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The Thrace Reclamation Zone can refer either to the Thracian territory of the Greek Federation, or to a larger international zone, of which Greece's territory forms a part. The Zone consists parts of what had been both Turkish and Greek Thrace, as well as small parts of Anatolia across the Straits. The southwestern part of this region, that is the part around the Hellespont, is Greek territory and a full member of Greece's federal government. Northern Thrace is under the control of the Bulgarian government of Rhodope, while the southeast part, around the Bosporus, is an international territory under League of Nations supervision.
The indigenous population of Thrace was a people called the Thracians, divided into numerous tribal groups. Thracian troops were known to accompany neighboring ruler Alexander the Great when he crossed the Hellespont which abuts Thrace, and took on the Persian Empire of the day. The Thracians did not describe themselves as such and Thrace and Thracians are simply the names given them by the Greeks. Divided into separate tribes, the Thracians did not manage to form a lasting political organization until the 4th century BC. Like Illyrians, Thracian tribes of the mountainous regions fostered a locally ruled warrior tradition, while the tribes based in the plains were purportedly more peaceable.
By the mid-5th century, as the Roman Empire began to crumble, Thracia fell from the authority of Rome and into the hands of Germanic tribal rulers. The eastern successor of the Roman Empire in the Balkans, the Byzantine Empire, retained control over Thrace until the beginning of the 9th century when the Byzantines began to war over the territory with the Bulgarian Empire, until its take over by the Ottomans in 1352.
With the Congress of Berlin in 1878, Northern Thrace was incorporated into the semi-autonomous Ottoman province of Eastern Rumelia, which united with Bulgaria in 1885. The rest of Thrace was divided between Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey at the beginning of the 20th century, following the Balkan Wars, World War I and the Greco-Turkish War.
Thrace was heavily attacked on Doomsday. Several strikes are thought to have occurred in the vicinity of Istanbul, on both sides of the Straits, destroying and irradiating most of the city, even turning some parts of it into glass. The strikes here made the passage through the Bosporus impossible without the use of tightly sealed military vessels - which could not be spared by the Greek states possessing them - for several years afterwards. The Bosporus Bridge was brought down at both sides of the strait, causing the middle spans to collapse into the water, where they pose a hazard to navigation, even today.
The city of Edirne, near the Bulgarian border, was hit as well, in what must have been an attempt to prevent a Turkish attack on Bulgaria, so Bulgarian efforts could have been directed elsewhere.
Other strikes around the Sea of Marmara occurred at the cities of Bandirma, Bursa, and Izmit, likely trying to cripple Turkish forces in the area.
Bulgarian forces, along with some Soviet advisers, attempted to invade Thrace, without directions from any higher-ups, immediately after the strikes. Surviving Turkish and Greek forces, still fighting as allies and being more powerful, managed to fight them off. What Greek forces remained then largely pulled out in response to the requests of the Greek government on Crete, or fled to the monasteries at Mount Athos. Most of the border guards went with them, though in some areas they did stay put. The Turkish troops, on the other hand, mostly missed the same orders from the Turkish government, and stayed put, attempting to maintain order.
However, it was then that the trouble really began. Radiation from the blasts in the area - and from Thessaloniki as well - rendered much of eastern Thrace uninhabitable. The refugees that appeared as a result began to rapidly move west, where they overwhelmed the remaining Turkish troops, scattering them to the four winds. Most of these refugees who remained alive afterwards formed bands that lived off brigandage, though a few scattered villages managed to survive inland. And, while Greek Thrace had survived relatively intact, these same refugees had the same effect over much of that territory - and parts of Bulgarian Thrace - as well.
One net result of this was that in the east, several reasonably intact towns remained, having been abandoned due to radiation worries, such as the town of Ereglisi.
Shortly after the formation of the Greek Confederation in 1994, Greek explorers discovered the Bulgarian survivor state of Rhodope, which had included some Greek territory within its defense perimeters after Doomsday, just west of Thrace. The Bulgarians, after a tense confrontation, were left to maintain control of the territory for the time being, since it was far from territory under Greek control.
Coming of the Greeks
In 1995, encouraged by prodding help their neighbors by some of the other Greek states, Morean leaders decided to volunteer for an expedition into Thrace, to try and reclaim the region that had been lost to Ottoman conquests long before. The Hellenic Republic, not wanting the Moreans to gain such an increase of power, prestige, and territory, dragooned their way into joining the expedition. Moral support was given by the other members of the Greek Confederation, who were busy with projects in Albania and on Cyprus.
