ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Sveti Stefan Church is located in the historic Balat neighborhood of Istanbul. DAILY NEWS photo
Turkey’s Foundations Directorate General has agreed to return seven properties, equal to nearly 6,000 hectares of land, to Turkey’s Bulgarian community.
The Bulgarian community is the first group to have received their properties, even though they were not counted as a “minority” in the Lausanne Treaty.
The Vice President of Bulgarian Foundations Union Luben Chalmov said they were thrilled by the return.
“Yes, it is true that we were not counted as a minority group in the Lausanne Treaty, but it is obvious that we are a minority group as a community,” he told the Hürriyet Daily News.
Among the returned properties are the Exarchy Foundation’s former building in Istanbul’s Beşiktaş
district, tens of hectares in the Bulgarian Cemetery in the Feriköy neighborhood of Şişli district, as well as four other pieces of real estate in Şişli.
Perhaps the most remarkable returned property is the Sveti Stefan Church, known as the “Iron Church,” in the historic Balat neighborhood of Istanbul.
The Bulgarian population of Turkey has almost completely left the country and resettled in Bulgaria due to political tension in the recent history of Turkey. Chalmov said the population was over 50,000 at the beginning of the 20th century, but that today there were only 700 Bulgarians left in the country.
“It is not a big problem that our population is low. Turkey and Bulgaria are neighboring countries, without a doubt there will be traffic of people.”
The Foundation Law was approved by the Turkish Parliament in August 2011. The law has allowed Armenians, Rums (Anatolian Greeks) and Jews to reclaim their foundation properties, under the guarantee of the Lausanne Treaty.