Thematic exhibition

Thessaloniki, a multicultural metropolis

Discover 130 years spanning the end of the Ottoman Empire and its integration in the modern Greek state
Ενθύμιον Θεσσαλονίκης. Souvenir de Salonique. Avenue de la Tour Blanche.CC BY 4.0
Hellenic Literary and Historical Archive - Cultural Foundation of the National Bank Of Greece

At the beginning of the 19th century, Thessaloniki is a vibrant cultural melting pot- home to one of the biggest Jewish communities and, in addition to Ottomans and Christians, its colorful ethnic mosaic also includes Slavs, Bulgarians, Roma and Armenians. Mainly because of its unique geostrategic position, the city of Thessaloniki, since its establishment in the Hellenistic era by Macedonian rulers, has served as an important trade, administrative and religious hub of the Roman, the Byzantine, and later, of the Ottoman Empires. 23 centuries of history can still be traced in the many impressive monuments that adorn the city.

The rich photographic and archival material of the virtual exhibition below spans the period from the beginning of the 19th century until the interwar years, unveiling the turbulent history, the multi-layered human geography and the important monuments and landmarks that paint the portrait of the city during the end of the Ottoman Empire and the first years of its annexation into the new Greek state.

Mosques, orthodox monasteries and synagogues coexist. As the city is gradually industrialized, the railway connections expand and there is an architectural boom that reflects the wealth and prosperity of the city. The existence of many educational institutions in the city at the end of the century is a sign of city with a vivid intellectual activity.

At the same time, the 19th century is characterized by the awakening of many nationalistic movements, which lead to liberation struggles across all of the declining Ottoman Empire. Thessaloniki, the apple of discord between different ethnic claims, will finally become part of the Greek state with the end of long bloody conflicts, the Macedonian Struggle and the Balkan Wars, only in 1912. The exhibition features significant milestones from the city's history, such as the march of the Greek army in the city and its subsequent liberation in October 1912, the formation of the "Provisional Government of National Defense" by Eleftherios Venizelos in 1916, the rise of working class union movements, the fire of 1917 which destroyed most of the city center along with rare architectural and cultural monuments, leaving more than 70,000 people homeless and the reconstruction of the modern city according to European standards so that it can accommodate the massive influx of Asia Minor refugees and the urbanization movement that followed. The exhibition ends with the foundation of the (later Aristotle) University in 1925 and in 1926 of the International Fair of Thessaloniki, which mark an international orientation of the city and its final transition to a new era of national integration and development.