Pontus (Gr: Πόντος) is the name of an historic region situated on the Turkish Black Sea coast and was home to a large Greek population. Prior to the genocide these Greeks self-identified as Romaioi (Gr: Ῥωμαῖοι) or Rûm, in other words descendants of the Eastern Roman (or Byzantine) Empire. Today they are often referred to as Pontic Greeks or Pontians. Pontus is a region of Asia Minor.
According to the Greek Patriarchate statistics of 1912, the Greek population of Pontus was 400,586.1 The Ottoman census of 1914 recorded the Greek population at 362,000.2 In a memorandum signed in February 1919 and presented to the Paris Peace Conference, a Greek delegation calling for the self-determination of Pontus stated that the pre-genocide Greek population of Pontus was 700,000.3 However, since this figure was made by a Greek delegation making territorial claims, and since the figure differed markedly with most other accounts, a more likely pre-genocide Greek population for the Pontus region would be a figure not exceeding 500,000.
During the Greek Genocide
Like other regions within Ottoman Turkey, the Greeks of Pontus were subjected to a genocidal campaign. The Austrian Ambassador of Constantinople, Markgraf Johann Pallavicini, described the events in and around Samsun in December 1916 as follows:
"11 December 1916: Five Greek villages were pillaged and then burnt. Their inhabitants were deported. 12 December 1916: In the outskirts of the city more villages are burnt. 14 December 1916: Entire villages including schools and the churches are set on fire. 17 December 1916: In the district of Samsoun they burnt eleven villages. The pillaging continues. The village inhabitants are ill-treated. 31 December 1916: Approximately 18 villages were completely burnt down, 15 partially. Around 60 women were raped. Even churches are plundered."4
On 29 December 1918, the Archbishop of Amasya and Samsun, Germanos, wrote:
"Towards the middle of December, 1916, began the deportations from Amissos (Samsoun). First of all the army reduced to ashes all the region round about... A large number of women and children were killed, the young girls of the nation outraged, and immediately driven into the Interior... The majority of course died on the road and none of the dead at all being buried, vultures and dogs feasted on human flesh.. Believe me... that out of 160,000 people of Pontus deported, only a tenth and in some places a twentieth have survived. In a village, for example, that counted 100 inhabitants, five only will ever return; the others are dead. Rare indeed are those happy villages where a tenth of the deported population has been saved."5
According to figures compiled by the Greek Patriarchate in Constantinople, by 1918 257,019 Greeks from the Pontus region of Asia Minor had been deported to the interior.6 At the end of 1921, some Greek sources placed the Pontus death toll at 303,238.7
Death toll in the Pontus region according to ecclesiastical provinces.
Source: Central Council of Pontus, The Black Book: The Tragedy of Pontus 1914-1922. Athens 1922, p. 19.
At times, the Greeks of Pontus took up arms in acts of self defense to resist the massacres being perpetrated against them. In this respect, Pontus makes an interesting case study of the Greek Genocide much like the resistance demonstrated at Van by Armenians during the Armenian Genocide.
Only 182,169 Greeks of Pontus were ever recorded as having reached Greece.8 In 1925 George K. Valavanis wrote:
".. the total human loss of Pontians from the [beginning] of the General [Great] War until March 1924 can be estimated at three hundred and fifty three thousand [353,000] [persons], murdered, hanged and dead through punishment, illness and privations." 9
However, if one gives consideration to the various estimates for the region's pre-war population and the migration of Pontians into both Russian territory and Greece, it is clear that Pontian deaths are unlikely to have ever reached such a figure. A more reasonable estimate might be 250,000 which indicates that approximately 50% of the total population was killed.
* Note: There are no accurate statistics for the population of Greeks in the Ottoman Empire. Figures compiled by Ottoman authorities are deemed unreliable, in particular for Ottoman Greeks who tended to avoid registering with Muslim authorities to avoid military service and minimize their taxes. Likewise, Ottoman Greeks avoided registering with Greek authorities fearing the Ottoman authorities would get hold of the records and use them as evidence to increase their taxes or draft them in the army.
1. Kitromilides, M and Alexandris, A, Ethnic Survival. Nationalism and Forced Migration. Deltiou Kentrou Mikrasitikon Spoudon, Athens 1984, Volume 5, p. 27.
