The beginning of the end for the multi-ethnic and multi-religious Ottoman Empire started in 1913 when the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) came to power after a bloody coup d'état. The CUP’s plan to build a new mono-ethnic and mono-religious Turkish nation state was achieved by violent means and included genocide of its non-Turkic minorities including Greeks and Armenians. A less violent process was put into place as early as 1913 to erase place names from the new Turkish map.
In 1916, while the world was at war, and the genocide of Greeks and other minorities in the Ottoman Empire was well under way, a decree was issued by the then Minister of War, Enver Pasha, calling for the Turkification of Greek and other place names. Enver stated:
“It is important to change into Turkish all names of provinces, regions, villages, mountains and rivers belonging to Armenian, Greek, Bulgarian and other non-Muslim peoples. Making use swiftly of this favorable moment, we beseech your help in carrying out this order.”1
The program to Turkify the historical place names of the new Turkey began in 1913 and has continued till the present day. In this time over 20,000 toponyms including villages, rivers and mountains have been changed to either remove any hint of their origin or changed so as to make them appear Turkish.
- Turkification of the Toponyms in the Ottoman Empire and the Republic of Turkey, Lusine Sahakyan, Ph.D. Democritus University of Thrace, p7.