Turkish Themes


This compilation features books of the Central European University Press, published since its establishment in 1993, that have some relevance to Turkey or the Ottoman Empire. After the latest release, titles in the backlist are arranged by content: contemporary topics are on top, older themes below. For more substantial information about the content and availability, please click on the covers of the book, or on the links inserted into the citations.

“To illustrate the diversity of Ottoman slavery, here are four scenarios in which free persons might plausibly be thrust into captivity (—from A Spectrum of Unfreedom):
• A local brigand in Anatolia and his accomplices kidnap girls and boys during a raid on a large village, whose crops and livestock they might also seize.
• Slave raiders operating in the northern Black Sea region abduct a number of peasant boys and sell them at one of the region’s slave markets. They are transported to Ottoman domains, their fate now in the hands of local dealers.
• A slave dealer sells a young woman at auction in a local slave market. A female buyer of moderate means might bid for her to help with domestic chores, or a male buyer acquire her for domestic labor and maybe to also serve as his concubine.
• A youth taken captive when his Serbian town refuses to surrender to victorious Ottoman forces is assessed for his capabilities and placed in preparatory training for the Janissary infantry corps.”

“The Turks’ and Greeks’ perceptions of their own pasts were asymmetrical. The Muslim Turks, when they rediscovered their legacy from Byzantium, did not feel any obligation to share it with the Greeks.”—from Imagined Empires
“When Panaretos, Bishop of Heraclea, died they discovered the emblem of the 31st Janissary battalion scarred on his arm (otuz-bir orta). He was known to the locals not only as the ‘janissary’ but also as pehlivan (wrestler).”
“The conservative wing of the Bulgarian Secret Central Committee submitted a Report to the Sultan in 1867 proposing the restructuring of the Ottoman Empire into a Turko-Bulgarian dual monarchy.”
“The leaders of the Albanian national awakening movement felt the urge to break with their educational and intellectual roots and to demonize Turks and Greeks alike as ‘enemies’.”
“Recognizing the reality of the multi-ethnic and multi-religious Ottoman East, Pavlos Karolidis continued to see the Turks as potential allies and struggled against the Venizelists.”

Books with a focus on Turkey:

Reforms born in the hope of Turkey’s accession to the European Union—Democratization and the Politics of Constitution-Making in Turkey

Günay-Erkol argues that the literature written after the 1971 coup in Turkey constitutes a coherent sub-genre and needs to be considered together. These novels share a common ground which is rich in images of men and women craving for power: general isolation, sexual-emotional frustration, and a traumatic sense of solitude and alienation. (Future will tell what literary works will be generated by the aborted coup in July 2016.)—from Broken Masculinities
“It is necessary to develop a better understanding of the authoritarianism and brutality that made militaristic masculinity a critical paradigm, since Turkey keeps struggling with democratization.”
“Whether satiric or realistic, March 12 novels elaborate the ways masculinities and femininities settled in the traumatized power hierarchy of the period, questioning modernist utopias and authoritarian pressures.”
Authors, whose works are discussed in the volume are Ağaoğlu, Altan, Anday, Buğra, Çokum, Işınsu, Kür, Öz, and Soysal.

Titles from the backlist, with reference to Turkey and the Ottoman Empire, contemporary topics on top, older themes below:

“My research shows that Bulgarian-Turkish, and Pomak women are targeted for the increased demands of the Turkish diaspora in Western Europe (mostly Germany and the Netherlands).”
A book on film and media representations of human trafficking in the Balkans.
“Produced in 2007, Sex Slaves appeared as one of the first thoroughly researched and detailed documentaries presenting trafficking. The stories of trafficking survivors begin in Odessa, Ukraine. The city’s seaport has been used regularly to traffic women into Turkey, where a visa is not required for Ukrainian or Moldovan citizens.”

