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The photo above shows part of the Smyrna evacuation in progress. It was taken from the deck of the USS Simpson, an American Cutter (notice the flag in the foreground ), who's captain was under orders to "stand down", during this incident. The small boat on the left was reported to have capsized just a few minutes after this photo was taken .  Most of it's "passengers" drowned .

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W ithout getting into great detail and for the sake of brevity, the Smyrna incident would go down in history as one of the most sorted and tragic affairs of the early part of the 20th century.  Not only for the wholesale carnage that transpired , but especially for the extraordinarily duplicitous actions (or in this case inaction) of the Entente powers. Approximately 30,000 people were murdered in this rape of the city.  Among them had been the Greek Orthodox Archbishop Chrysostomos who had been hacked to death by a frenzied mob.  It came to light later, that the Turkish forces had been receiving assistance from Russia as well as having been sold Arms by Italy. In fact the European Entente powers (for various reasons) had actually negotiated a separate peace with Kemal, which resulted in the French abandoning their position in the southwest followed by the British who then did an about face as well. This left the road wide open for the Turkish offensive, that terminated in this Smyrnaic slaughterhouse. Why these "Allies" decided to negotiate an separate agreement with the new Turkish regime,  after they had encouraged the Greek Military campaign and why the Greeks concluded they could unilaterally undertake a campaign into the interior, have always been very heated topics of debate and conjecture. Unresolved to this day. 

A bout a year later after this bloodbath, another treaty was sighed  (Treaty of Lausanne  1923), that called for a mandatory population exchange between the two primary combatants.  The number of individuals exchanged at this time, has been placed at approximately 1.4 million ethnic Greeks and around 380,000 ethnic Turks, who had previously been living in Greek territory. While the Greeks tried to settle in port towns from Thessaloniki to Athens, the overwhelming majority ended up in or around the city of Athens.  Especially around the port of Piraeus. What is interesting today, is that recently we have just witnessed a relatively similar situation occur in the Kosovo province of the former Yugoslav Republic.  It would seem that the old adage of "the more things change the more they stay the same", still works quite well nearly 80 years later. The number of ethnic Albanian refugees in this situation has been placed at around 750,000.  Even with massive support efforts mounted by the coalition powers in this most recent conflict, the dazed look on the faces of those displaced and the horror stories of many of these refugees, bear a striking resemblance to the stories and events that had occurred in 1922. The imagery and squalor of those refugee camps along with the terribly depressing living conditions of the "tent cities", can today serve to give a more realistic frame of reference, as to how much more difficult those same conditions would have been for the Greek Exodus that occurred in 1923.  Especially considering the fact that the number of refugees involved in the population exchange alone in 1923, was almost double that of 1999. Furthermore their destination was considerably more restricted in terms of available geography, than that of recent events. Institutions such as a mass media and various world humanitarian organizations, that provided the Kosovo refugees with a great deal of assistance were not exactly available in 1922-23.  Nor was the will for military intervention by a Super Power seething with righteous indignation, that had the capacity to quickly turn the tide and pave a way back home for the temporarily displaced individuals.  In 1922-1923 the displacement was unarguably permanent. The Greeks had been abandoned and were now on their own.

D isplaced and destitute, these Smyerniac refugees many of whom had been part of a well educated and well healed middle and upper class, did what they had to do in order to survive. They were not particularly welcome in Greece for essentially two reasons. The first had to do with historical animosities and resentments on the part of the mainland Greeks, that had developed and evolved from the days and events of the Greek Revolution in 1821. In fact one could make a pretty good case, that these resentments actually went back much further then 1821. Suffice to say that the Ottoman assimilated Anatolian Greek refugees were not exactly welcomed with open arms and Rose Petals and were to some extent considered by many on the Greek mainland, as having been descendent from turncoat Phanariot "Greek-Turks".  However the second reason was a good deal more immediate and pragmatic. It centered on issues a bit more concrete in nature.  These issues concerned the precious few resources of a very fragile and ever more vulnerable Greek State. In short there were none to spare.  Mainland Greece scarcely produced enough consumable resources to meet it's own domestic needs before 1923.  After the population exchange where approximately 1,400,000 new mouths had to be fed, things quite understandably were to become a bit strained.  Economically times were so difficult in Greece, that between 1900-1922, it has been estimated that the Peloponeese region alone lost approximately 35% of it's resident population through mass immigration. The majority of that to the USA. Figures for these things are always at variance depending on whom you ask , but it is generally agreed that the number is somewhere around 400,000 during this period.  In fact for many years thereafter the relatives of those who had successfully immigrated to the " New World ", were very much dependent on an income sent back to them by these immerges.  Many of whom in all probability, would not have survived without it.  Also note, that a substantial portion of this immigration had occurred before said events that took place in Smyrna.  Had that immigration not already been in progress, one shudders to think of how much worse things might have been.  As it stood, things had been catastrophic enough.

So now, individuals who once owned thriving business interests or who had once been part of a Professional, Academic or Diplomat Class structure, now and for years to come, were reduced to a shell of what they once had been.  It would be many years before these refugees would begin to successfully assimilate into the mainstream of Hellenic society. Extremely difficult years for so many people displaced by time and tide.  Families now lived in makeshift " Shanty-town" type quarters all along the coast of Athens.  Individuals who as previously mentioned, did whatever they could to keep from starving to death.  Often that included engaging in criminal activities of one sort or another. Consequently the jails frequently overflowed and the Police often became intrusive and brutally oppressive. It was from this rather chaotic social context, that the Rebetiko "Sub Culture" began to emerge.  The Smyrnaic refugees were basically indigent unemployed outsiders.  However so were many other individuals. These had been indigenous to Greek society long before the infamous population exchange. They included everything from a "criminal class" element, as well as those who might be at political odds with the conservative Status quo, to those who were just plain vanilla old fashion abject poverty stricken, of which there was a multitude.  All of them more or less Outcasts from Mainstream Hellenic society and after 1923, all engaged in a great deal of social interaction. Mostly in prison !

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