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Exchange of Populations

The first idea of population exchange, between Muslims living in Greece and Greeks of Asia Minor, seems to be botched first by the Norwegian Frit of Nansen between the years 1861 and 1930. Greece had been getting used to population exchanges over the years. In the year 1920, a peace agreement was concluded for population transfers between Greeks and Bulgarians. In the year 1922, the population exchange between Turks and Greeks seems to be based on religious affiliation, rather than ethnic differences. An agreement, called the Convention Concerning the Exchange of Greeks and Turkish Populations, was signed in Switzerland on 30th January in the year 1923. Nansen got permission to explore the option of population exchange in the year 1922. This must have been a week before the peace talks that took place between France, Britain, Greece, Italy and Turkey.

Another population transfer took place in Czechoslovakia in the year 1945, such that Germans were expelled from that country.  The transfer that took place during a span of a few months can be referred to as ethnic cleansing, since it targeted one ethnic group (Germans). The Germans got displaced, deported and forcibly removed from Czechoslovakia. By the end of the year 1946, the organized population transfer got completed by the Czechoslovak government. The number of people of German ethnicity transferred was about two million. The expulsion of these Germans had to be done by local militias, security forces and Czech soldiers. In result of the population transfers, there were death cases, caused by forced marches, diseases, massacres and executions. The population transfers of the Turkish, Greeks and Germans have many similarities. They also have several differences in the way the process was carried out.

Similarities between the Population Exchange between Greek and Turks and the Ethnic Transfer Done to Germans in Czechoslovakia

The first similarity that can be spotted in both population transfers is that the population movement was compulsory. The population exchange between the Greeks and the Turkish people had to be done by force after a mutual agreement between the states. The compulsory transfer occurred over several years after the signing of a treaty during the Lausanne Convention. The same thing happened in Czechoslovakia, such that the Germans were forced to vacate a homeland that they had known for a long time, and they moved out from their homes. The groups of people involved in the transfer had no option, and they had to follow the orders given. The groups of people could not be given the choice to volunteer if they wanted to move from their lands.  These people had to be driven away from their original homelands and, eventually, were forcibly made refugees.

The other similarity is that in the two transfer cases, an agreement could be said to be made and officially signed before the start of the population transfers. The population exchange between Turkey and Greece in the year 1923 had to be done after an agreement that got signed in Switzerland, at a place called Lausanne. The agreement can be referred to as the Convention for the Exchange of Greek and Turkish Populations. The agreement had to be done by the Greece and Turkey governments who mutually expressed the need to transfer about 1.5 million Greeks and 0.5 million Muslims in Greece. The same thing happened with the transfer of Germans from Czechoslovakia in the year 1946. There was a mutual agreement that Germans would be transferred and resettled elsewhere. The agreement made in Potsdam explained that the transfer of people would be humane and orderly. The president of Czechoslovakia is the one who called for the final solution to the German question to deport the Germans after the final agreement in the Potsdam Conference. This shows that, in the two cases of population transfers, an agreement had to be made between the leaders of the concerned parties (Naimark 2002, p. 67).

The other similarity in the above cases of population transfers is that transfers involved violence at some point. In the lives of the Greeks and the Turkish people, there existed tension due to the difference in religion, and when people started migrating from their homeland, there was violence and resistance involved. By the month of January in the year 1923, a vast majority of the minority group of Greeks had already been driven away violently.

The same case occurred in Czechoslovakia, such that people got killed, and there was the destruction of property as the Germans got moved out. The Germans faced a lot of resistance and violence used to expel them from their original homeland of Czechoslovakia. The greatest violence against the Germans happened in the months of May, June and July in the year 1945. This mistreatment happened to the Germans who were waiting for transfers. The violence involved executions, massacres and deaths due to diseases in the camps. In these two cases, one can see that violence was extremely rampant.

