Turkey Arts and Literature

Literature and theater

When the Turks came to Asia Minor in the 1000’s, they brought with them a rich oral tradition. The poetry of the chief poets was increasingly influenced by Persian and Arabic literature, both formally and linguistically, and became difficult to access for the people. Yunus Emre, the great mystic of the 13th century, united in his poems the two directions, which then developed in parallel. During the Ottoman period, poetry was the leading genre. The refinement of imagery and the perfection of preschool technology culminated in the 16th century through the poets Bâkî and Fuzulî. The originality of the content itself was of no significance, and motifs were derived from Arabic and Persian literature.

Turkey Population Pyramid

  • Countryaah: Population and demographics of Turkey, including population pyramid, density map, projection, data, and distribution.

More independent Turkish themes emerged during the 18th century in works by Ahmed Nedim and Gâlib Dede (Şeyh Gâlib). The popular tradition, which was carried on by troubadours (including Karacaoğlan) and dervish poets, preserved Turkish verse and pure Turkish language and, together with impulses from Europe, formed the basis for the renewal of literature in the 19th century. New genres emerged, and now the artistic subordinate content. The literature would enlighten and educate. However, the literature became unavailable to wider circles until the republic’s time, and then as a result of pervasive language reform.

Literature in the 1920’s and 1930’s was characterized by a patriotic and modernizing spirit in works by, among other things, Halide Edib Adıvar and Yakub Kadri. Nazım Hikmet revolutionized poetry with community-oriented poems on free verse. The novelist Sait Faik Abasıyanık laid the foundation for the avant-garde, experimental school of prose. Orhan Veli Kanık, with his friends Oktay Rifat and Melih Cevdet Anday, played a crucial role in the development of poetry.

In the 1950’s and 1960’s, the literature was dominated by social realism among others. Orhan Kemal and Kemal Tahir. A generation of writers with a rural background characterized the cultural life and made the countryside a pervasive theme. Yaşar Kemal drew inspiration for her epic novels in folklore. In response to the prevailing “village literature” in the 1960’s, the group Bunaltı (‘Anxiety’) was formed, linked to modernist trends, especially existentialism, with members such as Demir Özl邦, Ferit Edg邦, Nezihe Meriç, Adnan Özyalçiner and Tahsin Y邦cel. Likewise, the lyricists were Cemal S邦reya and Edip Cansever. The poets Behçet Necatigil and Fazıl H邦sn邦 Dağlarca, on the other hand, did not belong to any literary group. The satire has a long tradition in T. – from medieval stories of Nasreddin hodscha to our contemporary Aziz Nesin or Muzaffer İzg邦. From about 1970, the realistic school lost in popularity; instead, experimental prose and poetry as well as postmodernism have grown strongly through, among other things. Oğuz Atay, K邦rşat Başr and Orhan Pamuk who were awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2006.

A kind of magical realism is represented by the writers Nazlı Eray and Latife Tekin. The foremost modern poets include Hilmi Yavuz, Özdemir İ nce and, among the younger ones, Murathan Mungan (who is also a playwright).

Folk acting has always been popular; In addition to puppet shadow theater (see Karagöz shadow play), there was also theater with live actors, so-called meddah and orta oyunu, to which the modern theater was able to connect with great success. Mention can be made of Haldun Tanner’s epic theater, G邦ngör Dilmen’s adaptation of mythology as well as historical plays, family dramas and musical theater.


Turkey’s first permanent cinema was set up in Istanbul in 1908, but it was only after World War II before a regular domestic film production came to fruition. Before that, a number of documentary films and a modest number of feature films were made. Dominant in the latter area was the influence of Soviet revolutionary film Muhsin Ertuğrul (1892-1979). made Turkey’s first audio film (1931).

