Scholars Address the Greek Genocide and Diaspora, and Discuss US Foreign Policy
The 3rd annual Academic Conference on the Pontian and Anatolian Greek Genocide, was held on Sat., November 6, at the Westin Hotel in Rosemont, IL. The conference, hosted by the Pontian Greek Society of Chicago, featured five scholars who addressed the events surrounding the first genocide of the 20th Century.
George Shrinian, Executive Director of the International Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies of the Zoryan Institute moderated the conference. In his introductory remarks, Shirinian emphasized how Greeks, Armenians, Assyrians, and other groups that have experienced genocide have much to teach a world that has been unwilling to intervene to prevent such horrific acts, with the result being that genocide and ethnic cleansing still occur today. These violations of human rights cannot be forgotten or overlooked because when any group’s rights are trampled, no one is secure. He urged Greek-Americans to support scholarly research of the Pontian and Anatolian Greek experience since, at present, most research is not funded, either publicly or privately. The papers presented at this conference will be published in an upcoming book to ensure that these original contributions to our understanding of the Greek Genocide, will be available for generations to come.
Tessa Hofmann, PhD, Freie Universität, Berlin, Germany, opened the conference with "The Genocide against the Christians in the Late Ottoman Period 1912-1922." She presented the events that led to the genocide of 3 million Christians, the first time in modern history where a state had turned against its own citizens. Military defeats and reforms imposed by foreign powers proved humiliating to the nationalist self-image of the Turks, while the loss of lands in the Balkans and the presence of Christian minorities were considered threats to the very existence of the crumbling Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman government’s response was to create a Muslim Turkish state by any means necessary, the result of which was the elimination of non-Muslims from the nation.
Alexander Kastrinakis, PhD candidate, Aristotelian University, Thessaloniki, Greece, presented "In Adam’s Exile; the Consequences of an Anticipated Crime and the Idealized Search for Greece." The exodus from ancestral lands was examined through the experiences of a Pontian family from Trebizond. The family left Pontos for Odessa in the Ukraine, relocated to Jerusalem in what was then Palestine, and finally immigrated to Greece. Mr Kastrinakis examined the state terrorism of the late 19th Century that culminated in 1918 with the Kemalist campaign to deprive the last Christians of their citizenship.
Harry Psomiades, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Queens College and the Graduate School of the City University of New York, presented "Greece in Asia Minor; the Greek Naval Bombardment of Samsun, June 7, 1922." In the year prior to the bombardment, the Allied Powers had deprived Greece of its belligerent rights under International Maritime Law to blockade an enemy port. The bombardment did not stop the flow of war materials to the Kemalists, who then declared the Pontos a war zone and increased their massacre of the Greek inhabitants.
William Samonides, PhD, Historian and Professor Emeritus of Harvard University, presented "Where Did Everybody Go? The Diaspora of Asia Minor Hellenes in the early 20th Century." Those who left first went primarily to Greece and Russia. Many Asia Minor Greeks also immigrated to the United States, Canada, Germany, and Australia. To this day, there remains a Greek-speaking population in the Pontus region, that practices the Muslim faith. Samonides defined the features of the five types of diaspora and discussed the changes in US immigration policies that imposed a 100 person per year quota on immigrants from Asia Minor following World War I that was not lifted until after World War II.
The conference’s final presentation was by Robert J. Pranger, PhD, a private consultant with extensive experience in public policy with the Department of State and Department of Defense in Washington, DC. His paper "US Policy Obstacles in Recognizing the Genocides of Christian Minorities in the Late Ottoman Empire: Challenges and Opportunities" gave extensive examples of how Turkey has played a central role in the Middle Eastern foreign policy of the US and Europe. Because Turkey is a valued ally, it has been able to advance its version of events and quash any official accusations of its participation in the genocide of its Christian citizens.
Historians and students understand the power in studying history. Ron Levitsky, retired middle school social studies teacher, reminded the audience that history shapes today’s world for good or ill. The democratic governments that profit from political and business alliances with Turkey have supported revisionist history and denial by Turkey of its role in the genocide of Greeks, Armenians, and Assyrians.
Each year, the Pontian Greek Society of Chicago continues its efforts to inform the general public about the Greek Genocide. The Society’s activities include hosting conferences, participating in educational workshops, and re-printing books related to the Greek experience in Asia Minor during the first quarter of the 20th century. Information for these and other events is posted in the Upcoming Events section of the Society website: www.pontiangreeks.org. For more information, contact George Mavropoulos at (630) 303-4361 or by email at