Ahmet Emin Yalman.

The development of modern Turkey as measured by its press online

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Volume LIX] [Number 1

Whole Nnmber 142






HSim ijork

London : P. S. King & Son


Copyright, 1914




Much has been written in western languages on decaying
Turkey, on Turkey as a spoil to be divided among foreign
powers, but very little on Turkey developing and striving
to develop.

An attempt only is made in the following pages to give
a view of Turkey in her struggle for survival and for
betterment. The press has been selected as an index and
measure, because it has always been the leading factor in
the Modern Turkish movement, because also the writer is
personally acquainted with that field.

Ahmed Emin.

New York, February, 1914.

5] 5


Preface. 5



The fonndationt of the Turkish Imperial system 1 1

Causes of decay 12

Efforts for regeneration 14

The present era 15

A brief review of the development of the press 16

The pREjouRNAusnc Period

Means of intercourse and communication 17

Preachers and books. 19

Introduction of the printing press 30

The first books 24

Establishment of a press bureau 26

The Era of Genesis

A benevolent despot 27

The first paper 28

A diplomatic incident with Russia 28

The first editorial 29

The Sultan's interest 3©

The business life of the first paper . 30

—The attitude of Europe 3' —

-The Young Turks after the Crimean War 33—

The first self-supporting paper (i860) 34

Conflicts with authorities 36

Self-banishment to England and agitation (1867) 37

•^Reform activity 3^ —

Reaction after 1871 39

.-JThe golden era of the press 40 —

73 7



The provincial press 4^

Popularizing activities 43

Humorous publications 45

Old Turks and Young Turks 45

Circulation and price 47

The policies and views of the papers 48

Political changes 49

The Hamidian Period

■"-Abdul Hamid and the press 52-1—

The beginning of the policy of elimination 55

The effect of the Russian War 56

An example of press phraseology in 1877 57

—Downfall and self-criticism 5^^^^

Midhat Pasha eliminated 59

A Young Turkish Plot 60

The possibilities of the situation 60

The policy and methods of the Sultan 61

Dailies like literary magazines 63

The development of the censorship 64

" Renewed Young Turkish activity 65- —

Agitation from abroad 66

The revolutionary press in foreign countries 69

Types of Young Turks 70

Attempt to check progress by means of schools 72

The changing spirit 73

The Ilaviidian " system " 74

>-The press before the Greek War (1897) 75—

The «• New Literature " movement 76

An unwelcome colleague ...... 76

Inferences from the number of press stamps consumed 79

The contents of the papers 80

The Hamidian journalist . , . • 82

Strong Young Turkish agitation 83

-. The Constitutional change 8411-


The Present Era

Part I Developments since igo8 and their interpretation

The energetic action of the press 86

^Abundance in publicity 88^

New Societies and their organs 89



An interpretation of the new tendencies 90

Foreign difficulties and popular actions 93

Reasons for discontent 93

Reactionary agitation for more ** freedom of press" 94

Political diffe rent bt ion 95

The disturbance of April, 1909 96

The mob and the press .... 97

Freedom and Court Martial regime . . • • • • 99

The rigid control not lasting 100

Struggle for control and prestige 100

" A militarist press as a symptom of social disease 102.—

Party mindedness 103

Eflorts for compromise 105

Signs of new conditions loi$

The imperial burden and baboce of energy ... Ill

An interpretation of the situation 1 1 a

Part II Number^ Contents^ Character 0/ Turkish Papers in the

Present Era, Their Peiatiotis with the Headers in the Light

of a Questionnaire

A comparatire list of periodicals published at Constantinople in 1911 and

i9i3 "3

The publications in the provinces 117

A statistical study of the contents i ao

Coefficients of solidarity . . .... 121

Character and make-up 122

jDpinions and views regarding the future 1 25..^

Intercourse with readers . 126

Increasing commercial methods 1 27

Advertisements 129

Circulation 131

Analysis of a questionnaire . 133

Conclusion 139



Few countries can compete in the making of history with
the wide territories, now under the rule of the government
of Constantinople. Owing to their extended coast line,
their central position and their resources, they always were
an active field for the movements of populations, for the
conflicts of races and cultures, for the accumulation and
combination of ideas. The products of this perpetual his-
torical process could not be subjected to a general amalga-
mation. Under the protection of different environmental
influences in the various parts of these territories different
physical types, different kinds and epochs of culture, differ-
ent languages could survive side by side.

