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"May a Wasp Sting Your Tongue!": The Armenian Stereotype in Ottoman Popular Performances from the Empire to the Nation-State (1).

The acclaimed theatrologist Marvin Carlson (2006) mentions a Hamlet production he once saw in Berlin and his surprise at the "gales of laughter" at everything Polonius said even when Carlson thought they were not funny at all. After the play, he learned from a friend that the actor spoke with Swabian accent, which was "a source of much amusement to the sophisticated Berliners." Carlson then argues that "so far the visual ... aspects of performing race ... have attracted far more attention than the vocal aspects, such as dialect, of performing ethnicity," whereas drawing attention to the difference of the other's language has been one of the most effective strategies employed to mark otherness on stage over the centuries. (2) As theatre across the world almost always necessitated a common language (3) between the performers and the audience, a dialect (4) (and, even better, an accent) (5) has played a key role in marking difference on the stage. In other words, it has been a much more efficient method to use language, particularly stage dialect, to underline difference. (6) Emphasizing that language is a social construct, Carlson highlights that what has come to be known as an official, standard, or national language of a society is but one dialect among many competing ones, which ends up having superior status to others not for linguistic but for economic, social, and cultural reasons. In nation-building processes, theatre and the emergent standard language have worked together to solidify the authority of the majority, especially in the West. (7) The representation and historiography of dialects, accents, and ethnic stereotypes in theatrical performances have thus become highly political issues.

This essay looks at the Armenian stereotype in late Ottoman popular performances (8) from the perspective offered by Carlson. By Ottoman popular performances, (9) I am referring to Meddah (storyteller), Karagoz (shadow play), and Ortaoyunu (middle show). (10) Meddahs were professional storytellers performing in public spaces, such as coffeehouses. (11) Karagoz is the name of the Ottoman/Turkish shadow theatre. These plays feature two principal characters, Karagoz and Hacivat. The characters and spaces are represented with two-dimensional figures made of camel skin, called tasvir, which are reflected on a white screen before a light source. The puppeteer in Karagoz is called a hayali. Ortaoyunu, "entertainment staged in the middle place'... around which the spectators form a circle," is based on two principal characters parallel to those in Karagoz (12) and likened to commedia dell'arte. (13)

As effective shortcuts to laughter, stereotypes have historically been prevalent in popular comedy genres across the world. Ottoman popular performances were no exception. Alongside Armenians, Albanians, Greeks, Jews, Turks, and many others were stereotyped through their names, professions, clothes, birthplaces, and ways of speaking. (14) Yet in these performances, where anybody could simply be the object of ridicule, humiliating members of the Ottoman nationalities was prohibited by law, at least as of the late nineteenth century. (15) I suggest, however, that there is something more significant in the case of Armenians, which also has to do with the Turkification of Ottoman popular performances. By Turkification, I am referring to the process through which the popular entertainment genres associated with a multiethnic, multi-religious, and multilingual empire came to be framed as the cultural heritage of the Turkish nation-state. (16) I will explain these processes on two levels. On the sociolinguistic level, I will build a link between the representation of the Armenian stereotype and the rise of the Turkish language to a hegemonic status within the Empire. On the historiographical level, I will historicize the existing literature on these performances and question how later generations of Turkish intellectuals dealt with the ethnic, religious, and linguistic diversity these performance cultures once reflected. I will thus emphasize a continuity, in linguistic terms, from the late Ottoman Empire into the Turkish Republic and draw attention to modern Turkish performance historiography's politically motivated and ambivalent attitude against Armenians. In other words, I aim to show how the Armenian stereotype was, and maybe still is, the weakest link and the most likely to be either forgotten or to be cut out from performances and histories, as well as to elaborate the reasons for this. In addition, I will point to a broader context of language, humor, and violence. (17) I argue that viewing the Republican elimination of imperial diversity as a process rather than a moment, as well as the adoption of linguistic and historiographical perspectives that emphasize this process, could be very rewarding. (18) That is, through the representations of a stereotype on and off the stage/screen, I expect to raise broader questions that go beyond the scope of this paper: Could we see a linguistic process and its reflections in popular entertainment as the first steps toward ethnic homogenization rather than as its consequence? Were Ottoman Armenians chased away from a language (or, for most of them, their mother tongue, namely Turkish) before they were chased away from their homeland? (19) And, of course, what was the relationship between the former and the latter? (20)

Before moving on, I would like to say a few words on my methodology and the literature on the subject. Humor, sexuality, cultural or verbal miscommunication, and ethnic stereotypes were essential elements in Ottoman popular performances. (21) The stories had loose structures, which were based on mimicry of various languages and voices. There was a considerable amount of improvisation in dialogue with the audience. Performances were not only adapted to the social background of spectators but also changed according to their responses to the show. (22) Even though the performances were based on plots, these plots were not written. They were passed down from master to apprentice through generations and were being borrowed from one another. (23) As such, Meddah, Karagoz, and Ortaoyunu were "ephemeral and transitory" performances. (24) We will never exactly know what a hayali, meddah, or ortaoyunu performer said during the performance. What I will be doing in this paper, then, is not a performance analysis per se but a historiographical questioning (25) based on a variety of sources such as transcribed texts of performances and memoirs. I will disregard the distinctions among the three performance genres because the stories often travelled from one medium to the other and one performer could be active in multiple genres. (26)

Early scholars of the Ottoman popular performances, who are generally labeled as Western or foreign Turkologists (Batili/yabanci Turkologlar) in modern Ottoman and Turkish historiography, (27) produced the recordings, transcriptions, and descriptions of the performances as well as commentaries on them. (28) Even though there are some eighteenth-century documents related to these performances, such as Meddah stories, scholarly attention to Karagoz, Meddah, and Ortaoyunu began with the work of these intellectuals in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Since many of these scholars were linguists interested in Turkic languages, they paid specific attention to the linguistic aspect of performances. This was a fruitful area because the performances largely depended on miscommunication of sorts. (29) These studies also noted the ethnic diversity of the characters in the performances as well as their audiences. (30)

