The Relocation of Greeks from Pontos

Sam Topalidis (Pontic Historian) 2018


Greeks established colonies around the Black Sea (Figure 1) by the  7th century BC including in modern Georgia, southern Russia, Ukraine and  in the north-eastern corner of Anatolia (Pontos). The Greek settlement of Miletos on the western Anatolian coast (Ionia) was the major organiser of this colonising activity (Tsetskhladze 2009).

Greeks survived in Pontos during the Persian, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine,  Seljuk  Turk  and  the   Ottoman   Turk   period.   From  the 18th century, the Greeks began migrating from Pontos, especially to modern Georgia and southern Russia (around the Black Sea). Much later, after the August 1922 defeat of the Greek army in Anatolia and the compulsory Population Exchange under the January  1923  Lausanne  Convention,  Greeks (called Pontic Greeks) were exiled from Pontos with other Christian Greeks in Turkish territory back to their  supposed  ‘homeland’,  Greece  (Note 1). Many Pontic Greeks were murdered in Anatolia during 1916–23 at the hands of the Ottoman Turk authorities and then the Kemalists.   After  this period and especially in the years following the collapse of the Soviet Union (December 1991), many people of Pontic Greek descent moved from the former Soviet Union to settle in Greece.

This paper summarises reputable information written in English on the relocation of Pontic Greeks since the 18th century from their homeland of Pontos and around the Black Sea to Greece and the Pontic Greek diaspora (sometimes via the former Soviet central Asian republics like Kazakhstan). An attempt is also made to describe the Pontic Greek diaspora. The aim is to provide a better summary for interested readers to better understand when and especially how many Pontic Greeks moved from Pontos. As population figures on Pontic Greeks in the literature are often only estimates (of varying quality), an attempt is made here to report ‘more reliable’ population figures. Detailed population statistics are also analysed. These include the 1928 Greek census, which recorded the number of Greek refugees and their place of origin such as Anatolia and Caucasus and the 1910–12 Greek Population ‘survey’ conducted in Anatolia and Thrace by the Ecumenical Patriarchate at Constantinople. The population data collected by Ottoman Turks of their citizens from the 19th and the early 20th century have many limitations and were not censuses in the modern sense and are therefore not used here (Note 2).

Sadly, we will never know the exact number of Pontic Greeks who lived in regions at different periods or the exact number  who  perished  during 1916–23.


Catherine the Great of Russia

In 1763, during the reign of Catherine the Great (1762–96), Empress of Russia, the first Pontic Greek settlers of around 800 families arrived in the Caucasus from Gümüşane (pronounced Gumushane, south of Trabzon, Figure 1). They worked the ore deposits on the northern border in modern Armenia. Subsequently, the miners founded new settlements in Transcaucasia [Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia] and the North Caucasus region in a migration that continued into the 18th and 19th centuries. In 1775, Catherine permitted Greeks from the Aegean Islands who had served in the Russian army as well as farmers from Greece, Bulgaria and Moldavia, to settle in Crimea. In 1778–79, Catherine assisted a group of Crimean Greeks to settle in Mariupol (Figure 1) and the surrounding area in modern Ukraine. These Crimean Greeks either spoke a dialect of the Turkish (Tatar) language or Greek. The two groups settled in separate areas in the same region (Manuylov 2015).


Russian-Turkish Wars in 19th Century

In  1813,  around  120 Pontic/Anatolian  Greek  households  had  settled around Tbilisi in Georgia (Figure 1). The wave of migration commenced after the 1828–29 Russo-Turkish war when 42,000 Pontic Greeks from the areas of Gümüşane and Erzurum (south of Trabzon, Figure 1) followed the Russian troops out of Anatolia (Xanthopoulou-Kyriakou 1991).

From 1856 to 1866 (after the Crimean War) around 60,000 Pontic Greeks moved from the Trabzon and the Erzurum regions to the Kuban and Stavropol  regions  in  southern  Russia.   In   the   last   decades   of   the  19th century and especially during the years of the Russian-Turkish Wars, thousands of Pontic Greek refugees settled in the Caucasus, especially in   the newly Russian-occupied territory of Kars (Figure 1) (Karpozilos 1999). (After the 1877–78 Russo-Turkish war, Russia annexed the Kars  region  from the Ottoman empire.)