Thrace was found to be in chaos. Any sense of order, outside of a few small pockets, had long ceased to exist, especially in the east.
Sailing through the Straits, Greek vessels found them to have largely become free of radiation, though the ruins of Istanbul were still too contaminated for unprotected sailors to walk on deck in that area. The various islands in the Marmara were occupied, for use as naval stations - and as temporary places for the mission to be headquartered until a spot could be found on the mainland.
In June, Greek troops landed around the town of Ereglisi, not too far from the glowing ruins of Istanbul. The town had been abandoned but the existing harbor and residences were thought by commanders to be ideal as a headquarters and staging ground for further operations in the region. A body of troops also marched overland from Mount Athos through Greek Thrace, clearing out the bandits and enemy forces still present in the region, while searching for surviving towns, cities, villages, and the like.
A major discovery would be made - the survival of the city of Xanthi in Greek Thrace. Xanthi was made into the western center of operations within Thrace, while Ereglisi - now often called by its ancient Greek name, Heraklea - was made into the eastern center.
Fortified towns were rapidly set up by Greek forces at both sides of the Bosporus, at the sites of the old fortresses of Anadoluhisarı and Rumelihisarı just north of the ruins of Istanbul, on the Black Sea, and at the ruins of the city of Çanakkale - renamed Dardanellia - and the remains of the castle at Kilitbahir, halfway down the Dardanelles, at their narrowest point. The goal of these settlements was to ensure the safety - and Greek control - of the Straits. Outposts were soon constructed through the remainder of what had once been Istanbul province in Anatolia, and along the Anatolian coastline of what had once been Canakkale Province, with troops also taking control of the ruins of the city of Troy.
But the Bulgarians also desired this same region and its strategic straits. After a few clashes, the two sides agreed to leave the Bosporus as a neutral ground, a status that has more or less continued to the present day. The Greeks, however, remained firmly in control of both sides of the Dardanelles.
Arrival of the Turks
In October, Morean troops stationed just south of Troy encountered, in a surprise for both parties, advance scouts from the Turkish Sultanate, which Dodecanese forces had encountered in southwest Anatolia in the late 1980s. Mutual demands for the other group to vacate the territory soon followed, accompanied by minor skirmishes. Within weeks, similar encounters were also reported by Hellenic forces near the ruins of Istanbul.
One common thing in both cases was the result: the Turkish forces had the short end of the stick - it was painfully obvious to the Turkish commanders, and soon the leaders of the Sultanate, that the Greek forces were stronger than they were. The Greek governments realized this too, however.
Talks between the Confederation government and the Turkish government soon followed, where the Sultanate was forced to accept the Greek presence, much like they had been forced to do so in southwest Anatolia. This continues to be a major sticking point between the two today.
The capital of the territory, after much debate, was installed at Ereglisi, by now officially renamed with its former Greek name Heraklea, instead of Xanthi, largely due to its port and better location.
With Turkish forces now patrolling the areas south of the Marmara outside of areas of Greek control, expansion to the south was blocked.
This meant that it was only possible to go to the north, which the Rhodopians objected to, for they were worried it would interfere with their claim to Bulgaria. Through mediation by the Patriarchs of Bulgaria and Constantinople, the two governments, in light of their burgeoning friendship and the importance of the area to Orthodoxy, decided to make their agreement over Thrace formal and permanent. The Bosporus, still irradiated and uninhabitable, would remain neutral and open, jointly patrolled by both Bulgaria and Greece. Meanwhile the Dardanelles remained a Greek zone, considered the property of the Confederation as a whole, while northern Thrace would be patrolled by Rhodope. The two governments agreed to consult one another on the management of the territory.
Over the next decade, Greek forces - primarily Hellenic and Morean - would slowly expand the safe zones inside Thrace northwards, sending patrols even further out. Some of these patrols - with the required Rhodopian officers attached to them - even explored much of southeastern Bulgaria near the old Turkish border, eliminating bandits between Thrace and the eastern borders of Rhodope, as well as undergoing a quick investigation of the ruins of Burgas, where they found nothing.
What few survivors that were found in this area were taken south by the exploration teams, and resettled inside the Thracian territory, largely in the northern reaches of the safe zone, around the settlement of Vize. As a result, this area has a majority population of Bulgarians today.
