ISTANBUL - In recent years, Trabzon has made national and international headlines for all the wrong reasons. Two academics, one from the Black Sea port, conduct sociological research in the city and publish their findings in a book called 'Trabzon'u Anlamak' (Understanding Trabzon).
The Black Sea port city of Trabzon has made national and international headlines in recent years for its apparent lack of communal harmony, as stories of murders and assassinations abound, leading two academics to publish a book on the topic.
On Feb. 5, 2006, Father Andrea Santoro of the Catholic Church of Santa Maria in Trabzon was murdered. Not a year had passed when another murder put Trabzon back in the spotlight Jan. 19, 2007, when Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, the editor in chief at the bilingual daily Agos, was gunned down in Istanbul. The suspected perpetrators of both murders were born in Trabzon.
Following these two crimes, which shook the world as well as Turkey, two academics decided to collaborate on a sociological research project about Trabzon, with the ultimate aim of preparing a general sociological profile of the entire country.
Trabzon youth and the concept of nationalism
"Today’s youth does not live in its own modest world; therefore, its expectations are high," coauthor Dr. Güven Bakırezer told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review. "The young people of Trabzon have no hopes for the future. There are no channels for their intellectual or physical energy. Therefore, the youth easily turn to the nationalistic right when the European Union, the Kurds or the Armenians are the subject."
Yücel Demirer, Bakırezer’s coauthor, agreed. "It was important for us to investigate why Trabzon was the place; [why] the offenders were from here and whether the incidents were organized," Demirer said. "The change in Trabzon should be considered within the scope of the process of change that has occurred and is occurring throughout Turkey."
Although Trabzon is a city with thousands of years of history, lately it is only mentioned for acts of violence. Bakırezer said the cosmopolitan structure of the city was disrupted between 1915 and 1924 when its non-Muslim community was sent away. "The cultures and ethnic minorities that lived in Trabzon for thousands of years are never mentioned in any way," he said. "Trabzon does not stake any claim to its multicultural history; it cannot even stomach historic artifacts left from different cultures after nationalism put down deep roots rapidly."
Bakırezer pointed to economic difficulties as the reason behind Trabzon’s current problems, arguing that the economy of the city has been worsening throughout the history of the Republic. According to Bakırezer, the city’s industry has yet to develop and the governments of the Republican era have been unable to find a solution to overpopulation in the rural areas.
"The lack of industry and the high unemployment rates caused inflation for the city," he said. "Trabzon is one of the provinces that suffered the most during the economic crisis in 2001. It also happened to be one of the provinces that experienced the fastest shift to the right in politics. Yasin Hayal, the alleged instigator of the Dink murder, bombing a McDonalds in Trabzon was a very important sign."
Demirer said the sociological changes that took place in the city right after the fall of the Eastern Bloc were significant. "The organized prostitution market affects the social structure deeply and will continue to do so for years to come," he added. "We should be prepared for the consequences."
One of the researchers, Bakırezer, was born in Trabzon. An assistant professor at the faculty of political sciences and public administration at Kocaeli University, he worked as a guest researcher for the Center for Middle Eastern and North African Studies at the University of Michigan from 1998 to 1999.
His coauthor, Demirer, earned a master’s degree in sociology at Fisk University in Nashville and his doctorate at Ohio State University. Their book, "Trabzon’u Anlamak" (Understanding Trabzon), was published by İletişim Publishing and focuses on Trabzon’s history and current state of affairs, particularly the Santoro and Dink assassinations.