“This self-organization of life spread and became explicitly coordinated following the brutal police assault that cleared Gezi a week later. Dozens of local decentralized parliaments bloomed in the neighborhood parks of Turkey’s major cities.”—from a book on the later resonance of 1989.
“The former Turkish president Abdullah Gul remarked in 2013 that ‘democracy does not mean elections alone:’ a statement of the obvious, and the only one from the AKP leadership during the Turkish uprising to acknowledge the truth of the situation.”
“The increasingly international nature of an emerging global police apparatus was encapsulated so perfectly by the photograph of a ‘made in Brazil’ gas canister used by riot police in Istanbul, with its bitter irony sending it viral on both Turkish and Brazilian social media.”

All of the motivations behind the massive privatization were present in Turkey: first, the government’s need for income; second, a centralized and strong executive power; and third, powerful influence from external players—on the state’s role in capitalist economies.
The erosion of state capitalism entailed the strengthening of oligarchic capitalism. Special relationship with political-economic decision makers is still an important part of business life that results in the strengthening of traditionally strong political patronage networks. Liberalization, therefore, did not result in a liberal market economy.
By 2023, the centennial of the establishment of the Turkish Republic, the country intends to become one of the ten largest economies in the world with a GDP of $25,000 per capita.

“In 1993 the government passed a bill enabling all emigrants that had left the country after June 1989 to keep their Bulgarian citizenship even if they had acquired another one”. In the same period four new films portrayed the sufferings of Bulgarian Muslims affected by the change of their names and eventually forced to emigrate.
The afterlife of the Revival Process in Post-1989 Bulgaria is discussed in the book about the way communism is remembered in east Europe.
A four-part series shown on national television had a significant impact. “The movie dealt with events from the early 1960s, when an attempt to change the names of Bulgarian Muslims led to serious clashes in some villages. The strong public response was predominantly negative. The film was viewed as a one-sided attempt to emphasize only the traumatic experience of those whose names were changed”.
After more than a decade during which the traumas of the Bulgarian Muslims were emphasized, the memory and the emotions of ethnic Bulgarians were also taken into account and a new topic emerged: “since Bulgaria had paid compensation to those repressed during the Revival Process, Turkey had to fulfill its longstanding commitment from 1925, to compensate the Bulgarians who were driven away from Eastern Thrace in 1913”.

“In the textbooks of Kosova, a special place is given to the agreement reached in July of 1938 between Yugoslavia and Turkey on the displacement of approximately 40,000 families to Turkey during the period 1939–44”.
The Turkish connection emerges mostly in historical context when the development of democratic practices and liberal values are examined in Europe's newest state.
“From 1930 onwards, the Belgrade government tried to persuade the Ankara government (Angora, at the time) to agree to the transfer of 300–400,000 Albanians from Yugoslavia to Anatolia. Officially the agreement speaks of the ‘repatriation’ of ‘Muslim Turk’ populations, but it was clear that the majority of those to be moved would be Albanians. Turkish rulers allowed a few years to go by before taking into consideration the Yugoslav proposals, which became more attractive when Belgrade offered to provide substantial financial resources for re-settling the emigrants in Anatolia. The final agreement was signed in 1938 but never implemented; the Belgrade government did not succeed in raising the resources it had promised the Turks”.

"Turkey has not been a totalitarian state, even during the period of one-party rule, and definitely not since the 1950s, and this allowed for continuous traditions of revisionist historiographies," which has presented - critically or apologetically - Kemal Atatürk as atheist, islamist, communist, overcautious in the War of Liberation by turns. Historic revisionism in Turkey is surveyed up to our days in the volume on the political use of history.