On these, the Turks had a foundation of doubtful socio-
logical value on which to build up an empire. Indeed,
when one closely realizes the heterogeneity of the conditions
they found in Asia Minor and Southeastern Europe, one
cannot help asking: How was the whole thing possible?
How could a great empire be built up on such a basis
and maintained for more than six centuries ? One becomes
more and more puzzled by remembering that the founders
of the Ottoman Empire were but a fraction of a single
wandering Turkish tribe, and had to face, for many gener-
ations, a keen antagonism from all stocks kindred to them,
religiously or racially, instead of support and help.

A task of such tremendous delicacy could not be solved
by sword merely. A very efficient organization was neces-
sary. This the founders of the empire succeeded in creat-
ing. The iron sense of discipline they brought from Cen-
ii] II


tral Asia was a good equipment for their work. They
further found in Mohammedanism a machine for assimila-
tion and a source of solidarity. A third favorable factor
was the vast opportunity for the selection of ideas and
people. The air of the frontier region, where the foun-
dation of the new empire was laid, was filled with tried ideas
of government handed down for centuries, from people to
people, from generation to generation. Not only was a
successful selection made from this large store of ideas,
but also the best people from the neighboring or subjected
stocks were selected and trained through ingenious methods,
to carry them out.^

The system based upon these foundations enabled the
early Turks to form a new and compact nation out of
heterogeneous elements within a few generations and to ex-
tend their frontiers with extraordinary rapidity. They
laid such a strong foundation for the structure that it could
withstand the greatest shocks and crises for centuries, and
disprove over and over again the prophecies as to its un-
delayable end.

The system itself was too artificial to maintain its effi-
ciency forever. Rapid growth, easy success, accumulation
of wealth by conquest with corresponding love of luxury
had in themselves elements of degeneracy. Besides, the
best point in the system contained a germ of destruction.
In order to prevent the conquering race from living as
parasites on the state body, and from forming a privileged
hereditary class, at the expense of the power of the Crown,
the offices in the army and the executive were regularly
filled with specially trained Christian converts. The chil-
dren of these converts were considered members of the rul-

1 A clear description of the system may be found in Professor L. H.
Lybyer's The Government of the Ottoman Empire in the Time of
Suleiman the Magnificent, Harvard University Press, 1913.


ing Turkish race and could not hold office. The Turks, 1. e.
Turkish-speaking Mohammedans, were thus forced to de-
vote their attention to agriculture, industry, commerce, or
to careers of learning. All this was admirably planned,
but it produced a large debarred and discontented class,
ready to do away, at the first opportunity, with the barriers
to their advancement.

And so it happened. Selim II and Mourad III who suc-
ceeded Suleiman the Magnificent (1520-1566), the great
conquering and organizing Sultan, on the Ottoman throne,
were men of weak disposition. They lacked the qualities of
leadership necessary to run the complex governmental ma-
chinery. The joints began to be loosened. The members
of the conquering race gradually invaded the government
offices and the army, without going through the severe
special training. Evils like favoritism, palace intrigues,
weakening of the central authority, artificially kept away
until then, made their appearance. The skillful scheme of
selection which meant for the ruling race an addition of
good blood at the expense of subjected races ceased and
the Mohammendan, and especially the Turkish part of the
population had alone to bear the cost in life of the almost
constant wars.

Among other beneficial features of the old system, the
lachinery for change and readjustment was also destroyed.
In the face of external dangers which put an end to ag-
gressive action and invasion, and made the country as-
sume a defensive position, the religious class acquired more
nd more prestige, with the result that change and better-
ment came into disrepute, and everything became crystal-
lized and stationary.

