History Of Asia Minor: 1894-1923
During 1894-1923 the Ottoman Empire conducted a policy of Genocide of the Christian
population living within its extensive territory. The Sultan, Abdul Hamid, first put forth
an official governmental policy of genocide against the Armenians of the Ottoman Empire in
Systematic massacres took place in 1894-1896 when Abdul savagely killed 300,000
Armenians throughout the provinces. Massacres recurred, and in 1909 government troops
killed, in the towns of Adana alone, over 20,000 Christian Armenians.
When WW1 broke out the The Ottoman Empire was ruled by the "Young Turk"
dictatorship which allied itself with Germany. Turkish government decided to eliminate the
whole of the Christian population of Greeks, Armenians, Syrians and Nestorians. The
government slogan, "Turkey for the Turks", served to encourage Turkish civilians
on a policy of ethnic cleansing.
The next step of the Armenian Genocide began on 24 April 1915 with the mass arrest, and
ultimate murder, of religious, political and intellectual leaders in Constantinople and
elsewhere in the empire. Then, in every Armenian community, a carefully planned Genocide
unfolded: Arrest of clergy and other prominent persons, disarmament of the population and
Armenian soldiers serving in the Ottoman army, segregation and public execution of leaders
and able-bodied men, and the deportation to the deserts of the remaining Armenian women,
children and elderly. Renowned historian Arnold Toynbee wrote that "the crime was
concerted very systematically for there is evidence of identical procedure from over fifty
The Genocide started from the border districts and seacoasts, and worked inland to the
most remote hamlets. Over 1.5 million Armenian Christians, including over 4,000 bishops
and priests, were killed in this step of the Genocide.
The Greek Christians, particularly in the Black Sea area known as Pontus, who had been
suffering from Turkish persecutions and murders all the while, saw the Turks turn more
fiercely on them as WW1 came to a close. The Allied Powers, at a peace conference in Paris
in 1919, rewarded Greece for her support by inviting Prime Minister Venizelos to occupy
the city of Smyrna with its rich hinterlands, and they placed the province under Greek
control. This action greatly angered the Turks. The Greek occupation was a peaceful one
but drew immediate fire from Turkish forces in the outlying areas. When the Greek army
farmed out to protect its people, a full-fledged war broke out between Greece and Turkey
(the Greco-Turkish war).
The Treaty of Sevres, signed in 1920 to end WW1 and which provided for an independent
Armenia, was never ratified. The treaty's terms changed not long after the ink dried as
England, France and Italy each began secretly bargaining with Mustafa Kemel (Ataturk) in
order to gain the right to exploit oil fields in the Mozul (now Iraq). Betrayed by the
Allied Powers, the Greek military front, after 40 long months of war, collapsed and
retreated as the Turks began again to occupy Asia Minor.
September 1922 signaled the end of the Greek and Armenian presence in the city of
Smyrna. On 9 September 1922, the Turks entered Smyrna; and after systematically murdering
the Armenians in their own homes, the forces of Ataturk turned on the Greeks whose numbers
had swelled, with the addition of refugees who had fled their villages in Turkey's
interior, to upwards of 400,000 men, women and children.
The conquering Turks went from house to house, looting, pillaging, raping and murdering
the population. Finally, when the wind had turned so that it was blowing toward the sea so
that the small Turkish quarter at the rear of the city was not in danger, Turkish forces,
led by their officers, poured kerosene on the buildings and homes of the Greek and
Armenian sectors and set them afire. Thus, any remaining live inhabitants of the city were
flushed out to be caught between a wall of fire and the sea. The pier of Smyrna became a
scene of final desperation as the approaching flames forced many thousands to jump to
their death or to be consumed by fire.
