Forms, Developments and Actors
The expansion of the Ottoman Empire into Europe and the Balkans since the 15th century had been accompanied by constant and intensive migration of different ethnic groups. In the early modern period shifting imperial or national boundaries and the changing of rulers often spurred population movements and emigrations or immigrations from one territory to another. Economic and social causes also often led to internal migrations and trans-imperial migrations. Religious motivations, too, played a role when members of certain ethnic groups decided to leave the region of a multinational state in order to settle in an area where their own religion predominated. In this respect, mass flight of Christians to the , and –vice versa – Muslim groups leaving the territories conquered by the Habsburgs and Russians became a "routine" occurrence of population movements in the age of multi-ethnic empires.
As the Ottomans were pushed back from the Danube-Balkan region in the 19th century population shifts also occurred. While in earlier times it had been primarily the Christians who fled Ottoman rule, it was now the Muslims who were taking flight as the Ottomans continued to lose territory. The creation of nation states and the associated territorial changes on the Balkan Peninsula were the primary impetus. On the one hand, the Muslims' emigration occurred as spontaneous flight: when the Ottoman forces retreated, they were followed into the Turkish "motherland" by large portions of the Muslim civilian population. On the other hand, Muslims were subject to forced migration due to violent displacements or as a by-product of the military conflicts with the newly formed Balkan states. As the boundaries between the different forms of migration (flight and expulsion) were fluid, they cannot always be clearly distinguished.
The extent of the Muslim exodus from the Balkans may be recapped as follows: the founding of the first two nation states, 1 Prior to this, the Ottoman army had massacred a part of the Christian population on the Aegean island of and had forced thousands into exile.2 In the 19th century the hostilities in the Balkan region continued to escalate. Attacks were answered with counterattacks that would sometimes adopt new rationalizations, such as fighting for the "national cause" or retaliating for the previous "suffering of the nation". For example, the Ottomans violently suppressed the anti-Turkish uprisings in , and (1874 to 1876) in which thousands of Muslims had lost their lives. Liberal and Christian public opinion almost unanimously backed the Bulgarian insurgents and took little note of the Muslim victims.3 This development is illustrated by the famous pamphlet4 of the British opposition leader William E. Gladstone (1809–1898) Bulgarian Horrors and the Question of the East.5 Taking advantage of the favourable anti-Turkish sentiment, the Tzarist army conducted a military offensive against the Ottoman Empire in 1877/1878 which ended with the defeat of the Ottomans in the Balkans and the re-establishment of in the . In the Russo-Turkish War, Russian and Bulgarian soldiers and francs-tireurs killed 200,000–300,000 Muslims and about one million people were displaced.6 After the war, more than half a million Muslim refugees from the Russian and the areas south of the , which were under Russian protection, were settled in the Ottoman Empire.7and in 1830/1831 was accompanied by the systematic expulsion of Muslims. During the Greek War of Independence (1821–1829) about 25,000 Muslims were killed.
The Congress of . The Congress, however, did not succeed in bringing about a lasting peace in Southeast Europe.8 On the contrary, the Berlin agreements had grave implications for religious and ethnic populations, who had suddenly become minorities and had to fear expulsions resulting from segregationist practices. Massive refugee convoys formed everywhere; the emmigrants hoping to escape the vengeance of conquerors belonging to other religions or nationalities. Christians from the remaining Ottoman territories sought refuge in the newly formed nation states or in Balkan territories that were either autonomous or under Russian or Austrian protection. Muslims from Bulgaria, , Serbia, and were in turn expelled by the new rulers, finding refuge in the remaining Ottoman regions ( , ) or the Ottoman heartland ( ) and .9 Here, too, the boundary between open expulsion and inevitable flight was blurred. During the 1890s, some 100,000 Bulgarian-speaking people left Macedonia, which had remained under Ottoman control, for Bulgaria. Conversely, during the Bulgarian Independence Movement (1876–1878) around half a million Muslims were either expelled or fled Bulgaria to escape acts of revenge or to avoid to be governed by unbelievers.10 Approximately 130,000 Muslims migrated from Bosnia-Herzegovina after the takeover by Austria-Hungary (1878), especially