The Exchange of Populations in Turkish Literature
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First  published in Crossing the Aegean, An Appraisal on the 1923 Compulsory Populations Exchange Between Greece and Turkey, Edit. Renee Hirschon, New York & Oxford, Berghahn Books, 2003.


The Exchange of Populations in Turkish Literature


Hercules Millas


In spite of the reciprocal aspect of the exchange of populations between Greece and Turkey, the event is reflected differently in the literary texts of the two countries. In this analysis, I concentrate on Turkish novels and short stories related to the forced exchange, with only occasional references to Greek literature in order to highlight the differences. Of those differences the most striking is the limited appearance of the event in Turkish literature. I maintain that this is mainly owing to political reasons. In addition, the way the two societies perceive themselves also plays a role. In Turkish literature the predominant sense is that of belonging to a strong and sovereign central state. This contrasts with Greek literature in which the sense of a motherland – closely associated with a family home, personal memories and the ‘space’ of a small local community – is more keenly expressed.


Silence: the exchange in the Turkish novel, 1923–1980


This study is based on 290 randomly selected novels and 60 volumes of short stories of 105 Turkish writers published in the years between 1923 and 1998.[2] The analysis shows that in the years from1923 to 1980, and especially until 1960, the references to the exchange are very few and mostly indirect. The

event was also interpreted in different ways according to the political ideology of the writers.

     The first case in which the departure of the Greeks is encountered is in the novel by Aka Gündüz (1886–1958) The Star of Dikmen (Dikmen Yıldızı) published in 1928. The snobbish young girl Nazlı complains that after the great fire of Izmir in 1922 the city had lost its beauty, implying that she does not approve of the changes that took place after the departure of the Greeks. The heroine Yıldız is furious and she even doubts the ethnic purity of her former friend. Yıldız is happy that the old city has been burned down: ‘Our torndown hearts were built up again together with the flames, as the flames tore down those houses.’ Yıldız would like even the foundations of the walls to be removed in order to save the city from its old, i.e., Greek, appearance (ibid.: 199–201). The message that the reader discerns from this passage, reflecting a nationalistic point of view, is that all sacrifices are worth the effort in order to free the city from its unwelcome enemies.

     In his novel Panorama (1953) Yakup Kadri Karaosmanoğlu (1889–1974), another nationalist writer and one who in general portrays Greeks as negative characters,[3] even portrays a Muslim immigrant, Fazlı Bey, negatively because he resembles the Greeks.[4] Fazlı Bey, one of the exchanged from Ioannina/ Yanya, seizes the property of poor peasants and then exploits them with exorbitant usury. He is not liked by the villagers. The members of his family still speak Greek amongst themselves, which reminds the locals of the Greek invasion of 1919. Fazlı Bey is a clever and shrewd businessman, ‘like all the immigrants from Rumeli’ (ibid.: 66–76).

     However, these writers represent only one particular ideological approach in Turkish literature. A second approach is seen in Ates¸ Gecesi (The Night of Fire), a novel by Reşat Nuri Güntekin (1889–1956) published in 1942. Güntekin is the forerunner of a humanist approach. In The Night of Fire, Greek-speaking Muslim immigrants who came to Turkey from Crete before 1923 are portrayed living in a predominantly Rum environment in Milas, a town on the Aegean coast. These grecophone Christians (the Rums) are full of life; they are honest, pleasant, generous, industrious and so on. The Turkish hero Kemal meets a Muslim family who had immigrated from Crete. They carry a Greek family name: Sklavaki. The main theme is Kemal’s love affair with their daughter, Afife. All the members of the family speak Greek amongst themselves – their Turkish is very poor – but it is their language and accent that Kemal likes most. Afife prefers to use the Greek name Fofo for herself. She likes to spend her time with the Greek girls of the town and she even enjoys going to the church with them. This Muslim family is exalted as honest, patriotic and considerate. One can even think that it is the ‘Greek’ part of them that makes them so charming. At the end of the novel, Kemal remembers with great nostalgia these Greeks whom he had loved so much (ibid.: 248).