Bush: What is next? Gorbachev: Cyprus. Vassilliou has written to both of us. He wants us to support a UN mission to Cyprus to break the deadlock. Shevardnadze: In order not to antagonize Greece or Turkey, the best way is for each side to support UN efforts. June, 1990
Face to face conversations of superpower leaders at the end of the Cold War on a thousand pages.
Gorbachev: About a million Turks live in Bulgaria. If we do not keep the issue of territorial integrity and inviolability of borders under control, chaos will break out from which we will never extricate ourselves. July, 1991
: I spoke with the President of Cyprus. He hopes you and I will find a way to solve that Cyprus problem. He seems a serious man. Bush: He’s a very good man. We hoped for progress, but then the Turks pulled back. Gorbachev: We should remember that the Cyprus situation was created by force and should be solved not by force, but by negotiations. October, 1991
agreed and said that he recently met with the President of Cyprus in Moscow. He relayed the Cypriot’s request: “to demonstrate a joint (U.S. and USSR) commitment to resolving the Cyprus problem.” “We cannot allow the use of force (by the Turks),” Gorbachev said. He relayed Vassiliou’s opinion that if things remain the same, it would set a bad precedent. That was the end of the discussion of the Cyprus problem. November, 1991

„Istanbul held a special place in the hearts of Bulgarians. By the 1870s, a significant, wealthy Bulgarian minority lived there, and the city was a trendsetter. Bulgarians would call it ’Tsarigrad,’ the city of their own rulers.”—from Communist Gourmet
„In the early Bulgarian cookbooks, the food culture of the Ottoman empire’s capital Istanbul was perceived as a standard for modernity.”
Shkembedzhiynitsi, the name copied from the Turkish işkembe salonu, were everywhere in Sofia between the World Wars. They had firmly established themselves as an institution and become such an indispensable part of Bulgarian urban life that they were part of urban folklore.”
“When German tourists came to rest on the Bulgarian seaside, they soon got bored and asked to travel to Istanbul.”

“The most important generic myth type in Balkan nationalist historiographies regarding the period of Ottoman rule is that of martyrium; Turkish historians have traditionally emphasized the notions of Ottoman paternalistic tolerance, a just and stable Ottoman sociopolitical order, and the autonomy of non-Muslim religious communities.”
By exploring the development of ethnic diversity and national tensions, this book challenges the readers to engage in a new way of thinking about Balkan studies.
“The demonization of the devşirme or ‘child levy’ happened during the heyday of nationalism rather than the heyday of the practice itself, which was entirely abandoned by the 17th century.”
“Zhivkov’s assimilation campaign unfolded as government representatives escorted by soldiers raided all areas inhabited by ethnic Turks, forcing them to change their names and dress code.”
Ataka MPs repeatedly decry the supposed ‘Turkification’ of Bulgaria. They also often claim that DPS and its leader, Ahmed Dogan, are national traitors and conduits of Turkey’s policy to subjugate Bulgaria and breach its sovereignty.”

“In 1984, it was the turn of the Turks. In a few months one million Turkic people, a tenth of Bulgaria’s population, were compelled to Slavicize their names, often at gunpoint. Dozens of resisters were shot. Over a thousand Turkish schools were shut, the Turkish press throttled, even speaking Turkish in public was banned.” This is a rare case in the memoirs of the reporter of the New York Times about his years in the Balkans as Turks appear as victims and not past oppressors.

“The Turcophilia among Muslims was far from an exclusively Yugoslav prerogative. Muslims from different parts of the world keenly followed the political transformations being experimented by the Republic of Turkey.”—Making Muslim Women European
“Bosnian Muslim progressive intellectuals imagined Turkey to be a sort of paradise of appropriate gender relations, where ‘female emancipation’ and even ‘feminism’ had finally been realized on earth, sooner and better than in Western Europe.”
“Muslim progressives saw in the Turkish example a tempered form of male-led emancipation that allowed them to address the need to emancipate women, while at the same time avoiding the anxieties connected to female emancipation and agency. The glowing example set by Kemalist Turkey was set against its opposite, an unchecked and dangerous emancipation.”

