A Turkish perspective
Membership of the European Union has been a main pillar of Turkish foreign policy. It is a process that goes back to the late 1950s and was consolidated over the years. Finally in 1999, Turkey’s status as a candidate destined to become a full member was confirmed.
Since then, Turkey has undergone a very comprehensive reform process geared towards meeting the membership criteria as stipulated by the EU. This has required the mobilization of substantial human, administrative, political, social and economic resources. At times it has required various governments to take significant political risks.
The official launch of the accession negotiations on October 3, 2005, was therefore a historic day for the Republic of Turkey and the EU. Turkey is now an accession country.
Coming to this point has certainly not been easy. Throughout the course of more than four decades, Turkey-EU relations have had many ups and downs. However, despite the difficulties, Turkey never lost sight of its objective of nothing less than full membership in the EU. This has been the mutual contractual goal since the very beginning of relations, as underlined in the Ankara Agreement of 1963.
Turkey is confident that the European Union will overcome the current scepticism toward enlargement. This point becomes more relevant as the Union is currently going through some difficult times after the referenda held in France and the Netherlands.
This is where the civil society dialogue between Turkey and the EU becomes important. The Union will also need to do more to win the hearts and minds of the Turkish people.
It is worth mentioning once again that Turkey’s ongoing reform process has involved all segments of society. These political and economic reforms, far-reaching in their concept and range, have been carried out with the full support of the Turkish people. This provides also a trustworthy indication that the determination to continue the reform agenda with a special focus on implementation remains strong as ever.
A strategic asset
Turkey’s membership will be an asset and an advantage for the Union, especially, in view of the country’s strategic location, in terms of foreign, defense and security policies. Turkey’s accession will propel the EU to the forefront of global geopolitics and endow it with a genuine strategic concept and policy. The EU will be transformed from an inward-looking regional organisation whose strategic depth ends at its borders to an active influential global power.
Once it becomes a member, Turkey will assist the EU’s present efforts in reaching beyond the Eastern Mediterranean, and in securing peace, stability, security and welfare in the Middle East, Caucasia and Central Asia.
Moreover, Turkish membership will facilitate access to markets in the surrounding region. In terms of energy supply diversification Turkish membership will also be good news for the EU. The completion of the Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan pipeline is about to ensure the secure transportation of petroleum and the natural gas of Caucasia and Central Asia to western markets will be ensured.
Religion and demography
Meanwhile, Turkey’s membership in the European Union as a democratic and secular Muslim state that has espoused contemporary European values will demonstrate to the world that Islam and modernity can co-exist. It will also clearly show that the EU does not favour any particular faith, but is founded on a basis of common values and interests. This will at the same time have a positive influence on the way in which the Christian and Muslim worlds identify with each other, strengthening the ground for dialogue and cooperation.
Given the worrying demographic trends in Europe – falling birth rates, ageing population and forecasts about a labour deficit – over the next few decades, the young and dynamic population of Turkey can be an asset rather than a hypothetical liability for the EU.
The advantages of Turkey’s economic potential should not be overlooked, either. GNP is expected to surpass US$300 billion in the years ahead. Turkey is the only country to have entered into a Customs Union with the EU before membership. Its economic performance since the completion of the Union a decade ago has demonstrated that it has a fully functioning market economy.
In 2004, GNP increased by almost 10%, well above the envisaged 5%, while per capita income rose by more than 20%. Turkey’s economy currently ranks as the 17th largest in the world compared to 22nd place only last year. In terms of economic growth, Turkey ranked first among the OECD countries in 2004.
Fair process please
Turkey has much to offer to the EU. The EU can become a real global power by including Turkey. The alternative is to remain a regional organisation which has difficulties solving even its own structural problems.
Turkey now finds itself at the threshold of a new and challenging process. It wishes to believe that, this process will be characterized by a constructive spirit.
A new process of harmonization has begun. Although Turkish concerns about “The Negotiating Framework” document remain, it is hoped that these concerns will be addressed to mutual satisfaction during the negotiations. A fair and sustainable process is imperative to achieve the common task at hand.
For its part, Turkey will continue to remain true to its commitments. Its determination to continue the reform process is strong as ever. So is the resolve to settle the few regional issues to which Turkey is a direct party and thus pave the way for a stronger Europe.
Turkey’s membership to the EU will prove, once and for all, that Europe is defined by common values. The true divide lies not between civilizations but between civilized people and the few who use violence and terror to try to destroy the common values which bind them all. Turkey’s membership will also signify that the EU has a strategic vision and is able to see the broader picture in the best interest of the international community.
Ambassador Fernández de la Peña:
Strategic partners in Europe
by Bernard KENNEDY
The commencement of talks on Turkey’s accession to the EU makes October a particularly appropriate month in which to interview Luis Felipe Fernández de la Peña, Ambassador of Spain to Ankara. Besides representing one of the leading EU capitals, Ambassador Fernández de la Peña has previously served as ambassador in two other candidate countries, Slovenia and Croatia. He is also well able to recall his own country’s EU membership negotiations. Our conversation covered a range of related topics including the level of Spanish support for Turkey’s EU membership, the EU’s expansion in the Balkans, the potential limits of the European project and dialogue in the Mediterranean and the Middle East. With respect to bilateral relations between Spain and Turkey, the Ambassador is hoping to sow the seeds of a strategic partnership.
Q You have been working in Turkey for about one year now. How have you found it?
A One year is time enough to get familiar but not to know the country in depth. It’s a very complex society with lots of layers. I was aware of that but perhaps I didn’t realise quite how complex it would be. It’s a permanent challenge. At the beginning, a Turkish interlocutor said to me, “I don’t know if you are going to like it or not, but you will never get bored.” It’s a vibrant lively country full of surprises. It is the consensus among diplomats here that this is one of the “places to be” at this particular moment.
Q The question of Turkey’s accession to the European Union must have dominated your agenda over the past year…
A Yes the EU is one of the main axes of our relations with Turkey and we have had to devote a lot of work and energy to the convergence of Turkey with the EU. The decision of the European Council to begin accession talks with Turkey came two months after my arrival and the past year has been full of related events.
Q Did you ever think that the talks would not start on October 3?
A Not really. Knowing how the EU functions and how decision-making takes place among the member states – and also knowing how strong the will of Turkey to join the EU was, and the reforms they have been going through in the last three years – I had no doubt about the final outcome. Of course I was aware of the difficulties of the process, and I think this is going to be – let’s say – the “style” of the negotiating process of Turkey with the EU: it’s going to be full of ups and downs and dramatic moments, but in the end it is my deep conviction that common sense will always prevail, and the right decisions will be taken by both sides. And I think we witnessed that on December 17 last year and once again on October 3.
Q Turkey regards Spain as one of its friends in the EU, with a relatively low level of opposition to Turkish membership. Is that a correct assumption?
A Yes, there are good vibrations between the two countries. Spain is lending broad support to Turkey in its European aspirations. Without being too immodest, I can say that Spain is quite an exceptional case within the EU because there is a consensus between the main political parties, and there has been continuity in this support from successive governments of different political colours. There have been many opinion polls, and although the exact figures vary, there is a clear trend which shows that support for Turkish accession in Spain is high, and opposition very limited. I should add that Turkish accession is not an issue of heated dispute in Spain as it is in some other countries. In short, Spain presents a very solid, unitary face of support for Turkey and in that sense I am fortunate in my work because I have this national consensus behind me.
Q What are the reasons for the support of the Spanish public?
A Well, I can’t be sure, but what I gauge is that first of all Spain has a very good experience of relations with the EU. The Eurobarometer surveys regularly show that Spanish public opinion is one of the greatest believers in the EU. Then I think there is a sense of solidarity towards Turkey: we have been fortunate, so why not share this positive experience with others who are entitled to join? Spanish public opinion has also been positive towards other incoming members. This is in spite of the fact that Spain has so far been a net receiver of EU funds under the structural and agricultural policies, and expansion should cause it to lose this status… This generosity towards the rest of the world is one of the good things we have in Spanish society. We are also increasing our overseas aid, for example. We have attained a good level of prosperity and now we are showing solidarity. Thirdly, I think Spaniards possess a model of European integration which is inclusive and forward-looking.
Q What are Spain’s interests in Turkey?
A We share a geopolitical space and a source of affinity, which is the Mediterranean. This is not just a question of sharing a Mediterranean culture. It is also a geopolitical project. There is a great divide between the northern and southern shores of the Mediterranean. To the north you have high prosperity and low fertility. To the south you have high unemployment and high fertility. It is an explosive combination. We have to pay much more attention to the Mediterranean because the security and stability of the EU depends on it. The challenge for Europe now comes from the south; we think that the entry of Turkey into the EU would be a very important asset for the EU in facing this challenge.