new settlers who had not resided long in the region and Ottoman officials. Greek Orthodox peasants also withdrew from Bosnia.11 Even in areas without large Muslim communities such as Serbia and Montenegro the goal was the emigration of all Muslims. According to one study, the Principality of Serbia had already resorted to the instruments of treaty-based expulsion early on, aiming at the "complete emigration of the Muslims" in its agreements with other states between 1830 and 1878. Until the attainment of full sovereignty, Serbian settlement law forbade Muslims from residing in rural areas, they were only allowed to live in cities, preferably garrison towns. After the gradual achievement of full sovereignty (1862, 1867), the remaining Muslims fled also from the cities.12 Consequently, Serbia was "almost entirely cleansed" of Muslims by the time of the Great Eastern Crisis (1875–1878).13was convened in 1878 to negotiate the modalities of the joint supremacy of European powers in and especially to clamp down on Russia's hegemonic claims. Ultimately, the sovereignty of , Serbia and was recognized, while the dreams of a Greater Bulgaria, a Greater Serbia or a Greater Greece were rejected
The expulsion of the Muslims in the Balkans was a result of the Ottoman Empire's armed conflicts with the emerging Balkan nation states. In general, the Muslim civil population was a victim of wartime violence, which resulted in their displacement. The battles against the Ottoman armies were usually accompanied by attacks on the Muslim civil population, universally held in the Balkan Peninsula to be collaborators of the "oppressors".14 There was no general pattern of expulsion: either the Muslims were forcibly deprived of their basis of life, e.g. through the destruction of their villages and their cultural and religious institutions,15 or they "voluntarily" migrated out of fear of certain expulsion. Some returned after the end of military hostilities, only to flee again when armed violence broke out anew.16
The newly founded states tried to reduce their Muslim population as they aimed to create ethnically homogeneous nation states. In reference to this systematic "population adjustment", the term "ethnic cleansing" was later used. "Ethnic cleansing" on the Balkans reached its peak during the Balkan Wars of 1912/1913, when the remaining territories of the Ottoman Empire in the Balkans were divided up between the rival Balkan states. The wars of the Balkan states Montenegro, Bulgaria, Serbia and Greece against the Ottoman Empire (1912), and finally against each other (1913), were not only national wars with regular armies, but were characterized by an expansion of violence and brutality. The participation of armed civilians (francs-tireurs or other paramilitary formations) in the war activities blurred the boundaries between combatants and non-combatants and the civilian population suffered greatly. On all sides, the partisans (komitadji, četa/çeta/çete bashibozuk or fedai)17 robbed, murdered and expelled the civilians of the opposition. The combatants not only desired victory, but the physical destruction of their enemies, which generally included the civilian population.18 From all the former Ottoman territories which were now being occupied by Balkan states, Muslims fled to the Ottoman heartland.19 The refugee groups, far from being homogeneous, included indigenous Balkan populations (Muslim Albanians, Slavic or Bulgarian-speaking Muslims such as the Pomaks and Muslim Roma, etc.) as well as members of the Turkic peoples (such as Crimean Tatars) and Caucasus peoples (such as the Circassians) but also Jews.20
The number of Muslim refugees following the First Balkan War (1912) is estimated at 400,000. Most had already been expelled from other regions.21 After the Second Balkan War (1913), around 135,000 refugees arrived in alone. More than one million refugees lost their lives in flight, either because they were murdered or died from starvation or epidemics.22 Even if at the time the First Balkan War was glorified by the leaders of the warring parties as a modern "crusade of the Balkan states" against "Asiatic barbarism",23 the front lines were in fact much more complicated than the dichotomy between Christianity and Islam suggests. For in the Second Balkan war the Christian Balkan states also fought one another: Thus, Greeks were expelled not only from Ottoman Asia Minor, but also from the expanded Serbia and enlarged Bulgaria. In turn, the multi-ethnic city par excellence, the formerly Ottoman city Salonika, was becoming a Greek city. Turks/Muslims, Jews, Bulgarians and other groups left the region or were expelled by the new conquerors.24 By 1914 the remaining core region of the Ottoman Empire had experienced a population increase of around 2.5 million Muslims,25 a figure which includes the exodus of Caucasian Muslims from the Russian Empire beginning in 1878.