The Allied warships and shore patrol of the French, British and American military were
eyewitnesses to the events. George Horton, the American Consul in Smyrna, likened the
finale at Smyrna to the Roman destruction of Carthage. He is quoted in Smyrna (1922,
written by Marjorie Dobkin) as saying: Yet there was not fleet of Christian battleships at
Carthage looking on a situation for which their governments were responsible." This
horrible act unleashed the last phase of the genocide against the Christians of Turkish
On 9 September 1997, a series of speakers and memorial services, honoring the memory of
the 3.5 million Christians who were murdered by Turkish persecutions from 1894-1923, were
held in the greater Baltimore Washington area. The memorial service was conducted by the
choirs of St. Mary's Armenian Church, St. Katherine's Greek Orthodox Church, Fr. George
Alexson of St. Katherine's, Fr. Vertanes Katayjian of St. Mary's and other Orthodox
The 75th anniversary of the Christian Holocaust was memorialized on 9 September 1997,
the date in 1922 of the destruction of the city of Smyrna. This memorial honors the memory
of over 3.5 million Christians who were murdered by Turkish persecutions from 1894-1923.
Not only was this the memorial of the Holocaust of Smyrna (now Izmir) and the martyrdom of
Smyrna's Metropolitan Chrysostomos, but also of the 3.5 million Christians who perished
during the first Holocaust of this century. But the events of 1922 are not an isolated
incident. The atrocities committed by Turkish forces against a civilian population began
before WW1 and have never ended. This event seeks to expose the continuum of a Turkish
campaign of persecution, deportation, and murder designed to rid Asia of its Christian
1914 400,000 conscripts perished in forced
1922 100,000 massacred or burned alive in
1916-1922 350,000 Pontions massacred or
killed during forced deportations
1914-1922 900,000 perish from maltreatment,
starvation and massacres; total of all other areas of Asia Minor
TOTAL: 1,750,000 Greek Christians martyred
1894-1896 300,000 massacred
1915-1916 1,500,000 perish in massacres and
forced deportations (with subsidiaries to 1923)
1922 30,000 massacred or burned alive in
TOTAL: 1,800,000 Armenian Christians
SYRIANS AND NESTORIANS
1915-1917 100,000 Christians massacred
The native population of Asia Minor traces its Christian roots to the early days of
Christianity. the Armenians, an ancient people, trace their origins back 2500 years. In
301 AD. the Armenian King Dftad declared Christianity as the kingdom's official religion,
making Armenia the first Christian political state in the world. The migration of Greek
tribes to Asia Minor began just before 2,000 BC and the Greeks built dozens of cities such
as Smyrna, Phocaea, Pergamon, Ephesus and Byzantium (Constantinople). The native
inhabitants of Asia Minor, among the first to accept the message of Christianity, were
later to be persecuted and uprooted from their lands because of that same faith. Turkish
tribes plagued the region. Later another tribe, the Oyuz Turks who embraced Islam and
ultimately produced the Ottoman Turks, conquered Persia, the Caliphate of Baghdad, and
then the whole area presently occupied by Syria, Iraq and Palestine.
Under the Ottoman Empire the Christians suffered a steady decline. Forced conversions
to Islam, the abduction of children to serve in the fanatical Janissary corps,
persecutions and oppression reduced the Christian population. Oppression intensified,
leading to Genocide. Christian clergy were a constant target of Turkish persecution,
particularly once the 1894 policy of Armenian genocide had been declared by sultan Abdul
Victims of horrible torture, many Orthodox clergy were martyred for their faith. Among
the first was Metropolitan Chrysostomos who was martyred, not just to kill a man but, to
insult a sacred religion and an ancient and honorable people. Chrysostomos was enthroned
as Metropolitan of Smyrna on 10 May 1910. Metropolitan Chrysostomos courageously opposed
the anti Christian rage of the turks and sought to raise international pressure against
the persecution of Turkish Christians. He wrote many letters to European leaders and to
the western press in an effort to expose the genocide policies of the Turks. In 1922, in
unprotected Smyrna, Chrysostomos said to those begging him to flee: "It is the
tradition of the Greek Church and the duty of the priest to stay with his
On 9 September crowds were rushing into the cathedral for shelter when Chrysostomos,
pale from fasting and lack of sleep, led his last prayer. The Divine Liturgy ended as
Turkish police came to the church and led Chrysostomos away. The Turkish General Nouredin
Pasha, known as the "butcher of Ionia", first spat on the Metropolitan and
informed him that a tribunal in Angora (now Ankara) had already condemned him to death. A
mob fell upon Chrysostomos and tore out his eyes. Bleeding profusely, he was dragged
through the streets by his beard. He was beaten and kicked and parts of his body were cut
off. All the while Chrysostomos, his face covered with blood, prayed: "Holy Father,
forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." Every now and then, when he
had the strength, he would raise his hand and bless his persecutors; a Turk, realizing
what the Metropolitan was doing, cut off his hand with a sword. Metropolitan Chrysostomos
was then hacked to pieced by the angry mob.