Turkey also borders strategic countries like Iran, Iraq and Syria. It has a role to play in the Middle East. We in Europe are focussing more and more on our neighbours in the Middle East and the southern Caucasus. You cannot have an island of stability in Europe if the neighbourhood is unstable, and we need Turkey for that purpose too.
Another issue which is going to be a big issue for Europe in the years ahead is coexistence with the Muslim world – how the Muslim world and the Western world are going to be able to live together and cooperate for a better world. We already have 15-20 million Muslims in Europe. Turkey is at a crossroads; it can play an instrumental role in trying to defuse misunderstandings between the two worlds. I think if we succeed in having a big Muslim country in the EU we will have taken a big step towards a better relationship between the West and the Muslim world.
Q Can Turkey benefit from Spain’s experience in negotiating with the EU?
A We had long and difficult negotiations over a period of eight years. Turkish officials are aware of this. Moreover, we had problems in some of the same areas which will confront Turkey, such as free circulation of workers and agricultural policy. We were able to overcome the difficulties in the end because it was so important to be in the EU. Turkey’s negotiations are going to be even longer and tougher. I think Turkey can learn from what we got wrong and what we got right. Out experience is quite exportable and we are willing to share it.
Q Following the EU’s decision on Croatia, do you think the integration of the Balkan countries into the EU is now well on course?
A I think it has always been on course. I was at Dayton ten years ago and we could see very well that the only lasting solution was a European perspective. The Balkans are our close neighbourhood – our “back yard” – and it is an EU responsibility to try to promote stability in the Balkans. So the conviction of European leaders is that these countries have to have a European perspective.
Croatia was very well prepared to be a candidate member of the EU and the reasons why it was not included in the last enlargement were related more to the so-called Yugoslav wars and the issue of cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for ex-Yugoslavia (ICTY) than to the degree of preparation or preparedness of Croatia. For the rest of the Balkans it will be a gradual process but I think that the future of those countries lies with the EU.
At the moment we have a territorial discontinuity between Greece and Slovenia. And we have to fill it. The countries in question will have to meet the Copenhagen Criteria, and I am not sure what the calendar for their entry into the EU will be, but I am sure that in the end they will enter it. This has been the prospect ever since the EU decided to encompass the whole of Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall. But of course we have to be able to combine the expansion of Europe with the intensity of the European project.
Q So what are the limits of European integration?
A Only the future will tell. I think this is a static question which demands a dynamic response. For one thing, Europe is not only a matter of geography; it is also a geopolitical project of shared values. Then there is also the limit of the so-called absorption capacity. We cannot lose efficiency on the road of enlargement. This is a very political issue. The EU is one of the best developments in European history. Of course European nations had illustrious histories before that, but we were living in perpetual conflict among ourselves. And finally after the Second World War, which was a civil war, the founding members of the EU saw clearly that we needed a different kind of relationship. Now we have lived in peace for fifty years and achieved economic prosperity. So all Europeans have a vested interest in preserving the integrity of the European project.
Q How would you assess Spain’s economic interests in Turkey?
A Economically, Turkey has entered a virtuous circle and appears to be achieving macroeconomic stability, sound fiscal policy and sustainable growth with the help of the IMF and of the EU accession process. I hope that this trend will be consolidated further. This means a growing market and more business opportunities for Spain. The volume of trade between Spain and Turkey has risen to a reasonable level. Last year it was €5 billion. Turkey is one of our ten largest trading partners and vice versa. I think these figures can grow further. The economic relationship is to my mind less satisfactory. At one time, Spanish firms invested mainly in Spanish-speaking countries but during the past five years they have diversified into Eastern Europe, China and elsewhere. I would like to see Turkey included among their favourite places for foreign investment. One promising sector is the proposed high speed train between Ankara and Istanbul. We are also active in waste water projects in several cities. Major investments will be needed in this sector if Turkey is to improve its environmental standards to align itself with the EU acquis.
Q Are you also aiming to promote Spanish language and culture in Turkey?
A We have opened a Cervantes Institute in Istanbul, which is doing a fine job. I hope we will do something in Ankara in the future. We are seeing a growing interest in learning Spanish in Turkey, and we are trying to help as much as we can. But there is so much demand worldwide and our resources are limited.
Q Terrorism has been an important issue for both Spain and Turkey…
A Spain has been fighting against terrorism for thirty years. We have had about 1,000 victims. Recently we have encountered the so-called jihadist terrorism, which is more global and more lethal. So we understand the suffering of this country and we feel a deep sympathy towards the Turks.
We have been fighting terorrism under some guiding principles. You can’t change the rule of law. You need international cooperation. And you need a resistant civil society, since terrorism can rapidly damage the fabric of society.
Q Do different forms of terrorism require different responses?
A I wouldn’t say so. Terrorism is terrorism. Yes, you have to take into account different contexts. But the use of violence is unjustified under any circumstances as a means or vehicle of political expression. That’s universal.
Q What is your ambition for the rest of your posting in Ankara?
A I believe that Turkey and Spain have important common interests and my ambition would be to make them strategic partners, within the EU, in all fields. Let’s see how much of this ambition I am able to realise within my time here…
by Prof. Dr. Özer OZANKAYA
October 29, 2005 is the 82nd anniversary of the establishment of The Republic of Turkey. It is an appropriate month to reflect on the fundamental values of the Republic of Turkey.
The principles on which the Republic of Turkey was established are principles which have the power to design the civilisation which mankind longs for. This is particularly apparent in the present environment of globalisation, as it becomes clear that the fall of socialism cannot be defined as a victory of capitalism, and as all the world’s nations are once again opened up to an almost explicit colonisation. A further reason for emphasising the principles of establishment of the Republic of Turkey stems from the fact that the Political West, which refuses to consider colonialism a source of shame, is increasingly targeting the Turkish Democratic Revolution.
The principles in question constitute a valuable contribution to civilisation, and they are of proven applicability. They are based on the ideas:
1. of how colonialism can be reduced to submission;
2. that the accurate understanding and honest implementation of the principle of national sovereignty is the main factor in achieving and securing this salvation;
3. that the Republican system is the best way of implementing democracy, and
4. that the fall of socialism cannot be deemed the victory of capitalism, and that humanity needs to make arrangements for economic democracy.
This article will explore these ideas further.
Dealing with colonialism
Every significant human act is based on an effectual thought. Reducing colonialism, which forms the dirtiest pages of the history of humanity, to submission, and preventing its revival, can only be realised through a widespread and valid line of thought.
The principle which caused the success of the Turkish National Independence War is as follows: “The World’s strongest colonial armies can not avoid being reduced to submission against a nation which is aware of its legitimate rights and which designates its administration by its free votes!” Thus the principle that “The independence of the Nation will be saved by the will of the nation!” constitutes the first step of the Republic system.
This principle served not only to defeat the armed assault, but also as the key to avoiding future colonial attacks and to preventing fresh enslavement. A nation which can freely elect and audit its administrators, and which can consciously organize its public (national) life, is a powerful nation which no colonist can dare attack.
The idea of national sovereignty – to which, I believe, the Republic of Turkey, has made a significant contribution – emphasises that democracy is not simply the “vote of the majority”. On the contrary it states that the inalienable and non-transferable human and citizenship rights which every citizen possesses from birth, regardless of race, religion, education, social class or gender, cannot be abolished for any reason – not even by public opinion. Furthermore, it states that even the proposal to interfere with these rights is illegitimate. For this would lead to a “dictatorship of the majority” rather than a state of national sovereignty – that is, a Republican system
By counting the “right of resistance to despotism” as the most fundamental human right and by institutionalising it, the Republic of Turkey has secured the principle of national sovereignty. No vote, for example, may be taken to deprive women of their equal citizenship rights with men, to base the educational system on the judgements of a religion or a sect or to designate and appoint civil servants only from within a certain social group. Even to propose a vote to this effect is illegitimate in the Republican system and a government that chooses such a path loses its legitimacy, and individuals are endowed with the “right of resistance to despotism”.
It is due this nature of the concept of national sovereignty that the principle of secularity of the state and public affairs is set out in the Constitution in an article that may not be amended.
…and protecting democracy
The Republic of Turkey has primarily assigned the duty of preventing any such assault on inviolable rights to institutions such as the parliament, the government, the independent courts and the Constitutional Court. Nonetheless, should these institutions themselves be involved in such assaults, or should they fail to prevent them, the Republic has demonstrated an example of democratic engineering by investing the Turkish Armed Forces with the duty of protecting the Republic, in order to prevent any collapse into civil war. The appropriateness of this measure has been demonstrated in practice in the years 1960, 1971 and 1980.
