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Recent Resonances of a Century Old Treaty: The Foundation of Lausanne Treaty Emigrants and Civic Diplomacy in the Turkish-Greek Realm

Les résonances aujourd’hui d’un traité centenaire : la Fondation des émigrants du traité de Lausanne et la diplomatie de la société civile dans l’aire turco-grecque
Asırlık Bir Antlaşmanın Güncel Yansımaları: Lozan Mübadilleri Vakfı ve Türk-Yunan Mecrasında Sivil Diplomasi
Emine Tutku Vardağlı
p. 107-124


Résumé : cette étude évalue la Convention d’échange de populations de Lausanne et ses effets à long terme sur le dialogue civil turco-grec. Cette convention a été l’un des protocoles les plus controversés du Traité de Lausanne. Il réglementait l’échange obligatoire des habitants grecs orthodoxes de Turquie avec les habitants musulmans de Grèce. Le caractère obligatoire de cette migration forcée a beaucoup fait débat depuis la Conférence de Lausanne en 1923. C’était un défi aux normes de civilisation dans les années 1920, cent ans plus tard, c’est un défi aux normes contemporaines des droits de l’homme. Cependant, les organisations transfrontalières de la société civile créées par les descendants des communautés échangées ont le potentiel de renverser la situation et de transformer cette impasse diplomatique en un terrain de dialogue pacifique à l’occasion du centenaire.

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  • 1 Howland, 1926, p. 613
  • 2 Hirschon & Thakurdesai, 1978, p. 247-250.
  • 3 Vardağli, 2021, p. 218-232.
  • 4 Sjöberg, 2016.

1A hundred years before, the diplomatic parties convened in Lausanne in 1922 to conclude the Turkish-Greek war in Anatolia, primarily addressed the question of refugees. The refugees posed a serious problem to be resolved urgently. Around a million Anatolian Greeks had already left Turkey to take refuge in Greece following the Greek army.1 Their settlement in Greece was a formidable task in many aspects. Following the defeat at war, the country had to tackle with the over­population problem, public health concerns and economic hardships came along with the refugees.2 Above of all, it was a humanitarian question. The international society was witnessing a life and death matter on the Aegean.3 This survival struggle would leave its mark on the collective memory of the Greek refugees as Asia Minor Catastrophe.4 On the other side, the Muslim inhabitants of Greece were not yet aware of the forced migration that they would be subjected to open space for the incoming Anatolian Greek refugees.

  • 5 The original letters found in the League of Nations archive is published as annex to the article by (...)

2Regarding the refugee question, the back-door diplomacy was in operation before the official inauguration of the Lausanne Conference. Hard pressed by the settlement question of the refugees, Venizelos wrote a letter to Fridtjof Nansen, the League of Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, to convince Mustafa Kemal Pasha for the evacuation of the Muslims in Greece as soon as possible, even before the peace conference.5 Ankara government did not respond officially, but brought the issue onto the diplomacy table to negotiate in Lausanne. The diplomatic parties agreed on the idea of population exchange on the principle. However, the mandatory provisions of the draft Protocol were debated in length. Especially, the British and Greek delegates hesitated about the forced measures. They were caught in the middle between the pressing conditions and their international etiquette as the “pioneers of civilization.” Nevertheless, the ineffective results of voluntary population exchange trials after the Balkan Wars and the national spirit of time steered the parties towards compulsory population transfer as a “working solution.”

  • 6 Erim, 1953, p. 467.
  • 7 Zürcher, 2003.
  • 8 Özsu, 2011, p. 823-847.

3Istanbul Treaty signed between the Ottoman and Bulgarian governments in 1913 set a precedent for the population exchanges in the Balkans.6 Greek-Muslim population exchange followed a year after in 1914 with the agreement signed between Greek and Ottoman governments. This time the Greek Orthodox population living in Ottoman Thrace and Aydın province and the Muslims living in Epirus and Greek Macedonia faced the same scenario. This population-engineering project largely halted when the Ottoman Empire joined the First World War (WWI).7 From this perspective, the population exchange decided at Lausanne can be considered as the resumption of ongoing population transfers in the Balkans with the involvement of the League of Nations this time. In a sense, the diplomatic parties at Lausanne attempted to legitimize this forced migration by relying on the international law.8

  • 9 Ross, 2015, p. 134.
  • 10 Frank, 2017.

4Another source of legitimacy presented as a compelling reason was to prevent further conflict and violence between the communities by simply separating them from one another. High Commissioner Nansen succinctly described the population exchange as “a decisive solution” based on the “unmixing of populations” in order to “secure true pacification of the Near East.”9 That means this population exchange project was suggested as part of a regional strategy at the same time. From the point of regional politics, the population exchange proposed at Lausanne can be considered as the last stage of transforming the imperial power of the Near East, namely the Ottoman Empire. Similar population transfers had occurred during the dissolution of other imperial powers into the homogenous nation states in the aftermath of the First World War.10 The further question is: how did the “unmixing” strategy worked in practice?