From the time of the Balkan Wars to the end of the First World War, the first efforts were made toward systematic national homogenization (forced baptisms, forced Islamization, forced assimilation, expulsions and massacres).26 In this period, bi-lateral population exchanges were legitimised by treaties which were in accordance with international law. The Peace Treaty of Adrianople (1913) was the first intergovernmental agreement to provide for a population exchange between the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria, albeit on a formally voluntary basis and limited to the inhabitants of the border regions.27 With the outbreak of war in 1914, the arrangement became largely null and void, yet about 20,000 families (9,472 Bulgarian, 9,714 Muslim) had already been exchanged.28 This was followed by the Peace Treaty of Neuilly (1919), which negotiated another voluntary population exchange, this time between Bulgaria and Greece.29 Although the provisions in the respective treaties could not be thoroughly implemented, the treaties served as references for the subsequent population transfers. Another phase of forced migrations sanctioned by international law was entered in 1923 with the Greek-Turkish population exchange on the basis of the Treaty of . According to this compulsory transfer agreement the (mostly Turkish-speaking) Greek Orthodox Christians of Asia Minor were to be exchanged for the (mostly Greek-speaking) Muslim population from Greece. This was also an ex post facto sanctioning of movements of flight and expulsion that had occurred in both groups since the Balkan Wars.30 The Treaty of Lausanne would come to serve as a prototype: population transfers were considered legitimate political measures for solving "ethnic conflicts" and thus to be conducive to "keeping the peace" until after the Second World War. During the First World War and the subsequent Greco-Turkish War (1920–1922) about 1.2 million Muslims migrated to Turkey, among them the 400,000 persons who were forcibly exchanged as a result of the Treaty of Lausanne. In the opposite direction, over a million Greeks had to leave or were expelled from their ancestral homeland in Turkey's Aegean and . With few exceptions, those who remained were forced to relocate. As a preliminary conclusion one can say that only 38 per cent of the Muslim population living in the Balkans region in the year 1911 remained in 1923. The rest had been expelled, had fled, had died in flight or had been killed.31
The remaining Balkan Muslims were not principally affected by the expulsions in 32 After the Second World War, the violent removal of unwanted groups seemed to have come to an end. Until the collapse of the Yugoslav multi-ethnic state in the 1990s, the mass expulsion of the remaining Muslims occurred rather quietly, and, in comparison to the forced displacements triggered by the war and violence of the 19th century, was more or less relegated to the background.33 Apart from the expulsion of Muslims from Bulgaria in the 1950s and 1980s, the migration of the Muslims after the Second World War was rather unspectacular. It concerned individuals or small groups and was usually connected to the modernization efforts in the new Balkan states (see the next chapter on "Causes").during the Second World War, but they were caught in the crossfire of the warring parties. In Bosnia-Herzegovina, for example, political representatives of the Muslims sought to align themselves with the German occupation forces against the Croatian ustaša-terror or collaborated with the Serbian četnici, even though the latter also directed their violence against Muslims.
While the expulsion of the Balkan Muslims came to a temporary conclusion after the Treaty of Lausanne, the process began again during the collapse of the Yugoslav multi-ethnic state in the mid 1990s (Bosnia,).
Ethnic diversity became a problem with the emergence of nationalist ideologies. The rise of the nation state principle effectively put into question all multi-ethnic empires. Also the Ottoman Empire was challenged by the growing national movements of the Empire's Christian populations. As the collapse of the Ottomans' central power progressed in the 19th century movements for greater political freedom developed, especially in the European part of the Empire (Ottoman: and particularly the local conditions triggered riots and gang wars against the arbitrary and repressive measures of the Ottoman regime. As a first result the Serbs achieved a limited political autonomy in 1815, while the Greeks seceded from the multi-ethnic Ottoman state in 1830. By 1908 most peoples in Southeast Europe had separated from the Ottoman Empire.), which grew into national uprisings. The ideas of the
The formation of nation states in the 19h and 20th centuries was a process marked by continual belligerence and violence. The "liberation" of one's own people from foreign domination often went hand in hand with the expulsion of other national groups. The expulsion or even the destruction of other populations was therefore an important component of these "liberation wars", which were aimed at creating ethnically homogeneous nation states. Population groups of a different ethnicity, which were now demoted to minority status, were considered undesirable since they appeared to stand in the way of the pursuit of nation state unification. The idea of nation states was particularly explosive in the Balkans region, where the "ethnic" map in many areas was characterized by fragmentation, overlapping and regular fluctuation. As a result of historical migration and settlement movements, a large number of ethnic communities lived together in the Balkans in close quarters. The various populations with different languages and religious and confessional denominations began to define themselves ethnically in the 19th century and isolate themselves from the Ottoman regime as well as from their neighbours who had lived for a longer time in that region. An inevitable conflict arose from the fact that the nationalists of the 19th century claimed "historical rights" to a particular territory that had in the meantime been populated by another "ethnic group", invoking the modern "right of national self-determination" in the area in question.34 Points of reference to the "rebirth of one's own nation" were often the medieval empires which were to be restored to their old glory and might. These included ancient Macedonia and the Byzantine Empire for the Greeks, and the empires of "Greater Bulgaria", "Greater Serbia" and "Greater Croatia" for