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Forced Migration as Nation-Building: The League of Nations, Minority Protection, and the Greek-Turkish Population Exchange

In: Journal of the History of International Law / Revue d'histoire du droit international
Author: Sarah Shields1
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* I am grateful to editors Umut Özsu and Thomas Skouteris, and to the anonymous reviewers, for their very helpful suggestions. Unless otherwise indicated, all translations are mine.

<bold>1 Introduction</bold>

Although the two League of Nations projects worked at cross purposes, both aimed to accomplish the same objective: protecting minorities in the lands of the recently defeated Ottoman Empire. The provisions for protecting minorities that were included in the peace treaty with Turkey in July 1923 sought to guarantee special rights to religious, linguistic, and national minorities in former Ottoman territories. On the other hand, the Convention for the Exchange

* I am grateful to editors Umut Özsu and Thomas Skouteris, and to the anonymous reviewers, for their very helpful suggestions. Unless otherwise indicated, all translations are mine.

1 Introduction

Although the two League of Nations projects worked at cross purposes, both aimed to accomplish the same objective: protecting minorities in the lands of the recently defeated Ottoman Empire. The provisions for protecting minorities that were included in the peace treaty with Turkey in July 1923 sought to guarantee special rights to religious, linguistic, and national minorities in former Ottoman territories. On the other hand, the Convention for the Exchange of Populations, signed in January 1923, called for the expulsion of minorities and the expropriation of their properties.1 The minority-protection provisions in the peace treaty and the forcible expulsions envisioned in the accompanying convention were obviously inconsistent solutions to the ‘problem of minorities’, and the juxtaposition of the two efforts is striking. Nonetheless, the paradoxical new legal arrangements belie an underlying consistency: both measures created the conditions for the new political institutions required by an emerging international consensus on proper political organisation. By the end of World War i, both the Great Powers, which demanded protection and expulsion, and the Turkish nationalists, who responded to those demands, had adopted two notions that would hardly have been recognisable only a century earlier, before far-flung empires housing multilingual and multi-religious populations had given way to would-be homogenous nation-states: Muslims and non-Muslims were unable to coexist, and a diverse society was a pre-modern anomaly. This article argues that the unprecedented and internationally-administered forced migration known by the euphemism ‘population exchange’2 has its roots in the centuries-long legacy of European fantasies about the brutality of ‘the Turk’, while at the same time satisfying the much more contemporary desire of an emerging Turkish-nationalist elite, which seized on the ‘exchange’ as a way to consolidate its new state and legislate a foundational Turkish identity.

2 Defining and ‘Protecting’ Minorities

International provisions for protecting religious minorities have been recognised since the sixteenth century.3 Nonetheless, the nineteenth century brought a new lens through which these minorities came to be viewed, as nationalist ideologies redefined ‘majorities’ and ‘minorities’ alike. While diversity in religion and language would formerly have been assumed within extensive European empires, 1830 marked a turning point. In establishing borders for Greece, newly independent of the Ottoman Empire, and while recognising the continuing rights of non-Christians in the new state, the London Protocol ‘marked the first time that the powers clearly linked a specific population and sovereignty – that is, the Greek state considered as representative of the Greek people’.4 For the first time, a state was set up intentionally to reflect the character of the greatest number of its people, not simply to indicate the widest extent of its conquest. By the 1878 Treaty of Berlin, however, this new understanding of sovereignty had transformed international law. Both the 1878 Treaty of Berlin and its 1885 successor ‘established new standards that made populations, not just territory, the central object of the international system’.5 With the emergence of population as the preeminent determinant of the character and extent of the state, minorities took on new salience.6 Instead of being simply the subjects of a dynast whose language or religion differed from their own, these non-majority people became the outliers in a state whose language, religion, or ‘national character’ defined true (or ‘authentic’) belonging. The increasingly anomalous condition of such non-majority people (‘minorities’) required expanded protection. The 1878 Treaty of Berlin offered this sort of protection, mandating ‘religious freedom and civil and political rights for all citizens of the new Balkan states constituted by the treaty – Bulgaria, Serbia, Montenegro, and Romania – and of the Ottoman Empire as well’.7

At the same time that minorities could be seen as powerless people who required protection, their non-normative character could come to be viewed as a potential menace to the very definition of the state. Both their powerlessness and, paradoxically, their potential threat to the reigning majority definition might lead to persecution (or anticipation of persecution) and flight. Fearing their treatment at the hands of the victors, hundreds of thousands of Muslims from the Caucasus and the Balkans fled receding borders to settle in Ottoman domains. The ‘unweaving of 93’ marked the year of the Ottoman calendar (1293/1877) in which defeat and persecution after war in the Balkans led to massive emigration, to be followed two decades later by Ottoman expulsions of Greeks during the 1897 war.8

Concern for minorities led, over the course of the nineteenth century, to both protection and expulsion, two sides of the same project once the nation-state became an international norm. The new system privileged a majority as central to the whole project, the source of sovereignty itself instead of simply subjects of the state. With majorities amassing such foundational power, then, minorities needed even more protection – or a state of their own in which they in turn could define the very nature of the polity. While the World War i treaty provisions protecting minorities appear paradoxical when set alongside the forced expulsion of populations, the two arise from the same historical context (the reification of the nation-state and the precarious status of those who are no longer its ‘natural’ members) and aim to achieve the same central goals (the creation of homogenous, ‘modern’ states).

3 Protecting Minorities from the Uncivilised

Forced migration had not been part of the Allies’ initial plans when they drafted the terms for a peace treaty with the defeated Ottoman Empire at the end of World War i. Early work on the Sèvres Treaty of 1920 aimed to protect Ottoman non-Muslims in place. The League of Nations Council responded with some concern to inquiries from both the Supreme Allied Council and the Council of Foreign Ministers about whether the League would be willing to guarantee that part of the peace treaty concerned minority protection.9 On 15 March 1920, Britain’s Lord Balfour, as representative of the League Council, explained that the situation in the former Ottoman territories offered challenges not met in the earlier Minorities Treaties:

We may well hope that the League may perform most valuable functions in securing the observance of the minority clauses in European Treaties. It will strengthen the hands of the governments, for example at Bucharest or Warsaw, in the suppression of local abuses. It will give the minorities themselves the consciousness that there is an organized public opinion outside their own State prepared to support them. And if, unhappily abuses should arise, the machinery of the League may be quite adequate to secure their suppression.

The position is very different in Asia Minor. Civilised public opinion has no influence whatever in that country: indeed since civilised public opinion is for the most part Christian opinion it is a danger rather than strength to Christian minorities. Outrages against these minorities are usually inflicted by irregular bands whom the Turkish Government would immediately disavow and over whom, as they would protest, (it may be with truth), they had no power of control.10

Under these conditions, with the League of Nations having no military forces at its disposal, Lord Balfour demurred at the notion that this body could supervise the proposed Ottoman Minorities Treaty. The League ‘would have no weapon except remonstrance’, he noted, suggesting that ‘remonstrance ha[d] been tried in Turkey for a 100 years with singularly little effect’.11 Were Turkey to become a mandate, however, the League would ‘gladly undertake the same duties’ it was taking on for other territories under such administration.12 For Lord Balfour, the non-Christian character of the Ottoman state would necessarily require provisions different from those imposed upon other governments, not only because Christians would be more at risk than under a Christian regime, but also because non-Christian public opinion was, by definition, not ‘civilised’.13