  • 11 Giannakos, 2008, p. 20.
  • 12 Meray, 1969, p. 121.
  • 13 Özsoy, 2015.
  • 14 Güvenç, 2023, p. 28-29.

5As Giannakos pointed out, prior to the population exchange, the Greeks in Anatolia and Muslims in Greece did not share something in common to fight for, but bear the burden collectively after the Protocol.11 It is evident in the Lausanne Conference minutes that Muslims in Greece shared their houses and lands with the Greek refugees arrived from Anatolia, while waiting for their own departure.12 The oral history accounts reveal that the Muslim locals entrusted their valuables to Greek refugees and the refugees offered their houses in Anatolia to the departing Muslims to go and settle there.13 The same collaboration was also the case in Çatalca, where the Greeks inhabiting at the outskirts of Istanbul were forced to migrate because of an administrative engineering.14 Although the Protocol did not grant the refugees such a right to choose their settlement in the host country, the exchanged communities offered their homes to one another as an expression of goodwill and recognition of mutual hardships. In the sociological terms, the social exchange developed between the exchanged communities did not of course exist between the minority and majority populations in both countries. From this point of view, the international society intervened into the domestic violence by asking the sacrifices of the minority populations.

  • 15 Schechtman, 2016, p. 154.
  • 16 Howland, 1926, p. 613.

6The international society at that time had generated a special conflict resolution method based on the homogenization of nations and introduced the population transfer as an influential means to this end. In that sense, the population exchange protocol formulated in Lausanne provided a model for the treaties concluded after the Second World War. The compulsory transfer of Germans from Czechoslovakia, Poland and Hungary was discussed in reference to the Lausanne Treaty. As the US Delegate noted in Potsdam, they were facing with a mass expulsion as a fait accompli. In this context, a codified population transfer would at least secure the safe and humane evacuation of the refugees.15 A similar intention was the case with the Anatolian Greeks forced to leave their homelands on September 1922. However, much of the Greek community had already left for Greece following the Greek army. Only one fifth of the refugees could be transferred to Greece under the security provided by the Protocol.16 An overwhelming majority had already been transferred under miserable conditions, life threatening in many aspects. Therefore, there is a reason behind why the exchanged population in Greece called themselves as “refugees” (prosfygas), while those in Turkey called themselves as “exchangees” (mübadil). This fact can drive us another conclusion about the characteristics of such population transfer measures taken by the international society that is to secure the lives of refugees at the times of mass, violent expulsions. In this context, one-way expulsion of Greeks by the victorious new regime forces in Turkey turned to a compulsory population exchange only after the Muslims in Greece were decided to be expelled in retaliation.

  • 17 Meındersma, 1997, p. 337.
  • 18 Ross, 2015.

7Retrospective thinking about the issue generated today a consensus on the inadmissibility of the Lausanne Population Exchange Protocol. Neither the idea of population exchange nor its mandatory implementation conforms to the contemporary human rights standards.17 Therefore, no diplomatic party sug­gesting, formulating, facilitating and undersigning this Protocol wants to be stig­matized today with this diplomatic embarrassment, including the contemporary advocates of Nansen representing Norway as the third party.18 Thus, almost all the involved diplomatic parties try to detach themselves from this issue, usually by blaming the old enemies. Nevertheless, the people who had been subjected to this forced migration and their children could not detach themselves from this fact so easily.

8The Population Exchange Protocol has created long lasting effects like the Lausanne Treaty in general. The centenary of the Treaty by itself is an indication of this durability. Although, there are still tensions to be resolved, it is an undeniable fact that the Treaty sustained peace so far better or worse. When it comes to the Population Exchange Protocol, it is for sure that the exchanged communities in both countries had to overcome so many difficulties to adapt to their new settlements. They suffered from psychological traumas, economic hardships and cultural adaptation problems of different sorts. However, these hardships paid off in the long run. Descendants of the exchanged communities moulded these bitter experiences into a culture of peace. Specifically, the civil society organizations established by the descendants of the exchanged communities cleared the ground for peaceful relations. In the centenary of the Lausanne Treaty, these organizations deserve more attention as the parties striving to influence diplomatic decision-making on their behalf, which is something they could not manage a hundred years ago. Since they already endured the results, it is hard to find any other communities putting all their efforts to civic diplomacy more sincerely than these communities do.

Civil society organizations of the exchanged communities

9The civil society organizations of the Greek refugees date back to the first generation. However, the counterparts of these organizations could be established on Turkish side as late as the year 2000. Although the dynamics and motivations leading to the establishment of these civil society organizations were different on both sides, they offer a common ground for civic dialogue at present. The existence of this kind of organizations is crucial to counter-balance the omnipresence of the state-centric public diplomacy.

  • 19 Kıtromılıdes, 2005, p. 91.
  • 20 Bayındır- Goularas, 2017, p. 118.

