Avrasya Üniversitesi

Culture in Trabzon Yesterday and Today

It must be admitted that the best descriptions of Trabzon, where until the first quarter of this century Muslim and Christian lived side by side, where the ezan, or call to prayer, mingled with the sound of church bells, were those of travellers. We possess no deta led knowledge of the cultural life of the city before the Ottoman period. However, from the Tanzimat (reform) Period onwards, when the process of Westernisation began, Trabzon possessed all the features of the world’s major cities. Various educational establishments are mentioned in the Yearbooks of the Governor’s Office, among which were the “Mekatip-i Ecnebiye” (or schools for foreigners), “İptidaiye” (primary schools) and “Rüştiye”(middle schools). The most renowned school of the period was “Mektebi Idadi” (otherwise known as the Royal School, or Trabzon High School). The foundations of this building were laid in 1884 and built due to the efforts of Sırrı Pasha, Governor of Trabzon. This was followed by the Trabzon “Muallim Mektebi” (teacher training college). Trabzon High School is now the city’s oldest school. Affan Kitapçıoğlu High School, Fatih High School, Kanuni Anadolu High School, Yunus Emre Anadolu High School, Yomra Sciences High School, the Girls Professional High School, the Commercial High School, the Anadolu Commercial High School, the Anadolu Technical High School, the Industrial Professional High School, the Imam Hatip High School, the Anadolu Imam Hatip High School and the Private Ata High School are among the city’s most renowned schools.

One of the Village Institutes, which were the most respected of our country’s educational establishments and served as a model in world educational history, was opened here at Beşikdüzü in 1940. However, political developments in later years made this excellent institution a thing of the past.

An important example of Trabzon’s educational establishments is Karadeniz (Black Sea) Technical University. A resolution was passed by Parliament for the setting up of this university on 20 May 1955 and it first opened on 2 December 1963 in a primary school building in the Maşatlık district of Trabzon, and later moved to its present site. After engineering, new faculties were added over the years to include the Faculty of Education, the Faculty of Economics, the Faculty of Water Products and Oceanography at Sürmene, the Faculty of Architecture and the Faculty of Medicine. The university’s very first students were young people who had completed their high school education in different parts of the country. These young people, with all the enthusiasm of that period, also became involved in theatrical while they were studying and took this art back to their villages.

At about the same time the Fatih Institute of Education opened in Trabzon. In the course of time the Institute was turned into a faculty and became part of the Black Sea University. This process brought thousands of young people into the teaching profession.

The fırst Turkish newspaper, named “Trabzon”, was printed at a printing works attached to the Governor’s Office, founded in 1866. The first copies of the newspaper reached readers in 1869. In the course of time other newspapers, among them Meşveret, tkbal, Envar-i Vicdan, Haber Anası, Tarık, Hekim, Temkin, Istik- bal, Güzel Trabzon, Zafer, Kahkaha, Devekuşu and Zafer were set up. There were also magazines such as Genç Anadolu, Kaygu, Özdilek and Yeni Mektep.

In the last quarter of the l9th century, when the Second Constitutional Government was in power, the Byzantine Greek and Armenian communities in Trabzon published newspapers and periodicals, and this situation continued until the First World War.

A newspaper called Yeni Yol, which is the same age as the Turkish Republic, was publıshed in Trabzon after Giresun, and its appearance coincided with Atatürk’s first visit to Trabzon. At about the same time, Ilk Adım ( 1924) and Yeni Ay (1926), magazines published by Hüseyin Avni Bey, a primary school inspec- tor, pedagogue and poet brought new colour to Trabzon’s local press.

The Halkevleri, which were local adult educational centres, were set up in 1932 and sixty four issues of a magazine calledinan were published under the aegis of this centre of culture between 1937 and 1949.

From 1932 to 1923, Akın magazine, which occupied an important place in the cultural and artistic life of Trabzon, appeared. In the same year a single issue of a magazine called Trabzon Lisesi appeared as the organ of Trabzon High School, where it was published. In 1946 the school was represented by Boztepe magazine. Then in 1949 Değirmen appeared and although its survival was to be confined to 9 issues, it aroused a great deal of interest, and was published single-handed by Halit Tanyeli, a teacher of literature. On 24 February 1956, a newspaper called Hakimiyet was added to Trabzon’s newspapers. It was to serve as a voice for poet and journalist Ömer Turan Eyuboğlu throughout the 33 years of its life.

