Greeks in Turkey
| ~2,000~ ~15,000
|Regions with significant populations|
|Istanbul, Imbros, Tenedos|
|Greek (first language of the majority), Turkish (first language of the minority or second language)|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Greek Muslims, Pontic Greeks, Antiochian Greeks|
The Greeks in Turkey (Turkish: Rumlar) constitute a population of Greek and Greek-speaking Eastern Orthodox Christians who mostly live in Istanbul, as well as on the two islands of the western entrance to the Dardanelles: Imbros and Tenedos (Turkish: Gökçeada and Bozcaada).
They are the remnants of the estimated 200,000 Greeks who were permitted under the provisions of the Convention Concerning the Exchange of Greek and Turkish Populations to remain in Turkey following the 1923 population exchange, which involved the forcible resettlement of approximately 1.5 million Greeks from Anatolia and East Thrace and of half a million Turks from all of Greece except for Western Thrace. After years of persecution (e.g. the Varlık Vergisi and the Istanbul Pogrom), emigration of ethnic Greeks from the Istanbul region greatly accelerated, reducing the 119,822 -strong Greek minority before the attack to about 7,000 by 1978. The 2008 figures released by the Turkish Foreign Ministry places the current number of Turkish citizens of Greek descent at the 3,000–4,000 mark. However, according to the Human Rights Watch the Greek population in Turkey is estimated at 2,500 in 2006. The Greek population in Turkey is collapsing as the community is now far too small to sustain itself demographically, due to emigration, much higher death rates than birth rates and continuing discrimination.
Since 1924, the status of the Greek minority in Turkey has been ambiguous. Beginning in the 1930s, the government instituted repressive policies forcing many Greeks to emigrate. Examples are the labour battalions drafted among non-Muslims during World War II, as well as the Fortune Tax (Varlık Vergisi) levied mostly on non-Muslims during the same period. These resulted in financial ruination and death for many Greeks. The exodus was given greater impetus with the Istanbul Pogrom of September 1955 which led to thousands of Greeks fleeing the city, eventually reducing the Greek population to about 7,000 by 1978 and to about 2,500 by 2006. According to the United Nations, this figure was much smaller in 2012 and reached 2,000.
The Greeks of Turkey are referred to in Turkish as Rumlar, meaning "Romans". This derives from the self-designation Ῥωμαῖος (Rhomaîos, pronounced ro-ME-os) or Ρωμιός (Rhomiós, pronounced ro-mee-OS or rom-YOS) used by Byzantine Greeks, who were the continuation of the Roman Empire in the east. The ethnonym Yunanlar is exclusively used by Turks to refer to Greeks from Greece and not for the population of Turkey. In Greek, Greeks from Asia Minor are referred to as Greek: Μικρασιάτες or Greek: Ανατολίτες (Mikrasiátes or Anatolítes, lit. "Asia Minor-ites" and "Anatolians"), while Greeks from Pontos (Pontic Greeks) are known as Greek: Πόντιοι (Póntioi). Greeks from Istanbul are known as Greek: Κωνσταντινουπολίτες (Konstantinoupolítes, lit. "Constantinopolites"), most often shortened to Greek: Πολίτες (Polítes, pronounced po-LEE-tes). Those who arrived during the 1923 population exchange between Greece and Turkey are also referred to as Greek: Πρόσφυγες (Prósfyges, i. e. "Refugees").
Greeks have been living in what is now Turkey continuously since the middle 2nd millennium BC. Following upheavals in mainland Greece during the Bronze Age Collapse, the Aegean coast of Asia Minor was heavily settled by Ionian and Aeolian Greeks and became known as Ionia and Aeolia. During the era of Greek colonization from the 8th to the 6th century BC, numerous Greek colonies were founded on the coast of Asia Minor, both by mainland Greeks as well as settlers from colonies such as Miletus. The city of Byzantium, which would go on to become Constantinople and Istanbul, was founded by colonists from Megara in the 7th century BC.
Following the conquest of Asia Minor by Alexander the Great, the rest of Asia Minor was opened up to Greek settlement. Upon the death of Alexander, Asia Minor was ruled by a number of Hellenistic kingdoms such as the Attalids of Pergamum. A period of peaceful Hellenization followed, such that the local Anatolian languages had been supplanted by Greek by the 1st century BC. Asia Minor was one of the first places where Christianity spread, so that by the 4th century AD it was overwhelmingly Christian and Greek-speaking. For the next 600 years, Asia Minor and Constantinople which eventually became the capital of the Byzantine Empire would be the centers of the Hellenic world, while mainland Greece experienced repeated barbarian invasions and went into decline.