Xanthopoulou-Kyriakou (1991) states the rate of migration (including to Transcaucasia) gradually declined until the early 20th centuries. These immigrants tended to be seasonal workers who turned into permanent  settlers. At the beginning of the 20th century the Greeks in the Caucasus alone numbered 150,000.

Census figures from the former Soviet Union and (from 1991 with the collapse of the Soviet Union) in the Caucasus, Kazakhstan, Russia and Ukraine are believed to underestimate the number of people of Greek descent.       Often    people    of    Greek    descent    who    had    been    ‘culturally assimilated’  would  report  in  the  censuses  as  being  Georgian  or  Russian  etc and not Greek (Note 3).

The first general census of the Russian empire (excluding Finland)  was conducted in 1897 and reported 207,500 Greeks. Unfortunately, nationalities were classified according to their mother tongue, not ethnicity, so it probably underestimated the number of ethnic Greeks. This census reported  105,200  Greeks  living  in  the  Caucasus   which   included  32,600 [Pontic] Greeks in Kars (Zapantis 1982).


Population, Exile and Labour Battalions (1910–18)

In 1910–12, based on the ‘survey’ of the Greek Population in Anatolia and Thrace organised by the Ecumenical Patriarch at Constantinople, there is hard evidence there were at least 416,000 Greeks in Pontos (Note 4). It is difficult to produce a good estimate at the same time of how many Pontic Greeks were living in modern Georgia, Russia and Ukraine. Hasiotis (1997) in Voutira (2011) states before the October 1917 Russian Revolution it was believed that 450,000 Greeks were living in the Russian empire of whom 250,000 were thought to be Pontic Greeks.

During World War I, after the spring of 1916 when the Russian army occupied the north-east corner of Anatolia (including the greater Trabzon region), thousands of Ottoman Turks fled westwards from the occupied  areas. The Ottoman authorities announced that wherever Orthodox  Christians failed to report for military service (i.e. to join the labour battalions, see Note 5) or deserted after joining up, their community would  be held responsible. This provided an excuse for  the  Ottoman  Turks  to burn Christian villages and that in turn often  meant  retaliation  (Clark  2006).

In  December  1916,  for  allegedly  ‘military  reasons’,  the  Ottoman  War Minister, Enver, ordered the deportation of the Greek population from the Anatolian Black Sea coast away from the Russian front line. The German diplomats realised that the harsh winter and the failure to  organise provisions would lead to high casualties (Hofmann 2011). For example, the then Greek Orthodox Metropolitan of Amasia, Karavangelis, stated that around 30,000 Greeks had been deported from the area around Samsun to  the province of Ankara. The evacuated villages were looted and burnt with the convoys of the deportees being attacked and women and children killed (Akçam 2012).

While thousands of Pontic Greeks lost their lives in these deportations, others managed to flee across the Russian border or took to the mountains with their guns and formed guerrilla groups. Here the guerrillas endured a precarious existence away from Turkish soldiers while robbing Turkish Muslim villages for provisions. Greeks on either side of the Russian front in Anatolia faced difficult challenges: on the Ottoman side they were deported, while on the Russian side they feared what might happen if the Russians were to withdraw. Aside from Ottoman-orchestrated persecutions, villagers in Anatolia were terrorised throughout World War I and in the post-war years by Muslim bandits (Doumanis 2013).


Exodus from Pontos 1918–24

Movement to Russia and Greece

When the Russian army withdrew from eastern Pontos [north-east Anatolia] and returned to Russia [completed by early 1918 and in the throes  of revolutionary fervour], an estimated 80,000 Greeks accompanied them (Xanthopoulou-Kyriakou 1991). (Note 6.) Once on Russian soil,  these  Pontic Greeks encountered widespread famine and disease [as well as social and political upheaval]. A large number of them settled in Novorossiysk, Rostov on Don and the Kuban region (in Russia) (Figure 1), Sukhumi and in the interior of Georgia and cities by the Sea of Azov (Karpozilos 1999).