The limited film imports during the Second World War led to the emergence of production companies that, with low-budget productions of mainly melodramas and comedies, came to dominate the following two decades. Among the most profiled filmmakers of this time were L邦tf邦 Ömer Akad (1916-2011), Memduh Ün (1920-2015) and Metin Erksan (1929-2012), who with the peasant drama ※Susuz Yaz§ (1963) conquered the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival.

From 1965-75, Yeşilçam, named after a street in Istanbul, became a concept for a popular cultural film industry that mass-produced popular entertainment – during its golden age more than 200 films per year. With the impact of the TV industry and VCR during the 1970’s, production dropped dramatically, but since 2002 the Yeşilçam industry has recovered.

For a production of films directly related to social reality was mainly Yilmaz G邦ney, who in the 1970’s won international reputation but was harassed and imprisoned, like other politically radical filmmakers, to eventually go into exile. Directors such as Zeki Session (1941-2009) and Serif Gören (born 1944) assisted him in completing films during his prison stay, including “Yol” (1982). In the same social-critical spirit during the 1980’s, filmmakers such as Ömer Kavur (1944-2005), Erden Kiral (born 1942), Ali Özgent邦rk (born 1947), Atif Yilmaz (1925-2006), the resident of Tevfik Baser (born 1951), worked) and the Swedish-based Muammer Özer (born 1945, “The in love cloud”, 1989).

In the 1990’s, new, talented filmmakers emerged, for example. Yavuz Özkan (born 1942), Mustafa Altioklar (born 1958) and the two female directors Canan Gerede (born 1948) and Biket Ilhan (born 1944). “Istanbul kanatlarımın altında” (1995) by Altioklar and “Eskiya” (1996) by Yavuz Turgul (born 1946), both artistically demanding films, accounted for the greatest audience success of the 1990’s.

Internationally noted during the 2000’s is the Turkish-German director Fatih Akin (born 1973), who has also been active in Turkey. Nuri Bilge Ceylan (born 1959), who debuted in the 1990’s, won the Gold Palm in Cannes with the drama “Kış uykusu”. (2014).

Turkey produces 20-25 films annually.


Turkey’s art after the introduction of Islam at the end of the 11th century can be divided into two major periods, the Seljuq and the Ottoman. When the Seljuks invaded Anatolia from the east, this also brought new eastern influences into the arts. The geometric and abstract ornament of Islamic art and the Arabic calligraphy were combined with an influence from Central Asia and Iran. Characteristic of Seljuq art became stone reliefs with a powerful ornament, the use of glazed tiles, mainly in blue and black, in architecture, carved woodwork with arabesque and geometric ornaments and calligraphic decor and metal works, often with figurative works. From the period there is also a group of early, fragmentarily preserved, knotted carpets from the 13th to 13th centuries with geometric patterns and calligraphic borders (found in Konya, now in the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art in Istanbul). The Ottoman period brought a boom in art, with a peak during the 16th and 16th centuries, especially in the miniature painting, carpet and textile art, and ceramic and metal crafts. Ottoman art is characterized by a technical as well as artistic refinement and at the same time powerful design language in mainly floral designs.

The ceramic production was concentrated throughout the 16th century to Iznik with a large production of tiles with underglaze decor for both mosque decorations and profane decorations and objects with plant and flower designs, the so-called saz motif, in strong colors on mainly white bottom, with dominant blue and green and after about 1550 a unique saturated red color for the Iznik production. In Istanbul and Bursa there were weavings for patterned silk, brocades and velvet. High quality knotted carpets are preserved from the 15th century (eg Marby mat, now in the State Historical Museum, Stockholm) and from the 16th and 16th centuries, for example. from the 14th century in Uşak (medallion, star and mihrab patterns; compare usak mats) but also other locations throughout Turkey. Also important is the production of smooth woven carpets, kelim. The miniature painting was developed under the influence of Iran, but in the 16th century found its own style in illustrations mainly for historical works, with scenes from court ceremonies and parties. The stylized image form was combined in Ottoman art with a certain narrative realism in the production, dominated by clear colors, with a distinctive element of red. Calligraphy was developed into art under masters such as Shaykh Hamdullah and Hafiz Osman (16th century). At the beginning of the 18th century the art was renewed by the painter Levni. The Topkapi Museum and the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art have two of the world’s foremost collections of Islamic art and illuminated manuscripts.

