The Black Sea Greeks

The Black Sea Then

The Black Sea Now

Neal Acherson in his book, Black Sea , tells us the Black Sea Greeks were still there 3,000 years later. They had survived all the political changes in the area by negotiating, assimilating some, being trade partners with others and intermarrying on occasion. In the mid 1400's, when the Moslem Ottoman Empire reached both sides of the Black Sea many Christian Black Sea Greeks left to settle in what was Russia in the Caucusus area, the Kuban and in the area that is now Kazkhstan. There were some who stayed and coverted and became Moslems. Hundreds of years later, other oppressed Black Sea Greeks would find refuge in the Russian settlements. During the 19th century, when the Russia and the Ottoman Empires clashed over territory in the Black Sea area and there was some give and take in territory, several families of Christian Black Sea Greeks withdrew from the eastern shore areas of the Black Sea when the Christian Russians did. They settled in Russian territory in Georgia and the Kuban and Crimean areas. Again, some of the Black Sea Greeks converted religions to stay and for the most part they were allowed to do so.

In 1878 the Treaty of Berlin formed an alliance between Germany and the Ottoman Empire. Germany influenced the group which became known as "The Young Turks" led by Mustapha Kemal Ataturk and Enver Pasha that they must cleanse their country of elements in control of trade and banking that are not Turkish- the Jews, Armenians and the Black Sea Greeks. When the Young Turks siezed control of the defeated Ottoman Empire in 1908, they began to implement policies that showed the German influence. World War I gave them the opportunity to effect their plan of 'cleansing' Asia Minor of Christian and Jewish peoples. It began in 1909. The German ambassador reported to the German Chancellor "The Turks have decided upon a war of extermination against their Christian subjects." In the early part of World War I the emphasis was on the Armenians, but Jews and Black Sea Greeks who were found while they dealt with the Armenians were given the same treatment - exterminated or exiled to starve and die in a remote and hostile locale. Genocide and ethnic cleansing are terms used to describe what occured. When Turkey was established as a Moslem republic in 1923, an agreement which is now known as "The Exchange" and formally known as the Treaty of Laussanne was made between Turkey and Greece. It allowed for the other country to expell and then absorb certain minorities in their midst. In the case of Greece they were to export their Moslems and in the case of Turkey it was the Christian Greeks around the Black Sea. Greece interceded and made the agreement to save the lives of the Black Sea Greeks who were being murdered daily.

An estimated 353,000 Black Sea Greeks were murdered in Turkey. Five hundred thousand escaped to Greece (60%) and the rest went to Russia. Some of the Black Sea Greeks joined those who had left many years earlier in Georgia and the Crimea. It is estimated that in 1914 there were 650,000 Black Sea Greeks in Russia.

During the early days building up to World War II, Russia, which was then the Soviet Union of Josef Stalin, decided the Black Sea Greeks should be removed from the Crimea because of the military installations there. It was felt the Black Sea Greeks could not be trusted and were a security risk because they lived in a society outside of or beyond the Soviet Union with trade and family connections in other countries. Refering to them as bourgeoisie and cosmopolitans, Stalin forcibly relocated these Black Sea Greeks to Siberia and Central Asia.

After World War II, the Soviets removed all Black Sea Greeks from the Black Sea and Caucusus areas to settlements in the Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan areas of Central Asia where other Black Sea Greeks had congregated from the earlier re-settlements. When the Soviet Union collapsed and Kazahstan and Uzbekistan became independent Moslem states, the Christian Black Sea Greeks among them were viewed as outsiders. In 1989 it was estimated that there were 500,000 Black Sea Greeks in Russian and former Russian territory.

Despite the fact that they left "Greece" 3,000 years earlier, that their Greece was on the Asian side of the Agean Sea, that they:

spoke a form of "Greek" called by some "Pontian Hellenic", no Athenian could ever understand

had an education that was Russian, Turkish, Georgian or other

had Russian, Kazakh, Uzbeki, Turkish, Iranian, Kartevelian and Slav marriage partners and in-laws, and or other family members

were born in Asia Minor, Turkey, Russia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan

the modern republic of Greece offered to take the Black Sea Greeks living in Kazakhstan and Usbekistan in. Beginning in the early 1990's they arrived in Greece at the rate of 20,000 a year! They maintain a community together in Greece and with the extended community in the Black Sea area, many of whom are now Moslem but still speak Pontic Greek and maintain many of the old traditions. Meantime there are Black Sea Greek survivors in Russia, Kazakhstan, Usbekistan and other areas.It was not long ago that one of the Black Sea Greeks was elected the Mayor of Moscow. The Black Sea Greeks, Pontic Greeks, Hellenic Pontians or whatever name different areas call them have survived with a seperate culture for more than 3,000 years. They have been known by many names over that period, on two continents. They have seen and been a part of the Scythian, Persian, Byzantine, Greek, Roman, Ottoman, and Russian empires, to name some of the better known and while they are gone as empires the Black Sea Greeks as a community survive.

Return to the text.