The Allied ‘Committee on Protection of Minorities in Turkey’ nonetheless sent its draft to the League of Nations in March 1920. Composed of five men, Robert Vansittart and Eric Forbes Adam (Great Britain), Albert Kammerer (France), Colonel Fortunato Castoldi (Italy), and I. Yoshida (Japan), the group also acknowledged having taken into account ‘certain proposals on this matter put forward by M. Venizelos’, the Greek prime minister. The minorities provisions of the draft treaty included the core elements of the previous Minorities Treaties, as the League staff noted, with Turkey promising ‘to assure full and complete protection of life and liberty to all inhabitants of Turkey without distinction of birth, nationality, language, race or religion. All inhabitants of Turkey shall be entitled to the free exercise, whether public or private, of any creed, religion or belief’.14 All Turkish nationals were to be equal before the law and entitled to:

the same civil and political rights without distinction as to race, language or religion. Difference of religion, creed or confession shall not prejudice any Turkish national in matters relating to the enjoyment of civil or political rights, as for instance admission to public employments functions and honours, or the exercise of professions and industries. No restriction shall be imposed on the free use by any Turkish national of any language in private intercourse, in commerce, religion, in the press or in publications of any kind, or at public meetings.15

The treaty promised minorities the use of their own language in legal proceedings, and guaranteed religious minorities the right to ‘establish, manage and control at their own expense and independently of – and without interference by – the Turkish authorities charitable, religious and social institutions, schools of primary, secondary and higher instruction and other educational establishments, with the right to use their own language and to exercise their own religion freely therein’.16 Moreover, areas with a concentrated minority population would be ‘assured an equitable share in the enjoyment and application of the sums which may be provided out of public funds under the State, municipal or other budget, for educational or charitable purposes’.17 The treaty would commit the Turkish government to agree that ‘Christians or Jews shall not be compelled to perform any act which constitutes a violation of their faith or religious observances, and they shall not be placed under any disability by reason of their refusal to attend courts of law or to perform any legal business on their weekly day of rest. This provision, however, shall not exempt Christians or Jews from such obligations as shall be imposed upon all other Turkish citizens for the preservation of public order’.18 Neither elections nor compulsory registration days were to be held on such days of rest.

Although these articles were similar to those of the other Minorities Treaties, the draft also contained three remarkable exceptions. First, the draft treaty insisted that a League representative be resident in Istanbul with the power to investigate conditions and report threats.19 Articles 11, 12, 13, and 14 accorded the League the authority to act as guarantor of the treaty, and placed a League representative in Istanbul as a resident agent in order to supervise the implementation of the treaty and report to the Council. The League representative and his assistants would have the right to make inquiries on the spot in order ‘to investigate every infringement’.20 Second, the government in Istanbul would be required by Article 13 to carry out any direction of the League Council, and any member of this council would have the right to initiate discussion about any infraction or threat of infraction. The League Council would also have the power to take action.21 The last article, 14, stipulated that disagreements between Turkey and the Allies, or between Turkey and the League Council, would be referred at the request of either party to the Permanent Court of International Justice for a final decision.22 These provisions compromised Ottoman sovereignty, and, according to France, endangered French prerogatives: Paris objected that these articles would make European representatives submit to the League representatives.23 Third, the new treaty preserved the hated Capitulations, now insisting on their implementation for ‘racial minorities’ as well. According to Article 9,

[t]he Turkish Government agrees to recognize in favour of all racial minorities in Turkey their ecclesiastical and scholastic autonomy. For this purpose saving any provision to the contrary in the present Treaty the Turkish Government confirms and will fully uphold in future the prerogatives and immunities of an ecclesiastical, scholastic and juridical nature, granted by the Sultans to non-Moslem races in virtue of special orders or imperial decrees, firmans, hattis, berats etc., as well as by ministerial orders or orders of the Grand Vizier.24

Anything abrogating these would be considered null and void. Minorities were thus not only to receive equal rights and community privileges; in addition, they were to continue to receive the special status that their European patrons had demanded on their behalf during the preceding decades.

Both the European statesmen negotiating the draft and the League staff analysing it agreed on the need for special protections in Turkey that were unnecessary anywhere else in Europe. Their antipathy toward the Ottoman Empire, Turks, and Islam echoed back many decades to support their demand for direct intervention in post-war Ottoman territories. The Allied Committee claimed, for example, that the sultans had previously pledged to enact similar reforms to protect minorities (citing the Gülhane Declaration of 1839, the imperial order of 1856, and the 1878 Treaty of Berlin), but their promises had remained ‘dead letters’. As a result, they considered it ‘too optimistic’ to expect the sultan to implement any new protections ‘unless the Allies can obtain by the Treaty real guarantees’.25 Based on the experience of a century of behaviour which they characterised as European demands and Ottoman resistance, the Allied Committee suggested that a more plausible enforcement mechanism be adopted: ‘The presence of Allied ships and troops near the capital may be an adequate guarantee so far as the Government and the country near the capital are concerned, but the experiences of the armistice and especially the recent Armenian massacres clearly show that some further guarantee is required for the effective performance in the interior of paper pledges signed by the Government at Constantinople’.26 Moreover, the committee insisted that two ‘further guarantees’ were required. First, ‘foreign officers’ named by the Allies or the League Council should be embedded in Turkey’s gendarmerie and police, comprising up to one-fourth of the total officer corps. These officers would have the ‘same executive powers as Turkish officers’ and report to League representatives.27 Secondly, each of the security forces (police, gendarmerie, rural, and forest guards) would be ‘recruited and officered with due regard to the racial factors in the local population . . . Especially should the non-Moslems be represented among the highest posts. (For non-Moslems, a percentage of the highest posts should be reserved)’.28 Because of ‘Turkey’s previous behaviour, the Allied Committee had proposed threatening to remove the sultan’s government from Istanbul as a penalty for breaches of minority pledges. But they had been convinced not to do so in view of the ‘general tenour’ of recent Supreme Council discussions.29 Nonetheless, they could not ‘refrain from pointing out that the Allies will lay themselves open to the reproach of being contented once again in spite of long experience with paper guarantees for the protection of minorities in Turkey unless something like the above practical guarantees are inserted in the minorities chapter or elsewhere in the treaty’.30

4 ‘Turks’ and Minorities

The Allied and League of Nations consensus on the need for enhanced enforcement of minority protections in the area built upon anxiety about and animosity toward the Ottoman Empire and Islam that stretched back centuries. Well before Osman initiated the conquests that would establish the Ottoman Empire in the fourteenth century, church leaders and European rulers depicted Muslims as violent, blood-thirsty barbarians intent on brutalising Christians. Ottomans had earned special suspicion and hatred as they expanded their empire to the very gates of Vienna by the sixteenth century.31

For most of these centuries, Europeans had little evidence about the alleged mistreatment of Christians in Ottoman territories. It seems clear that local Christians did not require the kind of ‘protection’ afforded by the Crusaders and the Spanish Inquisition.32 Indeed, Courbage and Fargues have offered a demographic assessment emphasising the growth and prosperity of the Christian community in Anatolia over the Ottoman centuries.33 Writing of the early modern period, historian Daniel Goffman has described not only the survival of Greek Orthodox Ottomans within the broader empire, but, indeed, their prosperity: ‘Greek Orthodox merchants had managed the intra-imperial carrying trade, Greek brokers had controlled commercial exchanges in many Ottoman port towns, and it had been Greek sailors who helped found and long remained the backbone of Ottoman naval and merchant marines’.34 Examples of coexistence abound within the Ottoman domains. Historian Keith Watenpaugh depicts an Aleppo population proud of the diversity that reflected its cosmopolitan character,35 while Mark Mazower, writing about Salonika, portrays a ‘multi-confessional, extraordinarily polyglot Ottoman world – as late as the First World War, Salonican boot-blacks commanded a working knowledge of six or seven languages’.36 Similarly, Najwa Qattan has shown that Ottoman Christians and Jews chose to have not only their commercial cases but also their personal status suits heard in Muslim law courts.37 Michelle Campos has analysed the participation of various religious and linguistic groups in the creation of an Ottoman identity during the years immediately before the war.38 Despite such evidence of coexistence, Europeans intervened frequently during the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to ‘protect’ Ottoman religious minorities, especially during the anti-Christian riots in Mount Lebanon during the 1860s.

