Visits by White Russians

The White Russians who escaped from their country after having been defeated by the Bolsheviks following the October Revolution reached Istanbul by vessels. While some stayed in Istanbul, many others settled in Limnos, ?atalca, and Gelibolu (Gallipoli). On 1 January 1921, the number of Russians in Gelibolu reached 25,868 people. Apart from them, some 1100 women and 320 children arrived as refugees (?ali§kan and ibrahimov 2006: 149). Most of these White Russians left Turkey a few years later, but their legacy is still visible in cities and towns where they settled in Turkey. Moreover, in Istanbul, a Russian community survived into the 1940s, with the sound of Balalaika being a common one in the alleyways. Of the original 250,000 White Russians who arrived in Istanbul, about 15,000 stayed and settled in Turkey for different reasons (Karadogan 2011: 153). The Russian heritage in a number of neighbourhoods in Istanbul is very well documented (Deleon 1996; Kasimova 2011). Not the same could be said about Gelibolu, where Russians stayed for a much shorter period of time. Still, a few monuments and cemeteries are proof of their presence.

The Russians were treated very well during their stay in Gelibolu—an impressive example of solidarity between two nations that were experiencing near collapse (ibrahimov et al. 2009: 387). The Turks opened the mevlevihane (Houses of the Mevlevi Order, outlawed in 1925) and their mosques and houses to Russians for shelter. The Russians, who later left Gelibolu and spread to various countries of the world, regard Gelibolu as basis of retrieving their national identity. Calling themselves as the people of Gelibolu, they founded associations and journals which they named Gelibolu in various countries of the world (e.g. the USA, Hungary,

Czechoslovakia, France, and Bulgaria) (?afi§kan and ibrahimov 2006: 151). Gelibolu, where they held on to life, has a meaning as a special space for the White Russians who spread around the world.

In 2008, the old Russian mausoleum in Gelibolu was reconstructed in accordance with its original form. The monument is one of the few monuments built in the short history of the White Russian movement. Today, it is a space which is visited by the descendants of the Russians that found refuge in Gelibolu and seen as a symbol of good neighbourly relations and of the solidarity between people during hard times. A museum building was later added to the monumental area. Each year the place is visited by about 500 Russians who desire to see the spaces where their ancestors once lived.

 
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