Among the hundreds of Armenian clergy who were persecuted and murdered were Bishop
Khosrov Behrigian and Very Reverend Father Mgrdich' Chghladian.
Bishop Behrigian (1869-1915) was born in Zara and became the primate for the Diocese of
Caesarea/Kayseri in 1915. He was arrested by Turkish police upon his return from
Etchmiadzin where he had just been consecrated bishop. Informed of his fate, the bishop
asked for a bullet to the head. Deliberately ignoring his request, the police tied him to
a "yataghan" where sheep were butchered an then proceeded to hack his body apart
while he was still alive.
Father Chghladian was born in Tatvan. In May 1915, as part of the campaign of mass
arrests, deportations and murders, the priest was tortured and displayed in a procession,
led by sheiks and dervishes while accompanied by drums, through the streets of
Dikranagerd. Once the procession returned to the mosque, in the presence of government
officials, the sheiks poured oil over the priest and burned him alive.
Four of the martyred bishops who were murdered between 1921-1922 are today elevated to
sainthood in the Greek Orthodox Church: They are, in addition to Metropolitan
Chrysostomos, Bishops Efthimios, Gregorios and Ambrosios.
Bishop Efthimios of Amasia was captured by the Turkish police and tortured daily for 41
days. In the last days of his life he chanted his own funeral memorial until finally dying
in his cell on 29 May 1921. Three days later a written order for his execution arrived
from Mustafa Kemal (Ataturk).
Metropolitan Gregorios of Kydonion remained with his church until the end, helping
20,000 of his 35,000 parishioners escape to Mytilene and other free parts of Greece. On 3
October 1922, the remaining 15,000 Orthodox Christians were executed; the Metropolitan was
saved in order to be buried alive.
Metropolitan Ambrosios of Moshonesion, along with 12 priests and 6,000 Christians, were
sent by the Turks on a forced deportation march to Central Asia Minor. All of them
perished on the road, some slain by Turkish irregulars and civilians, the remainder left
to die of starvation. Bishop Ambrosios died on 15 September 1922 when Turkish police
nailed horseshoes to his feet and then cut his body into pieces.
"I was five or six years old in 1922, and I still remember the songs of Akrita and
the mourning of the Greek women who carried baskets full of severed heads down from the
mountains. I will never forget the women who suddenly realized that one of the heads in
the basket she carried was that of her son." - Constantine Koukides, refugee from
"I have given orders to my Death Units to exterminate without mercy or pity, men,
women, and children belonging to the Polish speaking race. It is only in this manner we
can acquire the vital territory which we need. After all, who remembers the extermination
of the Armenians?" - Adolf Hitler, 22 August 1939
ORTHODOX PERSECUTIONS TODAY
Of all the Christian confessions, it has been the Eastern Orthodox Church which has
suffered the brunt of persecutions in the 20th century.
In the first two decades, there were massacres of Orthodox Greeks, Slavs, and Armenians
in the Ottoman empire, culminating in the 1915 genocide of the Armenians in Anatolia and
the near destruction of the ancient Assyrian community in Iraq. In 1923, the entire
Orthodox population of Asia Minor was forced to leave their homes, bringing to a close a
2000 year Christian presence.
During the Second World War, two groups of Orthodox Christians were especially targeted
for genocide by the Nazis and their allies - the Gypsies and the Orthodox Serbs of Bosnia
and Croatia, while the population of Greece, Serbia, European Russia, and Ukraine were
designated by the Nazis to serve as slave labor for the Third Reich. By special order of
Heinrich Himmler (21 April 1942), clergyman from the East (as opposed to their
counterparts from Western Europe) were to be used for hard labor.
At the same time the Orthodox suffered in greater proportion to any other Christian
group at the hands of the Communists, who sought to completely eliminate religion.
First in Russia and Ukraine, then in Eastern Europe, in Greece during its civil war
(1945-49), and in Ethiopia, the Orthodox Church was the principle target for attach,
subversion, or destruction.
