5. The present status of Crypto-Christians of the Pontos dialect speakers.

Up until the mass expulsion of the Greek population of Pontos,[40] Ionia, Thrace and Cappadocia, the muslimized Greek speakers of Pontos kept in touch with the Greek Christians. In 1914, according to official statistics of the Ecumenical Patriarch which were entered in the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs records, an estimate of the Greek speaking Muslims came to 190.000.[41]   The prior of St. John's convent, Panaretos in his report to the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs writes the following about the Greek speaking people. "They are Greeks who were forcibly islamized during the dark centuries of slavery, and even today adopt Mohamedanism, but their mother tongue is Greek. They are aware of their Greek origin, and that they were islamized by force, and they keep this as a shrine and are not alientated by it. Turkish is taught at school, and as for their women, they speak Greek even more fluently. And this is despite the fact that they live enclosed by a Turkish environment".[42]

The expulsion of the Greek population (as well as Muslims) after 1923, and the upcoming mass crime of Genocide, [43] left behind those people with no contact to Hellenism or the church. The only exception were those who had settled in Constantinople, who created strong Greek speaking communities which kept their traditions and the Pontic dialect.

Nowadays, there are almost no Crypto-Christians living in Turkey. But there are families which were of mild religious beliefs who stayed back in Pontos for various other reasons. Today these ‘unknown' number of Greek speaking Muslims (Crypto-Christians), are pioneered by college youths in an attempt to find answers about their ancestors' culture, history and their identity. However they face a difficult battle of self determination in the search for their identity in the present situation. Regarding the numerical data of Greek speaking Crypto Christians, only assumptions can be made. In Surmena, the capital of the district consists of 19 villages, 5 of which today are populated purely by Greek speakers. The Surmena Pontians, who have a special tendency to education, business and fishing have numerous settlements in Constantinople. In the Galiena district (ancient Guliena) which consists of 18 villages and settlements, half the population of the district are islamized locals while the other half have re-established themselves from the villages Kullish and Archangelos of the Surmena district in the 3rd decade of the twentieth century. The Turkish language has only recently started to replace the Pontic dialect, which is not spoken by people, at least below the age of 20. The Tsa΄kara region (Kato-Chorion) is purely Greek-speaking and the last to become islamized (end of 19th century) with a sufficiently highly developed religious feeling of Crypto-Christianity. Rcently its youth have been affected by leftist ideas and a claim of self determination, self recognition and a search for their own identity. The people there are mostly stock breeders while many have migrated to Constantinople where they have constituted a powerful federation, working as scientists, businessmen and statesmen, eg. from the "Sineck" village of Katochorion the former president of Turkey Seudet Sunay drew his origin.

The Of district (ancient Ofis region) consists of 49 villages which were completely Greek, but nowadays only one the Evenkioy remains as a Greek-speaking village. There the Muslim celebration of Ramadan takes place, and Triod which comes from the Greek Triodion. [45] The majority of its inhabitants are Muslims and regarding their identity mainly leftists mention it, but also a good number of islamists. The Ofls inhabitants, mainly yeomen and stock breeders, have re-established their communities in Constantinople and other cities. The Greek-speaking writer Omer Asan from Erenkroy who has published the book Pontos Culture (Pontus Kulturu) in Turkish, has greatly contributed to the search for identity of these people.[46] References have even been made in a Turkish magazine which emphatically states that "the traces of the Orthodox tradition are obvious, and here everybody speaks Pontic-Greek. The Rum (remnants of the Roman Empire) and Orthodox is clearly seen".[47]

Ano Matsouka (upper Matsouka) consists of 8 villages located at the Zygana pass with Hapsikoy at the very centre. It contains Christian Greek villages of which the greatest majority of its population derive from Greek speaking settlements from the Tonia district that settled there after 1924. Greek speaking communities of Ano Matsouka can be found today at Yalova, Gebdge and Constantinople itself. The Tonia district (ancient Thoania) consists of 18 villages, 7 of which are purely Greek speaking. The people of the surrounding area still keep many elements of their Pontic Hellenism, while at the same time they are renowned for their love of weapons and preserving the custom of the "vendette". It is from the Alexandrana village that the former minister A. Sener originated, while the inhabitants of the district still contain large communities, in Yalouz and Karamourseel, at Gemze, Bouyouk Tsakmese, Constantinople and elsewhere. With a consciousness of their identity, they comparatively do possess some pioneering members of their youth who are affected by their leftist members.

