Monday, May 31, 2010

Events of September 1955, Greece, Turkey

The Events of September (1), in which a Turkish community place was attacked in Greece and then Greek community places were attacked in Turkey, are both intimately related to the Cyprus Conflict, and very instructive in understanding Cypriot cultural destruction.


(Sadly, I don't have space in my thesis to discuss these events; but happily, now, I can blog it. [And, as aspectsofreality's grokked noted in the comment, the Wikipedia page on the Istanbul Pogrom goes into more detail.])

The intensive nature of the attacks led to study at the time and since, and the true history of the violence led to remarkable revelations, which have enlightened the murky events on the island.

Nonetheless, despite the extensive documentation and intensive research (for example by the photographer for the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, extreme Hellenist nationalist (2) Dimitrios Kaloumenos (1966)), estimates of destruction still vary widely (e.g., c.f. Güven, 2005: 34-37; Vryonis, 2005: 267-270).

Correspondingly, we must accept that we will never know the details of every act of violence against property in Cyprus; and that there will be some acts about which we will never know, and some claims that we will never be able either to verify or to invalidate. (It does not mean that they did not happen; it means that we do not know.)

Bombing and rioting

On 5th September 1955, the Turkish newspaper İstanbul Ekspres alleged that 'Greek terrorists [had] bombed Mustafa Kemal's house in Thessaloniki [Yunan teröristler Mustafa Kemal'in Selanik'teki evini bombalamıştı]' (İstanbul Ekspres, 5. Eylül 1955, cited in Kaplan, 2001; see also de Zayas, 2007: 147n5), by then, the Mustafa Kemal Atatürk Museum.

On 6th, the Cyprus is Turkish Association (KTC) (3) and the National Turkish Student Union (MTTB) (4) organised demonstrations (Kuyucu, 2005: 362), then around one hundred thousand Turks went on an orgy of 'rioting, destruction and looting' in Istanbul/Constantinople, and hundreds in Izmir/Smyrna and Ankara (Associated Press, 1955: 1).

There were smaller riots elsewhere from 7th, for example in Çanakkale/Dardanellia and Ískenderun/Alexandretta, where the Greek Orthodox Church of Saint Nicholas was dynamite bombed on 9th September (Associated Press, 1955: 15).

(For the most comprehensive study of the violence, see Turkish historian Dilek Güven's (2005) research into the 6th-7th September Events in the Context of Republican Period Minority Policies and Strategies [Cumhuriyet Dönemi Azınlık Politikaları ve Stratejileri Bağlamında 6-7 Eylül Olayları].)

Communist plots, British provocations

Turkish President Celal Bayar blamed a 'violent communist plot of provocation and aggression' (7th September 1955, cited in Kuyucu, 2005: 376). Turkish Communist involvement was 'impossible [olanaksız]' (Güven, 2005: 55); but British Government intrigue was not.

The previous year, the British Ambassador in Athens, Sir Charles Peake, had worried that Greek-Turkish relations were 'not favourable' and that it would have been possible to 'incite a turmoil' simply by 'inscribing a slogan... [on] the house where Ataturk was born' (cited in Güven, 2005: 214).

However, an unnamed British Foreign Ministry official noted that, '[i]f some revolts t[ook] place in Ankara that w[ould] suit our interest' (cited in Güven, 2005: 215).

It seems probable that the 'British Government provoked Turks' to attack (Güven, 2005: 215), in order to increase Greek-Turkish conflict, thereby to consolidate "peaceful" British occupation of Cyprus.

Victims' communities, communities of victims

The attacks were perceived as 'anti-Greek riots' (Associated Press, 1955: 1); even non-Greek victims, like the Jewish community, phrased them in exactly the same terms (e.g. Hirschberg and Cohen, 1971: Col. 1459); but the material evidence of destruction dispels this perception.

Alongside the 61 of 95 Greek Orthodox churches 'completely destroyed [tamamen tahrip edilmiş]', 1 Greek Catholic and 3 other churches were 'severely damaged [ağır zarara uğratılmıştır]', 3 of 33 Armenian churches were 'attacked [saldırıya maruz kalmıştır]', and 1 of 39 synagogues was 'attacked [saldırıya uğramıştır]' (Güven, 2005: 35).

