We present new evidence for the propagation processes of the North Anatolian fault. Folding in the Dardanelles Straits region allows us to document the timing of the deformation preceding, and the finite displacement after, the passage of the propagating tip of the fault. The accuracy of the observations is due to interplay between deformation and the sea-level changes in the Mediterranean (the well-known Messinian regression followed by the Pliocene transgression). The long-term kinematics around the Sea of Marmara pull-apart (total displacement of about 85 km over the past 5 m.y.) is similar to the present-day kinematics deduced from space geodesy. At a larger scale, westward propagation of the North Anatolian fault over nearly 2000 km in the past 10 m.y. appears to be associated with strain recovery, suggesting that the continental lithosphere retains long-term elasticity.