After World War I, the Greek guerrillas and survivors of the deportations returned to their Pontic villages. In early May 1919, Mustafa Kemal [called Ataturk from 1934] became Inspector General of the Ottoman Ninth army. He was to restore order, to gather the arms laid down by the Ottoman forces and prevent resistance against the government. He was however expected to organise resistance [against the occupying forces in Anatolia] and started raising a popular Muslim guerrilla force (Shaw and Shaw 2002). On 19 May 1919, Kemal arrived in Samsun and over the next two years localised fighting intensified (Stanley 2007). (In the meantime, on 15 May 1919, the Greek army landed at Smyrna on the west coast of Anatolia.)

In 1919, Kars and Ardahan (near Georgia) were occupied by the Ottoman Turks which forced a mass flight of Pontic Greeks to Russia to escape persecution. From May 1920 until the end of February 1921, an estimated 53,000 Pontic Greeks went from Batumi (Figure 1) to Greece. Three quarters of them were refugees from Kars and Ardahan (Pratsinakis 2013; Vergeti 1991).

The 1920 Soviet census recorded 203,000 Greeks living in the country [probably an underestimate due to some cultural assimilation of the Greeks  as Georgians, Russians or Ukrainians] which included 23,800 in  Crimea [then an Autonomous Republic] (Zapantis 1982).

In June 1921, a Greek warship bombed Inebolu (west of Sinope) on  the Black Sea. With the perceived danger of a Greek landing in Samsun, Mustafa Kemal and his Ankara government agreed that  all  Greek  males aged between 15 and 50 years should be deported to the interior (Mango 2002). This provided an excuse for murder and pillage against the Greeks. There are many reports of the authorities murdering many thousands of Greeks in Pontos in this period.


Population Exchange 1923

As far as the Greek side was concerned, the Lausanne Convention relating to the compulsory exchange of people of Greek Orthodox religion from Turkish territory to Greece and a much smaller number of people of  the Muslim religion from Greece to Turkish territory, signed at Lausanne Switzerland, on 30 January 1923 legalised the existing situation. That is, after August 1922, with the defeat of the Greek army in Anatolia, the vast majority of Greeks of Anatolia and Eastern Thrace had been forced to leave for Greece from the advancing army of Mustafa Kemal. The Lausanne Convention determined that those Greeks who had not yet left for Greece were subject to the forthcoming compulsory Population Exchange (Klapsis 2014).

By the end of 1924 nearly all the remaining Anatolian Greeks left their homeland although thousands perished in the process before they arrived in Greece. On arrival in their purported ‘homeland’ Greece, Greeks from Pontos  were  called  Pontic  Greeks  and  received  ‘a  form  of  acceptance’  by other Greeks. Their new life in Greece was another struggle where many more died in the harsh conditions. There were also many Pontic Greeks still living in nearby Russia, Ukraine and the Caucasus. According to the 1926


Soviet Union census (Table1), 213,700 Greeks, [probably an underestimate] were living in the Soviet Republics.

Table 1: Number of Greeks in Soviet censuses


Year Number of Greeks
1926 213,700
1939 286,600


1970 336,900
1979 342,800
1989 358,000

Source: Hionidou and Saunders (2010, p. 1480)


Pontic Greeks in Greece 1928

Many Pontic Greeks died during 1916–23 (Note 7). The survivors abandoned Anatolia during this period, leaving mainly for Greece and the Soviet Union, but also travelling to America, Europe and Iran. Table 2 records hard evidence of the number of refugees in Greece [including the children that in the meantime had been born in Greece] according to their place of origin in the 1928 Greek census. [The number of refugees remained more or less stable during 1923–28 since the reduced number of able- bodied men resulted in arresting a natural increase of the population. The population suffered high mortality rates as a result of poor living conditions (Klapsis 2014).] Pontic Greek refugees numbered just over 182,000 (an underestimate) for, as Table 2 shows, around 47,000 refugees declared the Caucasus as their place of origin and nearly all of them were Pontic Greeks. A more realistic total would be more than 230,000—as many Pontic Greeks from the Caucasus probably appeared in the census as refugees from Asia

Table 2: Number of refugees and their place of origin, 1928 Greek census



Place of origin

Number of people
Arrived before Aug-Sept 1922 Arrived after Aug-Sept 1922 Total
Asia Minor 37,728 589,226 626,954
Pontos 17,528 164,641 182,169
Caucasus 32,421 14,670 47,091
Russia 5,214 6,221






Constantinople 4,109
Thrace 27,057
Bulgaria 20,977 28,050 49,027
Other areas 6,858 3,222 10,080
Total 151,892 1,070,957 1,222,849

Source: Statistical Yearbook of Greece (1930, p. 41)


Minor and Thrace (Vergeti 1991). Of course, there would be some people who were missed and not reported in the census while some refugees probably did not report themselves as refugees.

