The independent initiative Istos is a Greek ‘Rum’ organization in Istanbul established in 2011. One of the first activities of Istos was to revive the historic publishing tradition of the Greeks of Istanbul that was discontinued over half a century previously due to political pressure. They aim to contribute to knowledge about the history, culture and life of the Rums and to general historical understanding of Istanbul. Since part of the Rum community has remained in Istanbul, Istos seeks to counter a romantic and nostalgic perspective on Rum culture in the city that is based on a sense of loss.
Istos is not just a publishing house. It makes films and has a choir that sings in Greek (the choir also includes Turkish people). It organises language courses, and workshops and events on the Greeks of Istanbul. Lastly, there is Istos Café. So, Istos is a cultural focus for the Greek communites in Istanbul. Indeed, Istos (Ιστός), means ‘network’.
Apart from being a place to sell coffee, we thought it was essentially a place where people meet and socialize. We thought of it as an initiative, a process in which various activities are knitted around our publishing activity, and that’s where the Greek lessons, music lessons dance lessons started to be born and shaped around it [i.e. publishing activity]
Undoubtedly, it’s very important for the Rums [i.e. the Greek of Istanbul] to have more space; it is very important for the Rum youth: to be able to speak your language, read in your language and make music in your environment, in your space. However, this offers more potentials in a more general sense in terms of Turkish society.
Foti Benlisoy, one of the founders of Istos.
Here is the link to Istos (in Greek and Turkish): http://istospoli.com
I thank Istos for their time in talking to me and giving me permission to use their material, in particular to Yorgo and Foti Benlisoy.