Revolution, retribution, and reality
As the Asia Minor Catastrophe (Mikrasiatikí Katastrofí), as Greeks have called it ever since, came to its ignominious end, Greece was in chaos. The government resigned on September 8, 1922, the day Smyrna fell, and a makeshift substitute had to be cobbled together. Public outrage over the disaster in Turkey grew daily.
Col. Styliános Gonatás
On the islands to which the survivors of the defeat had been ferried, and in Salonika as well, a “Revolutionary Committee” was planning a coup. The plotters were army officers, mostly middle-level, who in spite of Venizelist sympathies had managed to retain their commands, and they had the support of their men. Though some of the committee were in Salonika, others on Chíos, and still others on nearby Mytilíni , the navy was on their side, and coordination doesn’t seem to have been a problem. Col. Styliános Gonatás, the leader of those in Mytilíni, sent a plane to Athens to deliver the committee’s demands: dismissal of the government, dissolution of the parliament, new elections, and the abdication of King Constantine in favor of his eldest son, Crown Prince George.

News also came to Athens that 8,000 troops had mutinied in Salonika. They were also demanding the king's abdication, but also that both prime ministers who had led the royalist government since 1920 be arrested. In response, the government (such as it was) declared martial law on September 26.

The revolution spread almost instantly throughout Greek military bases and encampments. On September 27, the day after martial law was declared, naval ships landed troops from Chíos and Mytilíni, led by Cols. Nikólaos Plastíras and Styliános Gonatás respectively, at Lávrio, a small Attic port a short way south of Athens. King Constantine promptly abdicated (the first time he had explicitly done so), and the makeshift cabinet resigned. The insurgents marched into Athens the next day to a wildly enthusiastic welcome. No force existed in the country that could keep them from taking power. They immediately issued an order expelling from Greece the ex-king and all of his family except the son who had succeeded him as King George II. They also called for the arrest of a list of politicians and officers whom they blamed for the military disaster in Asia Minor. Two days later, on the 29th, Constantine sailed off into exile—not for the first time, but certainly for the last. He would never see Greece again.

Venizélos was too wary of coups to agree to the committee’s request that he form a government. From Paris, he indicated that he was willing to serve Greece’s interests abroad—which meant representing his country in the negotiations on the new peace treaty that was now necessary—but he prudently stayed where he was. In 1921 he had remarried, 27 years after the death of his first wife. His second wife, Helena Schilizzi Stephanovich (whose name is sometimes Hellenized to Eléni Skylítsi) was the daughter of a wealthy Constantinople-born Greek shipping magnate, and had been raised and educated in London. The couple settled into an apartment that she owned in Paris, and that continued to be Venizéĺos' address for the next few years.
Col. Nikólaos Plastíras
The committee got another veteran Venizelist politician to lead the government, but he, too, was nervous in this position, and finally one of the committee’s leaders, Col. Plastíras, became head of what was described as the revolutionary government. Plastíras, a hero of the Balkan wars, had led an Evzone regiment in Anatolia that acquired a fearsome reputation among the Turks because of the atrocities it committed on civilians. On the other hand (though it hardly balances the moral ledger), the regiment had also saved the lives of many Greek villagers during the disastrous retreat in September, and the colonel was lionized by those who managed to escape.

Negotiations for a formal cease-fire between Turkey on one side and the allied powers and Greece on the other began on October 3 and were signed a week later. There were no living Greek troops remaining in Asia Minor, prisoners excepted, but there were some in eastern Thrace who had to be withdrawn into western Thrace, which Greece still had under occupation. Further boundary issues were reserved for the major peace conference to come.
Gonatás and Plastíras, October 1922
Before it began, however, the revolutionary government was intent on proceeding with its plan to punish those whom they judged responsible for the catastrophe. In this picture, taken in October, the leaders have just visited the tomb of a hero of the Greek war of independence in the 1820s. Gonatás (center) and Plastíras (right) lead the procession.
Despite strong opposition from the European powers, the revolutionary government put the five senior members of Constantine’s cabinet (including Gounáris, the prime minister who had defeated Venizélos two years before), and also the last commander of the army in Asia Minor, on trial before a military tribunal. They were convicted of high treason, and executed on October 15, within a few hours of the verdict and before it had been publicly announced. Another general and an admiral were sentenced to life imprisonment.
Prince Andrew
Ex-king Constantine’s youngest brother, Prince Andrew (here in a portrait from 1913), was on duty in Corfu at the time, but according to Wikipedia he was “arrested, transported to Athens, tried by the same tribunal a few days later, and found guilty of the same crimes, but was recognized as being ‘completely lacking in military command experience,’ a mitigating if ironic circumstance.”

