Featured weekly article: Continuity and Change in the Minority Policies of Greece and Turkey

Continuity and Change in the Minority Policies of Greece and Turkey

By Georgios Niarchos

Volume 6, Issue 1, pages 30-48, March 2006



This paper examines the policies of Greece and Turkey towards their respective national minorities, as defined in the Treaty of Lausanne. Although since 1923, both minorities have been repressed by their governments, the intensity, the instruments and the outcomes of such repression have been different in the two countries. The study explores the conduct of anti-minority policies by reference to major Greek-Turkish crisis events, which often served as pretexts for minority repression.

Existing studies on Greek-Turkish affairs mainly focus on the events of the Greek-Turkish war, 1919–1923 and the 1923 population exchange. On the other hand, there is an often-polemical bibliography from both sides on current issues. Though minority issues also form part of the debate, the arguments are often limited to a comparative narrative of repressive acts, aiming to demonstrate the faults and sins of the ‘other’ side. This paper aims to contribute to the current literature, by developing a more sober analysis of the minority policies of the two countries that is both comparative in nature and historically informed.

Hence, the present paper examines the elements of continuity and change in the implementation and development of minority policies in Greece and Turkey, aiming to explain the differences in the intensity, instruments and outcomes of their application. In this context, the present study argues that the disparities in the process of nation-building and the development of nationalism in Greece and Turkey constitute the reasons for the different development of their minority policies and the current condition of their respective minorities. The variables that are examined include the content of nationalist ideology, the different phases of its development, the main tools for its implementation and repression of minority ‘voices’ and the external factors that influence the two countries in the implementation of their policies.

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