Occupation of İzmir

Occupation of İzmir

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Occupation of İzmir
partof=Greco-Turkish War (1919-1922)
campaign of Turkish War of Independence

caption=Greek Soldiers taking their posts
date=21 May 19198 Sep 1922
place=İzmir district occupied by Greece
casus=Partitioning of the Ottoman Empire
territory=Greece declares a protectorate on 30 Jul 1922 from Ottoman Empire and restores it after defeat on 9 Sep 1922 to Republic of Turkey
result=Population exchange; Provisions of Agreement of St.-Jean-de-Maurienne overturned
commander1=High Commissioner Aristidis Stergiadis
commander2=Mustafa Kemal¹
notes=1: Commander during restoration

The Occupation of İzmir was the rule in the İzmir district by Greek forces under the High Commissioner Aristidis Stergiadis, aligned with the Allied partitioning of the Ottoman Empire after the Armistice of Mudros. There had been no military hostilities between Greece and the Ottoman Empire during World War I or prior to the occupation. The occupation is considered by a number of sources as the catalyst for the Turkish national movement [Mustafa Kemal Pasha's speech in Ankara in November 1919 from "Soylev ve demecler"] . The occupation was very controversial, since the main intention of the Allies of World War I was to balance the Italian expansion in Anatolia prior to Italian landing on the southern coast. [The Italian and Anglo-French repudiation of the April 26, 1917, (Agreement of St.-Jean-de-Maurienne) meant that the Italy's interests in the Middle East were overridden by the Greek occupation, since İzmir was part of the territory previously promised to Italy. Before the occupation the Italian delegation to the Paris Peace Conference, 1919, angry about the possibility of a Greek occupation of Western Anatolia, left the conference and did not return to Paris until May 5. The absence of the Italian delegation from the Conference ended up facilitating Lloyd George's efforts to persuade France and the United States to favor Greece in order to prevent Italian operations in Western Anatolia.] However, the Greek expansion in this province was consistent with Megali Idea, and activities under the terms of concession resulted in the establishment of Turkish national movement and an alignment between Italy and Grand National Assembly of Turkey [The agreements between Italy and Turkish Revolutionaries] . The Greek occupation of İzmir was an event that had a significance beyond its military importance. The Greek concessions during this time over Greek Christians of Turkey was pointed as the main motivation for the provision in the Treaty of Lausanne for population exchange between Greece and Turkey to create ethnically homogeneous states [Extensive background and references on this issue should be found under population exchange between Greece and Turkey] .


Following the Ottoman Empire's defeat in World War I, the victorious allies had gathered in Paris in 1919 to decide on the partition of the remaining territories of the Empire. The British had already occupied Istanbul (Constantinople), the French had marched into Cilicia, and the Italians landed in Antalya on the southern coast as well as being promised parts on the western coasts including İzmir. The Italians were unaware however, that Britain had promised Greece large tracts of Asia Minor for its support during the war.

Legality of the occupation

Legal justifications for the landings was found in the article 7 of the Armistice of Moudros, which allowed the Allies "to occupy any strategic points in the event of any situation arising which threatens the security of Allies." [ Stanford J.Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey, Cambridge University Press 1977 p. 342 ] The chief proponent of the Greek occupation on the side of allies was the British Prime Minister David Lloyd George, despite strong opposition from his own foreign office. British foreign office argued Greece had already proved incapable of keeping order in Salonika, and could not be trusted to administer large tracts of Asia Minor.Lord Kinross, Atatürk. p.153.]

Lloyd George had thus concocted a report according to which Turkish guerrillas had threatened the Greek minorities in İzmirPeter Kincaid Jensen, 1979. International Journal of Middle East Studies. Vol.10, No.4, (Nov.1979), p.554] , providing a pretext for a Greek incursion into Asia Minor. The reports had gained the sympathy of President Woodrow Wilson, whilst Georges Clemenceau approved the landing with the hope of limiting further Italian gains.

The occupation also changed its status on 30 Jul 1922 by Greece declaring the "Protectorate on İzmir" province.