In conclusion, given the lack of numerical data, and the Turkish authority's fear of conducting research into its national origins and minorities, [48] it is far too difficult to do a thorough evaluation in regards to the number of Pontos Crypto-Christians which exist in Turkey today. [49]

Socially, the Pontos Crypto Christian Greek speakers, were, and still remain, a conservative unit group of people, with tight bonds between each other, their family and their relatives. As mentioned, they continue practicing endogamy, and they are extremely resistant to any changes imposed on them. For instance changes that are imposed by the Turkish authorities aimed at the introduction of a unique Turkish identity and language.

Nevertheless, during the last few decades and years, a feeling of a specific identity is increasing amongst them. Any attempt from the youth of Pontos to express in words or text their Pontian dialect, history or cultural identity is faced with hatred by the Turkish authorities, whilst the lives of Pontians who dare to express their views are threatened.[50] This oppression is accompanied by pseudo scientific attempts at distorting the rich history of these people and their region, as the official Turkish policy is that their historic identity is of Turkish origin.

Concerning the language, it seems that a large part of the Islamized Greek speakers of Pontos, particularly in the Trapezus (Trabzon) district, Tonia, Ofis, Sourmena, Matsouka as well as some in the Constantinople boroughs, have preserved their Pontic dialect virtually unchanged. So in those districts, the language, which is illegal in Pontos and all other parts of Turkey, helps them to bond and to keep their identity. Of course there is not a single school in Turkey where Pontians are able to learn or promote their language. Pontos youths, especially those coming from inland, due to their families keeping their own language and not knowing Turkish, first come in contact with the Turkish language at school and have to learn it through rigorous teaching methods. Even in Primary schools there is a net of young pupils who reliably inform and pass on information to their teachers. Pontian schoolmates who speak the Pontos dialect in private may be subjected to strict ‘convincing' methods by teachers or even the police. At Junior and Senior High Schools the work of ‘terrorising' is handed over to racists and clans of fascists like for instance the Grey Wolves. Under these conditions Pontian students are excluded from Universities and Colleges. Students of Pontic descent who make an attempt to show their Pontic origin and culture by means of printed material are forcibly discriminated against. One instance being when a Pontic magazine was issued at the Trapezus (Trabzon) University in 1999. The students responsible faced the danger of being sentenced to imprisonment by the Turkish authorities. According to Turkish policy, any activity by youths which may concern their Pontic identity, is an attempt to re-birth the "Pontos Empire".[51]

As a continuation of this policy a demand was made by the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to deport about 50 Greek-speaking students who travelled to Greece in search of their identity. [52] The deportation cases of Redza Gildiz, Fethi Giultepe and Kara Bayram are the most widely known. The Principals of the Panteion University, Pontic Greek societies, University teachers, citizens and active members of Greek society were strongly against it.

On an official level, the Greek state does not involve itself with the question of the Greek speakers (Crypto Christians) of Turkey. Only the Greek society shows some level of interest, either through Pontian societies or non government organizations. The Pontian associations, through presentations to Greek, Turkish and other official groups, has tried to raise awareness of the Greek speakers of Turkey and the oppression they are forced to endure. The restrictions in Turkey today on the lack of freedoms of Islamized Pontians has been denounced by the non- governmental organization "The International Union for the Rights and Liberation of Peoples"[53] with a written memorandum to the Organization for the European security and Co-operation (O.E.S.C.) and also the Human Rights Bureau of the U.N.O. In Switzerland there was also a verbal intervention at the 58th meeting of the U.N.O. The same subject was addressed to the Committee for the Human Rights and by the French non government organisation "AMRAP" - The Movement Against Racism for Friendship Among Peoples".[54] The non government organization of the International Union for Liberation, made a special statement against the systematic attempts being made on banishment of the Pontic dialect (as being one nearest to the ancient Greek), spoken today, but also the persecution against Pontic thinkers (intellectual people) like the writer Omer Asan. Describing this situation the International Union for the Rights and Liberation of People expressed their wish to insist on the problem of the lack of freedom of speech of the Pontian people in Turkey. That statement was also made to pass on information regarding the condition of life of these people, so that the international community can be informed of the situation. Furthermore as has been pointed out in the statements to non-govermental organizations, the interventions towards the abolishment of discrimination against these people constitutes a step towards the preservation of a lively community and civilization that has enriched the whole of humanity.