The shifting of the world's trade and communication
from the Mediteranean to Western Europe through Da
Gama's voyage around the Cape of Good Hope gave an
additional blow to the Ottoman Empire.



Still, there were attempts made for bettennent, as often
as matters became too critical. The foundation originally-
laid was so solid that a strong man was always able to put
the machinery in order and run it smoothly for a while. As
there were no hereditary rights, and as even in the times of
greatest degeneracy and decay, a man of humble origin
but strong will, could work his way up to the top, a rela-
tively great productivity in strong leaders was noticeable
in all periods of urgent need. With them the empire rose
and fell. In view of the internal situation and of constant
external dangers, however, their efforts could not exceed
the limits of a struggle for mere survival.

It can hardly be surmised what course Ottoman history
would have taken amidst these ups and downs, had the
Western world not ushered in an era entirely new in human

The changes in the West, combined with repeated mis-
fortune in war began to stimulate in Turkey, conscious
efforts to save the country from decay by adopting some of
the Western ways. The first great success along this line
was achieved, when, with government help, a printing press
was established in Constantinople in 1140 A. H. (1728).

The conflict between the old and the new has continued
ever since. In the latter half of the eighteenth and the first
half of the nineteenth centuries the reform movement was
carried out by enlightened Sultans, in particular Mahmoud
II, and their ministers. After the annihilation in 1825 of
the janissaries, a military corps which had effectually op-
posed any kind of change and any betterment for gener-
ations, the course of progress became more and more rapid.
The face of Turkey changed so radically that Lord Palmers-
ton could say in 1856: " In the last thirty years Turkey has
made greater progress than any nation of Europe ".

The reforms however, hardly constituted a real adjust-


ment to new conditions. They were mostly dictated by the
pressure of the moment and by the instinct of self-preserva-
tion. The state of affairs was far from pleasing to the new
generation of idealists and patriots. They saw in dem o-
cracy, a panacea for regenerating the country, and engaged
in a vigorous struggle for obtaining a constitution.

In 1876, when the reformers seemed to have finally
reached their goal, Sultan Abdul Hamid appeared on the
scene. His well organized autocratic system did away with
many possibilities of development and improvement, but
created, in ways of opposition, new nationalistic tendencies
and collective efforts for self-realization. In spite of the
large number of martyrs, the revolutionary movement was
kept alive in foreign countries and triumphed in 1908.

When the veil, imposed by a despotic government was re-
moved, a sad picture revealed itself. It was a picture of
chaos, of degeneracy, of disintegration. With a part of
the population directly hostile to the very existence of the
empire, another large part indifferent, and those interested
in the destinies of the country lacking in deliberative like-
mindedness and solidarity, a liberal constitution could hardly
play the part of a panacea and transform this picture im-
mediately into one of harmony and progress, as the Turkish
idealist hoped. An era of dangerous experimenting, but of
brave desire for improvement, began, interrupted by the
array of external difficulties expressly created by Russia
and some other powers, wishing for their own interests
only a weak and decaying Turkey.

As long as the external dangers kept the general atten-
tion and the largest part of the empire's energy had to be
devoted to the maintenance of order in and the defense of
European Turkey, the rapid changes taking place in every
branch of Turkish life could not go beneath the form and
surface, and meant in the long run mere destruction and
annihilation instead of improvement


The recent misfortune in the Balkan War and the ac-
companying amputation of the sick and energy-absorbing
parts of territory have changed the whole outlook. Freed
from the most dangerous part of her imperial burden,
Turkey may now freely look forward to an era of demo-
cratic development.

The Turkish press which will be studied in the following
pages is the factor which, in the last instance, did most to
prepare the ground for the present situation in Turkey.