The nineteenth century introduced significant change in the Ottoman Empire, as Ottoman military defeats led to expanding European intervention. Local Christians took on roles as intermediaries and became political protégés, increasingly identified with the powerful – and resented – outsiders. Analysing the environment that led to the horrific violence against the Druze and Christians in Mount Lebanon and Damascus in the mid-nineteenth century, Ussama Makdisi has discussed the connection between this intercommunal struggle and foreign intervention:

The story begins many years earlier, when local Lebanese society was opened, and indeed opened itself, to Ottoman and European discourses of reform that made religion the site of a colonial encounter between a self-styled ‘Christian’ West and what it saw as its perennial adversary, an ‘Islamic’ Ottoman Empire. This encounter profoundly altered the meaning of religion in the multiconfessional society of Mount Lebanon because it emphasized sectarian identity as the only viable marker of political reform and the only authentic basis for political claims. The story is of the symbiosis between indigenous traditions and practices – in which religion was enmeshed in complex social and political relations – and Ottoman modernization, which became paramount in reshaping the political self-definition of each community along religious lines.39

European intervention exacerbated the animosity towards religious minorities: the Capitulations provided special privileges to those minorities, while European efforts to protect both individual protégés and entire groups led to resentment by those without the benefits that European ‘protection’ could provide.

Alongside the evolution of Ottoman non-Muslims into protégés of European powers came the transformation of Balkan Ottoman Christians into enemies of the empire. During the last century of the Ottoman Empire, nationalist ideologies swept their Balkan territories, and imperial minorities began staking claims to national liberation. As the Great Powers intervened on behalf of these mostly Christian claimants to independence, Ottoman animosity toward their Christian minorities – and distrust of Great Power intervention – only grew. Despite the success of Ottoman armies in their struggle to retain their Greek-speaking provinces, European actions in 1829 wrested those areas away from the empire. After Greece, the Great Powers intervened to assure the independence of newly national Ottoman groups, leading to the independence of Montenegro (1878), Romania (1878), Serbia (1878), Bulgaria (1908), and Albania (1912). By the 1890s, the growth of imperial and national identity, combined with resentment over European protégés and the desire for independence from foreign intervention, led to venomous chauvinism on the part of Ottoman elites and a series of massacres of Christian neighbours. The rise of the Young Turks’ revolutionary government in 1908 and a number of territorial losses during the Balkan Wars (1912–1913) resulted in the creation of a powerful elite within the Ottoman Empire that was intent on creating a new kind of xenophobic identity. By World War i, decades of struggles in the Balkans had resulted not only in massive casualties on the battlefield, but also in bitterness on the part of Ottoman elites, distrust of Ottoman minorities, growing European fears for the fate of Ottoman Christians, and significant population shifts as refugees sought safety.40

Indeed, the very treaties that had begun to shape the new status and protection of minorities paradoxically led not to protection of minorities but instead to their massacre. The 1830 London Protocol that would have protected religious minorities, the 1839 decree that kicked off the era of imperial reform, the 1856 firman assuring equality in Ottoman citizenship, and the 1878 Treaty of Berlin were all reflections of the new era that, ironically, had made minorities measurably less secure. As Mark Levene has pointed out, ‘[b]efore the mid-nineteenth century, there had been no major, inter-communal massacres in the region since the disorders that culminated in the battle of Chaldiran in 1514, when it was Alevis, not Christians, who were the primary victims’.41 By the end of that century, attacks on Balkan Christians had been followed by the 1895 massacre of Armenians. The World War i attacks on Assyrians and the Armenian genocide reinforced European notions of Ottoman/Muslim antipathy toward Christians, and reanimated European commitment to minority protection.42

5 Greece Invades

At the end of World War i, then, the Great Powers were intent on securing the safety of Christians in the defeated Ottoman Empire. If territories were to be allocated by population, then the fate of Anatolia might have to be reconsidered. Indeed, the 1920 Sèvres Treaty divided the area among many different groups claiming either rights of ‘national’ presence or spoils of war. The Greek government insisted – and Britain agreed – that the population of southwestern Anatolia was Greek despite centuries of Ottoman rule. Thus, self-determination would require that this population be connected with its ‘own’ government, validating a centuries-long irredentist yearning. For many Greeks, the ‘Great Idea’ (Megali Idea) remained the goal: the reestablishment of a Greek government over the population of Asia Minor, with its power based in the old Byzantine capital, Constantinople. Rights discourse on political self-determination had morphed into irredentism. Moreover, minority protection provided a scaffold for Greek irredentist claims as the Greeks’ British patrons insisted that the Ottoman Empire was a flagrant violator of minority rights. The war aims listed by British Foreign Secretary Lord Balfour in 1916 portrayed his antipathy: ‘The setting free of the populations subject to the bloody tyranny of the Turks; and the turning out of Europe of the Ottoman Empire as decidedly foreign to western civilisation’.43 Prime Minister David Lloyd George had called the Turks ‘a human cancer, a creeping agony in the flesh of the lands which they misgoverned’.44

Urged on by the British prime minister, Greek armies arrived on 15 May 1919, a total of 15,000 men.45 Their arrival was bloody from the start. When the first Greek soldiers advanced on government headquarters in Izmir, they responded to a gunshot by ‘firing wildly’, attacking the Ottoman garrison and using their bayonets against captured soldiers while local Greek Orthodox Ottomans looted the city. The investigation into Greek troops’ behaviour during those first weeks, led by American High Commissioner Admiral Mark Bristol, found Greek forces responsible for a variety of incidents, noting that the Greek military occupation had ‘assumed all forms of an annexation’.46 The Greek invasion helped to consolidate opposition to the 1920 Sèvres Treaty; Turkish nationalist armies mobilised quickly, rapidly setting up an alternative government to the sultan who remained under Allied control in Istanbul. Fury at the Greek onslaught also led to atrocities perpetrated by the Turkish nationalist armies.47 As Turkish nationalist forces pushed back against armies invading from Greece, they rounded up thousands of local Greek Orthodox Christians, forcing them from coastal areas and incarcerating them in labour camps. Hundreds of thousands of Greek Orthodox Ottoman subjects began flooding into Anatolian cities, homeless, destitute, and in many cases exhausted from fleeing oncoming nationalist troops.48 The plight of these refugees captured the international media of the day, displacing the previous images of Muslim victims of the invading Greek armies and echoing the coverage of the Armenian genocide.

6 Minority Protection, Redux

Negotiations for a new treaty began in Lausanne in 1922 as the Allies recognised that the new conditions in Anatolia precluded any possibility for the earlier 1920 treaty to be ratified. Under these new conditions, with thousands of Greek Orthodox Christians seeking refuge, relying on Minorities Treaties hardly seemed adequate in the view of League officials. A Polish-style treaty could not be considered seriously, League official Paul Mantoux argued, calling it both ‘superfluous and sadly insufficient’.49 Unlike Central Europe, Turkey did not need the standard provisions because Turks had always allowed ‘complete religious freedom’ (‘The Turks always left their Christian subjects free to use their language, they were never opposed to the opening and the functioning of their schools’). From time to time, however, they massacred the minorities.50

