Romantic approaches to Ottoman

Romantic approaches to Ottoman

In some party conventions of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), banners in “Ottoman” are being hung.

One was not written in Ottoman. In other words, it was not Turkish written in the Arabic script, it was Arabic. Upon the warning of a former Cabinet Minister Nihat Ergün, it was taken down.

The other banners were Ottoman, in other words, Turkish written in the Arabic script.

These acts show that there are those who have a romantic view for the Ottoman language. There are also those who fear that Latin letters will be abolished after seeing these. This, I think is a baseless fear.

The old Turkish script called Ottoman, even if it is taught to “everybody” will not be used, it will be bound to be forgotten in the routine of daily life because there is no need to write and speak in old Turkish. Because of this, nobody will be able to switch from Latin letters to the old abjad.

İsmet İnönü, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s best friend and aide, was against the letter revolution for two years. When he was told that Latin letters were easy, İnönü had replied, “The easiest script is the one you are used to.” As a matter of fact, even Atatürk continued to take his notes in Ottoman in his private life.

However, the literacy rate in the society was around 10 percent then; you could not talk about a “habit.” The regime was a one-party regime; the letter revolution was carried out...

Today, the current population is literate with Latin letters. All of our literary, scientific publications are with Latin letters. A return cannot even be imagined. There is no point for a fancy or a fear.


There is a necessity for Ottoman in historic research, political history, legal history, literary history and history of thought… Therefore, for those who want to study these fields, an elective course can be offered; anything more than that will only be putting an excessive burden on students. 

In Turkey there is no alphabet or script problem, but there is a serious culture problem.

Even arguing that old letters are necessary to be “able to read their grandparents’ grave stones” is a sign of this problem. Obviously whoever is saying this does not know Ottoman; they are only imagining.

The grave stones and inscriptions are artwork and not everybody who knows Ottoman can read them. They need expertise to be read. So, it should not be taught to everybody but to those who are experts.

Those who are defending Ottoman, will they be reading, for example Namık Kemal, Cevdet Paşa, Ahmet Mithat from Mehmet Akif’s “Sırat-ı Müstakim” magazine? But alas, they have long been published with our Latin letters. Important books that one can think of that were printed in Ottoman are all available in Latin letters. Without reading these, the argument of “gravestones” appears quite light.

According to Raymond Aron, in countries that have undergone a revolution, there are these kinds of sharp cultural polarizations. France, Russia and China are like that. They did not undergo a letter revolution, but they experienced cultural crashes in other fields.

During the French Revolution, statues of the kingdom, the symbols of the “old regime” in monumental buildings were ripped down; in place of them, “Republican” statues and symbols were put. The names of avenues and streets were changed. With the restoration of the kingdom, this time republican statues and symbols were removed, putting the old ones in place.

Now, we should fight this “childhood disease,” and ask ourselves this crucial question: How much are we reading? What is the number of concepts we have in our minds? The real catastrophe lies there…