The other similarity that can be traced in both cases is in the way that the settlement of the transferred people had to be done. In both cases, there existed problems in the settlement, and not all people got satisfied with the lives that they started to lead once they moved. In the case of the Greeks and the Turkish, the settlement was not orderly, and most people still get affected throughout the years. The same thing happened with the transfer of Germans from Czechoslovakia where the transportation and settlement of the displaced people was not orderly and humane. The way people had to be bundled into cargo vehicles showed little respect for them as humans. Most people have termed these activities as violations of human rights, and most of the activities carried out were crimes against humanity. These scenarios show that the people involved in those transfers could not be settled well, and they did not feel as comfortable as they once felt in their homelands (Temel 2009, p. 52).

Differences between the Population Exchange between Greece and Turkish People and the Population Transfer of Germans from Czechoslovakia

In the exchange between the Greek and the Turkish, people got transferred based on religious affiliations (Muslims and Christians), while the population transfer of Germans was ethnic in nature. The population transfer between Turks and Greeks in the year 1922 can be said to have its basis on religious identity. The people involved in the movement seem to be the Orthodox citizens of Turkey and the Muslim people from Greece. The Orthodox people who professed the Christian faith would be moved from Turkey to Greece, while the Muslims who lived in Greece would be transferred to Turkey. The criterion used to select the people to be moved was neither ethnicity, nor mother tongue. This is the fact that shows that the population exchange of Greek and Turks had the basis entirely on religion.

On the other hand, the Germans got expelled on the basis of their ethnicity, since they were the minority ethnic group living in Czechoslovakia. This activity of moving people from their homeland to another region and wish to eliminate one minority ethnic group can be referred to as ethnic cleansing. In the case of Czechoslovakia, the Germans had to be the people who would be cleansed out by the government. The criterion used to choose the people to be deported had to be entirely based on German ethnicity. It was not about the religion affiliation that characterized the people who would be transferred during the expulsion.

In the transfers between the Greeks and the Turks, the movement was an exchange of groups of people, while in the Czechoslovakia the movement was a mere transfer of one group of people. In the first case, the people that got moved replaced each other because they could occupy the household formerly occupied by the displaced people. In the Germans case, it was different in that they got expelled and moved to another region where they did not get ready homes to stay in. This shows that most people involved in the population exchange movement had ready homes to occupy, since it was an exchange of groups of people. In the Czechoslovakia situation, the Germans had no ready place to settle, since it was not an exchange (Kontogiorgi 2006, p.56).  

The other difference in the two cases of population transfers can be said to be the time taken to execute the processes. The population exchange of the Greeks and Turks took several years, while, in the population transfer of Germans in Czechoslovakia, the process took about three months. The process of exchanging Muslims and Christians took a relatively longer time, because it involved many bureaucratic steps. It was a long procedure of ensuring that some groups got exempted from the transfers. The Germans transfer took a relatively shorter time of approximately three months, since the steps taken to organize the group could not be complicated. This explains the difference in timing that exists between the two population transfers.


It can be seen that the compulsory population exchange that took place between Greece and Turkey had some similarities and differences as compared to the Germans’ transfer from Czechoslovakia. The first transfer had resulted from an agreement reached after peace discussions during the Turkish- Greco war. During the talks, Turkey had demanded to expel the Christians that were remaining in Turkey and move the Muslims that were staying in Greece. This transfer involved the Greek refugees from Asia Minor and the Eastern Thrace, the Caucasus, Bulgaria and Pontus. Some Greeks had already decided to move despite the fact that they had to be exempted from the population exchange. After the transfers, most charitable organizations including Britain and America granted a lending hand to the refugees. As compared to the Greek problem, the Turkish issue was less critical due to the small number of the refugees involved. Another reason is that the Turks had been killing, massacring and expelling Armenians and Greeks for several years.

The population transfer of Germans in Czechoslovakia was similar and, at the same time, different from the population exchange between Greeks and Turks. The compulsory movement targeted the German ethnic group that got driven out of their homeland. In these population transfers, the settlement lacked the order and humanity that should be expected. People suffered during expulsion, transportation and settlement due to the difficulties that they faced on the way.

Nowadays, the processes of moving people from one region to another can be said to have been crimes against humanity. Some people felt that the population transfers could have been unpleasant and inhumane, but, at the same time, it must be justified. Different people and governments had different reasons of transferring massive groups of people from their original homelands to other regions. Some parties felt that population transfers and exchanges would allow ways of solving conflicts and solving wars.

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