Certainly, this is not a preferred outcome. However, in the absence of institutional arrangements for preventing parliament, the government or political parties from creating a despotic regime, and for subsequently reactivating the election system, the result would be anarchy – in other words civil war- which is worse than the worst system. The Republic of Turkey is based on the principle that managing democracy is primarily the task of civil institutions, and that the civil institutions have no privilege to transgress democracy.
In addition to this Republic of Turkey accepts that democracy needs to protect itself and stress that liberties are not objects that can be kept in a closet after they are obtained but are values that must be fought for everyday.
The best democracy
The Republic of Turkey has correctly and consistently used the concept of the “Republic” always with the meaning of “democracy”. The book ‘Civil Information for the Citizen’, taught in all secondary education schools until 1939, puts it as follows:
“The comprehensive aim of democracy is to enable the whole nation to take up the administrative simultaneously, or at least to ensure that the ultimate will of the state can only be expressed and put forward by the nation… For this reason the governing system which ensures the most modern and most reasonable implementation of democracy is the Republican System.
“In a Republic, the last word belongs to parliament, the members of which are elected by the nation. In a Republic, the President, the government and parliament do nothing but think of and seek to ensure the freedom, security and welfare of the public, because they know that they had been assigned to serve to the nation… rather than to rule as sultan. If they misuse their positions and their duties towards the nation, then in one way or another, they may find themselves facing the national will emerging against them. The obligation to account to the public is incompatible with arbitrary and wilful behaviour.”
Republic versus democracy?
In the postmodern era, people have argued that the Republic is not a democracy, and that the Turkish Revolution established a “Republic” but not a “democracy”. Such views have also enjoyed support within the “Political West”.
Those who support the view that the Republic incorporates norms which limit the scope of democracy are themselves displaying an anti-democratic attitude. There is no hidden, unnamed conflict between democracy and the Republic. The Republic does not seek to win ground from democracy. This is to misunderstand the democratic quality and essence of the Republican revolutions in Turkey.
The view that the Republic should “compromise” with those opposed to secularism ignores the reality that secularism is the essence of democracy, and that any concessions only serve the interests of sect-like forms of organisation which are authoritarian and brainwashing, and which in some cases are closely linked to terrorism, but which have nevertheless been supported by some of the Western states.
Likewise, the view that the Republic is intolerant of different cultures and other ethnic groups ignores the sociological need for a common national identity, a common homeland concept and a common law, without which none of the human rights and freedoms can be achieved. It serves only as a backdrop for failure to condemn ethnic terrorism, Armenian genocide slanders and offensives designed to erode the national borders.
The Turkish Republic was established in the awareness that both capitalism and socialism lack some of the qualities which are needed if the ultimate aim of democracy is to become a reality, and that humanity longs for a model of civilisation that will also bring about democracy in the economic field. This characteristic of the Republic is frequently distorted or simply ignored.
The Republic has its own approach to the economic requirements of democracy. It criticises capitalism – based on the fiction of the individual living alone – on the grounds that:
- economic order cannot be established in a society merely through free competition;
- monopolies cannot be prevented;
- works which are vital for the public benefit but which are deemed not to be profitable cannot be carried out, nor can works which require extremely high technology and huge amounts of capital;
- workers cannot obtain just payment and as a result social solidarity cannot be established.
The Republic diverges from socialism – based on the fiction of the state abstracted from individuals – on the grounds that:
- private enterprise should continue as the main source of economic activities and the state should not allow its activities to reach the point at which they replace private enterprise.
- decisions in this respect should not be strict rules and should be taken and conducted by governments representing the will of the nation.
It is not surprising to find that those who argue that the Republic is not a democracy also defend the downsizing of the state in the field of economic policy, calling on it to refrain entirely from investment and production. However, the Political West, which imposes this view on the world, has not continued to manage economies on a world scale through its military and political power for the past two centuries. What’s more, Western states have operated direct state management in many fields in their own countries right down to the present day.
Science, Progress, and…
by Prof. Dr. Türkkaya ATAÖV
The thinkers of the Enlightenment believed that the power of reason could improve society. Science, then, marched as the vanguard of overall progress. The pioneers of modern mathematics, physics, chemistry, and biology saw in them boundless possibilities to serve humanity. The Marquis de Condorcet, some two centuries ago, was perhaps the first of the philosophers who advanced the idea of the continuous progress of the human race to an ultimate perfection. Others followed him, and the flowering of scientific ideas put ecclesiastical authority in its proper place.
In spite of this confidence in human advancement, much of the Twentieth Century was characterized by two sanguinary world wars, the most severe economic depression ever experienced, unquestioning obedience to fascism, the Nazi persecution of European Jews and other minorities, the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the long years of the Cold War, and now one super-power predominance. The world wars and the dispiriting events following in their train proved so disillusioning to so many philosophers that there was little point, they thought, in trying to search for the ultimate reality. The Austrian L. Wittgenstein and the British B. Russell, both “Logical Positivists”, were not concerned with values if not demonstrable by mathematics or physics.
The spirit of inquiry, which had animated the science of the Seventeenth and the Eighteenth Centuries, continued after the end of the Second World War, but much of pure science was subordinated to military technology. Although significant advances were made in nuclear power, the exploration of space, and computers, the conviction, sustained by interest and gain, that pure scientific research brought little immediate payoff disseminated far and wide. There had been conservative circles ever since the French Revolution, but those with pro-science views among our contemporaries now share the outlook that scientific activity may bring more harm than good. This may be a symptom of a broader rejection, or basically an anti-science prejudice.
The morale of the scientific community is declining. Even the hypotheses and the judgements of the Green parties may be interpreted as attempts to elevate the natural world above human efforts to change it for the better. Experience with advanced technology, including nuclear power, as exemplified at Chernobyl and elsewhere, do indeed feed the beliefs that such interventions in a natural world are destructive. Many of the new techniques certainly harbour threatening dangers. But this is not the whole story.
What I wish to underline here is that the idea of technology working for the advantage of humanity should not be discredited. One cannot oppose the principle that basic research leads to new knowledge. To prevent inherent diseases, if the new innovations are open to us all, is a service to mankind. One should not confuse such ventures with Dr. Josef Mengele’s grisly experiments in the Nazi concentration camps. Science should not be discredited by the historic enemies of scientific thought. Some criticisms of contemporary science tend toward mysticism and metaphysics. Quack remedies are presently as popular as medicine and mental health.
The Bush era
Academic research in some advanced societies, for instance in the United States, which sheltered A. Einstein, created the cure for polio and sent the first man to the moon, is in serious trouble. About a decade ago, the U.S. Congress cancelled a pure research facility in Texas known as the “Superconducting Super Collider.” The Christian Right in the United States has more political power than at any point in its history. President Bush is governing from the far Right. He seems intensely devoted to his Evangelical conservative supporters whom he has decisively reenergized as a political force. The Christian Right claims to follow the Bible. Are the rest “imposters”? Should all believe in what they say in order to be “saved”? Or are we faced with an authoritarian mindset that passes itself off as God’s mind? And what about the so-called “religious moderates”? Can one say that failing to live by the letter of the texts and also tolerating the irrationality of those who do is actually a betrayal of faith and reason equally?
Moreover, is President Bush really interested in “faith” in general? After all, he did not bow to the National Council of Churches and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that had opposed his war on Iraq. Neither did he bend over before the Council on American-Islamic Relations that challenged the constitutionality of the Patriot Act. Nor did he listen to the Union for Reform Judaism when the latter announced that an anti-gay marriage amendment would defile the U.S. Constitution. Equally, he was not moved by the joint call of the Christian leaders in favour of quality health care, decent housing, and a living income for the poor.
Pessimism about society’s prospects should not drive people to disregard reason and what it can achieve for mankind. Problems are solved and new ones are identified only through the dynamics of progress, which is intervowen with faith in science. Behind the crisis in scientific reasoning lies the lack of confidence in progress.
The problems surrounding religious orthodoxy and the circumstances of its battle against rationality may be the subject of another article. ‘Fundamentalism’ is responsible for the appalling state of science in some countries. With due respect to the past service of various religions to the ideas of equality and justice, scientific rationalism needs to be reinstated in our time of social crisis.
One also needs to dwell, in another article, on the unchecked influence of some biotechnological and nanotechnological consequences of contemporary research. Their potential dangers may well be hellish.
The golden rule seems to be belief in the virtues of pure science that will not discriminate against any ethnical, religious, racial, or economic group but will move ahead for the good of all.
Mexico: All the top brands
by Zeynep Tanıtkan
From its sprawling capital to the coasts, from the native past to the global present, Mexico is a law unto itself. It has preserved its inheritance and transformed all that it has acquired. In these pages, DIPLOMAT takes a tour of some of the key words that make the country special.
