A Greek Newspaper Struggles to Survive in Istanbul

The story of the Apoyevmatini newspaper in Istanbul mirrors to a great extent the story of the Greek community in the city: Once abundant and prospering, but today, struggling to survive.

Founded on July 12, 1925, the Apoyevmatini (“Evening newspaper” in English) is the last Greek-language newspaper to be published in Istanbul. Along with the Turkish Cumhuriyet, they are the oldest daily newspapers founded after the establishment of the Republic of Turkey.

Back in the days when the Greek community was flourishing, Apoyevmatini was its vibrant voice. It was founded as a collaboration between Konstantinos Vasileiadis, holder of the publishing license, and Odysseas Krystalidis, the owner and operator of the printing facilities, who had experience in newspaper distribution.

The newspaper covered the news of the Greek community in Turkey such as weddings, births, christenings and obituaries, as well as hard news, politics, and reports on the Greek Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarchate and Greek-Turkish relations.

At one point, Apoyevmatini’s circulation in the 1920s and 1930s was as large as 30,000.

The first editor-in-chief was Kavalieros Markouizos, who adopted the motto which is still being used for the newspaper: Victor Hugo’s quote “New epochs bring new missions.”  Appropriate for the time, the motto reflected the transition that the Greek community was facing as the Ottoman Empire was becoming the modern Republic of Turkey.

Grigorios Giaveridis took over as editor-in-chief in 1929 and served for fifty years, until his death in August, 1979. Since that time, his brother-in-law Dr. Georgios Adosoglou and his brother Vasileios Adosoglou have been at the helm of the paper.

They introduced another motto, which serves the paper along with the first one. “No one is born, and nobody dies without Apoyevmatini,” it reads, meaning that the newspaper had announced all births and deaths in the Greek community of Istanbul for many generations.

In September of 1955, during the violent persecution of Greeks in the city, the offices and  printing facilities of the newspaper were completely destroyed by Turkish fanatics. Apoyevmatini somehow managed to resume publication two weeks after the event, but suffered financial losses of 500,000 Turkish liras.

Michael Vasiliadis (right) and his son Minas Vasiliadis (left) keep Apoyevmatini alive against all odds. Photo: Twitter

After the death of Dr. Georgios Adosoglou in June 2002, ownership of Apoyevmatini was transferred to his sister, Efsevia Adosoglou, whereupon circulation dropped to barely 80 copies per day. The paper managed to survive only through donations and paid announcements.

Michael Vasiliadis became editor-in-chief in January of 2003, and stopped the rapid decline of the iconic Greek paper.

From that point onward, circulation continued to decline somewhat but this was a reflection of the concurrent drop of the city’s Greek population. However, Apovevmatini’s online edition, which was launched in 2007, began bringing in new income from subscribers living abroad.

Yet this was still not enough to keep the paper afloat. In July of 2011, Apoyevmatini declared that it would be forced to shut down due to financial difficulties. Much of this was due to crisis-hit Greek companies which had stopped advertising in the newspaper. The once-integral Greek institution in Istanbul found itself facing ruin due to their financial problems.

But the dire situation served to ignite a popular campaign to help the historical newspaper. Surprisingly, many supporters were students from İstanbul’s Bilgi University, who subscribed to the newspaper. They ran a campaign which included videos asking for help, and used the slogan “Apoyevmatini is our Cultural Heritage too.”

In September of 2011, the Turkish government gave a cash grant of 45,000 liras to the newspaper through the Turkish Press Advertisement Agency, as part of a wider support of minority newspapers. The government agency also declared their intention to publish official government advertisements in religious-minority newspapers including Apoyevmatini.

The campaign saved the Greek newspaper from total dissolution, but financial problems lingered. In October, 2014, Apoyevmatini was forced to leave its historical offices which had served as its headquarters for almost ninety years.

Michael Vasiliadis and his son Minas Vasiliadis, who is editor-in-chief, now work from their homes to keep Apoyevmatini going.

Today, the newspaper has several hundred subscribers for its online service and sells about six hundred hard copies, most of them hand-delivered to subscribers. And significantly, this is exactly the number of Greek families still living in Istanbul, which could mean that every single family has a copy of the Apoyevmatini.

However, according to the Vasiliadis family, it is estimated that about half of the hard-copy subscribers are Turks who want to support the historical paper as part of their city’s cultural heritage.