In the last quarter of the nineteenth century, Western travelers who visited the Imperial capital Istanbul almost always mentioned popular performances. They also found the linguistic and ethnic diversity in the shows quite striking. (31) Even if it was not possible for them to distinguish the ethnic stereotypes based on their speech peculiarities unless an interpreter noted, they frequently mentioned the ethnic diversity of the audience and the performers in their accounts. One traveler, for instance, wrote that there were Armenians and Turks among the audience of a meddah. (32) Likewise, it was common for hayalis and Ortaoyunu actors to come from diverse ethnic backgrounds, such as Armenian, Greek, Jewish, and Turkish. (33) The career of Dumbullu Ismail Efendi (1897-1973), the last representative of ortaoyunu tradition, vividly illustrates how ethnic and linguistic diversity in popular performances persisted well into the Republican period. (34)

The emphasis on ethnic and linguistic diversity in Ottoman popular performances has continued in contemporary critical literature as well. According to Francois Georgeon, for example, with further modernization efforts of the Empire and the advent of the satirical press, the "collective laughter" of Ottoman popular performances would be gradually replaced by a more "individual laughter," finally to be mocked and "shown the door" with the inception of the Republic of Turkey. (35) Similarly, in his study of Karagoz, Daryo Mizrahi argues that it was especially Ottoman Istanbul's ethnic and linguistic diversity that made these performances possible. Once this context was transformed due to the social and political developments in the early twentieth century, it was impossible for them to remain the same. (36)

Collections of Plays and the Armenian Stereotype

The most authoritative and up-to-date collections of Karagoz and Ortaoyunu available in Turkish were made by Cevdet Kudret (1907-92). In the preface to his Ortaoyunu collection, Kudret (2007), like his predecessors, emphasizes that the mimicry of people from various nations and minorities was the richest source for the performers. (37) Yet this collection comprises twenty-six plays and only three of them feature Armenian characters. One of these characters is Onnig, an Oud master. (38) Even though there are other stereotypes who speak nonstandard Turkish in the play, it is only in the dialogue between Onnig and Kavuklu, one of the two main characters in Ortaoyunu, that speaking "proper" Turkish comes up as an issue. For example, in the conversation with the Jew, misunderstandings do not lead to remarks about his misuse of Turkish. When Kavuklu does not understand Onnig, however, he asks if what he says is in Turkish or if he knows Turkish at all, and finally he scolds the Armenian for mispronouncing a word with a popular idiom: "May a wasp sting your tongue!" (39) As far as we can understand from the text, Onnig's Turkish differs from standard Turkish only in the pronunciation of certain words, changing affirmative sentences into questions by intonation, and the use of a very common Armenian word, which, in fact, makes his case no different from other stereotypes speaking in their own dialects, (40) but Kavuklu says something that he does not say for the others and makes an excuse for not understanding him: "Your Turkish is Armenian Turkish." (41) This shows that Armenians' way of speaking Turkish, even if they have traits similar to those of other stereotypes, is emphasized more strongly Indeed, the word "Turkish" appears only in the dialogue with Onnig. Finally, in one other play of Ortaoyunu, (42) Cesme (Fountain), Varbet has no accent, but he is portrayed as a dandy, a common stereotype seen in early Turkish novels criticizing the aping of European manners. (43) It is not possible to speak about the third Armenian stereotype because only a resume of the play is provided.

As for Karagoz, there are thirty-nine plays in Kudret's famous collection, which is largely based on the German Orientalist Helmut Ritter's research, (44) and only three of them feature Armenian characters. In one of these plays, the problem with the Armenian character Vartans Turkish is that he speaks not in a nonstandard dialect like Onnig but in a macaronic language with almost no rules. (45) Apart from mispronouncing words, he mixes Turkish with Armenian, French, Arabic, and Persian not only on a lexical but also on a syntactical basis. What is interesting in his case is that he says his mother tongue is Turkish and therefore he learned all the three languages it is composed of very well, (46) including poetry produced in them. (47) In yet another play, Orman (Forest), there is an anonymous Armenian banker who is interested in poetry. (48) The peculiarity of his speech is metathesis. He frequently transposes the first sounds of Turkish words. The poetry he recites is full of Armenian words, including obscene ones. (49) Finally, in a third play, Yalova Safasi (Enjoyment in Yalova), Serkis is a sewerman, which Karagoz mocks by saying that it is a "delicate occupation." (50) His dialect could well be that of a Turk from an Anatolian village. In fact, Georg Jacob emphasizes how the speech of Serkis from Van reminded the audience of his Eastern Anatolian origin. (51) In addition to this, in this play he transposes the first sounds of certain Turkish words and uses only one Armenian word, which is a very common interjection. (52)

Overall, only six of the sixty-five plays in Cevdet Kudret's Karagoz and Ortaoyunu collections feature Armenian characters. (53) In these plays, Armenians are either marked by their accented Turkish, bad pronunciation, pretentiousness, or dilettantism, depending on whether they are of rural or urban background. (54) Like many other stereotypes, they speak in dialect. However, even though they have common features such as metathesis and the use of Armenian words, it is not possible to speak about a common Armenian Turkish. (55) In fact, Georg Jacob argued, with respect to the "Dialect Types" in Karagoz performances, that "the dialects were not imitated realistically at all. Each time, around half a dozen peculiarities were observed and were used improperly. A proper dialect would not be funny at all. The comedic effect was achieved through the failed attempts to speak proper Turkish." (56) This might have also been a peculiarity of the puppeteers Jacob watched. Be that as it may, the inconsistency of speech characteristics was not specific to the Armenian stereotype. What was specific to it was that, unlike the other non-Muslim stereotypes, the peculiarity of the Turkish they use is emphasized by Karagoz.