The Mayas and the Aztecs, deserts and cacti, Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros and Frida Kahlo, Tortilla, Taco and Fajita, Tequila, and the traditional costumes of the guitar-strumming Mariachis singing away in bars and at weddings. Even for a country of almost 2m square metres and 105m people – of long beaches, giant cities and tropical forests – the United States of Mexico has more than its share of “unique selling points”. Many of these are ancient and authentic. Others, like football or the Volkswagen Beetle, have been introduced from elsewhere but have taken on peculiar Mexican traits.
Mexico City offers generous portions of the universal, the specific and the acquired. The world’s second most crowded conurbation is defined as much by its skyscrapers and shanty-town suburbs as by its characteristic colonial architecture. The sculptures of the Paseo de la Reforma Boulevard defy intense traffic, air pollution and the ever-present threat of an earthquake. Among the broad tree-lined avenues, named after European cities, winds the thin line which divides prosperity and poverty.
The colonias may not be the World’s safest place for a stroll. But to its admirers, the joys of this living, breathing giant of a city far outweigh its occasional tantrums. Its limbs reach out towards colonial towns, floating gardens, tiled churches, Atlantean stone statues, the great pyramids of Teotihuacán and the largest pyramid of all at Cholula. At its heart, lies the vast open space of Zocalo Square, centre of government and religion for as long as anybody cares to remember.
History and legend
By legend this site was a lake until the Aztecs spied a huge eagle there, perched on a large cactus and devouring a snake. It was the signal for the construction of their capital, Tenochtitlan. Today, the National Palace, adorned with Rivera’s murals, faces down the Metropolitan Cathedral and the ruins of its pre-Christian predecessor, the Templo Mayor.
One day, the monuments may subside back into the swamp, leaving the burden of history on the shoulders of the Chapultepec Park, or “Forest” – home of the world-famous National Museum of Anthropology and History and numerous other museums and attractions. Even then, Mexico City will offer more sights than the casual visitor can take in.
The people themselves form a magic, seamless blend. No country in the world has as many native speakers of Spanish. It is the language of the poetry of Octavio Paz and Alfonso Reyes, and of the prose of Jose Vasconcelos and Carlos Fuentes. Nevertheless, almost 50 other languages are in daily use.
Mexico has hosted many Mesoamerican civilizations: Aztec, Olmec, Toltec, Maya. The Aztecs established a great civilisation in the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries, setting up a confederation which bowed only to the Spanish occupation led by Hernan Cortes. With its city planning, water and sewerage system, Tenochtitlan was one of the most beautiful cities of the era. The Sun-worshipping Aztecs invented their own calendar and were masters of gold ornament. But they are also remembered as the cruelest of civilisations, eating human hearts by thousands, and washing the steps of their pyramids with the blood of the victims for days.
The modern Mexican calendar is replete with celebrations and fiestas which tell of a more recent history: the birthday of Benito Juarez, who resisted the French in the 19th century, on March 21; General Zaragoza’s Victory Day on May 5, the Dia de la Indipendencia on September 16, and the Mexican Revolution on November 20. September 15 is the Grito Fiesta when people gather in the squares at 11.00 p.m. and shout for an hour in commemoration of Miguel Hidalgo’s 1810 call to arms against the Spanish.
The Dia de los Muertos – the Day of the Dead – is celebrated like a carnival on November 1 and 2. Like other Mesoamerican societies, the Mexicans regard existence and death in a different way from other cultures. Unafraid of the dead, they honour them by remembering them. They commemorate the dead children on November 1 and adults on November 2.
They sing in the graveyards and place food, drink – even toys – on the graves. Skeletons and masks are entertaining decorations; unlike the Aztecs’ skull-racks, they give no cause for horror.
Spice trade mark
Avocados, chocolate, hazelnuts, beans, corn and vanilla – all of these were unknown to the Spanish 16th century conquistadores. The Aztecs in turn tasted cheese, wine and rice for the first time. Today, Mexico is a trade mark in cuisine, offering more than 50 corn dishes, beans of all colours from black to pink, renowned sauces and some sixty different types of hot pepper in yellow, red and green.
The spicier the tastier seems to be the Mexican motto. Tortilla dates back 1,200 years and it is believed to be initially made by a villager to satiate the King. Today’s young girls inherit the same ancient recipe and learn the same ancient skill. A less well-known fact is that Mexicans drink more soup than any other people except Russians. The most famous of the innumerable soups is gaspacho, a kind of tomato soup, served cold.
Tequila and cocoa
Tequila, named after its region of origin, is only one type of the drink called Mescal. Its peculiarity is that it is made after blue agave – agave azul. It comes in three qualities: silver (blanca or plata), which is ready in not more than one month; reposado, which matures for nearly one year, and anejo , which must stand for between one and three years. Throughout the world, tequila is served in one-shot glasses with lemon and salt; in Mexico it is sipped at length.
The cocktail margarita is made using two measures of orange-flavoured liqueur (Cointreau, Grand Marnier or Curacao can be used) to three measures of tequila and one measure of fresh lime juice. It was supposedly invented by the barman in whose arms the beautiful Margarita died after an accidental shooting.
What’s for dessert?
Centuries ago, Mexicans treated cocoa beans as a means of payment rather than a delicacy, and even today the people prefer fruit and vegetables to chocolate desserts. Dishes like bean soup with pineapple and rice with bananas somehow sum up the Mexican mix.
Ambassador E. G. Abascal: Cuba and Turkey in history
When Cuban Ambassador Ernesto Gómez Abascal arrived in Ankara late last year, he was no stranger to the Eastern Mediterranean, having previously served as ambassador to Syria as well as – briefly – Iraq. The author of three books and innumerable articles, mainly about the Middle East, he did not waste time in re-orienting his research efforts towards Turkey. Here he makes a preliminary attempt to place the historical relations between Cuba and Turkey into historical perspective. In doing so, he draws on the National Archive of Cuba and the Historical Archives of the Ministry of Foreign Relations in Havana – and unearths some little-known facts…
In a certain sense, the history of relations between Turkey and Cuba begins in the 15th century, when the occupation of Constantinople, and the domination by the Turks of the routes which then linked Western Europe to the East, impelled navigators and rulers to seek for alternative passages, leading them to arrive in America in 1492. In this way, the arrival of the Europeans in America – and Cuba – was due to the Turks.
Information on relations between Turkey and Cuba in those days is hard to come across – perhaps unsurprisingly, given the distance between the two countries. Yet distance was no obstacle to the famous Turkish navigator Piri Reis, who as early as the first decades of the 16th century drew astonishingly accurate maps of the Caribbean Sea where Cuba is located.
Anther geographical puzzle is the name given to a group of islands just off the northeast coast of Cuba: the Turks and Caicos. Caic is a Turkish word that means “boat”. Could the name of these islands signal an early Turkish presence in the region? And what of the little bay in Cuba’s most westerly province of Pinar del Rio which is known as “Mataturcos” (Kill the Turks)? Did some uninvestigated historical misfortune befall citizens of this friendly country there?
Navigation registers tell us that in February 28, 1596, the Spanish ship San Agustín anchored in the Port of Havana, with 45 Muslims among its oarsmen, 15 of them apparently Turks, namely: “Ramadan and Mommy, from Negroponte; Atia, from Telez; Alicalari, from Drahaman; Isufe, Rexefe, Isain, Alí, Beli and Brahen from Anatolia; and others from Rodas and the Black Sea”. Documents in the Cuban National Archive record that in 1640 an English merchant ship was captured by a Turkish corsair to the south of Cuba and before the coasts of Panama. Perhaps the Archives of the Indias in Sevilla, Spain, or the record offices of Istanbul would be able to provide more information on the origin of the said vessel.
Carlos Manuel de Cespedes is an essential personality in the history of Cuba, regarded as the “Father of the Homeland”. He began the armed insurrection against the Spanish colonial domain on October 10, 1868 and became the first president of the Republic of Cuba in Arms. A lawyer, an intellectual and a rich landowner, he combined the scream for independence with the granting of freedom to slaves. Between 1842 and 1844, he had undertaken a trip to Europe which carried him, among other countries, to Turkey, Palestine and Egypt. During this journey, he studied the customs, history, laws and social atmosphere of these countries. Having delved into the culture of these peoples, he returned to Cuba with new ideas and dreams of freedom.
There are also a large number of references to Ottoman Turkey in the writings of José Martí, the ideologist of National Independence, who died in combat in 1895, but whose thoughts have retained their validity right up to the present day. In the voluminous Complete Works of this journalist, critic, writer and revolutionary politician, published in Havana, we find numerous notes, mostly extracted from press articles published in the last decades of the nineteenth century.