Also, 1,954 (35.28%) of the 5,538 "officially" damaged homes and shops were non-Greek (Kuyucu, 2005: 378n5). Moreover, the United States Consulate estimated that the rioters may have 'attacked [saldırıya uğrayan]' 7,000 homes and shops (Hür, 2008b; see also Güven, 2005: 35).

Of those (possibly) 7,000 buildings, only 80% of the homes were Rum, while 9% were Armenian, 5% were Muslim and 3% Jewish; and only 59% of the shops were Greek, while 17% were Armenian, 12% Jewish and 10% Muslim (Hür, 2008b; see also Güven, 2005: 35).

The Muslim properties were also minority properties, 'places belonging to [syncretic/converted Jewish-Muslim] Dönme and [ethnically Turkic] Muslim Belarusians [dönmelere ve Müslüman olmuş Beyaz Ruslara ait mekanlar[ı]]' (Korkut, 2009).

Community places, nationalist targets

As well as to individuals' property, the American Consul General Arthur Richards recorded 'serious damage' to Rum 'community meeting quarters', at least 36 of the 48 Rum schools, and libraries (cited in d'Amato, 1995: S11792); Armenian cemeteries, too, 'got their share of destruction [saldırılardan nasibini almıştır]' (Hür, 2008b).

Meanwhile, 'several public soup kitchens' were 'demolished' (American Consul General Arthur Richards, 27th September 1955, cited in d'Amato, 1995: S11792).

In addition, both Rum newspaper presses, for Apogevmatini (5) and Tachydromos (6), were 'completely wrecked', while Embros (7) and 'Okroids [sicChronos]' (8), which did not have their own presses, had their offices respectively 'destroyed' and 'heavily wrecked' (American Consul General Arthur Richards, 27th September 1955, cited in d'Amato, 1995: S11792).

Monuments were 'smashed [tsakisthi [τσακισθή]]', and statues 'beheaded [apokefalisthi [άποκεφαλισθή]]' (Makedonia, 14i Septemvriou 1955, cited in Kaloumenos, 1966: 25).

Furthermore, the Swedish Embassy, French, Italian, Austrian and German workplaces, and English cemeteries 'got their share of destruction [saldırılardan nasibini almıştır]' (Hür, 2008b; see also Güven, 2005: 37).

Moreover, in Izmir, the rioters not only 'set on fire [ateşe vermişler]' the Greek Consulate and 'looted [yağmalamış]' six Greek NATO officers' homes, but also attacked the British Cultural Institute, and even two British ships in port (Hür, 2008b; see also Güven, 2005: 26; 27).

Stages of violence

The Greek Consul General Vyron Theodoropoulos identified three steps of violence: first, the 'break[ing] down' of doors and windows; then 'pillage'; and finally, 'complete destruction' (cited in Vryonis, Jr., 2007).

Greek newspaper Makedonia recognised four phases: first 'smash[ing] [synetrive [συνέτριβε]]', second 'open[ing] or forc[ing] them open [tas inoige i tas dierrignye [τάς ήνοιγε ή τάς διερρήγνυε]]', then third 'looting [eleilatei [έλεηλάτει]]'; and sometimes, fourth, destruction (14th September 1955, cited in Kaloumenos, 1966: 24).


Another Greek newspaper, Ethnos, identified the destroyers as '[ç]etes [gangs] [Tsetes [Τσέτας]]' (9i Septemvriou 1955, cited in Kaloumenos, 1966: 26).

And Makedonia observed that civilian-dressed military school naval cadets destroyed the Theological School of Halki (14i Septemvriou 1955, cited in Kaloumenos, 1966: 24).

Within a week of the pogrom, then Turkish Foreign Secretary Mehmet Fuat Köprülü told the Turkish National Assembly that,
the attack against the house of Atatürk in Thessaloniki had been the work of those who had organised the riots, not of the Greeks.