     Some Marxist writers pursue a slightly different approach, concentrating less on the ‘ethnic’ aspect of the exchange, and more on class-oriented criticism against the state. For example, in Çirkince probably the first short story concerned with the exchange published in 1947 in a book of short stories entitled Sırça Kösk, Sabahattin Ali (1907–1948) emphasises the exchange’s economic consequences. The Turkish hero twice visits a small town near Izmir called Çirkince, with an interval of several years. On the first visit, the town is inhabited by Rums and on the second by Muslim immigrants who came as part of the exchange. The difference is striking. When the Rums lived there the town was almost a paradise. The Rums were competent and lovely people, and the town used to be alive and neat, and had clean streets and many beautiful fountains. The people were healthy, cultivating their figs and olives by day and in the evenings playing the mandolin and enjoying themselves, men and women all together, nicely dressed. The town had four primary schools and two high schools. However, the town undergoes a transformation – for the worse – after the arrival of the Muslim immigrants from Xanthi/Iskeçe. On the second visit, naked and dirty children play in muddy streets. Weeds have spread everywhere, and the houses have collapsed. In them men and animals live together. Manure and garbage are all around.

The hero asks an old man, a local, whom he knows from his previous visit, ‘Is this what will happen to every piece of land that we get hold of?’ As the hero talks to the old man, the reason for this change comes to light: economic factors and the mistakes of the dignitaries[5] have caused the decline. The peasants of Xanthi (in Greece), who used to cultivate tobacco, are not accustomed to figs and olives. Worst of all, two local feudal chieftains (derebeyis) have seized the land of the newcomers. ‘The state too is controlled by these feudal chieftains.’ The profits are not reinvested but are spent on consumption goods elsewhere. ‘This is the reason for the decay. Do not think that the infidel is divinely inspired and the Muslims are guilty!’

     After 1960 a few more passages appear in the literary texts of some leftist-Marxist writers. In his memoirs, Efkâr Tepesi (The Hill of Worries) and in the chapter entitled Cevizlideki Kilise (The Church in Cevizli), Fakir Baykurt (1929–1999) narrates how the gendarmes pull down an imposing church left

by the Rums in order to use the stone for new army quarters. The writer praises the old times when the area was rich, whereas now ‘one cannot help making comparisons’.

      Zaven Biberyan (1921–1985), an Armenian activist in the Turkish socialist movement, also refers to the emigration of Christians in his novel Yalnızlar (The Lonely Ones), published in 1965. The author presents an illiterate nationalist who hates the Christian minorities of Istanbul and who asks with surprise how it is that these minorities are still to be found in Turkey since, as he has heard, all ‘infidels’, such as Greeks (Yunanlı) and Russians, were expelled (ibid.: 75). In his novel Ateş Yılları (Years of Fire) (1968), Hassan İzzettin Dinamo (1909–1989) presents the Turkish-speaking Orthodox Christians as ‘Turks’, implying that it was a mistake that they were exchanged (ibid.: 228). In Savaş ve Açlar (War and the Starving) (1968) he presents a classbased explanation for the war: the forced migration of the Armenians and Greeks (Rums) in 1915 was a means used by certain members of the Committee for Union and Progress (CUP) to dispossess these people and seize their land (p. 134). In Kurt Kanunu (The Law of the Wolf) (1969) another leftist writer, Kemal Tahir (1910–1973), describes how the land and houses left behind by the Rums have been unevenly and unjustly distributed among the Turks (ibid.: 115). In his novel Homeland Hotel (Anayurt Oteli) (1973) Yusuf Atılgan (1921–1989) presents the hotel as a luxurious former Rum house. In this novel the Rums are mentioned briefly as ‘fugitives’ or ‘killed people’, in whose houses others were now lodged (ibid.: 122).

     Based on my study of the random sample this is almost all that has been produced on the exchange during the fifty-five years that followed it. In essence, mention of the event is taboo.[6] During the same period in Greece, however, many novels and short stories were written about the experience of

the Christians who were part of the exchange. The common themes usually involved the motherland left behind or the new life in Greece.[7] Apart from a tendency to be silent on the exchange, two additional traits appear in Turkish literature (discussed below). Firstly, the life of the immigrants does not form a narrative in its own right but is used rather as a means to develop political arguments. Probably the only exception is R.N. Güntekin, whose humanistic approach is not part of a nationalist or socialist political discourse. Secondly, there is an almost complete absence of descriptions of the life of the immigrants in their former homeland, i.e., in Greece.



The ‘discovery’ of the exchange after 1980


Since 1980 growing Turkish interest in the exchange has become evident. A number of publications on the exchange have started to attract the public’s attention. For example, several articles have appeared in the history journal Tarih ve Toplum, and in 1997 an exhibition on migration in Turkey was organized by the Foundation for Economic and Social History in Istanbul.[8] In addition, lines of communication have opened between Turks and Greeks: immigrants have begun to visit their former homes, with visits often being reciprocated, conferences have been organised where the ‘two parties’ discussed both the period of coexistence before the exchange and the exchange itself,[9] surveys in the form of oral history have appeared, and for the first time articles and memoirs have been translated and appeared in both Greece and Turkey.[10] During this period, the exchange started to appear more frequently in Turkish literature, and after 1992 there are even some novels dedicated solely to the topic. First, I will outline these texts, especially the three novels on the exchange itself (which are all products of leftist writers) and then I shall discuss the understanding of ‘motherland’, ‘state’ and ‘citizenship’ found in them.