Mantoux suggested two systems that might be appropriate to protect Turkey’s minorities. The first would specify geographic regions with large minority populations and provide those areas with a distinct legal regime. However, since the result would likely be the eventual detachment of these regions from the country in question (as with Bulgaria after the Treaty of Berlin), the Turks would likely reject this approach.51 The second approach, protecting minorities throughout the empire, would ‘have no value unless it was put under a strong and effective guarantee’.52 Mantoux argued that such protection would need to be reinforced by collective obligations to be effective, and since collective commitments break down during crisis periods in which Great Powers become divided, the only truly reliable guarantee would be from the League of Nations. ‘But this guarantee would remain only a dead letter if not supported by means of real, effective action assured to the League of Nations. Without these means, the League could not accept a derisory responsibility that would unjustly expose it to all reproaches’.53 For Mantoux, these means required a representative named by the Council and assisted by a limited bureau whose task it would be to collect petitions and investigate information regarding abuse. Representatives of the Allied Powers would commit to sharing relevant information immediately with the League representative. If he received alarming news, the League representative would have the right to call an urgent meeting of the Great Power ambassadors, who would telegraph their governments their conclusions, along with all proposals for collective action required by the circumstances. Mantoux pointed out that others questioned whether the League should be accepting such heavy responsibilities for the protection of Asia Minor’s minorities without having any kind of forces specifically at its disposal, especially around Izmir. Mantoux noted that if Greece evacuated Izmir, this question would become increasingly urgent.54

By November 1922, with Turkish nationalist forces victorious, and negotiations about to begin in Lausanne for a new peace treaty, where the stage was set for renewed engagement with the question of minority protection, Minority Section Director Erik Colban’s aide-mémoire provided a new framework for negotiations. He began with a review of previous efforts to draft minority protections, noting that even in the unratified 1920 Sèvres Treaty, implementation provisions had remained unspecified. In these new circumstances, ‘judging by the declarations made by the representatives of the government of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey’, the Turkish delegation at the peace talks would refuse to accept any clauses that went beyond the Minorities Treaties imposed on other European states.55 The provisions that earlier drafts had deemed preconditions for League intervention (according not only to the 1920 memorandum, but even those stipulated by Mantoux only eight months earlier) could not even be considered at this point, he claimed. Colban insisted, however, that the wide range of provisions in extant Minorities Treaties were broad enough to provide effective minority protection in Turkey without going beyond the articles of existing treaties. According to Colban, the best way to proceed would be to analyse the special provisions in each one for conditions appropriate to Turkey, and then to begin the negotiations with those at the core.

However, the question of implementation remained. Each existing European Minorities Treaty included clauses allowing for significant intervention, imposed obligations of international concern, and was guaranteed by the League of Nations. All of these treaties accorded ‘each member of the Council of the League of Nations . . . the right to call to the attention of the Council to each infraction or danger of infraction of any one of these obligations’, and the Council ‘could take appropriate action’.56 In addition, they each provided for referral to the Permanent Court of International Justice in the case of disagreement. By inserting these clauses into the peace treaty with Turkey, he insisted, the League would be present within the country.

Nonetheless, Colban continued, conditions had changed so much that it would be fruitless to suggest that a representative be stationed in Turkey to collaborate with representatives of the Allied Powers, as the earlier proposals had stipulated. Colban was convinced that the Turkish government would consider such a situation humiliating and ‘risk a flat refusal by the Turks’.57 Even so, for Colban, it was clear that the stationing of a League representative in Turkey was the minimum required to carry out minority protection. This could be accomplished, he insisted, by taking a different approach to the Turkish government. The provisions of previous Minorities Treaties afforded wide powers to the League that could also be used with Turkey, including the power to send representatives to investigate infractions even without the permission of the host government. Colban claimed that, in the case of Turkey, there was:

no doubt that a danger of infractions against the clauses protecting minorities in Turkey will exist for a long time as a result of the situation created by the long years of war and by the acts of violence carried out on Turkish soil. The Turkish government will certainly find itself, despite all good will, in the presence of very grave difficulties when it tries to create an atmosphere of confidence and of security allowing people of different races, religions and languages on Turkish territory to live peacefully together.58

As a result, Colban claimed, even from the Turkish point of view, ‘nothing could be as natural’ as the League sending a representative to collaborate with the Turkish government in protecting minorities soon after the peace treaty was signed.59 According to Colban, the Turkish government could agree to work with a resident appointee of the League on minority issues even as some sort of addition to the peace treaty, framing it as a collaborative project for a period of five years with the League’s right to prolong the term. Although the Turkish government’s approval would be required, Colban argued that it would be in Turkey’s favour to acquiesce: League participation in protecting minorities would preclude the various powers from intervening in the service of their own agendas. Moreover, framing the League’s involvement in this way would also make Turkey’s paying for the project more logical: the League of Nations representative would become the ‘intimate advisor of the Turkish government’ in an effort to help all groups live together.60

7 Convention on the Exchange of Populations

One month before Colban penned his proposals for a minority treaty that, like all its predecessors, would guarantee protection to every inhabitant regardless of religion or nationality, Greek statesman Eleftherios Venizelos wrote to High Commissioner for Refugees Fridtjof Nansen seeking his assistance in ‘exchanging’ his Turkish minority.61 Horrified by the scope of the refugee crisis facing him, Venizelos was alarmed by a declaration by the Turkish nationalist government in Ankara that it had ‘decided not to allow the further presence of Greeks on Turkish soil’.62 Venizelos proposed a ‘compulsory exchange of Greek and Turkish populations’, and asked Nansen to make the necessary arrangements. Nansen sought and received the support of the Allied High Commissioners in Istanbul to arrange ‘for the reciprocal emigration of the racial minorities of the two countries’.63

Although Nansen described the issue as ‘of extreme economic and social importance to the countries of the Near East, and also of great importance for the peace of the world’, he received little response from the Turkish nationalist leadership.64 Ankara’s representative in Istanbul, Hamid Bey, offered no commitments on Turkish support for an exchange, and left Nansen to cool his heels in Istanbul. Commander in Chief Mustafa Kemal’s response came more than a week later: ‘The exchange proposed by Dr. Nansen is acceptable in principle. Nevertheless, the matter must be considered with the Government. As it is impossible for me under present conditions to wait in any one town it is unfortunately not possible for me to fix a meeting place’.65 When Nansen finally met with Kemal’s representative a week later, he was told that the commander agreed in principal, but only ‘on the basis of a total and enforced exchange of populations, from which the population of Constantinople would not be exempted’.66 Although Nansen believed the Greek government would reject the expulsion of ‘Greeks’ from Istanbul, he remained convinced that an exchange of populations would be the best way to deal with mixed populations in all other regions of Anatolia. European ideas about majorities and minorities, as well as selective reading of the Ottoman past, made the notion of coexistence seem more fanciful than the spectre of forced migration. Facing hundreds of thousands of already displaced Greek Orthodox Ottoman subjects, it seemed the best way to settle them would be within Greece. To make room for them, then, it would be necessary to send those ‘Turks’ living in Greece to Turkey.

As Özsu has pointed out, the exchange did not simply recognise the situation already existing on the ground. It required the new expulsion of some 350,000 Muslims from Greece and an additional 200,000 Greek Orthodox Christians from Anatolia. Moreover, it set a new legal precedent. As Özsu states:

[t]he formal procedure lent legal legitimacy to a set of movements that redistributed land and capital across enormous swathes of territory, establishing a comprehensive legal regime to manage relief, resettlement, and indemnification efforts. . . . This was an exercise both in producing new facts on the ground and in juridifying the dispossession, displacement, and capital accumulation that had already taken place.67

Nonetheless, this exchange of populations was hardly a novel idea. The first attempt, annexed to the peace treaty, was a formal exchange following the Balkan War in 1913. The voluntary exchange along the Ottoman border with Bulgaria was ‘designed to confer legitimacy upon movements that had already taken place and to encourage many of those who remained to move without delay’.68 After the Ottomans ‘launched a brutal campaign of persecution and intimidation’, Istanbul and the Greek government negotiated a voluntary exchange between Muslims in Macedonia and Epirus and Greeks in Ionia and eastern Thrace the following year.69 Implementation of both of these voluntary exchanges was to include a mixed commission, and both were interrupted by World War i. At the end of World War i, Greece and Bulgaria implemented a voluntary exchange of minorities, this time with a League of Nations-supported mixed commission. Indeed, the (never implemented) Treaty of Sèvres included a ‘reciprocal and voluntary’ population exchange between Greece and Turkey. Thus, Özsu argues, there had been an ‘incremental normalization of a new form of statecraft: transfers of minority populations governed at least in part by international treaty law’, making the 1923 Greek-Turkish population exchange ‘the culmination of a series of transfers designed in the Balkans and Asia Minor in the 1910s’.70