Military administration

A military administration was formed by the Greek premier Eleftherios Venizelos shortly after the initial landings. Venizelos had plans to annex İzmir that he succeeded in realizing his objective in Treaty of Sèvres August 10 1920. Andrew Mango, Atatürk. p217.] , He had immediately agreed to send Greek troops to İzmir after Italian troops had landed in Antalya.

Landings, 15 May 1919

On May 15 1919, twenty thousand [ Lord Kinross, Atatürk. p.154] Greek soldiers landed in İzmir and took control of the city and its surroundings under cover of the Greek, French, and British navies. Greeks of İzmir and other Christians, who formed the minority according to Ottoman sources and a majority according to Greek sources [Hellenic Army General Staff, 1957, Ο Ελληνικός Στρατός εις την Σμύρνην ("O Ellenikos Stratos eis ten Smirnev"), p.56 ] , greeted the Greek troops as liberators. According some other sources, Christian population was "perhaps a bare majority, more likely a large minority in the Smyrna Vilayet, which lay in an overwhelmingly Turkish Anatolia." [http://books.google.com/books?id=DEYNKvzs14IC&pg=PA367&dq=genocide+%2Bgreek&sig=jAXMOzBgnb1O21nfnPoVnlNOWsA#PPA367,M1]

First Day of the Occupation

The landings proved to be chaotic and one of the examples of atrocities, which would continue during the rest of the conflict, occurred in that very day. Von Mikusch notes: “The Christian crowd rages and yells… Many fall under the bayonet thrusts. The men are forced to tear the fezes from their heads and trample them underfoot – the worst outrage for a Mohammedan – all who refuse are cut down with the sword. The veils are torn from the women's faces. The mob begins to plunder the house of the Mohammedan” [Von Mikusch, Mustafa Kemal, pp192–193.] .

There were several Westerner eye-witnesses to the events that took place in Izmir. In such a report, Commanding Officer of the U.S.S. Arizona wrote:

Old men, unarmed, and other unoffending civilian Turks were knocked down by the Greeks, killed by stabbing with knives or bayonets, and then afterwards, having their valuables and clothes stripped off their bodies, were thrown into the sea...Specific instances are cited by these same eyewitnesses where Turkish soldiers and officers were bayoneted from behind by their Greek guards, while the rabble rifled their pockets and then threw their bodies into the sea. Many of the worst instances of inhuman treatment of the Turks were while they were under arrest and on open sea front at noonday. [F. O. 371-4218, no. 91491, Mallet (for Balfour) to Curzon, Paris, 1919, enclosure no. 9 " Commanding Officer U.S.S. Arizona to Senior Naval Officer, Constantinople", Smyrna 18 May 1919. ]

Donald Whitall, British resident of İzmir stated that:

From the custom-house up to the Kramer Palace Hotel I was the unwilling witness of the massacre of some thirty unarmed men, who were being marched with hands up. This butchery was committed by Greek soldiers entirely...Close to the landing place of the Cordelio boats I saw a lot more shot down. [F. O. 371-4218, no. 91630, Mallet (for Balfour) to Curzon, Paris, 1919, transmitting "reports received either direct or through the American delegation of the atrocities perpetrated by the Greek troops in Smyrna. The reports are detailed, circumstantial, and trustwhorthy, and there can unfortenetly be no doubt of the disgraceful conduct of the Greek troops or of the lack of control of the Greek authorities" Statement of Donald Whittal, Smyrna, 18 May 1919.]