Finally, the Orthodox of the Middle East have found themselves caught in the crossfire
of the conflicts between Muslim and Jew in Israel and the West Bank, and the civil war
between Maronites, Muslims, and Palestinians in Lebanon.
Between the tolls exacted from prisons, concentration camps, forced marches and exiles,
warfare, famine, and brutal military occupation, it is reasonable to conclude that up to
50 million Orthodox Christians have perished in the first eight decades of the twentieth
Even in the United States, where so many Orthodox have found refuge, the Orthodox
Native Americans of the Aleutian Islands were forcibly interned during World War II and
many of their churches deliberately destroyed by the U.S. Army.
Unfortunately, the depth and range of the Orthodox suffering throughout the world in
this century, remains largely unknown and unappreciated in the West.
1987 - 1997
Harassment of the Orthodox Church in the former Soviet Union continued through the
Gorbachev era. Many of the churches supposedly returned to the Orthodox between 1988 and
1990 were in Western Ukraine. This was part of an attempt by the KGB to sow open discord
between Orthodox and Catholics - only 100 churches were returned in Russia itself. The KGB
continued to target Orthodox clergymen involved in the struggle for religious freedom and
democratization; in 1990 several prominent priests, among them Fr. Alexander Men, were
murdered. It was only under President Boris Yeltsin that full freedom was restored to the
Orthodox and other Russian based confessions. In other parts of the former Soviet Union,
notably in Uzbekistan and Tadjikistan, the governments have continued to limit the rights
of the religious and ethnic minorities.
The triumph of democracy in Poland has not led to full religious freedom for members of
its 1 million strong Orthodox minority. Although the height of anti Orthodox activity
seems to have peaked in 1991 after several Orthodox churches and an historic monastery
were vandalized, Orthodox continue to be viewed as second-class citizens in Poland; where
they are described in a secret Foreign Ministry report as an "alien body in Poland's
state organism." Laws on religious education in the schools have virtually
established the Roman Catholic Church to the detriment of both the Orthodox and the
Lutherans; and Orthodox believers continue to complain of petty harassment endured at the
In Slovakia, the government in 1991 announced its intention to review ownership of the
country's 125 Orthodox parishes. Since that time, over 90 church buildings have been taken
away from the Orthodox and given to the Catholics; and the Orthodox have been blocked by
local officials from constructing new edifices, opening schools, or holding services. Even
the official policy of the vatican announced 16 July 1990, which counseled Slovak
Catholics to share disputed properties with the Orthodox, has been ignored.
The wars in the former Yugoslavia have been disastrous for the Orthodox. The Croatian
government has all but liquidated the Orthodox Church in its territory, beginning with the
dynamiting of the residence and library of the Orthodox Metropolitan of Zagreb on 11 April
1992. Following the Croatian offensive of fall 1995 and the departure of over 200,000
Orthodox Serbs in Diocese in Krajina. (which brought a total of over 800,000 displaced
Orthodox Christians), four dioceses of the Serbian Orthodox Church ceased to exist. In
Croat controlled territory in Bosnia, the Orthodox Bishop of Mostar was driven from his
see, and most of the Orthodox population was expelled. Estimates are that over 154
Orthodox churches in the territory of Bosnia and Croatia were deliberately destroyed. On
March 25, 1999 NATO began bombing of Kosovo in Serbia. It is one of the tragic ironies of
History that Western "Christian" nations have joined forces to eradicate Serbs
in Kosovo who are accused of "Ethnic cleansing". History repeats itself
----Kosovo was the site 500 years ago of the Christian Resistance to the Turks.
In Turkey and Turkish occupied Cyprus the position of the Orthodox continues to
deteriorate. Despite international guarantees contained within the 1923 Treaty of
Lausanne, the Turkish government continues to enforce the closure of the famous Halki
Orthodox Theological Academy in Istanbul. Families of those Orthodox illegally expelled in
the 1950's and 1960's have never been allowed to return to their homes, again in
contravention of the 1923 treaty guaranteeing their right to do so. On Cyprus, 450
Orthodox Churches on the northern part of the island have been desecrated; some have
become night clubs while others have been turned into public toilets. Other churches and
historical monuments, some dating back to the 5th century, have been looted and left to
rot away. There is a sustained campaign to remove entirely the last traces of the 2000
year old Orthodox presence from occupied Cyprus.