10The Centre for Asia Minor Studies (KMS) established by Melpo and Octave Merlier Foundation in 1930 can be considered as the first influential civil society organization of the refugees in Greece. Melpo Merlier was born in Istanbul. She was sent to Europe to study music and Greek language. When she returned, she found that the borders changed dramatically and her community was displaced. Then, she moved to Athens and initiated an extensive cultural heritage project. Starting from the musical tradition of the Greek community in Asia Minor, the project was extended to oral history works, research and documentation of refugee lives. As Kitromilides underlines, the studies of the Centre helped to introduce the Greek culture in Asia Minor to the inhabitants of the mainland Greece.19 As a result, this civil initiative contributed to the integration of the Greek refugees into the rest of the nation. On the other side, the multiplicity of refugee organizations established on the local and regional basis, such as the organizations of the refugees from Smyrna, Cappadocia, Pontus etc., maintained the distinctiveness of their cultural assets. Today, there are more than 150 of these refugee organizations in Greece.20

  • 21 Petropoulos, 1976, p. 135-140.
  • 22 Kıtroeff, 2012, p. 230.
  • 23 Yıldırım, 2022, p. 523.
  • 24 Kıtroeff, 2012, p. 245.

11Since their mass support to Venizelos in 1920s,21 the refugees and their organizations became well connected with the state apparatus.22 Much of these organizations were instrumentalized by the Greek state to serve the official ideology. The Asia Minor Catastrophe paving the way for the population exchange formula at Lausanne laid at the hearth of Greek nationalism. As Yıldırım reports, the first-generation state-led Greek scholarship also recounted this rhetoric.23 Thus, the collective memory of the refugees was captured by the state and flourished under its protection and control. Reiteration of bitter refugee memories engendered almost a national ritual. As Kitroeff states, “Papandreou also made sure he attended events and especially commemorations held by various Asia Minor refugee organizations.”24 Any political party occasionally taking a hard liner position against Turkey in foreign policy resorted to the refugee organizations for support and legitimation.

  • 25 Travlos, 2020, p. 8.

12On the other side, the exchanged community in Turkey was also well connected with the state. Above of all, national leader of the Republican regime in Turkey, namely M. Kemal Atatürk, who was born and raised in Ottoman Selanik, was a fellow compatriot in the eyes of the refugees. This common origin shared with the leader facilitated the identification of the refugees with the host country. Moreover, the refugee community massively supported the new modernist and secular regime initiated by Atatürk and his republican frame in the ideological level. In addition, as an heir to a multi-ethnic empire, Turkey hosted various emigrant communities from the Balkans and Caucasus from the late Ottoman period to the Soviet expansion on these regions in 1950s. These gradual migration waves had already generated in the country a multiplicity of emigrant communities, none of which could dominate the others in any sense. The Muslims from Greece were neither the most populous nor the most powerful of these emigrant communities. The relevance of this community was not even comparable to that of Mikrasiates in Greece, who made up one fifth of the total population of the country. Unlike the situation in Greece, the politicians in Turkey did not need to approach this emigrant group as a constituency large enough to influence the election results. Unfortunately, the international academia did not either show so much interest in this side of the exchanged populations.25 The Muslim side was generally overshadowed by a comparison either over the numbers expelled or the degrees of sufferings pitted against one another.

  • 26 Özyürek, 2001.
  • 27 Gürpınar, 2015, p. 395-415.
  • 28 Bayındır-Goularas, 2012, p. 140-146.

13Another distinction between the two refugee communities was that unlike the Greek side, the Turkish side remained silent about its displacement experience. The nationalization strategy followed by the two states was influential in these responses. While the Greek nationalism sustained itself by way of remembering, Turkish nationalism resorted to forgetting.26 The Republican regime was born in 1923 and any raking over the past was considered as a challenge. The rupture with the ancien régime drove the past into oblivion.27 The exchanged community in Turkey also took its share from this oblivion. They were expected to open a new page and do everything necessary to get integrated into their new settlement. However, the traumas forced at least some men to speak about their lost lands in the village coffeehouses and women to tell their experiences to their children and grandchildren in the form of folk tales, as a natural way of healing. Thus, the collective memory was preserved especially in the small localities by traditional ways.28 When it was brought to light in 1999, the forces of globalization were reshaping the world order. Therefore, the old memories were put into use with a different outlook and vision, specifically in a way to support civil dialogue between the countries.

14Briefly speaking, the time gap between the organizations of the two communities attribute them different characteristics. The organizations initiated by the second generations are expected to be characteristically different from those established by the first generations. In the centenary of the Lausanne Treaty, the civil society organizations established by the exchanged community in Turkey deserves special attention as a comparably new development. The below section scru-tinizes on the pioneer of these organizations, namely the Foundation of Lausanne Treaty Emigrants (LMV).

The Foundation of Lausanne Treaty Emigrants (LMV)

15The Foundation of Lausanne Treaty Emigrants was established in the year 2000 in Istanbul largely by the initiatives of the second generation. The devastating earthquakes in 1999 on both sides of the Aegean was the key triggering factor in the establishment of this organization. Ordinary citizens from the two countries met in 1999 after a very long time and immediately offered their humanitarian support to one another. Allegorically speaking, this natural disaster helped to repair the fault lines of diplomacy between Turkey and Greece.