In the latter half of the 19th century, Turkey was opened to Western influences in the arts. Turkish artists were now able to study in Europe and artists from eg. France and Italy work in Istanbul. Art education was first conducted at military colleges. In 1883, the Academy of Fine Arts in Istanbul was founded by artist and archaeologist Osman Hamdi. The teaching was reformed in 1937 by the sculptor Rudolph Belling, known for his portraits of Atat邦rk. During the 20th century, many Turkish artists studied in Western and developed a modern, Western-influenced art with the support of artists’ associations such as “The Association of Independent Painters and Sculptors” (1928) and Group D (1933). Among the artists of the 20th century are the sculptors Ihsan Özsoy, Nejat Sirel and AH Bara and the early innovators of the painting Hodja Ali Riza and Halil Pasha. Since 1986, the Asia-Europe Biennial has been held in Ankara, and the art world is very active in the art galleries and museums in Ankara and Istanbul. At the same time, the traditional arts and crafts have been kept alive in the urban bazaars.


Turkey’s early Byzantine architecture, with a concentration on Constantinople, culminated in the Church of Hagia Sofia (532-37). Of the 9th century Armenian central churches in eastern Turkey, ruins remain in Ani and Aghtamar. In Seljuq Islamic architecture, from the 11th century, brick culture from Central Asia and Iran merged with the native natural stone tradition. The precise geometric stone work embossed building types which grave tower (T邦rbe), caravansary, madrassah and Mosque. A Turkish peculiarity became the coordination of these or other public building types around the mosque into a complex (k邦lliye). Such building ensembles characterize Konya, Kayseri, Divriği, Sivas and others. cities.

In the 15th and 16th centuries, independent Ottoman building art was embossed, spreading from Anatolia and the Balkan Peninsula from Bursa, Iznik, Edirne and Istanbul. It was particularly expressed in the mosques’ room and structure, where a feature became the outer contours of slender vertical minarets in interaction with slightly dormant dome masses. This Roman-inspired and mathematically sophisticated building became an Islamic parallel to European Renaissance architecture. With high technical quality, roads, bridges, bazaars and fortifications were also built, while the interior art reached subtle expressions through the patterned effect of Iznik’s ceramic decor in cool color tones. The development culminated in the latter part of the 16th century with the extensive activities of the court architect Sinan, mainly a number of mosque complexes in Istanbul and Edirne.The Blue Mosque in Istanbul, however, carried on the tradition, and it still characterizes Turkish mosque construction in general.

The housing culture also developed a distinctive Ottoman identity. It appears in the palace architecture’s system of light pavilions and gardens, as in Topkapi in Istanbul, but also in the more ordinary residential buildings in town and countryside. Here, wood has been a major material, often combined with truss fills in stone or brick. The usual type of house has a distinctly organized upper main floor, where the distribution of rooms through outcroppings appears volume-wise.

Under the influence of European Baroque architecture, during the 18th century, the so-called tulip epoch created a special form culture with emphasis on rolling line games. 19th century European eclecticism was expressed mainly in Istanbul, for example in the magnificent Dolmabahce Palace, designed by Nikogos and Karapet Balean. During the 20th century, international modernism characterized the major project that the development of Ankara entailed, but many attempts have been made to create a new historically entrenched identity. Notable such efforts have been made by Ahmet Kemalettin and Sedad Hakkı Eldem, both primarily operating in Istanbul. Since 2000, a number of skyscrapers in the international postmodern style have been erected in Istanbul in particular. the country’s tallest building Istanbul Sapphire, designed by the architectural office Tabanlıoğlu Mimarlık.


