Origins of the Pontian Greeks

Around 1400 BC, the invading Dorians (northern Greek speakers) settled in the southern Balkan Peninsula (what we know now as Greece). Many Mycenaean Greeks escaped Dorian domination in the region, and started the first wave of Greek colonization. Up until 700 BC, Ancient Greece was overcrowded, and resources had become scarce. Many Greek cities had sent colonizers abroad to form their own cities that would remain loyal to the mother cities. Many Greek colonizers had settled in the Asia Minor coasts, now known as modern Turkey. One of the greatest cities formed in the area was the city of Miletus. Miletus was the first Greek city to establish colonies in the Black Sea region.
The first Greek city founded by Miletus was Sinope (Western Pontos). After Sinope was founded, other Greek cities were created in the region such as Heraclia, Trapezos (Trapezounta), Amisos, Bathys (Batum), and Kerasos (Kerasounta). Like many other Greek colony cities, they were mostly located towards or near the coasts because of overseas trading. This region was later called Euxenios Pontos. At 300 BC, King Mithridates 1st founded the first Pontic kingdom, which ruled directly from Sinope. Mithridates Eupator the 6th even battled against Roman armies that were lead by Pompey, and he committed suicide in 63 BC after he was defeated. In the 13 Century AD, the Empire of Trapezounta was founded by Alexios and David Komnenos (Komnenian Empire).
In 1461, 8 years after the fall of Constantinople, Trapezounta fell to the Turks. Many of the Greek inhabitants escaped the Turkish occupied cities, and fled inland where they created new cities and towns. However, many Pontian Greeks fled to neighboring Georgia, Kazahkstan, and Armenia. Most of the Pontians who left Pontos fled to Russia, thus creating a second Pontic civilization. Up to 1918, the Pontian population in Russia grew over half a million.

 

Genocide Policies and the Extermination of The Hellenic Civilization of Pontos

On May 19th 1916, the Turkish government created extermination policies on the Pontian Greeks in order to create an ethnic Turkish state. From 1916-1923, Turkish forces had applied the massacres on Greeks in the region. During 1916-18, Russian forces had occupied Trapezounta, and were welcomed by the Greeks as protectors. As the Ottoman Empire was slowly dying in 1919, a Republic of Pontos was becoming more of a reality with the help of Greece. The Turkish government created the Republic of Turkey in 1923, after the nationalist Kemal Attatruk and his Young Turks defeated the Russians. During this year, Greece and Turkey had to agree on the Treaty of Lusanne as a settlement. This settlement was also known as the Asia Minor Catastrophe. Both nations would have to agree on exchanging their populations, which was based on religious affiliation, not ethnicity. Many Greek Muslims in Anatolia were not exchanged, while Greek Christians were sent to Greece. In other words, many Muslim Pontian Greeks remained in Pontos.
This is the reason why in that region today, many of the elderly Turkish peoples still speak their Pontian-Greek dialect, however, they dismiss the fact that they speak Greek. After the ethnic cleansing was done in the region, 300,000 Pontian Greeks were massacred, as well as 1.5 million Armenians due to Kemalist policies. Hundreds of thousands of Greeks arrived in Greece as refugees. When they had arrived, the overall Greek population discriminated against the Pontians by calling them Turks. The Pontian-Greek dialect was the main reason for this discrimination, even though the dialect itself is the purest of ancient Greek dialects. Also, many Greeks who arrived from that region only knew how to speak Turkish.
The majority of Pontians who arrived in Greece settled in Thrace and Macedonia, while many of them settled in Athens. May 19th is not only to commemorate the Pontian Genocide, but we as Greeks should look back on this date because May 19th is where part of Hellenism had died but never forgotten. Written by: kolo_kotronis

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