[[I] apopeira enantion tis en Thessaloniki oikias tou Atatourk einai ergon ton idion, oi opoioi organosan tas tarachas, ouchi de Ellines.

[Ή] άπόπειρα έναντίον τής έν Θεσσαλονίκη οίκίας τού Άτατούρκ είναι έργον τών ίδίων, οί όποίοι ώργάνωσαν τάς ταραχάς, ούχι δέ Έλληνες (Köprülü, 12i Septemvriou 1955, anaferetai sto Kaloumeno, 1966: 28).]

Greek-American historian Prof. Speros Vryonis Jr. (2007) characterised the 'most destructive pogrom' since the Nazi anti-Jewish pogrom of 9th-10th November 1938 as 'Krystallnacht in Constantinople'.

Former UN human rights lawyer Prof. Alfred de Zayas (2007: 137) characterised the pogrom as a 'crime against humanity', 'ethnic cleansing', and as 'demonstrably' an act of 'genocide' under the United Nations' (1948b: Art. 2) Convention on the Prevention and the Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

De Zayas (2007: 137) specifically stated that the 'vast destruction of Greek property' constituted 'evidence of the Turkish authorities' intent to terrorize' the Rum into 'abandoning the territory, thus eliminating' the community.

About 6,000 people were arrested, but only 228 convicted, those in military trials, and 'the true perpetrators were not among them [Bunların arasında gerçek failler yoktu]' (Hür, 2008b).

Deep State terrorism

In fact, the plotters had been President Bayar himself, alongside Democratic Party (9) Prime Minister Adnan Menderes and Foreign Minister Fatin Rüştü Zorlu (Time, 1960).

Furthermore, decades later, the head of the Special Warfare Department, General Sabri Yirmibeşoğlu, finally confessed that,
6th-7th September was also a Special Warfare [Department] job. It was a magnificent operation. And it achieved its aim.

[6-7 Eylül de bir Özel Harp işidir. Muhteşem bir örgütlenmeydi. Amacına da ulaştı (Radikal, 2008a).]
The bombing had been of the neighbouring Turkish Consulate, not the Atatürk Museum; and Turkish deep state agents had controlled every stage of the operation.

The bombers had been National Security Service (MAH/MEH) (10) officer Oktay Engin and Turkish Consulate official Hasan Uçar (Güven, 2005: 71).

The first (and false) report of the bombing had been in İstanbul Ekspres, whose editor was Democratic Party deputy and MAH agent Mithat Perin, who later wrote a letter to MAH 'listing the assignments he had undertaken for the organisation [örgüt için üstlendiği görevlen sıralıyor]' (Güven, 2005: 72).

The hatred and retribution-inciting Cyprus is Turkish Association (KTC) was dominated by Prime Minister Menderes' Democratic Party (Güven, 2005: 60-61).

And the KTC operated 'with the moral and financial support of the government of the Democratic Party [me tin ithiki kai oikonomiki ypostiriksi tis kyvernisis tou Dimokratikou Kommatos [με την ηθική και οικονομική υποστήριξη της κυβέρνησης του Δημοκρατικού Κόμματος]]' (Ozkirimli kai Sofos, 2008: 260).

Then the Democratic Party 'recruited', armed and transported the "rioters", the 'Turkish militia and police coordinated' them (de Zayas, 2007: 138), and they attacked sites planned on lists and 'marked with paint' (ibid.: 147n10).

Notably, '[t]he attackers got an order not to physically harm [Saldırganlar bedensel zarar vermemeleri için talimat aldık[lar]]' (Güven, 2005: 23).

It is believed that the attackers raped far more than 60 women (İstanbul Başkonsolosluğu Raporu [United States National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) 782.00/9-1255], 1st December 1955, cited in Güven, 2005: 39), but the unknown others 'hid the fact and avoided being treated in hospital [bu durumu gizlemiş ve hastanede tedavi olmaktan kaçınmış]' (Güven, 2005: 39).

And it is also believed that the attackers murdered 15 people (Helsinki Watch, 1992: 50, cited in Güven, 2005: 40).

