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Beyoğlu and Galata: Crossroads of Constantinople

(Source: 1845 HARITA map, courtesy of Murat Güvenç)

Located near the modern-day city center, the neighborhoods of Pera (now known as Beyoğlu) and Galata are some of the city’s oldest, first becoming urbanized by Genoese merchants in the thirteenth century. Galata became noted for its foreign origins during this period and the century after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople and later for its non-Muslim populations made up of enclaves of Italians, Greeks, Armenians, Jews, and Levantines.

Hagia Triada (Source: Morning Star News)

The neighborhood invited construction from foreign powers as well, with Venice erecting their Palazzo di Venezia in the hills above Galata. The area became the site for multiple European embassies. Despite its identification as a European city, by the mid-sixteenth century, the neighborhood had become largely Muslim. Eventually, however, non-Muslims would once again comprise a substantial portion of the neighborhood's population. By the seventeenth century, Pera became increasingly settled by Greek Orthodox elites, and by the nineteenth century, this diversity, though very much present - lower-class Greeks, Bulgarians, and Muslims all lived in the area in substantial numbers, as did Armenians and Jews.

The Zograefeion Lyceum (Source: Wikimedia Foundation)

The city had transformed into a cosmopolitan center for trade, and with it came the neo-Phanariots, a new Greek elite that established themselves after the destruction of the original Phanariot networks in the Greek Revolution of the 1820s. Their architectural legacy led to the construction of the Hagia Triada and the Evangelistria Greek Churches. Additionally, the Zograefeion Lyceum school was meant to educate the rising number of Greek youths in the district. Greek elites associated with the imperial bureaucracy primarily residing in Fener, suffered reprisals and began leaving Istanbul and the Ottoman Empire for their key role in supporting Greek independence. Like their antecedents, some of these elites served as high-ranking officials in the Ottoman state or were closely linked to the Patriarchate. Other neo-Phanariots, however, were also a proto-capitalist class, becoming prominent bankers and entrepreneurs.

The Galata Tower, overlooking the Golden Horn (Source: Wikimedia Foundation)

Despite the city’s relative economic exuberance, the congregation of these peoples with profound historical animosities manifests in hostilities like bombings by the Dashnaks, a group of Armenians, that eventually culminated in the attempted assassination of Sultan Abdulhamid II. Their actions incurred reprisals which led to the deaths of Armenians in Istanbul and later justifications for the Ottoman mistreatment of their subject populations. We see this by how the neighborhood’s, like in the rest of Istanbul, Greek Orthodox population declined substantially after the 1919-1922 Greco-Turkish War, triggering mass deportations and population transfers from Turkey to Greece and vice versa. The area continued to boast one of the highest Orthodox populations in Istanbul afterward until at least the 1950s when the 1955 Istanbul pogrom - mass, state-sponsored communal violence and rioting directed against Istanbul’s Greek minority - accelerated the exodus of Greeks from the city.

The docks of Galata in 1923; the Galata Tower today; anti-Greek pogroms in 1955 (Sources: Salt Research; Wikimedia Foundation; San Simera)



Eldem, Edhem, and Ulrike Tischler. From “Milieu de Mémoire" to" Lieu de Mémoire": The Cultural

Memory of Istanbul in the Twentieth Century. (2006): 19.

Nobuyoshi, Fujinami. "The Patriarchal Crisis of 1910 and Constitutional Logic: Ottoman Greeks' Dual

Role in the Second Constitutional Politics." Journal of Modern Greek Studies 27, no. 1 (2009): 1-30.

Philliou, Christine M. Biography of an empire: governing Ottomans in an age of revolution. Univ of

California Press, 2011.

Mills, Amy. “Narratives in City Landscapes: Cultural Identity in Istanbul.” Geographical Review 95, no. 3

(2005): 441–62.

Millas, Akylas, Anna Tsangoyiorga-Oikonomidi, and Despina Christodoulou. Pera: The Crossroads of

Constantinople. Militos Editions, 2006.

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