Unver Oral's Karagoz collections is yet another source supporting this argument. (57) In the eight texts in the first volume that brings together classical plays (kar-i kadim), there is not a single Armenian figure. Accent, mispronunciation, and misunderstanding are central in these texts as well. One can see almost all the other stereotypes, including the Greek and the Jew, in conversation with Karagoz. Yet, this time, it is only in conversation with the Greek, who mixes Turkish, French, and Greek words, that speaking properly becomes an issue and Karagoz tells him to "Say it in Turkish!" (58) What is notewothy in these texts is that Armenian names are uttered by Karagoz every now and then, although they are not represented as a figure. (59) In the second volume of Oral's collection, which brings together plays that were written in the nineteenth century (nev-icad), there are nine texts. In only one of the plays does an Armenian figure, Vurtin Agha, appear. This play is the transliteration of a booklet published by Hayali Kucuk Ali, printed in Arabic letters in 1928. What is interesting is that Karagoz greets Vurtin using the word ahbar, meaning "brother" in Armenian, and Vurtin utters the word ctga, meaning "there is not," again, in Armenian. (60)

Overall, in Oral's collection Armenians are not represented except for one figure. Even though misunderstandings play the lead role, they are predominantly between Karagoz and Muslim stereotypes, such as the Arab. Only the Greek stereotype, who seems to have assumed the characteristics of the Armenian stereotype in Kudret's collection, is asked to speak Turkish. The Jew, on the contrary, finds a way of insulting Karagoz in Turkish (albeit with an accent). (61)

As for meddah stories, the most comprehensive source available on the subject belongs to Ozdemir Nutku. There are twenty-two stories in the collection he published in 1997. The first thirteen were taken from an anonymous manuscript from the eighteenth century and they include only the synopses of the stories. Stories 14-17 are either from the eighteenth or the nineteenth century (62) and number 15 was printed in Turkish using Armenian letters. As far as could be understood from the texts, dialects and mispronunciations are not meant to be an issue in these performances. Stories number 18, 20, and 21 were recorded or printed in the late nineteenth or the early twentieth centuries. Beginning with number 18, the Armenian stereotype with his hybrid language and accent appears. The Armenian is part of the ethnic, religious, and linguistic diversity that produces the comic effect. Story number 18, however, has a different tone. (63) It is based on a cacophony of languages. People from various Ottoman communities (Albanian, Arab, Jew, etc.) come to Nedim Hoca, a very learned person, to ask for advice. Each of them speaks in his own dialect or language, and the intended comic effect seems to have been a result of mutual misunderstanding. Yet it is with Hampartzum, the Armenian--with whom Nedim Hoca speaks first and who speaks Armenian mixed with a few Turkish words--that not speaking Turkish becomes a big deal. (64) Nedim Hoca insists that Hampartzum speak Turkish with phrases: "I do not know Armenian"; "I am telling you to say it in Turkish but, you are still saying it in Armenian. I do not understand Armenian, say it in Turkish!"; "Say it in Turkish, in my language!"; "Don't you understand my language?"; "May a wasp sting your tongue!"; "(Showing his tongue) Say it with this!" (65) During this cacophony of languages, Hampartzum is warned by the Turk as well: "Watch your language!" (66) In yet another meddah story published by the Ministry of Culture, the only non-Muslim figure is the Jew, who appears only briefly. This is noteworthy because the story was told by Meddah Ismet, one of the most famous meddahs of the late nineteenth century, who was known to have performed Armenian and Greek characters very successfully. (67)

Overall, considering the emphasis on ethnic diversity in the earlier accounts of these performances, the Armenians seem to have been underrepresented in the records. Moreover, there is a discrepancy between the prevalence of this stereotype in popular culture during the early decades of the Republic, which one can easily observe in the accounts of performers, such as memoirs and interviews, and this underrepresentation in the collections. Besides, when represented, the Armenian stereotype is associated with features supposedly alien to Turkishness and subjected to a more insistent demand "to speak proper Turkish" in comparison to other stereotypes, be they Muslim or non-Muslim. It is now time to explain this underrepresentation and place it in a broader context.

Language and Identity

The first census of the Turkish Republic, in 1927, shows that there were still nearly two million people speaking Kurdish, Arabic, Greek, Circassian, Judeo-Spanish, Armenian, Albanian, and Bulgarian in Turkey, with nearly twelve million speaking Turkish. (68) Apart from the fact that a significant portion of the Armenian population spoke Turkish, (69) it is not hard to see that the ratio of people with these other, non-Turkish mother tongues was quite high in Istanbul. Could the transition from ethnic, religious, and linguistic diversity to uniformity be the only reason for the demise of Ottoman popular performances then? What would an alternative perspective that sees all this as an uninterrupted linguistic process that began in the mid-nineteenth century, and arguably has not come to an end, offer? The process in question could be divided into the following stages: vernacularization, standardization, politicization, and purification of the Turkish language.

By vernacularization, I mean the use of local vernaculars for writing, and by standardization, I mean the rules of a language being fixed through grammars, dictionaries, and institutions such as schools. Throughout the nineteenth century, the languages of the Empire went through a process of standardization. (70) For the Turkish language, except for one or two older works, grammar writing seems to have begun in the mid-nineteenth century and to have flourished in the last quarter of the century due to the spread of the press and the need to meet the requirements of public education. (71) As for vernacularization in Turkish, that is, replacing spoken Turkish with the written variant used by the literate and the bureaucracy, the first debates seem to have taken place, again, shortly after the mid-nineteenth century. (72) Ottoman Armenians played an important role in both processes as translators, lexicographers, and grammarians. (73) Moreover, their writings in vernacular Turkish using the Armenian letters became a model for some Turkish intellectuals who championed the simplification of the language used in Turkish periodicals. (74)

By politicization, I mean the emergence, dissemination, and application of the idea that Turkish language should be the basic unifying element and formal language of the Ottoman Empire. There was a particular emphasis on the Turkish language in Kanun-i Esasi (The Basic Law), the Ottoman Constitution of 1876. (75) It had not only become the official language of the state (Article 18) but also a requirement, in varying degrees, for employment in the public sector. (76) Another step taken to reinforce the position of Turkish language in the empire, during the Hamidian period, (77) was the enforcement, by a decree, of Turkish instruction in all schools, including those that belonged to non-Muslim communities and foreign missions. (78)