2. Proportions des populations musulmanes, grecques et arméniennes en Asie Mineure d'après la statistique officielle de 1914
3. Socrate Oeconomos, The National Delegation of the Euxine Pontus, Memorandum submitted to the Peace Conference. London, February 1919.
4. Wien Haus-, Hof- und Staatsarchiv, PA, Türkei XII, Liasse 467 LIV, Griechenverfolgungen in der Türkei 1916- 1918, ZI. 97/pol., Konstantinopel (19.1.1916), (2.1.1917).
5. Karavangelis, Germanos, The Turkish Atrocities in the Black Sea Territories: Copy of Letter of His Grace Germanos, Lord Archbishop of Amassia and Samsoun, Delegation of the Pan-Pontic Congress, Norbury, Natzio & Co. Ltd, 1919, pp. 3-6.
6. Mavri Vivlos, Diogmon ke Martirion tou en Turkia Ellinismou (1914-1918). Constantinople 1919, pp. 409-413.
7. Black Book: The Tragedy of Pontus, Athens 1922, p. 19.
8. Statistical Results from the Greek Census of 15-16 May 1928: The Real Population of Refugees. Ministry of Economics, Hellenic Republic, p. 411.
9. Giorgios K. Valavanis, Sinchroni Yeniki Istoria tou Pontou. Kyriakidis Brothers, Thessaloniki 1986, p. 24.
Τον Απρίλιο του 2019, τρεις μήνες πριν τις εθνικές εκλογές στην Ελλάδα, ο τότε αρχηγός της αξιωματικής αντιπολίτευσης Κυριάκος Μητσοτάκης συναντήθηκε με εκπροσώπους του Ποντιακού λόμπι στην Ελλάδα. Από τη συνάντηση αυτή και μετά ο νεοεκλεγείς Έλληνας Πρωθυπουργός κ. Μητσοτάκης, όπως και ο τότε Πρόεδρος της Δημοκρατίας κ. Προκόπης Παυλόπουλος, διαρκώς δηλώνουν ότι θα στηρίξουν την παγκόσμια αναγνώριση αποκλειστικά και μόνο της γενοκτονίας των Ελλήνων του Πόντου. Ωστόσο οι Έλληνες του Πόντου δεν ήταν τα μοναδικά θύματα της Γενοκτονίας των Ελλήνων της Ανατολής. Θύματα της Γενοκτονίας υπήρξαν πολλοί Έλληνες από διάφορες περιοχές. Η επιδίωξη της μερικής αναγνώρισης μιας Γενοκτονίας είναι παράλογη και στέλνει λάθος μήνυμα. Σας παρακαλούμε διαβάστε την παρακάτω επιστολή μας. Εάν συμφωνείτε με τη γνώμη μας, αποστείλετε ηλεκτρονικά την επιστολή στη νεοεκλεγείσα Πρόεδρο της Δημοκρατίας και τον Πρωθυπουργό της Ελλάδας χρησιμοποιώντας τα email που δίδονται. Επίσης σκεφτείτε να την αποστείλετε στην Παμποντιακή Ομοσπονδία Ελλάδος, στην εφημερίδα ekathimerini και όπου αλλού θεωρείτε κατάλληλο.
Κάνετε Αντιγραφή και Επικόλληση της παρακάτω επιστολής μας και αποστείλετε την προς:
Επίσης αποστείλετε την επιστολή διαμαρτυρίας στην τοπική κοινότητα και εφημερίδα σας ώστε να ενημερωθεί και να ευαισθητοποιηθεί ο κόσμος
Θέμα: Κυρία Πρόεδρε και κύριε Πρωθυπουργέ – Όλα τα Θύματα της Γενοκτονίας των Ελλήνων της Ανατολής έχουν Δικαίωμα στην Αναγνώριση
Αγαπητή Κυρία Πρόεδρε και Κύριε Πρωθυπουργέ,
Σας στέλνω αυτή την επιστολή εκφράζοντας τη δυσαρέσκεια μου για τη στάση της Ελλάδος στο θέμα της Γενοκτονίας των Ελλήνων της Ανατολής. Τους τελευταίους 12 μήνες, ο νυν Πρωθυπουργός και ο πρώην Πρόεδρος έχουν και οι δυο δηλώσει ότι η Ελλάδα θα στηρίξει τη διεθνή αναγνώριση της γενοκτονίας των Ελλήνων αποκλειστικά και μόνο από την περιοχή του Πόντου. Ωστόσο, οι Έλληνες του Πόντου δεν ήταν τα μόνα θύματα της Γενοκτονίας. Θύματα υπήρξαν επίσης και Έλληνες από πολλές άλλες περιοχές. Για ποιο λόγο λοιπόν επιζητείτε τη διεθνή αναγνώριση αποκλειστικά και μόνο για τη γενοκτονία των Ελλήνων του Πόντου; Δεν είναι απλώς παράλογο και ανιστόρητο, είναι επίσης διχαστικό και άδικο προς όλους τους άλλους Έλληνες-θύματα της γενοκτονίας.