16In fact, the two nations were isolated from one another for a long time. The separation -or “unmixing” in Nansen’s words- started with the Population Exchange Protocol followed with the tensions of Cyprus conflict between 1950s and 1970s and escalated at the Kardak/Imia crisis in 1996, when the two states came at the brink of war. All throughout these years, ordinary citizens from the two countries lacked the ground for meeting in person or groups. Thus, national prejudices found ground for ossification in the absence of cross-border contacts. The Foundation of Lausanne Treaty Emigrants took the last influential step for dialogue in the post-1999 period. Before scrutinizing on the impacts of this organization, it is necessary to place it in the long lineage of the cross-border civil society organizations established in Turkey since the 1950s.

  • 29 Orakçı, 2021, p. 531-533.

17Before the 1990s, only a few initiatives were taken in Turkey to promote civil dialogue between the two countries. The first initiative took the form of a state-led public diplomacy effort, rather than a bottom-up civic diplomacy. Turkish-Hellen Friendship Association was established by the decision of the Prime Ministers in 1952, when the two countries started to cooperate under the NATO framework. As Orakçı documents in detail, this association was established as the counterpart of a similar organization established in Athens during the rapprochement period in the 1930s.29 From 1955 to the mid-1980s, this peaceful atmosphere left its place to the enmities because of the Cyprus question.

  • 30 Tsarouhas, 2009, p. 43-45.

18Another peaceful wind swept the Aegean shores in the mid-1980s, when the two neighbouring countries came under the same economic liberalization wave. In this atmosphere, Turkey liberalized visa arrangements for Greek citizens in 1985 in an intention to attract visitors from the neighbouring country to support its flourishing tourism sector. However, the results were far from the expectations. The foundation of Turkish-Greek Business Council in 1988 followed as another cross-border communication venue motivated by economic concerns. Meeting in Davos, Prime Ministers Özal and Papandreou had decided in principle to establish such an organization to lift the political barriers on bilateral economic development. Though some joint venture and FDI initiatives were taken, this platform was not conducive to appeal to the masses by its nature.30

19Greek-Turkish Friendship Committee (1986) and Turkish-Greek Friendship Association (1987), which were established by the efforts of the musicians, artist and human rights activists from both countries, provided a better ground to attract ordinary citizens, especially by way of cultural and artistic events like the concerts and festivals.31 A women’s network called WINPEACE (Women Initiative for Peace) also deserves attention. Margarita Papandreou from Greece and Zeynep Oral from Turkey established this platform shortly after the Kardak/Imia crisis. They introduced women’s activism into the conflict resolution field. The network was extended by the involvement of Greek and Turkish Cypriot women and directly engaged in the diplomatic debates, even the most tense ones such as the Eastern Mediterranean crisis in 2020.32 Imia/Kardak crisis triggered another peace initiative. Just a month after the Kardak crisis, Turkish media owner Süleyman Gençer together with Greek journal director Stratis Balaskas founded the Platform for Journalists for Peace in Aegean and Thrace. They helped to raise awareness about the critical role of media at times of escalating crisis.33 A similar sentiment had risen in 1979 after the assassination of Turkish journalist Abdi İpekçi. Andreas Politakis had taken steps to commemorate İpekçi with a Greek-Turkish Friendship Award despite the domestic critics and threats. Lastly, the joint projects of Greek and Turkish Committees in the framework of ICOMOS (International Council on Monuments and Sites) can be mentioned as another venue for cooperation among the professionals.34

  • 35 Constantinou et al., 2016.
  • 36 Rumelili, 2005, p. 48.
  • 37 Orçun, 2015, p. 229.

20All these initiatives taken before 1999 signify a certain pattern. This pattern corresponds to what Constantinou and the others call as “transprofessionalization of diplomacy.”35 The civil society actors from different fields put an end to the monopoly of official diplomats over the foreign policy matters, although their capacity to influence the results are still questionable. As Rumelili also notes, civil society activities after 1999 have become more specific, issue- and profession-oriented.36 Additionally, it can be suggested that the universals of gender, business, journalism, arts and sciences provided the above-mentioned cross-communal platforms to act on a transnational ground. Besides, it should be kept in mind that the internationalist discourse of the popular figures of the leftist genres in both countries, such as Yaşar Kemal, Zülfü Livaneli, Aziz Nesin, Mikis Theodorakis, and Maria Farantouri, had already paved the way in the post-1974 period.37 After all, people realized through their experiences that they do not have to dress up their national identity in each cross-communal encounter, but can coexist and cooperate under the multiplicity of their identities as women, comrades, artists, scientists etc. Although this variety of encounters facilitated and liberated the bilateral relations, the root causes of the conflict, namely the grievances of the past and their contemporary reflections, remained intact. In other words, the parties to the dialogue achieved progress by simply skipping the root cause of the conflict.

21The root causes of the conflict between the two states were brought to the table in the post-1999 era. Role of the LMV was influential in this development. The Foundation brought together the academic circles and the civil society organizations from the two countries for the first time to discuss what had happened in 1922 and how these grievances shaped the national rivalries till the present day. Being well aware of the potential complications of such a deep surgery, the initiators of LMV took advantage of the mass enthusiasm created by the earthquake diplomacy to heal the wounds and clear the ground for introducing their pacifist agenda. They learnt from the previous experiences that the cross-border enthusiasm for friendship occasionally appeared in this realm could fade away soon, if not supported by an institutional structure. This is how and why they decided to establish LMV.