The source of the irony was that Andrew had commanded an army corps in Asia Minor (albeit without great success), had later been seated on the Supreme Army Council, and was currently commanding a corps stationed in Epirus and the Ionian islands. He was at first sentenced to death, but the sentence was then commuted to permanent banishment from Greece. The Wikipedia article speculates that Andrew owed this narrow escape less to his innocence of military skill than to pressure applied by Great Britain, which had warships anchored in the nearby Saronic Gulf, and was not about to condone the execution of any royal person anywhere. One of those ships transported the prince to Italy with his family, including an infant son who eventually became the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip.

The trial and executions blackened Greece’s reputation in Europe. The British withdrew their ambassador for some time. C. M. Woodhouse comments that Venizélos showed poor judgment, at the very least, in doing little or nothing to prevent this vengeful action, which he must have known would further damage his country’s already weak bargaining position in the treaty negotiations he had agreed to undertake.
Activity (apparently signing or initialing) at the Conference of Lausanne
The Treaty of Lausanne, ratified by Greece and Turkey in July, 1923 (and by other signatories over the next year), established the boundaries of the two countries where they are today. Kemal had expelled the Ottoman sultan (a nonentity installed by the occupying Allies at the end of World War I) and declared Turkey a republic—the Ottoman empire was gone forever. As leader of the new nation, Kemal made the wise decision to give up all claims to territory outside the Turkish homeland, which was defined to include not only Asia Minor, but also a small parcel of European territory. It includes the city of Edirne (Adrianople to Greeks) as well as, of course, Istanbul, which is on the European side of the Bosporus. The treaty left the two Aegean islands closest to the mouth of the Dardanelles in diplomatic limbo, but Turkey took them over a few years later with no protest from Greece.

Greece got the rest of the Greek-populated islands in the Aegean and kept western Thrace, bordering the Aegean sea up to the Maritza River, which now divides not only western from eastern Thrace, but Greece from Turkey. (Bulgaria, still suffering for its unlucky choice of sides in World War I, had to give up its piece of Thrace and be finally cut off from the Aegean.) The Venizelist general Theódoros Pángalos, who supported the coup, had gone to western Thrace and reorganized the Greek army there so successfully that the government considered moving against the Turks in eastern Thrace. Fortunately that confrontation was avoided, but it’s likely that the strong Greek presence in western Thrace helped Venizélos in his successful effort to hold onto (and even, at Bulgaria's expense, enlarge) that piece of territory.
Turkey's borders after the Treaty of Lausanne
This map shows the outcome of the treaty negotiations, appropriately concentrating on the borders of Turkey. In the upper left corner you can see the frontier that defined its western border with Greece and Bulgaria. The purple color on both sides marks a demilitarized zone that was in effect until 1938, when a treaty between Bulgaria and the Balkan Entente (which included Greece and Turkey) declared it unnecessary.

The brownish color on both sides of the Dardanelles and Bosporus indicates the “Regime of the Straits,” specifying Turkey’s rights and obligations regarding commercial vessels or warships, in times of peace or times of war, and so on; it also imposed demilitarization beyond certain specified limits. The waterway wasn’t an international border, but the powers were intent on ensuring that Turkey would not use its sovereignty to block any other nation’s right of free passage. (This was, of course, a matter of great importance to Russia as well as smaller countries like Romania and Bulgaria, who had no other access to the world’s oceans.) In 1935 Turkey, noting that the international situation had changed greatly, asked for a conference to make certain adjustments that would be less likely to interfere with the country’s right of self-defense. This was duly done in the Montreux Convention of 1936.

In the south, the little mauve area around the city of Iskenderun was treated as one of the parts of Syria under French dominion between the two world wars, but its people were Turkish. In 1938 it declared itself independent, and voted to unite with Turkey a year later.

You may have noticed that the nice solid southern boundary line on the map stops at the river Tigris. That’s because the Treaty of Lausanne didn’t settle the border beyond this point: Turkey was still contending with Britain for territory that’s now the Kurdish part of Iraq—the oil fields near the city of Mosul made it worth claiming. As the legend indicates, the treaty left it to the new League of Nations to decide who should get what, and in 1926 the League established the border on the map, leaving Mosul in British-dominated Iraq.

