Greece The Catastrophe in Asia Minor
Source: The Library of Congress Country Studies
Venizelos went to the Paris peace talks armed with the assurances he had received from the Allies during the war and focused exclusively on territorial aggrandizement for Greece. The peace that emerged seemed to promise full realization of the Megali Idea. In the event, shifts in domestic and international politics led to a disastrous conflict with the successors of the Ottoman Empire.
Venizelos showed all of his considerable diplomatic skills at the peace talks. He wooed the United States president, Woodrow Wilson, and Britain's Prime Minister David Lloyd George. Venizelos quickly offered the services of the Greek military as policing agents and as peacekeepers in occupied territory. Foreign leaders were indebted to the wily Venizelos for this assistance, but the offer fostered domestic discontent. The Greek armed forces had been mobilized almost continuously since 1912, and the nation was becoming war weary. Also, Venizelos neglected urgent domestic issues as he put all of his energies into winning the peace talks. He would eventually pay for this neglect.
After two years of intense negotiations, Greece stood on the verge of fulfilling the Megali Idea. The 1919 Treaty of Neuilly had awarded Bulgarian territory in western Thrace and Macedonia to Greece. The Treaty of Sèvres, signed with Turkey on August 10, 1920, gave Greece the Aegean Islands, hence command of the Dardanelles, and the eastern half of Thrace except for Constantinople. The Treaty of Sèvres also established a new territory around the city of Smyrna (called Izmir by the Turks) on the west coast of Asia Minor--a region long coveted by Greek nationalists. In accordance with the principle of national selfdetermination , all Greeks in Asia Minor were encouraged to move there. The Smyrna protectorate was to be administered by Greece but remain under the aegis of Turkey. After five years, a plebiscite would determine which country would have sovereignty. The outcome of such a vote had already been decided in 1919 by the stationing of Greek troops at Smyrna to solidify Greek control.
When Venizelos announced in triumph that Greece now occupied two continents and touched on five seas, the irredentist dream seemed to be coming true. The dream soon turned into a nightmare, however. As he prepared to return to Greece from the talks in France, Venizelos was shot by monarchist assassins. He survived, but he was already out of touch with events in Greece, and his extended convalescence isolated him even more from the domestic scene. Two months after the attack on Venizelos, King Alexander died, leaving the exiled Constantine as the only claimant to the throne. A war-weary electorate then expressed its dissatisfaction with the heavy-handed Liberal government by resoundingly vanquishing the Liberals in the elections of November 1920.
Repudiated by the nation at the moment of his greatest triumph, Venizelos went into self-imposed exile. A broad anti-Venizelist coalition took power and immediately scheduled a plebiscite on the restoration of Constantine. Following a landslide approval that was clearly rigged, Constantine returned to the throne amid popular rejoicing in December 1920.
Data as of December 1994
NOTE: The information regarding Greece on this page is re-published from The Library of Congress Country Studies. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of Greece The Catastrophe in Asia Minor information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Greece The Catastrophe in Asia Minor should be addressed to the Library of Congress.