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The discriminatory policies of the Greek state led to a general diminution of the Turkish population. Independent estimates in 1912, on the eve of the Balkan Wars, gave the Turkish-Muslim population in Thrace a slight majority of around 53.5 percent (120,000 out of 224,000).24 Even after the population dislocations caused by the two Balkan Wars and World War I, a census conducted by the Allied administration in 1920 still granted the Turkish-Muslim population a clear plurality of around 42.4 percent (87,000 out of a total population of around 205,000), a drop of around 27 percent from the 1912 figures.25 A special commission set up to determine the population of the Greeks of Istanbul and the Turks of Thrace under the 1923 Convention Concerning the Exchange of Greek and Turkish Populations determined the Turkish population of Thrace to be 106,000. The 1928 Greek census put the number of Muslim Turkish speakers at 126,017, a figure that grew to 140,090 in the 1940 census.26 According to the 1951 census, there were 112,665 Turks, though many believe that decrease can be attributed to the fact that many Turks fled Greece, especially Thrace which was under Bulgarian control, during World War II, and did not return at war’s end.27

Today the Turkish minority of Thrace, depending on estimates, numbers between 80-120,000, roughly the same as the number in the 1951 census. Given a 2 percent growth rate—and some estimates have put the growth rate of the Turkish minority as high as 2.8 percent—the Turkish population today would be expected to number 291,472 using the 1951 census data as a base figure or 444,945 using the 1940 census data.

Trends in land ownership have followed demographics. Although no independent figure exists, it appears that most land in 1923 was owned by Turks in the form of estates held by Turkish nobles. Although believed to be somewhat inflated, figures from Turkish sources claim that 84 percent of the land was owned by Turks, 10 percent by Bulgarians, and only 5 percent by Greeks; there are no available Greek figures.28 By the early 1990s, as a result of the expropriation of land for public works that was disproportionately targeted against ethnic Turks, the Turkish minority held between 20 and 40 percent of the land.29 Since the majority of Turks are involved in agriculture, the loss of land equals the loss of their livelihood.

24 Other groups in the region included Greeks (60,000), Bulgarians (40,000), and “others” (4,000). Even Greek estimates of the time admitted a Turkish-Muslim plurality of around 47 percent out of a total population of 239,000, while citing a Greek population of 87,000 (39 percent). Information provided by the Greek Helsinki Monitor, based on a 1994 study by Dalegre. 25 Ibid. The 1920 census reported 56,000 Greeks, a decrease of 10 percent compared with independent 1912 estimates, 54,000 Bulgarians, a jump of 35 percent, and 8,000 others, an increase of 100 percent. Bulgarian administration between 1913-1920 led to an influx of Bulgarians and an outflow of Turks and, to a lesser extent, of Greeks. 26 See Angelopoulos, p.126. Under the 1928 census, 191,254 individuals stated that Turkish was their mother tongue, though 65, 237 of these were Greeks from Turkey who arrived as a result of the population exchange. It appears that Angelopoulos arrived at the figure for Turkish Muslims by subtracting the number of Muslims in the 1928 census, 126,017, from the total number of Turkish speakers. According to the 1940 census, there were 229,075 Turkish speakers and 141,090 Muslims. 27 After the 1951 census, the Greek National Service of Statistics stopped asking questions concerning national/ethnic origin, language use, or religion. According to the 1951 census, there were 92,443 Turcophones, 7,429 Gypsies, and 18,671 Pomaks, for a total of 118,533. The difference between that figure and the 112,665 Muslim total can be explained by the fact that some of the Turkish speakers were probably ethnic Greek Orthodox who came to Greece from Anatolia as a result of the 1923 population exchange. Figures from Christos L. Rozakis, “The international protection of minorities in Greece,” in Kevin Featherstone and Kostas Ifantis, eds, Greece in a Changing Europe: Between European Integration and Balkan disintegration? (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1996), p. 98. 28 Unpublished manuscript on the Turkish minority by the Greek Helsinki Monitor, data from Dalegre, 1994. 29 Destroying Ethnic Identity: The Turks of Greece, August 1990, pp. 2, 35-36 and Human Rights Watch, “Greece: Improvements for Turkish Minority; Problems Remain,” April 1992, p. 5.

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