     In 1985, F. Otyam (1926–) published Pavli Kardeş (Brother Pavli), half memoir half novel, based on the friendly relationship of the author with a Rum, Pavli, who in the story has recently left Istanbul for Greece. Pavli, the hero, insists that he is a Turk and that he hates the Greeks. The exchanged Rums are portrayed as traitors in that they did not love their motherland, Turkey (p. 154), and so it follows that it was a good thing that they were expelled from ‘our’ country. According to the author, Pavli is a ‘positive’ Rum, apparently  because he is a Turk and not a Greek (Yunanlı). The principle of loyalty to the Turkish state seems very important in determining this Rum’s identity.[11]

      In the short story ‘Karagedikin Es Be Süleyman, Es (Blow Suleyman, Blow) published for the first time in 1980 and published again in Savrulup Gidenler (Gone with the Wind) in 1987, Salim Şengil (1913–) presents the departure of the Greeks as a sad incident and only briefly touches upon it. Mario Levi (1955–), a writer of Jewish origin, also presents the exchange as an unfortunate event. In his book En Güzel Aşk Hikâyemiz (Our Most Beautiful Love Story) (1992) he calls the migration of the Istanbul Greeks, who are portrayed melancholically, a ‘forced’ one. The theme of people expelled ‘from the land of their birth’ is also encountered in his Madam Floridis Dönmeyebilir (Madame Floridis May Not Return) (1990). Mehmet Eroğlu (1948–), in his novel Yürek Sürgünü (The Exile of the Heart), published in 1994, gives the theme of migration and exile a new dimension: ethnic Turks leave Turkey due to their conflict with the state authorities and seek political asylum in Greece (ibid.: 170). He also tells of the elderly Turks who break the law by going to the island of Chios/Sakız to see their old friends, the Greeks (Rums) who had left their villages forty-two years ago. In a short but very nostalgic paragraph, some try to find their old lovers (ibid.: 319).

     The novel Suyun Öte Yanı (The Other Side of the Water) by F.Çiçekoğlu (1951–) published in 1992, marks a new beginning in Turkish literature. It is the first book which has as its main theme the migration and exile of Greeks and Turks. The author presents a Greek who had moved of his own volition to the island of Cunda/Moschonisi to escape the Greek military regime of 1967–74. Cunda is now inhabited by Greek-speaking Muslim immigrants who had come from Crete in 1923. There is also a Turk who faces a similar dilemma when he runs into trouble with the military forces of Turkey, which, like those of Greece, have intervened in politics to take control of the country. The Cretan Turks speak Turkish with a Greek accent and sing Greek songs. However, state officials prohibit the ‘foreign’ language and the singing in Greek. Notably, this is the only mention of the prohibitive attitude of the state towards the Muslim immigrants in any Turkish literary text from my sample. However, the violence that both ethnic groups were subjected to is described, including bloody incidents and torture. The walls of the houses abandoned by the Greeks are covered in blood. The reader is led to feel pity for the people who had to leave their home country.

     As if this novel opened the way, two further novels appeared in 1997 and 1998, the main theme of which is again the exchange of populations. In his novel Savaşın Çocukları (The Children of War) (1997) Ahmet Yorulmaz (1932–), a second-generation immigrant from Crete, narrates the lives of the Muslim Cretans in the years before the exchange, and the events that led up to it. He also relates some instances of the immigrants’ life in their new country. The Muslim Cretans suffer a great deal since the Greeks use violent means to annex the island. Still, there were times when relations between the two communities were good. In this respect, Vladimiros and his wife, an old Christian couple, are especially noteworthy for they looked after Aynakis Hasan, the hero, as if he were their own son.

