Salonica and Its Jewish History in Turkish Historiography
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Any attempt to map in Turkish historiography the presence of Salonica as a predominantly Jewish Ottoman city is bound to end in frustration due to a general lack of interest in the topic. This is strange if one considers that during the last decades of the empire, Salonica was by far its most active city after Istanbul, which was an unrivaled center of cultural, political, economic, and social modernity. The present situation stems from the reduction of Salonica to the status of a city lost to the Greeks, a vision that further occults the Jewish dimension of its identity and destiny. As such, there is little that connects the history of the city to mainstream Turkish history, other than the fact that it was the birthplace of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. Turkish historiography has stripped Salonica of its historical identity and reality to turn it into yet another “Turkish” city lost during the debacle of the end of the empire. The steamroller of national(ist) history has thus flattened the city’s complex and multilayered past into the grand narrative of the Ottoman Empire as a Turco-Islamic state. Apart from translations of the few Western sources that tell a different story, Turkish historical studies have failed to produce any original work on the subject; even worse, some of the rare works that do exist tend to concentrate on a pseudohistorical and populist account of the Sabbatean community as (yet another) fifth column targeting the integrity of country and nation.
KeywordsSalonica Ottoman city Turkish historiography Ottoman Empire Mustafa Kemal Atatürk Sabbatean movement
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