Each nation has a wealth of stories – alluring magnetic tales that are repeated over and over again. In Turkey, over the past decade, Ottoman history – opulence, conquest and power – has been one of the most popular scenarios in the media, especially on television.
“The recent interest in Ottoman stories and Ottoman stories is not something extraordinary or without context – it has a historical context,” said Burak Ozcetin, associate professor at Bilgi University in Istanbul. The Listening Postit’s Meenakshi Ravi. “Turkey is a society in constant evolution, in constant evolution. In times of crisis in particular, history plays an important role in the creation of identities. The growing interest in the Ottoman past in terms of television dramas has been a really, really important phenomenon. “
The demand for Ottoman stories on television has gone far beyond Turkey. With five seasons, over 400 episodes and hundreds of millions of viewers worldwide, Dirilis: Ertugrul, or Resurrection: Ertugrul, is one of Turkey’s largest television exports to date, and has helped place Turkey is one of the world’s leading exporters of television content. Located in the 13th century when the Ottoman Empire was founded, the show helped launch a wave of nostalgia and fascination for the era which became known as the “cool neo-Ottoman”.
“‘Neo-Ottoman Cool’ is a term that I and my colleague Marwan Kraidy coined to reflect this new image of Turkey that started around 15 years ago,” says Omar Al-Ghazzi, assistant professor at the London School. of Economics and co-author of the academic articleCool neo-ottoman: Turkish popular culture in the Arab public sphere. “This demonstrated that the shift in perception from Turkey as an enemy to Turkey as a model … Turkish soft power was perhaps at its peak with the rise of President Erdogan – it went hand in hand with the popularity of popular Turkish culture, especially Turkish TV series. “
“Dirilis: Ertugrul being popular specifically in the Middle East and in the Muslim world, it’s fascinating”, explains Senem Cevik, lecturer in international studies at UC Irvine. “A show that is produced by a Muslim country, a regional Muslim power is very important, and having these characters in the shows that are powerful, strong, defenders of their nations and their tribes is something I think I would say that the Muslim world is looking for. “
For President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the AK party, reconnection with the Ottoman era was at the heart of their message. Erdogan pushed a notion of continuity of the Ottoman sultans to himself and to television series such as Dirilis: Ertugrul and Payitaht: Abdulhamid – both commissioned by the Turkish state broadcaster TRT – have perfectly aligned with the communication strategy of the AK party.
“They are sort of rewriting Ottoman history for the current Turkish audience. They are trying to present a type of story that continues from the Ottoman Empire to the present Turkish Republic in a way that elevates Ottoman history,” says Ozcetin. “’Cool neo-Ottoman’ is directly linked to the Turkish Republic’s quest to widen its sphere of influence in the region, both politically, economically and culturally.
Burak Ozcetin – Associate Professor, Istanbul Bilgi University
Senem Cevik – Lecturer in International Studies, UC Irvine
Omar Al-Ghazzi – Assistant Professor, LSE and co-author, Neo-Ottoman Cool: Turkish popular culture in the Arab public sphere
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