the Bulgarians, Serbs and Croats.35 However, neighbours of a different ethnicity, who had lived in these regions for a long time and also laid claim to their own nationalities, stood in the way of these plans. To resolve the discrepancy between the historical rights and the organizing principle of the modern nation state, a variety of strategic alternatives were undertaken that triggered a chain of disasters in the Balkans. The first solution was to reconfigure national borders in such a way that they conformed to ethnic settlement areas or, similarly, to adjust ethnic settlement boundaries to conform to national borders. This inevitably led to the destruction of multi-ethnic empires and regions (such as the Ottoman and the Habsburg empires, Macedonia, Thrace and Cyprus, etc.). The second solution, by contrast, was to adapt the ethnic settlement areas to the already existing national borders. This possibility, in turn, typically included a wide range of homogenization measures that could range from forced assimilation and population exchanges to expulsion and mass murder.36
The major European powers not only did not oppose these developments, but fuelled the existing inter-ethnic conflicts out of undisguised self-interest. As a result of the formation of new states, shifting borders and regime changes, it finally came to the expulsion, displacement and forced assimilation of millions of people. The first wave of expulsions in the 19th century mainly affected members of the formerly dominant ethnic population (i.e. Muslims of various "ethnic" origins and Turks) but also Jews, who were thought to collaborate with the "oppressors". It was the misfortune of Muslim communities in the Balkans that often their mere presence in the area was enough to make them into enemies of the emerging nations. The expelling powers, in fact, rarely distinguished between the civilian population, the Ottoman authorities (army and administrative bodies) and the violent insurgents, of whom there was certainly no shortage. Even greater hardship for the Muslims and Jews came from the fact that the sovereign power of the Ottomans on which they depended could not protect them. They were victims of the disintegration of the empire and of the rising of the nation state principle in the Balkans which more or less amounted to the "unmixing of peoples". As the formation of nation states developed, new enemies and new delineations were cultivated, this time also against "foreign ethnic" Christian groups, because – despite of all the "cleansing" – the new nation states could hardly be regarded as ethnically homogeneous and, in national terms, their attempts towards unification were not yet "complete". Inside the nation states, there still were foreign ethnic minorities, while persons of the same "nationality" lived outside the state boundaries, in other states where it was them who were in the minority. In any case, the designated minorities stood in the way of the respective titular nation's aspirations to unity. This led to new conflicts which could even manifest in the practice of "ethnic cleansing", as last observed in the wars between Yugoslavia's successor-states.
The successful formation of nation states thus by no means solved the individual "national issues", but rather created new potential for conflict between ethnic populations who were now degraded to a "minority" and the postulated nation states. At any rate, the nation state principle caused ethnic diversity to be seen as generally problematic. In the interwar period, the post-Ottoman successor-states were usually not only engaged with the construction and transformation of their states and societies, but also simultaneously with the formation of each nation, striving to match ethnic with state boundaries. Who was regarded as a citizen often depended on ethnicity. In most of the new Balkan states, all inhabitants were de jure equal. In practice, however, the situation was different. In most cases, citizenship was awarded only to the members of the right ethnic group. Excluded were not only foreigners or immigrants, but also and especially the ethnically different communities that had lived in the respective territory for centuries.37 In the increasingly ethnically defined nation states, minorities per se were considered undesirable. Their members were regarded as "second-class citizens who were objected to constant efforts of getting rid of them by assimilation, expulsion or other methods."38
A clear example of ethnic nationalism could be observed, for example, in interwar Greece, where the nation state principle was strictly followed. The newly established Greece believed itself to be a country that consisted only of ethnic Greeks. Differences that could not be explained away were tolerated in the areas of religion and language, but not ethnicity. The Muslims of 39 Similar national ideas can of course also be found in the other countries of the region. They generally oscillate between an explicitly ethnically grounded and an implicitly religious, i.e. Christian-based nationalism. The latter often determining the internal and foreign policies of these countries while containing a "missionary component coupled with a delusion of superiority".40 Whenever it was opportune, the various Balkan nationalisms would characterize "Turks" as intruders who should return to where they came from. The expulsion of the Turks/Muslims from Christian would often be justified by their "backwardness". The Greek King Constantine I (1868–1923), commander of the Greek offensive, thus wrote to his sister in the summer of 1921: "It is extraordinary how little civilized the Turks are … It is high time they disappeared once more and went back into the interior of Asia whence they came."41 However, the Turks/Muslims were regularly also denied any "otherness", to easier assimilate them and preventing them from making any claims to be protected as a minority. For example, Bulgarian nationalists regarded the Muslim Pomaks as forcibly Islamized Bulgarians, the Macedonians as linguistically Serbanized Bulgarians and the remaining Muslims in the country as victims of "a combination of forced Islamization and forced Turkization".42were therefore designated a "Muslim minority" according to the Treaty of Lausanne, not, however, as Turks with Greek citizenship. In the same way, the existence of ethnic minorities such as Slavs, Aromanians and Albanians in northern Greece and the was denied. According to the official version, they are still considered today to be Slavo- or Albanophone Greeks.