6. Conclusions

Despite the 1839 and 1856 reforms, and the 1876 constitution, the problem of Crypto Christianity is still affecting the whole of Asia Minor (Turkey) and Pontos today. Persecution is the dominant feature. After the outbreak of World War I, persecutions against Christians became more intense by the Neo Turk regime, of which the Stavriotes, the inhabitants of Mt Ak Dag, were the most severely tortured, and who through forced islamization, tried to avoid the tortures. Bishop Gervassios stated that out of 19629 soldiers, Greek Christians and Crypto-Christians of the district, only 1.300 will survive. [55]

In Pontos, after the Russian army had retreated in the year 1916, those that had recently declared their Christian creed were tortured whilst their enlistment to the Labour Battalions was intensified. The First World War was followed by the Greco-Turkish War which resulted in a re-escalation of tension and persecutions. After the Lausanne Treaty, and an earlier agreement concerning an exchange of populations (only for those who had officially turned to Christianity), it left many Crypto Christians behind. Nowadays the problem of Greek speaking Crypto-Christians is part of a saga which has lately filtered into talks between Greece, Turkey, Europe, U.S.A. and other world organizations. [56]



[1] Inaldjik X. Ottoman Empire (trans M. Kocolakis Athens-Alexandria 1997).
[2] For the Pontos region we know that soon after the Trapezous besiege its most prominent families were forced to become islamized as well as a great number of youngsters. According to the Metropolitan of Trapezous, Chryssanthos' information, the islamization in Pontos was carried out in the period 1648-1687 by pressures exerted from the side of feudalists the Derembeys, as they were called mentioning the following «because of the Derembeys pression and sufferings and persecutions those from the Akompsios (Tshoroh) river up to Trapezous solid populations of Grecians the Rizaeon region inhabitants, Ofis, Surmena and Gimora were totally islamized. All Christians, being given the name Iskender...» Metropolite of Trapezous Chryssanthos. The church of Trapezous. Pontis archives. Estia Athens 1933, yet see Photiades K. The Minor Asia Islamization and the Pontis Crypto-Christians, Thessaloniki Kyriakides Brothers 1988 and of the same author Sources of History of the Crypto-Christian problem Thessaloniki, Kyriakides Bros, 1977. Andriotis "Crypto-Christian problems Thessaloniki", 1974.
[3] About Reforms, see Issawi C. "The Economic History of Turkey" Chicago, 1950, Owen R. The Middle East in the World Economy 1800-1914. London 1961, Baily E. British Policy and the Turkish Reform Movement. London 1942. Shaws-Shaw E. History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey. Cambridge 1977.
[4] Evangelides T., The History of Trapezous. Thessaloniki, 1994 p. 199. Apostolides D.,History of the Pontos Hellenes. Thessaloniki, 1935 p.107, Millioris N. The Crypto-Christians. Athens 1962 p.23.
[5] Lamsides , Pontos under the Turks. Pontos Archives (34) 1977-1978, p.60-61.
[6] Bailey F., British Policy and the Turkish reform movement. A study in AngloTurkish relations, 1826-1853. New York 1970 p. 87.
[7] Karykopoulos X., The International regime of the Economical Patriarchy. Athens 1979, p. 41.
[8] Lewis B., The Emergence of Modern Turkey, Oxford Univercity Press, 1963, p.105.
[9] Zervos I., The Hellenism of Pontos. Athens 1919, p.16.
[10] Pavlides I., Pontos M. Asia History Pages, Thessaloniki 1958, p. 73.
[11] Vacalopoulos A., A History of modern Hellenism, Thessaloniki 1961-1980 v.1, p.100.
[12] Panaretos, Pontos through the Centuries. Drama 1927, p.67, Scalieris, Peoples and Races in Minor-Asia. Athens 1922, pp. 384-385.
[13] Fotiades K., The M. Asia islamization and Pontos Crypto-Christians, Thessaloniki 1988, p. 227.
[14] Petropoulos D.- Andreades E., Religious life in the provinces Ak Seraï- Gelvera, Athens 1971, p. 55.
[15] Shaw S., The Jews of the Ottoman Empire and Turkish Republic. London 1991, p.156.
[16] Apostolides D., History of Pontos Hellenism, Thessaloiki 1975, p.107.
[17] Gelzer H., Gestliches und Weltiches. Leipzig 1900, p.230.
[18] Bryer A., The Pontic revival and the New Greece. In the Hellenish and the 1st Greek war of Liberation Continuity and change. Salonica 1976, p.189.
[19] Lamsides O.- Ioannides S., History of Trapezous and its surrounding area, statics. Konstantinople 1870, p.144.
[20] Parcherides J., History of Kromni. Trapezous 1912, p.50, Fotiades K.: Islamization and the Crypto Christians offer to natio-religious battles. Thesaloniki 1974, p.29.
[21] Chryssanthos, The Trapezous church. Athens 1924,
[22] Gervassios (Soumelides Bishop of Sebastia), The stavriotae. Konstantinople 1919, p.52.
[23] Valavanis G., Moder General History of Pontos. Athens 1925, p.270.
[24] Economides D., Pontos and consequent Rights of the Hellines residing in it. Athens 1920, p. 76-77.

