D.H.T.G. (Danziger Hoch‐ und Tiefbaugesellschaft mbH) houses in a new refugee village, Chalkidiki
(contractor: Adolf Sommerfeld, 1886-1964; architect: Fred Forbát, 1897-1972).
Source: LiFO, issue 498/1 December 2016, Athens: Onassis Public Benefit Foundation (p.28)



The Exchange of Greek and Turkish refugees under the Treaty of Lausanne in the early 1920s displaced some 1.5 million Asia Minor Greeks, while 500,000 Muslims Greeks returned to Turkey. From 1922 to 1930, the Greek government set up a huge emergency plan to host and settle this new population in the so-called ‘New Lands’ now incorporated within Greek borders. About 1,000 new villages were established in this short timeframe, some from the reuse of former Muslim villages, others by extending existing villages, still others founded from scratch.

Before reallocation, arable land was regrouped and reorganized. Part was formerly Turkish-owned, other land was expropriated to the Church, but much of it was gained through large reclamation and drainage works of marshes and inhospitable areas in the Axios and Strymon river valleys. New dams served for flood protection and irrigation. Fisheries developed around new artificial lakes. Refugees were settled in compact villages as smallholders. New churches and public schools in the villages acted as agents of nationalization, while health dispensaries and agricultural stations manifested the ongoing countryside’s modernization.

Village and housing patterns were thoroughly debated in professional journals and magazines (Agrotiki Zoy, a propaganda journal for farmers, Erga, and Technika Chronika  for experts and technicians), but in this situation of emergency an overall consistent planning scheme was missing. A university committee chose the villages’ (new) Greek toponyms to replace the former Turkish ones, and Hellenistic archaeological remains discovered during the works were enhanced, while vernacular local architecture heritage was disregarded, as attempts to create a modern national landscape.

The Greek case was under observation by all the great European powers for its extent and experimental character. It also contributed to a radical reorganization of the Thessaloniki region after it lost its connections to the Balkans. With a new railway line to Athens, the foundation of the University (1926) and the international fair grounds, a free-zone in the port, Thessaloniki was turned into a national economic capital.

Little scholarship has dealt with the topic (Yeager, 1979; Hadjimichalis et al., 1988; Kontogiorgi, 2006), despite abundant primary data (League of Nations and Ministry of Foreign Affairs reports; the air force’s 1930s’ photographic surveys). Much fresh material has been found from former Greek scholars’ personal archives from the 1990s.

Greek modernist rural landscapes are still visible: villages, land division patterns, water infrastructures are still recognizable, and the main facilities such as churches and schools are still standing, but are not considered as heritage. The extent of this case study and its experimental character make it a topical part of MODSCAPES’ proposed transnational comparison.

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Kontogiorgi, E. (2006), Population exchange in Greek Macedonia: the rural settlement of refugees 1922-1930, Clarendon Press.
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