“A young Turkish woman, Keriman Halis Ece (1913–2012), after having won the Miss Turkey title, was also crowned Miss Universe 1932 in Spa, Belgium.”—The Rise of Comparative History
“If the Byzantine period was filled only by continuous struggles against Slavic unifying attempts, the Turks were the ones who put an end to these prolonged fights by imposing their social as well as political cohesive force on the entire Peninsula.”
“The intellectuals of the different Balkan peoples, wishing to liberate themselves from the Ottoman Empire, tended to see only the deteriorating effect of this long regime on the features linked to the ancient independence of these peoples. Whatever stemmed from this regime was thus considered harmful.”
“The Turks created the Balkan city by introducing Eastern urbanism. Due to this fact, the vocabulary of all Balkan peoples was flooded with Turkish terms. The terminology of clothing, food, house construction, and mostly that of different professions is approximately the same everywhere in the Balkans. The largest part of the technical vocabulary of the Balkan languages belongs to the Turks.”

“Always appeal to him as a ‘Muslim,’ and never as a ‘Turk.’ Always talk to him about his Muslim identity, and never about his Turkishness. If you wish to motivate him, do it in the name of Islam, but not of Turkishness. Never separate the Turk’s history from the history of Islam.” (Babanzâde in 1914). “One wonders what the future will bring for a politically dispersed Turkish people of 50 or 60 million. In our view, this must be the starting point of our national program. The answer to this question formulates our national ideal, which can be summarized with the term ‘Turkish Union’.” (Nihail Atsız in 1956).
Besides these diametrically diverse statements specimens from Tanpınar and Barkan represent Turkey in the last volume of the grand CEU Press undertaking entitled Discourses of Collective Identity in Central and Southeast Europe 1770–1945, which presents forty-six texts under the heading of “anti-modernism”.

“I knew that one could best judge the abilities of the Turks by seeing whether they could actually manage to build a few kilometers of decent roads in Europe, that is, by seeing whether or not the Young Turks were able to invest funds on projects for the common good. On hearing the pompous phrases of the Young Turk consul, I sensed the first indication that, despite all the meaningless speeches and propaganda, Turkey was lost for good. Had the consul general said less and spoken simply of a modest number of schools, I would have had faith in the rebirth of the country under the Young Turks.” Biased contemporary remarks in the memoirs of the eccentric Transylvanian Baron prove that besides collecting material for his scholarly work in Paleontology, Geology and Albanian Ethnography, he intensely followed the power games during the demise of the Ottoman Empire. A title of one of his newspaper articles reveals the Baron’s prejudiced views: “Are the Turks Capable of Civilization? Eight Questions and Seven Answers”.

“Muslims’ reactions to the postwar peace settlements were marked by a combination of desperation, fear, and resilience. They fled massively to different parts of the Ottoman Balkans or to Istanbul and even further east or were killed. Turkish Muslims and Pomaks of the Rhodope mountain region coalesced into a resistance movement that refused to recognize the emerging postwar order.“
The turbulent decades after the Russo-Ottoman War are explored with the ownership of land in focus.
Dramatic changes had begun by the promulgation of the Land Code of the Ottoman Empire in 1858 and received new dimensions after 1878. How and why were Muslim lands transferred to Bulgarian Christians, and what happened to agricultural lands that belonged to vakıfs?
“The period spanning until the outbreak of the Second World War was decisive both for the articulation of ‘minority’ as a political category and for inscribing Muslims onto the matrix of national citizenship in Christian majority states.”

"The Bessarabian question was among the most sensitive issues in Russian-Romanian relations. Mutual interest in a future anti-Ottoman alliance precluded any open discussion of the matter and left ample space for all kinds of interpretations.”
“Long before its incorporation into the Kingdom Dobrogea had been a multiethnic Ottoman borderland that was thrust unexpectedly into the homogenizing space of an emerging nation-state.”
“In Eminescu’s hierarchy of ethnic dangers, the Slavic element clearly took precedence over any other group, including the undoubtedly oriental but essentially harmless Turkish and Tatar populations of Dobrogea. ‘Maybe Dobrogea’s Turks, with their magnificent military past, the conquerors on three continents, could be regarded as a spineless herd, which does not care what master rules over it?’ – he asked.”
“Russia was no longer perceived as the Romanians’ ‘historical protector and liberator from Turkish servitude’; instead, in line with the new national vocabulary, Russia was seen as a ‘dangerous enemy for the Romanians’ national existence’.”

