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Greece Remembers the Greek Genocide of Pontus

Remembrance day for Greek genocide
Refugees forced to leave their ancestral lands in the early 1920s. Public Domain

The Remembrance day for the Greek Genocide of Pontus was honored by Greece on Wednesday. The Hellenic Parliament will be lit up tonight to mark the occasion and mourn the Greek lives lost in the genocide.

Many high-ranking Greek politicians made statements for the important day and a special plenary session occurred in Parliament to mark the atrocity.

Remembrance day for Greek genocide

The Parliament session was to recognise the official remembrance day for the horrors. May 19 has been marked as a day of remembrance for the Greek genocide since February 24 1994, when the Hellenic parliament voted to recognize the genocide.

The Parliament building will also be lit up using an image symbolic of the Pontic Greeks to honor the memory of those killed in the genocide.

The President of the Hellenic Republic, Katerina Sakellaropoulou, remembered these Greeks in there remarks today.

“Today, we honor the memory of the hundreds of thousands of Pontian Greek victims who were exterminated in an inhuman and heinous way a century ago.

“At the same time, we acknowledge the heroic lives of the Greeks of Pontus who were saved and contributed the most to the recovery and progress of the motherland, and to the economic development and the richness of our cultural identity.”

“The recognition of the Genocide was an obvious step and cost little for our country. The preservation of historical memory does not leave its importance in the past. It works symbolically and deterrently for the future. Today is a vivid and enduring reminder to the entire international community of the great importance of morality, responsibility, and forgiveness for the peaceful coexistence of peoples.”

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis also tweeted about the important day, saying:

“102 years later we remember, we fight, we rally. Pontian Hellenism does not forget, it moves forward. Their lyre will mourn the uprooting and their musical bow will sing hope. And the day of remembrance of the Genocide will remain important until it turns into a Day of Justice.”

“We honor the memory of the victims of the Pontian Greeks genocide that led to the death and uprooting of a significant part of Hellenism with a long history. We honor the Pontian Greeks contribution to the social, cultural and economic restoration of Greece,” stated main opposition SYRIZA-Progressive Alliance leader Alexis Tsipras in a post on social media.

He also underlined that the promotion and recognition of the historic truth and the preservation of the historic memory is a struggle not only for the past but mostly for the present and the future.

“The next generations will be safe once there is a stop to violations of human rights and the international law that leads to genocides, ethnic cleansing and new uprooting,” Tsipras said in his message.

Opposition Movement for Change (KINAL) leader Fofi Gennimata said that May 19 was a day of remembrance, honor and respect for the Pontian Greeks that “were murdered or uprooted in the most violent way from their lands”.

In a post on social media, Gennimata also said that in 1994, PASOK had achieved the recognition of the Pontian Genocide by the Greek Parliament, which would be celebrated on May 19 every year.

“We continue on the same path and strive for the international recognition of the genocide. The internationalization of the issue is today more timely than ever, after the recognition of the Armenian Genocide by US President Jo Biden. We will not stop until the historic truth is restored and Turkey admits its crimes and ask for forgiveness from the peoples that suffered,” Gennimata added.

Another traditional part of the Remembrance day for the Greek genocide is a ceremony performed outside of Parliament. Every year, the Greek Presidential Guard, the Evzones, mark the anniversary of the Pontian Genocide in Athens’ Syntagma Square. A video of the solemn ceremony can be found below:

The horrific events of the Pontic Genocide

The Young Turk movement was started in 1908; the hard nationalist party was responsible for beginning the persecution of Christian communities and the forcible Turkification of the region.

These Turks, on the pretext of national security, displaced the majority of the Greek population in Asia Minor’s inhospitable hinterlands, via so-called “labor battalions.”

Reacting to the oppression of the Turks — the murders, deportations and the burning of villages — Pontic Greeks took to the mountains to salvage what was possible of their culture. After the genocide of the Armenians, the Turkish nationalists under Mustafa Kemal Ataturk then began the systematic extermination of the Pontic Greeks.

In 1919 the Greeks, with the Armenians and the temporary support of the Eleftherios Venizelos government, tried to create a standalone Greek-Armenian state. This plan was thwarted by the Turks, who took advantage of the event to advance to the “final solution.”

On May 19, 1919, Ataturk landed in Samsun to start the second and most brutal phase of the Pontian Genocide under the guidance of German and Soviet advisers. By the time of the Asia Minor Catastrophe of 1922, the number of Pontians who died had exceeded 200,000; some historians put the figure as high as 350,000.

Those who escaped the Turkish sword fled as refugees to southern Russia. After the end of the 1919–22 Greco-Turkish War, most of the Pontian Greeks remaining in the Ottoman Empire were transported to Greece under the terms of the 1923 population exchange between Greece and Turkey. Their number is estimated to be 400,000.

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