1955 Turkish pogrom against the Greeks of Istanbul

August 31, 2023

It's September 6th 1955...

A Turkish mob, most of whom had been trucked into Istanbul in advance, start attacking the Greek community for nine hours.

The 1955 pogrom against the Greeks was carefully planned by the Turkish government to cleanse Istanbul of the approximately 100,000 Greeks, who were excluded from the Turkish-Greek population exchange of 1923, as were some Turks who STILL live in Greece untouched.

The events of September 6-7, 1955, were triggered by the false report of an attack on the birthplace of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founding father of the Turkish Republic, which now houses the the Turkish Consulate in Thessaloniki.

A similar pogrom against Jews was also carried out by the Nazis only a few years earlier.

The destructions included: 71 churches, 41 schools, over 4,000 stores and 2,000 residences. Many Greek tombs were desecrated.

The human toll was: over 30 dead, 300 injured and 400 raped, and there are reports that even boys were raped. A lot of men, including at least one priest, were subjected to forced circumcision. Some people were even burnt alive.

According to a foreign eye-witness, "a priest of 75 was taken out into the street, stripped of every stitch of clothing, tied behind a car and dragged through the streets. They tried to tear the hair of another priest, but failing that, they scalped him, as they did many others."

                                

Some Armenians and Jews were also harmed during this pogrom.

Writer Ian Fleming was present during the event. The writer's account was published on 11 September, with the title "The Great Riot of Istanbul".

Turkey probably used this against Greece because Greece was considering annexing the Greek island of Cyprus against the wishes of the Turks, who nearly 20 years later invaded the island and still occupy the northern part...

The pogrom triggered a climate of fear and intimidation that led many Greeks to leave Istanbul and Turkey altogether.

That's why the Greek population living in Turkey now is estimated at about 2,500 people.

In 2003, a Greek movie was released about these events, titled Πολίτικη Κουζίνα (A touch of spice) by Tasos Boulmetis.

The movie recounts the story of a boy whose family is forced to leave the City. In Greece we refer to Constantinople simply as the City, which is the word polis, hence the name of the movie 'Politiki Kouzina' (cuisine of Const.) which is also a wordplay with the word political. From the Greek phrase is tin polin (in/to the City) comes the 'turkish' name Istanbul...


The family moves to Athens, because the father wouldn't convert to Islam. The most powerful moment of the film is when the father tells the story about the Turkish officials asking him to convert and he says: 'These were the hardest seconds of my life. And I still feel guilty because for a couple of seconds I even considered becoming a muslim'.

It won 8 state film awards, it broke every record in the Greek box-office with roughly 1.5 million tickets (in Greece we don't measure a film's success in money btw), it remains to this day the most successful Greek movie ever and it's still famous for its iconic music, which you can listen to here.

Here's the trailer.

                                            

The 1955 Istanbul Pogrom is another dark page in the history of Turkey and yet another painful one in the history of Greece...