A GREEK MIKRASIATIC STATE
The idea of a separatist Greek state in Anatolia, instigated by Venizelists
military officers, had its origins with the return of King Constantine to
the Greek throne in December 1920. This unofficial movement, also known as
the Committee of National Defence (Amyna), revealed the sharp divisions
existing in Greek society between the Venizelists and Royalists. Without
the support of the Royalist administration in Athens, its chance for
survival was negligible.
In late November 1920, some 150-250 Venizelists officers who had resigned
their commissions in the Greek army established the Amyna movement in
Constantinople. This movement having no formal organisation was split into
a military and civilian arm. The latter included the prominent Greek middle
class of Constantinople society: doctors, lawyers and wealthy merchants and
the Patriarchate who were staunchly Venizelist in sympathy. Colonel
Kondylis and Pericles Argyropoulos, a Liberal politician, were the main
leaders of the Constantinople Amyna.
With the Greek army failing to occupy Angora (Ankara) in September 1921,
Mikrasiatic Amyna, was established in Smyrna in October 1921 involving the
middle class of that city. Like their Constantinople counterparts, they
believed the Greek government was about to evacuate its army from Smyrna,
leaving the Christians to their own fate. They wanted to create an
independent Greek state and defend it with a volunteer army. Amyna sought
the support of Sterghiadis and General Papoulas, the Commander-in-Chief of
the Greek army in Asia Minor, to give their movement some legitimacy, in
their quest to establish a separatist state in late 1921. Without the
endorsement of these 2 prominent individuals, the survival of Amyna was
questionable. Sterghiadis dismissed Amyna's approaches out of hand. He
believed an autonomous Asia Minor would not enjoy the financial support of
the Greek Government and was bound to create divisions within the Greek
army. Besides Sterghiadis authoritarian demeanour would have found Amyna an
aggravation and a threat to his dictatorial rule in Smyrna.
In late December 1921, Dr Siotis , a prominent member of Constantinople
Amyna, approached Papoulas seeking his support. The latter indicated that
he couldn't act without the authority of the Greek Government. Although,
Papoulas seemed interested. Contact with Papoulas was resumed in early
February 1922, when Siotis visiting Smyrna brought with him a long
memorandum prepared by Constantinople Amyna for Papoulas to read. This
memorandum mentioned that Venizelos should represent the new Mikrasiatic
State in London. Wishing to keep his options open, Papoulas dispatched
Siotis and Col. Sarayiannis of his staff to approach the Athens government.
The Greek Government was disinterested in an unofficial organisation and
exhorted all Greeks wishing to contribute to the struggle by either
enlisting or donating money.
Amyna approached Venizelos for his advice in March 1922. His
recommendations involved three elements. Firstly, the establishment of a
provisional administration and the appeal to the Greek army to aid in the
struggle should be delayed until the time when old Greece recalled the
Greek functionaries and the army. Secondly, the new regime should launch
its own State Bank by issuing its own bank notes . Laying its hands on the
income of the Ottoman Public Debt and Regie des tabacs (French Tobacco) was
bound to affect important Allied interests. On political leadership,
Venizelos endorsed Sterghiadis as the most appropriate individual to head
the new state. Otherwise, it would be a lost cause. Sterghiadis was
experienced in dealing with issues of diplomacy, civil administration and
had good rapport with the Turks.
With the conclusion of the Allied Conference on 22-26 March, 1922, the
Greeks had intimated its acceptance of the armistice , which would have led
to an eventual evacuation of its army from Asia Minor and Smyrna reverting
back to Turkish rule. On March 31, Gounaris and Theotokis met with
Papoulas and Siotis in Athens. Gounaris told them that an Ionian state had
no prospect of surviving without the assistance of Athens and rejected
their diplomatic, economic and strategic pretensions. The Greek Government
would withdraw its army , under the cover of a general peace settlement
which included guarantees for minorities.
Returning to Smyrna, a letter was waiting for Papoulas indicating Amyna's
negotiations with Venizelos. It roused Papoulas to action with promising
reports of British support. Sir John Stavridis, the ex-Greek Consul in
London 1903-20 and a personal friend of Lloyd George, with Harold Nicolson
in attendance telephoned General Frantzis , a member of Amyna, who was
leaving London. Frantzis was to tell Papoulas and the Patriarchate that the
British Government strongly disapproved of Amyna. Papoulas never welcomed
Venizelos's support and finally realised that he had been duped by Amyna.
The real intentions of the movement aimed against the Greek Government
were, finally, exposed in Papoulas's own mind. His stance towards Amyna
changed and with his subsequent resignation in May 1922 , the future of the
movement looked doubtful. To compound Amyna's problems, Sterghiadis was
given a free hand by the Greek Government to deal with them as he saw fit.
In the summer of 1922,Venizelos made an effort to moderate Sterghiadis's
hostility towards Amyna. He dispatched 2 of his supporters G. Exindaris and
D. Lambrakis to visit Sterghiadis. Nothing emerged from the 2 meetings.
Exindaris reported that the heavy strain of administration had made
Sterghiadis a very nervous person and that the confidence and respect of
the liberals for him had been succeeded by animosity and mistrust. In the
end, the Amyna movement collapsed.
On June 28, 1922 Sterghiadis and Hadjianestis, the new Commander-in-Chief
of the Greek army in Asia Minor, came to Athens to confer with the
Government regarding the situation in Anatolia. The morale was low in the
Greek army and the Government faced serious economic and financial
problems. It could not maintain its army indefinitely in Asia Minor.
Lindley, the British Minister at Athens, informed Lord Balfour, the acting
British Foreign Secretary, that the ground was being prepared to persuade
the Greek public that Asia Minor is of secondary importance from the
national point of view and that the future of Greece lies in Europe.
Equally Greek press reports were highlighting the importance of Macedonia,
Epirus and Thrace to national security. The Greek public was being primed
for an eventual troop withdrawal from Asia Minor.
Sterghiadis proclaimed, officially, the autonomy of Smyrna on July 30,
1922. The Turks and the Entente Powers: Great Britain, France and Italy
condemned the Greek Government's action in declaring Smyrna into an
autonomous territory. In fact, the Greek measure was declared to be illegal
by the Ottoman Government. The Entente informed the Greek Government that a
final settlement on Smyrna was matter to be decided by it and Turkey. On
August 26, the Kemalists launched their final offensive on Greek positions,
leading to the latter's evacuation of their army from Asia Minor in early
September 1922. Mustapha Kemal's army entered the city of Smyrna on
September 9, 1922 thus ending 3 millennia of Hellenic civilisation in Asia
STAVROS STAVRIDIS , Historian/Researcher, Greek-Australian Archive RMIT
University, Melbourne, Australia