The causes of the national calamity (1922): A sober valuation

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By Professor Anastasios M. Tamis*

Let us assess and evaluate what were the causes that led to the defeat of the Greek troops in Asia Minor in August 1922; that produced  the “cancellation” of the Treaty of Sèvres of 1919 and commanded to the conclusion of the defeatist Treaty of Lausanne?

For what reasons, the victorious Greek Army until September 1921, fell into inertia, inactiveness and remained lethargic and indolent for a whole year, without throwing a single “shot”, and finally not being able to hold the attacking Turks in August 1922, not even for 15 minutes? 

 Let’s look at them soberly, calmly, from the distance of time, codified, concisely, in titles. 

  1. The primary and basic cause of the National Calamity of 1922 was the infamous division. This is the inherent, or innate curse that distinguishes the nation of Hellenes. A people, a nation to thrive in the world, to be distinguished as the bearer of the greatest and most important human civilization, but never to be able to acquire a cohesive link, a united course. A people and a nation that has lived and spoken the same language for 3500 years, unable to organize itself into a single state until after 1830. Greece, in 1919, entered Smyrna militarily, while back in Athens the parties, the party gangs, the party leaders, the Royal Court and the Church saw their own dreams and claimed power with self-interest. They sent 130,000 young people to liberate the Greeks of the East without having unity, a common policy, a common vision. They sent the Army to then hold him hostage for their political plans and ambitions.
  2. Another cause of the national disaster was the unfortunate and perhaps “inter-allied” unneeded campaign for Greece’s participation in Ukraine, during the Ukrainian Revolution (1917-1922), with the combative presence of  a Greek Battalion there under Lieutenant Colonel N. Plastiras. The Greek presence in Ukraine gave rise to Bolshevik Russia, from that time on, to stand against Greece.
  3. Following this incident, Kemal easily convinced Lenin that the Greeks had waged an expansionist, imperialist war  against his homeland as well, with their intention of conquering the capital of his country, Ankara.
  4. Italy has never been an ally of Greece. In the period 1919-1921, Italy openly spoke out against Greece and supported Kemal, in order to put Greece in a difficult position. After the fascist Mussolini came to power in Italy (1922), her attitude was hostile.  Besides, on the pretext that the Italians should not enter Smyrna, the Allies consented to  the undertaking of the Asia Minor Campaign by E. Venizelos in May 1919.
  5.  The Anglo-French hated King Constantine and  his royalist governments, after the landing of the Anglo-French in Piraeus and the confinement of the Royal Greek Army in the Peloponnese, after 1917, when Venizelos’ Greece entered  the First World War.  The French newspapers, which had tens of thousands of troops on the Macedonian Front,  referred to Constantine as the most hated person in Europe.
  6. Even if Ankara was taken by the Greek Army, the War would have been lost, from September 1921, after the victorious battles of the Greek Army in Sagarios region and the hills of Cale Groto.  The Turks, even if Ankara would have been fallen, had to the depths of the Anatolia living space, to maneuver, to regroup, to be supplied. Their Army was next to the munitions and supplies, and it was easy to regroup and attack. The Greeks were thousands of kilometres away from Greece, the sea, and the supply centres. They would have lost the War because of starvation, deprivation, constant counterattacks by the Turks and the high number of defections and desertions.
  7. They would have lost the War, because as it was correctly predicted by General I. Metaxas, Greek soldiers were fighting far from the supply centers and the sea (which is why he refused to take over as commander of the Greek Army in Asia Minor); it was not possible for a 130,000 army to find adequate supplies in a hostile environment.
  8. The War was lost because now, when they crossed Sagarios and the Salty Desert, the Greeks  were fighting in regions without  a compact presence of Greeks, but within intensely Turkish populated villages. It could be clarified  that the parts that were liberated by the Greek army in Ionia, but also from Pontus, did not send a large number of volunteer soldiers.
  9.  The War was lost  because the socialists/Marxists encouraged desertion, fugitives and cultivated in the army of Asia Minor with leaflets and proclamations, defeatism, calling on the Greek soldiers to throw away their weapons, because their enemy was not the Turks who were fighting for altars and hearths, but the monopolies and exploiters in Greece and their villages.  Deserters who fled the battlefields exceeded 60.000. The Greek Army was reduced to one third of its initial strength by casualties and desertions.
  10. The War was lost because Greece has lost France as a loyal and ardent ally when the royalist governments came to power. The United Kingdom, as always, remained by stepping on two boats. 
  11. The War was lost because the Venizelist senior ranking military officers of the National Defence were revoked or expelled from the Army and were replaced by inexperienced royalists at the most crucial moment in 1921.
  12. The War was lost because 19 classes had been called to arms and of these eight, were fighting for over nine long years, that is, from the Balkan-Turkish War in  1912 until the defeat in August 1922.
  13. The War was lost when the Ankara Campaign was decided in Kiutachia. The War lost its moral basis for Greece, namely, to liberate the Greek populations, and turned into an expansionist struggle against Turkey. The Turks fought for altars and hearths, fought to save their homeland, and beat the invading Greeks.
  14. The War was lost because instead of limiting ourselves to what had been conquered with the occupation of Smyrna, Kydonies and Bursa, we did what the Athenians did in Sicily. Thucydides had rightly  interpreted that instead of taking care of their city, they were occupied by greed and led their city to destruction, with their campaign in Sicily,  2300 years ago.

*Professor Anastasios M. Tamis taught at Universities in Australia and abroad, was the creator and founding director of the Dardalis Archives of the Hellenic Diaspora and is currently the President of the Australian Institute of Macedonian Studies (AIMS).

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