One of the frequent commenters lately on MGO is Stavros Stavridis. Mr. Stavridis has graciously consented to allow me to post two articles that pertain to the Asia Minor Catastrophe, a cataclysmic event in modern Greek history briefly covered by my posts here, here and here. Understanding Greek history is essential in order to appreciate the forces that have shaped the Greek psyche. We can't know where we are going unless we realize where we have been. Historians play a crucial role in the process.
Stavros Terry Stavridis was born in Cairo, Egypt in 1949 of Greek parents. He migrated to Australia with his parents in September 1952. Stavros has a Bachelor of Arts (B.A) in Political Science/Economic History and B.A (Hons) in European History from Deakin University and M.A in Greek/Australian History from RMIT University. His MA thesis is titled "The Greek-Turkish war 1919-23: an Australian press perspective."
Mr. Stavridis has nearly 20 years of teaching experience, lecturing at University and TAFE
(Technical and Further Education, the equivalent of Community College in the US) levels. He has presented papers at International Conferences in Australia and USA and has also given public lectures both in Australia and US West Coast. Many of his articles have appeared in the Greek-American press. He currently works as a historical/researcher at the National Center for Hellenic Studies and Research, Latrobe University, Bundoora, Victoria, Australia. Please check its website: www.latrobe.edu.au/nhc
His research interests include the Asia Minor campaign and disaster, Middle East History, the Assyrian and Armenian genocides, Greece in Balkan Wars 1912-13 and First World War and history in general. The following post was published in "A Greek Mikrasiatic State" - Neos Kosmos September 8, 1997 (Melbourne Australia) & Greek American Review January 1999.
A GREEK MIKRASIATIC STATE
The idea of a separatist Greek state in Anatolia, instigated by Venizelists military officers, had its origins with the return of King Constantine to the Greek throne in December 1920. This unofficial movement, also known as the Committee of National Defence (Amyna), revealed the sharp divisions existing in Greek society between the Venizelists and Royalists. Without the support of the Royalist administration in Athens, its chance for survival was negligible.
In late November 1920, some 150-250 Venizelists officers who had resigned their commissions in the Greek army established the Amyna movement in Constantinople. This movement having no formal organisation was split into a military and civilian arm. The latter included the prominent Greek middle class of Constantinople society: doctors, lawyers and wealthy merchants and the Patriarchate who were staunchly Venizelist in sympathy. Colonel Kondylis and Pericles Argyropoulos, a Liberal politician, were the main leaders of the Constantinople Amyna.
With the Greek army failing to occupy Angora (Ankara) in September 1921, a Mikrasiatic Amyna, was established in Smyrna in October 1921 involving the middle class of that city. Like their Constantinople counterparts, they believed the Greek government was about to evacuate its army from Smyrna, leaving the Christians to their own fate. They wanted to create an independent Greek state and defend it with a volunteer army. Amyna sought the support of Sterghiadis and General Papoulas, the Commander-in-Chief of the Greek army in Asia Minor, to give their movement some legitimacy, in their quest to establish a separatist state in late 1921. Without the endorsement of these 2 prominent individuals, the survival of Amyna was questionable. Sterghiadis dismissed Amyna's approaches out of hand. He believed an autonomous Asia Minor would not enjoy the financial support of the Greek Government and was bound to create divisions within the Greek army. Besides Sterghiadis authoritarian demeanour would have found Amyna an aggravation and a threat to his dictatorial rule in Smyrna.
In late December 1921, Dr Siotis , a prominent member of Constantinople Amyna, approached Papoulas seeking his support. The latter indicated that he couldn't act without the authority of the Greek Government. Although, Papoulas seemed interested. Contact with Papoulas was resumed in early February 1922, when Siotis visiting Smyrna brought with him a long memorandum prepared by Constantinople Amyna for Papoulas to read. This memorandum mentioned that Venizelos should represent the new Mikrasiatic State in London. Wishing to keep his options open, Papoulas dispatched Siotis and Col. Sarayiannis of his staff to approach the Athens government. The Greek Government was disinterested in an unofficial organisation and exhorted all Greeks wishing to contribute to the struggle by either enlisting or donating money.