But it was not just the idea of such exclusive nationality and the related repressions of Muslim minorities that spurred emigration. Deficient internal processes of state formation and modernization also contributed in many ways to the pressure on those who were "different" to emigrate. This included above all the adoption of a far-reaching modernization programme that touched upon the social, political and economic spheres in most of the Balkan's structurally underdeveloped countries. With the introduction or transformation of a variety of governmental and social institutions, familiar religious establishments were for the most part abolished or centralized. A piece of the community's denominational life was consequently lost. The disciplinary and regulatory framework regulated by state enforced norms primarily affected political, fiscal, military and cultural areas, where new criteria of inclusion and exclusion could now be set. The modernization, assimilation and acculturation pressure – which, among other things, resulted in compulsory military service, the enforcement of the local language in minority schools and repressions in the exercise of religion – increased the tendency of the Muslims/Turks in the Balkans to emigrate.43 The "silent exodus" of Muslims during "peacetime" was mostly brought about by various policy measures directed at reducing the numbers of the remaining Muslims. Hindering Muslims who had fled to return and regulating the property rights and legal claims to the detriment of the Muslim refugees and the Muslim minority often served as an "emigration stimulus". This resulted in a continual emigration of Muslims that persists to this day.44
The emigration of Muslims can therefore be interpreted as the result of these internal conflicts within the framework of the development of nation states. It may also be situated within the context of the East-West conflict, as in the case of the mass deportation of Muslims from Bulgaria to neighbouring 45 The migratory movements of Muslims during "peacetime" are usually not regarded as forcible expulsion. Just the same, they were by no means wholly "voluntary" since they constituted a response to the dangers of communal Muslim life.46 The collective resettlement of Muslims was, incidentally, also strongly encouraged by the Republic of Turkey. From the 1930s to the 1950s, the country aimed to colonize areas – which in some cases had remained completely ravaged and depopulated since the First World War – with Muslims from the Southeast European countries.47 It concluded treaties with Greece, Bulgaria, Romania and Yugoslavia in order to bring the Muslims who were viewed as "strangers" or remnants of Ottoman rule in these countries to Turkey. Approximately 600,000 Muslims were "sent home" in this way between 1923 and 1933. However, this treaty-based migration did not always follow the principle of "voluntary" migration either, especially as the repressive measures in the countries of origin described above contributed significantly to the willingness of Muslims to emigrate.in 1950/1951 and in the 1980s.