The press began, as has everything modem in Turkey,
as a government institution, and maintained this character
until i860. When an independent class of reformers and
innovators arose, it passed under their control and had its
golden period at their hands, between i860 and 1876. After
his accession to the throne. Sultan Abdul Hamid (1876)
did everything to reduce it to a mere tool of his will and to
a prop of his system. As a result, the real press activity
and free intellectual life of Turkey transferred itself to
France, Egypt, and other places, and from there, furnished
the country, artificially isolated, with an underground life-
stream. Since the proclamation of the constitution, the press
has enjoyed a status, incomparably better than the previous
state of affairs. It has at least been able to play, on the
general social field, a free part in leadership, and to act as
an unrestricted intermediary of ideas between Turkey and
the Western World. There has been a tendency, however,
altering in degree with the constant political changes, to-
wards repressing adverse political criticism. The last phase
of development, as indicated by the creation of eleven
w^eeklies for schools and children and five weeklies on farm-
ing, is a sound specialization in periodicals. The dailies
which are decreasing in number, but increasing in circula-
tion, have also ceased to be elements of contest and agita-
tion, standing and working for stability.


The Pre-Journalistic Period

i HE dawn of the newspaper era in Turkey is a com-
taratively recent event. It dates back only to the second
jiiarter of the nineteenth century. Previous to that time,
here were ways and means to discharge some of the func-
ions of the press, which originated mainly in certain pecu-
arities of Turkish social life.

The social life of Turkey provided for an abundant
amount of intercourse : the mosque, with its five daily and
extra-Friday meetings, the convent of the dennshes, the
cuffee-house, the market-place, the caravatiseray, all served
to bring and to keep people constantly in communication.
In addition, the Turkish traditions of limitless hospitality
afforded opportunity to every class of people to intermingle
aiid associate with each other very closely and intimately.
As an outcome, what one knew or thought could easily be-
ome common knowledge. This freedom of intercourse
and communication may explain in a measure, why so many
lerce mob outbreaks played so large a i>art in Turkish his-
tory, although the individuals themselves were of a rather
')eaceful and quiet disposition.

On occasions, when some party deliberately desired to
diffuse certain news, or the government wanted to make
certain announcements, the usual medium was the public
crier. In the interior of Asia Minor and even in some of
the larger coast towns, this custom still survives, although
now, every province has its official weekly, and many of the
i/l 17


provinces have non-official weeklies and dailies. Formerly,
imperial and local laws and regulations were announced
through public criers on the market place and in the adjoin-
ing streets. The same medium was used to publish great
military news, or the appointment and date of arrival of a
new provincial governor, or the fixed date of religious festi-
vals, as well as the announcement of the death of a promi-
nent man, and the arrival or departure of caravans or ships.

The public crier was especially important as an advertis-
ing agency. He had to make announcements regarding the
farming of government revenues, lost articles, missing per-
sons, escaped convicts, articles to be sold and meetings to
be held. In Constantinople, the only surviving trace of this
system at the present time, is the announcement on the
streets of the breaking out of a fire.

In matters which were to be announced by the authorities
to the non-Mohammedan parts of the population alone,
there was no need for the public crier. In the case of these,
the government maintained the principle of a collective
community responsibility, and restricted itself to making
announcements to the heads of the respective communities.
The official historiographer Wassif, who had to deal with
the period between 1753 and 1774, gives the following
example of this : ^

As the Greek, Armenian and Jewish people living in Constan-
tinople had gone beyond the lawful limits in their dressing
the Greek and Armenian patriarchs and the community-head
of the Jewish people were summoned to the seat of the tcha-
voush-hcDshi agha (the chief of police). The sublime order,
issued to the effect that they should arrange their dress accord-
ing to the old style, was communicated to all of them. They
were threatened and warned, one by one, through the state-

1 Tarikhi-Vassif (Boulak Edition, Cairo, 1830), vol. i, p. 67.


mcnt that going beyond the limits would result in most vigor-
ous punishment.

