Türkiye Cumhuriyeti

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Galati İl Kütüphanesinde yapılan "ANADOLU KÜLTÜRÜNDE HOŞGÖRÜ" konulu konuşma, 04.12.2009

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,

First of all, I would like to thank for the kind invitation extended to me by the organizers of this event.

It is a great pleasure for me to address such a distinguished audience.

Now I will try to make some remarks on Anatolian tolerance or more precisely the Turkish cultural adventure throughout history as brief as I can.

The Turkish culture combines a largely diverse and heterogeneous set of elements that are derived from the Ottoman, European and Middle Eastern cultures. This rich diversity is mostly owed to Turkey's former status as a multiethnic empire.

Turkish culture has undergone profound changes over the last century. Today, Turkey may be the only country that contains every extreme of Eastern and Western culture (along with many compromises and fusions between the two). The Ottoman system was a multi-ethnic state that enabled people within it not to mix with each other and thereby retain separate ethnic and religious identities within the empire (albeit with a dominant Turkish and South European ruling class).

Mevlana or whirling dervishes, Yunus Emre, Hacı Bektaş Veli are just a few who have lived in Anatolia in the XIII, XIV and XV th centuries and manifested Anatolian people’s traditional tolerance and respect for other ways of living and different cultures with their philosophies and arts.

Let me touch briefly upon Mevlana’s philosophy as an example of Anatolian tolerance and humanism. Mevlana lived in today’s Konya province in central Anatolia in the XIII th century.

For Mevlana, religion was mostly a personal experience and not limited to arguments or perceptions of the senses. Creative love, or the urge to rejoin the spirit to divinity, was the goal towards every living thing. The dignity of life, in particular human life (which is conscious of its divine origin and goal), was important. Mevlana said this on one occasion:

Come; come, whoever you are,

Wanderer, idolater, worshiper of fire,Come even though you have broken your vows a thousand times,Come, and come yet again.Ours is not a caravan of despair.

Those words reflect his as well as Anatolian people’s philosophy, humanism and tolerance.

The present-day Turkey hosted many civilizations like Hittite, Lydian, Phrygian, Urartian, Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Seljuks, Ottoman civilizations throughout centuries and even millenniums. Any one of them has been recognized as the most successful and brightest of their contemporaries.

Naturally all those civilizations left their traces and influenced their successors. Such a rich cultural heritage piled up with every new civilization’s rise.

Now let’s take a closer look at today’s Turkey.

The present-day Republic of Turkey, which succeeded the Ottoman Empire in 1923, is still a transcontinental country that spans Europe and Asia.

The nation was modernized primarily by Atatürk starting from 1923. As he transformed a religion-driven former Ottoman Empire into a modern nation-state with a separation of state and religion, a corresponding increase in the methods of artistic expression arose. During the first years of the republic, the government invested a large amount of resources into fine arts such as paintings, sculpture and architecture. This was done as both a process of modernization and of creating a cultural identity. Because of the different historical factors defining the Turkish identity, the culture of Turkey combines clear efforts to be "modern" and Western, with a desire to maintain traditional religious and historical values. All these experiences and interac