In 1868, the Ottoman Theatre (Tiyatro-yu Osmani), a company that had been granted the privilege to perform in Turkish for 10 years from 1870 onwards, staged its first play in this language. (79) The company, an overwhelmingly Armenian enterprise, was constantly criticized in the press for its performers' improper Turkish, including that of the limited number of Turks among them, so a committee was set to train them in speaking "proper" Turkish. (80) Teodor Kasab (1835-1905), a journalist and satirist of Greek Orthodox origin, leveled harsh criticism against Hagop Vartovian (1840-1902), the Armenian founder and director of Ottoman Theatre, also known as Gullu Agop, for aping European manners with incapable actors, who "spoke Turkish with Christian accents" although he "did not know his mother tongue properly." (81) Was the mother tongue he was talking about Armenian or Turkish? Or, considering that Kasab's magazine Hayal was the archenemy of Vartovian's Ottoman Theatre, was that simply a dispute, conducted in Turkish, between two non-Muslims: one Greek Orthodox and one Armenian, for the appropriation of Turkish language? These are yet to be studied. What is obvious, however, is that language, and specifically pronunciation, was politicized. The apex of this politicization would be the popular campaign of 1928 known as "Citizen, Speak Turkish!" (Vatandas, Turkce Konus!), the slogan of a group of law students (Students' Society of Law Faculty at Dar-ul-funun, now known as Istanbul University), who organized it to encourage minorities of the young republic to speak Turkish. The campaign got partly out of control, and in some public places those who were speaking in a language other than Turkish or reading a newspaper in French, for example, were insulted and harassed. (82)

Finally, by purification I mean the institutional attempts to purge Arabic and Persian loanwords to create a pure and authentic Turkish, an example of radical linguistic engineering. The idea of a purified Turkish language had already been put forward by Omer Seyfettin (1884-1920) in the early twentieth century (83) but it was really after the adoption of the Latin alphabet to replace the Arabo-Persian one in 1928 and the establishment of Turkish Language Association in 1932 that the idea was put into action. The aim of this "government-inspired campaign" was "to eliminate the Arabic and Persian grammatical features and the many thousands of Arabic and Persian borrowings that had long been part of the language." (84)

In sum, the second half of the nineteenth century could well be described as a period when standardization and politicization processes of the Turkish language began. These processes took a new turn in the early twentieth century and played a crucial role in the construction of the Turkish identity in the decades to come. From this perspective, it is possible to observe a continuity in popular performances from the late Ottoman Empire into the Turkish Republic.

Ismail [Ismayil] Hakki Baltacioglu (1886-1978), best known for his work on education and pedagogy, was the key figure, especially in the late 1930s and early 40s, in the new Republics efforts to reconfigure Karagoz to meet the needs of its new ideology. Baltacioglu not only defended the authenticity and genius of the popular performances inherited from the Ottoman Empire but also wrote a guide for modernizing (85) Karagoz and writing new plays. (86) These plays were performed in Peoples Houses (87) and served as a propaganda tool supporting the top-down reforms, turning Karagoz into a "propagandist." (88) In Karagoz Ankara'da (Karagoz in Ankara), instead of the traditional stereotypes of the genre, Karagoz conversed with characters such as Charles Chaplin's Tramp (Sarlo), Greta Garbo, Tarzan, and Mickey Mouse. (89) It is quite striking to find Karagoz telling even the Tramp to speak in Turkish. His responses to what he thinks is not (proper) Turkish are the same: "May a wasp sting your tongue!," "Speak proper Turkish or I swear I'll beat you!," and, of course, accompanying some of these utterances, his famous slap. (90) What is even more interesting is that what evokes his response is an affirmative sentence turned into a question, a very strong linguistic mark especially for Armenian dialect in the texts of popular performances. (91) This time, however, what Karagoz calls "proper Turkish" is the language promoted by the young republic's language reforms that began to be established in the early 1930s, that is, Turkish purified of its Arabic and Persian components, and called "authentic Turkish" (oz Turkce). In Karagoz Koy Muhtari (Karagoz, Chief of the Village), another play by Baltacioglu, there are long conversations, between Karagoz and Hacivat, where Karagoz tells Hacivat to speak as the folk speak, admonishes him to speak Turkish, and, as usual, invites a wasp to sting his tongue. (92) It must be noted here that Baltacioglu had been appointed as the chief administrator responsible for developing Turkish terms in the Turkish Language Association in 1942. The first item in the association's agenda for the following term was to further the attempts to purge the foreign elements in Turkish, to Turkify scientific language and the language used by state institutions, and to minimize the gap between written and spoken Turkish. (93)

Historicizing the sources would also support this argument on the relationship between the evolution of Turkish language and the representation of Armenians in Ottoman popular performances. Here is a striking example: The largest collection of Karagoz puppets and texts was bought by Helmut Ritter in 1918 from Nazif Efendi, (94) the puppeteer of the Ottoman Palace. (95) This was also the core of Cevdet Kudret's famous collection, and Mizrahi based his argument on the transcribed texts of the performances by Nazif Efendi. (96) In other words, a good deal of the material on which scholars have built their arguments belongs to a time when the representation of Armenians, be it positive or negative, was a most sensitive matter. Even though he was a highly respected figure, sixty-two years old in 1918, Nazif Efendi had never performed outside the palace. He had dictated some of the texts for Ritter, but the majority were written down either by himself or by Ritter, who, when he had enough time, wrote them down in conversation with him. As for the dialects, he had to depend, quite naturally, on his ear while representing them in writing. (97) The question is, then, whether the texts Nazif Efendi wrote down for Ritter were expurgated in any way? If yes, how? If no, then could we assume that the Armenian being pushed to speak Turkish or mocked for pretentious manners, clearly more than the other stereotypes were, must have been appealing to palace residents? Unfortunately, there is not enough evidence to answer these questions. Nazif Efendi's case, however, is a perfect example for demonstrating the importance of historicizing the collections of Ottoman popular performances.

