Recognizing the 20th Century Greek Genocide

A young Hellene’s perspective on why united recognition of a Greek Genocide, rather than Pontian, Anatolian, or Thracian, is a crucial step to education and awareness.  

By Paul Pavlakos

A map of modern-day Turkey; each cross represents an area where massacres of ethnic Greeks occurred. /Greek Genocide Resource Center 

 On Sunday, April 14th, was the Greek Independence Day parade in New York City; the theme is “Remembering the 100th Anniversary of the Pontian Genocide.”  So, it seems the perfect time to reflect on the history of the genocide and its importance to our culture and community. 

To be completely informed and proud of our culture, we must remember that roughly a century ago, the Ottoman Empire (and later Turkey) attempted to eliminate that culture and eliminate our people through a systematic genocide. Millions of Greeks lost their businesses, their homes, their families, or their lives because of a unified effort to erase the Greek culture and Christian religion from an entire area. And yet, these horrible events remain largely unrecognized and misunderstood.

The Hellenic community has remembered the genocide as a “Pontian Genocide,” “Thracian Genocide,” or “Asia Minor Genocide,” rather than a genocide of all ethnic Greeks (and even further a genocide of all Christians, including Armenians and Assyrians). This regional approach to remembrance creates misinformation and lack of cooperation, which makes widespread awareness nearly impossible to achieve.

Some of the confusion comes from the fact that there are three different remembrance days for the same genocide. Just this past Saturday, on April 6, was the remembrance of those affected in Thrace. The Pontians use May 19 and those from the rest of Asia Minor chose September 14 for their remembrance day. Another effect of the regional approach is to understate the genocide’s effects; each region claims hundreds of thousands were killed or deported, but the total number of all ethnic Greeks affected is over 1.5 million. Finally, while this Sunday is being remembered as a 100th anniversary, the genocide in Pontos actually began in 1916 and attacks of ethnic Greeks in other regions were conducted as early as 1912.

So, what do we, especially the young community, do with this information? What does it mean to us? It is up to us to remain educated and informed; to push and promote our culture and history; and, most importantly, to do this together. Separated into Pontians, Thracians, and Anatolians, these atrocities will continue to be misunderstood and unrecognized. But, if we can come together as one culture, as Greeks, we can increase recognition and awareness of these events. We can fight for a common cause to ensure that these terrible acts are never forgotten. And, if we are able to educate and inform, we can play a part in making sure that such terrible acts, against any people, will never happen again.