Despite later efforts to read perpetual animosity into the relationship between ‘Turks’ and ‘Greeks’, historical sources often portray these two communities as interdependent during most of the Ottoman centuries. Even during this twentieth-century conflict, the Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Trebizond, the President of the Pan Pontic Congress, and the President of the National League of the Euxine Pontus at Paris signed a long letter dated 14 April 1920 calling not for expulsion and exclusion, but instead for decentralisation and local control over the Greek Orthodox populations of northern Anatolia.71 Three years later, Greek juridical expert and staff member of the League of Nations Political Section Thanassis Aghnides noted:

I am in a position to confirm . . . that the Greeks are not particularly anxious to get rid of the Turks living in Greece. However the Greek Gmnt. [sic] will have to ask the Turks in question to leave Greece so that the Greek refugees may find shelter during the approaching winter. Mons. Politis told me a few days ago that the Greek Gmnt. is in this matter bound to yield before the inexorable necessities of the situation.72

The notion that Greeks and Turks were unable to coexist seems not to have been universally accepted, even among community leaders.

8 Identifying Minorities

The convention defined the two ‘races’ to be exchanged according to religion: Greek Orthodox Christians would be sent to Greece, and Muslims would be sent to Turkey. Greek-speaking Muslims whose ancestors had resided, procreated, traded, and worshipped within the new borders of Greece were deemed to be Turks; hundreds of thousands of such ‘Turks’ were relocated to their ‘own’ nation, the just-created Republic of Turkey, where many could not even speak the language. At the same time, one and a half million Greek Orthodox Christians – whose ancestors’ presence in the area now known as Turkey predated the Roman Empire – were now forcibly relocated to Greece. Religion had become racial identity as populations were uprooted, neighbourhoods destroyed, trade networks eradicated, and human families dislocated.

Although at first glance the notion of religion as race seems curious, the definition was essential for the nation-building objective on which both the Greek invasion and the Turkish response had been based. The Turkish nationalists who had defeated Venizelos’ invasion aimed to create a modern nation-state as a way of overcoming the backwardness which they identified with their Ottoman predecessors. Modern was national; diversity had created weakness. It was essential to dispense with those populations who had sided with their enemies against the empire, and the population exchange provided an opportunity to expel many of those remaining after the massacre of the Armenians.

Nonetheless, the religious identity ‘Greek Orthodox’ was a wide-ranging category, and included people whom the Turks wanted to expel as well as those with whom they were content to coexist. For example, Turkey’s representative to the Mixed Commission pointed out that Arabic-speakers also adhered to the Greek Orthodox faith, and that Russian- and Serb-speaking Ottomans would also be eligible for exchange if faith were to be the sole criterion. The Greek delegation insisted that people being exchanged must be both Greek and Orthodox. According to the Turkish government, however, ‘Greek Catholics’ were also liable to irredentism, and they, too, should be eligible for exchange, while Arabic-speaking and other Greek Orthodox were not so susceptible.73 The significant category for Turkish leaders, then, was those who identified their own affiliation with Greece, regardless of the form of Christianity they practised.

At the same time, the very diversity of the people made it difficult to ascertain precisely which Muslims were to be expelled from Greece. The case of the ‘Albanians’ of the northern Epirus, on the border between Greece and Albania, provides insight into the problems and contexts. Albanian Muslims had been explicitly exempted from the population exchange: although they shared a religion with ‘Turks’, they spoke a different language and they had lived within the territory that was now Greece for many centuries. The Albanian delegation to the League of Nations noted the problem with using the term ‘race’ to describe the category distinguishing Greeks and Turks as the Mixed Commission was about to begin its work. ‘In the Convention concluded at Lausanne between Greece and Turkey with regard to the exchange of the Turkish populations, the Turkish population of Greece is described by the word “Mussulman”, which is an incorrect term to employ as it relates to religion and not to race’. Nonetheless, according to Albanian official protests, their countrymen were being treated as Turks, suffering the confiscation of their property, the requisitioning of half their harvest, and the installation of Greek refugees in their homes, among other offences.74

Despite the challenges of these efforts to disentangle, label, and remove ‘foreign’ and ‘minority’ elements, it is clear that the forced expulsion of Greek Orthodox Christians from the new Republic of Turkey and the eviction of Muslims from Greece were part of an effort to ‘unmix’ populations that had begun decades earlier. Paradoxically, the effort to create a modern state according to changing international expectations resulted in a new Turkish state that relied on an older religious definition of belonging. The new Turkey was initially defined as a state for Muslims, in a perverse echo of the ideology that marked the reign of Sultan Abdülhamid ii. It was under his rule that the 1895 attacks on Armenians had occurred, and that the claim to the caliphate had been asserted most aggressively. The new elite of the Turkish Republic hailed from the Balkans, had a sense of betrayal stemming from the Balkan Wars and the support of some Greek Orthodox Ottomans for the 1919 Greek invasion, and had to forge the broadest possible coalition in support of the new state. In that context, constructing a specifically Turkish-Muslim polity made sense.75 Religion had ironically evolved into nationhood, even if not race, in an effort to create a modern nation-state.

9 Conclusion

On 30 January 1923, the government of Greece and the representatives of the new nationalist leadership in Ankara signed the Convention concerning the Exchange of Greek and Turkish Populations. The Convention provided for a ‘compulsory exchange of Turkish nationals of the Greek Orthodox religion established in Turkish territory, and of Greek nationals of the Moslem religion established in Greek territory’.76 Those exchanged would lose their previous nationality, gain the nationality of the country where they would be resettled, and be prohibited from returning to their previous country without the authorisation of their former government. The Convention exempted Greeks living in Istanbul and Muslims in western Thrace. Emigrants would be permitted to carry with them all of their moveable property, and a mixed commission composed of four Turks, four Greeks, and three representatives of the League of Nations would appraise and liquidate immovable property. Owners would be compensated from the property left behind by those who had emigrated in the other direction. The commission would determine whether the total amount to the credit of the two countries balanced, or arrange for a transfer of capital. It took more than a decade for the mixed commission to complete its work; its many meetings are documented in voluminous detail in the archives of the League of Nations.77

This forced migration, administered by the League of Nations, followed the defeat of a Greek invasion of southwest Anatolia that had been promoted by British Prime Minister David Lloyd George. Despising Ottomans and a proponent of ‘Greek civilisation’, he admired his ally Eleftherios Venizelos and anticipated a progressive future in an Anatolia governed by Greece.78 Longstanding European fear of Muslims had coexisted comfortably with European disdain for Ottoman weakness and tyranny, encouraging Great Power intervention in Ottoman territories to ‘protect’ local Christians while attaining influence in the region – even while persecuting heterodox Christians (and Jews) in their home countries.

Emerging notions about the importance of homogeneity in the nation-state now added a new dimension to concerns about minority protection. Moving people about could rationalise the composition of polities and create more coherent states. For the new leadership of post-Ottoman Turkey, it promised modernity, an alternative to the decadent Ottoman Empire with its multiple religions, languages, cultures, and ethnicities. Forced migration was thus welcomed as a means of creating a new state. European insistence that Muslims and Christians could not coexist served the new Turkish leadership’s agenda.

On the face of it, however, the expropriation of property, refusal of civic rights, economic discrimination, and expulsion included in the exchange of populations were clearly inconsistent with the goals of minority protection. As the Spanish representative working to enforce the exchange pointed out, the League of Nations was facing contradictory legal requirements. Greece had signed its own Minorities Treaty at Sèvres in 1920, thus committing the League of Nations to protecting minorities in Greece.