22The first activity of LMV was conducting an oral history project. They collected the firsthand accounts of the first generation. As noted earlier, that was exactly what the Greek counterpart organization, namely KMS, did when it was first established. The long silence of the exchanged community in Turkey had created an asymmetry of representation. The bitter experiences of the Greek refugees were over-stated throughout the years, whereas the Muslim side of the exchange was almost totally undermined. The General Secretary of the Foundation, who is at the same time one of the initiators of LMV, criticizes this situation saying that:

  • 38 Güvenç, 2023, p. 62.

The bilateral character of the compulsory population exchange has not been mentioned at all on the Greek side. They speak only about the Greeks, who had to leave Anatolia. The Muslims, who had to leave Greece did not attracted scholarly attention.38

  • 39 Aktar, 2003; Keyder, 2003; Koraltürk, 2011; Bedlek, 2016.
  • 40 Iğsız, 2008, p. 454.
  • 41 Sjöberg, 2015.

23The incoming Muslim refugees were assigned neither economic nor political significance. Following the international trends, Turkish academia also wrote about the Greek refugees, specifically the political economic consequences of their departure.39 Muslim refugees’ reclamation of their rights or at least their quest for respect to the memory of their elderlies were evaluated so far as a mere nostalgia,40 rather than a “right to memory”.41 In a sense, the exchanged community members in Turkey had to tell their own stories by themselves. This mission was largely assumed by the LMV in Turkey.

24Other than the oral history works, LMV started out regular visits to Greece, to the “lost homelands” of its members. The notion of “lost homeland” constitutes an important component of collective memory. These visits are influential in reconstructing the “homeland” in memory. Another relevant achievement of the LMV is the establishment of Population Exchange Museum in Çatalca, Istanbul. The Museum was founded by the generous contributions of the European Union finances under the “European Cultural Capital: Istanbul” program launched in 2010. In the end, all these activities targeted memory preservation. The contemporary identity of the emigrants built upon this collective memory is another matter of discussion.

  • 42 Çarkoğlu & Kirişçi, 2004, p. 117.
  • 43 See for example the LMV publications; Pekin, 2007; Kornaros, 2011.

25In the 1990s, rising popularity of identity politics on the global level promoted the NGOs established on this ground. The identity question was emphasized as a new field of struggle in the post-Cold War era. Specifically, the organizational efforts of indigenous groups and ethnic minorities were highlighted and supported by every available means. LMV is also an offspring of this time spirit.42 However, its approach to the notion of identity is different from the majority of NGOs established on the homogenous basis. LMV does not rely on a homogenous identity pattern but contains different regional, ethnic and linguistic groups consorted by their common migration experience. Therefore, the cement of the LMV is different from its counterparts. What brings people together under the framework of LMV is the common life experiences rather than the essentialist identities. The folkloric studies of the Foundation involving the traditional music and literally culture of different ethnic and linguistic groups demonstrate this multi-cultural accord within.43 In that sense, LMV can be considered as a challenge to the essentialist exaltations of identity politics.

26This multi-cultural formation of the organization enables it to approach the long-established prejudices between the two nations with a more flexible perspective. For example, the question of minorities between the two states is evaluated by LMV in a more liberal way. One of the initial activities of LMV was an international conference bringing the refugees and minorities of both countries in Istanbul for the first time in 2003. The NGO representatives of the refugees and minorities in both countries had an opportunity to come together and discuss their problems face to face. Thus, the parties separated by the Lausanne Population Exchange Protocol were brought together on a civil ground by this organization.

  • 44 Güvenç, 2023, p. 67.

27Moreover, this conference was as an important step to transform the retaliatory characteristic of the reciprocal relations between the two countries into bilateral social exchanges and mutual understanding. Especially, the minorities in both countries suffered a lot from this reciprocity principle in Turkish-Greek relations that took the form of retaliatory violence. This dialogue atmosphere between the parties has been sustained with similar activities for twenty years and further extended to the masses with the establishment of local emigrant organizations elsewhere in Turkey. Today there are around a hundred Lausanne Treaty emigrant organizations in Turkey.44 Although LMV stands as an umbrella organization for these local associations, it does not administer them in a centralized structure from above but acts as a role model only. All these activities, their scope and influence denote the civic diplomacy role of LMV. As was noted earlier, the characteristics of the emigrant organizations are different in Turkey and Greece. However, their concerted actions have the capacities to influence diplomatic decision-making. The below section estimates their impact on this field. At the same time, such an estimation helps to evaluate the recent resonances of the Lausanne Treaty on the civil ground.

Civic voices on the Lausanne treaty

  • 45 Dodds, 2007, p. viii.
  • 46 Edwards, 2013.

