The Hellenization of Thracian Borderlands after 1919: Settlement and Urbanization as Geopolitics

Authors: Alex Papadopoulos*, DePaul University
Topics: Political Geography, Urban Geography, Landscape
Keywords: borders, geopolitics, urbanization, nationalism, landscape, Balkans
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/3/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Washington 3, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


I explore the geopolitical significance of urban foundations (and re-foundations of existing cities), the Hellenization of Ottoman-era toponyms, and the territorialization of Hellenic statism in the Thracian Greco-Turkish borderlands following the Great War. The two significant cities of Alexandroupolis and Nea Oresteias completed a borderland corridor of urban places that included the historic cities of Feres, Didimotihon and Souflion. The five together, along with a network of more than twenty new villages, anchored a strategic settlement zone that extended from the Aegean Sea littoral to Ormeneio – the meeting point of the Greek-Turkish-Bulgarian borders. The question whether the extensive and intensive settlement of that borderlands region, after the ceding of Western Thrace to Greece by the League of Nations and especially after the Treaty of Lausanne, was a stratagem planned by the Hellenic state, or an urbanization event that emerged organically in the frantic period following the Greco-Turkish War, has been long-standing. If the former were the case, it would have demonstrated city building as an instrument of geopolitics and national identity formation: Such settlement policies, which at the time would have been inextricable from regional and agricultural development and refugee population relief, would exemplify the intersection of regional and urban development, the territorialization of state power, and interstate geopolitics. I will present evidence that such stratagem did, in fact, exist for the Thracian borderlands and parts of the Evros Prefecture. Urban policy regarding the Thracian borderlands was Hellenic geopolitics.

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