Moreover, there are general questions to be asked: When exactly did accents, beyond being funny, become the object of scorn or begin to be associated with an identity to be excluded? Could the same situation be observed in earlier performances? These are difficult questions to answer due to a scarcity of evidence. Yet one thing seems quite plausible: mimicry of ethnic stereotypes became a sensitive issue with the rise of nationalist sentiments among Ottoman subjects. (98)


According to Mizrahi, Karagoz was instrumental for the Ottoman rulers. They wanted to organize a city teeming with an enormous diversity of identities. Therefore, they assigned roles to individuals according to their "social rank, religion, or sexual identity" in order to control the public space. Karagoz was instrumental as it "both countered and supported this controlled environment." (99) In other words, it was instrumentalized for both the construction and deconstruction of Ottoman social life for centuries. It is not surprising, then, that both Western travelers who encountered these performances and nineteenth-century Turkologists who recorded and studied them underlined diversity. When the founder of the modern Ottoman and Turkish historiography Fuat Koprulu (1890-1966) wrote on Meddah in the first quarter of the twentieth century, however, he was looking for the "Turkish spirit." (100) Over time, these performances have been framed as reflections of the Turkish popular propensity and talent for humor, (101) part of "our national theatre," (102) "the offshoots of Turkish nations creative power," (103) and finally as "Traditional Turkish Theatre." (104) Ottoman popular performances were thus instrumentalized in the Republican Era.

Republican Turkish scholars used the observations and archives of early Turkologists and travelers almost without any critical engagement except for concerns about the origins, that is, the Turkishness, of these performances. (105) However, their emphasis on the diversity of ethnic stereotypes in the Ottoman popular performances takes on a striking appearance once we go through the works of Turkish scholars writing on the subject. A most telling example takes place in Metin And's books, which are among the most comprehensive and up-to-date works in the field. With reference to Georg Jacob, And classified the stereotypes in popular performances and named each stereotype, even using the authors order, except for the Armenian. (106) This seems to be neither a simple nor a unique omission. And did the same while paraphrasing a Turkish colleague: whereas Sabri Esat Siyavusgil named "the Arab, the Albanian, the Jew, the Armenian and the Greek" under the label "Imperial Stereotypes," (107) And paraphrased it as "the Albanian, the Jew, and the Greek." (108) Interestingly, And was by no means an Armenophobe and had even dedicated a monograph--and in fact this is the only monograph on the subject--to one of the leading theatre companies in the late Ottoman Empire, which was run by Armenians. (109) Moreover, he named, gave credit to, and praised Armenians for their undeniable role in the development of theatre in Turkish language. (110) Therefore the omission I have mentioned above, if it was not a random intervention of the publishing house, could well be read as a lapse or a symptom triggered by the political context. (111) In fact, in the second edition of his monograph on the Ottoman theatre, he added an appendix titled "Ermeniler ve Ermeni Sorunu" (Armenians and the Armenian Question). He began his words by warning the reader not to be astonished at the frequency of the word "Armenian" in his monograph titled Ottoman Theatre. Taking "Armenian terrorism" (Ermeni terorizmi) as far back as late nineteenth century, he detailed the assassinations of ASALA, (112) built a connection between "Armenian terrorism" and PKK, (113) tried to refute Armenians' arguments, and continued with a story of how he ended up writing an article on Armenian Theatre in a world-famous encyclopedia (114) in such a way that he "maintained that the genocide argument could not find its way in the article." This, he concluded, was an individual act against terrorism and the "genocide argument." (115) And's ambivalent attitude toward the existence and role of Armenians in what he calls "Turkish Theatre" (Turk tiyatrosu) and his sporadic omission of the Armenian stereotype from the character list he quoted from other scholars, even if it is a lapse, is a striking example of how contemporary historical and political context can affect scholarship.

Whether this attitude had an institutional dimension, however, is yet to be clarified. It was, after all, in the second half of the 1960s and 70s that the history of the "Armenian Issue" (Ermeni meselesi) took a new turn for Turkey. The activism around the fiftieth anniversary of 1915, the diplomatic pressure of the Armenian diaspora for the recognition of 1915 as a genocide, the triggering of a series of assassinations and terrorist attacks in 1973, the designation of April 24 as a "National Day of Remembrance of Man's Inhumanity to Man" by the United States Congress in 1975, and the increase in ASALA's assassinations in the early 1980s were shocking incidents, which introduced 1915 to the majority of people living in Turkey. These events also motivated the Turkish government to change its strategy and especially to instrumentalize the terrorist attacks to consolidate denialist discourse. (116)

And was not the only scholar who occasionally neglected to cite the references to Armenians. In the most comprehensive collections of texts on Karagoz, the pieces that omitted the Armenian stereotype or character far outnumber those that mention him among others. It is never the Muslim stereotypes but always the Armenian (and very rarely, the Greek or the Jew) who is left out. (117) What makes this even more interesting is that nearly half of the texts in these collections touch upon the issue of the Greek appropriation of Karagoz.

One wonders whether cutting out the Armenian from popular performances in the Ottoman Empire at times reflects an institutional stand as well. In the Karagoz catalogue of the National Library, there are no Armenian figures. The catalogue features only one Greek and a few Jewish puppets. (118) Another striking example is a booklet based on the Karagoz figures in the Ottoman Imperial Palace (Topkapi Sarayi). Even though the Armenian stereotype was mentioned once in a sentence concerning "the most important minority and national stereotypes," there is no Armenian figure among the twenty-three supplied in the appendix, which even includes really minor figures. (119) In another official booklet, published in French and aiming at publicity and propaganda, the Armenian type was mentioned only once, and the figure appeared in the appendix, whereas, this time, the Greek was neither mentioned nor represented. (120)

The ambivalent and at times censorious attitude toward the Armenian, and sometimes the Greek, stereotype in the historiography of Ottoman popular performances extends beyond academic and official circles as well. In a popular dictionary of Karagoz terms based on the most comprehensive Turkish collection of texts, even though the Greek and the Jew were classified under the label "non-Muslims," the Armenian, who also appeared in the texts, was not given his own headword, but mentioned, en passant, under another one. (121)