We are therefore faced with two international instruments, the convention which imposed upon certain Greek nationals the obligation to be transferred to another State, and to renounce their Greek citizenship; on the other hand we have a treaty placed under our guarantee, in accordance with which we are bound to assure equal treatment to all Greek nationals. It is beyond dispute that these two provisions co-exist, and the Minorities Treaty cannot be set in opposition to the carrying into effect of the Convention on the Exchange of Populations.79

The League of Nations had created the same situation in Turkey: on the one hand pledging to protect minorities according to the 1923 Lausanne Peace Treaty, while on the other hand enforcing the 1923 Convention concerning the Exchange of Greek and Turkish Populations. Turkey was thus committed both to protecting and to expelling one of its minorities.

The Ankara regime signed the Lausanne Peace Treaty, which contained provisions explicitly protecting certain minorities (Articles 37–45). However, as Baskın Oran has pointed out, the minorities who were to receive rights in Turkey were significantly different from those defined as minorities in Europe. Three criteria defined minorities in Europe: race, language, and religion. The new Turkish government rejected two of these, recognising non-Muslims alone as a minority, and the other signatories accepted this definition. As a result, the Turkish Republic limited the legal rights of linguistic and racial minorities in its international agreements. The treaty’s focus, consistent with the Great Powers’ concern for oppressed Christians, denied Turkey’s Muslims international legal protections, including linguistic minorities (Arabic-, Kurmanji-, Zaza-, and Laz-speakers), as well as heterodox Muslims (chiefly Alevis/Kızılbaş and Alawis/Nusayris).80 Their limited definitions of minorities, like the forced migration of Greek Orthodox Christians and the earlier Armenian genocide, furthered the project of creating a new Turkish nation-state, allowing the Ankara government to ignore calls for recognition of – or at least legal tolerance for – other languages and religious practices.81

In the end, Turkey’s nationalist leaders accepted the assumptions of those who had opposed them: Muslims and non-Muslims could not live together peacefully, and modernity required rejecting a diverse past in favour of a nation-state along European (unmixed) lines. The novel legal formula that forcibly removed Christians worked toward those two goals. As Özsu has pointed out, the ‘formalized transfers’ that appeared only with the dawn of the twentieth century allowed expulsion to ‘come into its own as a distinct technique of facilitating and formalizing nation-building through international law’.82 Paradoxically, then, the post-war efforts of the League of Nations to ‘protect’ minorities led to ethnic cleansing at precisely the same moment that its own secretariat was producing extensive regulations to guarantee those minorities full rights in situ.

One cannot know how the trajectory of Turkish and Greek history might have been different without the exchange of populations, which set back Greek development by severely burdening its infrastructure and denied both countries the benefits of productive and essential elements of their societies. The post-war Minorities Treaties were soon abrogated by most of the concerned states, which resented the infringement of their sovereignty for a universal ideal that was applied only prejudicially.83 Ironically, in an effort to ‘protect’ the unprotected and to imagine a post-Ottoman Middle East in which all possessed equal rights, the League interventions led to expulsions, expropriation, exile, disenfranchisement, and division among local populations. The combination of population exchange, enforced minority protections, and continuing European intervention contributed to a Middle East lacking the kind of cosmopolitan sensibilities prevalent during many of the Ottoman centuries and even more essential for survival and prosperity one hundred years after the fall of the empire.

1 The 1923 Lausanne Peace Treaty and the 1923 Convention concerning the Exchange of Greek and Turkish Populations can both be found in the American Journal of International Law Supplement 18 (1924). For background on the population exchange and its impact, see Bruce Clark, Twice a Stranger: How Mass Expulsion Forged Modern Greece and Turkey (London: Granta Books 2006); Renee Hirschon (ed), Crossing the Aegean: An Appraisal of the 1923 Compulsory Population Exchange between Greece and Turkey (New York: Berghahn Books 2003); Renee Hirschon, Heirs of the Greek Catastrophe: The Social Life of Asia Minor Refugees in Piraeus (New York: Berghahn Books 1998).

2 Joanna de Groot, ‘Comparing Forced Removals’, in Richard Bessel and Claudia Bettina Haake (eds), Removing Peoples: Forced Removal in the Modern World (Oxford: oup 2009), 417–438, 429, which describes some of the benign terms used for expulsions and the relevant implications.

3 Helmer Rosting, ‘Protection of Minorities by the League of Nations’, American Journal of International Law 17 (1923), 641–660, 643. Rosting cites a number of documents before the 1648 Peace of Westphalia, including the 1555 Peace of Augsburg, the 1573 Pact of Warsaw, and the 1598 Edict of Nantes. For a view of the ‘classical’ Ottoman recognition, see Halil İnalcık, ‘The Status of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch under the Ottomans’, Turcica 21–23 (1991), 407–436. Umut Özsu dates the emergence of a robust international law of minority protection to 1815. See Umut Özsu, Formalizing Displacement: International Law and Population Transfers (Oxford: oup 2015), 22.

4 Eric D. Weitz, ‘From the Vienna to the Paris System: International Politics and the Entangled Histories of Human Rights, Forced Deportations, and Civilizing Missions’, American Historical Review 113 (2008), 1313–1343, 1317. Weitz points out that ‘the recognition of an independent Greece thus stood on the cusp of two worlds, the one of population diversity, the other of population homogeneity’.

5 Weitz, ‘From the Vienna to the Paris System’ 2008 (n. 4), 1322.

6 Inis Claude, National Minorities: An International Problem (New York: Greenwood Press 1969), introduction.

7 Weitz, ‘From the Vienna to the Paris System’ 2008 (n. 4), 1320.

8 Weitz, ‘From the Vienna to the Paris System’ 2008 (n. 4), 1322; Özsu, Formalizing Displacement 2015 (n. 3), 3, 5.

9 For a description of the Minorities Treaties System and its degree of success, see Rosting, ‘Protection of Minorities’ 1923 (n. 3); Carole Fink, ‘Defender of Minorities: Germany in the League of Nations, 1926–1933’, Central European History 5 (1972), 330–357; Jane K. Cowan, ‘The Success of Failure? Minority Supervision at the League of Nations’, in Marie-Bénédicte Dembour and Tobias Kelly (eds), Paths to International Justice: Social and Legal Perspectives (Cambridge: cup 2007), 29–56.

10 ‘Memorandum by Mr. Balfour on Suggestions Made to the Council of the League of Nations in Reference to the Peace with Turkey’, 15 March 1920, League of Nations Archives, Geneva (Hereafter lon) r 1617.

11 ‘Memorandum by Mr. Balfour’ 1920 (n. 10).

12 ‘Memorandum by Mr. Balfour’ 1920 (n. 10). Balfour continued, describing his view of the League’s role: ‘Speaking generally, it must be remembered that the chief instruments at the disposal of the League are Public Discussion; Judicial Investigation; Arbitration; and, in the last resort, but only in the last resort, some form of Compulsion. These are powerful weapons, but the places where they seem least applicable are those remote and half barbarous regions, where nothing but force is understood, and where force is useless to preserve order unless it can be rapidly applied. It would seem that in those parts of the world to which this description applies, the League of Nations can only play an effective part if there be a mandatory through whom it can act. If no such mandatory can be found, it cannot, as at present constituted, play the effectual part of a substitute’. Although Lord Balfour acknowledged that these opinions were solely his own, Léon Bourgeois, then President of the League of Nations Council, was ‘in complete agreement with Mr. Balfour’s remarks’, according to a note by Drummond dated 22 March 1920, lon r 1617.

13 As Joanna de Groot has pointed out, the ‘rhetoric of protection and of improvement was intimately linked to languages of civilization and savagery, or progress and backwardness’. ‘Comparing Forced Removals’ 2009 (n. 2), 430.

