) archives, entitled The Thirty-Year Genocide: Turkey’s Destruction of its Christian Minorities 1894-1925 by Benny Morris and Dror Ze'evi.
As far as I am concerned, it is in this light that the horrific days of September 6-7, 1955 should be analyzed. They illustrate the fact that the Turkish government’s actions were part of the implementation of the continuous policy of gradual decimation of the Greek Christian population.
Islam does not always tolerate Christianity.
That topic was proven thanks to another classic book by the great Byzantine scholar Spyros Vryonis, Jr: “The Mechanism of Catastrophe, the Turkish pogrom of September 6-7, 1955 and the Destruction of the Greek Community of Istanbul,” which shows beyond any doubt that the pogrom was organized and directed by the Turkish State.
This was the end of one policy – completed almost a century after its beginning – and the start of another one that is unfolding to this day.
By 1974, Turkey began adopting an aggressive policy of reclaiming "its territories" outside its borders, from the Evros river frontier to Cyprus. A sort of “Megali Idea" for Erdogan.
The basic premise of this policy is the belief that the lands “belong” to them, that they are "theirs," that they were part of their empire and that they lost them unjustly, due to the bad foreigners who supported the Greek state – forgetting, of course, that the Treaty of Lausanne concluded a war that the Turks had won and was an agreement they were very pleased with at the time.
To this end, they take continuous and steady steps – constantly making claims on territories in various ways, until these ‘issues’ that they created become a basis for ‘negotiations.’ Thus, eventually, the Turks are bound to gain something.
They claim our islands with the ‘logic’ that they are close to them. They claim Thrace because there is a Muslim minority that they have been inciting for years with money, scholarships, and television propaganda.
They understand only one thing: power. Nothing else. Unfortunately, for decades the Greek state followed demagogic policies that weakened it. They even bought defective submarines – they leaned to one side – in deals that enriched top government officials.
Fortunately, now, despite the adverse conditions of the Coronavirus and the economic crisis, Greece is taking care to strengthen both its alliances and its armed forces.
That is the only response to their threats that the Turks can understand.