The Greek-language newspaper Apoyevmatini (‘Afternoon’) was first published in Istanbul in 1925, by the brothers Andonis and Konstandinos Vasiliadis. It is Turkey’s second oldest paper, after the left-nationalist Cumhuriyet, first published in 1924. In the 1920s Apoyevmatini sold more than thirty thousand copies a day. According to the 1914 census, around two million Greeks lived in the Ottoman Empire, out of a population of twenty million.
A hundred years on, only 614 Turkish Greek families live in the country. In 1915, Enver Pasha, one of the masterminds of the mass killing of Ottoman Armenians, said he wanted to handle ‘the Greek problem’ personally. Hundreds of thousands of Greeks were killed between 1914 and 1923, when hundreds of thousands of more were deported to Greece in a ‘population exchange’. Discrimination and pogroms continued throughout the century; in the 1990s Apoyevmatini’s circulation was down to 80 copies.
Earlier this month, Apoyevmatini’s owner and editor, Michael Vasiliadis, said he could no longer afford to keep it open. The cost of paper has gone up with the lira’s fall against the euro. In July Vasiliadis stopped printing in colour. The paper’s offices are in Beyoğlu’s Syria Pasaj, an arcade that housed the French daily Stamboul in the 19th century. The rent is high and Vasiliadis fears his offices will turn into another kebab or dürüm restaurant.
Seven staff put the paper together for 600 readers. It’s nearly gone out of business before: in 2011, a liberal Turkish university organised a campaign to support the paper and hundreds of non-Greek-speaking citizens subscribed. The state gave the paper 45,000 lira (about £14,000). Another campaign and more government money may add another ten years to the paper’s life, but it is difficult to protect and preserve a culture when the people whose culture it is have been erased from history. The Greek primary school on the island of Gökçeada was closed in 1964, when around 40,000 Greeks were deported from Turkey. It reopened this week, with three teachers and four pupils.