In the 1923 compulsory population exchange between Greece and Turkey, most Muslims living in Greece were forcibly moved to Turkey, and most Christians living in Turkey were forcibly moved to Greece.

The specific exceptions were Christians living in Constantinople (Istanbul), and Muslims living in Western Thrace, as well as Muslims who are part of the ethnic Albanian community.

I am searching for the reason these specific groups were exempted. I understand the exception regarding members of the Albanian community, but I am trying to figure out the reason the other two communities were exempted.

I found a book chapter called 1923–1947: Exchanging Populations and the Aftermath, which seems to indicate that the Muslims of Western Thrace were excluded from the exchange to create a symmetry in terms of the Greek Orthodox population in Istanbul. However, I do not know if it mentions the reason the Christian population in Istanbul was to be excluded in the first place. I do not have full access to the manuscript.

I was unable to find any other sources which mention the reason.

  • 3
    if all christians in istambul were expelled, the patriarch of constantinople would have to go too, but he is important for the orthodox. After some years, the turks closed his seminary, and after other persecutions, today they are a token people, but the patriarch is still there.
    – Luiz
    Oct 25, 2021 at 14:22
  • Albanians are native to Albania; Greeks are native to Greece, of which Constantinople was once part; and Turks have dwelt in Turkey for over half a millennium.
    – Lucian
    Oct 26, 2021 at 5:47

1 Answer 1


Not a full answer, but I expect it to be useful until a better one shows up.

Most of Greeks expelled from Turkey weren't expelled after the exchange was accorded but they were already in Greece (according to Wikipedia, that cites an article I can't read), as they had fled during World War I and the Greco-Turkish War. The Greco-Turkish war had been dotted with a lot of atrocities and ethnic massacres and fleeing of refugees, which means that Greeks were expelled as the Turks won the war.

The only part of Turkey that was out of the war and out of reach of the Turkish National Movement was Constantinople and the Straits area, which was occupied by the Allies until 1923.

By 1923 the war was over and the Allies accepted withdrawing from Constantinople. At that point, both the strategic reason and the momentum to immediately expel the Greek inhabitants of Constantinople weren't present. In fact, the perspective of Greeks being expelled from Constantinople as soon as the Allies would withdraw wouldn't help in the negotiation for that withdrawal, specially since they were still a large minority and the atrocities in the war were internationally well known.

In summary, Constantinople Greeks weren't included in the population exchange because they hadn't been expelled because they had been somehow shielded from the Greco-Turkish war by Allied occupation of the Straits.


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