Pontic refugees who migrated from the Caucasus to Greece from 1919–20, were sent to Eastern Thrace and returned to Greece after August 1922. As a consequence they are probably recorded as refugees  from  Thrace. Vergeti believes there were as many as 400,000 Pontic Greek refugees [which seems optimistic] from Anatolia and from the Soviet Union in the 1920s.


Greeks in the Former Soviet Union


In the early  1930s  it  was  believed  that  there  were  around 97,000 Mariupol Greeks in Ukraine. They were probably not Pontic Greeks. It is also estimated there were 100,000 Pontic Greeks at Rostov on Don in Russia where the great mass came from the Gümüşane district (Dawkins 1937; Mackridge 1991). According to the January 1939 Russian census there were 286,600 people of Greek descent in the Soviet Union, (Table 1) (probably an underestimate).

In 1929–39, about 50,000 Greeks went to Greece from the Soviet Union (Voutira 2011). Greeks from the regions of Kuban to Stavropol (Russia) and Kars were Pontic Greeks (Pratsinakis 2013).

1944–49 deportations

In June 1944, a total of 15,000 ethnic Greeks [probably Pontic  Greeks] were deported from Crimea [then an Autonomous Republic] (Hionidou and Saunders 2010). Simultaneously, 16,400 Greeks [believed to be Pontic Greeks] were deported from Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia and distributed among the former Soviet Republics of central Asia (Bougai  1996).

In 1946, a large number of Pontic Greeks in the Kuban region of southern Russia, were deported to Kazakhstan with many dying on the way. In 1949, about 100,000 Pontic Greeks in the Caucasus were deported to the central Asian republics. At the same time, the last Pontic Greeks around Krasnodar in Kuban were expelled (Agtzidis 1991). (Interestingly, the Mariupol Greeks in the Donetsk region in Ukraine were not deported under Stalin (Kaurinkoski (2010).)


Movement in 1980s–1990s from Russia/Caucasus to Greece

There was a steady increase in the number of Greeks reported from 1926 to 1989 (Table 1) from the former Soviet Union. It is believed that the Greeks reported in these censuses were mostly of Pontic Greek descent. In the   1989   Soviet   Union   census   (Table 3)   most/nearly   all   the   Greeks   in Georgia, Russia and many in Kazakhstan are believed to have Pontic Greek descent.

In Greece, a survey conducted by the General Secretariat for Repatriated Greeks reported that the number of immigrants from the former Soviet Union who remained in Greece between 1987 and the end of 2000 was around 155,300 people. [Most are of Pontic Greek descent.] From the


turn of this century, the number of immigrants has become a ‘trickle’.   This total figure of 155,300 people is an underestimate because the survey was  not compulsory (Vergeti 2010–11).  Just over 50% of these Greeks came from Georgia, around 20% from Kazakhstan, around 15% from Russia and around 3% from Ukraine (Diamanti-Karanou 2003).

Table 3: Number of Greeks living in the Soviet Union, 1989 census

Soviet republic Number of Greeks
Ukraine 104,000
Georgia 100,000
Russia 80,500
Kazakhstan 49,900
Other 23,600
Total 358,000

Source: Hasiotis (1997) in Pratsinakis (2013).


Current Distribution of Pontic Greeks


There are nearly 11 million people in Greece  (2011 Greek  census). The number of Greeks with Pontic Greek descent is  unknown.  Sjöberg (2017, p. 111) states that according to Lampsidis (1986), people of Pontic Greek descent in Greece amounted to an optimistic around 1 million. The total estimate of Pontic Greeks in Greece and the Pontic Greek diaspora was given at 1.8 million, but Sjöberg states it was not clear how this figure was arrived. This ‘inferred’ there was an optimistic figure of 800,000 people of Pontic Greek descent in the diaspora.

