ISBN: 9786054640782 | Türkçe | 304 σελίδα, 15x21 cm. |

“WHO NOW REMAINS IN IMVROS?” GÖKÇEADA FROM ISLAND OF THE BLESSED TO RESTRICTED ZONE

Serdar Korucu

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With its almost entirely Greek population (except for public servants), self-sufficient agriculture, sponge-farming, animal husbandry and set at distance from the mainland, the island of Imvros/Gökçeada, small by Aegean standards but the largest island of Turkey, was once a somewhat self-contained world.

For all their poverty, its people attach great importance to the education of their children, are fond of the culture and traditions of the island, manifest in its vibrant village-fairs, rites and gatherings, and cling to their piety, evident in the hundreds of large and small monasteries hosted on the island, or the prominent clergy that arose from it throughout its long history. Having formed part of the Ottoman domains for five centuries, Imvros became the command center of the Entente Forces during the First World War, whose end coincided with the first wave of immigration from the island. Later, with the Lausanne Treaty, the island passed into the Republic of Turkey with provisions for the establishment a special form of government based on local participation. However, these provisions were never upheld and Imvros, renamed “Gökçeada”, has ever since occupied a central place in Turkish-Greek tensions, especially with the Cyprus issue in the background. In Azra Erhat’s words, Imvros is no longer the mythical “Isle of the Blessed, whose unidentified location ancient authors often spoke of”; instead, with the transfer of an open prison installation, state-owned farm, boarding school for teachers and gendarmerie training battalion, it became the locus of a “Liquidation Program”: expropriations, displacements, threats, rapes and murders, as well as an operation area marked by compulsory resettlement policies, constitute the realities of a “restricted zone” which, as Sevgi Soysal puts it, is characterized by “a freedom partitioned by barbed wire”.

Written by journalist and author Serdar Korucu, “Who Now Remains in Imvros” was completed from autumn 2020 to the beginning of 2022, in four locations in Turkey and Greece (Imvros/Gökçeada, Istanbul, Thessaloniki and Athens) employing four different languages (Turkish, Greek, English, French). It is based on interviews with 28 informants from Imvros, who witnessed first-hand the developments on the island that since the 1960s have led to “the departure of its people”. Through these interviews, the readers can experience the ‘old’ life in Imvros, as well as the inherent in-betweenness of both those who left and those who stayed behind, allowing them to trace the effects of state policies on the ‘field of operations’, including the misinformation, manipulation and shaping of public opinion by the press in the period in question.

Today, Gökçeada is being transformed into a touristic center by means of a re-invented ‘authentic’ identity. The book invites us to remember the islanders’ past, culture and hopes for the future, still experienced as a form of cultural resistance to this transformation; to refrain from statements of the type “it is all in the past”; to counter oblivion; to address history.