I grew up in Bodrum.
A city on the South western coast of Turkey..
All busy days ended the same way in Bodrum. At a table next to the calm sea or under an olive tree, with few fresh sea food and a glass of raki.
Aegean people had always loved enjoying the life to the fullest..
When you raised your glass in Bodrum, you always knew there was someone raising the same glass, this time full of ouzo, on the island across the sea.. Looking at you.
That’s how close Turkey and Greece, geographically and culturally.
If you are living on the Western coast of Turkey, you know that the culture right across the sea is no different than yours..
How can that be?
Turks and Greeks lived together for such a long time. Even before the idea of “nationalism” spread.
Coming from a family who migrated from Greece to Turkey in the early 1900’s, I always dreamed of living in the era when a Greek neighbour celebrated your Ramadan or a Turkish neighbour was a part of your Noel.
What happened then? Nationalism.
After the French Revolution, this idea spread around the world so quickly.
Ottoman Empire, which was made out of a lot of different nations was doomed to fall eventually.
Greeks revolted in 1832, rightfully so and gained independence.
In 1923, the Turkish Republic was founded after denouncing the Ottoman ties and gathered people under the idea of “nationalism”.
Nationalism, to a certain extent can be good. The problem in this ideology lies in the definition of the “other”.
You have to have an “other” to make people stick to this idea.
Therefore, Turks became the “other” for Greeks, and Greeks were the “other” to Turks, even though a minority of each nation continued to live in both countries.
Turkish history during the early years of the republic, decided to distance itself from the Ottoman era and religion and chose the idea of Turkism. It was short-lived and religion became a historical part too.
Greek history, reffered to Ottomans as barbaric and cruel, distancing themselves from that “other”.
However, especially after the rise Marxism, criticisms from the historians flourished. Historians from both countries demanded a more objective narrative to tell their history.
Especially with the new generation, who are getting more interested in each others culture, the bridges are being built up again. This makes me happy as a boy who is in love with this cultural exchange and friendship.
And if you are from the Aegean, you already know that the history and politics are just tools for governments and you are already planning your next trip to your neighbour!