2012-11-01 03:34:22 UTC
Turkish nation or any nation at all. Turks were forced to live under
Ottoman yoke for nearly 700 years. Ottoman Empire was an extreme
Islamist, Jihadist system of oppression based on conquest and plunder.
Its sole purpose was to conquer, plunder and establish Islamist Sheria
law. It had no banking system or a viable, contemporary economy, or
industry. It had no nationality. It was in stone-age and primitive.
Every Ottoman official low or high was a person of non-Turkish
origins. Every member of the Ottoman dynasty was a child of slave
concubines of non-Turkish background. It had no desire to reform
itself. It oppressed the Turks under its yoke the most. It kept the
Turks under its yoke totally powerless economically, politically,
socially and every other possible way just to prevent them from
rebelling and toppling its rule because Ottoman dynasty established
its rule on the ruins of many Turkish states and principalities in
Anatolia with very bloody and brutal wars.
As if that was not enough, Ottoman Empire made the whole Christian and
Moslem-Arab Worlds the staunch enemies for the Turks under its yoke.
It kept the Turks in the stone-age darkness; kept all the advancements
in science, technology and fine arts away from Turks as Europe went
through an enlightenment period and made enormous advances.
Ottoman system of oppression declared every contemporary innovation
and advancement in science, technology and fine arts as a major
Islamist sin until its very last day. In spite of tremendous odds
(internal and external), it is an absolute miracle that Turks as a
nation survived, won their independence and established their
Democratic Republic of Turkiye.
As if the Ottoman Period Never Ended
By DAN BILEFSKY
Published: October 29, 2012
Picture: A scene from “Once Upon a Time Ottoman Empire Mutiny.”
Picture: Ayman Oghanna for The New York Times. Visitors at the
Panorama Museum in Istanbul. Large crowds are flocking to the
institution, which features a 360-degree painting of the siege of
Picture: Ayman Oghanna for The New York Times. A tourist in Ottoman
attire inside a Topkapi Palace photo booth.
Picture: Ayman Oghanna for The New York Times. The actress Aslihan
Guner on the set of “Once Upon a Time Ottoman Empire Mutiny.”
Picture: Ayman Oghanna for The New York Times. A traditionally dressed
military band on the streets of Istanbul.
Picture: Adem Altan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images. A poster for
ISTANBUL — Since the lavish, feel-good Turkish epic “Conquest 1453”
had its premiere this year, its tale of the taking of Constantinople
by the 21-year-old Sultan Mehmet II has become the highest-grossing
film in Turkey’s history, released in 12 countries across the Middle
East and in Germany and the United States. But its biggest impact may
be the cultural triumphalism it has magnified at home.
“Conquest 1453” (known as “Fetih 1453” in Turkish) has spawned a
television show with the same title and has encouraged clubs of proud
Turks to re-enact battles from the empire’s glory days and even dress
up as sultans and Ottoman nobles. The producers of “Once Upon a Time
Ottoman Empire Mutiny,” a television series about the 18th-century
insurrection against Sultan Ahmet Khan III, said they planned to build
a theme park where visitors will be able to wander through a
reproduction of Ottoman-era Istanbul and watch sword fights by
stuntmen. At least four new films portray the battle of Gallipoli, the
bloody World War I face-off between the Ottomans and Allied forces
over the straits of Dardanelles and one of the greatest victories of
modern Turkey. The coming “In Gallipoli” even includes Mel Gibson
starring as a British commander.
The Ottoman period, particularly during the 16th and 17th centuries,
was marked by geopolitical dominance and cultural prowess, during
which the sultans claimed the spiritual leadership of the Muslim
world, before the empire’s slow decline culminated in World War I. For
years the period was underplayed in the history taught to
schoolchildren, as the new Turkish Republic created by Mustafa Kemal
Ataturk in 1923 sought to break with a decadent past.
Now, as Turkey is emerging as a leader in the Middle East, buoyed by
strong economic growth, a new fascination with history is being
reflected in everything from foreign policy to facial hair. In the
arts, framed examples of Ottoman-era designs, known as Ebru and
associated with the geometric Islamic motifs adorning mosques, have
gained in popularity among the country’s growing Islamic bourgeoisie,
adorning walls of homes and offices, jewelry and even business cards.
The three-year-old Panorama Museum, which showcases an imposing 360-
degree, 45-foot-tall painting of the siege of Constantinople, complete
with deafening cannon fire blasts and museum security guards dressed
as Janissary soldiers, is drawing huge crowds.