     The sovereignty discourse is deeply embedded in the novel. To whom do these places belong? According to a wise Greek character, it is only the ancient Greeks who were real expansionists and invaders. It was they who captured Anatolia, reaching as far as Afghanistan. Only the arrival of the Turks from Asia drove the Greeks back from these lands (ibid.: 78). The Turks captured Crete from the Venetians: the Greeks came later (ibid.: 30). While the Venetians may have a right to claim these lands, it is a ‘great injustice’ that they are controlled by the Greeks (ibid.: 32). He gives reasons to prove that the Muslim Cretans are really Turks: they resisted all the efforts that ‘others’ exerted in order to convert them to Christianity (ibid.:12), and they refused to fight against the Ottoman Empire during the First World War when they served in the Greek army, even though they faced the death penalty for not doing so ibid.: 13). However, most important of all, the hero (the author) explains that Anatolia is the motherland of his ancestors. He therefore thinks it strange to feel nostalgic towards Crete in his own home country (ibid.: 19). For him, then, the criterion for being a Turk is Anatolian origin, an argument that necessarily makes the Muslims in Crete outsiders. The author goes on to develop two terms in order to explain the dilemma regarding ‘his land’: Crete is his ‘land’, his ‘country’ (yurt) and Turkey is the ‘motherland’ or ‘home country’ (anayurt). Thus he writes, ‘I set out for my home country leaving my land for good’ (ibid.: 133) and again, ‘I lose my land and I go to my home country’ (ibid.: 134, the last page).[12] The term anayurt is frequently encountered (ibid.: 104, 120, 121) and will be discussed below. However, it is of interest at this point to note that the boundaries of the home country are not defined: its reference is simply Anatolia. The question is why should Anatolia be more a home

country than Crete? Historically both have been captured by force and, moreover, the hero was born and brought up in Crete. Is Anatolia a motherland because the Turks are in a majority or is it because the Turkish state’s sovereignty is assured there?

     The second novel to raise similar questions, published in 1998, was written by the internationally acclaimed author Yaşar Kemal (1922–). Its subject is the exodus of the Greeks. Fırat Suyu Kan Akıyor Baksana (Look, the River Fırat is Flowing in Blood) is the first of a trilogy that is yet to be completed. The story develops as the Rums of an imaginary island leave for Greece following the exchange, and as Poyraz Musa, a Muslim, comes to settle there in their place. Vasili, a Rum, stays behind and intends to kill the first Turk who sets foot on the island. Eventually, though, he treats Poyraz well. The past is explored as the two men recall various incidents.

     There is a distinction in the book between Greeks and Rums. The Rums are  resented as a population that lived in ‘these lands’ for three thousand years (ibid.: 50, 59, 73, 222, etc.). It is the Greeks (Yunanlıs) who burned down Muslim villages and raped and killed Muslims during the war years between 1919 and 1923 (ibid.: 59).  The relations between Rums and Turks are idyllic on the island – it is as if nationalism had never existed in Anatolia. The Rums with whom the reader becomes acquainted have a very strong attachment to the Ottoman state. They do not want to migrate to Greece, not only because they are attached to the island but also because they do not feel Greek. As one Rum explains, they are treated very badly in Greece because they are considered to be Turks (ibid.: 222). Most of these Rums speak perfect Turkish. An interesting aspect of this attachment to the Ottoman/Turkish state is the military one. Repeatedly the Rums are shown to have taken part in the wars that the Ottomans fought (ibid.: 51, 54, 57, 293). The Rums take pride in these sacrifices. Lena, for example, explains how her sons fought together with Mustafa Kemal against the Greeks (ibid.: 222).

     In the novel, everybody – the Rums themselves, the Turks in the area, the civil servants and the military dignitaries – would prefer the Rums to stay (ibid.: 74). This becomes clear in a scene in which a Turkish officer comes to announce the people’s fate under the exchange and does everything possible to delay their deportation. Milto, a civilian, but one who has apparently served in the Turkish army, faces the officer as a soldier at attention. Milto answers like a dedicated soldier, ‘Yes, sir!’ (Evet komutanım!) and both the officer and Milto decide that the Rum is a born soldier and should face the situation bravely.[13] Throughout the book, however, there is no mention of the ‘other side’, the Muslims that come to Turkey.



Forced migration and contrasting concepts of the ‘home country’


There are two clear differences in the way the exchange of populations is presented in Turkish and in Greek literature, which in turn are indicative of certain conditions found in the two countries and their ethnic communities. The first difference is the relative lack of interest that the Turkish side shows in the exchange, almost entirely ignoring its occurrence until very recent years; the second is the special understanding of ‘home country’ encountered in certain novels.

     The Turks were not as keen as the Greeks to record and preserve the memory of the lands left behind. In Greece, one finds many societies, foundations, etc., with the express aim of keeping the memory of the ‘exodus’ alive and of recording the memories of a ‘home’ or of a town that has been left behind or ‘lost’. The term ‘lost homelands’ (chamenes patrides) is well known in Greece, and there are hundreds of villages and suburbs that carry the names of these former homelands, mostly with the prefix ‘New’.  In Turkey this is not the case, and the relatively limited interest in the exchange is reflected in the country’s literature.