“Weak already are the links that unite The Door with the tributary state of Rumanía,” comments José Martí (Volume 14, p.13) as Turkey protested to Spain over infringements of diplomatic courtesy in Romania. A hundred pages later, he records that: “…the revolt in Egypt has as its goal the suppression of European power in Arab lands. It starts up from Constantinople, invades the Isthmus, arrives in Trípoli and shakes Tunisia, this Mohammedan wave, put to sleep, but not evaporated, at the end of the Middle Age.”
Wars and generals
In another chronicle (Volume 23, p.262), José Martí records that: “One of the most remarkable men in modern Turkey has died in Constantinople. He was called Ruchdi Pachá and was a man of State and author of books. Born in Constantinople in 1819, he was a general, minister of war and skilled diplomat… The Turks knew him as a great man for his counsel and his bravery in battle.”
José Martí – a person with an incredible vision of the future – died at the beginning of the last stage of the War of Independence against Spain. Those were years of terrible conflict, as the Spanish Crown expended its last man and last peseta in its zeal to maintain control over its only (including Puerto Rico) remaining colonial possession in America. During those years, the Turkish general Enver Paşa was in Havana with the mission of informing the Ottoman authorities of the course of the hostilities. His reports, which may be of great historical interest, must be searched for in the files of the time in Istanbul.
The war concluded in 1898, when Spain, weakened by almost thirty years of conflict in Cuba, was unable to resist the military intervention of the United States, which as is clear from extensive official documents of Washington, long held the ambition of taking possession of Cuba and annexing it.
A question of recognition
Even under the military occupation of the United States – and with the prior approval of a Constitution that included an amendment (known as Amendment Platt) in which the right of the United States to intervene in the Island was consecrated – a Cuban government was elected. In the historical files of the Ministry of Foreign Relations of Cuba, I found a disclosed note dated November 10 of 1903, wherein the Department of State in Washington informs the Cuban Minister of Foreign Relations, Dr. Gonzalo of Quesada, that the Turkish government has not agreed to recognize to the United States the right of protection or consular authority over Cuban citizens. This may be interpreted as a sign of Turkish support for the independence of Cuba against the pretensions of Washington.
While there was an Ottoman presence in the Cuban war of independence against Spain, it was now specifically Turkish. Among the many Ottoman emigrés who signed up in the independence revolt was Captain of the Liberation Army, Elías Tuma, of Lebanese origin. The emigration increased further in the early decades of the twentieth century, when the Ottoman Empire crumbled. Many of the new arrivals were referred to as Turkish, even though they were Arabs, because they carried documents issued by Turkey. Their contribution to the formation of Cuban national culture is remembered with gratitude.
However, diplomatic relationships between Cuba and Turkey were not established officially up to November 23, 1952, when a ferocious dictatorship governed in Cuba, and the world, having concluded the Second World War, was buried in what was called the “Cold War.” In the late 1950s, a Turkish ambassador was accredited in Havana, first from the Turkish Embassy in Washington and later from Mexico. Cuba accredited a residing ambassador in Ankara for the first time in 1982. But relations did not truly intensify until more recent years.
In this sense, the visit of President Fidel Castro to Istanbul in 1996, in occasion of the Habitat summit, was a special landmark. President Castro received a magnificent welcome at the official level as well as the popular. Since then at least 12 important agreements have been signed with different government institutions to consolidate and promote relations in various spheres. There have been six intergovernmental meetings of the Economic, Commercial and Scientific and Technical Cooperation Committees. Seven Cuban ministers have visited Ankara and thirteen Turkish ministers have traveled to Havana, presiding over important delegations, included the Chancellors of both countries, in what perhaps constitutes the biggest exchange in Turkey with a Latin American country. Cultural, sporting and social exchanges, and visits by political parties, have been even more intense, helping to solidify and augment understanding between our peoples.
Special importance should be attached to tourism. The figures are modest but by no means worthless. In spite of the distance and the absence of direct flights, visits are increasing every year, and display the growing interest that exists in Turkey for Cuba. There are plans to start regular flights between Istanbul and Havana in the year 2006.
Trade volumes are small but a basis has been created for growth in the years ahead. We have got to know one another and identified interesting areas. Some traditional Cuban products can be found in Turkey, as well as modern ones such as medications from our biotechnical industry.
There are no disputes that separate Cuba and Turkey in the political and diplomatic domains. Our positions on the main topics of international interest almost always coincide. We maintain a strong collaboration in the United Nations and other international organizations. Cuba has manifested its support for the aspiration of Turkey to be a member of the UN Security Council. The two countries are firm defenders of national independence and reject interference in their internal affairs. We do not accept hegemonism; we are against war and in favour of peace and the peaceful solution of conflicts.
In spite of the important differences in their history, culture and religion, our peoples, of noble feelings and fraternal spirit, have much in common in their sense of national pride and determination to defend their own values, and in their histories of struggle and resistance. These principles unite us and constitute the foundations of a strong friendship.
Nazan Sönmez: A cheerful gleam
by Sibel DORSAN
Illuminated skies, plants and landscapes blend and contrast in the creative imagination of Ankara-based artist Nazan Sönmez. Bold and warm as these images may be, we owe them to a series of nightmares – the nightly visitations which drew Sönmez back to the canvas over 20 years ago. Born in Diyarbakır and educated in İstanbul, she now happily passes on her skills to students at Hacettepe University.
Poplars, cypresses, trees of every description and of none in particular, standing singly or in groups in all their colours before vibrant air and dusty earth. These views are perhaps the best-known trademark of artist Nazan Sönmez. Her trees are the lonely trees and thistles of the Central Anatolian steppe, yet there is no sense of melancholy in her works. On the contrary, there is a cheerful gleam which stresses the powerful connection between nature and life.
Besides trees and plants, Sönmez has based whole exhibitions on horse-drawn vehicles and brides. Her still lives and portraits are noteworthy in their own right. Paintings such as these now adorn many a private and official collection, including those of the Ministry of Culture, Vakıflar Bankası, İşbank and the Anatolian University. They were displayed in joint exhibitions in Alma Ata and Athens in 1999 and 2000 respectively. And one depiction of a phaeton, purchased by the Culture Ministry, is currently to be found in the residence of the Turkish Embassy in Ashkabad.
A painful absence
And yet for years, Sönmez had not picked up a brush. Her social environment, she says without elaborating, was unsuitable for the exchange of artistic ideas, and isolation had demolished her motivation. Yet painting had been her only passion. While she was still a high-school student, her oils had been exhibited in the windows of the larger stationery shops in Diyarbakır, the year of her birth in 1949. She had received an outstanding grade in the entrance examination for the State Fine Arts Academy, and had graduated in 1972, after studying for five years in the workshops of the famous Nurullah Berk and Bedri Rahmi Eyüpoğlu.
Sönmez was deeply disturbed by her unsought separation from her art. It was Eyüpoğlu who called her back. “I had nightmares,” she recalls. “In my dreams, Bedri Rahmi kept saying to me: Are you painting? Never give up painting.” And she would wake up terrified. “I felt as though I was hiding the fact that I wasn’t painting from him. When I visited Bedri Rahmi in hospital for the last time before his death, he again asked me whether or not I was painting. And I told him that I was – even though I wasn’t – in order not to make him unhappy.”
In the 1980s, Sönmez moved to Ankara and resumed her artistic career. Immediately the nightmares came to an end. “If I had not been a student of Bedri Rahmi, I would have quit painting altogether. Him being a good educator and his charismatic personality allowed me to start again.” She is also quick to acknowledge the roles of her family and teachers in the early stages of her development.
Her parents had been aware of her talent since she was in primary school, and had always supported her. Her father was disappointed when he heard that she had opted for the Fine Arts Academy in preference to the Pharmacy Faculty, where she had also had the opportunity to study. But he stood by daughter’s decision. Nazan can still remember her mother telling her father: “She loves painting, let her do whatever she wants. Maybe she will become an art teacher.”
“I was also lucky in that Art History Professor Kaya Özsezgin, who is my colleague today, was my arts teacher during secondary and high school.” Özsezgin was no ordinary arts teacher, and consciously or unconsciously, he made a great contribution to the transformation of Sönmez’s passion into a professional occupation.
Teaching and exhibiting
The artist has now been working continuously since the 1980s, never changing her style or compromising her understanding of art. Since 1985, she has also been conveying her experiences to students at Hacettepe University. In 1992, she was awarded the title of “Competence in Art” with her study “From Impressions of Nature to the Plastic Language”. She is currently teaching Pattern and Basic Art Training at Hacettepe, where she says she loves to work. At the same time, she heads the Ceramic and Glass Department of the Fine Arts Faculty.
