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Turkey has a very ancient folk dance tradition which varies from region to region, each dance being colorful, rhythmic, elegant and styles. Among the most popular are “Çayda Çira” from the Sivas region in Central Anatolia.

This is performed by young girls dressed in silver and gold embroidered kaftans who dance in the dark with lighted candles in their hands; “Silifke yogurdu” from the Mersin region in the South in which dancers click wooden spoons together above their heads; “Seyh Samil” from the Kars region in the East, a beautifully dramatized legend of a Caucasian hero; “Kilic Kalkan”, an epic dance performed with swords and shields from the region Bursa; “Zeybek” from Izmir, another epic and vigorous dance performed by male dancers who bang their knees on the floor in between steps. Folklore has also had a considerable influence on ballet. First imported from Europe and Russia, ballet became institutionalized in the Republican era along with other performing arts. The Turkish State Ballet owes its momentum and development to the great British choreographer Dame Ninette de Valois. The State Ballet in both Ankara and Istanbul has, for decades, performed many world classics. Several new foreign and Turkish productions have been introduced into the repertory over the years and a number of modern dance companies have begun to give performances throughout the country.



Turkish music evolved from the original folk form into classical through the emergence of a Palace culture. It attained its highest point in the 16th century through the composer known as Itri. Great names in Turkish classical music include Dede Efendi, Haci Arif Bey and Tamburi Cemal Bey. It is a form that continues to be professionally performed and one that attracts large audiences. Turkish popular music is a variation of the national musical tradition, played with instruments such as the tambur, kanun, ney and ud. Folk music has developed gradually over the centuries in the rural areas of Turkey.

It is highly diversified with many different rhythms and themes. Musical archives contain almost 10,000 such folk songs. Turkish religious music, mostly in the form of songs, is centuries old and rich in tradition, embodied at its most perfect by Mevlevi music. The Turks were introduced to western classical music through orchestras which were invited to the Sultan’s Palace to celebrate occasions such as weddings. The great Italian composer, Donizetti, conducted the Palace orchestra for many years. The first military band was founded in the 19th century.




Theatre & Cinema:

Turkish theater is thought to have originated from the popular Karagöz shadow plays, a cross between moralistic Punch and Judy and the slapstick Laurel and Hardy.

 It then developed along an oral tradition, with plays performed in public places, such as coffee houses and gardens, exclusively by male actors. Atatürk gave great importance to the arts, and actively encouraged theater, music and ballet, prompting the foundation of many state institutions. Turkey today boasts a thriving arts scene, with highly professional theater, opera and ballet companies, as well as a flourishing film industry. The country enjoys numerous arts festivals throughout the year, the most prestigious of which is the Istanbul Film Festival.




Fine Art:

Until the18th century, painting in Turkey was mainly in the form of miniatures, usually linked to books in the form of manuscript illustration. In the 18th century, trends shifted towards oil painting, beginning with murals. Thereafter, under European inspiration, painting courses were introduced in military schools. The first Turkish painters were therefore military people who, respecting the Islamic tradition which bars representation of the human face, focused at first on landscapes.

The modernization of Turkish painting, including representation of the human figure, started with the founding of the Academy of Arts under the direction of Osman Hamdi Bey, one of the great names in Turkish painting. In 1923, followed by many other such schools. Art exhibitions in Turkey’s cities multiplied, more people started to acquire paintings and banks and companies began investing in art.






Literature has long been an important component of Turkish cultural life, reflecting the history of the people, their legends, their mysticism, and the political and social changes that affected this land throughout its long history. The oldest literary legacy of the pre-Islamic period are the Orhon inscriptions in northern Mongolia, written in 735 on two large stones in honor of a Turkish king and his brother. During the Ottoman period, the prevailing literary form was poetry, the dominant dialect was Anatolian or Ottoman, and the main subject beauty and romance. The Ottoman Divan literature was highly influenced by Persian culture and written in a dialect which combined Arabic, Persian and Turkish. Separate from the aristocratic Divan literature, folk literature continued to dominate Anatolia where troubadour-like poets celebrated nature, love and God in simple Turkish language. Towards the 20th century, the language of Turkish literature became simpler and more political and social in substance. The great and politically controversial poet, Nazim Hikmet, inspired by the Russian poet Mayakowski, introduced free verse in the late 1930s.


Today, the irrefutable master of the Turkish popular novel is Yasar Kemal, with his authentic, colorful and forceful description of Anatolian life. Young Turkish writers tend to go beyond the usual social issues, preferring to tackle problems such as feminism and aspects of the East-West dichotomy which continues to fascinate Turkish intellectuals. Some of the rising stars of contemporary Turkish literature are: Orhan Pamuk, Nedim Gursel, Ahmet Altan and Pinar Kur.

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