Vergeti (1991) states Pontic Greeks had been migrating to America from the time of their persecutions.  In the 1950s, there  were migrations from Greece to America, Australia and western Europe.

From a cultural perspective, there are 238 active Pontic Greek associations in Greece with at least 100 active members per association (Vergeti 2010–11).


Pontic Greek diaspora

Active Pontic Greek associations in the diaspora have been established in at least the following countries: Australia, Belgium, Canada, Cyprus, England, Georgia, Germany, Switzerland and USA.


In the 2011 Armenian Population and Housing census,  there  were  900 ethnic Greek residents in the country. The majority of these ethnic Greeks have Pontic Greek ancestry (Dr Marina Mkhitar, personal communication, July 2018).


In the 1950s and 1960s there were waves of Greek migrations to Australia. According to the 2016 Australian Population and Housing


census (Australian census), around 420,000 people reported they had Greek ancestry. The largest concentration was in Greater Melbourne where 162,100 people   reported                 with                 Greek                                               ancestry (         viewed     July 2018). Optimistically up to 42,000 Greeks have Pontic Greek descent in Australia (Note 8).


Official Belgian data states there were 17,000 Greeks in the country, but this does not count Greeks who have taken Belgian citizenship ( updated December  2013, viewed  July 2018).                                                                           There is an active Pontic Greek association in Brussels.


In the 2016 Canadian census there were 271,400 Canadians with Greek heritage reported. These Greeks were concentrated in Toronto and Montreal and active Pontic Greek associations exist in both cities.


The migration of Pontic Greeks to the Republic of Cyprus began in the early 1990s and their current number is between 25,000 and 30,000 (Zoumpalidis 2017).

England and Wales

In    the    2011 UK   census,    there    were   around    35,000 people                [an underestimate]  of  Greek  descent  resident  in  England  and  Wales.        This excludes  those  that  identify  as Greek Cypriots.                  This data was produced only for geographic areas where the number of Greeks was 200 or more. ( pulation viewed July 2018.) There is an active Pontian Society of England.


Table 4 reports the number of ethnic Greeks in Georgia from 1926 to 2002. With the migration in the 1990s to Greece and Cyprus the number of Greeks in Georgia has dropped significantly from over 100,000 in 1989 to 15,200  in  2002  (which  most  probably  excludes  the  ‘Autonomous  Republic’ of Abkhazia). The 2014 Population census of Georgia reported a low 5,500 Greeks (which excludes the Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia and south Ossetia region).

Table 4: Ethnic Greek population in Georgia, 1926–2002.


Year 1926 1939 1959 1969 1979 1989 2002
Number of


54,100 84,600 72,900 89,200 95,100 100,300 15,200

Source: Manuylov (2015, p. 34).


According  to  the  2016 German  census  there  were   about 443,000 people with a Greek background in the country. It is difficult to


determine how many people with Greek descent live in German cities. There are active Pontic Greek associations in Cologne, Dortmund, Dusseldorf, Munich and Stuttgart, at least.


In the 1989 Soviet Population census, there were 49,900 Greeks in Kazakhstan (Table 3). In the 1999 and 2009 Kazakhstan censuses, the Greek population had dropped substantially to 12,700 and 9,000 respectively as many migrated to Greece. Many of the Greeks in Kazakhstan have Pontic Greek roots.


In the 2010 Russian census, there were 85,600 people who identified  as being Greek of whom 42,500 people reported as Greek speakers (Demotic Greek, Pontic Greek and Mariupol Greek). It is estimated that there is somewhere between 20,000 and 23,000 Pontic Greek speakers in Russia today   (Dr   Anton   Popov,   2016   personal   communication).     Many/most   of these 85,600 Greeks are of Pontic Greek descent.


The 2001 Ukrainian Population census reported  91,550 Greek nationals of whom 85% lived in the Donetsk region (covering Donetsk and Mariupol). Only a small minority would have Pontic Greek ancestors. It is very difficult to determine how many people from Ukraine have Pontic Greek descent either currently or in the past. The next Population  census  is  planned for 2020.


