The first Turkish film was a documentary, made by reserve army officer, Fuat Uzkinay, at the beginning of World War I. This film was succeeded by a number of short films, but the era of Turkish cinema actually started in 1922 when theater artist Muhsin Ertugrul, who had been acting and directing films in Germany since 1916, set up his own private film company. His film "Atesten Gömlek" (The Ordeal) was the first that dealt with the War of Independence and the first film in which Muslim Turkish women acted. In 1932, "Bir Millet Uyaniyor" (A Nation Awakens), another War of Independence epic, is not only considered to be the best film of Muhsin Ertuğrul but is also seen as the first really noteworthy film in the history of Turkish cinema. Muhsin Ertuğrul is also the first director to make a film about country life (Batakli Damin Kizi Aysel), featuring stage actress Cahide Sonku, the first woman movie star of Turkish cinema, in the leading role. Faruk Genç was the first director without having prior experience in theater. Productions were seldom until 1950. When electricity was brought to the villages, movie theatres developed rapidly. The period between 1939 and 1950 is a transition period when efforts were made to do away with using stage actors in films.
Between 1950 – 1970 florished the "cinema artists' period" and the number and quality of films increased with directors like Lütfi Akad (Kanun Namina - In the Name of the Law), Atif Yilmaz (Murad'in Türküsü - Murad's Song; Ah Güzel Istanbul - Oh! Beautiful Istanbul), Metin Erksan, Memduh Ün (Kirik Çanaklar - Broken Dishes) and Osman Seden who came to the fore. After 1960 cinema took up with social themes on the american model (Ertem Göreç’s film Karanlikta Uyananlar - Those Awaking in Darkness, dealing with the social consequences of labour strikes; Halit Refik’s film Gurbet Kuslari - Migrating Birds, about domestic migration). But still most of the films tended towards melodrama or tumultuous adventures.
From the 1970s, beside entertaining films, a new current, exploring the problems of the rural world or the people living in small towns, migration within the country was represented with the films of Yilmaz Güney (Umut – Hope; Agit – Elegy; Aci - Pain ; Umutsuzlar - Desperate People; Arkadas - The Friend; Yol – The Road, Cannes 1982 Palme d'Or winner), Tunç Okan (Otobüs - The Bus depicting problems of illegal Turkish workers abroad), Lütfi Akad (Dügün - The Wedding ; Gelin - The Bride), Zeki Ökten -Yilmaz Güney (Sürü - The Herd; Düsman - The Enemy), Sinan Çetin (Bir Günün Hikayesi - The Story of a Day), Atif Yilmaz (Aaah Belinda), Ali Özgentürk (Yasak – Forbidden; Hazal; At - The Horse), Erden Kiral (Kanal – Canal; Bereketli Topraklar Üzerinde - On Fertile Lands; Hakkari'de bir Mevsim - A Season in Hakkari; Mavi Sürgün - Blue Exile), Zülfü Livaneli (Yer Demir Gök Bakir - Iron Earth, Copper Sky), Serif Gönen (Derman - Remedy; Amerikali- American). These directors were all internationally known in the 1980s.
In 1990, the Turkish Cinema and Audiovisual Culture Foundation was established and Turkey became a member of the European Support Fund (EURIMAGES) established for the joint production and distribution of Cinematographic Audiovisual Works of Art.
Between the 1990s and 2000 Turkish cinema started to experience its most productive and creative years from the standpoint of quality and diversity. There has also been a trend to stress individuality, especially the female's search for identity and a surge of popularity for comedy films. Ömer Kavur (Anayurt Oteli - The Motherland Hotel; Gizli Yüz - The Hidden Face; Akrebin Yolculugu - Journey on the Clock-hand), Orhan Oguz (Herseye Rağmen - Despite Everything), Tunç Basaran (Uçurtmayi Vurmasinlar - Don't Let Them Shoot the Kite; Piano Piano Bacaksiz - Piano Piano Kid; Sen de Gitme - Please Don't Go), Yusuf Kurçenli (Karartma Geceleri - Blackouts), Fehmi Yasar (Camdan Kalp - Heart of Glass), Mehmet Tanrisever (Sürgün - The Exile), Yavuz Özkan (Iki Kadin - Two Women), Memduh Ün (Zikkimin Kökü), Canan Gerede (Ask Ölümden Soğuktur - Love is Colder than Death), Ferzan Özpetek (Hamam - Turkish Bath), Yavuz Turgul (Eskiya - The Bandit), Dervis Zaim (Tabutta Rövesata - Somersault in a Coffin), Zeki Demirkubuz (Masumiyet - Innocence), Nuri Bilge Ceylan (Kasaba - The Small Town; Mayis Sikintisi - Clouds of May), Muammer Özer (Hollywood Kaçaklar - Hollywood Runaways), Sinan Çetin (Propaganda), Tomris Giritlioglu (Salkim Hanim'in Taneleri - Miss Salkim's Jewels), Yesim Ustaoglu (Günes'e Yolculuk - Journey to the Sun), Zeki Demirkubuz (Üçüncü Sayfa -The Third Page), Handan Ipekçi (Büyük Adam Küçük Ask - Big Man Little Love), Semih Kaplanoglu (Herkes Kendi Evinde - Away From Home), Serdar Akar (Dar Alanda Kisa Paslasmalar - Offside) achieved success in national and international festivals.
The film “Uzak” (Far away) by Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan was awarded the Grand Jury Prize of the 56th Cannes Film Festival 2003, and the two actors Muzaffer Ozdemir and Mehmet Emin Toprak (the latter tragically died at the age of 28 in a car accident in December 2002, two days after the end of the shooting) were awarded the Best Actor prize.