Κυρία Πρόεδρε και κύριε Πρωθυπουργέ, από το 1914 έως το 1923 μεγάλος αριθμός γηγενών Ελλήνων της Οθωμανικής Αυτοκρατορίας υποβλήθηκαν σε ένα κρατικά υποστηριζόμενο σχέδιο εξάλειψης τους, το οποίο πολλοί ιστορικοί και σύγχρονοι γενοκτονολόγοι έχουν επιβεβαιώσει ως πράξη γενοκτονίας. Το 1998, η Βουλή των Ελλήνων υπερψήφισε το νόμο 2645/ 1998 ο οποίος αναγνώριζε ότι οι Έλληνες σε ΌΛΗ τη Μικρά Ασία ήταν θύματα γενοκτονίας. Για ποιον λοιπόν λόγο υποστηρίζετε την παγκόσμια αναγνώριση της γενοκτονίας στην περιοχή του Πόντου μόνο;
Θα ήθελα να σας υπενθυμίσω ότι γενοκτονία είναι μια ειδεχθής πράξη που διαπράττεται εις βάρος μιας εθνοτικής ομάδας. Στην περίπτωση της Γενοκτονίας των Ελλήνων της Ανατολής όλα τα θύματα ήταν Έλληνες, ασχέτως με το σε ποια περιοχή ζούσαν. Η επιδίωξη παγκόσμιας αναγνώρισης για τους Έλληνες μόνο μιας περιοχής στέλνει το λάθος μήνυμα, ένα μήνυμα διχασμού. Οι Έλληνες του Πόντου δεν ήταν ούτε περισσότερο ούτε λιγότερο Έλληνες από τα υπόλοιπα θύματα της Γενοκτονίας. Αντιλαμβάνομαι ότι το Ποντιακό λόμπι συναντήθηκε με τον κ. Μητσοτάκη τον Απρίλιο του 2019, τρεις μήνες πριν τις εθνικές εκλογές, θα ήθελα όμως να πιστεύω ότι η απόφαση σας της στήριξης της διεθνούς αναγνώρισης αποκλειστικά για τους Έλληνες του Πόντου δεν ήταν αποτέλεσμα αυτής της συνάντησης. Η αναγνώριση της γενοκτονίας ανήκει σε ΌΛΑ ΤΑ ΘΥΜΑΤΑ της Γενοκτονίας, όχι μόνο στην ομάδα που ασκεί εντονότερη πίεση μέσω του λόμπι της.
Επιτρέψτε μου να σας θυμίσω επίσης ότι η γενοκτονία είναι η ύψιστη πράξη αποκλεισμού, και για το λόγο αυτό η μνήμη και η αναγνώριση θα έπρεπε να γίνει με τρόπο συμπεριληπτικό. Βασιζόμαστε στους ηγέτες μας ότι θα επιδείξουν δύναμη και θα αποτελέσουν το παράδειγμα για ΌΛΟΥΣ ΤΟΥΣ ΕΛΛΗΝΕΣ. Βασιζόμαστε στους ηγέτες μας ότι θα ενώσουν τους Έλληνες και δεν θα τους χωρίσουν σε ομάδες που αξίζουν την αναγνώριση της γενοκτονίας και σε άλλες που δεν την αξίζουν.
