1. Origin of the Refugees
The reason that made the populations abandon their birthplaces was the events following the onset of the Greek War of Independence, and mainly Ottoman retaliations. Fearing for their own safety, according to a consular report from Smyrna dated 3 May 1821, a large part of the population chose to leave.1Ayvalık (Cydoniae) was abandoned,2 while a large part of the Orthodox population left Smyrna, a fact particularly negative for the trade of the city.3 According to the archives of the Greek Ministry of Police, in 1825 Nauplion accommodated people from Ayvalik, Vourla (Urla), Kaisareia (Kayseri), Magnisia (Manisa), Moschonisi, Pergamos (Bergama), Smyrna, Old and New Phocaea. The vast majority came from Smyrna and Ayvalık. There is also evidence about populations moving from Kuşadası and nearby villages, as well as from settlements of mainland Asia Minor and the southern coast, such as Ankara, Prousa (Bursa) and Antalya (Attaleia).
The war events also caused seasonal migration. People from Çesme went to the Cyclades, mainly Syros, after the Turkish flagship was set to fire by Kanaris in 1822. Some of them returned after 1829.
There were also movements in the opposite direction, from regions of mainland Greece to Asia Minor, although they were not extensive. It was mainly the Peloponnesians, who escaped to the western coast of Asia Minor following the invasion of Ibrahim paşa of Egypt. People from Chios had previously left for Alaçata, after the revolution was put down in the island.
2. Reception of the Refugees and Participation in the Greek War of Independence
In the first place, many refugees fled to Samos and Psara, a way station to other Aegean islands and mainland Greece. Despite the efforts made for the reception of the refugees, the conditions the latter had to face in the revolted Greece were not always favourable. This is evidenced by a report of the Greek Ministry of Internal Affairs dated 8 May 1822 to the president of the "ektelestikon", the body exercising executive power in the revolted Greece. The report concerns refugees from Ayvalık that had escaped to Aegina and suggests that they should be exempted from any taxation.
There is similar information about the reception of refugees in the northwestern Peloponnese.4 The conditions they faced must have been the reason for the movement of refugees from Ayvalık, who were settled in Syros and Mykonos: they sent reports to the sultan, in 1823, asking to be allowed to return to the Ottoman territory and, after that, they were arrested by the provincial governor of Mykonos and Syros.5
Several Greeks from Asia Minor participated actively in the War of Independence and contributed to the formation of the original core of the regular army. Among them were people from the Peloponnese who had settled in Asia Minor.
3. Attempts towards Permanent Settlement
On 1 May 1827, 283 refugees from Smyrna settled in Nauplion and Athens submitted a request to the third National Assembly, in which they asked to be allowed to participate in the proceedings of the National Assembly through deputies. They also asked to be allowed to found a settlement, where the refugee families from Smyrna would settle. The assembly approved only the second request on 5 May 1827. The settlement would be founded in the area of the isthmus of Corinth.6 Moreover, another appeal was filed on 1 May 1827 with the National Assembly, which requested that the refugees from Ayvalık, along with all the refugees whose cities had been destroyed, should be allowed to found new settlements and live there. The appeal was upheld and on 5 May 1827 a relevant resolution was approved, under which all the Greeks living outside the country were summoned to Greece to support the national effort. They would all be permitted to build separate settlements. The resolution also aimed to intercept the return of the disappointed refugees, mainly those coming from Ayvalık, to their birthplaces.7
Finally, both movements failed. The refusal of the Fourth National Assembly on 16 July 1829 to allow the participation of Ayvalık and Moschonisi deputies, who had previously formed a communal body based on Ermoupolis ın Syros, gave a new impetus to the tendency of the particular refugees to return to their birthplaces, something they had expressed already from 1824.8
1. Clogg, R., ‘Smyrna in 1821: Documents from the Levant Company Archives in the Public Record Office’, Μικρασιατικά Χρονικά 15 (1972), p. 321.
2. About the abandonment of the city and the return of part of the inhabitants after 1827, which led to its refoundation, see Σακκάρης, Γ., Ιστορία των Κυδωνιών (Athens 1920), p. 112 ff; Καραμπλιάς, Ι., Ιστορία των Κυδωνιών: Από της ιδρύσεώς των μέχρι της αποκαταστάσεως των προσφύγων εις το ελεύθερον ελληνικόν κράτος, volume I (Athens 1949), p. 226 ff; Βακαλόπουλος, Α., Πρόσφυγες και Προσφυγικόν Ζήτημα κατά την Επανάστασιν του 1821 (Thessaloniki 1939), p. 8.
3. Clogg, R., ‘Smyrna in 1821: Documents from the Levant Company Archives in the Public Record Office’, Μικρασιατικά Χρονικά 15 (1972), p. 321; Φραγκάκη-Syrett, Ε., Οι Χιώτες Έμποροι στις Διεθνείς Συναλλαγές (1750-1850) (Athens 1995), pp. 37-39.
4. Βακαλόπουλος, Α., Πρόσφυγες και Προσφυγικόν Ζήτημα κατά την Επανάστασιν του 1821 (Thessaloniki 1939), p. 16.
5. Αναστασιάδης, Γ., ‘Ιστορίας επανάληψις’, Μικρασιατικά Χρονικά 9 (1961), p. 121 ff.
6. Βακαλόπουλος, Α., Πρόσφυγες και Προσφυγικόν Ζήτημα κατά την Επανάστασιν του 1821 (Thessaloniki 1939), pp. 94-95.
7. Βακαλόπουλος, Α., Πρόσφυγες και Προσφυγικόν Ζήτημα κατά την Επανάστασιν του 1821 (Thessaloniki 1939), pp. 95-96.
8. Βακαλόπουλος, Α., Πρόσφυγες και Προσφυγικόν Ζήτημα κατά την Επανάστασιν του 1821 (Thessaloniki 1939), pp. 127-129.