The Berlin audience who astonished Marvin Carlson in the Hamlet production by laughing at Polonius's lines no matter what he said are not the only ones to be amused by an accent. The issue of misplaced laughter came up frequently in the Ottoman press after 1870, when the Ottoman Theatre was granted a ten-year monopoly over the production of plays in the Turkish language. The poor pronunciation of the actors and actresses, both Armenian and Turkish, was strongly criticized. (122) An often-overlooked reason behind these derided mispronunciations was the sophisticated language used in the plays, be they translations or original works. Most Arabic and Persian words were difficult to read and pronounce even for a Turk. (123) In fact, Namik Kemal (1840-88), the most influential literary figure of the time, who also complained that bad pronunciation spoiled plays, (124) did not associate this problem particularly with Armenians but took it rightly as a matter of the interface between the written and the spoken word. (125) Another point that has been overlooked by Turkish historiography is that similar problems were faced by Armenian actors and actresses in Armenian plays as well. (126) Whatever the reason was, these mispronunciations were apparently one of the main reasons behind misplaced laughter (127) and it was the Armenians, whether because they were the backbone of theatre in the late Ottoman Empire or because they were, as a nation, going through a process of re-adopting Armenian over Turkish, who were left holding the bag. The mispronunciation of Turkish has since been associated almost exclusively with Armenian performers in Turkish performance historiography. As late as 1938, a critic argued that it was only long after the establishment of Ottoman Imperial Theatre (Darulbedayi) in 1914 that "our stage was recovered from the Armenian accent to a certain extent." (128)

The Ottoman Empire, like others, created devices to manage and institutionalize its diversity. In fact, until the 1870s the non-Muslim population of the Empire was larger than the Muslim. (129) Karagoz had been instrumental in managing imperial diversity for centuries. The idea of a homogenous nation-state with citizens speaking the same language, however, was quite different from the imperial paradigm. In the Ottoman case, unity in language clearly preceded unities such as common historical roots that a nation-state would seek. It is for this reason that there is a significant difference between a performance in which each character is different and mocked, and one in which, within this diversity, one of the characters is both mocked for his pronunciation, invited to speak "properly," and easily erased in historiography. The representation of the Armenian stereotype in Ottoman popular performances and its historiography illuminates how Armenians, who as actors, actresses, directors, authors, linguists, lexicographers, and grammarians were among the makers of the modern Turkish language, as well as theatre, were first chased away from this language, swept off the stage, removed from the screen, and finally, from scholarly books. It is with this shift of focus to the transformation of Turkish language that we can catch the continuity from the Empire into the Republic, adopt an alternative perspective on the representation of imperial diversity and the transformation it underwent with the Republic, and attain a more elaborate picture of the politicization of language, humor, and performance in the late Ottoman Empire. This could also provide insight into the predominance of ethnic stereotyping based on accents in contemporary popular entertainment in Turkey. (130) Lastly, scrutinizing the representation of the Armenian stereotype in late Ottoman popular performances offers a great opportunity to think about the relation between ideology and laughter. Unlike the "humanist-romantic presentation of comedy," (131) it reminds us how laughter can both pave the way for and cloak violence. One could raise suspicion about the argument developed here on the grounds that Ottoman popular performances were comedies in which every figure had to face slings and arrows and that there is not enough evidence to prove that there was anything special about the Armenian stereotype. However, that Kevork Malikyan, the famous Armenian-Turkish actor, was rejected by an acting school in Turkey because "his diction was very poor" before he left for England, where he would act in the Royal National Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company, is a fact, after all. Malikyan, who spoke Turkish with a Diyarbakir accent that is now associated with Kurds, was apparently never criticized for his English accent in his career there. (132) Upon his return to Turkey after decades, he is now acting in a popular TV series, namely Payitaht: Abdulhamid, playing an enemy of the Ottoman Empire, Parvus Efendi, who, of course, is marked by his peculiar pronunciation.


Social Sciences University of Ankara


(1) I would like to thank Suphi Oztas for generously sharing his sources with me, and to the three anonymous referees who, with their insights and suggestions, made a significant contribution to this article. All translations are mine.

(2) Marvin Carlson, Speaking in Tongues: Language at Play in Theatre (Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 2006), 9, 12-13.

(3) Carlson, Speaking in Tongues, 3.

(4) Carlson adopts David Crystal's definition of dialect: "regionally or socially distinctive variety of language, identified by a particular set of words and grammatical structures." David Crystal, Dictionary of Linguistics and Phonetics (Maiden, MA: Blackwell, 2008), 142, quoted in Carlson, Speaking in Tongues, 7-8.

(5) Carlson, here too, paraphrases Crystal's definition: "The cumulative auditory effect of those features of pronunciation which identify where a person is from, regionally or socially. The linguistics literature emphasizes that the term refers to pronunciation only, and is thus distinct from dialect, which refers to grammar and vocabulary as well." Carlson, Speaking in Tongues, 11, citing Crystal, Dictionary, 3.

(6) The term "stage dialect" comes from Jerry Blunt, Stage Dialects (New Yorker: Harper and Row, 1967), 1. Carlson quotes Blunts definition: "a normal dialect altered as needed to fit the requirements of theatrical clarity and dramatic interpretation." Carlson, Speaking in Tongues, 11.

(7) Carlson, Speaking in Tongues, 9.

(8) The reason for narrowing down the subject matter to the late Ottoman Empire is that most of the works that make such an endeavor possible date back to this period.

(9) These performances have also been classified as "Traditional Turkish Theatre" (Geleneksel Turk Tiyatrosu), a title which, with all its derivatives, has been widely accepted. See Unver Oral, ed., Karagozname (Istanbul: Kitabevi Yaymlari, 2014) and Unver Oral, ed., Hayalden Gercege Karagoz (Istanbul: Kitabevi Yayinlari, 2014)--the largest collections of essays on Karagoz. The term was also used widely by official institutions such as TRT (Turkish Radio Television) and the Ministry of Culture.

(10) One should also include Kukla (Puppet Play) in these performances but this article will leave it out due to a lack of sources.

(11) Pertev Naili Boratav, "Maddah," in The Encyclopaedia of Islam, new ed., vol. 5, ed. C. E. Bosworth et al. (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1986), 951-53.

(12) Pertev Naili Boratav, "Orta Oyunu," in C. E. Bosworth The Encyclopaedia of Islam, new ed., vol. 8, 178. Ortaoyunu and Karagoz have very similar characteristics despite their distinctive techniques. It is common to draw attention to the commonalties in their stories. See Metin And, Karagoz: Turkish Shadow Theatre (Ankara: Dost Yayinlari, 1975), 14.

(13) And even names it "the Turkish commedia dell'arte" And, Karagoz, 12.

