Destroying a minority: Turkey’s September 6-7, 1955 pogrom against the Greeks of Istanbul

By George Gilson

The Turkish pogrom against the Greeks of Istanbul which began on 6 September is one of the darkest pages in recent Turkish history and one of the deepest wounds in the collective memory of the Greek nation.

As in the case of the Armenian Genocide, the Turkish state in the ensuing decades never acknowledged the pogrom against the Greek minority. It denied it.

That was until 2005, when the late, great Byzantinist Speros Vryonis, on the 50th anniversary of the pogrom published his monumental work The Mechanism of Catastrophe: The Turkish Pogrom of September 6-7, 1955, and the Destruction of the Greek Community of Istanbul (Greekworks. com, 2005).

Vryonis, who knew Turkish and gained access to unclassified documents in official archives, thoroughly documented (with plenty of accounts of eyewitnesses) not only magnitude and savage nature of the attacks, but also that they were organised and executed by then PM Adnan Menderes' Demokrat Party in the cooperation with Turkey's military and deep state and was essentially an act of ethnic cleansing.

"Under the supervision of interior minister Namik Gedik - over 4,000 Greek businesses and over 3,000 Greek homes were destroyed. British diplomatic sources put the damages at 100 million pounds. The task was completed eight years later, when thousands of Greek nationals or «etablis» (most born in Turkey and a high percentage married to Greek Turkish citizens) were deported when Ankara denounced a 1930 Greek-Turkish convention establishing their right to live and work in Turkey. Today, the Greek community appears destined for extinction, since there remain in Istanbul fewer than 2,000 mostly older Greeks, the remnants of the once 150,000-strong minority."

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