The Making of the Greek Genocide: Cosmopolitan memory and the contested remembrance of the Ottoman Greek Catastrophe

Forskningsseminar med Erik Sjöberg, Umeå Universitet.


This presentation revolves around a collective memory in the making: the so-called Greek genocide, sometimes also referred to as the Pontian Greek and Anatolian or Ottoman Greek genocides.

The expulsion of Greeks from Turkey in 1922-23, known in Greece as the Asia Minor Catastrophe, is a watershed event in the modern history of the countries involved, and a precedent to the ethnic cleansing that occurred in Eastern Europe a few decades later.

Under the influence of a reckoning with the national past as well as an emergent cosmopolitan culture of Holocaust remembrance, descendants of the Anatolian Greek refugees have since the 1980s lobbied for the recognition of their forebears’ tragedy as genocide, constructed as a parallel to the internationally better known Armenian genocide.

Though the Greek state recognizes two instances of genocide against Greeks of Ottoman Anatolia, the claim is mostly advanced by non-state actors, and has in the early 21st century become the object of fierce controversy in the "culture wars" of Greece, as mainstream historians and debaters dismiss it as a politically distorted memory.

I will discuss how the notion of the (Pontian/Anatolian/Ottoman) Greek genocide has come into being, and how different political and cultural debates, interests and circumstances have shaped this contested "memory" over the past three to four decades. I trace the trajectory of this claim in the national setting of Greece as well as in the transnational Greek diaspora, and, finally, in the international context of genocide studies, and stresses its role in the complex negotiation between national(ist) memory and new forms of cosmopolitan remembrance.