14 ‘Committee on Protection of Minorities in Turkey’, accompanying Hankey to Drummond, 20 March 1920, lon r 1617, Article 2.

15 ‘Committee on Protection of Minorities in Turkey’ 1920 (n. 14), Article 6.

16 ‘Committee on Protection of Minorities in Turkey’ 1920 (n. 14), Article 7.

17 ‘Committee on Protection of Minorities in Turkey’ 1920 (n. 14), Article 8.

18 ‘Committee on Protection of Minorities in Turkey’ 1920 (n. 14), Article 10.

19 ‘Committee on Protection of Minorities in Turkey’ 1920 (n. 14), Article 12. I have tried consistently to use twenty-first century place names, except where they are clearly anachronistic (as, for example, when dealing with the medieval or early modern periods). Thus, the post-war Ottoman capital is here rendered as ‘Istanbul’ (instead of ‘Constantinople’), and the contested Aegean city as ‘Izmir’ (instead of ‘Smyrna’). Although the Republic of Turkey was not established until 1923, Europeans referred to the Ottoman state as ‘Turkey’ and to its ruling elite as ‘Turks’ well before that date.

20 ‘Committee on Protection of Minorities in Turkey’ 1920 (n. 14), Articles 11, 12, 13, 14.

21 ‘Committee on Protection of Minorities in Turkey’ 1920 (n. 14), Article 13.

22 ‘Committee on Protection of Minorities in Turkey’ 1920 (n. 14), Article 14.

23 Colban to Drummond, 19 March 1920, lon r 1617.

24 ‘Committee on Protection of Minorities in Turkey’ 1920 (n. 14), Article 9 (emphasis in original). A few articles also tried to preserve the status quo ante, insisting that conversions to Islam that had taken under the 1914 ‘terrorist regime’ would be void and setting up commissions to arbitrate possession of property confiscated during the war.

25 ‘Committee on Protection of Minorities in Turkey’ 1920 (n. 14).

26 ‘Committee on Protection of Minorities in Turkey’ 1920 (n. 14).

27 ‘Committee on Protection of Minorities in Turkey’ 1920 (n. 14).

28 ‘Committee on Protection of Minorities in Turkey’ 1920 (n. 14) (emphasis in original).

29 ‘Committee on Protection of Minorities in Turkey’ 1920 (n. 14).

30 ‘Committee on Protection of Minorities in Turkey’ 1920 (n. 14). The group suggested that the treaty might also need clauses on nationality changes, required in other places by the creation of new states or changing borders: ‘In the case of Turkey the situation is so complex and the conditions so abnormal that the Committee desire to recommend in due course a chapter regarding nationality, for insertion in the treaty of peace with Turkey’ (emphasis in original). Ibid.

31 For example, Norman Daniel, Islam and the West: The Making of an Image (Oxford: Oneworld 1993); Richard A. Fletcher, Moorish Spain (New York: H. Holt 1992); August C. Krey, The First Crusade: The Accounts of Eye-Witnesses and Participants (Princeton: Princeton University Press 1921). The Ottoman conquest of Constantinople was treated not only as a military defeat in Europe; it became a rallying cry to ‘regain’ the Iberian Peninsula. The dream of a Christian Constantinople had held power over many Europeans for centuries. Michael Llewellyn Smith, Ionian Vision: Greece in Asia Minor, 1919–1922 (London: C. Hurst 1998), 2–3.

32 Amin Maalouf, The Crusades through Arab Eyes (London: Al Saqi Books 1984); Fletcher, Moorish Spain 1992 (n. 31); Maria Rosa Menocal, The Ornament of the World: How Muslims, Jews, and Christians Created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain (Boston: Little, Brown 2002).

33 Youssef Courbage and Philippe Fargues, Christians and Jews under Islam (London: Tauris 1997).

34 Daniel Goffman, The Ottoman Empire and Early Modern Europe (Cambridge: cup 2002), 16. See also Dimitri Gondicas and Charles Philip Issawi (eds), Ottoman Greeks in the Age of Nationalism: Politics, Economy, and Society in the Nineteenth Century (Princeton: Darwin Press 1999).

35 Keith David Watenpaugh, Being Modern in the Middle East: Revolution, Nationalism, Colonialism, and the Arab Middle Class (Princeton: Princeton University Press 2006), 32.

36 Mark Mazower, Salonica, City of Ghosts: Christians, Muslims and Jews, 1430–1950 (London: HarperCollins 2004), 12.

37 Najwa Al-Qattan, ‘Dhimmis in the Muslim Court: Legal Autonomy and Religious Discrimination’, International Journal of Middle East Studies 31 (1999), 429–444.

38 Michelle U. Campos, Ottoman Brothers: Muslims, Christians, and Jews in Early Twentieth-Century Palestine (Stanford: Stanford University Press 2011), 1–9.

39 Ussama Samir Makdisi, The Culture of Sectarianism: Community, History, and Violence in Nineteenth-Century Ottoman Lebanon (Berkeley: University of California Press 2000), 2.

40 Erik Zürcher, The Young Turk Legacy and Nation Building: From the Ottoman Empire to Atatürk’s Turkey (London: Palgrave Macmillan 2010). For a description of life for rural Greek Orthodox Ottomans at the end of the empire, see Ryan Gingeras, Sorrowful Shores: Violence, Ethnicity, and the End of the Ottoman Empire, 19121923 (Oxford: oup 2009).

41 Mark Levene, ‘Creating a Modern “Zone of Genocide”: The Impact of Nation- and State-Formation on Eastern Anatolia, 1878–1923’, Holocaust and Genocide Studies 12 (1998), 393–433, 398.

42 For more on the Armenian massacres, see Taner Akçam, The Young Turks’ Crime against Humanity: The Armenian Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing in the Ottoman Empire (Princeton: Princeton University Press 2012); Mark Levene, The Crisis of Genocide (Oxford: OUP 2013); Fatma Müge Göçek, Norman M. Naimark and Ronald Grigor Suny (eds), A Question of Genocide: Armenians and Turks at the End of the Ottoman Empire (Oxford: oup 2011); Taner Akçam, A Shameful Act: The Armenian Genocide and the Question of Turkish Responsibility, trans. Paul Bessemer (New York: Metropolitan Books 2006).

43 Harold Nicolson, Curzon: The Last Phase, 19191925 – A Study in Post-War Diplomacy (London: Constable & Co. 1934), 98. Prime Minister Lloyd George, however, awkwardly tried to deny that Britain was fighting ‘to deprive Turkey of its capital, or of the rich and renowned lands of Asia Minor and Thrace, which are predominantly Turkish in race’. Ibid., 99.

44 David Lloyd George and F.L. Stevenson, Through Terror to Triumph; Speeches and Pronouncements of David Lloyd George, Since the Beginning of the War (London: Hodder and Stoughton 1915), 55.

45 Andrew Mango, From the Sultan to Atatürk: Turkey (London: Haus 2009), 61–62; Erik Knudsen, Great Britain, Constantinople, and the Turkish Peace Treaty, 19191922 (New York: Garland 1985), 82. Although Nicolson initially supported the Greek invasion, Lord Curzon opposed it from the start. See Nicolson, Curzon 1934 (n. 43); David Gilmour, Curzon: Imperial Statesman (London: Macmillan 2003).

46 Mango, From the Sultan to Atatürk 2009 (n. 45), 62–63.

47 Great Britain Foreign Office et al., Documents on British Foreign Policy, 1919–1939. First Series, vol. 13 (London: H.M. Stationery Office 1947), 2; Nur Bilge Criss, Istanbul under Allied Occupation, 1918–1923 (Leiden: Brill 1999), 65, 71. Inter-Allied Commission of Enquiry into Atrocities in Yalova and Guemlek, Reports on Atrocities in the Districts of Yalova and Guemlek and in the Ismid Peninsula, Cmd. 1478 (London: H.M.S.O. 1921).

