November 02, 2012

Beyoglu, Istanbul: One Square Mile of Turkey

Jonathan Head - The Nobel laureate and renowned Turkish author Orhan Pamuk used an Arabic word huzun to describe the particular mood of melancholy that hung over the Istanbul of his youth, in the 1960s and 70s.

Back then it was a city whose fabled imperial history could be found only in the crumbling, blackened ruins, its inhabitants locked in an everyday struggle to escape poverty.

When the Ottoman Empire finally collapsed, after defeat in the First World War, Istanbul was occupied by British and French forces, the now-powerless Sultan conceding to all their demands. So the new Turkish nationalist movement, led by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, turned its back on Istanbul. It chose Ankara, deep in Anatolia, as the new capital.

Istanbul was seen as decadent, weak, and with so many minorities living there, not really Turkish.

Now Pamuk admits he scarcely recognises the city of his youth today because it is changing so fast.

One Square Mile chose the old European diplomatic district of Pera, because it embodies Istanbul's new confidence and energy, but also its complex history.

Read more on BBC: Beyoglu, Istanbul: One Square Mile of Turkey


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