News / Europe

Istanbul Exhibition Examines Greek-Turkey Relationship

Dorian Jones

The mass, forced population exchange between Turkey and Greece nearly 100 years ago is being examined in a groundbreaking exhibition in Istanbul. The exhibition is seen as an important step in the growing rapprochement between the two countries that remained foes for much of the past century.

An exhibition at Istanbul's Bilgi University documents the forced population exchange between Greece and Turkey in 1923. The mutually agreed upon exchange followed the defeat of a Greek invasion of Turkey.

Despite involving millions of people, the event remained largely a taboo subject for Turks throughout the past century, according to Ayhan Aktar one of the exhibition organizers.

"The exchange of 1.2 million Anatolian Greeks with 400,000 [Greek] Muslims, and it is only mentioned in the modern history books, one of two paragraphs that is all," said Aktar. "The founders of the republic did many things and did not want to have a discussion about it. But you can stop discussion for a few decades, but it comes out. And the exhibition is related to this trend."

Through audio and video testimonies and archive film footage the exhibition, called "Twice a Stranger," explains the repercussions of the forced migration and other similar exchanges throughout the 20th Century.

Exhibition video director Andreas Apostolidis says interviews of 105 migrants indicate most share a common experience of alienation. He says that common experience can help bring Turks and Greeks closer.

"Even the second generation or the third generation, families transferred from one country to another still exist as a problem," said Apostolidis. "Especially a lot of people second generation trying to find the roots of their family and the roots of their family is in the opposite country. Many people in Greece and many people in Turkey they consider as their home, their homeland, not where they live today, but the country [where their] families lived 60 years or 100 years before."

Turkish and Greek relations through the 20th Century were tense, almost spilling into war on several occasions, the last time in 1996 over ownership of an uninhabited islet. But the 21st Century has been characterized by rapprochement.  

Greek exhibition worker Leonidas Liamabeys welcomes the fact Turks are becoming aware of a shared tragic past.

"It is something that everyone knows about, it is something that is taught in schools," Liamabeys. "People know about it, it is no means forgotten. It is very exciting it is happening in Istanbul, [the exhibition is] also going to Cyprus and it is also going to Athens. I do not think we can move forward by forgetting the past. It has to be something you move through, think about, and actually work with. It is not something to completely erase."

Speaking to Turkish visitors at the exhibition there is a thirst for learning about their lost past.

"Very touching, heart breaking," said a visitor. "I mean we lost a big part of our culture, I was born here in Istanbul and I always lived in a district where the Greeks, Armenians, Jews used to live together. The young generation had already left, it was only the old ones who resisted to remain here. And now they have all gone, and the culture they were representing has also gone."

Maria from Athens is one of a small, but growing number of Greeks who have recently come to Istanbul to work. She welcomes the exhibition, but is not surprised by it.

"Not anymore, I would of been very surprised a few years ago. Nowadays we have seen Turkey is in [the forefront] of these kind of things," said Maria. "And it honestly accepts these kind of attempts, and I find it very nice actually that it [the exhibition] starts from here and it is going to continue to Greece and Cyprus as well."

While the exhibition documents the cultures and traditions lost to both countries from the evacuations, there are signs of change in Istanbul.  

A short walk from the exhibition some of the remaining local ethnic Greeks, along with other Turks and Greeks now working in Istanbul, revived the carnival celebrating the start of the Christian Lenten season by staging parades Sunday and Monday. A century ago tens of thousands would have attended the carnival, but observers say less than a decade ago such a celebration in Turkey would have been unimaginable.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs