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
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
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
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 MevlânaCelaleddin 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.
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.
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:
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?
"Hodja Efendi, why do people go to different
directions when they leave their houses in the
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
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
*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.
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.
authors: due to the War
of Independence (1919-1922), Turkish literature
finally blossomed. With the proclamation of the
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.
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).
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
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 2006Nobel 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
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.
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).
holds the richest collection of Turkish miniatures.