The Greek occupation of Smyrna

November 5 2013

May 1919 – September 1922.

(The Allied occupation of Constantinople lasted from November 1918 to September 1923.

The Sultanate was abolished on November 1 1922. Mehmed VI left the country on November 17.

The Grand National Assembly governed for a year and declared a Republic on October 19 1923.

The Caliphate was abolished on March 3 1924.)

The area provisionally assigned to Greece round Smyrna under the Treaty of Sèvres was small compared to the territories mandated to Great Britain and France in Syria, Palestine, and Mesopotamia. The whole area carved out of the Ottoman Empire since 1821 to make an independent Greece is even smaller in comparison with the vast French and British dominions over Middle Eastern peoples in India, the Nile Basin, and North-West Africa. It is the misfortune as well as the fault of Greece – and the unmitigated fault of Allied statesmanship – that the occupation of Smyrna has had specially untoward consequences, but the circumstances could not fail to make trouble. The Greek troops were sent to Smyrna, with a mandate from the Supreme Council and under cover of the guns of Allied warships, more than six months after the armistice with Turkey. The landing – technically camouflaged as a movement of Allied troops for the maintenance of order – was probably contrary to the letter of the armistice, for no previous local disorder had been proved, and it was certainly contrary to its spirit. Within a few hours of the landing, the troops committed a bad massacre in the city; within a few days they advanced into the interior; and a new and devastating war of aggression against Turkey began in her only unravaged provinces. In the sixteenth month of this war, the Powers gave Greece a five-years’ administrative mandate in the Smyrna Zone, with the possibility of subsequent annexation. Turkey was the leading state of the Middle Eastern world, Greece a Near Eastern state of recent origin. She had been admitted with generous facility into the Western concert of nations; but the mandate now given to her – to govern a mixed population in which one element was of her own nationality – would have been a difficult test, in parallel circumstances, for the most experienced Western Power. It was wanton rashness to make such an experiment at Turkey’s expense; and after the experiment had proved a failure, it showed blind prejudice and partiality on the part of Western Governments that they should continue to give Greece material and moral support in her enterprise as an apostle of their civilisation.

The Western Question in Greece and Turkey, A Study in the Contact of Civilizations, Constable, 1922

This book was published before the dénouement in Smyrna: its Preface is dated 22nd March 1922. Toynbee was a war correspondent in Turkey for the Manchester Guardian from January to September 1921.

3 Responses to “The Greek occupation of Smyrna”

  1. Arkady Says:

    I wonder whether you could recommend a book in English on the Greek-Turkish conflict following WW1, and/or the Allied occupation of Constantinople?

    • davidderrick Says:

      Hi Arkady

      Well, David Fromkin’s A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East is popular. I don’t know how good it is. Margaret MacMillan’s Peacemakers: The Paris Peace Conference of 1919 and Its Attempt to End War has background. I’m not sure about specialist studies. But don’t forget Professor Toynbee. You can get his The Western Question in Greece and Turkey, A Study in the Contact of Civilizations, free at the Internet Archive. Although it is about several things at once, it is in part reporting from the front lines of the Greco-Turkish War during a nine-month visit to Greece and Turkey in 1921.

  2. Arkady Says:

    Many thanks sir. I have just returned from Istanbul and feel compelled to brush up on that period.


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