The latest population figures highlight the diversity and unbridled growth of Istanbul, the country’s most famous and most populated city.
Figures recently published by the Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat) put Esenyurt, a sprawling suburb on the European side, at the top of the list of districts with the highest population. Esenyurt is also now the most populated district of Turkey, with a population of more than 977,000, roughly 1.15% of the country’s population. Some 62 out of each 1,000 people in Istanbul live in the district whose population increased by more than 20,000 people in 2021. Overall, Esenyurt has a larger population than 57 provinces in Turkey.
The district, which was only a small village in the 1980s with few settlements, evolved into a massive residential area in the 2000s, stretching along the E-5 highway and beyond, next to Beylikdüzü, another growing suburb. Affectionately referred to by its residents as "Esencılıs," a local pronunciation of Los Angeles, due to a jungle of skyscrapers dotting the district, Esenyurt shares more than its nickname with the United States city in terms of its diversity. Few residents are "old Istanbulites" and the population is mostly composed of migrants – foreign and from other provinces of Turkey. District governor Vural Karagül said the population is in fact above 1 million when the number of some 140,000 Syrian refugees are added. "We had a larger population increase, around 60,000, in the past few years. The increase was around 3,000 in 2020 and is now 20,000," he told Anadolu Agency (AA) last week.
Though the skyscrapers housing small but expensive flats prominently figure out in the district, Esenyurt is among the cheapest places in the city in terms of housing. It is among the reasons for its increase in the population in the past decade, along with more space for residential development, something not always readily available in other parts of the massively overcrowded Istanbul. It is also home to a large number of legal and illegal migrant populations, from all corners of the world, including those who leave the districts that have been more popular among migrants like Zeytinburnu and Fatih amid rising real estate prices and rents.
Population statistics also indicate that the city remains a hub of domestic migrants from Anatolian provinces. More than 2.1 million people in the city trace their roots to families migrating from other cities in the past decades. Among them, the highest number of people originating from another Turkish city was from Sivas, a central province. As of 2021, there were 767,428 people who either themselves, their parents or grandparents hail from Sivas, This is followed by Kastamonu, a northern province. More than 559,000 people in Istanbul originate from this Black Sea province. Ordu and Giresun, two other Black Sea provinces, follow them. Indeed, the number of people in Istanbul who come from Giresun was higher than the population of Giresun itself, at 450,154.