Oral literature: folk sung poetry is a vivace form of Turkish lyricism including “mani” (love themes, fate), “funereal mournings”, “destan” (epic song). Folk tales (masal) and nursery rhymes can be comic or fantastic.

Two characters symbolizing the beginning of the Turkish literature in Anatolia are Mevlâna Celaleddin Rûmi and Yunus Emre who lived in Karaman and who definitevely set the poetic language: Soon after Rumi, Yunus Emre emerged as the most significant literary figure of the Turkish speaking world to spread the Sufi teachings by mystic poetry. For more than seven centuries, Yunus Emre and his poems have lived in the hearts of people. For him, the cause of dual existence is love. It is through love that the unity of Being can be reached because love is the cause and purpose of life on earth. The path leading to Unity passes through the heart.

I am not here on earth for strife,
Love is the mission of my life.
Hearts are the home of the loved one;
I came here to build each true heart.

The road leading to knowledge is the same as the road leading to knowledge of God which means attainment of self-knowledge. Self knowledge forms the basis of everyscience:

Science is to know knowledge
Knowledge is to know your Self.
If you don't know your Self,
Then what's the point of your studies?

Nasreddin Hodja
(or Hoca which means a "teacher") is another important character of the same period. He was born in 1208 in a small village near Sivrihisar and later settled in Aksehir. Being the son of an imam (a priest in the Islamic religion), he received a religious education and became an imam himself for some time. He was also a kadi (judge) and a professor in a medrese (Coranic school). His view of the world, his sense of humor and his straightforward oriental commonsense made him a great folk humorist-philosopher whose memory has become a legend. His tales and anecdotes, which are verbally transmitted everywhere where Turkish is spoken, are popular among all classes and levels of people. They also were transmitted to the everyday language of countries which are neighbors of Turkey. The fame of Nasrettin Hodja is slowly spreading all over the world and his tales and anecdotes are being translated into numerous languages.

Here are a few examples:

- Hodja, why do you always answer a question with another question?
- Do I?

Someone asked:
"Hodja Efendi, why do people go to different directions when they leave their houses in the morning?"
The Hodja answered without hesitation:
"If all of them would go to the same direction, this would throw off the balance of the world!

Nasreddin called at a large house to collect for charity.
The servant said: "My master is out."
Nasreddin replied: "Tell your master that next time he goes out, he should not leave his face at the window. Someone might steal it."