Following the Battle of Manzikert in 1071, the Seljuk Turks swept through all of Asia Minor. While the Byzantines would recover western and northern Anatolia in subsequent years, central Asia Minor was settled by Turkic peoples and never again came under Byzantine rule. The Byzantine Empire was unable to stem the Turkic advance, and by 1300 most of Asia Minor was ruled by Anatolian beyliks. Smyrna (Turkish: İzmir) fell in 1330, and Philadelphia (Turkish: Alaşehir), fell in 1398. The last Byzantine Greek kingdom in Anatolia, the Empire of Trebizond, covering the Black Sea coast of north-eastern Turkey to the border with Georgia fell in 1461.
Constantinople fell in 1453, marking the end of the Byzantine Empire. Beginning with the Seljuk invasion in the 11th century, and continuing through the Ottoman years, Anatolia underwent a process of Turkification, its population gradually changing from predominantly Christian and Greek-speaking to predominantly Muslim and Turkish-speaking.
A class of moneyed ethnically Greek merchants (they commonly claimed noble Byzantine descent) called Phanariotes emerged in the latter half of the 16th century and went on to exercise great influence in the administration in the Ottoman Empire's Balkan domains in the 18th century. They tended to build their houses in the Phanar quarter of Istanbul in order to be close to the court of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, who under the Ottoman millet system was recognized as both the spiritual and secular head (millet-bashi) of all the Orthodox subjects (the Rum Millet, or the "Roman nation") of the Empire, often acting as archontes of the Ecumenical See. For all their cosmopolitanism and often western (sometimes Roman Catholic) education, the Phanariots were aware of their Hellenism; according to Nicholas Mavrocordatos' Philotheou Parerga: "We are a race completely Hellenic".
The first Greek millionaire in the Ottoman era was Michael Kantakouzenos Shaytanoglu, who earned 60.000 ducats a year from his control of the fur trade from Russia; he was eventually executed on the Sultan's order. It was the wealth of the extensive Greek merchant class that provided the material basis for the intellectual revival that was the prominent feature of Greek life in the second half of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century. Greek merchants endowed libraries and schools; on the eve of the Greek War of Independence the three most important centres of Greek learning, schools-cum-universities, were situated in Chios, Smyrna and Aivali, all three major centres of Greek commerce.
The outbreak of the Greek War of Independence in March 1821 was met by mass executions, pogrom-style attacks, the destruction of churches, and looting of Greek properties throughout the Empire. The most severe atrocities occurred in Constantinople, in what became known as the Constantinople Massacre of 1821. The Orthodox Patriarch Gregory V was executed on April 22, 1821 on the orders of the Ottoman Sultan, which caused outrage throughout Europe and resulted in increased support for the Greek rebels.
By the late 19th and early 20th century, the Greek element was found predominantly in Constantinople and Smyrna, along the Black Sea coast (the Pontic Greeks) and the Aegean coast, and a few cities and numerous villages in the central Anatolian interior (the Cappadocian Greeks). The Greeks of Constantinople constituted the largest Greek urban population in the Eastern Mediterranean.
World War I and its aftermath
Given their large Greek populations, Constantinople and Asia Minor featured prominently in the Greek irredentist concept of Megali Idea (lit. "Great Idea") during the 19th century and early 20th century. The goal of Megali Idea was the liberation of all Greek-inhabited lands and the eventual establishment of a successor state to the Byzantine Empire with Constantinople as its capital.
During World War I and its aftermath (1914–1923), the government of the Ottoman Empire instigated a violent campaign against the Greek population of the Empire. The campaign included massacres, forced deportations involving death marches, and summary expulsions. According to various sources, several hundred thousand Ottoman Greeks died during this period. Some of the survivors and refugees, especially those in Eastern provinces, took refuge in the neighbouring Russian Empire.
Following Greece's participation on the Allied side in World War I, and the participation of the Ottoman Empire on the side of the Central Powers, Greece received an order to land in Smyrna by the Triple Entente as part of the planned partition of the Ottoman Empire.
On May 15, 1919, twenty thousand Greek soldiers landed in Smyrna, taking control of the city and its surroundings under cover of the Greek, French, and British navies. Legal justifications for the landings was found in the article 7 of the Armistice of Mudros, which allowed the Allies "to occupy any strategic points in the event of any situation arising which threatens the security of Allies." The Greeks of Smyrna and other Christians, greeted the Greek troops as liberators. By contrast, the majority of the Muslim population saw them as an invading force.
