The Story Behind Turkey’s Abandoned Religious Ghost Town

Once known as Levissi, the abandoned village of Kayaköy was once home to around 10,000 people, including Anatolian Muslims and Greek Orthodox Christians, within a thriving and harmonious community. With origins in the 14th century, Kayaköy was forcefully abandoned at the end of the Greco-Turkish War when a population exchange meant that Muslims and Christians were exchanged between Greece and Turkey so that each country could claim one major religion in the path toward ethnic and national homogeneity.

As such, Levissi became Kayaköy (Rock Village) when the more than 6,000 Christians suddenly left, leaving only their beautiful stone homes and churches behind. In general, the exchange uprooted around 200,000 Greeks and 300,000 Turks who had to acknowledge a brand new place of settlement as organized by the Nobel Prize-winning Norwegian scientist Fridtjof Nansen, whom the League of Nations assigned to the task.