General

Analyzing A Turkish History Magazine: The Making of “NTV Tarih”

I prepared this assignment for HIST 102 (Historical Method and Thought II) course. NTV Tarih (History) is beneficial for understanding the general panorama of popular historical magazines in Turkey. I extracted some points that are directly related to the course itself.

The third cover of NTV Tarih: “Caesar said his historic quote in Anatolia: Veni, Vidi, Vici.” and subtitle: “Beauty is Permanent: Our Turkey, Europe, and World Beauties” (April 2009)

NTV Tarih (NTV History) was one of the leading history magazines in Turkey for nearly five years. NTV Tarih, which was published from February 2009 to June 2013, was closed by Doğuş Media Group (its owner) due to magazine’s last issue on Gezi Park Protests and the history of protests in history.  As a popular magazine, even though the main issues of NTV Tarih changed every month, its basic properties remained the same. This magazine did not just contain only popular history’s issues, it covered many topics. I selected 8 of 54 issues from NTV Tarih to understand better how it developed through time.

The main aim of NTV Tarih was to help those who want to travel within the course of history according to the first issue. Its editor Gürsel Göncü points out that

“Ntv Tarih is publishing for those who want to time travelling through past which the magazine enables and constructs this road. We will pursue historical events within its time and place and historical characters within its conditions. … We see and know where we have come, where we are going.”1

According to Göncü, history is not a repetitive and circular thing in the past. Instead it

“is living. Furthermore, we are making history and are becoming a part of it while we are living.”2

He also highlights that history is not made for the sake of history. Thus,

“we don’t have to get lessons from history or to accept it as a master. What is important is … to face ourselves and to identify our personal histories on this road.”3

That is, NTV Tarih was not a didactic journal but a hand to know initially “us.” Accordingly, history is written for people in this standpoint. In general, NTV Tarih obeyed its main goal according to its selected nine issues.

NTV Tarih did not give a place for some topics in historical method and thought. To begin with, the magazine did not mention the post-modern turn in history writing even once. There is no discussion about whether history is real or not in nine issues. Moreover, I could not see the relationship between history and theory. Instead of postmodernism and theory on history, NTV Tarih gave importance to other topics for its readers. Popular history, social and cultural history, power and national identity, microhistory, memory and oral history and postcolonialism can be regarded as emphasized issues through its publication.

The first issue (February 2009)

NTV Tarih’s cover is about ordinary sailors who helped Turkish National Army during Turkish War of Independence by carrying basic ammo and weaponry with their ships at Beylerbeyi, Istanbul.4 This shows that NTV Tarih opened its door to social history at the beginning. Apart from cover, there are two oral history works in these pages. Initially, a retired police tells the story of how he saved Ataturk when he was in Istanbul during the Republican era.5 And then, the other interview is done with famous actor Turhan Bey.6 There is also a little section about economic history in the Hundred Years’ War.7  As a popular history magazine, NTV Tarih published the history of Valentine Day and the story of Suleiman I and Roxelana. Like every month, there was always sections about “The history of this month” (p. 24), “Current History”(p. 14), “Published new and old books” (p. 60-62), and “Crossword” (p. 89).  Other than that, there is news about archeological excavations and environmental changes and its outcomes towards historic constructions.

The seventh issue (August 2009)

NTV Tarih prepared a microhistory work in cover. “There is a letter from Dardanelles: Erzincanlı Hasan Çavus and a real heroic story which happened in 1915”. Accordingly, the magazine tries to grasp the Gallipoli Campaign by using the letters of an ordinary Ottoman soldier.8 Hasan Çavuş whose army was fighting at Kerevizdere to cease French troops helped a great deal and lost his life thanks to his personal achievements during the struggle. Additionally, NTV Tarih highlights the history of mentality in indicating the famous poet Tevfik Fikret’s life and his effects on the Republican era. Hence, editor Göncü wrote a passage on “the history of mentality”.9  The magazine also mentions the history of ignorance, football, rock music in this issue and later on.

Between Babur Shah and Sherlock Holmes

NTV History did not neglect the history of politics although its first issues were related tontv tarih babür ile ilgili görsel sonucu more socio-cultural issues. For instance, its January 2010 issue’s cover is Babur Shah as “the craziest Turk”. Babur is also called as “hero”, “researcher”, “poet” “nature-lover”, “city-maker”, “Muslim” on the cover. This demonstrates that NTV History rejected objectivity and scientific studies in order to populate historical personalities. Nevertheless, after portraying him as “a fearless warrior”, “a sensitive poet” and “a crazy Turk”, NTV Tarih gives important turning points from his life and his age by using scientific sources like Jean-Paul Roux’s books. 10   The other “hero” of this issue is “the legendary detective who changed the history of mind”11 Sherlock Holmes. By doing so, NTV Tarih accepted the narratives of history from above. However, there is also a cultural history part on “Aşure: The most sacred meal”12 in the same issue. Necdet Sakaoğlu writes the importance of this meal in terms of cultural history within the framework of Alawi and Bektashi orders.