Greece was subsequently awarded Eastern Thrace up to the Chatalja lines at the outskirts of Constantinople, the islands of Imbros and Tenedos, and the city Smyrna and its vast hinterland by the Treaty of Sèvres, all of which contained substantial Greek populations.
During the Greco-Turkish War, a conflict which followed the Hellenic occupation of Smyrna in May 1919 and continued until the Great Fire of Smyrna in September 1922, atrocities perpetrated by both the Hellenic and Turkish armies. For the massacres that occurred during the Greco-Turkish War of 1919–1922, British historian Arnold J. Toynbee wrote that it was the Greek landings that created the Turkish National Movement led by Mustafa Kemal: "The Greeks of 'Pontus' and the Turks of the Greek occupied territories, were in some degree victims of Mr. Venizelos's and Mr. Lloyd George's original miscalculations at Paris."
After the end of the Greco-Turkish War, most of the Greeks remaining in the Ottoman Empire were transferred to Greece under the terms of the 1923 population exchange between Greece and Turkey. The criteria for the population exchange was not exclusively confined to ethnicity or mother language, but on religion as well. That is why the Karamanlides (Greek: Καραμανλήδες; Turkish: Karamanlılar), or simply Karamanlis, who were a Turkish-speaking (while they employed the Greek alphabet to write it) Greek Orthodox people of unclear origin and were deported from their native regions of Karaman and Cappadocia in Central Anatolia to Greece as well. On the other hand, Cretan Muslims who were part of the exchange were re-settled mostly on the Aegean coast of Turkey, in areas formerly inhabited by Christian Greeks. Populations of Greek descent can still be found in the Pontos, remnants of the former Greek population that converted to Islam in order to escape the persecution and later deportation. Though these two groups are of ethnic Greek descent, they speak Turkish as a mother language and are very cautious to identify themselves as Greeks, due to the hostility of the Turkish state and neighbours towards anything Greek.
Republic of Turkey
Due to the Greeks' strong emotional attachment to their first capital as well as the importance of the Ecumenical Patriarchate for Greek and worldwide orthodoxy, the Greek population of Constantinople was specifically exempted and allowed to stay in place. Article 14 of the Treaty of Lausanne (1923) also exempted Imbros and Tenedos islands from the population exchange and required Turkey to accommodate the local Greek majority and their rights. Disregarding that entirely, the Turks created a series of measures shown in the next paragraph that did the opposite of that and therefore, the Greek population began to decline, as evidenced by demographic statistics.
Punitive Turkish nationalist exclusivist measures, such as a 1932 parliamentary law, barred Greek citizens living in Turkey from a series of 30 trades and professions from tailoring and carpentry to medicine, law and real estate. The Wealthy Levy imposed in 1942 also served to reduce the economic potential of Greek businesspeople in Turkey.
The final blow to the Greek population was on 6–7 September 1955, When the anti-Greek riots were orchestrated in Istanbul by the Turkish military's Tactical Mobilization Group, the seat of Operation Gladio's Turkish branch; the Counter-Guerrilla. The events were triggered by the news that the Turkish consulate in Thessaloniki, north Greece—the house where Mustafa Kemal Atatürk was born in 1881—had been bombed the day before. A bomb planted by a Turkish usher of the consulate, who was later arrested and confessed, incited the events. The Turkish press conveying the news in Turkey was silent about the arrest and instead insinuated that Greeks had set off the bomb. Although the mob did not explicitly call for Greeks to be killed, over a dozen people died during or after the pogrom as a result of beatings and arson. Jews, Armenians and others were also harmed. In addition to commercial targets, the mob clearly targeted property owned or administered by the Greek Orthodox Church. 73 churches and 23 schools were vandalized, burned or destroyed, as were 8 asperses and 3 monasteries.
The pogrom greatly accelerated emigration of ethnic Greeks from Turkey, and the Istanbul region in particular. The Greek population of Turkey declined from 119,822 persons in 1927, to about 7,000 in 1978. In Istanbul alone, the Greek population decreased from 65,108 to 49,081 between 1955 and 1960.
Today most of the remaining Greeks live in Istanbul. In the Fener district of Istanbul where the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople is located, fewer than 100 Greeks live today. A handful also live in other cities of Anatolia. Most are elderly.
Another location where the Greek community lives is the islands Imbros and Tenedos near the Dardanelles, but this community is diminishing very fast and only 200 elderly Greeks have remained there, less than 2%. In the 1950s, an estimated 98% of the island was Greek.
