The global center for Pontian Hellenism to be built at the Hellinikon former airport was unveiled at an event in Athens on Tuesday.
The center will become a place that keeps alive the customs and traditions of the Pontians who have experienced a long, bright, and painful history including a systematically planned genocide a century ago.
The event to present the design of the Hall for the Global Pontian Greeks of Sourmena was held at the “Mikis Theodorakis” Cultural and Conference Center in Argyroupoli, the southern suburb of Athens.
Despite their tragic history that includes persecution, slaughter, and violent attempts at Islamization, Pontian Greeks who left their Asia Minor homes as refugees “brought to Greece their drive and values – their loyalty to country, family, community and traditions, their hard work and tireless inventiveness,” President Katerina Sakellaropoulou said.
As she noted, “Everywhere Pontians settled, in the villages and cities of Macedonia and Thrace, in the neighborhoods of Athens, despite the difficulties of inclusion and integration the first generation endured, they managed to prosper and they also helped Greece prosper. They retained inviolable bonds among them and claimed their uniqueness.”
The Pontian Hellenism center will be built with funds donated by businessman Spyros Latsis.
Pontian Hellenism genocide
Pontic Greeks traditionally lived in the region of Pontus, on the shores of the Black Sea and in the Pontic Mountains of northeastern Anatolia.
Many later migrated to other parts of Eastern Anatolia, to the former Russian province of Kars Oblast in the Transcaucasus, and to Georgia in various waves between the Ottoman conquest of the Empire of Trebizond in 1461 and the Russo-Turkish War of 1828-1829.
The Pontic Greeks had a continuous presence in the region of Pontus, Georgia, and Eastern Anatolia from at least 700 BC until the Greek genocide and population exchange with Turkey in 1923.
The number of Pontians who had died exceeded 200,000. It is impossible to arrive at an exact figure, but some historians put the true number at 350,000.
The population exchange followed the Asia Minor Catastrophe in 1922, a cataclysmic event of such enormous importance for modern Greek history that it shaped generation upon generation after 1922, adding yet another unforgettable —and unutterably tragic — milestone to Greece’s long history.
The Ministry of Culture announced that it will dedicate 2022 to the 100th anniversary of the Asia Minor Catastrophe and to the promotion of the memory and identity of the refugee communities, including the Pontian Greeks.