     There are certain historical, demographic, economic, and political factors that help to explain the Turks’ limited interest in the exchange. Firstly, while the Greeks would be justified in perceiving the event as the result of a military defeat and hence as a blow to their pride, the Turks see the exchange as the outcome of a military victory: for them it is less traumatic. Secondly, a much greater number of immigrants moved to Greece than to Turkey: approximately 1.2–1.5 million Christians compared with some 450,000 Muslims.[14] In relative numbers the difference is even greater: the immigrants who settled in Greece comprised approximately 20 percent of the population whereas in Turkey the corresponding figure was only 3.8 percent.[15]

     Moreover, 90 percent of the Muslim immigrants moved to Turkey under controlled conditions after the Lausanne Convention had been signed, whereas only 8 percent of the Christians had this opportunity, the great majority fleeing from Turkey without protection or supervision (Arı 1995: 8, 88, 92). For most Christians the experience of the exchange was one of chaotic flight from Anatolia in the wake of the Greek army’s defeat there. This caused a greater impact on the Christians than the more controlled conditions did on the Muslims. In addition, the Turks might well have been more accustomed to the phenomenon of immigration, for the Ottoman Empire received more than 400,000 refugees from the Balkans alone in the years between 1912 and 1920 (Behar 1996: 62)

     The socio-economic make-up of the refugees is also important. Compared with the exchanged Muslims, a greater proportion of the exchanged Christians were from towns, which would suggest higher rates of literacy and a stronger likelihood of able writers emerging from their number. Also, any talented Turkish writers that did emerge would have felt the pressure of one of the paramount ideological aims of modern Turkey, namely, to create a national identity based on the ‘Turkishness’ of Anatolia. In this environment, all irredentist rhetoric and hence references to ‘lost motherlands’ was prohibited, or at least discouraged. However, with the issue being politicised ab initio, it was very difficult for writers to make literary references to the exchange without connecting it to some kind of political criticism, directed either at the idea of forced exchange itself or at the practical consequences of its  implementation.[16] Almost all the authors who wrote about this issue were left-wing intellectuals who were to varying degrees in opposition to the state. However, from 1925 until the 1950s there was strict censorship in the Turkish media. With restrictions on producing texts that alluded to settlement problems or the shortcomings of the government, this period was not a favourable one for writers.[17]

     Further to these observations, textual analysis of the exchange as it appears in Turkish literature enables one to reach some conclusions concerning the understanding of national identity, citizenship, motherland, the state and also of the exchange itself in Turkish society. One point of view that often emerges is that the exchange was beneficial for the Turks since it enabled the state to attain national homogeneity. A contrasting understanding is that the Rums were faithful Turkish subjects who actually belonged to the country. Underlying these opposing views are two different understandings of nation and citizenship: the ethnic and the civil approach. According to the ethnic approach ‘Turks’ are only those that are ethnically so. In the civil approach, however, it is argued that Anatolia is the locality of the ‘country’, and all its inhabitants are Turks.[18] The latter constitutes a major difference with respect to Greek literature in which Turks and those Muslims that took part in the exchange are seen definitely and without doubt as members of a distinct nation.

     This difference regarding the definition of ‘our nation’ is a major one and reflects the degree of ethnogenesis (nation building) attained in the two countries. In Greece there is a higher degree of consensus regarding national identity; it has, after all, been an independent nation-state since 1830. In Turkey, the ‘identity issue’, as it is called, still gives rise to heated debates. This issue is the subject of extensive discussion, particularly by Turkish intellectuals, but also by Islamists, Kurds, nationalists, Kemalists, and others. In Turkish literary texts, the Greeks, sometimes as the negative ‘other’ and sometimes as ‘an Anatolian and one of us’, are used by writers of various ideologies to define their version of the ‘nation’.[19]

     As was seen both in A. Yorulmaz’s and Yaşar Kemal’s novels, the ethnicity and citizenship of the individuals are closely associated with their loyalty to the state.[20] Loyalty and ‘Turkishness’ are often expressed in terms of actual participation in the military operations of the state, or as a willingness to do so. At first glance this understanding seems to correspond to the modern French definition of citizenship. On closer examination, however, it is seen that this loyalty is not evaluated on an individual basis but on a communal (millet) basis, as it was in the Ottoman period. In these texts the Rums are either loyal or disloyal to the state in their totality, as a group. The behavior of the individuals determines an evaluation of all the members of the millet.