In Egypt, the Orthodox continue to suffer from the many restrictions placed on their
ability to function in the economic and political life of the country. There are many
rules hindering their ability to build and repair churches, and they are increasingly
becoming targets for armed attacks by Muslim extremists. In the past two years, dozens of
Orthodox villagers in Upper Egypt have been murdered by Islamic gunmen.
In India Orthodox Christians report increased harassment on the part of both Hindu and
Muslim extremists, with isolated attacks and vehement rhetoric demanding their removal
from the Indian landscape.
THE CURRENT ATTITUDE OF THE AMERICAN GOVERNMENT
The government of the United States prides itself on its commitment to defending
religious liberty. In the Middle East and Eastern Europe, however, the United States is
seen as supporting only those churches who possess sufficient "influence" in
Washington, while ignoring the plight of the Orthodox. Events over the last ten years have
tended to confirm that assessment.
During the 1980's, the Immigration and Naturalization Service gave refugee status to
any Soviet citizen who applied on religious grounds - except for members of the Orthodox
Church. The very church which had suffered the most under Soviet rule, whose churches
continued to be closed and her clergy arrested until 1988, was not considered to be a
"persecuted" church by the American government.
After 1989, Orthodox Christians in both Poland and Slovakia warned the United States
government that they were "at risk" as religious minorities. In 1991 the
Congress of Russian Americans prepared two reports for the Commission of security and
Co-operation in Europe (CSCE: July & september 1991) warning of the dangers and asking
that guarantees be obtained for the rights of the Orthodox in those nations. No action was
taken, and at this time there is no indication that the US has pressed to secure the
rights of these minorities in either Poland or Slovakia. There is also no indication that
the US has ever linked economic assistance to either country or entry into the NATO
alliance with improvements in the situation of their religious minorities.
Despite the large amount of economic and military assistance received by Turkey, there
is no indication that the US has ever been prepared to use this leverage to secure the
rights of the Orthodox minority, even though Turkey is bound by its own constitution and
its international obligations to allow the Orthodox to maintain schools and other
institutions. In contrast, US senators have often publicly and vocally called for American
assistance to Russia to be made conditional on Russia's acceptance of American Protestant
Persecution and harassment of the Orthodox continues because of a belief that the
United States is not interested in their fate, and that America will not undertake any
effort (other than occasional lip service) to secure religious freedom for the Orthodox. I
turn, Orthodox leaders around the world are watching closely to see whether or not future
initiatives on religious freedom which emanate from the US are truly based on principle,
or whether American policy will be selective in terms of who is faulted and who is
The One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Orthodox Church has suffered greatly in this
century, and continues to be a martyr church in many parts of the world. If the US chooses
to ignore this fact for political gain, then the cause of religious freedom - for all -
will be gravely compromised.
This information was borrowed from:
The Library of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church USA - Ukraine, A History
Ukrainian Orthodox League of the USA - Ukrainian Affairs Committee
3. The Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies - University of Toronto
4. Ukrainian Orthodox League Bulletin - October 1998
5. Greek Orthodox Diocese of Denver Diocesan News: Dr. Nicholas Gvosdev - August 1998
6. Federation of Hellenic Societies of the Greater Baltimore Washington Region:
Heritage Publications - 1997
(Editors Notes: We cannot even well imagine but "50 Million Victims Of The
Orthodox Christian Holocaust" is not the correct number, as we have learned from
Alexander Solzhenitsyn that more then 66.5 million Orthodox Christians also perished from
1917 and onward during the times of the Soviet Union. Secondly the New Martyrs of Serbia
are increasing, the killing of innocent people, the destruction of Churches, Monasteries,
Cemeteries, and homes, as well as a massive killings of Serbian Orthodox Christians, and
countless missing people.)
Holy New Priest Martyr Stefan of Kosovo,
Pray Unto GOD For Us!
Holy New Martyrs, And Confessors Of Holy Orthodox Faith,
Pray Unto GOD For Us!
Glory Be To God For All Things!