“In 1904 Yusuf Akçura, a young Tatar intellectual, saw the empire as facing a choice between three distinct ideologies, namely Ottomanism (Osmanlılık), Islamism, which he understood as a policy of actively promoting a Pan-Islamic state with the Ottoman sultan/caliph at its head, and Turkism, an Ottoman Empire based on an ethnically-defined Turkish nationalism”.
Eminent scholars examine processes of nation-building within the Ottoman Empire in parallel with related trajectories in other empires in Europe.
“In the 1820s, Muslims made up just under 60% of the empire’s total population and in the vital European provinces Ottoman Muslims represented a mere 32% of the population. After 1878, for the first time in its six hundred year history, the Ottoman Empire had an overwhelming Muslim majority and revision of Ottomanism reflected this by emphasizing Islamic legitimacy. Yet the Islamic elements of the Abdülhamit regime were not simply a return to past practice. Rather, Islamic symbols were re-employed to defend the modernization program”.
“Non-Muslim Ottomans found themselves employing a variety of identities that seemed mutually contradictory, hoping to benefit from the ambiguity of identity. Many Greek Orthodox merged enthusiasm for the Greek national state with active participation in Ottoman institutions and public life. In most parts of the empire, local Jewish populations seem to have placed their hopes in a liberal Ottomanism and remained deaf to the call of Zionism”.

“The Byzantine Empire, and then the Ottoman Empire, were not characterized by the structures of feudalism, with its main division into nobility and peasantry.”—from a monograph on concurrent theories on economic backwardness.
“In the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries Turkey entered a phase when it experienced difficulties similar to those that later led Poland to ruin and caused so many problems for Russia. The Ottoman state apparatus was too big in relation to its economic potential.”
“When the territorial expansion of the Ottoman Empire ended in the seventeenth century, the ruling elites were deprived of their primary source of income and peasant taxes rose as a result.”
“The Ottoman Empire was excluded from Perry Anderson’s analysis. He saw it as oppressive, and distinguished its Asian despotism from European absolutism. The latter grew out of feudalism with its characteristic noble estate that enjoyed a hereditary right to land.”

“Polish and Hungarian nobles wore the kaftan, on occasion, even the turban, worn, together with a kaftan by the sitter in a portrait of the Lithuanian magnate Prince Janusz Radziwiłł. To western eyes these men looked like Turks, even if their principal aim in life was often to fight the Turks.”
“This book is in large part a tale of three frontiers: one in the East, between Christianity and Islam, or between Turks and Habsburgs” – introducing the idea that the Renaissance is an example of cultural hybridization.
“In the Calvinist temple in Kolozsvar/Cluj, in the case of ceramics, we find a combination of Italian-style majolica and floral decoration (tulips, for instance), once again characteristic of the Turkish ceramics produced in Iznik.”

A challenging collection of essential primary sources, accompanied by introductory essays and contextual analyses, containing extracts or short works from Mustafa Reşid Paşa (1839), İbrahim Şinasi (1862) , Osman Hamdi Bey (1877), Ahmed Midhat Efendi (1877), Namık Kemal (1889), Şemseddin Sami (1900), Yusuf Akçura (1904), Prince Sabahaddin (1908), Tevfik Fikret (1911), Ömer Seyfeddin (1911), Babanzâde Ahmed Naim (1914), Mehmed Akif (1921), Ziya Gökalp (1923), Afet İnan (1931), Ahmet Hamdi Tanpınar (1934), Hüseyin Nihal Atsiz (1934), Ömer Lütfi Barkan (1937), Nazım Hikmet (1941) and Nihail Atsız (1956).