Each of these crimes was a tragedy, but the total is remarkably low considering more than 100,000 armed nationalist extremists went on the rampage unhindered, and sometimes helped, by the police. The (widely-observed) ban on violence against persons made it explicit that the targets of the violence were not people but places.

Rioters' reasons

Some rioters were 'frenzied mobbers [eksalla stifi [έξαλλα στίφη]]' with 'demented expression[s] [ekfrasin allofrosynis [έκφρασιν άλλοφροσύνις]]' (Ethnos, 9i Septemvriou 1955, cited in Kaloumenos, 1966: 26; A-Z (Basel), 15. September 1955, cited in Kaloumenos, 1966: 30).

However, the riot was not a pure 'frenzy [cinnet]' (Ergener, 2005: 5). Some rioters were 'delight[ed] and content[ed] [çosku ve memnuniyet]', and posed for journalists' photographs (Ergener, 2005: 5).

Arts management specialist Balca Ergener (2005: 6) compared those photographs to ones of racist lynchings in the United States and of torture in occupied Iraq, which philosopher Susan Sontag (2004) categorised as 'souvenirs of a collective action [kolektif bir eylemin hatıralarıdır]' (Sontag, 2004, cited in Ergener, 2005: 6).).

It is possible to compare many of these rioters' acts to Pakistani Muhajir nationalist extremists' 'collective recuperation of masculinity' through violence (Verkaaik, 2003: 17), through which they took satisfaction in the 'humiliation and abasement of [their] victim[s] and the sense of power and dominance' (Seifert, 1996: 36; see also Bracewell, 2000: 565).

Yet, the rioters' violence cannot be conceived of as 'collective aggressive transgression' (Verkaaik, 2003: 17), because it was not merely the Cyprus is Turkish Association, nor the tabloid press, nor even "merely" the Democratic Party, who accepted and encouraged the pogrom, but – ostensibly – the state itself.

The Turkish deep state had usurped the Turkish state, and had convinced the mass of rioters that they were defending themselves, their community and their state, so they perceived no transgression even as they smashed, looted and burned their neighbours' homes.

In Kosovo, a community's architecture 'legitimated' its territorial claim, and 'damage to that architecture became damage to that claim' (Herscher and Riedlmayer, 2000: 111); but unlike in Kosovo (and Cyprus), in Turkey the victimised communities had no political control and had made no demands for it.


Even if the political problem is defined within a Turkist nationalist framework, so that the Greek Cypriot-Turkish Cypriot power struggle is subsumed within the Greek-Turkish power struggle, it is insufficient to explain the violence, because the Turkist nationalists did not only attack Greeks (or supposedly allied Armenians and Jews); they also attacked ethnically Turkish Muslims.

Thus, the Muslim as well as Christian and Jewish-victimising, Turkic as well as non-Turkic-victimising, building-targeting violence was not (primarily) genocidal, but urbicidal, aimed at the 'destruction of the conditions of possibility of heterogeneity' (Coward, 2009: 43).

The Turkish deep state did not destroy non-Turkish buildings in order to destroy minority communities, but in order to disintegrate the multicultural community and to displace the minority communities.

The Turkish deep state's primary aim of urbicide was also hinted at in its singular false flag attack on the Turkish Consulate in Thessaloniki; but it will be more clearly demonstrated by the Turkish/Turkish Cypriot deep state's and Greek/Greek Cypriot deep state's campaigns of false flag operations on the island.

Both deep states seriously damaged or destroyed their own cultural heritage sites precisely because their foremost wish was (obviously) not to destroy their own community, but to establish homogeneous communities and territories. The deep states could even cooperate with each other to force their ethnic kin in mixed communities to unmix.

The urbicidal logic will be further affirmed by the paramilitaries' territorially-limited fields of operation: after the partition of Cyprus in 1974, neither did the Turkish/Turkish Cypriot deep state attack "Greek" sites in southern Cyprus, nor did the Greek/Greek Cypriot deep state attack "Turkish" sites in northern Cyprus.

