The abandoned stone buildings of this once-bustling town are roofless and weathered and the narrow streets worn with age. But this is not an ancient city—Kayakoy in Turkey is a modern ruin, deserted for political reasons in the 1920s.
Originally built in the 1700s, the town called Karmylassos in Greek was home to as many as 20,000 Greek Orthodox residents by the early 20th century. Then came World War I, the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, and the land grabs of the Greco-Turkish War (1919–1922). Greece suffered a resounding defeat in the conflict, and had to hand territory it gained during the war back to Turkey. Residual violence and retribution was often aimed at the remaining Greek Orthodox community within the new Turkish borders, and in turn, against the Muslim Turks in Greece.
In order to stanch the bloodshed, the Greek and Turkish governments signed a population-exchange agreement in January 1923. According to the terms of the deal, Greek Orthodox residents of Turkey had to relocate to Greece, while Muslim residents of Greece had to move to Turkey. Relocation was compulsory and began in May 1923, although, by that time, hundreds of thousands had already fled of their own accord.
The Greek residents of Kayakoy, who had thus far lived peacefully with their Turkish neighbors, abandoned the town and went to Greece, which was struggling to find places for the nearly 1.5 million refugees of the population swap. Over 300,000 Turks were forcibly removed from Greece to a war-ravaged, but land-rich, Turkey.
In Kayakoy, approximately 350 homes now sit empty and mostly roofless, along with two Greek Orthodox churches and the fountains and cisterns that watered the city. Harsh winters, strong winds, and a 1957 earthquake have stripped the buildings down to ruins.
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