28The NGO interventions into the official diplomacy gradually increased in the last decades. The number of NGOs accredited by the UN raised from 250 in 1972 to 3200 in 2002.45 When the majority of unaccredited local NGOs are added to this scheme, the numbers can skyrocket. This dramatic development provided greater opportunities for the civil society to participate in the decision-making in domestic and foreign policy fields, although their ability to determine the results is questioned.46 Acting as a democratic pressure group in foreign policy is more complex and complicated than doing it in the domestic sphere where the actors are protected by the fundamental citizenship rights at least in democratic regimes. Since the beginning of 1950s, several NGOs occasionally appeared in the Turkish-Greek field acted as the fragile civil actors. Sometimes they were captured by the state apparatus and turned to mere public diplomacy instruments. Sometimes, they had to face the conservative public pressure at home and lost their ground. In brief, the obstacles that the NGOs came across on their way led the proponents of dialogue into despair. On the other side of the same coin, as the above lineage of the NGOs in the Turkish-Greek realm shows, the civil actors in both countries harnessed their power to resume whenever they found an opportunity. The emerging pattern indicates that such opportunities were usually provided by the international conjuncture supporting the cooperation of the two neighbouring countries or some exogenous factors like the earthquakes.

29The fact that the first NGOs were established during the rapprochement period in the 1930s and followed with the associations founded in the early 1950s, at a time when the two neighbouring states joined NATO, cannot be taken as a coincidence. This periodization supports the argument that the international conjuncture provided the key ground for the development of NGOs on both sides. In this context, the establishment of cross-border business associations in the 1980s can be considered as another international conjunctural factor driven this time by economic policies. The scholars assigning the European Union today an intermediary role in Turkish-Greek dialogue follow a similar conjunctural mindset in this context.

  • 47 Göksel & Güneş, 2005, p. 57-72.

30It is for sure that the civil society actors in both countries owe much to the EU for their achievements since the 1990s.47 Nevertheless, the EU is also an international organization like the NATO making efforts to bring the two neighbouring states in collaboration according to the conjuncture. The risk of relying on these international organizations is that the political conjuncture may not always support the cooperation of the two states. Therefore, the civil society actors should be able to develop strong institutional dialogue platforms between themselves to neutralize the international conjunctural effects that can work in both ways. A civic diplomacy relying on its own resources, namely the peoples’ will, can have better chances for achievements. In the final analysis, the population exchange idea had also been imposed upon the people by the force of the prevailing conjuncture.

  • 48 Kerıdıs, 2006, p. 209.

31The NGO activities since 1990s put forward a peculiar character of the civil society activism in the Turkish-Greek realm. As it is crystallized for the first time in the case of the Journalists’ Platform and the WINPEACE, the civil society comes to the stage to prevent the further escalation of the diplomatic crisis and builds immediately a buffer zone, metaphorically speaking. The 1999 earthquakes made a similar triggering effect on the civil society actors including LMV as well. In the latter case, a humanitarian crisis motivated the civil society. In fact, it can be suggested that another period of détente in Turkish-Greek relations had already started before the earthquakes with the letter of Turkish Foreign Minister İsmail Cem to his Greek counterpart Papandreou just after the Öcalan crisis48.

32The series of détente and crisis following one another as an observed characteristic of Turkish-Greek relations in the long run render the role of civil society more critical. Because, in the absence of civil society organizations as the détente actors, it is for sure that the crisis forces will dominate the field. From another point of view, that is to say that both the enmities and friendships are short-lived in this realm. This is another reason why the durability of civil society organizations in this field is so critical. The sustainability of these organizations are crucial for the institutionalization of peaceful dialogue as the key method to resolve existing problems or at least necessary to provide a backwater effect during the crisis. Nolens volens, the civil society organizations acting in the Turkish-Greek realm achieve a conflict resolution task as well.

  • 49 Rumelili, 2005.

33So far, the civil society actors in the Greek-Turkish realm are regarded as the temporary outcomes of cross-border enthusiasms. However, it does not make sense any longer to view these actors as a side effect or auxiliary instrument of official diplomacy.49 Today, the new diplomacy derives its democratic legitimacy from the civil society participation and support. That is the key difference between today and the 1920s when the peoples’ will were simply undermined by the international law.


34Greek and Turkish military forces arrived at the brink of war on the Kardak/Imia islets on 30 January 1996, on the 73th anniversary of the Lausanne Population Exchange Protocol as a twist of fate. However, on the centenary of the Lausanne Treaty, the peace corps are better equipped than a hundred years before. The collective memory that the populations exchange gradually generated through the years finally created a civic diplomacy ground for the citizens of the two countries. Thanks to the civil society efforts transforming these bitter memories into a prospect for peaceful co-existence.

  • 50 Beausoleil, 2017.

35In fact, reconciliation trough remembrance is extremely difficult for the parties. However, it is necessary to face with these difficulties, namely the grie­vances of the past, as LMV and its counterparts do. The historical accounts, especially the oral history records, reveal the fact that the displaced communities understood one another’s grievances and offered their support to each other. They had developed a kind of social exchange motivated by an “ethics of encounter”50 once they witnessed one another’s difficulties. The civil society is the best venue to provide these encounters today. The civic voices resonating through the 1920s can show us the direction to follow today. The centenary of the Lausanne Treaty can open up a new era offering a mellow transition from a retrospective politics to a constructive future by the forces of civil society organizations.

