Review of Twice a Stranger by Bruce Clark
(Harvard University Press, 2006)

This is the best book I have read on the tragic Greek-Turkish "population exchange" of the 1920s. I found the book remarkable for several reasons: One is its organization. Chapters alternate between diplomatic history and human suffering stories, many of them based on interviews with survivors of that era. This has a powerful effect on the reader who sees how people were dying while "diplomats talked." Another is its fairness in discussing the responsibilities of each side. (The official Greek and Turkish positions place all the blame on the other side.) And finally the coverage of the suffering of the Muslims that were sent from Greece to Turkey as part of the "exchange." As the books states on p. 161 "In most cases, the fate of these migrants was not as terrible as that of the Anatolian Christians who fled either in the heat of war, or as a result of forced marches followed by forced embarkations on ships riddled with disease; but the Muslim exodus was bad enough."

The final chapter of the book, "The price of success", is particularly remarkable and I would recommend it even to those who have no special interest in Greece or Turkey. Clark points out that in a way the "exchange" was a success, despite its huge human cost. It allowed Greece and Turkey to become nation states that lived more or less peacefully side by side because of "good fences." But then he goes on to show that such fences are not viable and the linking of religion and ethnicity is a dangerous policy. In the case of Greece and Turkey a new conflict arose because of Cyprus and the two countries came close to war again. Finally, he shows how futile is trying to maintain ethnic and religious homogeneity in the modern era of globalization and extensive labor migration.

Clark was born in Northern Ireland and I suppose his early exposure to sectarian strife provided him with particular insight in the subject.

It is sad to see today that ethnic cleansing (based on one's religion) continues whether in the former Yugoslavia or in Iraq.