Today is the Pontian Genocide Remembrance Day, commemorating the events of 1914-1923. It’s estimated that during this period 2.75 million Armenians, Assyrians and Greeks were killed.
Pontian Genocide: forgotten history
Here’s another bit of history we don’t learn in school. According to the Pontian Greek Society of Chicago:
“By 1923, out of an approximate 700,000 Pontian Greeks who lived in Turkey at the beginning of World War I, as many as 350,000 were killed, and almost all the rest had been uprooted during the subsequent forced population exchange between Greece and Turkey. This was the end of one of the ancient Greek civilizations in Asia Minor.”
Survivors were expelled from the area through death marches, which have often been referred to simply as “population exchange”. This ethnic cleansing of Asia Minor is often forgotten, and not included in history books. The stories are horrific and painful, but we must tell them. These are important lessons to learn, because when we don’t learn them, history repeats itself.
Brief history of the Pontian Genocide
The Pontian Greek Society of Chicago “Xeniteas” created this excellent piece, giving an overview of the events. Click on the image below to read the important details.
In 1994, the Greek government selected this day to commemorate this dark period in history. Memorial services have taken place around the world.
Video from the Asia Minor and Pontos Hellenic Resource Center
About Pontian Greeks
According to the Pontian Greek Society, the Pontian Greeks are descendants of the Hellenic people who colonized the northeast region of Asia Minor on the Black Sea, known as Pontos. This community thrived in this area of modern-day Turkey, from 8th century BC. The Pontians established trade routes, developed mining industries, and produced scholars and leaders. The Greek Orthodox civilization of Pontos came to an end in 1923 when the Greeks of Asia Minor were expelled from their homes.
Groups like Chicago’s Pontian Greek Society, founded in 1977, strive to keep the memory, history, and customs of the Pontian Greek alive. These groups are largely responsible for the dissemination of the information that is now available, and for the preservation and proliferation of the Pontian cultural heritage. There are several such organizations in the U.S., all working diligently to be sure these lessons — and those who perished — are not forgotten.
The Asia Minor and Pontos Hellenic Research Center (AMPHRC) is an important historical society. The not-for-profit organization was founded in January 2011, to “document and disseminate information about the Greek communities of the later Ottoman empire, and study the expulsion of expulsion of the Greeks from their ancestral homelands in Asia Minor (or Anatolia), Eastern Thrace, and Pontos.” A wealth of information is available on the site. Take a look at the site, and support them in their efforts to keep this history alive, and to get it into the history books.
Lessons important today
Every citizen of this world needs to learn about the Pontian Genocide. The lessons have not been learned and therefore have not heeded. We have seen over and over that if we don’t learn history and its lessons, it will repeat itself. Let’s pray that this does not happen. May the memories of all those who perished in this dark period in history, be eternal.