In the 19th century, the Ottoman Empire experienced one of the most serious systemic crises since its inception. Starting in the 18th century various symptoms of crisis began to accumulate which led to a long period of great peril for the multi-ethnic empire. State bankruptcy, internal uprisings and successive wars culminated in significant territorial losses and gradually ended Ottoman rule in the Balkans. The defeats and territorial losses also had an impact on the internal constitution of the Empire – in the form of a veritable economic and political crisis of legitimacy. The chronic instability of the Empire was intensified even further with the arrival of over one million Muslim refugees from the Caucasus and the Balkans region. The incessant migratory waves of Muslims of various ethnic affiliations to a state that was already fighting for its economic survival presented an apparently insoluble problem. The supply situation for the refugees was catastrophic and many were left to fend for themselves. In larger cities, most refugees lived in poor conditions at the city's outskirts, while in rural areas many others met their needs by forming gangs and committing robberies.48
One of the main consequences of this massive absorption of Muslim refugees was that the once multi-ethnic empire was increasingly transformed into a country of Muslims. While Muslims made up 60 per cent of the Ottoman Empire's total population in 1821, their share had increased to 80 per cent in 1914 due to the continuing flow of migrants and the loss of Christian-populated areas.49 Between 1821 and 1922, some 5.3 million Muslims migrated to the Empire.50 It is estimated that in 1923, the year the republic of Turkey was founded, about 25 per cent of the population came from immigrant families.51
The Sublime Porte, the government of the Ottoman Empire, responded to this new development with different, sometimes competing tactics (Ottomanism, Pan-Islamism, Pan-Turkism).52 The Tanzimât reforms, introducing liberal principles that seemed to pave the way for a modern state constitution, fizzled out after a short while. In the face of the successful national movements of the Balkan peoples, the notion of the equality of different nationalities within the framework of a constitutional monarchy – which had been officially sanctioned by the sultans' decrees of 1839 and 1856 and finally by the constitution of 1876 – was at first thoroughly discredited. The decades following the Great Eastern Crisis (1875–1878) were marked by violent ethnic and religious conflicts, especially in , which was inhabited by Armenian, Kurdish and other Christian and Muslim communities. The settlement of Muslim refugees in this area, already beset by violence, further escalated the situation.53
A result of the demographic shift in favour of Muslims was the emergence of a Pan-Islamic policy, which was especially prevalent during the rule of Abdülhamid II (1842–1918). The Islamic faith was certainly deeply rooted among Anatolia's Muslim subjects. The Muslim refugees from the Caucasus and the Balkans had just lived through a time in which they were expelled from their ancestral homeland solely because of their religious affiliation. Consequently, both the ruler Abdülhamid and the opposition viewed Islam as an element of integration that would help bring together the different Muslim ethnic populations (Turks, Kurds, Circassians, Tartars, Bosnians, Albanians, Laz, etc.) into a Muslim collective.54 Almost simultaneously, the basis for a Turkish national identity was established, even though several decades passed before it was explicitly articulated. Here, the Turkic immigrants from the Russian Empire and the refugees from the Balkans played a decisive role. Many of the politicians who would come to rule the country in the First World War and in the Kemalist era were first or second generation Muslims/Turks from the Balkans.55
In the last phase of its existence, the Ottoman Empire itself took up a policy of national (at first predominantly religious) homogenization.56 The Young Turk Revolution of 1908 ultimately paved the way for Turkish nationalism. Non-Muslims began to feel its exclusiveness, especially Armenians, who until then had been considered the most loyal minority group. As a consequence, Turkish leadership claims and non-Muslim autonomy claims were increasingly at odds. In the second half of the 19th century, the Ottoman regimes were able to ensure the Empire's cohesion only by violent means. Following the devastating Balkan Wars, radical Turkification measures were taken up, which were particularly felt in economic, education and settlement policy. The conflict finally escalated – "in the interplay between forced assimilation from above, resistance from below" and, in response to the resistance, increased repression – in the Armenian massacres of 1895/1896 and 1909.57 In the First World War, almost the entire Armenian population in Asia Minor was wiped out or expelled, while the Greek Orthodox population of the coastal areas had already been deported or killed before the war.58 Often, Muslim refugees, who had themselves been victims of forced displacement, also participated in the attacks on Christian villages.59 Their role in the expulsions in Asia Minor (1914–1922) has not yet been studied systematically. A victim-perpetrator relationship, however, is frequently established. It has been shown, for example, that the majority of the leadership cadres of the Young Turks were descended from former refugees or their offspring. The former Caucasus and Balkan refugees appear to have played a significant role in the Ottoman paramilitary Special Organization (Teşkilat-ı Mahsusa), which was used as a death squad against non-Muslims during the one-party dictatorship of the Young Turks, but also in the lower cadres of the Young Turk Party:
On lower levels, in the ranks of the Special Organisation (Teşkilat-ı Mahsusa) that played an important role in the massacres, immigrants, especially Circassians, made up the main component. Even if we have no contemporary evidence from 1915 to show that revenge was the primary motive for these people, the overrepresentation of refugees among the killers is striking.60
The former Muslim refugees/migrants thus belonged to the ethnic groups that had experienced the full brutality of the national homogenizations – many of whom, one may conjecture despite the inadequate state of research, as victims and as perpetrators.61