And in the past few years there has been a proliferation of Ottoman-
themed soap operas, none more popular than “The Magnificent Century,”
a sort of “Sex in the City” set during the 46-year reign of Sultan
Suleiman the Magnificent. The Turkish show pulpishly chronicles the
intrigues of the imperial household and harem, including the rise of
Suleiman’s slave girl-turned-queen, Hurrem. Last year it was broadcast
in 32 countries, including Morocco and Kosovo.
The empire’s rehabilitation has inspired mixed feelings among cultural
critics. “The Ottoman revival is good for the national ego and has
captured the psyche of the country at this moment, when Turkey wants
to be a great power,” said Melis Behlil, a film studies professor at
Kadir Has University here. But, she warned: “It terrifies me because
too much national ego is not a good thing. Films like ‘Conquest 1453’
are engaging in cultural revisionism and glorifying the past without
looking at history in a critical way.”
Faruk Aksoy, the 48-year-old director of “Conquest 1453,” said that he
had dreamed of making a film about the conquering of Istanbul ever
since he arrived there at the age of 10 from Urfa, in Turkey’s rugged
southeast, and had been mesmerized by Istanbul’s imperial grandeur.
But he had to wait 10 years to make a big-budget film because the
financing and technology were not available.
The film’s budget of $18.2 million was a record in Turkey, but it has
more than recouped that, grossing $40 million in Turkey and Europe,
Mr. Aksoy said. So stirred was a crowd at a recent screening that it
roared “God is Great!” as the sword-wielding Ottomans scaled
Istanbul’s forbidden walls. Mr. Aksoy recalled that one cinema manager
debated calling the police, fearing a real fight.
“We Turks are hot-blooded people,” he said. “The Turks are proud about
the conquest because it not only changed our history but it also
changed the world.”
But others warn of a dangerous cultural jingoism at work. Burak
Bekdil, a columnist for Hurriyet Daily News, mused in a recent column
that the time was ripe for a film called “Conquest 1974,” to celebrate
the Turkish invasion of Cyprus, or “Extinction 1915,” to commemorate
the genocide of 1.5 million Armenians during World War I. Death
Critics have also faulted the film for inaccuracies and hyperbole,
though Mr. Aksoy stressed that he had employed Ottoman scholars.
Members of the court of the last Byzantine emperor, Constantine XI —
portrayed as hedonistic boozers surrounded by nubile dancing girls —
talk in Turkish rather than Greek or Latin. Even Mehmet II, the
conquering Sultan famed for his prodigious nose, has been retooled as
a heroic pretty boy.
Alper Turgut, a leading film critic, deplored this one-dimensional
universe even as he lauded the film’s epic ambitions. “If they had
exaggerated just a bit more, it would be an absurdist comedy,” he said
in an interview.
Mr. Aksoy expressed annoyance that a film meant to entertain was being
politicized. “Would you ask Ridley Scott if he was politically
influenced?” he asked.
Cultural critics noted that the film’s religious underpinning —
there’s even a cameo by the Prophet Muhammad predicting that
Constantinople will be conquered by believers — had made it popular
with the growing Islamic bourgeoisie in a country that has
increasingly turned its back on the crisis-ridden Europe and instead
looks increasingly eastward. (The movie has also been embraced by some
members of the governing Islamic party as an alternative to
Hollywood’s “crusader mentality.”)
Religious conservatives had been marginalized during the secular
cultural revolution undertaken by Ataturk. “For the first time we are
seeing this new Islamic bourgeoisie, its tastes and its mores,
reflected on the small and big screens,” Mr. Turgut said.
Ms. Behlil noted that the advent of big-budget television shows and
films depicting the Ottoman era owed something to the country’s
popularity in the Arab world, which was bringing in new revenues for
production companies. Last year Turkey was Europe’s largest exporter
of soap operas, pocketing $70 million in revenues.
But it is at home that the series and films are having a profound
impact, educating a new generation of Turks.
Burak Temir, 24, a German-Turkish actor who played a prince on “Once
Upon a Time Ottoman Empire Mutiny,” said he had initially been
intimidated about portraying an era he knew so little about.
To prepare for his part, the show gave him a four-month crash course
in Ottoman manners that included learning how to ride horses, sword
fight, use a bow and arrow and puff out his chest. Even when not
filming the show, he sports a Sultan-like beard and skinny Ottoman-
style pants. “It makes me proud to be Turkish,” he said.
A version of this article appeared in print on October 30, 2012, on
page C1 of the New York edition with the headline: As if the Ottoman
Period Never Ended..