48 See, e.g., lon r 1761.

49 Mantoux, ‘La Question de la protection des minorités en Asie Mineure’, 20 March 1922, lon r 1617.

50 Mantoux, ‘La Question de la protection des minorités en Asie Mineure’ 1922 (n. 49).

51 Colban put the possible Foyer National Arménien in this category, fearing that agitation for autonomy could lead ‘Turks to fear a separatist movement, again provoking massacres at the first opportunity’.

52 Mantoux, ‘La Question de la protection des minorités en Asie Mineure’ 1922 (n. 49).

53 Mantoux, ‘La Question de la protection des minorités en Asie Mineure’ 1922 (n. 49).

54 Mantoux, ‘La Question de la protection des minorités en Asie Mineure’ 1922 (n. 49). Colban noted that he agreed with all of Mantoux’s points.

55 Colban, ‘Aide mémoire sur la question de protection des minorités dans l’Empire Turc’, 23 November 1922, lon r 1617, 1.

56 Colban, ‘Aide mémoire sur la question de protection des minorités dans l’Empire Turc’ 1922 (n. 55), 6.

57 Colban, ‘Aide mémoire sur la question de protection des minorités dans l’Empire Turc’ 1922 (n. 55), 9.

58 Colban, ‘Aide mémoire sur la question de protection des minorités dans l’Empire Turc’ 1922 (n. 55), 10.

59 Colban, ‘Aide mémoire sur la question de protection des minorités dans l’Empire Turc’ 1922 (n. 55), 10–11.

60 Colban, ‘Aide mémoire sur la question de protection des minorités dans l’Empire Turc’ 1922 (n. 55), 12–14. Mantoux remained dubious that minority protection clauses analogous to those in effect in Czechoslovakia, Romania, and Yugoslavia could be effective. The problem, he wrote, was less with linguistic rights, schools and electoral issues so much as it was ‘protecting the property and even the life of populations menaced with plunder, mass expulsion or extermination’. For this, he wrote, it would be necessary to use force, which the Turks would never accept and the Powers seemed unwilling to impose. Memo, Paul Mantoux, n.d., lon r 1617.

61 ‘Exchange of Greek and Turkish populations and of prisoners and civilian hostages. Letter from Dr. Nansen’, 16 October 1922, lon s 389.

62 Nansen, ‘Exchange of Greek and Turkish populations’ 1922 (n. 61).

63 Annex A to ‘Report by Dr. Nansen, Part 1’, 15 November 1922, lon s 389.

64 ‘Report by Dr. Nansen Part i: Reciprocal Exchange of Racial Minorities between Greece and Turkey’, 16 November 1922, lon s 389.

65 ‘Report by Dr. Nansen Part i’ 1922 (n. 64).

66 ‘Report by Dr. Nansen Part i’ 1922 (n. 64).

67 Özsu, Formalizing Displacement 2015 (n. 3), 7 (emphasis in original).

68 Özsu, Formalizing Displacement 2015 (n. 3), 54.

69 Özsu, Formalizing Displacement 2015 (n. 3), 55.

70 Özsu, Formalizing Displacement 2015 (n. 3), 52–58. These agreements between two governments were different than the unilateral expulsion of civilian populations during war or episodes like the large-scale resettlement programs carried out by Russian and Soviet authorities in Siberia and Central Asia. Ibid., 59–60.

71 lon r 1617.

72 Minute dated 19 September 1923, lon r 1685.

73 Stephen P. Ladas, The Exchange of Minorities; Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey (New York: Macmillan 1932), 279, 378.

74 Midhat Frasheri, First Albanian Delegate, to Secretary-General, 24 September 1923, lon s 370. The Council of the League of Nations adopted a resolution on 17 December 1923 recognising the Albanian government’s fears that Greece’s Albanians would be treated as Turks and subjected to the terms of the 1923 Convention concerning the Exchange of Greek and Turkish Populations. Three months later, the president of the Mixed Commission forwarded their resolution, adopted on 14 March 1924: ‘Greek nationals of Mohammedan religion who are of Albanian origin, and have settled in Epirus, shall be exempted from the regulations laid down by that Convention with regard to the compulsory exchange of populations’. Widding, President of the Mixed Commission, 15 March 1924, lon s 370.

75 On this point, see especially Zürcher, Young Turk Legacy and Nation Building 2010 (n. 40).

76 ‘Convention Concerning the Exchange of Greek and Turkish Populations’, American Journal of International Law Supplement 18 (1924), 84, Article 1.

77 ‘Convention Concerning the Exchange of Greek and Turkish Populations’ 1923 (n. 76), 84–90. For a description of the diplomatic process, see Onur Yıldırım, Diplomacy and Displacement: Reconsidering the Turco-Greek Exchange of Populations, 1922–1924 (New York: Routledge 2006); and Özsu, Formalizing Displacement (n. 3).

78 Paul Helmreich, From Paris to Sèvres: The Partition of the Ottoman Empire at the Peace Conference of 1919–1920 (Columbus: Ohio State University Press 1974), 45–46.

79 ‘Moslems of Albanian Origin in Greece, Report by the Spanish Representative’, 1924, lon s 370.

80 Derya Bayır, Minorities and Nationalism in Turkish Law (Farnham: Ashgate 2013), 120. Baskın Oran, ‘The Minority Concept and Rights in Turkey: The Lausanne Peace Treaty and Current Issues’, in Zehra F. Kabasakal Arat (ed), Human Rights in Turkey (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press 2011), 35. Turkey’s insistence that it had no minorities is reminiscent of French claims in the interwar period; see Tara Zahra, ‘The “Minority Problem” and National Classification in the French and Czechoslovak Borderlands’, Contemporary European History 17 (2008), 137–165.

81 Bayır, Minorities and Nationalism in Turkish Law 2013 (n. 80), 120.

82 Özsu, Formalizing Displacement 2015 (n. 3), 52, 56.

83 Carole Fink, ‘The League of Nations and the Minorities Question’, World Affairs 157 (1995), 197–205.

  • 3

    Helmer Rosting, ‘Protection of Minorities by the League of Nations’, American Journal of International Law 17 (1923), 641–660, 643. Rosting cites a number of documents before the 1648 Peace of Westphalia, including the 1555 Peace of Augsburg, the 1573 Pact of Warsaw, and the 1598 Edict of Nantes. For a view of the ‘classical’ Ottoman recognition, see Halil İnalcık, ‘The Status of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch under the Ottomans’, Turcica 21–23 (1991), 407–436. Umut Özsu dates the emergence of a robust international law of minority protection to 1815. See Umut Özsu, Formalizing Displacement: International Law and Population Transfers (Oxford: oup 2015), 22.

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    Eric D. Weitz, ‘From the Vienna to the Paris System: International Politics and the Entangled Histories of Human Rights, Forced Deportations, and Civilizing Missions’, American Historical Review 113 (2008), 1313–1343, 1317. Weitz points out that ‘the recognition of an independent Greece thus stood on the cusp of two worlds, the one of population diversity, the other of population homogeneity’.

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    Colban to Drummond, 19 March 1920, lon r 1617.

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    Najwa Al-Qattan, ‘Dhimmis in the Muslim Court: Legal Autonomy and Religious Discrimination’, International Journal of Middle East Studies 31 (1999), 429–444.

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    Mark Levene, ‘Creating a Modern “Zone of Genocide”: The Impact of Nation- and State-Formation on Eastern Anatolia, 1878–1923’, Holocaust and Genocide Studies 12 (1998), 393–433, 398.

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    Minute dated 19 September 1923, lon r 1685.

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    Carole Fink, ‘The League of Nations and the Minorities Question’, World Affairs 157 (1995), 197–205.

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