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The fall and rise of Ottomania..
1.       tunci
7149 posts
 26 Feb 2011 Sat 07:55 pm

The fall and rise of Ottomania

Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent’s popular weekly appearance on TVs in living rooms across Turkey is the latest sign of the rising tide of interest in all things Ottoman. After nearly a century out of fashion, the country’s imperial history has become a trend to be reckoned with as Ottoman art and literature draw increasing attention and investment.
The fall and rise of Ottomania





















Modern Turkey’s early republican reformers devoted great efforts to consigning the Ottomans and their centuries-old empire to history. But while the reformers succeeded in erasing much of the imperial past by exiling the royal family, secularizing the legal system and transforming the language, they could not have foreseen the return of the Ottomans through a futuristic medium: TV series.

“There was a long hiatus in public interest in the Ottoman past. There had to be a readjustment,” Talat Halman, a former minister of culture during the 1970s, recently told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review.

This “readjustment” has been most noticeable in the field of TV, especially with the splash made by “Muhteşem Yüzyıl” (The Magnificent Century), a TV series that follows the lives of Süleyman the Magnificent (reigned 1520-1566) and those in his harem.

Religious conservatives and Ottoman descendents have decried the TV series, saying it depicts the great sultan as a weak man and focuses too much on sex, yet the show has been a ratings bonanza since it began airing in December.

Indeed, officials have said the show is responsible for doubling the number of visitors to Istanbul’s Topkapı Palace, the former seat of the Ottoman dynasty, over the past month.

While “Muhteşem Yüzyıl” has been the most popular show to deal with Ottoman themes, others have had similar tangible effects. “Kapalıçarşı” (Grand Bazaar), which duly centers on the large, Ottoman-era market in Fatih district, was responsible for increasing the number of Turks coming to the bazaar after it began airing on the private channel ATV in 2009.

It thus appears likely that “The Topkapı Affair,” starring Angelina Jolie and Pierce Brosnan, will likely increase interest in the palace even more after it is released in either 2012 or 2013.

Ottoman-mania spreading throughout society

Interest in all things Ottoman has not been restricted solely to the realm of TV series, Halman said.

“As better economic conditions began to prevail and larger investments in cultural affairs became possible over the past 20 years, the visual splendor of Ottoman arts became more visible and compellingly interesting in the public’s view,” he said.

“Academia, cultural organizations, museums and critics in the Western world, at long last, came to appreciate and study Ottoman civilization with greater interest and with more objective methods,” said Halman, who helped begin the popularization of Ottoman artifacts by staging a U.S. exhibition of Topkapı Palace’s riches in the 1970s.

The Ottoman past has also drawn increasing interest from Turkish academics who have been instrumental in burying stereotypical narratives that said the latter half of the Ottoman Empire was merely one of resolute decay.

The situation is a far cry from 30 years ago, when it was said that only students who barely qualified for university chose to study history. Now, however, history and literature programs focusing on the imperial age are drawing talented young scholars.

“Ever-increasing numbers of graduate students and young scholars, most of whom found the opportunity to conduct research abroad, have started to produce reliable and sophisticated books, albums and articles about Ottoman culture both in Turkish and major foreign languages,” Halman said.

“Financial support, publication stipends, scholarships and fellowships have become available from public and private sources in Turkey and abroad. They gave greater exposure to Turkish arts, music, exhibitions and others,” he said.

“Especially since the beginning of the 21st century, the massive increase in media attention mobilized for religious and secular traditional arts expanded undergraduate and graduate studies at universities,” Halman said. “Foreign and domestic tourism in Turkey took giant strides in the past 20 years or so; this growth also stimulated interest in traditional arts.”

Preparing the ground for tourists

The impulse to maximize Turkey’s tourism revenue was aided by the liberal economic reforms instituted by then-Prime Minister Turgut Özal in the 1980s.

In a bid to attract more tourists, the government poured large amounts of money into infrastructure, transportation and communications. Large sums of money were allocated to the restoration and refurbishment of important historical buildings such as Topkapı Palace and Dolmabahçe Palace, an opulent, 19th-century building constructed for the sultan along the banks of the Bosphorus.

Ultimately, growing disposable income and knowledge have lent themselves to a greater interest in the country’s Ottoman heritage. It is no longer surprising to see large lots of Ottoman-origin items being auctioned off by famous auction houses such as Sotheby’s in London or Christie’s in New York; before, such auctions would only have been held at local venues in Istanbul.

The Ottoman interest is further evidenced by the general religious revival in the country. Many have taken more of an interest in older-era mosques, as well as in the mystical sects that were an important feature of Ottoman life but were banned during the initials years of the Republic.

The religious trend has generated an interest in being able to read texts written in Ottoman script, leading a number of private schools and foundations to begin offering courses in Ottoman and Arabic.

The return to the past has also given new life to Ottoman-era art forms that have been widely deemed to be near extinction. Delicate arts such as ceramics, ebru and miniature painting have begun to attract people more interested in pursuing the art forms for pleasure, rather than in any professional capacity.

A retired bank official who has developed an acute interest in Ottoman calligraphy told the Daily News that the interest in things Ottoman stemmed from a desire to learn more about Turkey’s roots for the first time.

In the last 10 years, there has been more democracy, higher literacy, easier communications and more freedom to make serious movies about the Ottoman period, said the woman, who preferred to remain anonymous

Edited (2/26/2011) by tunci
Edited (2/26/2011) by tunci

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