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Ionia (Greece, 1922)

Last modified: 2014-08-02 by ivan sache
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The aborted Ionia state in Western Asia Minor (1922)

The idea of proclaiming West Asia Minor (the area around Smyrna) an independent state was discussed in 1922 as a way out for Greece. On 17/30 July 1922 (the first date is Julian Calendar, then in use in Greece, second is Gregorian), the Greek government issued a proclamation couched in very general language and promising the people of Ionia a system of administration in accordance with the principles that led to Greece taking over in the first place etc. etc.
This included a mandate to the Greek High Commissioner in Smyrna to work in that direction and implement whichever measures he considered necessary. This was a seen as a first step to a proclamation of independence, but nothing else was done and less than a month later (on 14/27 Aug.) the big offensive of Kemal's army was launched. This led to the collapse of the Greek front and the evacuation of Asia Minor, which was then incorporated in Kemal's Turkish Republic.

The idea of an independent Ionia was being aired from various sides all through 1922. To a certain extent it reflected the impossibility of the Greek position at the time - the Greeks were beginning to realise they could not beat Kemal nor keep fighting him for ever, but on the other hand they would not agree to simply pack up and go home, leaving Ionia to Kemal. An independent Ionia, was, or seemed like, a way out of this dilemma.
Also, one must take into account that in those days Greek politics were deeply split between, on the one side, supporters of the great statesman Venizelos and on the other anti-Venizelite royalists (the latter were in government from 1920 onwards). Pro-Venizelites favoured an "independent" Ionia which would be able to utilize Venizelos, for representation abroad, something the anti-Venizelites in the Greek government would never agree to do.

Eventually, for want of a better solution, the "independence" idea caught on with the government who issued that proclamation of 17/30 July. My history books say that the pro-Venizelites boycotted the proclamation gathering, since it was not what they had in mind. However, although it was admitted that the Greek position in Ionia was a deadlock, the Greeks had not realised how close to disaster they were. They thought they had the whole of the winter of 1922-23 before a major offensive by Kemal. So, the government was in no hurry to implement their proclamation. Before they could take any concrete steps Kemal attacked, the front collapsed and Ionia was evacuated.

I have to insist that no State was ever proclaimed. From a legal point of view the declaration of 17/30 July did not change the position which was that: Ionia remained part of the Ottoman Empire (and for this reason the Turkish flag flew from a fort outside Smyrna) but the Sultan had ceded his right to govern the province to the Greek government. The declaration of 17/30 July did not create a new state, it merely stated the Greek government's intent to work towards that goal.

Yannis Natsinas, 5 August 1999