Thread Rating:
  • 1 Vote(s) - 5 Average
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

The Suna and Inan K?raç Foundation Istanbul Research Institute’s latest exhibition presents a glimpse into Istanbul occupied by the British, French and Italian armed forces after World War I, as revealed through written accounts and images discovered in the archives

The  Istanbul Research Institute presents an offbeat exhibition focusing on occupied Istanbul during the pre-republic years.

Opened to visitors for the centenary of the republic, “Occupied City: Politics and Daily Life in Istanbul, 1918-1923” presents one of the most extraordinary and turbulent periods in Istanbul's history with extensive archival research.

The exhibition delves into the military, social and cultural aspects of the occupation, which lasted from November 1918 to October 1923. "Occupied City: Politics and Daily Life in Istanbul, 1918-1923" is curated by Daniel-Joseph MacArthur-Seal and Gizem Tongo in collaboration with an international team of advisors.

The exhibition features a range of textual and visual materials from official documents to paintings, films and photographs from various libraries, archives and collections in Türkiye, France, Britain, Greece, Armenia and Russia, most of which will be on public display for the first time. These materials, in addition to the archives of the Istanbul Research Institute, provide a unique opportunity for visitors to explore the rich history of the city. The centenary of the Allied withdrawal from Istanbul and the arrival of Turkish troops, provide a timely moment to revisit the often-forgotten individuals, events and movements that defined a city that was, in all senses of the word, "occupied."

An aerial photograph showing the Allied navy at the entrance of the Golden Horn, Aug. 3, 1919. (Photo courtesy of Suna and ?nan Kiraç Foundation Photography Collection)

Occupied, which translates as "meshgul" in Turkish, a word deriving from Arabic, conveys the meaning of both a "place being occupied" and "busy." For example, when you call someone on the phone whose number is busy, "me?gul" is used to describe the person as occupied by someone else. The word occupation is also used for professions that appeared in the 19th century and refer again to someone who is occupied by a profession. For this, the contributors of the exhibition aimed to employ the multiple meanings of this word.

One of the curators of the exhibition, Daniel-Joseph MacArthur, said: "My connection with Türkiye starts with my childhood. I grew up in a neighborhood in London that happens to be full of Turkish Cypriots and Turks from Türkiye. When I was an undergraduate student I was working on a research project about the relationship between the British and Greek relationship during the War of Independence in Türkiye. I learned about the fact that Istanbul was occupied and there was really little written about the issue at that time."

"The city itself had multiple nations occupying it, and it's also composed of multiple different communities and the interactions between them is something that I thought would be really interesting. So then I decided to pursue this topic for my Ph.D. I tried to understand how they felt about the city, what they thought about the people, and how their feelings impact their behavior and then also how this impression they had of Istanbul impacted the British policy in the city, the way that they ruled the city. Then after I finished my Ph.D., I was able to earn a scholarship and come to Türkiye and continue this research in Ottoman archives," he said.

"One of the things about this period is everything that happened in Istanbul was of interest to so many different powers, with documents about a single incident written from the perspective of the British government, the French and Italians, or from the perspective of the Ottoman authorities, or from the perspective of the different ethnic communities in Istanbul. So that's one of the really special things about as a historian, one of the interesting things about working on this period," he added.

A Russian refugee camp outside Dolmabahçe Palace, 1920–1923. Harvard University Charles Claflin Davis Collection. (Photo courtesy of Suna and ?nan Kiraç Foundation)

Portrait of occupied city

"Occupied City" reflects the dynamic nature of Istanbul, a city undergoing significant political, social and cultural changes during the years of occupation. In those years, Istanbul was, in every sense of the word, an occupied city. Who would remain and who would rule was the subject of rumor and speculation, exacerbated by the contradicting statements of Allied state officials, successive Ottoman Cabinets and the Ankara government.

Amid devastating chaos

Residents of the city witnessed and participated in mass demonstrations to protest against violence and occupation; strikes that paralyzed trams, ferries and gasworks in the hope of better pay and conditions; dawn raids on officers and officials accused of wartime crimes or defiance of the Allies or the sultan; the detention and search of cafe-goers for weapons and banned literature; brawls between Allied servicemen and civilians in bars; and assassinations, lynchings and abductions by armed bands.

Amidst the upheaval, people continued to strive to better others’ lives and their own. Schools, institutions and community organizations were opened; concerts and exhibitions were held with the contribution of diverse talents and patrons; new political, literary and artistic ideas enlivened the pages of a flourishing press; and charities raised funds for the support of refugees, wounded veterans, orphans and the city’s poor.

A struggle for life

The population of Istanbul during the occupation period included Allied soldiers, immigrants, prisoners, refugees and workers who fled conflict-ridden regions around the world, including the Middle East, the Balkans and further afield, and took refuge in Istanbul, radically transforming the city's demographic characteristics. In addition to the 500,000 Ottoman troops who died in World War I, civilians also perished, and a sizable portion of the populace lost their lives from hardships like diseases and hunger.

