Imbros, officially known as Gökçeada (older name in Turkish: İmroz; Greek: Ίμβρος – Imvros), is the largest island of Turkey, part of Çanakkale Province. It is located at the entrance of Saros Bay in the northern Aegean Sea, also the westernmost point of Turkey (Avlaka peninsula). With an area of 279 km² (108 square miles), Imbros contains some wooded areas.
According to the 2000 Census, the island of Imbros had a total population of 8,875. The same census also reported 7,254 people in Gökçeada town, and 1,621 in the remaining villages.
Between Turkey and Greece
Before and shortly after the First World War the population of Imbros was ethnically Greek, with Greeks making up approximately 97.5 percent of the islands population in 1927.
Because of their strategic position near the Dardanelles, the western powers, particularly Britain, insisted at the end of the Balkan Wars in 1913 that the island should be retained by the Ottoman Empire when the other Aegean islands were ceded to Greece.
In 1920, the Treaty of Sèvres with the defeated Ottoman Empire granted the island to Greece. The Ottoman government, which signed but did not ratify the treaty, was overthrown by the new Turkish nationalist Government of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, based in Ankara. After the Greco-Turkish War ended in Greek defeat in Anatolia, and the fall of Lloyd George and his Middle Eastern policies, the western powers agreed to the Treaty of Lausanne with the new Turkish Republic, in 1923. This treaty made the island part of Turkey; but it guaranteed a special autonomous administrative status on Imbros and Tenedos to accommodate the Greeks, and excluded them from the population exchange that took place between Greece and Turkey, due to their presence there as a majority.
However shortly after the legislation of “Civil Law” on 17 February 1926 (Medeni Kanun), the rights accorded to minorities in Turkey were revoked, in violation of the Lausanne Treaty.
The Greek population
The island was primarily inhabited by ethnic Greeks from ancient times through to approximately the middle of the twentieth century. Data dating from 1922 taken under Greek rule and 1927 data taken under Turkish rule showed a strong majority of Greek inhabitants on Imbros, and the Greek Orthodox Church had a strong presence on the island.
Article 14 of the Treaty of Lausanne (1923) exempted Imbros and Tenedos from the large-scale population exchange that took place between Greece and Turkey, and required Turkey to accommodate the local Greek majority and their rights:
The islands of Imbros and Tenedos, remaining under Turkish sovereignty, shall enjoy a special administrative organisation composed of local elements and furnishing every guarantee for the native non-Moslem population insofar as concerns local administration and the protection of persons and property. The maintenance of order will be assured therein by a police force recruited from amongst the local population by the local administration above provided for and placed under its orders.
Thus, under the Turkish Republic, the islands were to be largely autonomous and self-governing, with their own police force. This provision was not guaranteed by anything more than the faith of the Treaty.
Intercommunal relationsThe Greek emigrés from Turkey assert numerous violations of the religious, linguistic, and economic rights guaranteed as matters of international concern by the Treaty, including freedom of the Orthodox religion and the right to practice the professions. Leaders of the Greek community in Turkey "voluntarily waived" these rights in 1926; but the Treaty provides (Article 44) that these rights can only be modified by the consent of the majority of the Council of League of Nations. The emigrés assert that the signatures to the waivers were obtained by orders of the police, and that Avrilios Spatharis and Savvas Apostologlou, who refused to sign, were imprisoned. The Greek government appealed this action to the Council and was upheld, but Turkey has not complied.
In addition, the following grievances apply particularly to Imbros:
- In 1923, Turkey dismissed the elected government of the island, and installed mainlanders. 1500 Imbriots who had taken refuge from the Turkish War of Independence on Lemnos and in Thessalonica were denied the right to return, as undesirables.
- In 1927, the system of local administration on Imbros is abolished, and the Greek schools are closed. In 1952-3, the Greek Imbriots were permitted to build new ones, closed again in 1964.
- In 1943, Turkey arrested the Metropolitan of Imbros and Tenedos with other Orthodox clerics. They also confiscated the lands on Imbros belonging the monasteries of Great Lavra and Koutloumousiou on Mount Athos, expelled the tenants, and installed settlers; when the Mayor of Imbros and four village elders protested, they were arrested and sent to the mainland.
- Between 1964 and 1984, almost all the usable land on Imbros, including all the land have been expropriated, for inadequate compensation, for an army camp, a minimum-security prison, reforestation projects, a dam project, and a national park.
- Nicholas Palaiopoulos, a town councilor, was arrested and imprisoned in 1966 for complaining to the Greek Ambassador on the latter's visit to Imbros; he, together with the Mayor of Imbros and 20 others, was imprisoned again in 1974.
- A crime wave has hit Imbros since 1964; the old Cathedral at Kastro (Kaleköy) was desecrated on the night of the Turkish landing on Cyprus; the present Cathedral was looted in March 1993; there have been a number of rapes and murders, officially blamed on convicts and soldiers, but none of them have been solved.
- In July 1993, the Turkish National Security began a program to settle mainland Turks on Imbros (and Tenedos).
All of these events have led to the Greeks emigrating from both islands. Before 1964, the population of Imbros was 7000 Greeks, and 200 mainland Turkish officials; by 1970 the Greeks were a minority at 40% of the population, and there remains only a very small Greek community on Imbros today, comprising several hundred mostly elderly people. Most of the former Greeks of Imbros and Tenedos are in diaspora in Greece, the United States, and Australia.
- Oxford Classical Dictionary s. "Imbros"
- Loeb Classical Library Athenaeus.
- The struggle for justice : 1923-1993 : 70 years of Turkish provocation and violations of the Treaty of Lausanne : a chronicle of human rights violations; Citizen’s Association of Constantinople-Imvros-Tenedos-Eastern Thrace of Thrace. Komotini (1993)
- Website on the misfortunes of the Greeks. While tendentious, the section (in the middle of the page) about the islands is not strident, and asserts several matters of fact.
- Text of the Treaty of Lausanne.
- Les îles d'Imbros et de Tenedos Source for population.
- Homer - The Iliad - Book XIII - Reference is made to a cavern located between the rocky isles of Imbros and Tenedos supposedly the home of the God Poseidon
imroz in Azerbaijani: Gökçeada
imroz in Bulgarian: Имброс
imroz in Catalan: Gökçeada
imroz in German: Gökçeada
imroz in Modern Greek (1453-): Ίμβρος
imroz in Spanish: Imbros
imroz in Esperanto: Imbros
imroz in French: Imbros
imroz in Hebrew: גקצ'אדה
imroz in Lithuanian: Giokčeada
imroz in Dutch: Imbros
imroz in Norwegian Nynorsk: Imbros
imroz in Swedish: Gökçeada
imroz in Turkish: Gökçeada, Çanakkale