Eight kilometers to the south of Fethiye city in southwestern Turkey lies the ruins of around five hundred houses belonging to the once thriving community of Livissi, consisting mostly of Greek Orthodox Christians. Livissi, now known as Kayakoy or the Rock Village, was built probably in the 18th century on the site of the ancient city of Lebessus, and is thought to have been the place where the inhabitants of Byzantine Gemiler Island fled to escape the marauding pirates. After a devastating earthquake and fire left Fethiye a wasted land, many moved to Livissi and the town grew. During its heydays, Livissi had a population of 10,000 or 20,000 according to different sources.
Before the First World War, there were many Greek populations living peacefully across the whole of western Turkey. But when War started, these Greeks suddenly found themselves in enemy land and at mercy of the Ottomans. Several hundred thousand Greeks were massacred during the war as part of ethnic cleansing carried out by the Turks. Some fled to Greece. Others were forcibly deported.
The inhabitants of Livissi were driven out from their homes and marched on foot to another location 220 km away. Many perished, succumbing to hunger and fatigue, during these death marches.
After Turkey’s defeat in the War and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the Greeks decided to go land grabbing and invaded Turkey. A full-scale war followed —the Greco-Turkish War— lasting three years, during which untold number of horrible crimes were committed by both Greeks and Turks against each other —mass murders, rapes, butchering, burning down of cities and the usual.
Eventually, a peace treaty was signed in 1923, and both countries came to an agreement to exchange population. Over one million Greek Orthodox Christians living in Turkey were to return to Greece. In a similar fashion, about 500,000 Muslims would have to leave Greek territories and go back to Turkey.
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By the time the war ended, Livissi was more or less abandoned. The few remaining families were once again forcibility deported. When the Greeks left, the Muslim deportees from Greece landed on Livissi. However, the Muslims, accustomed to large and fertile fields in their former land, found this hilly and rocky town unfit to live, and abandoned the place in favor of other regions. In 1957, a 7.1 magnitude earthquake delivered Livissi its final blow, destroying most of the town’s buildings.
The town of Livissi, now renamed Kayakoy, remains deserted but preserved as a museum and a historical monument. Unfortunately, the Turkish government has been cooking up some terrible plans to turn part of the historic town into a tourist attraction with hotels, shops and other facilities.
This feature originally appeared in Amusing Planet.