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Erim Nihat, 1953, Devletlerarası Hukuku ve Siyasi Tarih Metinleri, [International Law and Political History Texts], Vol. I, Türk Tarih Kurumu, Ankara, p. 474.

Frank Matthew J., 2017, Making Minorities History: Population Transfer in Twentieth-Century Europe, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 464 p.

Karakatsanis Leonidas, 2014, Turkish-Greek Relations: Rapprochement, Civil Society and the Politics of Friendship, Routledge, New York, 276 p.

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Özsoy İskender, 2014, Mübadelenin Yas Kardeşleri [Grieving Sisters of Population Exchange], Bağlam Yayınları, İstanbul, 197 p.

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Papers and contributions to books

Aktar Ayhan, 2003, “Homogenising the Nation, Turkifying the Economy”, in Hirschon Renée (ed.), Crossing the Aegean: An Appraisal of the 1923 Compulsory Population Exchange between Greece and Turkey, Berghahn Books, New York, p. 79-96.

Bayındır- Goularas Gökçe, 2017, “Civil Actors of Greek-Turkish Rapprochement”, in Bayındır Goularas Gökçe & Sezgin Erkan Hakan (ed.), Re-Thinking Turkish-Greek Relations Since 1999, Lexington Books, London, p. 113-123.

Bayındır-Goularas Gökçe, 2012, “1923 Türk-Yunan Nüfus Mübadelesi ve Günümüzde Mübadil Kimlik ve Kültürlerinin Yaşatılması” [1923 Turkish-Greek Population Exchange and the Maintenance of Mübadil Culture and Identity], in Alternatif Politika, vol. 4, no 2, p. 129-146.

Beausoleil Emily, 2017, “Responsibility as Responsiveness: Enacting a Dispositional Ethics of Encounter”, in Political Theory, vol. 45, no 3, p. 291-318.

Constantınou Costas M., Cornago Noé & McConell Fiona, 2016, “Transprofessional Diplomacy”, in Brill Research Perspectives in Diplomacy and Foreign Policy, vol. 1, no 4, p. 1-66.

Çarkoğlu Ali & Kirişçi Kemal, 2004, “The View from Turkey: Perceptions of Greeks and Greek-Turkish Rapprochement by the Turkish Public”, in Turkish Studies, vol. 5, no 1, p. 117-153.

Dodds Felix, 2007, “Foreword”, in Betsill Michele M. (ed.), NGO Diplomacy: The Influence of Nongovernmental Organizations in International Environmental Negotiations, MIT Press, Massachusetts, p. i-xi.

Edwards Michael, 2013, “Legitimacy and Values in NGOs and Voluntary Organizations: Some Sceptical Thoughts”, in Lewis David (ed.), International Perspectives on Voluntary Action, Routledge, London, p. 258-267.

Frangonikolopoulos Christos A., 2019, “Turkey in the Greek Media: The Need for a Shift from Confrontation to Peace-oriented Journalism”, in Greece and Turkey in Conflict and Cooperation, Routledge, London, p. 224-237.

Giannakos Symeon A., 2008, “Unacceptable Solutions to Ethnic Conflict: The 1923 Calamity of Population Expulsions”, in Journal of Political & Military Sociology, vol. 35, no 1, p. 19-35.

Göksel Diba N. & Güneş Rana B., 2005, “The role of NGOs in the European Integration Process: the Turkish Experience”, in South European Society and Politics, vol. 10, no 1, p. 57-72.

Gürpinar Doğan, 2015, “Turkish Radicalism and Its Images of the Ottoman Ancien Régime (1923-38)”, in Middle Eastern Studies, vol. 51, no 3, p. 395-415.

Güvenç Sefer, 2023, “Lozan Konferansı’nda Tarafların Mübadele Konusuna Yaklaşımı” [Approach of the Parties to the Population Exchange in the Lausanne Conference], in Söylemez Mehmet (ed.), 100. Yılında Mübadele [Hundred years Exchange] , İBB yayınları, Istanbul, p. 22-40.

Hırschon Renee & Thakurdesaı S., 1978, “Housing and Cultural Priorities: The Asia Minor Greek Refugees of 1922”, in Disasters, vol. 2, no 4, p. 247-250.

Howland Charles P., 1926, “Greece and Her Refugees”, in Foreign Affairs, vol. 4, no 4, p. 613-623.

Iğsiz Aslı, 2008, “Documenting the Past and Publicizing Personal Stories: Sensescapes and the 1923 Greco-Turkish Population Exchange in Contemporary Turkey”, in Journal of Modern Greek Studies, vol. 26, no 2, p. 451-487.

Keridis Dimitris, 2006, “Earthquakes, Diplomacy, and New Thinking in Foreign Policy”, in The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs, vol. 30, no 1, p. 207-214.

