2

 

smyrn_bu.jpg (12964 bytes)

Sorry, your browser doesn't support Java(tm).

red_banner.gif (6342 bytes)

In many of the lyrics written by some of the old Rebetic composers, there is often an occasional reference to either drowning or burning. Those references are not the melodramatic illusory machinations of a few composers with overactive imaginations, who were also suffering from a profound case of emotional and cognitive dissonance. In September of 1922 these haunting images were tragically played out (photo above & below) and very much all too real. These events came to pass in the city of Smyrna (today called Izmir) in the modern day Republic of Turkey. To understand the magnitude as well as the significance of this destruction, a little historical background is in order. The circumstances that culminated with the destruction of Smyrna were very complex and involved. While the major players in this conflict were Greece and Turkey, there were a few other Nationals involved in this fiasco as well.  Primarily Italy, France and Great Britain.  We need to remember that this " incident " took place just four years after the end of WW one. At the end of that war the map of Europe was in the process of being significantly altered from what it had been before the war began.  The Austro-Hungarian Empire was now gone, the Kaiser had been defeated and the remnants of what was left of the Old Ottoman Empire were now and forever mercifully relegated to the collective dust bin of historical has - beens. Turkey had previously been labeled as " the sick man of Europe ", for a considerable time before the war and when she mistakenly choose to enter the European conflict on the "wrong side", the old Ottoman's days were definitely numbered . The new emerging Turkish State would learn this lesson well and never again become a proactive participant, in another major conflict that involved the Western powers.  Greece on the other hand after some very shrewd Machiavellian maneuvering by their on again off again Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos ( he was always having difficulties with "The King"), finally did enter the war and on the "right" side.  Score one for the Greeks ! Venizelos correct decision gained considerable territory for the ever fledgling and precarious Greek state. Things were going well. However there had been this "interesting" idea going around in Greece at the time. In fact it had been going around for about the past four centuries and was even called "The Magali Ithea". Translation, the "Great Idea". The "Great Idea" was a fundamentally very direct and straight forward proposition. It's primary objective was no less the reestablishment of Hellenic domination and Hegemony over the " Once upon a time " capital of the Byzantine Empire, Constantinople or present day Istanbul. It certainly seemed the time was right.  Greece was one of the "Victors" with strong allies and Turkey was one of the losers with none, or so they thought. To assist the Greeks in this venture, were their trusted Entente Allies from the  first world war, who enthusiastically and quite deliberately did what they could to encourage and to some extent even help instigate the whole affair, by ambiguously promising "assistance" to the Greeks, of an undifferentiated and unspecified nature.  So with the blessings and assurances of God, King and Country as well as the Entente powers the Greeks marched off to reclaim the old city.  For a short while it seemed that the " Great Idea " really was pretty good notion. This however is where the story gets a bit murky.  For some obscure reason, that still has yet to be understood by just about everyone, some individuals in the Royalist Greek leadership (Venizelos had by this time been voted out of office), decided their army could advance into the interior regions of their Turkish adversary. In fact they actually set out to take the newly named capital city of Ankara, which was a considerable distance to the southeast of Constantinople.  Neither the Greek nor Turkish troops were exactly the most disciplined armies extant in those days, but even more importantly for the Greeks the considerable logistic support, that would have been required in order to undertake such a military incursion was in fact nonexistent. Yet their offensive started out successful enough, but to make a long story short, it ended in a military rout by the Turkish forces of Mustafa Kemal . The path of this chaotic retreat , led straight to and right through, the densely populated city of Smyrna and that retreat proved to be nothing short of Apocalyptic. The new Turkish leadership of Mustafa Kemal along with other Turkish Nationalists, had earlier amassed an army in order to overthrow what was left of the old Ottoman regime. This regime had negotiated a pact (treaty of Servres) with the Allied powers , that among other things included allowing Greek troops to land in the city of Smyrna in 1919 on the pretense of serving as a protectorate for the Christian population which was composed primarily of Greeks and Armenians. This was a city and a population , that in many ways represented everything Kemal needed to eliminate if he were going to seize power and take total control of the country. The city had the reputation (with ethnic Turks) as " Infidel Izmir "  because of it's very large number of non - Muslim inhabitants.  If the new Turkish state was going to be unified under a singular Kemal leadership, this population with it's western influences, had to be eliminated and eliminate it he did.  With an unbridled and savage brutality. This was particularly true for the Greek and Armenian sections of the city. The Islamic and Jewish sections were left relatively unscathed. However all the Christian parts of the city  were set ablaze and in the panic cause by the carnage, many people tried to flee by making an attempt to jump into the bay and swim to the boats anchored in the harbor. The majority of them were not successful and drowned outright. The men, women and children. Very few escaped.  Most either drowned in the water which had actually turned red from the blood of those who had been killed or wounded while trying to flee, or they were eventually consumed in the flames set by the Turkish forces. It was from this Surreal scenario, that the Rebetic composers derived their most haunting and horrific imagery.  

Fl.gif (58579 bytes)

NL.gif (3053 bytes)

 

      [ Part 2 ] Part 3 ] Part 4 ] Part 5 ] Part 9 ] Part 6 ] Part 7 ] Part 8 ]            

aa PREV.gif (2897 bytes)                  aaaHome.gif (2897 bytes)                  aa Next.gif (2681 bytes)

ared.gif (4706 bytes)

Introduction ] History ] Composers ] I Derbederissa ] Reviews ] Cafe Aman USA ] Kaffenio ] Guest Book ] LINKS ]