The so-called Antiochian Greeks (Rum) living in Hatay, Adana and Mersin are technically Christian Arabs, only called Greek due to the namesake of their Church, The Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch. In fact, they speak or spoke Arabic as a mother language, and that is why some managed to avoid the exchange and were able to stay in Anatolia. They do not speak Greek at all, the younger generation speaks Turkish, and some have Turkish names now. Their population is about 4000-5000, and they are faithful to the Patriarchate of Antiochia, although ironically it is now in Damascus. They reside largely in Antakya and/or the Hatay province, but a few are also in Adana province.
The Greek minority continues to encounter problems relating to education and property rights. A 1971 law nationalized religious high schools, and closed the Halki seminary on Istanbul's Heybeli Island which had trained Orthodox clergy since the 19th century. A later outrage was the vandalism of the Greek cemetery on Imbros on October 29, 2010. In this context, problems affecting the Greek minority on the islands of Imbros and Tenedos continue to be reported to the European Commission.
In July 2011, Istanbul's Greek minority newspaper Apoyevmatini declared that it would shut down due to financial difficulties. The four-page Greek-language newspaper faced closure due to financial problems that had been further aggravated by the economic crisis in Greece, when Greek companies stopped publishing advertisements in the newspaper and the offices have already been shut down. This ignited campaign to help the newspaper. Among the supporters were students from Istanbul Bilgi University who subscribed to the newspaper. The campaign saved the paper from bankruptcy for the time being. Because the Greek community is close to extinction, the obituary notices and money from Greek foundations, as well as subscriptions overwhelmingly by Turkish people, are the only sources of income. This income covers only 40 percent of the newspaper expenditures.
That event was followed in September 2011 by a government cash grant of 45,000 Turkish Liras to the newspaper through the Turkish Press Advertisement Agency, as part of a wider support of minority newspapers. The Turkish Press Advertisement Agency also declared intention to publish official government advertisements in minority newspapers including Greek papers Apoyevmatini and IHO.
As of 2007, Turkish authorities have seized a total of 1,000 immovables of 81 Greek organizations as well as individuals of the Greek community. On the other hand, Turkish courts provided legal legitimacy to unlawful practices by approving discriminatory laws and policies that violated fundamental rights they were responsible to protect. As a result, foundations of the Greek communities started to file complaints after 1999 when Turkey's candidacy to the European Union was announced. Since 2007, decisions are being made in these cases; the first ruling was made in a case filed by the Phanar Greek Orthodox College Foundation, and the decision was that Turkey violated Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which secured property rights.
A government decree published on 27 August 2011, paves the way to return assets that once belonged to Greek, Armenian, or Jewish trusts and makes provisions for the government to pay compensation for any confiscated property that has since been sold on, and in a move likely to thwart possible court rulings against the country by the European Court of Human Rights.
Since the vast majority of properties confiscated from Greek trusts (and other minority trusts) have been sold to third parties, which as a result cannot be taken from their current owners and be returned, the Greek trusts will receive compensation from the government instead. Compensation for properties that were purchased or were sold to third parties will be decided on by the Finance Ministry. However, no independent body is involved in deciding on compensation, according to the regulations of the government decree of 27 August 2011. If the compensation were judged fairly and paid in full, the state would have to pay compensation worth many millions of Euros for a large number of properties. Another weakness of the government decree is that the state body with a direct interest in reducing the amount of compensation paid, which is the Finance Ministry, is the only body permitted to decide on the amount of compensation paid. The government decree also states that minority trusts must apply for restitution within 12 months of the publication of the government decree, which was issued on 1 October 2011, leaving less than 11 months for the applications to be prepared and submitted. After this deadline terminates on 27 August 2012, no applications can be submitted, in which the government aims to settle this issue permamenetly on a legally sound basis and prevent future legal difficulties involving the European Court of Human Rights.
The Greek community of Istanbul numbered 67,550 persons in 1955. However, after the Istanbul Pogrom orchestrated by Turkish authorities against the Greek community in that year, their number was dramatically reduced to only 48,000. Today, the Greek community numbers about 2,000 people.
- Orthodox Christianity in Turkey
- Minorities in Turkey
- Treaty of Lausanne
- Population exchange between Greece and Turkey
- Istanbul Pogrom
- Greek Muslims
- Pontic Greeks
- Antiochian Greeks
- Cretan Muslims
- Ecumenical Federation of Constantionopolitans - Report on the Minoirty Rights of the Greek-Orthodox Community of Istanbul September 2008
- "Türkiye'deki Kürtlerin sayısı!" (in Turkish). 6 June 2008. Retrieved 17 August 2010.
- OSCE/ODIHR Human Dimension Implementation Meeting 2014 Rights of Persons Belonging to National Minorities - Warsaw 29 September 2014
- According to the Human Rights Watch the Greek population in Turkey is estimated at 2,500 in 2006. "From "Denying Human Rights and Ethnic Identity" series of Human Rights Watch" Archived 2006-07-07 at the Wayback Machine.
