The Samsun Deportations of 1916/17 and 1921

 

Samsun (Grk: Σαμψούντα) is a town located in the northern central part of Turkey along the shores of the Black Sea. The Greeks of Samsun and the surrounding district were deported twice during the Greek Genocide; once during 1916/17 and then in 1921. During this period, Greeks living in the town and district of Samsun numbered approximately 80,000 and made up about 65% of the total population.1

Having earlier deported Greeks from eastern Thrace and regions along the western coastline of Asia Minor, in 1916 the C.U.P (Committee of Union and Progress) turned its focus on the Greeks living in communities along the Black Sea coastline.  These deportations were on the grounds of military necessity but were lethal and coincided with burning and looting of property.

The first deportations occurred in late 1916 to early 1917. A report by the Greek legation at Constantinople dated December 27, 1916 stated how the city of Samsun was encircled by the Turkish army and people were ordered to the city centre. These people (including women, men and women who had just given birth to babies and the babies themselves) were imprisoned in barracks. They were then led out to snow covered mountains. Following the deportations, the homes of the deportees were raided and their belongings taken and sold. While the final destination was unknown, the deportees were seen in Kavak (47km from Samsun) on the first night where they buried their dead. They were then taken to Kafzan [Havza] in the district of Sivas (80km from Samsun) then to Corum (168km from Samsun).2

The deportation of Greeks from Samsun to the interior resumed on January 17 and 18 [1917] and this time included Greeks from Bafra.  As of the 15th of January, 28 villages had been burned excluding those from December.  Deportation of women and children by foot and in the midst of rain and snow continued from Samsun to the provinces of Angora and Sivas. The sick and the old were pushed from place to place many sleeping out in the cold naked. Many died of starvation and disease. The number deported was estimated at 20,000. The Greeks of Giresun were also deported during this period.

 

A typical 1916/17 deportation route for the Greeks of Samsun.

 

The two main perpetrators of the deportations and the burning of villages in Samsun were Rafet Pasha and Vehaedin.  Vehaedin was a special official of the Ministry of the Interior. He had arrived in the Samsun district around the time of the deportations, from Constantinople. He was responsible for preparing the lists of the persons to be deported.  Rafet Pasha was a member of the C.U.P and an emissary of the Ministry of War. He was described as being, fanatic, passionate and a hater of Greeks. He was responsible for carrying out the deportations and also the arsons.3

The Austrian Ambassador of Constantinople Johann Markgraf von Pallavacini described the events around Samsun during December 1916 as follows:

11 December 1916: Five Greek villages were pillaged and then burnt. Their inhabitants were deported. 12 December 1916: In the outskirts of the city more villages are burnt. 14 December 1916: Entire villages including schools and the churches are set on fire. 17 December 1916: In the district of Samsun they burnt eleven villages. The pillaging continues. The village inhabitants are ill-treated. 31 December 1916: Approximately 18 villages were completely burnt down, 15 partially. Around 60 women were raped. Even churches are plundered.4

On 20 January 1917, Ambassador Pallavicini alerted his superiors in Vienna about the dire conditions of the deportees and compared them to the Armenian deportations a couple of years prior:

The situation of the deported is for despair. Death awaits them all. I tried to draw the attention of the Grand Vizier to the events and stress how sad it would be if the persecution of the Greek element takes the form and dimensions of the Armenian persecutions.5

The second deportations of Greeks from Samsun occurred in 1921 under the command of the Kemalist nationalists of Mustafa Kemal (later Atatürk). In early June of 1921, the Hellenic Navy bombarded Inebolu (270km west of Samsun) and Samsun itself.  In retaliation, the Kemalists deported entire Greek communities to the interior of Turkey and destroyed their villages.  

Tweed Daily (Murwillumbah, NSW) 6 Jun 1921. p3

Wilford Washburn Fuller was an American Near East Relief worker who was assigned to Harput for agricultural and transportation work. On the 4th of July 1921 he left Sivas on a Near East relief truck and witnessed five parties of Greek men being deported from Samsun through Sivas headed for the interior.  Of the first two parties numbering 900, Fuller stated that only 200 arrived at Sivas, naked, robbed, sun blistered, the gold having been forced out of their teeth. Those who survived reported that the others had been massacred at Kavak. Fuller also witnessed 3,000 Greek women and children under Turkish guard along a road between Amasia and Marsovan.6

On the 10th of July 1921, New York Times reported on the deportation of 800 Greek clerks and 1,500 Greek civilians to the interior while the population of 30 other villages of Samsun were massacred as they were being deported. The massacre was so fierce that Turkish authorities prohibited the use of river waters due to the contamination by the bodies of those massacred.7

On the 21st of October 1921 a news report in the South Australian Daily Herald (pictured below) stated that 420 of 720 Greek villages in the Samsun and Bafra districts had been completely destroyed. The male inhabitants had either been massacred or deported and the women were sent to the interior.8

Daily Herald (Adelaide, SA) 21 Oct 1921, p5.

