Co-founder of The Global 1922 project, Georgios Giannakopoulos writes about the significance of 2022 for modern Greek and global history.
Georgios is Lecturer in Modern History at City University of London and Visiting Research Fellow at King’s College London
Centennials and bicentennials are moments of commemoration and reflection that say as much about the present as about the past. For those interested in modern Greek history and politics, 2021 and 2022 offer landmark anniversaries of events that have shaped contemporary Greek identity. 2021 witnessed the bicentenary of the Greek revolution – a lengthy and complicated process that succeeded in delivering one of the first independent states on the fringes of post-Napoleonic Europe. This year marks the centenary of the Asia Minor “catastrophe” – the destruction of the Greek Orthodox communities in Asia Minor following the defeat of the Greek army in the Greek-Turkish war of 1919-1922. Both occasions are opportune moments to revisit much of modern Greek history and rethink Greece’s place in the international system.
The failure of the Greek expansionist project in Anatolia became the success of the Turkish nationalist transformation of the Ottoman empire. The remembrance of the 1922 events in Greece and Turkey, therefore, has a binary dynamic: lament for the destruction of the “lost homelands” in Greece and “Victory Day” celebrations in Turkey. The Greek-Turkish 1922 is a story of trauma and triumph; of war, violence, and national pride and humiliation; a story of displacements and population transfers that heralded the consolidation of the nation state and catapulted the pursuit of national homogeneity into the mainstream of international politics.
What seems to have been missing is an effort to systematically place the Greek-Turkish story in the wider context of imperial transitions and transformations across Europe (east and west) and the Near/Middle East.
In past decades various research projects and publications have shed light on key aspects of the political, cultural, and international history of the Greek-Turkish conflict in the early 1920s. Some of the most widely discussed themes concern the recovery of the refugee experience and memory as well as the analysis of the legal, cultural, and bio/political logic underpinning the making (and unmaking) of minority populations on both sides of the Aegean. What seems to have been missing is an effort to systematically place the Greek-Turkish story in the wider context of imperial transitions and transformations across Europe (east and west) and the Near/Middle East.
By purposefully shedding light on 1922 – a moment of transition in-between international conferences (Paris 1919, Genoa 1922) and lasting territorial arrangements (Lausanne 1923) the Global 1922 project ventures to place the Greek-Turkish story alongside a wider network of connected developments in places like Ireland, Italy, Spain, Hungary, Russia, and Syria. The project brings together scholars working on the imperial and international history of the early 1920s. Through its two workshops and scholarly publications, The Global 1922 aims to push back against the temptations of methodological nationalism and the facile demarcations of “area studies” and offer a connective and comparative account of key themes nested in imperial, national and internationalist imaginaries of a disrupted world in flux. These themes are global in kind and local in nature. They revolve around the contested politics of humanitarianism, the shifting nature of warfare, the language of liberty and westernization. They also include stories of economic integration and tales of forced migration and territorial dislocation.
FEATURE IMAGE: Battle of Sangarios River lithograph, unknown artist, Drakos Papadimitriou publishing, Athens, 1921.