Musically, the Ottoman Empire belonged to the Arab-Islamic cultural field. After the republic of Turkey was proclaimed in 1923, a Europeanization of institutionalized music life took place. During the 1940’s and 1950’s, great efforts were made to build up a national national estrada music with roots in folk music. This newly arranged folk music, T邦rk halk m邦ziği (‘The Turkish Folk Music’), would replace the Ottoman art music which was considered too influenced by Arab and Persian culture. Extensive collections of Turkish folk music were performed, mainly in the eastern parts of Turkey. The ensemble Yurttan Sesler (‘Toner from the Fatherland’), founded in the 1940’s, has been style-forming in the genre. One of the most important instruments in Turkey is the poppy Zurna(usually played together with the two-fold drum davul) and the long-necked end of the bath. Zurna was also one of the main instruments in Janitic music, the Ottoman military music that gained entry into Western European music from the late 18th century.

After being countered since the 1920’s, Ottoman art music, sanat m邦ziǧi, has had a renaissance since the 1970’s. Older music collections such as “Edvâr” (c. 1700, new edition 1976) by the Moldavian Dimitrie Cantemir have been updated again. In certain religious contexts, such as within Sufic dervish chords, music is used in the ceremonies. Art music, to which even religious music can be counted, is usually performed in suite form, fasıl. The musical foundation is the makam system (compare maqam).

Kahvehane m邦ziği (‘cafe music’) is called urban popular music with roots in art music. When cafe music flourished in the late 19th century, it was mainly in the cosmopolitan metropolis of Istanbul. The popular music developed there is part of a relatively uniform urban culture, common to the cities around the Mediterranean. Caf谷 music had large parts of its instruments, including. the flute ney and the lute ud, in common with the art music. From the end of the 19th century the clarinet has increasingly replaced the ney in the ensembles. Today, many musicians, especially clarinetists, enjoy great popularity in cafe music, e.g. the gypsy musician and clarinetist Mustafa Kandıralı (born 1930).

In recent years, genres where Western and Eastern influences have been mixed have become increasingly widespread. An example of this is arabesque, where Western popular musical instruments such as bass, synthesizer and drum are mixed with indigenous instruments, while melodies and arrangements exhibit features of Egyptian and Indian film music. Arab singer Ibrahim Tatlıses (born 1952) is one of Turkey’s most famous and esteemed artists.

In step with the modernization of Turkey, Turkish pop music began to take hold in the late 1950’s, mainly through covers of Western popular music but also with pop songs in Turkish. Turkish pop and rock pioneers in the 1960’s and 1970’s include Erkin Koray (born 1941), Barış Manço (1943-99), Cem Karaca (1945-2004) and the rock group Moğollar.

Turkish film was also important for the growing popularity of pop music. Actress Ajda Pekkan (born 1946) became a star with her songs, which soon became a singing career. Alongside Sezen Aksu (born 1954), she is the most commercially successful of Turkey’s female pop artists.

From the late 1970’s, Western-influenced pop music lost ground to the Arabesque. However, in the early 1990’s, artists such as Aksu and the trio Mazhar-Fuat-Özkan (MFÖ) gained renewed popularity at the same time as a number of new abilities, such as Tarkan (really Tarkan Tevetoğlu, born 1972), Mustafa Sandal (born 1970), Yıldız Tilbe (born 1966) and Özlem Tekin (born 1971) entered. Tarkan achieved success in 1999 in Europe and Latin America with the song “Şımarık”. During the 1990’s, electronica, hip-hop, rap and dance music also made a serious impact. The Turkish hip-hop originated among Turkish labor immigrants in Germany, where it became popular and then established in Turkey.

In 1975, Turkey participated in the Eurovision Song Contest for the first time, and in 2003 the country won the competition with “Every Way That I Can” sung by Sertab Erener (born 1964).

Turkey Arts and Literature