Meanwhile Sönmez has held fourteen personal exhibitions and taken part in a total of 33 competitions and joint exhibitions. It was the “Cumalı” gallery in Nişantaşı, Istanbul, which offered to stage the first exhibition. The paintings displayed were generally impressions from Diyarbakır: landscapes, phaetons and thorn flowers growing in the dry soil. Grey and blue tones dominated, Before long, the Turkuaz Art Gallery in Ankara was to play host to exhibition number two.
A style of her own
We had a look at the paintings at her workshop. Some are in bright colours, others in pastel tones. Yet in all cases the beauty of the colours and the harmony among them is unbelievable. Perhaps not surprisingly, the colours carry traces of Bedri Rahmi: blues, purples, yellows, oranges and fuchsias peeping through the brushwork from one generation to the next.
Sönmez has always been an abstract figurative artist. She abstracts from observation, but she places herself outside the realm of impressionism. She conveys her impressions of nature, as recorded in the memory, and as interpreted by herself. Even in her portraits; she does not work by viewing her subject, but starts with whatever striking elements she had retained in her mind.
Stains are as vital as colour to the art of Nazan Sönmez. She creates perspective either through stains or through lines, switching from one to the other every now and then. She works in acrylic as well as in oil. All these canvasses are products of diligent labour, which reflect the organised, calm and principled personality of the painter.
Sönmez regards her paintings as the sum total of her own reality – of her dreams, her excitement, her longings, her past experiences and her future expectations. Her new paintings are like variations on or extensions of the older ones. This continuity is not tedious, but can be counted as one of her qualities as an artist. Her interest in particular themes reminds one of the old masters, who were almost addicted to their personal selections of themes.
“Nature remains the same,” says Sönmez, “However, our impressions are forever changing. In line with our changing impressions, we see objects in a different way and convey them with a different interpretation.”
Troy: Epic excavations
by İlknur TAŞ
Who has not heard of Helen of Troy, whose face, as the playwright Marlowe wrote, “launched a thousand ships”? Popular interest in the myth of the ancient city – which is included in the UNESCO World Heritage List – peaked last year following the release of the movie, Troy, starring Brad Pitt. Behind the legends is another, equally compelling story of archaeological discovery.
As winter approaches, the Biga Peninsula is preparing to brave wind and rain as it has done throughout history, guardian not only of the Turkish straits, but also of many ancient secrets, only some of which it has started to divulge. The region washed by the waves of the Sea of Marmara, the Dardanelles and the Bay of Edremit is known to ancient historians as the Troad or Troas. It takes its name from the city of Troy, the most important of the various ancient settlements which archaeologists have unearthed there.
The ruins of Troy are located near Hisarlık, at a narrow point on the straits, just before they open out into the Aegean, some 30 kilometres from the provincial centre of Çanakkale. A curious legend surrounds the choice of the site. According to ‘The Iliad’, the epic poem attributed to Homer, the Troasian Ilus won a wrestling competition organized by the King of Phrygia. Among the prizes he took away was a black-spotted cow. Oracles told Ilus to follow this cow and found his new city wherever she lay down. The cow went and lay down at a place by the sea, between the Scamander (now the Karamenderes) and Simois (Dümrek) rivers.
The Trojan War
Initially named after Ilus, the city was later called Troya, in honour of Tros, one of the ancestors of the founder. The Troya or Troie of ancient Greek has come to be known in Turkish as Truva, a derivation from the French. All went well, it appears, until Paris, the son of King Priam, a descendent of Ilus, kidnapped the proverbially beautiful Helen, the wife of King Menelaus of Sparta, and took her away to Ilion – his father’s castle in Troy. Before long, the King’s brother, Agamemnon, King of Mycenae, who dominated most of Peloponnese, had organized a major expedition against the city.
Menelaus was to seize and destroy the castle after 10 long years of siege, killing Priam and slaughtering the population. The Iliad tells in detail how Greek leaders from Achaea and Aiolis crossed the sea to Troy under the command of Agamemnon to do battle with Trojan heroes Hector and Aenaeus. There was much quarrelling within the Greek camp, and the long siege appeared to have been frustrated when Greek hero Achilles withdrew from the combat. It was then that Odysseus convinced the Greeks to build the famous wooden horse, with well-known consequences for the outcome -and for the whole saga of Western civilisation.
From Schliemann to Korfmann
The search for Troy began with the flamboyant German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann, who began excavations in 1878. Schliemann brought Troy to the attention of the world with such famous findings as “The Treasure of Priam”. At the same time, he skilfully smuggled many pieces of gold jewellery to Berlin. These unique, invaluable ornaments were to change hands as a result of a later European confrontation every bit as grim as the Trojan War itself, and of still greater proportions. Today the bracelets, necklaces and ear-rings are displayed in the Pushkin Museum, while the legal battle over restoring them to their rightful place continues.
Later excavations were conducted by teams headed by Wilhelm Dörpheld and Carl Blegen. However, it was the achievement of Professor Manfred Korfmann to demonstrate for the first time the importance of the ancient city of Troy as far back as the era of the Hittites. Korfmann resumed excavations in 1988, with contributions from Mercedes Benz, the Ministry of Culture, and local and foreign international research teams. Sadly, we lost him to cancer a few months ago.
The father of Troy
Troy had disappeared from the world agenda for about half a century when the man now known locally as “the father of Troy” arrived. Professor of Prehistoric Archaeology at Tübingen, Korfmann’s efforts were not limited to digging. In order for his team to work efficiently, he founded the village of Bademli and became its first headman.
Korfmann’s book and exhibition, both entitled: ‘The Troy Exhibition: Dream and Reality’, were a great source of pride to him. The 2002 exhibition was visited by 850,000 people. But it has been left to Korfmann’s successors to realise his own personal dream: to bring all the findings from the area, now scattered all over the world, under the roof of a single museum at Troy, and to turn this city, which has witnessed so many great wars, into a peace centre.
Reassessing the legend
The theme of the research led by Korfmann was ‘Troya and Troas – Archaeology of a Landscape’. Korfmann emphasised that the excavations were not designed to demonstrate the accuracy of the Homerian epic. “Around 700 BCE Troy, in its ruined condition, must have been an extremely impressive scene for Homer, or other story-tellers,” the archaeologist noted. At the same time, he remarked that the Iliad could not be ruled out completely as a possible historical source. Indeed, the Troy portrayed by Homer and the findings of excavation overlap in many ways.
It is now assumed that Homer shaped the Iliad under the influence of events which took place 500 years before him, and of the legends which issued from these events. This date coincides with the passage of Greek tribes to Anatolia during the years after 1200 BCE. One of Korfmann’s most important discoveries was that a lower city fifteen times more extensive than previously supposed existed in Troy between the 17th and 12th centuries BCE. Towards the end of the period in question, this city was surrounded by an impressive defence ditch. There are marks of repeated attacks and repairs. And evidence has been discovered suggesting that this era in the life of the city – and of the royal centre above it – came to an end in a war fought in about 1180 BCE.
Origins – and Hittites
But the war is only one episode in Korfmann’s understanding of Troy. According to the Professor, Bronze Age Troy’s geographical advantages made it the most powerful settlement in a border region between Europe and Asia. The superior quality of the settlement came to be emphasised by the size and strength of its castle walls, built of carefully-cut, perfectly rectangular stones.
As a transit point of the trade between Mesopotamia, Egypt and Anatolia, Troy was continuously threatened, and the Trojans were to respond by reinforcing their towers and castles with iron. Their ramparts were also built to resist earthquakes. They became great miners – but also great potters as they absorbed the cross-currents of the cultures around them.
Among the recent discoveries which interested Professor Korfmann and his team was the possibility that Troy is identical with the ‘(W)llios’, or ‘Wilusa,’ mentioned in Hittite texts of 2000 BCE. Moreover, the city, until recently treated as a part of Greek civilisation, was representative of a culture peculiar to Anatolia – most probably that of the ‘Lu-Wians’. There was, in other words, no piebald cow: Greek Achaeans crossed the Aegean to do battle not with a Mycenaean colony of Greeks like themselves, but with Luwians.
Progress of history
All the more reason to preserve and protect the remains of Troy as a cautionary tale for future generations! Yet in spite of the creation of a Troy Historical National Park in 1996 and UNESCO recognition in 1998 – not to mention the Brad Pitt movie – there has been no progress on the proposed museum building, the land for which was purchased many years ago. Unlike the image of Pallas Athena which Zeus sent to Ilus after the mythological foundation of the city – prompting him to build a famous temple to the goddess on the spot – the museum is unlikely to be delivered miraculously from the heavens.