Amyna approached Venizelos for his advice in March 1922. His recommendations involved three elements. Firstly, the establishment of a provisional administration and the appeal to the Greek army to aid in the struggle should be delayed until the time when old Greece recalled the Greek functionaries and the army. Secondly, the new regime should launch its own State Bank by issuing its own bank notes . Laying its hands on the income of the Ottoman Public Debt and Regie des tabacs (French Tobacco) was bound to affect important Allied interests. On political leadership, Venizelos endorsed Sterghiadis as the most appropriate individual to head the new state. Otherwise, it would be a lost cause. Sterghiadis was experienced in dealing with issues of diplomacy, civil administration and had good rapport with the Turks.
With the conclusion of the Allied Conference on 22-26 March, 1922, the Greeks had intimated its acceptance of the armistice , which would have led to an eventual evacuation of its army from Asia Minor and Smyrna reverting back to Turkish rule. On March 31, Gounaris and Theotokis met with Papoulas and Siotis in Athens. Gounaris told them that an Ionian state had no prospect of surviving without the assistance of Athens and rejected their diplomatic, economic and strategic pretensions. The Greek Government would withdraw its army , under the cover of a general peace settlement which included guarantees for minorities.
Returning to Smyrna, a letter was waiting for Papoulas indicating Amyna's negotiations with Venizelos. It roused Papoulas to action with promising reports of British support. Sir John Stavridis, the ex-Greek Consul in London 1903-20 and a personal friend of Lloyd George, with Harold Nicolson in attendance telephoned General Frantzis , a member of Amyna, who was
leaving London. Frantzis was to tell Papoulas and the Patriarchate that the British Government strongly disapproved of Amyna. Papoulas never welcomedVenizelos's support and finally realised that he had been duped by Amyna. The real intentions of the movement aimed against the Greek Government were, finally, exposed in Papoulas's own mind. His stance towards Amyna changed and with his subsequent resignation in May 1922 , the future of the movement looked doubtful. To compound Amyna's problems, Sterghiadis was given a free hand by the Greek Government to deal with them as he saw fit.
In the summer of 1922,Venizelos made an effort to moderate Sterghiadis's hostility towards Amyna. He dispatched 2 of his supporters G. Exindaris and D. Lambrakis to visit Sterghiadis. Nothing emerged from the 2 meetings. Exindaris reported that the heavy strain of administration had made Sterghiadis a very nervous person and that the confidence and respect of the liberals for him had been succeeded by animosity and mistrust. In the end, the Amyna movement collapsed.
On June 28, 1922 Sterghiadis and Hadjianestis, the new Commander-in-Chief of the Greek army in Asia Minor, came to Athens to confer with the Government regarding the situation in Anatolia. The morale was low in the Greek army and the Government faced serious economic and financial problems. It could not maintain its army indefinitely in Asia Minor. Lindley, the British Minister at Athens, informed Lord Balfour, the acting British Foreign Secretary, that the ground was being prepared to persuade the Greek public that Asia Minor is of secondary importance from the national point of view and that the future of Greece lies in Europe.Equally Greek press reports were highlighting the importance of Macedonia, Epirus and Thrace to national security. The Greek public was being primed for an eventual troop withdrawal from Asia Minor.
Sterghiadis proclaimed, officially, the autonomy of Smyrna on July 30, 1922. The Turks and the Entente Powers: Great Britain, France and Italy condemned the Greek Government's action in declaring Smyrna into an autonomous territory. In fact, the Greek measure was declared to be illegal by the Ottoman Government. The Entente informed the Greek Government that a final settlement on Smyrna was matter to be decided by it and Turkey. On August 26, the Kemalists launched their final offensive on Greek positions, leading to the latter's evacuation of their army from Asia Minor in early September 1922. Mustapha Kemal's army entered the city of Smyrna on September 9, 1922 thus ending 3 millennia of Hellenic civilisation in Asia Minor.