In the course of time the people of Trabzon became acquainted with such news- papers as Halk, ileri, Doğu, Trabzon, Yenigün, Son Haber, Karadeniz and Kuzey Haber. Trabzon is now represented locally by four newspapers, one of them weekly (Ekspres) and the others (Karadeniz, Karadeniz Olay and Türk Sesi), daily. Bayram and Manşet, published by the Journalists Association, also joined this caravan. When Ömer Güner was chairman of the Trabzon Journalists’ Association he arranged special programmes in the knowledge that he had a duty to respect the talents his city had produced and take an interest in their work. Among the many great journalistic talents born in Trabzon were Cemal Rıza Osmanpaşaoğlu, Bekir Sûküti Kulaksızoğlu, Faik Ahmet Barutçu, Ali Kemal Hatipoğlu, Ali Becil, Muzaffer Korlu, Şevket Çulha, Ömer Güner, Ziyad Nemli, Özgür Baran, Atilla Aşut and Hikmet Aksoy.

In his book of poems “Yurdumdan” (From my Country), published in 1960, Ceyhun Atıf Kansu had this to say about Trabzon:

“My lovely has risen and opened her window to the morning

From one of Trabzon’s foamy wave-like homes

Shaken her dreams out of the window

Looked at the thin coverlet of blue sea

Right in front of the house.”

In 1961 Kıyı magazine appeared. Eleven issues appeared in 1961, nineteen in 1969, twenty one in 1981 and one hundred and twenty eight issues have been published between April 1986 and November 1996, these being the standard-bearer of the cultural and artistic life of the city of Trabzon today.

In the course of time a number of other magazines, such as Kemençe, Çıkın, Ezgi, Horon, Yakçn Kültür, Trabzon, Uzun Sokak and Birlik appeared in Trabzon. Another magazine which has printed 20 issues so far is a musıc magazine called Mavi Nota.

Darülbedayi, a theatre group which came to Trabzon from Istanbul to put on plays in the early years of the Republic worked hard to instil a love of the arts into the people of the city. These performances were followed by activities organised by the Halkevi (adult education centre previously referred to). Over the years the Halkevi produced plays such as “Akın” (Foray), “Kahraman” The Hero , “Istiklal” (Independence), “Şeriye Mahkemesi” (The Şeriye Court), “inkılap” (Revolution), “Himmetin Oğlu” (Son of Endeavour), “Hedef” (The Aim) and “Mete”.

These Halkevi activities were followed by those of the football clubs. The theatrical group attached to the İdmanocağı team, founded on 20 January 1921, staged such plays as “Sultan Osman’ın Mezarında” (In Sultan Osman’s Grave), “Şeriye Mahkamesi” (mentioned above), “Gömdüğüm O Cihan” (The World I have Buried) and “insan Sarrafı” (A Good Judge of Men).

A play called “Gazete Düşmanı” (Enemy of Newspapers) was put on by Gençler Birliği, which was founded on 4 July 1923. Another of the city’s football clubs was Necmiati, founded on 14 March 1923. Among the plays performed by the theatre group of this club were “Kanun Adamı” (Man of the Law), “Tavsiye Mektupları” (Letters of Recommendation), “Bir Damla Yaş” (A Tear Drop), “Köroğlu”… “Baykuşu” (The Owl), “Hasbahçe”(The Royal Garden), “Istiklal” (referred to above), “O Kadın”(That Woman) were among the plays performed by the, Idmangücü team. Together with the above, plays put on by the Doğan Gençlik theatrical group of Birlikspor encouraged a love of theatre in the people of Trabzon.

An amateur theatrical group was set up in 1962 under the directorship of Haluk Ongan and its activities continued uninterrupted until 12 September 1980. Examples of their productions are “Duvarlann Ötesi” (Beyond the Walls), “Zafer Madalyası”(Victory Medal), “Fatih” (the Conqueror), “Tuzak” (The Trap), “On iki Adam” (Twelve Men), “Bir Tavsiye Mektubu” (A Letter of Recommen dation), “Linç” (The Lynching) and “Şili’de Av” (Hunting in Chile).

This intensive artistic activity formed the infrastructure for another organisation in 1987. The Trabzon State Theatre was permanently established in Trabzon and soon took root there. It is already in its tenth year of existence and the large number of plays it has staged have raised the tastes of Trabzon theatre-goers to the highest level.

