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Postal card of Adana 1920

Cilicia is a small plain in the South-east of Turkey, where the Mediterranean coast forms a right angle before going down North-South towards Lebanon. This area is sometimes called Small Armenia. Before the arrival of the Turks, there was an independent Armenian kingdom. At the time of the crusades, the Francs found practical to stop there, in Christian and friendly country, on the road of Jerusalem. Then Ottomans conquered the country. But the Armenians remained very numerous. There are also all kinds of populations in Cilicie, in 1920: Greeks, Jews, Arabs Christian or Moslem, Kurds, of Circassiens come from the Caucasus.

Here how Paul du Véou, a French officer of the Campaign of Cilicie, describes it:

Cilicie covers the triangle that sea, the Taurus mountains and those of Amanus, limit to Eastern shores of the Mediterranean. Sometimes septentrional frontier of Syria or Mediterranean frontier of Armenia, the geographers and the historians attaches it sometimes to the one, sometimes to the other of these kingdoms. It is the only province of Asia-Minor where the Christians formed the greatest number: after the massacres of 1895 and 1909, they were still 215.000 people against 185.000 Moslems. The administrative services of the French High commissionership counted in 1920, 120.000 Armenians, 28.000 Greeks, ottomans for the majority, 5.000 Chaldeans and Assyrians, 100.000 Arabs ansarieh, 30.000 Kurds and Kizilbaches smugglers, 15.000 Tcherkesses or Circassians, horses breeders, less than 20.000 Moslem Turks; Europeans resided especially in Mersine; the trade was with the hands of the Armenians and the Greeks. This population was very few for a region of fifty thousand square kilometres, the tenth of France, whose mountains carry two hundred and thousand hectares of forests of oaks, pines, beeches, limes and of which the plain, more fertile than the delta of the Nile, product of corn, the oats, sesame, the millet, rice, cotton: Cilicie collected before the exodus of the Armenians, 1.850.000 tons of cereals, of which it exported 1.400.000 tons. The cotton plantations produced 250.000 tons, quantity sufficient with French industry; the well irrigated gardens which surrounded Mersine, then Tarsous, Adana, provided in abundance vegetables, grenades, oranges, lemons.
This plain extends from Mersine to Adana and, beyond towards the east, until Osmaniye. Two small rivers, Seihoun and Djihoun, coming from the solid masses of Taurus, fertilize it. They swell when snow melts at the bases of the mountains. They then deposit alluvia covered with humus, and Turkish indolence feeling reluctant to drain water, of the quagmires are formed, infested by mosquitos, while the grounds which remain uncultivated are covered by tall grasses from where emergent only some shrub clusters which the hunters set fire to detect the leopards.


During my research with the Historical Service of Defense, I found some interesting documents to describe the context of the Campaign of Cilicie. You will find extracts in the following pages. You will be able to notice that the population figures are subject to very approximate estimates: movements of refugees, massacres and absence of census. How to count the inhabitants? Paul du Véou does not quote his sources.

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