Greece Photos #5 – A Lost Past

Long Beach, CA

An eerie thing I’ve noticed about Greece (at least the parts I’ve visited) is  how little of its Ottoman past is visible. This is understandable – the Greeks suffered under the yoke of that horrible empire for centuries. What I find really creepy is  how a big part of this erasure was accomplished. A forced population exchange took place in 1922, where many thousands of ethnic Greeks living in what’s now Turkey were herded off to Greece and lesser numbers of Ottoman Muslims left Greece for Turkey. Today  we would call this episode ethic cleansingbecause that’s what it was. Of course, Greece and Turkey aren’t much different than many other states in this regard: the modern world map, the nation-states that we’ve largely come to see as “natural” entities, as if they were mountains or rivers or something, were forged in similar way  – it just took centuries in most cases, instead of months, as with Greece and Turkey …

A part of me now wants to go into a rant against the nation-state. But I’ll instead just post a couple of  pictures that I hope communicate  in some  small ways the social devastation that took place. As I’ve said, you don’t see much in Greece these days that shows it was once under Ottoman rule – and a much more culturally diverse place. Here and there you’ll run into a converted mosque or a Jewish cemetery, to cite a couple of large-scale examples. Here  are a couple of  much less conspicuous ones. The first is a bit of Turkish (written in Arabic script) on what I think was an old cistern. This shot was taken in Rhodes Town (on the island of Rhodes). The second I snapped behind the archaeological museum in Iraklio, Crete. Pictured is a pile of headstones from the graves of Ottoman-era Turks. Stumbling upon these markers was really disturbing – I found the lack of respect, the denial of the meaning of the lives they were created to honor, sickening. I love Greece, but this is one aspect of the country I find really unpleasant. I can’t help but think a more diverse  and inclusive Greece would be a richer, stronger Greece …

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Rhodes Town, Rhodes, Greece – 2011

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Iraklio, Crete, Greece – 2011