The Treatment of Turks during the occupation

The first couple months of the occupation was described to American senate by James Harbord, whose mission was to determine the situation of Armenian Christians in the Ottoman Empire: James Harbord, Conditions in the Near East: Report of the American Military Mission to Armenia; The report can be accessed at [http://armenianhouse.org/harbord/conditions-near-east.htm] ] quote|The Greek troops and the local Greeks who had joined them in arms started a general massacre of the Mussulmen population in which the officials and Ottoman officers and soldiers as well as the peaceful inhabitants were indiscriminately put to death and subjected to forms of torture and savagery worthy of the Inquisition and constituting in any case a barbarous violation of the laws of humanity. Naturally the outcry was great among the Mussulmen population. It appealed for help. The voice thus raised by the innocent and tormented Mussulmen of Smyrna reverberated throughout the land. The whole nation rose as one man to oppose the barbarously hostile action of the Greeks. Meetings were organized in the towns and even in the villages and telegrams dispatched by the hundred to the Entente Powers and the whole civilized world, tearfully appealing for protection and help. [James Harbord, "ibid"; pp30–31]

Turkish reaction to landings

The occupation proved a humiliation for many of the Turkish and Muslim inhabitants. Whilst the Turkish army was ordered not to open fire, a Turkish nationalist (Hasan Tahsin) among the crowd fired a shot and killed the Greek standard bearer [ Andrew Mango, "Atatürk", p.217] . Greek soldiers then opened fire on the Turkish barracks as well as the government building. Between 300 to 400 Turks and 100 Greeks were killed on the first day. [ Andrew Mango, Atatürk. p.217]

The Greek landings had served to trigger the Turkish War of Independence, marked by the landing of Mustafa Kemal (later Atatürk) in Samsun on May 19, 1919, four days after the occupation. Kemal formed a nationalist movement with a separate government in Ankara, and no longer recognised the administration in Istanbul, which on August 10, 1920, had signed the Treaty of Sèvres, thus formally ceding the territories to Greece which she presently occupied.

Other reactions to landings

Italy angry at having lost what was promised became sympathetic to the nationalist forces, soon France had declared an armistice with Mustafa Kemal. Britain, attempting to defeat Kemal's army, gave permission for Venizelos to invade further into Anatolia and root out the nationalists.

Administrative reforms

During the occupation of the city, the Greeks established a number of institutions in the city. For example, the first University in İzmir was founded by the Phanariot Greek Mathematician Constantin Carathéodory. This was the first university to be established in Smyrna.Dobkin, Marjorie Housepian, Smyrna: The Destruction of a City]

Several programs were instituted to better the lives of all inhabitants of the city, regardless of race or creed, including:

*Gratuitous bacteriological, hygienic and industrial examinations for all classes of the community.
*The preparation and gratuitous distribution of all healing and diagnostic inoculations, serums, antitoxins, antigonococcus, etc.
*The sanitation of the town on an extensive scale, sewerage, water-supply, streets, etc.
*Sanitary works for the combating of malaria, the draining of marshes, etc.
*The combating of trachoma.
*The combating of phthisis on a large scale, (dispensaries, asylums, convalescent homes, special hospitals, sanitation of houses, etc.)
*For infants: dispensaries, gouttes de lait, crèches, foundling homes, etc.
*For children: various philanthropic institutions. For mothers: pre-natal pre-culture.
*Education and training of doctors to compose the service of public health.
*Training for midwives and nurses.
*Organization of a registry office of births and deaths.
*Organization of special medical statistical service

Turkish recapture, September 1922

The Greek operation deep in Anatolia proved a disaster and by 1922 the Greek army had been routed with Kemal's forces pursuing them to İzmir. The British representative in İzmir warned, "The Greeks have realised that they have got to go but they are decided to leave a desert behind them, no matter whose interests may suffer thereby. Everything which they have time and means to move will be carried off to Greece; the Turks will be plundered and burnt out of house and home"Andrew Mango, Atatürk. p343.] . The Turkish pursuit left little room to fulfill this prophecy, but a scorched earth policy had left wide tracts of the surrounding land in ruins, leaving the population of İzmir close to starvation. It is estimated some 3,000 lives had been lost in the burning of Alaşehir alone.