In 1921, while doing transportation duties for the Near East Relief, Stanley E. Hopkins witnessed the deportation of Greeks during trips he made between Harput and Samsun. On the 1st of September 1921, Hopkins started on a trip by automobile from Harput en route to Samsum and on the roads he passed a number of Greeks being deported from the coast of the Black Sea to the east. He estimated there to be 12,000 people. After leaving Samsun on his return to Harput, Hopkins passed elderly Greek men being deported. In describing these men, Hopkins recounted:

There was no food allowance for them, and any food that they could obtain had to be procured by money or sale of small articles that they could carry with them.  On the trip I passed many corpses of Greeks lying by the road side where they had died from exposure.  Many of these were the corpses of women and girls with their faces toward the sky, covered with flies.

On the 1st of October, Hopkins once again started form Harput to Samsun this time accompanied by Near East Relief workers Miss Miriam Bailey and Miss Margaret McClellan. On this trip they passed 10,000 Greeks. One of the groups numbering 2,000 was entirely of women most of them with no shoes and many of them carrying babies on their backs and in their arms.

On his last trip out from Harput, Hopkins witnessed more people being deported and came to the conclusion that Harput was the gathering place for the Greek deportees before they were sent further east.  He wrote:

There are between fifteen and twenty thousand Greeks in Harput from all regions to the west and north. They are absolutely without help, and in the nature of the case large numbers of them are dying.  They are allowed to stay in Harput a short time and are then sent forward to the east where their fate is not known. 

 

A 1921 deportation route for the Greeks of Samsun.

 

As noted by Hopkins, the deportation of Greeks to the interior during that period was not isolated to the Black Sea Greeks. Many Greeks from western Asia Minor and other regions were also deported to the interior. Hopkins was to declare:

The deportation of Greeks is not limited to the Black Sea Coast but is being carried out throughout the whole country governed by the Nationalists.

Others who were present in Asia Minor during the deportations include Lieutenant Arthur David Murray of the USS Overton, who stated in his testimony dated 28 August 1921 while stationed in the Black Sea, that: 

2,500 girls taken from various villages who were deported, they had been so badly dealt with they could hardly walk. In all there were five parties of deportees. The first and second parties, numbering 900, came from Samsun, but of these only 200 arrived safely at Sivas, clothes torn, some entirely naked. They had been robbed even of the filling in their teeth.9

Edith L. Wood a Near East Relief worker witnessed the deportations and stated that on the road from Samsun to Harput, “bodies lay along the roadside and in the fields everywhere. There was no hope for the Greeks from Malatia to Samsun, and the most fortunate were those who perished at the start.” 10

Mark H. Ward was a Near East Relief physician who was deported from Turkey for keeping notes on the deportations and administering relief to the deportees. While in Harput during 1921-22, Ward witnessed and kept a tally of 20,378 deportees who streamed in to the town from all over Asia Minor. Ward stated that 18,000 of these deportees were Ottoman Greeks. Some of the deportees were from Samsun. Reports of thousands dieing by the roadside during the deportations indicates that the initial number was much higher than the number that reached Harput. Ward was to state that from Harput, the deportees were then marched south towards Diarbekir and then into the Vilayet of Bitlis.11

 

 

A group of Greek children who had dropped out exhausted from the weary lines of deportees were picked up by the Near East Relief from the Harput region and taken to Beirut some 750 miles away. Source: The New Near East, November 1922.

References:

1.  Leon Maccas, L'hellénisme de l'Asie-Mineure. Berger-Levrault, Paris 1919, 83.
2.  Persecution of Greeks in Turkey since the Beginning of the European War. American Hellenic Society, New York, 1918. 48-55
3.  ibid, 52-53.
4.  Wien Haus-, Hof- und Staatsarchiv, PA, Türkei XII, Liasse 467 LIV, Griechenverfolgungen in der Türkei 1916- 1918, ZI. 97/pol., Konstantinopel (19.1.1916), (2.1.1917).
5.  Wien Haus-, Hof- und Staatsarchiv, PA, Türkei XII, Liasse 467 LIV, Nr.6/P., Konstantinopel (20.1.1917)
6.  Black Sea: A Naval Officer's Near East Experience, ed Renee Heideman. Kindle edition, p640/853.
7.  700,000 Greeks Victims of Turks, The New York Times. July 10, 192, p4.
8.  Greek Villages Destroyed, The Daily Herald. South Australia, October 21, 1921, p5.
9.  Black Sea: A Naval officer’s Near East experience. Renee Heideman. Kindle, p660 of 853
10. America’s Black Sea Fleet, Robert Shenk. Naval Instotute Press, p116.
11. The Deportations in Asia Minor, Anglo-Hellenic League. London 1922, p4.

David Lloyd George - Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

“...tens of thousands of men, women and children have been deported, and tens of thousands have died. It was pure deliberate extermination.”

House of Commons, 4 August 1922.

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