In Turkey, a Clash of Nationalism and History





An exhibit marking the anniversary of an Istanbul pogrom is breaking taboos. The exhibit opened 50 years to the day after the mayhem it chronicled in the cobblestone street right outside the gallery.

Captured on black-and-white glossies was a modern-day pogrom, a massive, state-sponsored assault on a foreign community that awoke on the morning of Sept. 6, 1955, still feeling safe in Istanbul. By sunset a day later, a mob of perhaps 100,000 Turks had attacked foreigners' homes, schools and churches, and filled whole streets with the contents of the ruined shops that lined them. In the aftermath of the attack, a city for centuries renowned for its diversity steadily purged itself of almost everyone who could not claim to be Turkish.

The exhibit at Karsi Artworks attempts to confront that history, dubbed the Events of Sept. 6-7, in the era before "ethnic cleansing" entered the popular lexicon. But when ultranationalist thugs swarmed into the gallery on opening night -- throwing eggs, tearing down photos and chanting "Love it or leave it!" -- the question became whether it really is history at all.



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