Ekaterina Aygün (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Art History)
Constantinople/Istanbul as an artistic hub of Russian-speaking émigrés (1919–1927)

Image: Casino Moderne, Constantinople, 1921. An advertisement from the Nashi Dni almanac that was created by émigré artist Aleksandr Kozmin (Nashi Dni/Nos Jours 9 [1921]). The Slavonic Library, Prague.

After the 1917 revolution and the outbreak of the Russian civil war, many intellectuals and artists in the former Russian Empire were forced to leave the country. For these refugees, Constantinople/Istanbul became one of the most popular destinations in the “western part” of the world (along with such cities as Belgrade, Berlin, and Paris). Nevertheless, the city has never received the due attention of researchers as an émigré artist hub because of its status as a transit point for many of them. While one can find comprehensive works on Russian-speaking emigrants in Constantinople/Istanbul at the beginning of the 20th century, there is no substantial research on the city as a place of creativity for Russian-speaking émigré painters, sculptors, and photographers. How did they deal with new conditions in exile? How did they make a living from their art? Did they have to adapt their works to local tastes? Who were their supporters and clients? Finally, what were their interrelations with the city and their perception of it – and how did this perception impact their art?

In her dissertation project, Ekaterina Aygün reconsiders the role of Constantinople/Istanbul as one of the artistic hubs of Russian-speaking émigrés in the 1920s and produces complex research on Russian-speaking émigré painters, sculptors, and photographers in the city at the time (1919–1927) by looking at the intersection of the urbanistic, exilic, and artistic. Her study relies primarily on periodicals (mainly newspapers and almanacs published in Russian, French, English, and Ottoman/Turkish languages in Constantinople/Istanbul in the 1920s), visual material, and “ego-documents”.