Meanwhile, the work of discovery goes on. Participants in a symposium held on September 5-10 were informed of the latest developments in excavations under way not only at Troya (Hisarlık) and Troas (Dalyan village) but also at nearby Assos (Behramkale village, Ayvacık district), at the Apollon Smintheus Temple (Gülpınar municipality, Ezine district) and at the Yenibademli village tumulus on Gökçeeada. The symposium, entitled ‘Çanakkale – Troas Archaeology Meeting 4’, was organised in memory of Professor Korfmann by the Çanakkale Science, Art and Cultural Activities Organisation (ÇABISAK) in conjunction with Çanakkale Municipality. The region’s history awaits further twists and turns.
CSO: Notes on modern Turkey
by Sibel DORSAN
While there are now many classical orchestras in Turkey, the existence of a Presidential Symphony Orchestra remains a special symbol of Turkey’s nation-building process. Now that the summer festival season is over, October is an appropriate month in which to remember the orchestra’s illustrious past as well as to look forward to the varied season of music ahead.
It is not difficult to pick out the Republican Symphony Orchestra (CSO) as one of Ankara’s prime Republican institutions – a bold, post-independence, state-sponsored initiative designed to complement the new, modern nation state and promote compatible Western tastes and habits. Not for nothing was the Riyaseticumhur Philharmonic Orchestra – to give it its contemporary title – the first institution accorded the right to use the designation “presidential”. It gave its first concert in Ankara on March 11, 1924, eight days after the abolition of the caliphate, and moved its headquarters to Ankara, on a directive from President Atatürk the following month. Nevertheless the institution also has deep roots in the Ottoman modernisation efforts, and traces its history back almost another 100 years.
1826 was a turning point for polyphonic music in this country. For it was then that Sultan Mahmud II abolished the Janissaries in favour of a Western-style army. Concurrently, the Janissary Band and its mehter marches were to be replaced by a Western-style Imperial Band (Muzika-i Humayun). Two years later, the Italian Giuseppe Donizetti was appointed conductor, and before long the band was “achieving international standards”.
The Muzika-i Humayun became an umbrella for various groups of musical and stage performers from a women’s orchestra to an acrobatic troupe. But the preferences of the emperor remained paramount. Sultan Abdülmecit (1839-61) employed European musicians to teach members of the royal family to play their new French Erard pianos. He had operas and operettas performed, and Donizetti established an orchestra and chorus besides the original band. The Palace hosted concerts by famous names including Franz Lizst. But, many of these activities were abandoned during the reign of Sultan Abdülaziz (1861-1876).
Sultan Murat V (1876) enjoyed both playing and listening to music. Sultan Abdülhamit (1876-1909), played piano with some skill, and delighted in Italian opera. Alla turca , he opined, was beautiful but inspired grief, whereas alla franca was full of joy. The band and orchestra were separated under different conductors. In 1919, the orchestra was to receive many accolades as it toured Sofia, Berlin, Dresden, Munich, Vienna and Budapest under Zeki Üngör.
With the Republic, polyphonic music became a state policy. It left the confines of the Ottoman court and was offered to the general public in line with the Republican understanding of contemporary civilization and universal culture. The Musiki Muallim Mektebi (Music Teachers School) was set up in 1924, and the Conservatory in 1936. Regular concerts were supplemented by radio concerts. As an exhibition of Turkish products toured Europe by ship in 1926, the Orchestra performed concerts in Barcelona, Liverpool, London, Hamburg, Stockholm, Leningrad, Helsinki, Danzing, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Marseilles, Trieste, Venice, Batum and Varna.
Atatürk viewed folk music as Turkey’s authentic local music and sought to raise it to the international level. The path to be taken was “not the pure imitation of the West, but the application of the science and technique of the West to the national essence.” As of 1927, students were sent to Europe for musical education. Of these, composers Ahmet Adnan Saygun, Cemal Reşit Rey, Ulvi Cemal Erkin, Ferid Anlar and Necil Kâzım Akses were later to be called the “Turkish Five”.
Over the last five decades, the orchestra has represented the modern Turkey on international podiums on various occasions. Meanwhile, it has continued to pursue its mission of promoting polyphonic music to Turkish audiences from its hall on Talatpaşa Bulvarı (Tel 309 13 43) near Ulus. Live classical music has not always enjoyed the same support from the authorities as it received in the early Republican period and under some of the Ottoman sultans, and it remains very much a minority taste. But the fact that publicly-run orchestras have also been established in Istanbul (beginning with Rey’s municipal orchestra in 1945), Izmir, Cukurova, Antalya and Bursa, alongside a series of university and private sector orchestras, suggests that the efforts of the CSO have not been entirely in vain.
Top Turkish performers and a series of distinguished guest conductors and soloists will again perform with the CSO this year. Thursday and Friday nights are generally concert nights, and details and tickets are available one week in advance from the concert hall box office, from Dost Music Centre (Kızılay), from Diapason (Tunalı Hilmi Caddesi) or via www.mybilet.com.
The orchestra has also come to specialise in traditional events like the Republic Day concert in October, which generally feature Turkish composers, the Atatürk memorial concert in November and the annual New Year concert in late December. This year’s Republic Day concerts take place on October 27 and 28 at 20.00. The orchestra will be joined by baritone Mesut İtku and the State Opera and Ballet and Ankara TRT Radio choirs for a series of folk song arrangements by Erkin and others, to be followed by a performance of Muammer Sun’s ‘Three Epics’.
Kastamonu: An open-air museum
by Ass. Prof. Fatih MÜDERRİSOĞLU
Reasons to visit the province of Kastamonu, north of Ankara, range from seaside resorts to ski slopes and from fresh cooking to ancient remains. Kastamonu city is a living monument to the religious and civil architecture of centuries past, with just as much to offer as its better-promoted neighbour, Safranbolu.
A silent revolution has been taking place amid the stone-and-timber houses in the picturesque narrow valley beneath Kastamonu’s landmark Byzantine castle. In Ottoman and early Republican times, the city was the most significant commercial, religious and administrative centre of its region. Now, after years of stagnation and neglect, a series of restorations and business ventures have put it firmly back “on the map”. Educational facilities are also improving, and business ventures like Kastamonu Holding hold out the hope of a brighter economic future.
Aside from the splendid castle, the buildings that constitute Kastamonu’s most valuable and visible cultural assets date from all stages of the Turkish era. The region was added to the Ottoman territories in 1460 as a result of Sultan Fatih Mehmet’s Black Sea expedition. Among the structures built during this period are the Kadı Nasrullah mosque and bridge, By tradition, anyone who drinks from the monumental fountain in front of the mosque – still the city’s largest – is sure to visit the city again. The Münire Medrese (theological school), a later addition to the mosque, today serves as a handicrafts bazaar where printed Kastamonu cloth and carved wooden utensils are sold.
Equally attractive is the Yakup Ağa Külliyesi, a complex of religious buildings situated at the foot of the castle. But the most important Muslim site is the Şeyh Şaban-ı Veli Külliyesi, located behind the castle. A minor place of pilgrimage, particularly in the first weekend of May, the site includes the tomb, a mosque, a small graveyard, two residences and a source of holy water.
…and the secular
The Ottoman trade route stretching from Istanbul to Sinop via Gerede, Eskipazar and Safranbolu also passed through Kastamonu. Inns were constructed where local produce such as hemp and garlic was sold. The Bedesten, Aşir Efeni and Yanık inns can be visited today. Numerous fountains, baths and mansion houses also attest to the former wealth and elegance of the city. Among the houses restored as a result of the efforts jointly exerted by the Office of the Governor, the Municipal Provincial Tourism Directorate and a number of non-governmental organizations are the Sirkeli, Konyalı and Topraçılar mansions, all of which have become boutique hotels.
In all, more than 500 structures have been registered as of historical significance. These include houses which belonged to Ottoman Greeks and Armenians. The Liva Paşa Mansion has been converted into a palatial Ethnography Museum.
Some late Ottoman works speak of the importance attached to Kastamonu. The main government building, the lower floor of which is restored as the City Historical Museum, was designed by the architect Vedat Tek, who later drew the plans for the Republican parliament building in Ankara’s Ulus district. The high school, the İdadi (Revenue Office), the Old Prison (Rıfat Ilgaz Cultural Center) and the Recruiting Office are all to be found in Cumhuriyet Square. Few public spaces in modern Turkey are considered so pleasing to the eye. At the centre stands a monument to Atatürk and another to Şerife Bacı – a patriotic Kastamonu woman assisting the war effort by transporting food and ammunition by two-wheeled ox-cart from the Black Sea port of İnebolu to Ankara.
The further past
An active member of the Union of Historic Cities, Kastamonu also boasts many buildings from the pre-Ottoman periods of the Seljuks and the principalities. Only the door of the Yılanlı Darüşşifa hospital is preserved today, but the tomb of Aşıklı Sultan, the İsmail Bey Külliyesi and the İbn-i Neccar and Atabey mosques can all still be seen, and the Frenkşah Bath has become a tourist attraction.
