Librarians who work directly with people often have a few go-to test searches that we use in databases to become more familiar with the interfaces or to see what has changed after a major database update. Early on in my current job, I was working to learn more about our newspaper databases that held content from the 19th and 20th centuries so I would be prepared if I ever got a question.
One of the searches that I used, especially for the early 20th century, was related to the Greek expulsion from Turkey, now commonly called the Greek Genocide or Pontic Genocide. It is the reason why areas long-documented to be Greek since antiquity in Asia Minor are now in Turkey and mostly populated by people who are not Greek, and it happened at the same time as the Armenian Genocide. While I stopped doing those searches a few years ago, I still remember reading the pleas from humanitarians and occasionally seeing grainy photographs that documented what was happening.
Still, a century later, many people worldwide don’t know about these modern atrocities. I believe it is important for those of us who worship the Hellenic Gods and who are not Greek to acknowledge modern Hellenes/Greeks, which includes a willingness to be aware of their recent history and to understand the cultural continuities that exist between today and yesterday. Many books have come out about this in recent years, fiction and nonfiction, even a documentary, and there is also escalating tension between Greece and Turkey over disputed land right now. I hope that this brief blog post raises awareness and encourages you to learn more.
Also, earlier today, the Biden administration acknowledged the Armenian Genocide, a major step in international leadership on bringing light to painful and horrific periods in recent history. The Turkish government has, unfortunately and predictably, responded negatively. After all, Taner Akçam, the Turkish scholar who wrote The Young Turks’ Crime Against Humanity: The Armenian Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing in the Ottoman Empire, has faced intimidation and harm from his own government for attempting to be candid about what happened. Biden’s acknowledgment has implications for the other groups that were ethnically cleansed, including Greeks and Assyrians.
Speaking as someone whose ancestors literally participated in Native genocide and oppression in French Canada, it can be confusing and demoralizing to confront atrocities that one’s ancestors assisted in or were complicit in. However, nothing ever gets better by ignoring or denying it.
My heart goes out to the survivors and descendants of what happened a century ago. 💐