The spreading of opinions and the moulding of news
were principally the business of religious preachers. Es-
pecially in the fasting month of Ramcuan and the two
months preceding, it was customary for theological stu-
dents and many other members of the religious profession
to wander from place to place preaching on current topics.
They did not, however, constitute a well trained and well
organized force, which might be purposefully managed and
directed. It is interesting to note here that the ofTicial
historiographer Na'ima, who had to deal with the period
between 1592 and 1659, advocates, among other measures
which he suggests for a general improvement of the condi-
tions of the empire, making good use of the preachers.
He says : *

. . . Even the most majestic buildings are bound to decay.
Therefore, attention must be given to raise men before all.
People of initiative and activity must be encouraged. The
hearth of public spirit of the people must be kept afire. It is
necessary for this purpose to send able preachers among the
people. They ought to urge them in times of peace, to work
and to be tranquil and orderly. In times of war, they ought
to call meetings and incite the people by relating in a forceful
speech the deeds of their forefathers and other appropriate
stories. . . .

Na'ima does not forget the importance of the written
word. He urges the wise and learned to write pamphlets
with a view to enlightening the people, and then he advises
the government never to overlook an effort of this sort but
to reward it as highly as it deserves.

» Tarikhi-Na'ima (Constantinople, 1734), vol. i, p. 31.


It is not easy to test the degree of influence of the spoken
word in the pre- journalistic era. There can be no doubt,
however, regarding the importance of the written word.
Everything written was considered wellnigh sacred, and
writers of every class were highly respected. The Hol-
lander Anger Busbeck, (1522-92) who visited Constanti-
nople in 1555, as the envoy of King Ferdinand of Hungary,
remarked that everyone took great care in picking up any
pieces of paper from the floor, lest somebody step on them.
It was a pious deed for a wealthy man to establish a public
library. Centralblatt fur Bihliothekwesen, no. 6, 1907,^
speaks of ninety thousand men who made a living by copy-
ing books, before the printing press was instituted.

It is noteworthy that, in spite of the general love for
books and in spite of the fact that copied books were so
expensive, the printing press was introduced as late as 1728.
There was, however, a Jewish printing office in Constanti-
nople at the end of the fifteenth century, and several Greek
and Armenian offices in 1628.^ The fact that the Turks
did not seem to be aware of them, illustrates plainly how
independently from each other the different elements of
population in Turkey lived.

Moreover, a trustworthy historian like Moustafa Pasha
relates^ that during the reign of Murad III (i 574-1 595)
permission was given to a foreigner to import a press to
Turkey and to print Turkish books. This press was even
exempted from import duty. Moustafa Pasha pretends to
have seen in the library of the Sheikh-ul-Islam Hassam

^ This statement is based upon the observations of Marsigli, Stato
militare delVImperio Ottomano, Bibliotheque frangaise, xvii, 1732, pp.
313, 314.

^Ubicini, Letters on Turkey (London, 1826), vol. i, p. 235.

^ Netaij-ul-vukuhat. (Results of Events), second edition (Constan-
tinople, 1911), vol. iii, p. no.


EfTendi, a Turkish book printed in 996 A. H. (1588). If
true, this report illustrates the attitude maintained towards
change both in the rise and decay periods of Turkish
history. It seems that in the period of rise and growth,
when the military class had the lead, an innovation of such
magnitude could be introduced on mere secular authority,
without obtaining the sanction of the high juris-consult in
canon law. In the period of decay, on the other hand,
when supremacy had passed over to the religious class, great
opposition was made against the introduction of any such
European invention. It was only through the threats of the
enlightened Grand Vezir Ibrahim Pasha that the religious
authorities could be induced to give their consent to the
establishment of a Turkish printing press.

Ibrahim Pasha*s time was one of quiet and peace. He
purposefully avoided wars in spite of the provocation of-
fered by the European situation, and devoted his attention
to matters of learning and art. Among other improve-
ments, he established a public library in 1719.

In the same year, he instructed Tchelebi Mehmed
EflFendi * who was going to Paris as a special envoy " to
become acquainted with the conditions of progress and
learning in France and to report on those phases of them
which were applicable in Turkey."

Mehmed EfTendi was accompanied on his trip by his son

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Online LibraryAhmet Emin YalmanThe development of modern Turkey as measured by its press → online text (page 1 of 11)