By September 9th, the Turkish army had entered İzmir, with the Greek authorities having left two days before. Large scale disorder followed, with the Christian population suffering under attacks from soldiers and Turkish inhabitants. The Greek archbishop Chrysostomos had been lynched by a mob which included Turkish soldiers, and on September 13, a fire from the Armenian quarter of the city had engulfed the Christian waterfront of the city, leaving the city devastated. There are many testimonies and reliable sources that undoubtedly claim, that the fire was organized by Mustafa Kemal himself, and was executed by Turkish para-military organizations and fanatics coming from the depths of Anatolia together with the Turkish army. Few other sources, claim that, but do not give enough evidence that there are also Greeks and Armenians to blame for the accident. [Peter Kincaid Jensen, 1979. International Journal of Middle East Studies p564] . Concluding, the fire has destroyed almost the Greek and Armenian inhabited regions of the city, but never reach the city's Turkish and Jewish neighborhood.


The Italy and Anglo-French repudiation of the April 26, 1917 which settled the middle eastern interest of Italy was overridden with the Greek occupation, as İzmir was part of the agreements promised to Italy. Before the occupation the Italian delegation to Paris Peace Conference, 1919, dissatisfied about the possibility of the Greek occupation of Western Anatolia, left the conference and did not return to Paris until May 5. The absence of the Italian delegation from the Conference ends up by facilitating Lloyd George's efforts to persuade France and the United States in Greece’s favor to prevent Italian operations in Western Anatolia.

Occupation of İzmir, was one of the main reasons behind the population exchange between Greece and Turkey.

ee also

* Aristidis Stergiadis
* Great Fire of Smyrna
* Greco-Turkish War (1919-1922)
* Turkish War of Independence
* Chronology of the Turkish War of Independence


* on the Greek occupation in Western Anatolia, by the Members of the Commission; Adm. Bristol, the US Delegate; Gen. Hare, the British Delegate; Gen. Bunoust, the French Delegate; Gen. Dall'Olio, the Italian Delegate. The statements in defense of the Greek government presented by Col. Mazarakis.

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • İzmir — Infobox Settlement settlement type = subdivision type = Country subdivision name = TUR timezone=EET utc offset=+2 map caption =Location of İzmir within Turkey. timezone DST=EEST utc offset DST=+3 official name = İzmir image caption = Port of… …   Wikipedia

  • Izmir — Smyrne Administration Pays …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Occupation of Smyrna — Ζώνη Σμύρνης (Zone of Smyrna) Dependency of Greece …   Wikipedia

  • Occupation de Smyrne par la Grèce — La Grande Grèce du traité de Sèvres. La région de Smyrne apparaît en orange. L’Occupation de Smyrne[1] (aujourd hui Izmir) par les forces grecques, commandées par le Haut commissaire Aristidis Stergiadis, s est déroulée du …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Karataş, İzmir — Karataş is a neighborhood of İzmir, Turkey, within the boundaries of the city s central metropolitan district of Konak. The neighorhood no longer has an official delimitation or status and exists as a notional zone ( semt ) that is admitted to… …   Wikipedia

  • Menemen (District), İzmir — Infobox Settlement settlement type = District subdivision type = Country subdivision name = TUR timezone=EET utc offset=+2 map caption =Location of PAGENAME within Turkey. timezone DST=EEST utc offset DST=+3official name = Menemen image caption …   Wikipedia

  • Université d'Izmir — 38° 25′ 50″ N 27° 08′ 14″ E / 38.4306, 27.1372 L …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Timeline of the Turkish War of Independence — This is an incomplete list, which may never be able to satisfy particular standards for completeness. You can help by expanding it with reliably sourced entries. A graphical timeline is available at Turkish War of Independence …   Wikipedia

  • Turkish War of Independence — Infobox Military Conflict conflict = Turkish War of Independence partof = the Wars of Independence campaign = caption = Anatolia as partitioned by the Treaty of Sèvres. date = May 19, 1919 – October 29, 1923 place = Anatolia casus = Partitioning… …   Wikipedia

  • Nureddin Pasha — This article is about an Ottoman army officer. For an Ottoman grand vizier, see Abdurrahman Nureddin Pasha. Nureddin İbrahim (Konyar) 1309 (1893) P. 31 Miralay Nureddin Bey …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”