Over the pre-Ottoman millennia, the region came under the domination of the Gashka, the Hittites, the Phrygians, the Persians, the Kingdom of Pontus, Rome, Byzantium, the Danişmentoğulları, the Anatolian Seljuks, the Çobanoğulları and the Candaroğulları. Some artefacts from these periods are to be found at the Archaeology Museum. There are rock graves in the city itself, and numerous archeological sites and ruins are to be found in the surrounding region, especially the Taşköprü and Tosya districts. In the village of Kasaba, just 15km away from Kastamonu, stands the Mahmut Bey Mosque, dated 1366, renowned throughout Turkey for its wonderful wooden decoration.
Getting an appetite
The green countryside of Kastamonu stretches from the impressive Ilgaz Mountain winter sports centre via plateaus and forests to Black Sea resorts like İnebolu, Abana and – prettiest of all – Cide. The Valla Canyon in the Pınarbaşı district, the Ilgarini Cave and the stud farms at Yarılıgöz and Daday are ideal for the eco-tourist. Nor would any article on the area be complete without some mention of the peculiar local cuisine. The homeland of garlıc and mortar-pounded coffee also specialises in bread-and-meat meals like village pide, Biryan kebab, tirid and etli ekmek baked with pastırma or ground meat. These recipes leave no room for dessert, but the local halva, known as çekme helva, can be purchased as a gift or for later consumption.
Belemedik: A hidden travel story
Once a buzzing railway town, Belemedik now lies almost abandoned in the lap of the Taurus mountains – a well-kept secret, known only to the nearby countryfolk, the wild boar and the hiking fraternity. Last month, a group of passengers arrived at the overgrown station to mark the restoration of the town’s crumbling cemetery – and to re-live a moving chapter of the Baghdad Railway saga.
For centuries Europeans have journeyed through Turkey, en route for the great cities of the East. Merchants, pilgrims, conquerors, travellers, and painters, all have left us with impressions of the Anatolia they saw. There were those too who came to stay, including famous scholars, and officials tasked with weighty matters of state. But for the people who built and lived in Belemedik the reason for coming was rather different. They were ordinary railway workers and soldiers, who were born and brought up in Germany.
This article is a small tribute to the 5,000 labourers who were sent to build the Taurus Mountains section of the Berlin to Baghdad railway, and to the soldiers who had the duty of guarding the track and its construction.
Railways and high politics
The date is the early 1900s… In those years, Emperor Wilhelm II was dreaming of making Germany a colonial and world power, and this included enthusiastically placing himself on the centre stage of Middle Eastern history. He made a triumphal entry into Jerusalem on his “peaceful crusade,” and he restored the tomb of Saladin in Damascus. In Istanbul one can visit the German fountain, one of Wilhelm’s many gifts to Sultan Abulhamit. Alongside the kaiser’s view of the past was his determination, through the Baghdad to Berlin railway, to assure Germany a determining role in the future of the region.
Whatever the sultan really thought, he concurred with Wilhelm’s grand rhetoric to some extent. He declared that he and the kaiser were of one mind, and that an accord between the nations would bring great happiness. Together, Wilhelm II and the Ottoman sultan came to an agreement over the construction of a great railway line from Istanbul Haydarpaşa to Baghdad.
While “Siemens” and “Deutsche Bank” organized the financing and logistical support, “Philipp Holzmann” assumed the construction of the project.
You can be sure that reconciling the nations, and joining Istanbul with the sacred lands of Islam – a branch of the Berlin to Baghdad railway ran south to the Hijaz – were not the only issues on the sultan’s mind. Another aim was to facilitate the movement of the army to the further-flung parts of the Ottoman Empire. The wish of the Babıali (Sublime Porte) to hold together a fragmenting empire can be seen as the real reason for the building of the railway. This was one reason for the selection of a southerly route, passing through Konya and the Taurus Mountains, rather than through North Anatolia and Ankara.
France, Britain and Russia viewed the progress of the railway with suspicion. It is interesting to read the report sent by the German Ambassador in St. Petersburg on 27th February 1900: “Our railway construction in Anatolia is dealing a blow to the self-confidence of the Russians. The continuation of the railway to Baghdad, in the absence of any competition, is the kind of triumph which has allowed German diplomacy, in one leap, to take its position alongside the world powers.”
A village for the workers
In 1907 the Philipp Holzmann company began construction on a section of the Berlin-Baghdad train line which passed 70 kilometres north of Adana. The most difficult phase of the project was crossing the Belemedik plateau, which involved 22 tunnels along a 12-kilometre stretch near the Taurus Mountains, and the 200-metre long Varda Bridge. Because of the time involved in taking the line through this region, a large construction site and shanty town was built at Belemedik, in the Pozantı district of the province of Adana. The town was designed to meet all the needs of the company’s employees, and provides a snapshot of how people lived in those days.
In time, the labourers’ village gained the appearance of a regular provincial town. At its peak records show that, with the labourers, and the many locals who provided services, the population of the settlement was nearly 35,000. A hospital built to the standards of the day, a church, a mosque, a cinema, and even a brothel were all built there. There was the threat of banditry in areas near the Taurus Mountains, and the construction site and railway were protected by a detachment of the German army.
Death and marriage
Work on the railway was long and hard. In the eight years of construction in the area 41 people lost their lives, and were buried in a special cemetery by the town, known to the locals as the German Cemetery.
One local woman, said to be 104, has an interesting tale about the time when the German workmen were in the area. She tells of how a twenty-kilometre long tunnel was driven through the rocks. Two German engineers, a man and a woman, had the task of working from opposite ends of the tunnel. When the two sides of the tunnel joined, in the middle of the mountain, the engineers met and decided to marry.
The Belemedik site was closed at the end of the First World War. In the turmoil of the War of Liberation which followed, the area was abandoned and forgotten. Although there are a few villages in the remote valleys nearby, nowadays only one family lives in the town. The area is still best reached by train, from Adana.
Visiting Belemedik today
Trekkers are attracted to the wonderfully beautiful Belemedik plateau, which is divided by the Çakıt River, at the foothills of the Taurus Mountains. Beside the river are characteristic houses built of wood and stone. The area is rich in wildlife, including chevrotains (mouse deer), wild boar, and many kinds of birds of prey. One favourite route for walkers is to begin at Karakılıç, a village in Karaisalı province, and proceed to Darıçukuru, Köşk, Damlama, Ekecik, Belemedik, and on to Bürücek. The route is a distance of about 50 kilometres, along an asphalt or gravel road.
Belemedik is the natural place to spend the night. Its campsite lies amid the green fields beside the Çakıt River. One can spend the evening walking through the old railway station, and the stone ruins of the rail company houses, and feel that one is taken 100 years back in time.
On September 30 a ceremony was held at the German Cemetery. The graves had been in a state of neglect, but it has now been reopened and restored as a historical monument with the help of the German embassy. The work of restoration was undertaken by the German company Pratiker (Metro AG).
The First Stamps of the Republic
by Kaya DORSAN
The 82nd anniversary of the establishment of the Republic of Turkey will be celebrated on October 29. Even before the Republic was proclaimed in 1923, there was already a government in Ankara. It had been governing Turkey, independent of the Ottoman Empire, and using its own sovereignty rights since 1920. Within this framework, it had also issued own stamps.
However, with the establishment of the Republic, a new period began. The time had come to put a whole new series of stamps on sale.
In 1923, the Post Office of the Republic issued an extensive series in a wide number of denominations, corresponding to the different prices set for sending items of all kinds and weights to various destinations. The series, made up of 22 stamps, was printed at the Ahmet Nazmi Printing House in Istanbul. The stamps were designed by the owner of the printing house, Mr. Ahmet Nazmi, who was also a painter.
The stamps were printed on thin paper in sheets of 100 stamps. The least expensive stamp cost just 10 para – or a quarter of a kuruş – while the most expensive went on sale at 500 kuruş. The stamps bore the legend “Republic of Turkey”, in Ottoman script, and decorative patterns surrounding a central crescent-and-star motif. This series has consequently come to be known as the crescent-and-star series.
It is not known how many stamps of this series were printed. However, they must have been consumed within a short period of time, because in 1924 the series was re-issued, this time in eleven different prices. Later in the same year, the series was printed for a third time in 10 different prices. These latter series, printed by different printers and on different paper, are known as the second crescent-and-star series and the third crescent-and-star series, to distinguish them from the Republic’s first stamps.
With the Republic still in its infancy, many errors were inevitable in the crescent-and-star series, which were printed in large numbers within a very short time. Many errors of perforation and variations of colour occur in these stamps. There are also errors of folding due to the creasing of the paper.
Naturally, these errors have only helped to turn these early stamps into a rare treasure trove for philatelists with an inclination for research.