(14) There are those who argue that the characters in these performances reflected reality (i.e., "the Jew's propensity for money and wealth"). Nihad Sami Banarh, "Karagoz'e Dair," in Karagoz (Istanbul: Milli Egitim Basimevi, 1969), 7; "Yahudi'nin para ve mal duskunlugu." See also Enver Behnan Sapolyo, "Turk Temasa Sanatinda Karagoz ve Hacivad," in Oral, Hayalden Gercege Karagoz, 197.

(15) Of course, legislation does not guarantee that this was the case. In fact, the same applies to sexual themes in these performances, which could apparently escape the authorities. For an 1896 edict concerning the regulation on popular performances, see Arsiv Belgelerine Gore Osmanli'da Gosteri Sanation: Geleneksel Seyir Sanation (Kukla, Karagoz, Meddah-Ortaoyunu), Tiyatro, Sinema (Istanbul: Basbakanlik Devlet Arsivleri Genel Mudurlugu, 2015), 43-49.

(16) For a critique of modern Turkish theatre historiography's approach to multicultural Ottoman past, see Firat Gullu, Vartovyan Kumpanyast ve Yeni Osmanlilar: Osmanliya Has Cokkulturlu Bir Politik Tiyatro Girisimi (Istanbul: bgst Yayinlan, 2008), 8-22.

(17) For a comprehensive account of Turkish modernity, language and violence, see Nergis Erturk, Grammatology and Literary Modernity in Turkey (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011).

(18) Necmi Erdogan and Hale Babadogan studied Karagoz, although with different foci and scopes, from such perspectives and provided valuable insights. Necmi Erdogan, "Populer Anlatilar ve Kemalist Pedagoji," Birikim, no. 105-106 (lanuary-February 1998): 117-125; Hale Babadogan, "Understanding the Transformations of Karagoz" (PhD diss., Middle East Technical University, 2013).

(19) Jean Amery (1912-1978), a Holocaust survivor, associates the loss of homeland with the loss of mother tongue. Jean Amery, At the Mind's Limits: Contemplations by a Survivor on Auschwitz and Its Realities, trans. Sidney Rosenfeld and Stella P. Rosenfeld (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1980), 51-54.

(20) These questions could be asked about Ottoman Greeks as well but I will leave them out because their relationship to Turkish language, albeit having similarities, is significantly different than that of Armenians'.

(21) For a representative analysis of "Language and Communication Comedy" as well as sexuality in these performances, see Daryo Mizrahi, "Language and Sexuality in Ottoman Shadow-Puppet Performances," in Celebration, Entertainment and Theatre in the Ottoman World, ed. Suraiya Faroqhi and Arzu Ozturkmen (Calcutta: Seagull Books, 2014), 278, and Daryo Mizrahi, "One Man and His Audience: Comedy in Ottoman Shadow Puppet Performances," in Medieval and Early Modern Performance in the Eastern Mediterranean, ed. Arzu Ozturkmen and Evelyn Birge Vitz (Turnhout: Brepols Publishers, 2014), 271-86.

(22) Cevdet Kudret, "Ortaoyunu Uzerine," in Ortaoyunu (Istanbul: Yapi Kredi Yayinlan, 2007), 88; Ozdemir Nutku, Meddahlik ve Meddah Hikayeleri (Ankara: Ataturk Kultur Merkezi Baskanligi Yayinlan, 1997), 72-73.

(23) Kudret, "Ortaoyunu Uzerine," 88; Pertev Naili Boratav, "Turk Halk Temasasi," in Folklor ve Edebiyat II (1982) (Istanbul: Adam Yayinlan 1983), 500; Nutku, Meddahhk, 157. By the end of the nineteenth century, however, some meddahs seem to have begun telling "original" stories through access to written sources. Meddah Sururi (?-1934), for one, is said to have gained in popularity thanks to his literacy because he would embellish his stories with ones he discovered between the pages of the books he read. Musahipzade Celal, Eski Istanbul Yasayisi (Istanbul: iletisim Yayinlan, 1992), 86-87. The same applies to Karagoz. Hayali Katip Salih, the representative of the attempts to modernize Karagoz in the late nineteenth century, is known to have adapted stories from French novels. Ozdemir Nutku, "Karagoz Uzerine Dustinceler," in Oral, Hayalden Gercege Karagoz, 72.

(24) Therefore, these performances, which are the product of the encounter between the meddah, the hayali, the Ortaoyunu actors, and their audiences, were "irretrievably lost" after the performance, could never be repeated in the same way, and should be distinguished from staged texts. Fische-Lichte's chapter outlines transience as a basic characteristic of performance. Erika Fischer-Lichte, The Routledge Introduction to Theatre and Performance Studies, ed. Minou Arjomand and Ramona Mosse, trans. Minou Arjomand (London: Routledge, 2014), 22.

(25) For a differentiation of these two methods, see Fischer-Lichte, The Routledge Introduction to Theatre and Performance Studies, 48.

(26) Popular romances were among the common sources for all these performances. Moreover, an Ortaoyunu performer could well be a karagoz puppeteer and/or meddah at the same time, or vice versa. Stories could be borrowed from one another. It is also known that "most Ortaoyunu plays were also part of the shadow thatre repertoire." Indeed, ortaoyunu was also called "live karagoz." Enver Behnan Sapolyo, Karagozun Tarihi (Istanbul: Turkiye Yaymevi, 1946), 114; "hemen ortaoyununun piyesleri Karagoz'de mevcuttur"; "canli karagoz." Toward the end of the nineteenth century, many performers are known to have performed as hayalis, meddahs, and Ortaoyunu actors at the same time. Nutku, Meddahlik, 31, 35.

(27) For a comprehensive list and short biographies including information on major works, see Hasan Eren, Turkluk Bilimi Sozlugu: I. Yabanci Turkologlar (Ankara: Ataturk Kultur, Dil ve Tarih Yuksek Kurumu, 1998).

(28) Ignacz Kunos (1860-1945), Georg Jacob (1862-1937), Friedrich Giese (1870-1944), Nicholas N. Martinovitch (1883-1939), Helmut Ritter (1892-1971), and Andreas Tietze (1914-2003) not only recorded performances and published texts but also provided historical accounts of Meddah, Karagoz, and Ortaoyunu.

