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town of mosques, churches and synagogues,
was homogenised by the nation state and after the
Balkan wars became a typically Muslim town.
The historical discourse on Edirne constructs a narrative similar to the officialised stories
and oral tales about most Balkan towns. According to one of the best contrastive studies of towns
on the Balkans,
Balkanskiyat grad XV-XIX vek
The Balkan Town,
] (Todorov 1972),
the Ottoman Empire enforces the urban model through the organisation of settlements from
the point of view of religious and ethnic forms of coexistence that enable scholars to excerpt
a general urban model. The empirical descriptions of travellers, who crossed the Balkans, offer
one more emphasis on the quality of towns to be recognisable, yet unknowable, both in terms
of infrastructure and space organisation and in terms of social and cultural activities and diverse
population. The first settlement appeared on the Tundzha river. With its various inhabitants it has
been inherited and it inherits models of previous civilizations, with the next population bringing
in its own specificity. The thin red line running through such stories is the fact that Edirne has
always been an urban centre.
The Ottoman town inherited the Byzantine town, which had a quadrant town structure,
surrounded by a town wall with four towers. In 1361 the Muslims struck ‘a gentlemen’s agreement’
and allowed non-Muslim communities to live in the fortified town, which went on until the
beginning of WW2.
The process of destroying the old town structure of Edirne becomes particularly intensive
after the 1960s, on the one hand, as a result of the changes that characterise the post-war period
and in consequence of the 1942 agreement to exchange population, and, on the other hand, due
to the reforms in the Turkey, which fostered the need for a different type of town organisation.
These political events changed the character of the town’s population – the residents of Edirne
migrated towards Istanbul and the other big industrial centres in the country or abroad, while
newcomers settled in Edirne.
The political border between Bulgaria, Turkey, and Greece constitutes Edirne as a Turkish
town that waves goodbye to its population and welcomes new settlers predominantly from the
south-eastern end of the country and the Balkans. In the 1960s Edirne was developing as a Janian
town, old and new at the same time. Urban anthropology and sociology outline two models of
migrants making the spaces of towns their own. They either settle in the town centre, or choose to
inhabit the peripheries and sometimes have the chance to shape up their own residential areas. In
the older part of the town, a couple of neighbourhoods recognisable as settlers’ space are named
Yildirim and Istasyon (in the area of the railway station in town): this is where the municipality has
given migrants from Bulgaria planning permissions.
Edirne applies both models of inhabiting space on the part of the newcomers: a huge
13 On the structure of Edirne as an Ottoman town, see Dobreva 2012.
14 In order to draw a parallel, see the official historical narratives on Plovdiv, Thessaloniki, Athens, Belgrade,
Sofia, Istanbul, etc.
15 According to Murat Gul, in the 1950s—1980s, in the aftermath of the destructive earthquake of 1953, Edirne
did not draw the attention of the ruling parties. Thus, for a long while the town was not a place which utilized the
achievements of contemporary civilization. Gül 2009: 7, 73. Qtd in Dobreva 2012.