Greek authorities announced on Tuesday that they will be reburying Turkish corpses that were recently unearthed in the northwest province of Chalkidiki.
Turkey’s state run Anadolu Agency reported that the authorities in Chalkidiki’s Nea Propondita municipality made the decision to rebury the corpses of Turkish people who died during the 1923 population exchanges.
Neval Konuk Halacoglu, from Istanbul’s Marmara University, told the Anadolu Agency that he learned the corpses would receive an epitaph at a municipal cemetery. Halaçoğlu stated that there were 167 Turkish families consisting of approximately 500 people who had lived in the village during the Ottoman period.
“We thank officials of the Nea Propondita municipality for the decision and the respectful attitude toward our tombs,” Halacoglu said.
Corpses from the 1923 population exchanges
Following the Greco-Turkish War’s end in 1922, Greece and the newly proclaimed Republic of Turkey engaged in a population exchange that saw over a million Greeks from Anatolia resettled in the Greek homeland.
Many of these Greeks had already fled the advancing Turkish nationalists and many more left with the Greek Army as it pulled out of Smyrna (present-day Izmir, Turkey). As many as 400,000 ethnic Greeks fled from Smyrna alone after the fire broke out in the city after it was taken by Turkish forces in September of 1922. Turkey has blamed the fire on the departing Greek troops, but this has been discredited by historians.
The Great Fire of Smyrna, as it is now known, nearly annihilated the Greek presence that went back many centuries. It was an extension of what later became the wholesale destruction of any major Greek presence in Anatolia during the population exchanges that took place between Greece and Turkey after the war.
The number of Greek Muslims who were sent to Turkey is believed to be half a million; these individuals were exchanged with the approximately 1.5 million Anatolian Greeks who were resettled in Greece.