The small stretch of Anatolia under Greek control became heavily populated by military forces, who constructed a series of defense lines and forts, to both defend the area and ensure control of the Straits. A series of towns sprung up, serving Greek settlers in the area, along with a city around the main fortress at Dardanellia.
With the formation of the Greek Federation in late 2009, the status of the Zone came into question. At the constitutional convention, the Greek part of the Zone, still maintaining the same name and government structure, was designated as a territory of the Federation.
With the conclusion of the Rhodope-Vidin war, and the return of the Rhodopian Army to Smolyan, several thousand members of the Greek military stationed around the Bulgarian settlements inside the Zone, at Vize, were replaced by Rhodopian soldiers on November 1st. These soldiers were then moved to the Ionian Islands in Heptanesa, where they were involved in the second - and successful - Greek invasion of Lecce Province in Italy, which could not have occurred until the new year if they had not arrived. It is believed that this invasion is what convinced the Sicilian government to seek a ceasefire after deciding it was no longer worth it to continue fighting.
League of Nations
Turkey continued to demand access to Istanbul and the Bosporus, and the start of the League of Nations in 2008 gave it an opportunity to pursue its claim and get international backing. After five years of negotiation, the LoN supported a plan to place the Bosporus Zone under a three-country commission of the Turks, Greeks and Bulgarians. A few neutral nations were mandated to send political and military observers to make sure the rival powers got along. This part of the Zone is severely depopulated, and major population centers have not emerged other than a base for patrol craft on each side of the strait. The Bosporus is considered international rather than Greek territory, though along with the Bulgarian and Greek zones it forms part of the wider Thracian Reclamation Zone.
Government and Politics
The government of the Zone consists of a Governor, appointed by the Speaker of the Federation Parliament - after the executive is decided they will be the one appointing this position - and a Premier, who heads a Legislature elected by the people of the Zone.
Since the establishment of the Zone, the position of governor has been alternated between the Moreans and Hellenics every four years - this is not likely to change with the formation of the Federation. Currently, it is held by Kostas Karamanlis of the Hellenic Republic.
Semi-responsible government was granted in the region in 2000, and since that time the Premier has been Çetin Mandacı, a member of the Socialist Party, from Xanthi.
Given the relationship of the territory to the government of Rhodope, a representative appointed by the leaders of the Rhodopian government has always been present in the territory, and must sign off on all major decisions with the Governor and Premier. Currently, this representative is Hassan Azis, a former mayor of the city of Kardzhali that also functions as the head of the Rhodopian consulate in Vize. Hassan and the Rhodopian government have also gone on the record in saying that they believe the Transylvanian government should be included in the governance of the territory, though nothing has come from this at this time.
Much of the economy of the territory is dominated by military spending, and, given the use of the Straits, shipping. The port at Heraklea is today still rapidly expanding, as it is the largest port in what was once one of the busiest shipping passages in the world - and that old designation is rapidly returning.
Other than that, tobacco, wine, lumber, and olives are all common export products from the Zone. In fact, due to the state of the region after Doomsday, much of the territory occupied by people is still heavily forested, which has led to several nasty forest fires over the years.
The Zone is one of the few areas of Greece that does not need to rely on fishing to feed itself, due to the amount of farmland.
Despite the extensive colonization of the area done by the Greeks since 1995, a slim majority of the inhabitants of the region are Turkish - around 53%. Another 37% are Greek, while the majority of the remaining 10% is Bulgarians, who have largely moved to the northeastern areas of the zone from isolated villages in southeast Bulgaria. As time goes on, however, the numbers of Turks has been going down, as they emigrate elsewhere and face more and more restrictions inside the Zone from the increasing numbers of Greeks and other Orthodox peoples.
Other than that, there are many merchants in the coastal cities of the Zone from all the corners of the globe. Despite the wildness of the story, there are even rumors of a Japanese merchant setting up shop in Heraklea as of late.
There are restrictions as to where Turks native to Turkish Thrace can go in the area (other Muslims and Turks from Greek Thrace are generally fine) due to the perceived security risks they carry. They are banned from living in the sections of Anatolia that are part of the Zone, and are unofficially discouraged from living along the coastline. While this could be said to be something to drive the Turks to rebelliousness, since the majority of Turks are simple village folk from the west, it is less of an issue than one may think.