Between Empires, Beyond Borders tells the story of the Kope family, technically Austro-Hungarian subjects who lived in many metropolises, including Istanbul, during WWI and beyond.

The exhibition Between Empires, Beyond Borders: The War and Armistice Years Through the Eyes of the Kope Family at SALT Beyoglu in Istanbul, Turkey focuses on a family who has “witnessed Ottoman Empire’s modernization period as well as its withdrawal from the world stage.”

The exhibition has been extended until March 14, 2021. The Kope family’s history is documented via photographs and other mementos through the Second Constitutional Era, the First World War and the Armistice Period. The Kope family members’ lives took place across Brasso, Istanbul, Thessaloniki, Edirne and Konya and “shed(s) light on the milestones of political, social and diplomatic history.”

Developed by Nefin Dinc (James Madison University), Erol Ulker (Isık University) and Lorans Tanatar Baruh (SALT), the exhibition is supported by the Hungarian Cultural Center in Istanbul.

Aviator Fethi Bey and Taib Kope, Yesilkoy Airfield, Istanbul, 1914.
Aviator Fethi Bey and Taib Kope, Yesilkoy Airfield, Istanbul, 1914. (Antoine Kope Archive / Courtesy Elizabeth Childress)

The family’s story begins with Andras Kope fleeing from a village near Brasso, where he was born and raised, to the Ottoman capital, Istanbul, “from the pressures of the Austrian Empire”. The time was the ‘Tanzimat era’, “a period of Westernizing reforms in the [Ottoman] Empire”, and Andras Kope met his future wife, Leocadie Tallibart in Istanbul.

Leocadie’s family was originally from Brittany, northwest France and she was in Istanbul with her two brothers: Louis, a watchmaker and jeweler, and Pierre, an architect. Andras Kope and Leocadie Tallibart got married in 1842.

“The exhibition includes the letters of their second child, Charles, who in turn married Rose-Marie Marcopoli, in 1882. Coming from a Levantine family of Genoese origin in Trabzon, [Turkey] Rose-Marie had six children with Charles: Charlotte, Ida, Taib, Ferdinand, Antoine and Eugene.”

Demonstrations for the abolition of the capitulations, Istanbul, September 11, 1914.
Demonstrations for the abolition of the capitulations, Istanbul, September 11, 1914. (Antoine Kope Archive / Courtesy Elizabeth Childress)

Rose-Marie Marcopoli and Charles Kope’s six children were educated in French and never became Ottoman subjects, remaining citizens of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Taib went to Brasso a little after WWI broke out in 1914 and joined the military of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Antoine did the same in Istanbul two years later, “serving in Syria and Palestine in 1917.”

When WWI was over, and both empires were slowly losing their might, the majority of the Kope family remained in Istanbul and “witnessed the Armistice of Mudros in 1918, the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, as well as the occupation of the city by British, French and Italian military officials in 1920.”

Inauguration of a Hungarian military hospital in Capa, with the participation of Admiral Souchon, Enver Pasha and the Marquess of Palavicini, Austro-Hungarian Ambassador’s wife, Istanbul, April 10, 1916.
Inauguration of a Hungarian military hospital in Capa, with the participation of Admiral Souchon, Enver Pasha and the Marquess of Palavicini, Austro-Hungarian Ambassador’s wife, Istanbul, April 10, 1916. (Taib Kope / Antoine Kope Archive / Courtesy Elizabeth Childress)

According to the press document by SALT Beyoglu, “as multicultural members of a multi-ethnic empire, the lives of the Kope family and the documents they left behind testify to a moment in time when subjecthood and citizenship were not categorized within stable definitions of nationhood.”

The exhibition presents a vast array of documents, photographs, drawings and other mementos left behind by Antoine Kope, that are used with the courtesy of his daughter Elizabeth Childress.

Inter-allied police officers patrolling the streets of Beyoglu, Istanbul, c. 1920.
Inter-allied police officers patrolling the streets of Beyoglu, Istanbul, c. 1920. (Taib Kope / Antoine Kope Archive / Courtesy Elizabeth Childress)

“Through Antoine’s memoirs, volumes of cartoons as well as visual and audio recordings, in addition to a selection from hundreds of photographs taken by his brother Taib, Between Empires, Beyond Borders explores how the diplomatic relations between the empires of the Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman manifested in everyday life,” says the press document.

“Built on a family history as it moves from the 19th to the 20th century, the exhibition draws attention to the mutability of identities, the mobility of lives, and the uncertainty of borders in the transition from empire to nation-state.”

Thumbnail image: The Kope family, Thessaloniki, 1903 (Antoine Kope Archive, Courtesy Elizabeth Childress)

Headline image: Between Empires, Beyond Borders installation image, SALT Beyoğlu Photo: Mustafa Hazneci

Source: TRT World