     More important than citizenship, however, is the definition of country and motherland. A. Yorulmaz seems to perceive the motherland or the home country as the place where there is Turkish sovereignty, where the Ottoman or the Turkish state dominates. When this state does not control the lands then only a ‘country’ is perceived. This is probably another main difference between the Greek and the Turkish communities. For the Greeks, the land in which one is born and brought up and in which one lives is his or her home country, irrespective of the ‘state’.[21]

     The Greeks and Turks have probably adopted these different understandings of motherland owing to centuries of divergent historical experience. For the subjugated Christians in the Ottoman Empire, sovereignty was inconceivable, in the same way that absence of sovereignty was for the Muslims who were their overlords.[22] In addition, it should be noted that the traditional Islamic view perceives two distinct worlds: on the one hand the areas controlled by Muslim forces where Islam is dominant, and on the other hand, the rest of the world, where Islam is not dominant. The first is called the ‘the lands of Islam’ (dar al-Islam) and the second ‘the lands of war’ (dar al-harb). The first is perceived as the place where the Muslims live in peace and harmony whereas in the second the inhabitants are called harbi, i.e., people of war. The Islamic forces are supposed to be in a state of strife with this outer world.

     Common to many Turkish texts is the importance and the centrality of the state. Indeed, the ethnic character of the state determines the ethnicity of the people, not the reverse. Thus, the Greeks and Rums of Anatolia were part of Turkey not because they were born there and lived there, but rather, as one is constantly reminded, because they were serving the state. Loyalty to the state is to be valued even if the state is misguided.[23] This understanding is clearly seen in Fırat Suyu Kan Akıyor Baksana (Look, the River Fırat is Flowing in Blood) by Yaşar Kemal, a leftist writer critical of the practices of the state (see above). Actually, almost all leftist writers have chosen to direct their criticism against the state – in that respect too the state is central. It is not

individuals who are accused of wrongdoings but the state; the state acts, and the people suffer or prosper as a result. The concept of a civil society does not come through in these texts.

     This lack of the concept of civil society may constitute an additional reason why the exchange of populations was not treated as an important event in Turkish literature: within the Muslim communities the sense of a land or of a ‘space’ to which one belongs was associated with a Muslim state and Muslim sovereignty. Historically, settlements were planned by the Ottoman state. The Muslims moved to newly captured lands and, following state directions, moved away again when these lands were lost as a result of a military defeat. However, the motherland was always present: it was the Muslim central state that was there all through the centuries. If this is so, then the loss of ‘country’ was not as real a disaster for the Muslims as long as ‘their state’ was victorious in this last war against the Greeks.[24]




Bibliography of literary works


Aladağ , E. (1987). Sekene, Türkleşmiş Rumlar / Dönmeler (Istanbul: Belge and Marenostrum).

Ali, S. (1975) [1947]. ‘Çirkince’ in Sırça Köşk (Istanbul: Bilgi).

Atılgan, Y. (1974) [1973]. Anayurt Oteli (Ankara: Bilgi).

Baykurt, F. (1960). ‘Cevizlideki Kilise’, in Efkâr Tepesi (Istanbul: Remzi).

Baysal, F. (1972) (1944). Sarduvan (Istanbul: Tel).

Biberyan, Z. (1966). Yalnızlar (Istanbul: Öncü).

Cumalı, N. (1986) (1976). Makedonya 1900 (Istanbul: Makedonya).

——— (1998) (1995). Viran Dağlar (Istanbul: Cumhuriyet Kitap Kulübü).

Çiçekoğlu, F. (1992). Suyun Öteki Yanı (Istanbul: Can).

Dinamo, H.I (1968). Ateş Yılları (Istanbul: Yalçın).

——— (1969). Savaş ve Açlar (Istanbul: May).

Eroğlu, M. (1994). Yürek Sürgünü (Istanbul: Can).

Gündüz, A. (1928). Dikmen Yıldızı (Istanbul: Semih Lütfi).

Güntekin, R.N. (1970) (1942). Ateş Gecesi (Istanbul: Inkilâp & Aka).

Karaosmanoğ lu, Y.K. (1987) [1953–1954]. Panorama (Istanbul: Iletişim).

Kemal, Y. (1998). Fırat Suyu Kan Akıyor Baksana (Istanbul: Adam).

Levi, M. (1990). Madam Floridis Dönmeyebilir (Istanbul: Afa).

——— (1992). En Güzel Aşk Hikayemiz (Istanbul: Afa).

Otyam, F. (1985). Pavli Kardeş (Istanbul: Kaynak).