One day when the Hodja was going to the mosque with his mullahs, he decided to ride sitting on his donkay backwards.
Then the mullahs asked: " why are you riding sitting on the donkey backwards?".
He answered : "if I sat facing forward, you would be behind me. If you went in front of me, I would be behind you. Either way I would not be facing you. So this is the most logical way."

Dîvan poetry: from the conquest of Constantinople, the seraglio of Mehmet II the Conqueror became a center of attraction for Arab and Persian poets with first rate composite language literature. This kind of poetry includes “kaside”, “mesnevi” and “gazel” involving metaphors, symbols and concepts related to the personality of the poets.
A Turkish literature of folk tradition persisted (Pir Sultan Abdal, 16th century) with a kind of poetry intended for the People.

Evliya Çelebi (1611-1682) spent most of his life traveling within the vast Ottoman Empire. In his Book of Travels called "Seyahatname" containing 6,000 pages, he reported what he saw and heard, made observations about the particularities and the way of life of the people living in the regions he visited, adding his interpretations and reflections. This literary work reveals a poet in his own way who made the language of the people his style. His language is fluid, stirring, sometimes amusing and satyric.
Lâle Devri: After a long period of wars the begining of the 18th century was marked by the blooming of the arts and literature under the reign of Ahmet III and his Grand Vizier Damat Ibrahim Pasha. This period, which dominant theme was the tulip* that had invaded everyday's life, decorative arts and poetry, was called Lâle Devri (Tulip Period 1718-1730). The first attempts were made to follow the Western technological improvements. For the first time the Ottoman Empire sent temporary ambassadors to Europe, and in 1727, the first print-house was established by Ibrahim Müteferrika with the help of the son of the Paris Ambassador Sait Efendi.
*The tulip was already known in Anatolia in the 11th century by the Seljuks who used it in ornemental decoration of art pieces. It became a symbol of wealth and power and the Ottoman sultans held lavish festivals to honor the flower. Turkish men used to wear the “tülbend” - a long peace of material winded round their heads - from which the word “turban” derives, and because of its resemblance to the “tülbend”, the flower was called “tulipan”. In the middle of the 16th century, Ogier Ghiselin de Busbecq, an Austrian diplomat, is said to have sent bulbs of this flower that he had never seen in Europe, to Carolus Clusius the curator of the Imperial Gardens in Vienna. A few years later taking his bulbs with him, he fled to Holland where he took over the botanical garden at Leiden University. Rapidly, a lucrative business was started by traders as Dutch people were caught up in a frenzy of buying the bulbs of the rare flower.

Tanzimat literature, in the middle of the 19th century, established new literary styles: theatre, novels, critiques and essays, journalism (Ibrahim Sinasi). At the end of the 19th century, Namik Kemal and other authors rallied the Turks’ national consciousness breaking with the people’s traditions.

The new literature
appears in the early 20th century, with writers who developed and gave a concrete expression to the previous theories and first steps to westernazation. Tevfik Fikret, who fought sultan Abdulhamid II's traditionalism and who longed for social progress, also tried to renew ancient poetry. The language still beeing precious and artificial, a group of writers advocated a national literature aiming to purify the language of foreign elements and its fusion with the spoken language.
Contemporary authors: due to the War of Independence (1919-1922), Turkish literature finally blossomed. With the proclamation of the Turkish Republic, a new country was born, whose identity had to be defined. Anatolian peasants and commom people’s life whose participation had been determining for the liberation, formed the main literary objective, first of novelists descending from intellectual milieus, and later of writers from the working-class. Peasant writers carried on with the tendency, adding true life testimonies (Yasar Kemal’ s “Skinny Mehmed”, “Mehmed my Hawk”, “Iron Earth, Copper Sky”, The Undying Grass”). A second tendency described people from large cities (Sait Faik’s “Selected Stories and Poems). Aziz Nesin (“Out of the Way! Socialism’s Coming!”, “Turkish Stories from Four Decades”) the most popular of the Turkish writers, remained faithful to the national traditions of sense of humour.