Σας ζητώ με κάθε ευγένεια να σεβαστείτε την ιστορία και να επανεξετάσετε την πολιτική σας σχετικά με την αναγνώριση της Γενοκτονίας των Ελλήνων της Ανατολής. Όλοι οι Έλληνες θύματα της έχουν δικαίωμα στην αναγνώριση. Οτιδήποτε λιγότερο είναι προσβλητικό, διχαστικό και απαράδεκτο.
(εισάγετε το όνομα σας)
Susan Wealthy Orvis (1873-1941) was a U.S missionary who witnessed the persecution of Greeks during the Greek Genocide and provided relief to the survivors. Orvis traveled to Turkey as early as 1902 under the auspices of the American Board of Commissions for Foreign Missions. In 1920, she served as the Director of the Near East Relief Schools in Talas, a district in Caesarea (today Kayseri), a province in the interior of Turkey. In November of 1922, only weeks after the destruction of Smyrna by Kemalist forces, Orvis was coordinating the evacuation of hundreds of orphans from Kayseri to the seacoast when she witnessed native Greeks from Smyrna - mainly women and children - being marched to their death. Orvis said:
I have never in my whole experience in Near East witnessed such human sorrow, distress, death, as caused by this vast flight, which is depopulating one of Turkey's richest provinces. It was like a march of terror.
I brought out the fifteenth and last caravan of orphans from Caesarea, 250 miles inland. First half of journey made in wagons. I traveled on horseback in order better to watch over column. We set out from Caesarea at five, morning. An hour later were in foothills of Mount Argaeus, thirteen thousand feet high, where snow impeded progress. We were marching through historic gates of Cilicia in Taurus mountains when I saw a sight I shall never forget. It was a long thin column of people coming towards us. As they came closer I saw there were a thousand in the line. Ninety-five percent were women, children; remainder old men. Solitary mounted Turkish soldier rode in middle of column.
In answer to my questions my Turkish guide almost startled me with information that they were from Smyrna and were being deported to Caesarea. 'They are being punished', he said, 'for excesses committed by Greek soldiers against our people.'
I knew from their clothing that they had come from another region than the one we were in. Questions revealed awful truth – they had walked from Smyrna, 500 miles away. They had been on road two months, a column of agony. There were three thousands in column when they started. Groups had at intervals been diverted to other roads and many weaker ones had died by roadside. I now recalled village gossip of wholesale deportations after Smyrna disaster. Here it was in its awful reality. Every face bore deathlike pallor. Women carried babies in arms and were stooped from weight of all their possessions on their backs. Majority were barefooted. All were unutterably miserable but bore themselves with remarkable fortitude.
After they passed on I noticed some garments at roadside. No one throws away clothing in the desolate country. Lifting garments I uncovered two little girls about twelve years old. They were white, staring skeletons, so close to death they could not move. They were left for dead by column of agony. We succeeded in reviving them and obtained permission from authorities to place them in our orphan caravan.
After four and a half days we reached Ouloukishla [Ulukışla] on Baghdad railway, where we paid full fare for our children to ride in six inches of snow in open freight cars to Mersine. My last moments in Ouloukishla were devoted to making strongest representations to authorities for protection against soldiers who tried carry off our oldest girls.
An approximate route taken by Susan Wealthy Orvis (in red) during her evacuation of orphans from Kayseri (Gr: Caesarea) to the seacoast, and the deportation route taken by Greeks from Smyrna (in blue).
- They Are Being Punished, The New Near East, Feb 1923, p 12.
- Remembering Susan Wealthy Orvis, Kamo Mailyan, Wendy Elliott, accessed 2/3/2017.
Charles Dexter Morris (1883-1954) was a news editor for the Near East Relief from 1921-1924. He has been credited for taking some of the most recognizable photos depicting the final phase of the Greek Genocide. He was born in Eldred, Pennsylvania and received his early education in Olean, N.Y. He graduated with a B.A at Yale University in 1906 and later took courses in journalism at Columbia University. In 1909 he became city editor of the Associated Press news agency in New York and during the First World War (1914-1918) he was a member of the Associated Press staff in London. For the next three years he was in charge of the news and publicity service of the American Red Cross in London and Paris.