Şengil, S. (1987). Karagedik, in Savrulup Gidenler, (Istanbul: Can). (First publication in1980 in the collection of stories titled Es Be Suleyman, Es)

Tahir, K. (1969) Kurt Kanunu (Istanbul: Bilgi).

Yorulmaz, A. (1998) [1997]. Savaşın Çocukları (Istanbul: Belge).




[1] This chapter is based on the findings of my Ph.D. thesis. See Millas 2000, 2001.

[2] A list of all literary texts referred to in this paper appears at the end of this chapter.

[3]  For Karaosmanoğ lu and his image of Greeks, see Millas 1991 and 1996.

[4] In present-day Turkish two terms are used for the grecophone Christians: Yunanlı and Rum. Yunanlı refers to those with Greek nationality, while Rum is used for those of Turkish or other nationalities. The Turkish-speaking Orthodox Christians, better known as Karamanlis, are also Rums. In Turkish literature, especially after 1912, Yunanlıs and Rums are mostly presented as belonging to the same ethnic group and are portrayed with similar (negative or positive) characteristics (Millas 2000).


[5] I use ‘dignitaries’ as a catch-all word for those people in the novel who are variously described in the Turkish as a vague and menacing ‘they’, or as ‘bey’ or ‘ağa’. No doubt the author had in mind the ‘bourgeoisie’ and those who controlled the state and directed the exchange.

[6]  It is of interest that Faik Baysal (1919–) begins his novel Sarduvan (1944) by saying that the village he is going to write about was once inhabited by Rums – who have by this point left – but that in any case he intends to write about other things.

[7] See, for example, I. Venezis, To Noumero 31328, Galini, Lios, O Apogonos tou Eksomoti, Akif, and Oros ton Elaion; S. Doukas, Istoria Enos Aichmalotou; S. Myrivilis, To Prasino Vivlio; K. Politis, Stou Hatzifrangou; F. Kontoglou, To Aivali, i Patrida mou; D. Sotiriou, I Nekroi Perimenoun, Matomena Chomata; L. Nakou, I Kyria Doremi, i Istoria tis Parthenias tis Despoinas tade; P. Prevelakis, To Chroniko Mias Politeias; Y. Theotokas, To Chroniko tou 1922, O Leonis; N. Kazantzakis, I Adelphophades; M. Loudemis, Synephiazei. Recently, other writers have produced such novels e.g., Ch. Samouilidis, I Karamanites; A. Nenedakis, I Voukephaloi; Y. Andreadis, Tamama; M. Veinoglou, To Megalo Ploio. The term ‘lost homelands’ (chamenes patrides) is well known in Greece, and is used to denote the lands the expelled population left in order to migrate to Greece.

[8] For a list of publications and academic studies on this subject by Arı, Arıkan, Berber, Çapa, Tekeli and Yerasimos, see bibliography in Arı, 1995.

[9] See for example, the International Symposium of Foça, August 1996, in Foça, Turkey, and the meeting ‘Exploration of a Cultural Heritage: Turkish and Greek Communities in the Ottoman World’, April 1997, at Boğ aziçi University, Istanbul (see Preface).

[10] See for example the memoirs of T. İzbek (1997: 68–77) a third-generation immigrant from Crete living in Cunda/Moschonisi, whose moving account of the exchange appeared in Greek in Crete. See also Balta and Millas (1996) and Millas 1998, a study on Venezis and his image of Turks. At present there are plans in one Turkish publishing house to publish books written by members of the Centre for Asia Minor Studies, Athens.

[11] Other authors who wrote novels in this spirit include Cevat Ş akir, better known as Halikarnas Balıkçısı (1886–1973), Kemal Tahir (1910–1973), Hasan İzzettin Dinamo (1909–1989), and Yılmaz Karakoyunlu (1935–). According to these writers, a Rum is ‘positive’ to the extent that he is distanced from the ethnic, cultural, and ideological characteristics of the Greeks, and to the extent that he is politically loyal to, and performs military service for, the Turkish state (see Millas 2000).


[12] The term ‘motherland’ (anayurt or anavatan) is used in Turkish instead of fatherland. There are also other words in use, e.g., memleket (close to ‘country’) and vatan (like the French patrie).

[13] The wording, which is repeated three times, is actually asker doğmuş bir toprağın çocuğu which conveys the idea of ‘child of a soldier land’. This phrase is redolent of the popular Turkish saying Türk asker doğmuş (‘Turks are born soldiers’) meaning that the Turks have an innate capacity for successfully serving the state in the army. The overall effect is one of likening this Rum to a Turk.

[14] The generally accepted figure for the number of Muslims exchanged is 350,000, but according to other official sources the number that came to Turkey is 456,720, some 50,000 of whom came of their own initiative (Arı 1995: 92).

