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The “Shared History Project”

The Kokkalis Foundation provided financial support for the completion of Columbia University’s “Shared History Project” in cooperation with Turkey’s Sabanci University and Panteion University of Athens. Initiated in September 1999, the project undertook a phased approach to the deconstruction of national hate narratives. The first narrative examined through the project was that of “The Burning of Smyra/Izmir.” Through a series of seminars, participants in the project used the case study of Smyra/Izmir as an exercise in presenting controversial and sensitive historical issues. Confidence building and cultural understanding between participants was highly emphasised. Vangelis Kechriotis, the project co-ordinator, created a progress report identifying the seven different aspects of the Smyra/Izmir topic that were analysed in detail by participants in the Shared History Project. These topics included:

  • The chronology of events

  • The escalation of nationalism up to 1922

  • Social and economic development in the area

  • The month leading up to and the month after the actual burning of Smyrna/Izmir

  • How Greek and Turkish national memories have been constructed around the event

  • Oral history drawn from interviews with family members on both sides

  • Work on conflict resolution

Following the initial investigation of the Smyrna/Izmir narrative, a series of seminars were held to evaluate the usefulness and transferability of such a project. In October 2000 in Istanbul a reorganisation scheme for the project was created together with a detailed outline for the different types of issue papers to be produced by the subgroups. A final meeting was conducted in Turkey on 13-14 of April 2002, for the discussion of the project’s working papers.


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