Main Attractions of Ethnic Tourism

There is no doubt that Turkey is a country being rich in the touristic attractions with an ethnic basis. Thus, herein it has been planned to address some attractions which draw attention in the ethnic tourism of Turkey at first sight. First some examples of ethnic tourism in Turkey that take place through beliefs and religious attractions will be considered. Later on, the visits by the ethnic groups—whose destinies were connected with the Turkish territories through the population exchange and other migrations—that take place in the form of commemorating their roots will be evaluated. Finally, those events of some ethnic and cultural groups in Turkey which have acquired a traditional character will be described in terms of ethnic tourism.

Migration-Related Ethnic Origin Visits and Meetings in Turkey

Visits by the Exchanged Rums

As discussed at the beginning of this paper, the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923 led to the “Turkish-Greek Population Exchange”. At the time of completion in 1925, 1-1.5 million Greeks had been moved from Anatolia to Greece and, in exchange, approximately 600 thousand people had arrived in Turkey from Greek territories (Millas 2004: 223; Aganoglu 2001: 306, cited by ?ah§kan 2010: 71). Only the Turks residing in Western Thrace and the Rums living in Istanbul, Gokpeada (Imbros), and Bozcaada (Tenedos) were exempt from this process.

Today only about 30 Rums inhabit the island of Tenedos, which was populated by 2643 people in 2013. However, the Rum population constituted slightly more than half of the island’s population in the early twentieth century. The Rum population of the island of Imbros in the 1960s, i.e. some 5 thousand people, has now dropped to 200. According to Paris Asanakis, the president of the Association of Imbros, the number of Rums of Gokpeada who left their island and spread around the world is about 25 thousand. Many of these Rums, and their descendants, return every year to attend the major religious feasts and festivals. Given the small number of Orthodox Christians remaining on the islands, it is clear that these religious ceremonies and festivals could not have survived without the participation of the Rums from Diaspora. These religious celebrations on the islands are opened with the services conducted by either the Patriarch of Constantinople or the Metropolitan of Gokpeada. The religious feast on Bozcaada is organized around the Monastery of Agia Pareskevi between the 25th and 27th of July every year. Approximately 400 people attend the feast from abroad. The feast dedicated to Virgin Mary (Panayia/Eorti Dispenagies) on Imbros is celebrated with various religious, social, and entertainment events between the 15th and 22nd of August. The number of Rums attending the feast from both abroad and the other settlements of Turkey exceeds 1000 people (?ah§kan 2010: 74).

Most of the Rums who left the islands relocated to countries such as Australia, the USA, South Africa, and Greece in particular. Most of them remained attached to their homeland even after several decades. In fact, such was the longing for the homeland that the insular Rum settlers of Thessaloniki in Greece named their new settlement Nea Tenedos (New Bozcaada). This is the reason why these Rums living in the Diaspora continue to participate in the religious fairs that take place on their ancestral islands (?ali§kan 2010: 71).

The practice of naming the new villages established in Greece after the old ones left behind is quite frequent. For example, the Rums who had left the village of §irince (situated near Ephesus, or Selfuk, in the province of Izmir) named their new village in Greece Nea Efesos (in the municipality of Dion-Olympus, at the foot of Mount Olympus). Every year about 100 people from Nea Efesos visit §irince—a village with a population of 1000 people today. To maintain these historical cultural ties, Dion and Selfuk have become sister cities. Those who came to the Western Aegean Region (Turkey) from Greece as a result of the population exchange predominantly came from Pravista, in the Kavala Municipality, and were placed in the vicinity of Didim and Selfuk. The descendants of these migrants also regularly visit the area around the city of Kavala in Greece. The service organized in the House of the Virgin Mary in Selfuk every year was first held at the Church of St. John in §irince in 2014. This service was at the same time the first Virgin Mary service organized in the §irince Village after the population exchange. The Rums coming from Lesbos and Chios attended the ceremonies held, along with the Exchanged Rums who came from various settlements of Greece.

Population exchange museums have begun to be established in Turkey in the recent years. The first one was opened in ?atalca, located 60 km to the west of Istanbul, in 2010. The Rums living in ?atalca were exchanged with the Muslim people in Naslif (Neapoli, a town from Western Macedonia) and Drama (northern Greece). The museum building in ?atalca is a restored Rum tavern. The second museum was opened in Alafam, Samsun in 2012. The statement “Mtibadiller Kaybedilmi§ Topraklarin Aziz Hatiralaridir (The Exchanged People are the Dear Memories of the Lost Territories)” by Mustafa Kemal Atattirk welcomes visitors at the entrance of the museum. The clothes used on special days and in everyday life by the exchanged people are exhibited in the museum. The museum also houses the hair and linen woven works, chests, vocational tools, and kitchen utensils reflecting the culture of the exchanged people. Moreover, various photographs and documents of the years of population exchange are exhibited in the museum. A section allocated for the issue of population exchange is also available in the Museum of Urban Memory that was opened in a restored tobacco depot in Selfuk (Izmir) in 2012. All these developments provide evidence for the fact that some special ethnic tourism for the exchanged people is developing in Turkey.

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