Babayan and Sinassos

Babayan and Sinassos: two names of towns you will not find any more on any map of Turkey. Or it would have to be an old map, from the Ottoman times. You would find Babayan and Sinassos in the middle of what is now Turkey, in the province of Nevsehir. Lots of Greeks once lived there. After the founding of the republic in 1923, they were forced to leave for Greece, and they were replaced by Turks who had lived on Greek territory. The names of the towns were changed: Babayan is now Ibrahimpasa, Sinassos is now Mustafapasa.

There are hundreds of these sorts of towns in Turkey. In the west and middle of the country, Greek names were changed, in the east and southeast Kurdish and Armenian names were changed. Now in search for a solution to the Kurdish question, the government is considering changing village names back again to their original Kurdish form, as Kurdish activists have been demanding for a long time. But then it would be hard to distinguish between the one changed town’s name and another, so then, some say all names have to be changed back to their original ones from about a hundred years ago. It turns out that many, many towns in the east and southeast would have Armenian names, many in the west and middle of the country Greek ones. Renaming a Kurdish town with a mainly Kurdish population with its original Kurdish name seems to make sense, but reintroducing Greek and Armenian names to towns where no Greeks or Armenians are left, seems sort of weird. And would it stop with towns? Or would mountains that were renamed ‘Bayraktepe’ (‘Flaghill’) after a victory in war, be given their Greek names again, as in fact they were once won from the Greeks? It’s a very interesting debate that has started, with heavy emotions among both activists and nationalists. And I’m sure it will take years before the outcome becomes clear.

4 replies
  1. Willemijn Bouman
    Willemijn Bouman says:

    I, by chance, live in Babayan/Ibrahimpaşa.
    When we (the villagers) present ourselves officially we say ‘Ibrahimpaşa’lıyız (We are from/with Ibrahimpaşa) but we all call ourselves among each other: ‘Babayan’lıyız. Sometimes we mention both names in a row, some (mostly elderly people) recognize Babayan, some Ibrahimpaşa…
    We can also explain why the name Ibrahimpaşa was chosen for Babayan.

  2. Fréderike Geerdink
    Fréderike Geerdink says:

    Yes, good to mention, Willemijn, that many of these old names are still used by the people who live in the villages. And: why is it that the name Ibrahimpasa was chosen for Babayan?

  3. Willemijn Bouman
    Willemijn Bouman says:

    The reigning Ottoman Grand Vizir: Damat Ibrahim Paşa (1662-1730) transformed Nevşehir from fourteen houses into a big city. Also he brought clear and drinkable water by a good tunnel system from its source in Kavak to both Babayan and Ortahisar. He was a man with a vision on regional prosperity.
    To honor the Paşa the Babayan villagers decided to name the water after his high Muslim rank: ‘Vizirsu’ (Vizier water) and the village after his name: Ibrahimpaşa.
    His statue can be found in the Nevşehir province capital.
    Read more on this, but only in Dutch

  4. Stratos Moraitis
    Stratos Moraitis says:

    Just an addendum on name-changing practices in Istanbul and Izmir neighborhoods.
    Names are chosen basically to insult minorities living in these neighborhoods. For example mainly Greek and Armenian neighborhood of Tatavla in Istanbul was renamed “Kurtulus” (freedom/getting rid of). In Izmir, Greek neighborhood of Pounta was renamed “Alsancak” (red flag) and many streets were given the names of generals who committed atrocities against Christians like Talat Pasha or Mustapha Bey.


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