Trabzon yesterday and today has produced a number of men and women of the arts; Hamamizade Ihsan Bey, who wrote a book about anchovies, the satirical poet Halil Nihat Boztepe, the eminent poet and novelist Hasan İzettin Dinamo, our great thinker Sabahattin Eyuboğlu, the poet and painter Bedri Rahmi, all of whom carried the colour of Trabzon’s soil with them throughout their lives. İsmet Zeki Eyuboğlu was a respected figure who wrote many books and articles about his research , and critical works as well. Then there is Ömer Kayaoğlu, author of “Trabzonlu Kemençe” (The Rebec of Trabzon), whose original poetry resembles a folksong or chant, Subutay Hikmet, author of “Dünyanın Tadı” (The Taste of the World) and “Zaman Boyutu” (The Time Dimension), Nabi Üçüncüoğlu, author of “Memleket” Native Soil), Gündoğdu Sanımer, whose creative work continues after “Karayelin Sürüleri” (Herds of the North Wind), Hüseyin Atabaş, a poet who always carries Trabzon in his heart and Ahmet Özer, who celebrated thirty years as a poet in 1996 with the 10 volumes of his poetry that have been published. Let us not forget Kenan Sanalioğlu, who has established a reputation with his translations and poems, Hasan Hüsnü Durgun, who has produced two volumes of poetry so far, Hüseyin Alemdar, a poet who has also been involved in cinema, Raif Özben, who knows full well whence love flows (Sevginin Aktığı Yer), Öner Ciravoğlu, who has given us “Kalepark” (Castle Park), one of Trabzon’s finest and most upstanding men in the shape of Yaşar Miraç, Hüseyin Haydar, the love-sick swain of “Afidem”, Ali Mustafa, illuminated by his work “Şağdaüş Yangınlar” (Contemporary Fires), Özer Ciravoğlu, who has never ceased to be a poet, Sunay Akın, who has devoted his life to poetry, Çiğdem Sezer, whose sensitivity has brought fresh dimensions to our poetry, Neriman Calap, who has always enjoyed the beauty of being a poet and İhsan Bektaş, who cannot live without poetry. To these we can add the name of Yaşar Bedri Özdemir, who both paints and writes poetry. All of these poets and poetesses have made their own contribution to Trabzon’s world of the arts. Apart from the efforts of painters such as Yusuf Katipoğlu, Muzaffer Akyol, Veysel Günay, Süleyman Saim Tekcan and Mustafa Ayaz, whose fame has spread far beyond Trabzon, we have also witnessed works featured in countless exhibitions in the city centre by a number of other artists.

The labour of writers such as Cumhur Odabaşçoğlu and Ömer Akbulut, the devotion to his art of masters of the Turkish language like Rasim Şimşek, the names of Ahmet Can Bali and Aliye Aşırbalı, which are part of the city’s history, the unstinting efforts of Ahmet Selim Teymur to cultivate a love for classical Turkish music and his contributions to Kıyı magazine and the love of historian Mahmut Goloğlu for Trabzon are further dimensions of these efforts.

We come across a number of flourishing arts organisations in Trabzon today, the most striking example of which is a photographic club called Foto Forum, which has organised a number of events and exhibitions since its inception. The Caricaturists’ Association has created a fondness for this branch of art outside the big cities and the Black Sea Writers’ Association has extended a warm welcome to all and organises various events. The “Trabzon” yearbooks published in Istanbul and Ankara add a touch of joy to the love fostered for this city. We can also add to these different organisations the Trabzon High School Old Students’ Association and a number of music groups. Vocalists who sing the folk songs of the region in other parts of the country cannot live without the lifeblood of Trabzon inside them. The music of Volkan Konak is another embellishment to the soil of Trabzon.

The Province’s Public Library is a focal point for culture, this time the culture of books, and it boasts of history of 70 years. The various cultural centres in the city, which are under the supervision of the Municipality, also provide a venue for events. We must also mention the crafts of the Trabzon region, the most important of which are beaten copper and jewellery. Trabzon possesses bazaars where exquisite examples of both these crafts illuminate the area around them with their gentle sheen. Trabzon is the home of the quilt-maker’s craft in Turkey as well.

Nature possessed an entirely different beauty in the Trabzon of yesterday; Ganita, with its crystal-clear sea, was a source of renewal for our love of Trabzon, its gardens were full of orange, pomegranate and fig trees. The classical music played in Meydan Park, accompanied by the voice of Hafız Burhan, created another world. Now we see that so much of Trabzon’s valuable heritage has become a thing of the past. The famous Sümer Cinema survives only in photographs; Suluhan and the Şems Hotel, like many cinemas and precious parts of Trabzon’s heritage have been destroyed, leaving behind them nothing but yearning…

The rhythm of the round dance, which completes this wealth, has never been absent. Even though today’s cultural focus may not be the same as the ebullience of yesteryear, both press and publications are in a constant process of renewal. Kıyı, which is Trabzon’s only regular art magazine, causes the name of Trabzon to reverberate in the world of art and culture. Trabzonspor, which has been on the city’s agenda for the past 30 years, is a driving force which gently guides the people of the region in their daily lives.

And what about tomorrow? Joint international programmes could be implemented and local resources mobilised to organise festivals and book fairs which support the cause of peace. The authentic cultural fabric of the city could be preserved by making use of world resources, and, most importantly, an open-air museum could be established. An end could be put to the arguments abouitbuildings which have been the source of three civilisations. Trabzon’s historic fabric and tourism resources could be recorded. The matter of a press encyclopedia could be put on the agenda as well. The work to be done in this sphere could lend impetus to Trabzon’s thousands of years of history, carrying the love that people have for their city forward as a heritage for the generations of the future.