In Istanbul numbers of native Greeks are decreasing while Greek Nationals’ are on a rise. For decades being a Christian minority in Turkey was a “crucifying” experience like living in Greece in 2011. Year after year the Greek population of the city lessened due to discrimination, pogroms, forced immigration. For the first time you may hear increasing number of people speak Greek on the streets.
For those newcomers, Konstantinoupolis, (not Istanbul) is an exotic city full of opportunities and possibilities. Maybe they are grandsons or granddaughters of people who once called this city home, but their perception is totally different from their ancestors. The fiscal crisis expatriated them from Greece and here they find a new environment cut for their needs.
The life for Istanbul’s 1500-strong local Greeks or Romeoi has a totally different angle. Once a prominent part of the society, dwindling numbers of young Greek population in Istanbul is causing more and more schools being closed every year. Youngsters are moving to Greece or other European countries for better education and to have better careers where discrimination is not a matter of daily life. The following list describes the immigration of Greek youth better than any words:
Greek Schools in Istanbul
|Year||# of Schools||# of Students|
Those eight schools that continue education in 2009 had 1080 students in 1973 and 2280 students in 1870. One of the larger Greek high schools in Istanbul, Zografeion’s pupils decreased incredibly after the Turkish invasion of Cyprus:
Zografeion in Numbers
|Year||# of Students|
Current principal of Zografeion graduated in 1978. Only five of his classmates live in Istanbul now.
Last month, a court ruled in favor of a Greek foundation to close another school due to lack of students. Ministry of Foreign Affairs (which deals with minorities in Turkey) making this ruling an example allowed two more schools to be closed. Foundations aim to use these buildings for other public purposes such as cultural centers. Increasingly old Greek population in Turkey needs more gathering places than schools. However tight rules governing everyday life of Christians and their organizations here do not provide them any freedom in their choices even regarding their own affairs contrary to the Lausanne Agreement, the sole provider of minority definition and set of rules in governing them in Turkey.
Three schools have completed their lives and go for an unknown future in this ancient capital of the Roman Empire. Fates of alike specimens were sad in Istanbul neighborhoods. Torn down, hurt, burned, lonely buildings reminisce their golden past. Occupants long gone, memories faded into a glorious yesteryear.
New Greeks of Istanbul watch the passersby albeit a person or a perfected line of an elderly Armenian-built façade in awe ignorant to the joy and pain involved. But then again they have their own share of painful memories. It is our common heritage. As the poet once said;
«ένα χρόνο ζεις ειρήνη και τριάντα στη φωτιά»(1)
(Data courtesy of TimeOut Istanbul)
(1)”You live one year in peace and thirty in hell”
Photos courtesy of Istanbulrumazinligi.com