most recent refugees to settle in Bodrum are those who
came to find some relief from dehumanizing city life.
The previous wave of refugees were called “Cretans”.
They came to Bodrum, usually via other Aegean islands,
after they had to flee from Crete. Their descendants
form a large portion of Bodrum’s population today.
Bodrum in the 1950s and 1960s was a quiet fishing village.
The population of the whole Bodrum administrative district,
basically the Bodrum peninsula, changed from 21,929
to 25,875 between the years 1950 and 1965, an annual
increase of only 1.2 % . But these were the years when
the seeds of the currently visible explosion were sown
by two men, Cevat Sakir Kabaagaçli and Sabahattin
Eyüboglu.These two Turkish intellectuals gathered
a nucleus of followers who, year after year, made an
annual pilgrimage to Bodrum. They revelled in the primitive,
rustic simplicity of life and explored the coasts, visiting
by boat otherwise inaccessible historical sites that
were being slowly destroyed by man and nature. Their
example and their tales spread among the intelligentsia
(as well as Bohemian hangers-on) and Bodrum became an
“in” destination. Eventually, some of the
more adventurous among these pilgrims settled here and
their free life-styles - whispered about in the cafes
of Istanbul - became a magnet for others who wanted
to let their hair down and be noticed by the social
these latter-day refugees from city life arrived, they
encountered two distinct neighborhoods,one rural conservative
Turkish, and the other “Cretan”. These “Cretans”,
Moslems hounded out of Crete and other Aegean islands
by Greek nationalism, were members of the above-mentioned
previous group of refugees who found a haven in Bodrum.
Being relatively more liberal than their rural neighbors,
the “Cretans” accepted the city refugees
more readily and the area where they lived, East of
the Castle, developed more rapidly, eventually emerging
in its current guise as the main tourist center. As
tourism grew Bodrum started to attract foreign visitors.
Some fell in love with the town and the hinterland,
others fell in love with a resident, and quite a number
decided to call Bodrum their home. Though not without
problems of mutual adaptation, these foreign-born newcomers
were welcomed in the old Turkish tradition of sincere
This brings us to a subject little known or appreciated
in the Western world: the tradition of Turkish hospitality
- especially to the persecuted - is at least as old
as the first Turkish state in Anatolia and is historically
well documented. Perhaps the first to avail themselves
of refuge in Turkish lands were Jews persecuted in Christian
Europe and their first recorded migrations to Ottoman
Turkey were in 1376 from Hungary and 1394 when they
were expelled by Charles VI from France. Later, after
Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror took Constantinople and
the Jews there experienced life under Turkish rule,
Rabbi Isaac Zarfati wrote to his co-religionists in
Europe calling on them to escape Christian persecution
by coming to live in the domain of the Sultans. But
the largest number of refuges came in 1492, consisting
of Jews from Spain who had lived there for centuries
under Moslem rule but were given the choice of conversion,
death or expulsion by Ferdinand and Isabella upon their
conquest of Spain. Most accepted refuge offered by Sultan
Süleyman the Magnificent.
Turkish hospitality was extended not only to Jews. Russian”Old
Believers” oppressed by Czar Peter the Great also
found refuge inTurkish lands in the 1700s, as did Polish
and Hungarian patriots in the 1800s who fought and lost
their in insurrections against Russian or Austrian oppression.
Many of these latter political refugees stayed on and
repaid Turkish hospitality with significant technical,
military, educational and diplomatic contributions.
Here it must be noted that Turkey is one of the first
countries, if not the first, to legislate a refugee
code (Muhacirin Kanunnamesi, 1857) according to which
refugees were given grants of land and stipends to establish
their new lives
The Russian Revolution of 1917 brought a flood of refugees
to Turkey, and even in the 1950s in theGrand Bazaar
one could still find russian memorabilia sold by their
hapless owners to purchase food, clothing, shelter or
passage to further destinations. Turkey was at war and
these refugees suffered many privations, but bearing
in mind that they came from a country that was an old
enemy of Turkey, the hospitality they received was exemplary.
Later, even Trotsky was granted refuge on one of the
Princes’ Islands before departing for Mexico.
In the 1930s another convulsion shook Europe with the
coming to power of the Nazis in Germany and once again
Turkey opened its doors to the persecuted. As the Nazi
fury was first directed mainly against Jews and political
opponents of intellectual stature, Turkey offered refuge
to hundreds of victims, including many professors expelled
from German universities. They arrived with their families
and were given high posts at universities in Istanbul
and Ankara where they contributed greatly to the reorganization
of Turkish higher education. Many well-known names were
among them, but we can mention only a few, without detracting
from the memory and contributions of the others.
Georg Rohde was appointed Professor of Philology of
Ancient Languages at Ankara Universty and published
Turkish translations of Classic works of literature
from Latin and Greek, which have remained in print.
He was also the teacher of the famous Turkish archaeologist
and author, Ekrem Akurgal. Also among these professors
was Bruno Taut, the architect, who was responsible for
the design of many public buildings in Ankara, and was
Professor of Architecture at Istanbul Technical University
and the Istanbul Academy of Fine Arts. Fritz Neumark,
formerly Professor of Economics at Frankfurt University,
joined the staff of Istanbul University, while Carl
Ebert founded and directed the Ankara State Opera Company.
Another subsequently famous refugee was Ernst Reuter,
a former member of the German Parliament. After spending
two years in a concentration camp he escaped via Holland
to England and came to Ankara in 1935. Here he advised
the Turkish Ministries of Economics and Transport and
later became Professor of Political Science at Ankara
University. After the war he returned to Germany to
become the first mayor of Berlin. A few readers may
still remember his inspirational radio addresses during
the Soviet blockade of the old German capital.
Undoubtedly the most famous of those who were invited
to Turkey, however, declined a position at Istanbul
University at the last minute when he was offered a
professorship at Princeton – he was Albert Einstein.