The deep states did not struggle to eliminate the other communities as such, but rather to eliminate the shared life of all and any communities within "their" (claimed) territories.

  1. The September Events are also known as: ta Septemvriana (τα Σεπτεμβριανά) in Greek; and Eylül Olayları in Turkish.
  2. For example, Kaloumenos (1966: 241) stated that 'modern Turks... proved that they maintain wholly all of the barbarism inherited from their fathers [oi neoteroi Tourkoi... apedeiksan oti diatiroun eis to akeraion, o,ti is Varvarotita parelavon apo tous pateres ton (οί νεώτεροί Τούρκοι... άπέδειξαν ότι διατηρούν είς τό ακέραιον, ό,τι είς Βαρβαρότητα παρέλαβον άπό τούς πατέρες των)]', while his Publishing Committee (Ekdoseos Epitropi, 1966: 9) stated that Greek society was 'the most brilliant civilisation [o lambroteros politismos (ό λαμπρότερος πολιτισμός)]', and that Turkish 'barbarity.... saw civilisation as something incompatible with its soul [Varvarotita.... evlepe ton politismo san kati asymvivasto me tin psychosynthesi tou (Βαρβαρότητα.... έβλεπε τόν πολιτισμό σάν κάτι άσυμβίβαστο μέ τήν ψυχοσύνθεσί του)]'.
  3. Kıbrıs Türktür Cemiyeti
  4. Milli Türk Talebe Birliği
  5. Απογευματινή
  6. Ταχυδρόμος
  7. Εμπρός
  8. Xρόνος
  9. Demokrat Partisi
  10. Millî Amniyet Hizmeti (MAH) / Millî Emniyet Hizmeti (MEH)


Associated Press (AP). 1955: "Shake-up in Turkey follows city rioting". The New York Times, 11th September, 1; 15.

Bracewell, W. 2000: "Rape in Kosovo: Masculinity and Serbian nationalism". Nations and nationalism, Volume 6, Number 4, 563-590.

D'Amato, A M. 1995: Senate Resolution 160 – Marking the Anniversary of the Anti-Greek Pogrom in Turkey, on September 6, 1955 [SRES 160 IS, 7th August 1995]. Washington, D.C.: United States Senate.

De Zayas, A. 2007: "The Istanbul pogrom of 6-7 September 1955 in the light of international law". Genocide Studies and Prevention, Volume 2, Number 2, 137-154.

Ekdoseos Epitropi (Publishing Committee). 1966: "Eisagogi [Introduction]". In Kaloumenos, D, (Sy.). I stavrosis tou Christianismou: I istoriki alitheia ton gegonoton tis 6-7 Septemvriou 1955 eis tin Konstantinoupolin [the crucifixion of Christianity: The historical truth of the events of 6th-7th September 1955 in Constantinople], 9-11. Athina: choris onoma [without name – i.e. publisher unknown]. [Εκδόσεως Επιτροπή. 1966: «Είσαγογή». Καλούμενος, Δ, (Συ.). 1966: Η σταύρωσις του Χριστιανισμού: Η ιστορική αλήθεια των γεγονότων της 6-7 Σεπτεμβρίου 1955 εις την Κωνσταντινούπολιν, 9-11. Αθήναι: χωρίς όνομα.]

Ergener, B. 2005: "'Ellinci Yılında 6-7 Eylül Olayları' sergisi ve sergiye yapılan saldırı üzerine [on the exhibition of 'Incidents of September 6th-7th on their Fiftieth Anniversary' and the attack on the exhibition]". Red Thread, Number 1. Available at:

Güven, D. 2005: Cumhuriyet dönemi azınlık politikaları ve stratejileri bağlamında 6-7 Eylül olayları [the 6th-7th September events in the context of Republican period minority policies and strategies]. İstanbul: Tarih Vakfı Yurt Yayınları.

Hirschberg, H Z and Cohen, H J. 1971: "Turkey". In Roth, C and Wigoder, G, (Eds.). Encyclopaedia Judaica, Volume 15, 1456-1463. Jerusalem: Keter Publishing House.

