Greek Genocide

The Greek Genocide was orchestrated by the Ottoman Turkish state to destroy the indigenous Greek populations of eastern Thrace and Anatolia (present day Turkey) between 1914 and 1924. By its conclusion, almost 3,000,000 Greeks had been murdered, forced to flee beyond Turkish control or forcibly Islamised. By the mid-1920s, the living Christian Greek presence in Anatolia had been virtually extinguished. See also

The Greek Genocide began with a series of pogroms in eastern Thrace and the Aegean coast of Anatolia (present day Turkey) beginning in January 1914 when the Ottoman Turkish government declared that only those Greeks who became Muslims would be allowed to remain in Thrace.

As a result, by late April, 40,000 Greeks had already been deprived of their property, and driven out of Thracian towns. Destitute and homeless, this Greek population sought sanctuary in the newly-liberated Macedonia.

With the outbreak of World War One, the campaign to terrorise and expel the Greeks of the Ottoman Empire became genocidal. Deportations and massacres of Greek men, women and children swept the Empire from west to east. Amongst the earliest victims were the Greek populations on the Gallipoli Peninsula. .

By 1916, with the majority of the Armenian and Assyrian population dead or in exile, the Greeks of Pontus (southern coast of the Black Sea) were targeted. Following the pattern established during the Armenian and Assyrian Genocides, the elderly, women and children were sent on deportations towards the deserts of Syria. Victims perished by the thousand due to hunger, thirst, exhaustion, exposure and the violence of Ottoman soldiers.

The collapse of the Ottoman Turkish Empire in October 1918 brought a brief respite. The arrival of the Greek Army at the Aegean port of Smyrna (present day Izmir) in May 1919 brought the hope of deliverance from years of persecution. The rise of the Kemalist Turkish movement, however, put these hopes to rest. In the parts of Anatolia under Turkish control, the massacres of Greeks, Armenians and Assyrians recommenced.

At the end of a bloody war between the Greek Army and the Kemalists in September 1922, Smyrna (present day Izmir) was torched by the advancing Turkish troops. Described by media outlets of the time as a holocaust, the fire consumed the entire city apart from the Turkish Muslim Quarter.

With all of Anatolia under their control, the government of Mustafa Kemal decided to rid Turkey of all Christians ordering the expulsion of all remaining Christian Greeks, Armenians and Assyrians from his jurisdiction. The exchange of Greco-Turkish populations forced the Greek genocide survivors to abandon their homes forever. This humanitarian catastrophe sparked international relief aid on a previously unprecedented scale, including from Australia.


Recommended Reading

Article by Australian Historian Dr John Williams on the Greek Genocide in one of Australia's leading general intellectual journals of historical and political debates - Quadrant Magazine.

Williams, John, 'The Ethnic Cleansing of Greeks from Gallipoli April 1915', Quadrant Online, April 2013.

Student Exercise: Students are encouraged to conduct an independent search of Australian press coverage during the Greek Genocide using Australian archival databases.

Go to and follow the research instructions under the National Library of Australia section. Place the words "Greek massacres" in the key word search.