Kemal made the decision to give up any claims to Cyprus, which he considered too far away from Turkey. He leased it to the British, who made it a protectorate. No one at the time seems to have considered that, with a population 80% Greek and 20% Turkish, it might eventually become another bone of contention between those two countries. (Despite its Greek majority, it’s much farther from any part of Greece than it is from Turkey.)

The Great Idea (Μεγάλη Ιδέα) had breathed its last. Greece now possessed all the islands in the Mediterranean whose population was mostly Greek, except the Dodecanese, which Italy (now ruled by Mussolini) had decided to hang onto, and, of course, Cyprus.

Smyrna was lost forever, but the loss was probably in the ultimate best interest of Greece; it would have been a constant irritant in relations with Turkey, which, as recent events had clearly proven, would never be a military pushover. Venizélos no doubt had to swallow hard to accept the rollback of any of Greece’s recent gains, but his country was in no position to get a better deal, and he played its diminished hand with commendable realism. Considering the overwhelming weakness of Greece’s bargaining position in the treaty conference, the modesty of its losses suggest that Venizélos had managed to recover his old mastery of the diplomatic art.
Greek refugees leaving Turkey, 1923
One demonstration of his realism was the agreement he signed with Turkey for an exchange of populations: Orthodox Christian Greeks were to leave that country and be taken in by Greece, while Muslims inside Greek borders (including what Muslims were still left in Crete, albeit they were of Greek descent and spoke no other language) were to pull up stakes and move to Turkey. Exceptions were allowed for the Greeks who lived in Istanbul and the Muslims who lived in the part of Thrace that was now inside Greece. This agreement, signed at Lausanne in January, 1923, was separate from and preliminary to the Treaty of Lausanne, which—replacing the unratified Treaty of Sèvres—formally ended the state of war that had been in effect between Turkey and the allies since 1915. But by the time the Lausanne treaty had been ratified by all parties concerned, a process gradually completed during 1924, most of the population exchange was already done.

Officially, the exchange of populations involved 1½ million Greeks and ½ million Turks and other Muslims, but in fact most of the Greeks living near the Aegean coast had already left Turkey before the agreement was made, many of them on the ships provided by Asa K. Jennings of the YMCA. About 900,000 of these refugees were already in Greece. Ethnic cleansing, though the term hadn’t yet been invented, characterized the war in Asia Minor, whether it was done deliberately or as a side effect of the hostilities, and both sides had engaged in it. But quite a few Greeks living in central and northeast Asia Minor had been out of the path of the conflicting armies in 1922. After the agreement was signed, approximately 400,000 more Greeks had to leave Turkey. According to Wikipedia, the total number of Muslims affected by the exchange was around 360,000.

The agreement provided that all who had to emigrate would be allowed keep their own property. But properties such as farms and family businesses are difficult things to move, and the ways of markets make it pretty tough for people who are being forced out to get a good price for what they’re required to leave behind. Nor did the circumstances of transportation favor the inclusion of domestic animals or household furniture. Few of the people who changed countries in either direction were able to do so without slipping down—sometimes all the way to the bottom—on the economic scale.
Fridtjof Nansen
Housing refugees was not quite as difficult for Turkey—where there were more abandoned Greek homes in livable condition than families to be settled—as it was for Greece. The Greeks managed to get about 100,000 of their refugees settled in houses abandoned by Muslims who had moved back to Turkey. But housing the rest of the country’s impoverished new citizens proved a heavy burden on an already devastated economy. The League of Nations’ High Commissioner for Refugees, the Norwegian explorer and Nobel laureate Fridtjof Nansen, arranged international loans to help Greece deal with the impact, but the economy suffered from it for years to come.

All the same, it was Greece’s good fortune that Great Idea was well and truly dead. No one in the country thought any longer that all the Greek-populated areas in the eastern Mediterranean region ever could or would be gathered within their borders. Nothing more was to be added to Greece, with one exception: the Dodecanese islands, which Italy held onto until its defeat in World War II. The Germans expelled the Italians at that time (1943) and kept the islands until the end of the war, when they were taken over by Britain. The peace treaty between Italy and the victors of the war was signed only in 1947, and one of its provisions turned the Dodecanese islands, including Rhodes (which Britain had hoped to keep), over to Greece.