The First Black Pilot is Ottoman!: From Halil İnalcık to the History of Cats.

The magazine also shared the different works of microhistory every month starting from its eighth issue under “Evrak-ı Metruke” part on page 12. One of the most substantial “Evrak-ı Metruke” is Ahmed the Arap, the first black pilot of history, in March 2011 issue. In this issue, NTV Tarih encouraged its readers to write the story of everyone. “

“Dear Reader, NTV Tarih invites you to write the unwritten history of this country and to make rich written one. Send a copy and photo of the history within your hand; NTV Tarih experts assess and publish in our magazine.”13

NTV History widened its subjects in terms of different aspects. For instance, Prof. Halil İnalcık began to write for NTV Tarih in the eleventh issue. Thus, the magazine gave more place for scientific articles and academic works. In addition to the more academic face, popular history’s topics enlarged the history of animals after ten issues. To exemplify, there is a “history of cats” part in March 2011 and a “history of horses” in February 2010.

Debating Dersim (December 2011)

Although power relationships and the formation of national identity neglected in first issues of NTV Tarih, the magazine increasingly published articles, works, photos, and document on power and national identity. As an example, the magazine criticized the state intervention against Dersim rebellion in 1937 in December 2011 issue. Along with “Dersim: That’s time to face past”, NTV Tarih states how a high number of people were killed in order to form pure Turkish national identity. To prove this, the magazine published the original photos from Dersim and the witnesses’ opinions of this massacre for the first time. For instance, Leyla Ağlar tells that

“everyone was killed except my two nieces. My father was saved as a coincidence but I never saw him again.”14

By claiming “Not rebellion but massacre”, NTV Tarih indicated the terrible consequences of this event with the support of official documents.15

The Formation of Turkishness

The question of how Turkishness formed as an identity concerned NTV Tarih in different issues. In 44th issue, NTV Tarih published on the importance of Orkhon inscriptions as a “place where Turk was scraped into stone” Gürsel Göncü believes that

“we, even 1280 years later, provided a connection without putting any other thing too. I hope that you would form a connection within yourselves.”16

NTV Tarih türk ile ilgili görsel sonucu

So, NTV Tarih asserted that Turkishness dated back to the first Kok Turk Empire in the eighth century by publishing İsenbige Togan’s article. According to Togan, “the spirit of stones and the messages of ancestors” can be found in those inscriptions. She writes that Gok Turk leaders “did not put any information stack; they reflect the world and the emotions of this age.”17Turkishness was also questioned in the 51st issue in April 2013. Under the cover “Who is Turk? The problem of name and identity from past to present and from legends to history”, editor emphasized that

“It is probably hard to find the more mixed and complex definition of Turkish identity in history. This hardship increased nowadays. Especially, people who live in Turkey are widely affected by their politic choices and current developments to the point of knowing their ancestors. Maybe this case … is also a characteristic of Turkish identity; I am not sure.”18

In conclusion, NTV Tarih argues that although there has been always Turkishness from Central Asia to the Mediterranean, its definition and context has changed over time.19

Towards the End: Postcolonialism (June 2013)

Postcolonialism was an issue which NTV Tarih neglected for a long period until 2013. As far as Postcolonialism is concerned, NTV Tarih especially mentioned Orientalism as “the world of East by the mind of West” in the cover of June 2013. The editor remarked that

“we are not scared of more emancipatory definitions to remove the complexity of being a full Westerner or a full Easterner.”20

According to Edhem Eldem, the Western world, which interested in the world outside itself starting from the 18th century, created “the other East” by perceiving East due to dreams and generalizations. Orientalism, which influenced from picture to literature and from architecture to fashion, justified colonialism on the one side. On the other side, orientalism constructed an enormous range of works.21  Nonetheless, Edhem Eldem also wrote that

“It cannot be considered that the entire artists, researchers, and writers who we call as orientalist are not a traitor part of domination plan.”22

This issue is crucial for not only devoting to Orientalism but also being the last published issue of NTV Tarih. Therefore, mentioning other issues may give a basic idea of how NTV History transformed to what extent. The basic structure of the first issue remained the same in the last issue like crossword or current history page. Other than that, the history of Bosporus fishes as a cultural history subject (p. 42), Halil İnalcık’s article on Martin Luther as an academic article (p. 51), the Turkish troops of Korean War as a political history work (p. 56) and Hattuşaş, the capital of Hittites as an archeological article (p. 82) display that NTV Tarih used a wide range of topics to convey its readers.

