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“Dress Codes: costumes of the Asia Minor Catastrophe refugees from the Basil Papantoniou Foundation collection”

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A guest blogpost by the staff of the Basil Papantoniou Foundation

The Treaty of Sevres (1920) legitimised the Greek presence in Asia Minor and thus the dream of Greece, “of two continents and five seas”, for the liberation of the unredeemed homelands seemed, momentarily, to be fulfilled. In late August 1922, however, the final defeat of the Greek army by the Turkish troops resulted in the destruction of the Greek population in Asia Minor and its uprooting from their homes – the so-called Asia Minor Catastrophe. The population issue, known as the “population exchange”, entailed the mass, compulsory movement of populations between the two countries. Approximately 1,300,000 Christians abandoned their homes and settled in Greece, while 600,000 Muslims left Greece for Turkey. Providingthem with reliefand housing was the greatest challenge the country faced during the Interwar period. The refugees were initially installed in temporary camps, before settlements for their permanent housing were created. The majority settled mostly in Macedonia and Western Thrace, bolstering the Greek population of these areas, while in Argolis they settled in Nea Kios and the New Byzantium “Settlement” in Nafplion. The presence of the refugees in the Greek state boosted both the population of the cities and as the rural areas, making a significant contribution to the economic and cultural development of the country.

The exhibition entitled “Dress Codes: costumes of the Asia Minor Catastrophe refugees from the Basil Papantoniou Foundation collection” has been organised to mark the 100-year anniversary of the Asia Minor Catastrophe. It includes local costumes and photographic material from both Asia Minor and from the areas where the refugees settled in Greece. Its purpose is to demonstrate the diversity of Greek communities in the Asia Minor peninsula, as well as to highlight the potential of dress to define cultural identities and drive memory, revealing stories and personal narratives.