According to the United States Census Bureau, in 2016 there was an estimated 1,278,200 people with Greek descent in the country, which is most                              probably                              an                                             underestimate ( html?pid=ACS_16_1YR_S0201&prodType=table     viewed July 2018).                           Active Pontic Greek associations exist in Boston, Canton Ohio, Clearwater Florida, Cleveland Ohio, Chicago, New York, Norwalk Connecticut and Philadelphia.

In  2012,  New   York-Newark-Bridgeport   had   an   estimated 202,300 people with Greek descent (2010–12 American Community Survey, 3-Year Estimates). This would make it the largest centre outside of Greece with people of Greek descent (Note 9). It is unknown how many have Pontic Greek descent.



Greeks colonised Pontos from at least the 7th century BC and for over 2,500 years, these Greeks maintained a  distinct  culture  up  to  the  early 20th century. During 1916–23 many Pontic Greeks died at the hands of the Ottoman Turk authorities and then the Kemalists against its Christian population (Armenians, Assyrians and Greeks) and other minorities. The Christian Pontic Greeks were forced to leave their homeland by 1924 as part of the Population Exchange between Greece and Turkey for their nominal ‘homeland’ Greece. Many of them had previously moved to Crimea, Georgia


and Russia around the Black Sea, and then many were forcibly relocated from  there  after  1924  to  the  Soviet  Union’s  central  Asian  republics  such  as Kazakhstan. From around the 1990s many relocated from the former Soviet Union to Greece. Many people of Pontic Greek descent have now also joined the Pontic Greek diaspora outside of Greece where active Pontic Greek associations exist.

A survey is needed on the number of people with Pontic Greek descent in Greece and in the diaspora. New York and then Melbourne appear to be  the largest cities outside of Greece with people of Greek descent and thus  they may be the largest centres of people with Pontic Greek descent in the diaspora.



Note 1

Talks began in Lausanne Switzerland in late 1922. The negotiations led to the Lausanne Convention of 30 January 1923, with the exchange of Orthodox Greeks and Muslim Turks between Greece to Turkey. The ongoing negotiations which led to the Lausanne Treaty signed on 24 July 1923, had as their aim to establish peace in the Near East and to draw territorial boundaries and with that the final dismemberment of the Ottoman empire. The Greeks in Constantinople and the Muslims in Western Thrace were exempt from the Population Exchange. The exclusion of the Orthodox inhabitants of the islands of Imbros and Tenedos was also specified in the Treaty of Lausanne (Hirschon 2003). The uprooted Greeks were taken to disease-ridden refugee camps in Istanbul, where many died, on route to Greece (Clark 2006).

Note 2

In Turkey, the first full-fledged Republican census was in 1927. It repeated the  tradition  of  Ottoman  population  ‘counts’  and  primarily  focused  on  the  male populace. As a result, it underestimated the total population. It also suffered from deficiencies in the enumeration of the eastern provinces (Canefe 2001).

Note 3

Whether people identify as being of Greek or indeed of Pontic Greek descent is a personal choice. Active Pontic Greek cultural associations help us to maintain our Pontic cultural heritage.

In  the  former  Soviet  Union,  peoples’  ethnic  origin  was  described  in  most official documents. At the age of 16 years, children born from mixed marriages were able to choose between the nationalities of their parents. In the second half of the 20th century many chose Georgian, Russian or Ukrainian, according to their republic of residence (Kaurinkoski 2010). So some people with Greek heritage were probably not recorded in censuses.

Not all Greeks had Soviet citizenship. The non-holders of Soviet passports included those who had acquired Greek citizenship and stateless people who had declared themselves Greeks to the Soviet authorities (Pratsinakis 2013).

Note 4

Alexandris  (1999)  used  the  1910–12  Greek  Population  ‘survey’  in  Anatolia and Thrace by the Ecumenical Patriarch at Constantinople to state there were 397,164 Greeks in northern Anatolia in the vilayets (provinces) of Kastamonu, Sivas and Trabzon. This figure did not include data for the lower level provincial district (sanjak) of Sivas, the Greek communities in Kars [in the Caucasus] or


Artvin (north-eastern corner of Anatolia near the Georgian border). Also, population data collected for the Greek Orthodox dioceses of Neocaesarea and Kolonia were undercounted. I have increased the above figure of 397,164 Greeks by 7,702 Greeks from the sanjak of Sivas from Soteriadis (1918) and a further 11,145 Greeks from the kaza (county) of Ak-Dag Maden (from the Yozgat sanjak within the Ankara vilayet) by Alexandris (1999) producing a total figure of 416,011. (Pontic Greeks had moved to Ak Dag Maden to work the mines.) Thus, a figure of at  least  416,000  can  be  used  as  a  minimum  ‘working  figure’  for  the  number  of Pontic Greeks in northern Anatolia before World War I.

