Do Greeks living in Turkey form a community?

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Yes, mainly in Istanbul, albeit a small one as compared to Ottoman Days. This is sad and we are perhaps the main cause for this. Based on the fact that all the diverse peoples who made up the population of Istanbul, having lived together for 500 years, would be able to conform to the concept of “one nation, one flag, all citizens are equal Turks”. Wishful thinking, obviously. All the old mutual differences were suddenly brought to the surface when the ”one nation” concept was interpreted as “them and us” by all. Were Turks lilywhite in this misunderstanding ? Hardly. Were our Rums lilywhite ? Hardly.

Today, I believe the population is around the 2,500 mark which is very small indeed compared to my childhood. I grew up in a village on the Bosphorus of about 1300 people, of which roughly 600 were Rum, 200 were Armenian, 100 were Jewish and the rest a mixture of Turks, Albanians, Bulgarians, emigre Russians and so forth. In 1944, in my early teens, my first love was a Rum teen girl called Anula. Nobody saw anything odd in this and frankly, I remember and miss her as if it were yesterday that all of us were swimming off of my boat in the Bosphorus. The sad thing is an old friend who continued to live there died recently and there was not enough Rum people to form a cortege from the church to the grave yard according to Orthodox custom. The old boys telegraph came into play and 3 Rums, one Armenian, and 8 Turks gathered to see Dimitri off with the proper priest, candles, crosses and so forth. I have never felt as sad as I did that day, not even when my parents passed away. I thought our Rum friends should know how I felt and my generation will soon fade and the Z generation will never understand what we had.

Istanbulda bir Rum dugunu 1908
Wedding Ceremony, Istanbul, 1908

Salih Atalay

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