[[25] Gevassius p.60, Valavanis G. p.266.
[26] Papadopoulos A., The under slavery Hellenism of the Asian Greece. Athens 1909, p.5.
[27] Poulton H., Top Hot Grey Woft and crescent Turkish nationalism and the Turkish Republic. London 1997, p.84.
[28] Concerning the Neo-Turks see Mardin S., Genessis of Ottoman Thought. Princeton 1962, where analytical presentation of the movement thought.
[29] Takriria highlights of the Ecumenical Patriarchy addressed to the Diran about the Stavriotae and islamization. Konstantinople 1909, p.p.17-34.
[30] Durant Peoples' Court. The Silecent Crime. The Armenian enocide. Athens 1988 prolog
[31] Papadopoulos A., The Islamization of Minor Asia and the Pontos Kryptochristians. Athens 1909, p.5.

[32] The U.S.S.S.R. Academy of Science
[33] Concerning the Young-Turks see Mardin S., Genesis of Ottoman Thought. Princeton 962, where analytical presentation of the movement thought.
[34] Zarerand, E. United and independent Turan, Leiden 1971 p. 36-38
[35] Fotiades, K., «The persecutions of Pontos Greeks» in Fotiades, K.- Charalambides M., Pontium People. A Wright to Memory. Athens, Gordios, 2003, 2nd edition, pp.31-97. and Fotiades, K. Sources of the history of CryptoChristians, Thessaloniki, Kyriakides Bros, 1997.
[36] Rodas, M., The way German policy caused the destruction of Pontos Hellenism. Athens 1978 p.18
[37] Rodakis, P., The Turkish nationalism, the Armenian genocide and the uprooting of Hellenism of the Minor Asia, Athens 1986, p.19. the Minor Asian curse.
[38] Gavriilides, A. Pages of the bitter calamity of Pontos. Athens 1924, p.87. Balioulis, P. Pages of Pontos disaster. Athens 1957. Hrton, G. The Minor Asia curse. Athens 1982.
[39] Gregoriades, F.Division-Minor Asia. Athens 1971,v.2 p. 437. Psiroukis, N.,The Minor Asia destruction. Athens 1973,
p. 208.
[40] Koromila, M., The Greeks of the Black Sea from the Copper Era to he beggining of the 20th century. Athens, "Panorama" Cultural Club, 1991.
[41] Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Greek archives A/1920. The Hellenism of Pontos, A report of Archimandrites Panaretos, p.12, and Skalieris, G. The Trapezous Empire, Athens 1921, p. 47.
[42] Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Greek archives A/1920. The Hellenism of Pontos. A report of Archimandrites Panaretos, p.11.
[43] See Fotiades K ., The genocide of Greeks of Pontos. 14 volumes, Thessaloniki, 2000-2005.
[44] Since 1941 there requests concerning the restoration of «islamized Pontian Crypto-Christians to Greece» in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs 1938-1941. Pontos refugees and various problems p.5. The request was not realized to aoid disturbances concerning the Greco-Turk relations.
[45] Fotiades K. Sources of history for the Crypto-Christians problem. Thessaloniki. Kyriakides Bros 1997, p.14.
[46] Omer Assan with studies in economics besides the Offis accent Pontean dialect fluently speaks modern Greek. An author who comes from a region of great islamic tradition became an active member of Turkish left resulting to undergo severe persecutions during the 1980's. His father happened to be both Coup d'Etat of 1971 and 1981. He was awarded the Ipektsi award for having contributed for the Greco-Turk friendship for his book that has been translated in Modern Greek too (Omer Assan: the Pontos Culture. Thessaloniki. Kyriakides Bros 1997) but him and his editor have been summoned in he past to face the Turkish courts. Particularly, when in 1996 his book was printed by the firm Belge, the book that writes down the language, cuisine, even some humorous stories from the Greek-speaking villages, he was regarded by some, that he belongs to an organized group from Greece, who mobilizes people on the purpose that they will detach part of Turkish Land, the book-edition was banned and they were accused by the attorney for "an insult on the face of Kemal". The Omer Assan book that was seized by the Turkish police was out in Thessaloniki of copies, in succeeding one another editions concerning the first written thing to remember in the most modern history on the question of the Pontean language speaking Crypto-Christians.
[47] GullenA. Pontus Mussulmanari, Aktuel Istanbul 1992 p.p. 58-60.
[48] See the work Minorities in Turkey (trans Kontos ), Athens, Infognomon, 2002.
[49] Omer Assan supports the idea that the Pontean is spoken in 60 villages of Trapezous region most of which are lcated in the Ofis district and that according to moderate estimations this dialect is spoken by almost 300.000 people, Kathemerini newspaper 23/7/1999 .