This figure of 416,000 Pontic Greeks does not include the many Pontic Greeks who were living in the Caucasus, Russia or Ukraine surrounding the Black Sea before World War I. There are other issues that have not been considered such as how many Greeks deliberately evaded the population count or if any Pontic Greek crypto-Christians were missed.

Note 5

The labour battalions during World War I were overwhelmingly manned by non-Muslim  Ottoman  enlisted  men  who  were  regarded  as  ‘untrustworthy’  to  bear arms. These battalions carried out manual work like the construction and maintenance of roads, the transportation of material to the fronts and agricultural tasks. They were notorious for their poor living and working conditions. Desertions were frequent. After the defeat in Sarikamiş on the Caucasian front, Enver, the Ottoman War Minister, ordered in February 1915, that Armenians  should not be employed in any armed service. Non-Muslims in the battalions included Ottoman Greeks [ethnic Greeks living in the Ottoman empire], Armenians, some Assyrians and Jews. Muslim recruits were also employed in the battalions, e.g. the labour battalions comprising over 25,000 men attached to the First Army (July to August 1915) were 19% Muslim (Beşikçi 2012).

Note 6

The withdrawal of the Russian army in early 1918 from north-eastern Anatolia had serious consequences for the Greeks from the greater Trabzon region with 30,000 Greeks forced to leave with the Russians. According to Kwiatkowski, the Austrian consul in Trabzon at this time, 8,000 of them were inhabitants of the town (Photiadis 1987).

Note 7

The 1928 Greek Population census recorded 1,221,849 refugees who entered Greece. The census figures do not take account of high mortality rates or the emigration of thousands who left Greece before the 1928 census to settle in other countries (Pentzopoulos 1962). Before 1928, 66,000 Greek refugees settled in western Europe, the United States, or Egypt while an estimated around  75,000 people died in Greece between 1922 and 1928 (Kitromilides and Alexandris 1984–85). The real number of refugees who entered Greece is unknown but it was probably between 1.25 and 1.4 million (Hirschon 1998).

Greek civilian losses in Anatolia were exacerbated through the Turks’ forced conscription  of  Christian  men  into  ‘labour  battalions’  after  the  defeat  of  the  Greek army in August 1922. Losses of adult males were obvious in the demographic imbalance of the incoming refugee population to Greece (Pentzopoulos 1962; Hirschon 1998).

We will never know the real number of Pontic Greeks who died during 1916–

  1. My own estimation is at least 200,000 died. Sjöberg (2017, pp. 46–47) details the lack of accuracy of the figures often quoted.


Note 8

In the 2016 Australian census there were around 420,000 people who reported on census night they had Greek heritage. Of course, Greeks who were overseas on census night may have been missed. (The census allowed people to enter  up  to  two  ancestries  per  person.)    If  a  ‘guess’  of  up  to  10%  of  Greeks  in Australia have Pontic Greek ancestry that would equate  to  roughly  up  to 42,000 Greeks with Pontic Greek descent.

Note 9

It  was  estimated  in  Boston-Worcester-Manchester  in  2012  that   96,870 people had Greek descent. Further, it was estimated in Chicago-Naperville- Michigan City in 2012 that 93,600 people had Greek descent (2010–12 American Community Survey, 3-Year Estimates).


The Author

The author is an Australian citizen with Pontic Greek ancestry which he can trace  back  to  his  great  grandparents.    His  parent’s  families  left  Trabzon  in  early 1918 with the evacuating Russian army and then in 1939 both families and their many  relatives  left  Georgia  for  Greece.   In  1953,  the  author’s  parents  migrated  to Australia.



The author is indebted to the insightful comments of a draft of this paper by Michael Bennett, Russell McCaskie and especially Effie Voutira. All errors are the responsibility of the author.



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