On the other hand, Istanbul appeared in the eyes of those returning from the front, captivity or exile to be a relatively safe haven. The foreign press referred to the sight of soldiers wandering the streets with their injured and battered bodies as "heartbreaking." Charities raised funds for the support of those who were in desperate need of help. The most vulnerable groups that found their way to Istanbul were orphans.

Zeki R?za’s (Sporel) goal for Fenerbahçe against the mixed-British team at the Harington Cup, June 29, 1923. (Photo courtesy of Suna and ?nan K?raç Foundation Photography Collection)

Worker uprisings

Istanbul has always been at the forefront of worker movements and this was especially true during the years of occupation. "The Occupied City" exhibition traces the journey of worker organizations in occupied Istanbul under the leadership of the Ottoman Socialist Party, a significant political force of the time, and offers visitors a look into crucial records.

Voices of inhabitants

A French journalist and author said: "In the place of the Turkish police has been substituted, or more exactly superimposed, an inter-Allied police, whose supreme chief is an Englishman and whose agents are, in roughly equal proportion: English, Italian, and French. This task of discovering, monitoring and prosecuting criminals is entrusted to good people who may know their job very well, but who know nothing about the country where they are tasked with exercising it; the topography of the city and its surroundings, the languages and customs of the inhabitants."

Barbara Kostrova, a Russian actress, said: "One evening when the sounds of fashionable foxtrots were heard from the restaurants, cabarets amid the noise of the unruly southern crowd, laughter, quarrels and the inviting cries of street vendors stood out a cry for help rang out. A fire broke out. The house next to 'Maxim' restaurant caught fire. Men in tuxedos and women in evening gowns rushed out in terror. The building seemed empty, but suddenly a female figure appeared on its doorstep. She stood there, her blond hair crimson from the fire, bathed in the gleam of the flames. Suddenly, she wrung her hands and screamed in unrestrained despair. 'Why isn't anybody trying to put out the fire? Where will we work if Maxim burns down?'"

Price of living

World War I and its subsequent conflicts brought about the economic collapse of the city. The population, overwhelmed by economic instability and inflation, struggled to make ends meet. The fires that ravaged different parts of the city during the occupation years rendered thousands of Istanbul residents homeless. The declining number of homes, coupled with the rising demand for shelter from an influx of immigrants and asylum-seekers, caused the cost of living in Istanbul to surpass the global average.

A military parade in Talimhane, Salt Research, Photograph and Postcard Archive. (Photo courtesy of Suna and ?nan K?raç Foundation)

In the midst of epidemics

In addition to epidemics such as the Spanish flu, which took the world by storm in the 1920s, typhoid, typhus, tuberculosis and cholera, which were exacerbated by the unprecedented population movements, sexually transmitted diseases were also a cause for concern for both city authorities and the occupation forces.

New art movements, platforms

The arrival of soldiers and refugees, including numerous musicians and influential patrons, breathed new life into Istanbul's musical entertainment industry. Classical music flourished under the patronage of both the Allies and the Ottomans, and clubs such as Maxim, located in Taksim Square, introduced new music genres like jazz to the city.

During these years, Turkish music saw significant progress with the establishment of the Eastern Music Society, which brought together musicians from schools established before the cease-fire such as Darültalim-i Musiki, Darülelhan, the Bahriye Music School and the music department of Darülbedayi. Both local and immigrant artists made significant contributions to the art scene in Istanbul through their performances and teachings, particularly in the field of painting. While many painters remained devoted to traditional subjects, a significant number of artists took their inspiration from the city's ongoing transformation. Mehmed Ruhi (Arel), Karelin Mitritch, and Georgios Theotokas depicted Allied soldiers in their art, while Armenian artists focused on refugees and orphans in many of their works.

An order to the "Civilian Population of the Vilayet of Constantinople in Asia,” April 1921, located in the National Archives, U.K. (Photo courtesy of Suna and ?nan Kiraç Foundation)

Sports and education

Occupied Istanbul was not only marked by conflict, but also by the Olympic event held at Taksim Stadium, the fox hunting club in Maslak, summer sports camps in Kilyos and Yeniköy, and sports competitions spurred by the increasing presence of Allied troops, showcasing a lesser-known side of the city. Meanwhile, the disastrous impact of World War I on education persisted during the occupation period, with schools established by Ottoman allies in the imperial city during the war being closed, some of which were seized and converted into hospitals and barracks.

The "Occupied City: Politics and Daily Life in Istanbul, 1918–1923" exhibition presents a unique opportunity to delve into and understand the various traumas and radical transformations experienced on military, social, and cultural levels by an imperial capital that was occupied for nearly five years. The exhibition will be open to the public at the Istanbul Research Institute in Tepeba??, Beyo?lu, until Dec. 26.

A special dossier in YILLIK 4

In conjunction with the exhibition, a special dossier featuring scholarly articles that explore various aspects of the occupation has been compiled. Edited by exhibition curators Daniel-Joseph MacArthur-Seal and Gizem Tongo, this dossier is available in the fourth issue of YILLIK: Annual of Istanbul Studies, recently published by the institute.

Messages In This Thread
RE: TURKEY VISION 2053 - by globalvision2000administrator - 12-21-2022, 01:45 PM

Forum Jump:

Users browsing this thread: 2 Guest(s)