Herscher, A and Riedlmayer, A. 2000: "Monument and crime: The destruction of historic architecture in Kosovo". Grey Room, Volume 1, Number 3, 108-122.

Hür, A. 2008: "6-7 Eylül'de devletin 'muhteşem örgütlenmesi' [the state's 'magnificent operation' on 6th-7th September]". Taraf, 7. Eylül. Şu adrestebulunabilir:

Kaloumenos, D. 1966: I stavrosis tou Christianismou: I istoriki alitheia ton gegonoton tis 6-7 Septemvriou 1955 eis tin Konstantinoupolin [the crucifixion of Christianity: The historical truth of the events of 6th-7th September 1955 in Constantinople]. Athina: Χωρίς όνομα [without name – i.e. publisher unknown]. [Καλούμενος, Δ. 1966: Η σταύρωσις του Χριστιανισμού: Η ιστορική αλήθεια των γεγονότων της 6-7 Σεπτεμβρίου 1955 εις την Κωνσταντινούπολιν. Αθήναι: Χωρίς όνομα (χ.ό.).]

Kaplan, S. 2001: "Názım Kalkavan, Ian Fleming'in roman kahramanı oldu [Názım Kalkavan became Ian Fleming's novel hero]". Hürriyet, 6. Eylül. Şu adreste bulunabilir:

Korkut, T. 2009: "6-7 Eylül'de ne oldu [what happened on 6th-7th September]?" BIAnet, 7. Eylül. Şu adreste bulunabilir:

Kuyucu, A T. 2005: "Ethno-religious 'unmixing' of 'Turkey': 6-7 September riots as a case in Turkish nationalism". Nations and Nationalism, Volume 11, Number 3, 361-380.

Ozkirimli, O kai Sofos, S A. 2008: To vasano tis istorias: O ethnikismos stin Ellada kais tin Tourkia [the torture of history: Nationalism in Greece and Turkey]. Athina: Ekdoseis Kastanioti. [Οζκιριμλί, Ο και Σοφός, Σ Α. 2008: Το βάσανο της ιστορίας: Ο εθνικισμός στην Ελλάδα και στην Τουρκία. Αθήνα: Εκδόσεις Καστανιώτη.]

Radikal. 2008: "'Gladyo'dan Ergenekon''a yolculuk [the journey from Gladio to Ergenekon]". Radikal, 12. Ağustos. Şu adreste bulunabilir:

Seifert, R. 1996: "The second front: The logic of sexual violence in wars". Women's Studies' International Forum, Volume 19, Numbers 1-2, 35-43.

Sontag, S. 2004: "Regarding the torture of others". The New York Times, 23rd May. Available at:

Time. 1960: "Turkey: The phony incident". Time, 17th October. Available at:,9171,895011,00.html

UN (United Nations). 1948: Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. New York: United Nations.

Verkaaik, O. 2003: "Fun and violence. Ethnocide and the effervescence of collective aggression". Social Anthropology, Volume 11, Number 1, 3-22.

Vryonis, Jr., S. 2005: The mechanism of catastrophe: The Turkish pogrom of September 6-7, and the destruction of the Greek community of Istanbul. New York: Greekworks.

Vryonis, Jr., S. 2007: "September 6, 1955: Krystallnacht in Constantinople". Greek America, September/October. Available at:


  1. There is also an extensive write-up on what Wikipedia calls the 'Istanbul Pogrom' which goes into much more explicit detail on the events as well as the significance of the Cyprus issue in the entire affair, available at:

  2. Yeah, cheers.

    It is a very good Wikipedia page, well-written, by people who are obviously readers of the relevant languages; I checked it myself when I was looking for sources with which to check the ones I had.

    It's especially good because of its sensitivity and balance, like in its section on Turkish resistance to the pogrom, citing Ecevit Kiliç's article on the Turkish general who saved his Rum neighbours from pillagers.

    Kiliç, E. 2008: "Rum komşularını yağmacılardan kurtaran Türk general". Sabah, 7. Eylül. Şu adreste bulunabilir:,5776083CE95642CCB08849313BE51247.html