It is clearly established that for 2500 years the history of Imvros has been strongly connected with that of Greece. Homer saw references for it in Heliada, while it is known that the island was used as a base by the Greeks in the Trojan war. In 494 BC Miltiades disembarked in Imvros and inhabited it with Athenians. There was also an alliance between Imvros and Athens at the time of the Peloponisian war (475-431 BC).

Although there have been Christian communities on the island since the second century AD, it was fully christianized at the time of Constantine the Great. During the Byzantine period it gained much importance and experienced essential growth because of its closeness to the capital of the Empire. Its military importance, however, meant that the Italians had their eyes on it while at the same time it was a target of the pirates. In 767, for example, Slavs plundered the island taking 2500 people as prisoners.

After the fall of the Byzantine State an Imvrian official lnegotiated with the Sultan on the passing of the island to the Othoman Empire on the condition that the Turks would allow the survival of the Greeks on the islands of the north-east Aegean from 1456 until they were freed in 1912 by the Greek navy.

The golden decade for the inhabitants of the island begins in November 1912 when the Greek forces incorporated Imvros as well as Tenedos de facto into the the Greek nation state. According to the 84th article of the Serbs Treaty Imvros was to remain a Greek island.

However Ankara never recognized the 84th article. After the Greek army was defeated in the war in 1922 the Turks had the chance to renegotiate the status of the islands of the North Aegian.So we come to the Treaty of Lausanne which was designed, of course, to please Turkey. The only hope was article 14 according to which the Greeks, their language and tradition had to be protected. But as soon as Turkey possessed the island Turkish governor was appointed, while the police, the Justice, the Customs Office were staffed by Turkish officials. At the same time a law came into force to overturn the real meaning of the 14th article of the Treaty of Lausanne.

The only exception for the hard times the Greeks were going through was the period 1951-1963. It was when Greece and Turkey joined NATO., while the cold war in Europe and the Balkans was predominant.

These favorable conditions were just a gleam because the resurgence of the Cyprus issue in December 1963 was the beginning of the countdown for the inhabitants of Imvros. It was the time when the violent displacement took place and the invitation to the Turks to replace the Greek population went out. In 1964 the Greek schools were closed, the land was expropriated, and a great psychological war forced the majority of the people to abandon their homes and seek refuge in Greece.

All these were faces of a secret program with serial number 7/9421, the program was called "eritme programi" -- extinction program-- and it was decided on by the National Council of Turkey.

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by Dimitris and Vasilis Karavasilis
Copyright: Hellenic Electronic Center

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