[15] In 1923 the population of Greece was about five million and of Turkey about thirteen million. Alternatively, the impact of the Exchange can be viewed in terms of population ‘loss’. In such terms both countries lost approximately 10 percent of their original inhabitants.


[16] Ottoman/Muslim writers who were born and/or lived in various ‘lost’ Ottoman lands, such as Ş emşettin Sami (1850–1904) and Ahmet Mithat (1844–1912) did not write about their ‘homelands’. However, Ömer Seyfettin (1884–1920) did write some short stories about the Balkan town where he lived. N. Cumalı (1921–) seems one of the exceptions in that he wrote a novel in 1995 about the life of Turks in Macedonia, Viran Dağlar (Deserted Mountains). He has also had published (in 1976) short stories about the lands where his parents had lived, Makedonya 1900.

[17] A law known as the ‘regulation of silence’ (takrir-i sükûn) was passed in 1925 after the Kurdish revolt of the same year, enforcing censorship on news related to this uprising. However, the law was used to suppress almost all political opposition. An additional development that discouraged reference to the arrival of ‘outsiders’ was the effort within Turkey in the 1920s and 1930s to develop a theory presenting the Turks as composed of a pure race (Keyder, Aktar this volume. See also Oran 1998: 158).

[18] An extreme case of identifying Turkish identity with Anatolia is encountered in E. Aladağ ’s book Sekene (The Inhabitants) (1997). It is not included in this study since it is less a literary work than a narration of imaginary events accompanied with analysis and interpretations.  A Turk talks to a young Greek woman who is from a family that migrated from Anatolia and who visits Turkey. He calls her more Turk than himself ‘since she is an Anatolian’ (ibid.: 104). The woman also calls herself a Turk since, she says, her ancestors were ‘from these lands’ (ibid.: 100).


[19] The ‘other’ in Greek and Turkish literature and its role in expressing national identity is a complex issue and will not be discussed here. For more details see Millas 2000, 2001.

[20] The same understanding is also encountered in F. Otyam’s memoir-cum-novel mentioned above. The equating of loyalty to the state and hence ‘Turkishness’ with participation in military operations is encountered in other Turkish writers and also in texts that are not directly related to the exchange. Tarık Buğ ra and Kemal Tahir are two well-known authors who share this approach.

[21] This view seems to be confirmed in other chapters in this volume. Stelaku explains, referring also to Hirschon’s work, that the Greek refugees acquired a sense of belonging in their new homelands based on familiar symbols which were ‘carried’ with them. Koufopoulou stated that the Cretan refugees in Cunda (Turkey) never expressed any desire to return to Crete, in contrast to the Greek refugees who openly advocate this preference. Köker’s chapter notes (a) that some immigrant Turks refuse to talk to those Turks who did not fight in the army (‘you did not die for the vatan’), and (b) that some Turkish immigrants made it clear why they did not want to go back to their homes: ‘We are [now] on Turkish lands, on Muslim lands. Who wants to live in the lands of the infidels?’

[22] For a contemporary parallel in Cyprus, see note 24.


[23] The central role of the state in Turkish society can be seen indirectly in various fields of public life. Professor Hikmet Ş imşek, speaking on Turkish state television, for example, said that the Turks survived throughout history because they feared two things, God and the state, and that ‘this respect towards the state should not end’ (TRT 1, 10:00, 15 November 1998). An unusual and quite vague pronouncement on the Turkish understanding of homeland is found in Volkan and Itzikowitz 1994: 192: ‘In the Ottoman Empire, the concept of the state was so overwhelming that the concept of homeland appeared only in the late nineteenth century with the advent of the Young Ottomans…’ Late appearance of the concept of homeland was followed by its late consolidatio

[24] A practical consequence of a more recent conflict in Cyprus is the ongoing discussion about the meaning of ‘motherland’ among Turkish Cypriots. The terms used are vatan (home country/patrie/motherland) and yavru vatan (‘baby’ home country/patrie/motherland). Some 232 Turkish Cypriots see Turkey as the motherland and Cyprus only as its ‘baby’; others perceive Cyprus as their motherland. Notably, the first group usually argues that it is almost impossible for the Turkish Cypriots to live together with the Greek Cypriots due to the ‘circumstances’, whereas the second group, those who identify more with ‘space’, i.e., Cyprus instead of Turkey or Anatolia, seem more attached to their physical homeland than to the entity that is the sovereign state, and are more inclined to try to coexist. Thus the political problem seems to involve a facet of identity and a perception of the territory to which one belongs.



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