The first modern Turkish poet is Nazim Hikmet who is today recognized in Turkey and around the world as one of the essential poets of the twentieth century. In 1924 he was arrested for being involved in illegal publications and sentenced to 15 years in prison, but managed to escape to USSR. A general amnesty in 1928 allowed him to return to Turkey. In 1938 he was again sentenced to twenty-eight years' imprisonment on trumped-up charges of organizing a revolt in the armed forces. In 1949 an international campaign was started for his release which occured in 1950 in a general amnesty when the Democratic Party came into power. At the age of 49, as he was called up for military service, he again fled to Moscow. Nazim Hikmet died of a heart attack in 1963 in Moscow where he was buried. “The Epic of Sheik Bedrettin” (1936) was his last book to appear in Turkey during his lifetime. Only after his death, Hikmet's books reappeared in Turkey. His works (Selected Poems”, “Human Landscapes from My Country”, Things I Didn't Know I Loved, The Day Before Tomorrow) whose revolutionary and human accents marked many generations of writers, conflict with conservatory writers imbued with Ottoman nostalgy (Necip Fazil Kisakürek).

Orhan Pamuk is the author of bestsellers and the recipient of mayor Turkish and international literary awards. His work has been translated into more than twenty languages: “Cevdet Bey and His Sons ” 1982; “The Silent House” 1983; “The White Castle” 1985, extended his reputation abroad; “The Black Book” 1990, is one of the most controversial and popular readings in Turkish literature, due to its complexity and richness; “The New Life”, a best-seller in Turkey in 1995;
My Name is Red” won the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award 2003 (world's richest literary prize). This historical novel, where mysterious murders occur, concerns the fate of miniaturists and illuminators, and is a dip into cultural Islam. It is set in Istanbul during the reign of Sultan Murat III who has commissioned an illustrated book, a celebration of his life and his empire...
"Snow" (2002) was followed by "Istanbul: Memories and the City" in 2003.
Orhan Pamuk won the 2006 Nobel Literature Prize for his body of work that explores the cultural clash of East and West. Academy says "In the quest for the melancholic soul of his native city, (Pamuk) has discovered new symbols for the clash and interlacing of cultures." Pamuk, 54, is one of the youngest writers to have won the prize.


In Islamic countries, calligraphy has been brought to a very high level of perfection. Calligraphic writing present on monuments, clothes, crockery, furniture, is the first visual art of the Moslem city, because depiction of beings endowed with a soul is discredited. Letters became the principal elements of decoration. Only one exception: scientific and literary works. Calligraphers are assigned to give the illusion of images, according to their inspiration and artistic sensibility. The shapes of letters, either rising, descending or elongated, compel calligraphers meticulousness. Their line is not the same according to their location at the beginning, in the middle or at the end of a word. Almost always tied, the space in which they are inscribed has to be carefully measured.

The Ottomans will be the last greatest authorities in the art of calligraphy, and will achieve an important evolution at the time of Mehmet II the Conqueror, raising it to the level of fine arts, in a most original style. The first Turkish great master calligrapher is without contest Seyh Hamdullah in the 16th century , followed by Ahmet Karahisar, then Hafiz Osman Mektebi in the 17th century who introduced simplicity, purity and grace in calligraphy.

Tugra” (sultan signature) and the “Divani” are typically Turkish.


Miniature painting was used for making portraits, and for the illustration of books and compositions with the depiction of certain subjects and events on a small scale. The technique consisted of covering the straightened paper first with a red oxide of lead called minium (from which the word miniature derives), and later with egg-white, starch, lead carbonate, gum and sal amoniac that gave a luminous appearance and creamy colour. The paper was then handed to the miniaturists who proceeded to the painting, using powdered dyes giving brilliant colours, and sometimes gilt. The head painter used to draw the main composition, a work of precision that required thin pointed brushes, and then his assistants and pupils could paint part by part. Few of the miniatures are dated. The miniaturist signed his work only if he alone had painted the portrait or the scene. The period (1451-1520) beginning with Mehmet the Conqueror and ending with Sultan Selim I was one of the most interesting in Turkish miniature. However miniature painting reached its golden age under the reign of Süleyman the Magnificent (1520-1566). Topkapi Palace holds the richest collection of Turkish miniatures.