Country Listing

Turkey Table of Contents



In 1995 fewer than 20,000 Greeks still lived in Turkey. Most of them are Eastern or Greek Orthodox Christians and live in Istanbul or on the two islands of Gökçeada (Imroz) and Bozca Ada (Tenedos), off the western entrance to the Dardanelles. They are the remnants of the estimated 200,000 Greeks who were permitted under the provisions of the Treaty of Lausanne to remain in Turkey following the 1924 population exchange, which involved the forcible resettlement of approximately 2 million Greeks from Anatolia. Since 1924 the status of the Greek minority in Turkey has been ambiguous. Most Turks do not accept the country's Greek citizens as their equals. Beginning in the 1930s, the government encouraged the Greeks to emigrate, and thousands, in particular the educated youth, did so, reducing the Greek population to about 48,000 by 1965. Although the size of the Greek minority has continued to decline, the Greek citizens of Turkey generally constitute one of the country's wealthiest communities.


The tiny Armenian minority, estimated at 40,000 in 1995, also is a remnant of a once-larger community. Before World War I, some 1.5 million Armenians lived in eastern Anatolia. Starting in the late nineteenth century, intergroup tensions prompted the emigration of possibly as many as 100,000 Armenians in the 1890s. In 1915 the Ottoman government ordered all Armenians deported from eastern Anatolia; at least 600,000 of the Armenians, who numbered up to 2 million, died during a forced march southward during the winter of 1915-16. Armenians believe--and Turks deny--that the catastrophe that befell their community was the result of atrocities committed by Turkish soldiers following government directives. Armenians outside Turkey refer to the deaths of 1915-16 as an instance of genocide, and over the years various Armenian political groups have sought to avenge the tragedy by carrying out terrorist attacks against Turkish diplomats and officials abroad (see Armenian Terrorism, ch. 5).

Most Armenians living in Turkey are concentrated in and around Istanbul. Like the Greeks, they are bankers and merchants with extensive international contacts. The Armenians support their own newspapers and schools. They are intensely attached to their Christian faith and their identity as Armenians rather than Turks. In addition, they have relatives in the Armenian diaspora throughout the world. The establishment of an independent Armenia on Turkey's eastern border following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 was a source of ethnic pride for the Armenians of Turkey. However, Armenia's conflict with Turkic Azerbaijan, combined with the jingoistic support of Azerbaijan in the Turkish media, has raised apprehensions among the Armenian minority about their future status in Turkey.

Data as of January 1995