“After the peace treaty of Küçük Kaynarca in 1774, the Crimean Khanate received full independence for the first time in its history. The country was able to enjoy independence for only a few years, until 1783, the time of the final Russian annexation. Combined with the hasty emigration of the local Muslims (the Turks and the Tatars) to the Ottoman Empire, this resettlement left the Crimea largely depopulated. As a consequence, after 1783 the Russian government encouraged the mass emigration of its citizens to the Crimea.” The introducing sentences to the discussion of the Karaite people have certain actuality today. The history of ethnography in imperial Russia and the USSR discusses also the Turkic component of the Uzbek ethnos.

“Your religion promises rivers of milk, honey and wine in the next world, plentiful women and concubines, all that the flesh desires. This is the paradise of an ox or an ass, not of a man!” – excerpts from Pope Pius II calling upon Sultan Mehmed to convert. The true intentions of the letter, and other instances of communication with the Other in early modern times are discussed in the volume on practices of coexistence.
Essays review western literary works about Sehzade Mustafa’s strangling in 1553 at the command of his father, Suleyman the Magnificent; discuss the treatment of Turks in sixteenth century Hungarian literature; as well as the perception of the Ottomans in late medieval and early modern Moldavia.
A special “field worker” in the multiethnic society of Algiers at the end of the sixteenth century is introduced, “a European Christian who, burdened by many inherited prejudices, was nevertheless able to observe a considerably different community with precision and sensibility, offering us a nuanced view of a Muslim society.”

1328, Guillelmo, a nobleman from Naples, becomes Captain General of Corfu – 1479, Carlo flees from Kefalonia to Naples. In between, five generation of the Tocco family ruled much of the Greek lands. The monograph reveals all the intricacies of the turbulent one and a half centuries.
The Toccos faced the Ottoman challenge from the beginning. The precarious balancing act of the family’s loyalties included Turkish local commanders next to various Christian forces. Soon, Turkish joined other languages as the Tocco’s daily communication. The family repeatedly sided with Ottoman forces, most often against Byzantine troops or allies. At other times, Toccos were victorious against Turks, like when in 1416 they defeated, captured and decapitated a certain Yakoub-pasha. At again another time, one Tocco was held captive by the Ottomans against ransom. Ultimately, however, the family had to succumb to Ottoman pressure and repatriate to Italy.

“The Zeyrek Camii—the second largest Byzantine religious edifice after Hagia Sophia still standing in Istanbul—represents the most remarkable architectural and the most ambitious social project of the Komnenian dynasty.”
A collection of studies on the building and its founder, Empress Eirene, born Piroska.
“She established a monastery in the name of the Pantokrator, which is among the most outstanding in beauty and size. Such was this empress.”
“Modern Istanbul preserves not one, but two portraits of Piroska-Eirene. One is the famous mosaic in the gallery of Hagia Sophia; the other, arguably, is the Pantokrator.”

Further titles on CEU Press back list:

  • The final chapter in the biography of an extraordinary 16th century woman takes the reader to Istanbul.
  • It would be difficult to compose studies of culture and society in early-modern East-Central Europe without Ottoman references; and one essay fully focuses on a Turkish theme, on manuscript tradition and printed books in the empire.
  • Deeds and vicissitudes of Jesuit communities in the Eastern half of the Habsburg lands, including when Belgrade was re-conquered from the Ottoman Empire for two periods in the 18th c.
  • An essay on Þemseddin Sami Frashëri’s role in Turkish nation building in the collection on national identities and peculiarities.
  • The book on empires discusses the Ottoman era in two chapters.
  • The national liberal component in the Ottoman-Turkish road to modernity is analyzed alongside the presentation of liberal nationalism in a number of countries in Europe.
  • A book of comparative intellectual history discusses how socialist ideology emerged as an option of political modernity in Bulgaria, Greece and Serbia - with frequent references to the not too distant Ottoman past.
  • Turkey’s EU membership is a litmus test of European self-confidence; the twin volume of the previous book discusses Muslims and Islam in Europe.
  • The title of the next book also implies relevance for Turkey: Islam and Tolerance in Wider Europe.
  • Researchers find the media system in Turkey a clear example of the Mediterranean, or polarized pluralist model, in a comparative volume on European media.