Principles for the conservation of depopulated rural heritage sites: the case of Dereköy on Gökçeada (Imbros)

Diker, İrem
Depopulation is among the most crucial problems affecting rural landscapes in Turkey and around the world. Rural landscapes, formed over time as a result of the interaction between nature and human beings, have gradually lost their populations for a number of reasons. The built environment is primarily altered in abandoned areas due to neglect and dilapidation, resulting in the eventual destruction of cultural assets, whilst the natural landscape reverts to wilderness, its infrastructure also fatally compromised. Moreover, rural settlements are not merely physical entities, but also the physical manifestation of their builders' technical knowledge, lifestyle, culture, and interaction with the local natural conditions. Therefore, depopulation results in the loss of both the tangible and intangible values that generated the rural heritage and ensured the existence and survival of rural settlements. Accordingly, those rural heritage sites deprived of their socio-cultural context have turned almost into deserted areas and have lost their identity as living entities. The island of Imbros, located not far from the Aegean coast of the modern Turkish province of Çanakkale, stands out by virtue of its well-preserved natural values and historical rural settlements (Rum villages). Unlike other Rum settlements in modern-day Turkey, which lost their original population following the Lausanne Treaty in 1923, Imbros (Gökçeada) was exempted from the compulsory population exchange between Turkey and Greece. However, Imbros lost a significant part of its original population due to politically-led events that began in the 1960s. Dereköy, which is predominantly abandoned today, is one of the villages where physical and social transformations are the most evident among the traditional settlements on Imbros. Therefore, Dereköy is selected as a case study here to examine the problem of depopulation from the point of conservation of cultural heritage. By examining the historical circumstances, and the legal underpinnings of the current situation, factors leading to rural depopulation and their effects on the physical and social environment are investigated and presented. Building on recognized principles devised to combat such situations on paper, alongside a critical analysis of a range of actual attempts at various places, this thesis sets out to provide a set of guidelines and site-specific principles for the preservation of Dereköy as a representative of depopulated rural heritage sites, deprived of their original socio-cultural context. Within the scope of this research, Dereköy’s state of being, its characteristics and values, and the existing challenges are presented and evaluated. A set of principles is then developed to preserve Dereköy as an imprint of rural heritage, following the conservation principles and guidelines provided by international charters and documents.


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Citation Formats
İ. Diker, “Principles for the conservation of depopulated rural heritage sites: the case of Dereköy on Gökçeada (Imbros),” M.S. - Master of Science, Middle East Technical University, 2022.