Various events took place in Athens during the memory of the Greek Pontic genocide by the Ottoman Empire under Turkish leader Mustafa Kemal during World War I. The aftermath of 1914–1923, claimed about 200,000 to 250,000 deaths and is commemorated each year on May 19.
The systematic ethnic cleansing of the Greek Pontic population residing in Asia Minor, central Anatolia, Pontus, and the former Russian Caucasus province was part of a wider Ottoman plan to annihilate the Christian population living within Turkey, including Greeks, Syrians and Armenians.
Among the leading reasons for the mass extinction was the fear that the minority population would aid the Ottoman Empire’s enemies, and a belief among nationalist Turks that in order to form a modern nation it was necessary to free Turkish territories from all ethnic minority groups that could threaten the integrity of a modern Turkish Islamist nation.
The Ottomans foremost feared the Pontic population not only because of their rapidly growing numbers that had reached 700,000 by the early 20th century, but also because of the minority’s cultural and economic growth. Cities like Samsous, Trapezous and Kerasous displayed a remarkable growth with dozens of schools, newspapers, theaters and other amenities.
The rise of the Young Turks movement, however, would put a brutal end to the thriving Greek community of the area. While the Greek state was busy solving internal political and territorial disputes and in no position to open new fronts with Turkey, the Pontic population, as well as many Greeks across Asia Minor, were dislocated and systematically exterminated.
The few Pontic resistance groups were completely crushed by joint German, Russian and Ottoman forces, and by the time the Asia Minor catastrophe reached its peak in 1922, more than 250,000 Pontic Greeks had already lost their lives in concentration camps. Of the survivors, the majority were transferred to Greece following the 1919-22 Greco-Turkish war, thus almost eliminating the Pontus area of its Greek ethnic presence.
Until today, the Greek genocide in Pontus has received limited recognition.
The Turkish state also follows a direct political line of denialism, declining to recognize any genocides taking place by the Turkish government and its officials, including the widely acknowledged Armenian and Assyrian genocides.
PM Tsipras: The memory of the genocide of Pontic Greeks will always be alive
“The historical memory of the Genocide of the Pontic Greeks will always be alive,” Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras posted on Friday, in a message on Twitter marking Pontic Greek Genocide Remembrance Day on May 19.
“The 19th of May is a day to respect and honor Pontic Greeks. It is also a constant reminder that the people have an obligation to put intolerance behind them, establishing ties of friendship and mutual respect,” he said.