He arrived in Constantinople on Jan 27, 1922 and was the news editor of the Near East Relief Commission in Turkey, Greece and nearby areas up until 1924 when he returned to New York to join the staff of the International New Service. He also wrote articles for The New York Times magazine section, the Saturday Evening Post and other magazines. In 1923, he was awarded the Cross of Saint Xavier by King George of Greece for his work in that country as news director and of the Near East Relief Commission.1 In 1920, he was awarded the order of the third class by King Nicholas of Montenegro for his work in the Red Cross.2
Some of his photos
The photo below originally appeared in the December 1922 issue of the New Near East magazine and has often been used to depict the experience of Greeks during the genocide. The article in question is titled 5,000 Children Trek 500 Miles to Safety and describes the 500 mile pilgrimage of 5,000 children from Near East Relief orphanages in Harput (Turkey) to orphanages in Syria. The same photo also appeared in a November 1925 National Geographic article titled History's Greatest Trek.
Another of his photos depicts a sombre scene following the Smyrna Holocaust in September 1922. The photo shows a group of men being rounded up before being sent to the interior of Turkey. This photo also appeared in the November 1925 issue of National Geographic. It's original cation was: Weeding out Men for Deportation: Smyrna. Beneath the caption, the following text appears: After the fire these unfortunates, being between the age limits of 17 and 45 years, were not permitted to leave Smyrna with their families, but were sent back to the interior of Anatolia.
The photo below was also published in the 1925 National Geographic article and was taken at Patras, Greece. The caption of the photo reads: Samsun Refugees at Patras, Greece, Starting for the Interior. Beneath the title, the following text appears: Many of these Asia Minor refugees from the Black Sea port have found work among the currant vineyards and olive groves of the Peloponnesus, of which Patras, fourth city of Greece, is the chief seaport.
1. The National cyclopædia of American biography. New York, James T. White and Co, 1962, pp. 269-270.
2. Americans Honored by King Nicholas. The Chickasha daily express., February 20, 1920.
Portrait photo source: Find a Grave, accessed 27 March 2020), memorial page for Charles Dexter Morris (1883–1954), Find a Grave Memorial no. 21179369.
Jackie Coogan (1914-1984) was an American actor who was best known for his role as Uncle Fester in the 1960's US television series The Addams Family. At a very young age Coogan became personally involved with the collection of vital supplies for the survivors of the genocide on behalf of the Near East Relief.
In 1921, at the age of 6, Coogan became one of the first child stars after playing alongside Charlie Chaplin in the 1921 silent comedy The Kid. In that same year, he appeared in the July issue of The New Near East magazine (pictured above) where he was seen holding a bundle of clothing. The article describes how Coogan showed concern for the "...million and half people in the Caucasus [who] have no clothes for next winter."
Boy Scouts and child actor Jackie Coogan helping to fill a "million-dollar milk ship" for the Near East Relief. c. 1924.
Coogan went on to influence many throughout the US to donate to the orphans who were suffering as a result of the genocide. In 1922, the Mark Strand Theater in Brooklyn, NY screened the silent comedy drama Trouble starring Jackie Coogan. The price of admission was a bundle of clothing and 3,500 bundles were raised for the Near East Relief.
The Indianapolis Times. March 17, 1924, p.6.
By 1924, Coogan was touring the US where he was received with an ovation in towns he visited. His campaign was often dubbed the Children's Crusade and the goal was to also collect a shipload of food for the orphans in the Near East. With the help of the Boy Scouts of America, cans of milk were collected, packed and delivered to train stations throughout the US. Jackie Coogan's milk train made its way to train stations where he was greeted by Boy Scouts. He managed to raise millions of dollars (in today's terms) of relief material which he personally delivered in Athens, not before stopping off in Rome where he received the blessing of the reigning Pontiff, Pius XI. Coogan was decorated by the Hellenic Government with the Silver Cross of the Order of St. George, given in recognition of his humanitarian work.
The perpetrators of the Greek Genocide were responsible for planning and executing the destruction of Greek communities. They include members of the Committee of Union and Progress Party, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and his nationalist supporters (Kemalists) as well as German military personnel.
A focus on some of the regions affected and other documentary evidence.
Many individuals and organizations provided relief to the victims and survivors of the Greek Genocide. The following are some of the individuals who sometimes risked their lives to provide such care. Please note that this is a new section of the website and is currently being updated.