Conclusion among the jungle of colorful pages

All in all, NTV Tarih was an effective popular history magazine from 2009 to 2013 thanks to its rich diversity in terms of context, diversity, visual and oral evidence. At some point, the magazine neglected some of our topics, generally, it touched most of the topics in historical method and theory. After the closure of that magazine by NTV management, its editors firstly published the last issue online and then it is made a book by Metis Publications. NTV Tarih’s editors established a new history magazine within the same structure as “tarih” in 2014 that is continuing to publish today.

Notes

  1. Gürsel Göncü, “Yolcu” [Passenger], NTV Tarih Magazine, (İstanbul, February 2009), 07.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Derya Tulga, “Büyük Taarruz İstanbul’da Başlamıştı”, [Great Offensive Began in Istanbul], NTV Tarih, (February 2009), 30-36.
  5. Ayşegül Parlayan, “99 Yaşında ve Hâlâ Formunda,” [He is 99 Years Old and still Healthy], NTV Tarih, (February 2009), 12.
  6. Okşan Svastics, “Karakter Rolünü Reddettim Yoksa Bugün Hâlâ Stardım”, [I Refused to be A Character; otherwise I will be a Star Today], NTV Tarih, (February 2009), 54-55.
  7. Emre Gönen, “Ekmek, Şarap ve Fuar Krala Meydan Okudu”, [Bread, Wine, and Fair Challenged the King], NTV Tarih, (February 2009), 41.
  8. Haluk Oral, “Biz Bu Toprağın Sahibiyiz, Bu Toprak Bizim,” [We Are the Owners of This Soil, This Soil is ours], NTV Tarih,(August 2009), 26-34.
  9. Derya Tulga, “Tarihin Kavşağında Tek Başına Durmuştu”[He Stands Alone on the edge of History], NTV Tarih, (August 2009), 7 and 48-57.
  10. Hayri F. Yılmaz, “Babür Şah, [Babur Shah]”,NTV Tarih,(January 2010), 36-46.
  11. Ayşen Gür, “Sherlock Holmes”, NTV Tarih, (January 2010), 48-58.
  12. Necdet Sakaoğlu, “Aşure: En Kutsal Yemek”, [Ashura: The Most Sacred Dish], NTV Tarih, (January 2010), 60-63.
  13. Duygu Yılmaz, “Arap Ahmet: Dünyanın İlk Siyah Pilotu”, [Ahmed the Arab: The First Black Pilot in the World], NTV Tarih, (March 2011), 28.
  14. NTV Tarih, “Dersim”, NTV Tarih, (December 2011), 43.
  15. NTV Tarih, “Dersim: İsyan Değil Katliam”, [Dersim: Not Rebellion but Massacre], NTV Tarih, (December 2011), 36-48.

16. Gürsel Göncü, “Orta Asya’dan Çıkan Kırmızı Oklarve Biz” [Red Arrows from the Central Asia and Us], NTV Tarih, (September 2012), 3.

  1. İsenbige Togan, “Taşların Ruhu ve Ataların Mesajları”, [The Spirit of Stones and The Messages of Ancestors], NTV Tarih, (September 2012), 30.
  2. Gürsel Göncü, “Kendini Biliyor Musun? Hayır.” [Do You Know Yourself? No.] NTV Tarih, (April 2013), 3.
  3. NTV Tarih, “Orta Asya’dan Akdeniz’e Türklerin Serüveni”, [The Adventure Of Turks from Central Asia to the Mediterranean] NTV Tarih, (April 2013), 28-40.
  4. Gürsel Göncü, “Köprü Ülkenin İnsanları Merkezde Olacak Mı?”, [Will the People of Bridge Country Be at the Center?], NTV Tarih, (June 2013), 3.
  5. Edhem Eldem, “Oryantalizm: Batı Kafasıyla Doğu Dünyası”, [Orientalism: The World of East with the Mind of West], NTV Tarih, (June 2013), 25.24-40
  6. Ibid, 26.

Bibliography

Göncü, Gürsel (ed.). NTV Tarih: Issue 1. (Istanbul, February 2009).

Göncü, Gürsel (ed.). NTV Tarih: Issue 7. (Istanbul, August 2009).

Göncü, Gürsel (ed.). NTV Tarih: Issue 12. (Istanbul, January 2010).

Göncü, Gürsel (ed.). NTV Tarih: Issue 26. (Istanbul, March 2011).

Göncü, Gürsel (ed.). NTV Tarih: Issue 35. (Istanbul, December2011).

Göncü, Gürsel (ed.). NTV Tarih: Issue 44. (Istanbul, September 2012).

Göncü, Gürsel (ed.). NTV Tarih: Issue 51. (Istanbul, April 2013).

Göncü, Gürsel (ed.). NTV Tarih: Issue 53. (Istanbul, June 2013).

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