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(1928) [MARC] Author: Fridtjof Nansen - Tema: Russia
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than now; and we know from old descriptions that it could
be pretty dry in those days, too, when the Marathon runners
reached Athens covered with dust. There does not seem to
have been much difference. But man can bring about
considerable changes, for instance by cutting down or burning
the woods. And we know all too well how war may transform
fertile lands into a comparative desert. Moreover, the
Greeks, especially in Attica, were not primarily dependent
upon agriculture, but, if anything, more upon the trade in
their many good harbours, upon shipping, mining, and handicrafts.
That the wonderful culture of Greece declined so
rapidly cannot possibly be accounted for by any changes in
the climate; it must have been due first to the debilitating
effect of the civil wars, then to the enormous expansion
under and after Alexander, and lastly to the gradual
transformation of the race, brought about by various outside
influences and by the constant loss, through emigration, of
the best stocks, which became mixed with foreign elements
and largely disappeared.

The Work for the Refugees in Greece.

Our business, however, was to attend a meeting at the
Foreign Office. Unfortunately the Minister for Foreign
Affairs was not in Athens; but we met Mr. Howland, an
American, who is chairman of the committee appointed by
the League of Nations for the settlement of Greek refugees.
After the Greek defeat in the war against the Turks in Asia
Minor, in the autumn of 1922, upwards of a million Greek
refugees from Asia Minor and Eastern Thrace poured into
Greece. Seeing that they had no opportunity of returning to
their homes, there was no alternative but to find some means
of subsistence for the exiles in the country. Fortunately
there was a large amount of unused or badly exploited land,
especially in Macedonia and Western Thrace. By bringing
these areas under cultivation large numbers of the refugees
could be provided with a livelihood. And in addition new
industries could be started for them, such as carpet-weaving
or silkworm culture.

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