[50] A typical example of this conduct from the side of the Turkish authorities is a teleoptical serial which was dramatized some time ago in Trapezous and in which an ex-service arrmy officer and a say teacher ejaculated allegation from one side that Ponteans are of Turkish discordance and from another side threats against Pontean people who claim their right to keep in touch with Ponteans in Greece. Furthermore Pontean Greek travellers to Pontos have to undergo strict controls and watching by the Turkish police authorities
[51] Most recently the garrison commander of Kiutsuktsekmetze Konstantiople colonel Ali Gungur Ongore suports the idea that Greece trains youths with the prospect of reviving of the Greek Pontos. The Colonel speaking in a specially prepared day, on the subject: «Cyprus in the iron collar of the E.U.» said that 35 youths from the Black Sea region who support the "breaking apart" "the Greek Pontos are being trained in camps in Greece and that the sightseeing excursions in the Black Sea districts that are organized by Greece, aim at reviving the oracle of the Greek Pontos The subject had also been put forth or the Kerassous Millitary Commander Brigadier Baki Onurlubas speaking about secret Greek plans, on the Pontos problem. A few days after this notification, a great project of the subject was shown in the T.V. meanswhich resulted that the book was banned. "The Pontos Culture" by Omar Assan. The way this project was made and also the sources this problem got started gives an impression of search of threat. Something which is exclusively an army task. "Macedonia ews agency" 5/12/2002.
[52] Mehmet Karadeniz is the first Muslim from Pontos who came to Greece in 1989. Founder of the internet a communication forum among Ponteans all over the world Karadeniz came to Greece in a procession seeking for his identity, since according to his proclamations "when you have a mother tongue which ever it may be you start seeking the reason why it is so. «I don't want to cause anybody any problem to any system. But when you press me not to express myself something must be done about it». (Kathimerini newspaper 23/7/1999.
[53] Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Meeting on Human Dimension Rights, Warsaw, October 1998.
[54] United Nations Economic and Social Council 24 February 1998 andUnited Nations Economic and Social Council 25 January 2002. Also see Charalambidis, M. The Pontian Question in the United Nations, Athens 2004.
[55] Gervassios, op.cit. p.56
[56] See. International Union for Human Rights and Peoples Liberation, non-governmental Organization, authorities by the U.N.O. filed at the Warsaw session of the Organization or the Security and co-operation in Europe. October 1998. In the statement under the title «Pontians: The oppression of freedom of speech» mentioned the present situation of Islamized Pontians in Turkey and the problems they meet with. See: Graf V. Secretary.


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