- Project Runeberg -  Armenia and the Near East /
23

(1928) [MARC] Author: Fridtjof Nansen - Tema: Russia
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was not too much room for them. This was just the problem
that we had to solve. I was glad to find that the Armenian
refugees in Greece only amounted to about 45,000, and
that if we could evacuate some 9,000 of them from the
country at an early date the Greek Government would be
satisfied, at least for the present. We were told that about
11,000 Armenians had expressed their desire to go to Russian
Armenia.

The above-mentioned agreement between Greece and
Turkey regarding the exchange of Greek and Turkish minorities
has been severely criticized as brutal, and it may be
appropriate to say a few words on this subject, seeing that
the measure was partly due to a proposal originally put forward
by the present writer. After the Greek army was defeated in
Asia Minor in the autumn of 1922, the Turks drove the Greeks
and the Armenians by thousands and hundreds of thousands
out of Anatolia, while keeping back the Greek men, whom
they herded together in “labour battalions.” This was the
state of affairs when I arrived in Constantinople as the League’s
High Commissioner to try to find some way of helping the
refugees. I received a letter from Venizelos, in which he
pointed out that if the Turks continued to expel the Greeks
from Turkish territory in this barbarous fashion, Greece
would be forced against her will to take reprisals by driving
the Turks out of Greek territory. The Greek Government
concurred in this view, and empowered me to act on their
behalf. It seemed to me that if there was to be any chance
of saving the Greek men, estimated at 100,000 in number,
who had been kept back in the “labour battalions,” and some
part, at any rate, of the very valuable fixed and movable
property left behind by the refugees, this could only be done
by means of an agreement providing for an exchange of
populations. Accordingly I made a proposal to Mustapha
Kemal Pasha and his Government along the following lines:
the Turkish Government were to have the right to send to
Greece all Greeks in Anatolia and Eastern Thrace, and the
Greek Government were likewise to be entitled to send all
Turks on Greek territory to Turkey. All property left behind
by the emigrants was, however, to be carefully inventoried

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