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Keyder Çağlar, 2003, “The Consequences of the Exchange of Populations for Turkey”, in Crossing the Aegean: an Appraisal of the 1923 Compulsory Population Exchange between Greece and Turkey, Berghahn Books, New York, p. 39-52.

Kitroeff Alexander, 2012, “Asia Minor Refugees in Greece: A History of Identity and Memory, 1920s-1980s”, in Shirinian George N. (ed.), The Asia Minor Catastrophe and the Ottoman Greek Genocide, Asia Minor and Pontos Hellenic Research Center, Chicago, p. 233-247.

Meindersma Christa, 1997, “Population Exchanges: International Law and State Practice”, Part 1, in International Journal of Refugee Law, vol. 9, no 3, p. 335-364.

Orakçı Meryem, 2021, “Türk- Yunan İlişkilerinde Kısa Ömürlü Bir Girişim: Türk‑Ellen Dostluk Derneği (1952)” [A Short-Lived Initiative in Turkish-Greek Relations: Turkis-Hellen Frienship Association], in Belgi Dergisi, no 22, p. 531-554.

Özsu Umut, 2011, “Fabricating Fidelity: Nation-building, International Law, and the Greek‑Turkish Population Exchange”, in Leiden Journal of International Law, vol. 24, no 4, p. 823-847.

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Vardağli E. Tutku, 2021, “Grains and Cattles: Post-War Diplomacy of Survival on the Aegean Shores”, in Journal of Balkan and Near Eastern Studies, vol. 23, no 2, p. 218-232.

Vardağlı E. Tutku, 2017, “Doğu-Batı Ekseninde Türk-Yunan Diplomasisi: Lozan Barış Görüşmeleri ve Nansen-Venizelos Mektuplaşmaları” [Turkish-Greek Diplomacy on the East-West Axis: Lausanne Peace Negotiations and Nansen-Venizelos Correspondence], in Çağdaş Türkiye Tarihi Araştırmaları Dergisi, vol. 17, no 34, p. 97-132.

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1 Howland, 1926, p. 613

2 Hirschon & Thakurdesai, 1978, p. 247-250.

3 Vardağli, 2021, p. 218-232.

4 Sjöberg, 2016.

5 The original letters found in the League of Nations archive is published as annex to the article by Vardağli, 2017, p. 132.

6 Erim, 1953, p. 467.

7 Zürcher, 2003.

8 Özsu, 2011, p. 823-847.

9 Ross, 2015, p. 134.

10 Frank, 2017.

11 Giannakos, 2008, p. 20.

12 Meray, 1969, p. 121.

13 Özsoy, 2015.

14 Güvenç, 2023, p. 28-29.

15 Schechtman, 2016, p. 154.

16 Howland, 1926, p. 613.

17 Meındersma, 1997, p. 337.

18 Ross, 2015.

19 Kıtromılıdes, 2005, p. 91.

20 Bayındır- Goularas, 2017, p. 118.

21 Petropoulos, 1976, p. 135-140.

22 Kıtroeff, 2012, p. 230.

23 Yıldırım, 2022, p. 523.

24 Kıtroeff, 2012, p. 245.

25 Travlos, 2020, p. 8.

26 Özyürek, 2001.

27 Gürpınar, 2015, p. 395-415.

28 Bayındır-Goularas, 2012, p. 140-146.

29 Orakçı, 2021, p. 531-533.

30 Tsarouhas, 2009, p. 43-45.

31 For further information on cross-communal organizations, see Karakatsanıs, 2014.

32 Vatandaş, 2020, URL: (accessed 3 October 2020).

33 For further debate see Frangonikopoulos, 2019, p. 224-237.

34 Vacharopoulou, 2005.

35 Constantinou et al., 2016.

36 Rumelili, 2005, p. 48.

37 Orçun, 2015, p. 229.

38 Güvenç, 2023, p. 62.

39 Aktar, 2003; Keyder, 2003; Koraltürk, 2011; Bedlek, 2016.

40 Iğsız, 2008, p. 454.

41 Sjöberg, 2015.

42 Çarkoğlu & Kirişçi, 2004, p. 117.

43 See for example the LMV publications; Pekin, 2007; Kornaros, 2011.

44 Güvenç, 2023, p. 67.

45 Dodds, 2007, p. viii.

46 Edwards, 2013.

47 Göksel & Güneş, 2005, p. 57-72.

48 Kerıdıs, 2006, p. 209.

49 Rumelili, 2005.

50 Beausoleil, 2017.

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Emine Tutku Vardağlı, « Recent Resonances of a Century Old Treaty: The Foundation of Lausanne Treaty Emigrants and Civic Diplomacy in the Turkish-Greek Realm »Cahiers balkaniques, 50 | -1, 107-124.

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Emine Tutku Vardağlı, « Recent Resonances of a Century Old Treaty: The Foundation of Lausanne Treaty Emigrants and Civic Diplomacy in the Turkish-Greek Realm »Cahiers balkaniques [En ligne], 50 | 2024, mis en ligne le 26 avril 2024, consulté le 20 juillet 2024. URL : ; DOI :

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Emine Tutku Vardağlı

Istanbul Aydın University, Lecturer

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