- "The Greek minority of Turkey". HRI.org. Retrieved 22 January 2017.
- "Foreign Ministry: 89,000 minorities live in Turkey". Today's Zaman. 2008-12-15. Archived from the original on 2010-05-01. Retrieved 2008-12-15.
- European Commission for Democracy through Law (2002). The Protection of National Minorities by Their Kin-State. Council of Europe. p. 142. ISBN 978-92-871-5082-0. Retrieved 2 February 2013.
In Turkey the Orthodox minority who remained in Istanbul, Imvros and Tenedos governed by the same provisions of the treaty of Lausanne was gradually shrunk from more than 200,000 in 1930 to less than 3,000 today.
- Kilic, Ecevit (2008-09-07). "Sermaye nasıl el değiştirdi?". Sabah (in Turkish). Retrieved 2008-12-25.
6-7 Eylül olaylarından önce İstanbul'da 135 bin Rum yaşıyordu. Sonrasında bu sayı 70 bine düştü. 1978'e gelindiğinde bu rakam 7 bindi.
- Dawkins, R.M. 1916. Modern Greek in Asia Minor. A study of dialect of Silly, Cappadocia and Pharasa. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. https://archive.org/details/moderngreekinas00hallgoog
- Nicolaos Mavrocordatos, Philotheou Parerga, J. Bouchard, 1989, p. 178: "Γένος μεν ημίν των άγαν Ελλήνων".
- Steven Runciman. The Great Church in Captivity. Cambridge University Press, 1988, page 197.
- Encyclopædia Britannica. "Greek history, The mercantile middle class". 2008 ed.
- Richard Clogg (20 June 2002). A Concise History of Greece. Cambridge University Press. p. 36. ISBN 978-0-521-00479-4. Retrieved 4 March 2013.
- Gelina Harlaftis (1996). A History of Greek-Owned Shipping: The Making of an International Tramp Fleet, 1830 to the Present Day. Routledge Chapman & Hall. p. 50. ISBN 978-0-415-00018-5. Retrieved 31 July 2013.
Constantinople contained the largest urban Greek population in the eastern Mediterranean and was the area's biggest commercial, banking and maritime centre.
- Jones, Adam, Genocide: A Comprehensive Introduction, (Routledge, 2006), 154-155.
- (Kinross 1960, p. 154)
- (Shaw 1977, p. 342)
- Toynbee, p. 270.
- Rummel (Chapter 5)
- Taner Akcam. A Shameful Act. p. 322.
- Toynbee (1922), pp. 312-313.
- Vryonis, Speros (2005). The Mechanism of Catastrophe: The Turkish Pogrom of September 6–7, 1955, and the Destruction of the Greek Community of Istanbul. New York: Greekworks.com. ISBN 0-9747660-3-8.
- Güven, Dilek (2005-09-06). "6–7 Eylül Olayları (1)". Radikal (in Turkish).
- "Turkey 2007 Progress Report, Enlargement Strategy and Main Challenges 2007–2008" (PDF). Commission Stuff Working Document of International Affairs. p. 22
- Hürriyet Daily News. 12 July 2011. "Turkey's sole Greek daily off the hook".
- Dardaki azınlık gazetelerine bayram gecesi yardımı... Sabah, 8 September 2011 
- Minority Newspaper Meets with The Turkish Press Advertising Agency Greek Europe Reporter, 28 July 2011 
- Kurban, Hatem, 2009: p. 48
- Kurban, Hatem, 2009: p. 33
- The Armenian Weekly, 28 August 2011 Turkey Decrees Partial Return of Confiscated Christian, Jewish Property (Update)
- Today's Zaman, 28 August 2011 Gov't gives go ahead for return of seized property to non-Muslim foundations
- Wwrn.org, 6 October 2011 TURKEY: What does Turkey's Restitution Decree mean?
- Karimova Nigar, Deverell Edward. "Minorities in Turkey" (PDF). The Swedish Institute of International Affairs. p. 7
- Gilson, George. "Destroying a minority: Turkey's attack on the Greeks", book review of (Vryonis 2005), Athens News, 24 June 2005.
- Kilic, Ecevit (2008-09-07). "Sermaye nasıl el değiştirdi?". Sabah (in Turkish). Retrieved 2008-12-25.
6-7 Eylül olaylarından önce İstanbul'da 135 bin Rum yaşıyordu. Sonrasında bu sayı 70 bine düştü. 1978'e gelindiğinde bu rakam 7 bindi.
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