(29) According to Kunos, the fact that different nationalities that made up the Ottoman Empire "spoke the Turkish language with a different accent, partly with a mixed vocabulary and exotic grammatical structures enabled the ruling class to entertain itself through diverse language uses and national characteristics." Ignaz Kunos, Das Turkische Volksschauspiel: Orta Ojnu (Leipzig: Rudolf Haupt, 1908), 6; "Anfangs gehorten die spielenden Personen auch nicht dem herrschenden Stamme an, sondern bestanden hauptsachlich aus Armeniern, Griechen, und Juden. Schon der Umstand, dass jede dieser Nationalitaten die Turkische Sprache mit anderem Akzent, teils mit gemischtem Wortschatze und mit fremdartiger grammatischer Konstruktion sprach, befahigte sie, durch ihren verschiedenen Sprachgebrauch und ihre Stammeigenschaften die herrschende Klasse zu unterhalten." Georg Jacob, who classified the lew, the Armenian, and the Greek in Karagoz as "Dialect Types" (Dialekttypen) noted that these stereotypes were usually seen in ortaoyunu performances as well. Jacob underlined that stereotypes, in general, played a very important role in various peoples' dramatic traditions. Georg Jacob, Turkische Litteraturgeschichte in Einzeldarstellungen (Heft I): Das Turkische Schattentheatre (Berlin: Mayer 8c Muller, 1900), 29. Ritter adopted the term "Dialect Types" and emphasized the role of spoken word in the performances. Helmut Ritter, Karagbs: Turkische Schaltenspiele, vol. 1 (Hannover: Orient-Buchhandlung Heinz Lafaire, 1924), 1-14. Jacob also emphasized the importance of meddahs' mimicry of dialects and voices, and defined them as "speech artists" (redekunsller). Georg Jacob, Vortrage Turkischer Meddahs (Mimischer Erzahlungskunstler) (Berlin: Mayer 8c Muller, 1904), 6.

(30) For Ortaoyunu, Kunos argued that the characters in the play were initially composed of Armenians, Greeks, and Jews. It was only through time that the play became part of the Turkish popular culture. Kunos, Das Turkische Volksschauspiel, 6. Tietze's booklet aiming to present a selection of one of the best Karagoz puppet collections in the world well illustrates the ethnic diversity in these plays. Andreas Tietze, The Turkish Shadow Theatre and the Puppet Collection of the L. A. Mayer Memorial Foundation (Berlin: Gebr. Mann Verlag, 1977). Jacob argues for a similar diversity in Meddah performances. Jacob, Vortrage Turkischer Meddah's, 9.

(31) This, of course, was not without reason. Even as of the last quarter of the nineteenth century, despite the loss of territories in the Balkans, almost half of the population in the capital of the Empire were non-Muslims. Kemal H. Karpat, Ottoman Population, 1830-1914: Demographic and Social Characteristics (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1985), 208. For a general account of linguistic diversity especially in certain urban centers in the late Ottoman Empire, see Johann Strauss, "Linguistic Diversity and Everyday Life in the Ottoman Cities of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Balkans (Late 19th-Early 20th Century)," History of the Family 16 (2011), 126-41.

(32) Metin And, Geleneksel Turk Tiyatrosu: Kukla, Karagoz, Ortaoyunu (Ankara: BilgiYayinevi), 232; Nutku, Meddahlik, 54.

(33) And, Geleneksel Turk Tiyatrosu, 340-50; Daryo Mizrahi, "Diversity and Comedy in Ottoman Istanbul: The Turkish Shadow Puppet Performances" (PhD diss., Columbia University, 1991), 63.

(34) The ethnic and linguistic diversity of the performance world Dumbullu recounts is impossible to miss. Moreover, he relates how "stereotypes from the old Ottoman period," such as the Armenian, kept being mimicked for decades. Sadi Yaver Ataman, Dumbullu Ismail Efendi (Istanbul: Yapi ve Kredi Bankasi, 1974), 126; "eski Osmanh devrinden kalma tipler." Similarly, the famous poet and playwright Halit Fahri Ozansoy argued that the Armenian accent was indispensable in the comedy of his time, which is a good indication of how this stereotype found its way well into the Republican period. Ozansoy, "Karagozden Tiyatroya," in Oral, Karagozname, 32-33. The Armenian accent also had an important role in comedy films. Not only did Turkish productions feature Armenian characters but also characters in Western films were Armenianized through translation and dubbing. The most significant example was the famous American actor Groucho Marx, known by the Armenian name "Arsak Palabiyikyan" in Turkey.

(35) Francois Georgeon, "Osmanh tmparatorlugu'nda Gulmek mi?" in Doguda Mizah, ed. Irene Fenoglio and Francois Georgeon, trans. Ali Berktay (Istanbul: Yapi Kredi Yayinlan, 2000), 79-101; "kolektif gulme"; "bireysel gulme"; "kapi disari edilmistir."

(36) Mizrahi, "Diversity and Comedy," 203.

(37) Cevdet Kudret, Ortaoyunu, vol. 1 (Istanbul: Yapi Kredi Yayinlan, 2007), 81, 85.

(38) Kudret, Ortaoyunu, vol. 2, 145-224.

(39) Kudret, Ortaoyunu, vol. 2, 212-13; " dilini esekarisi soksun." In one of the texts Karagoz uses this phrase while conversing with a Muslim stereotype, a cook from Bolu in Central Anatolia, which is an indication that the phrase is not specific to the Armenian stereotype. Unver Oral, ed., Karagoz Oyunlari, vol. 2, Nev-icad (Istanbul: Kitabevi Yayinlan, 2007), 39.

(40) For a detailed account of the subject, see Georg Jacob, "Zur Grammatik Des Vulgar-Turkischen," Zeitschrift Der Deutschen Morgenlandischen Gesellschaft 52 (1898): 695-729.

(41) Kudret, Ortaoyunu, vol. 2, 213 ; "senin Turkcen Ermeni Turkcesi."

(42) Kudret, Ortaoyunu, vol. 1, 237-53.

(43) This stereotype goes back to the famous celebi figure in Karagoz. Celebi has had a farreaching effect on the regime of representation in modern Turkish culture. It has evolved through lime and with the consolidation of nationalism as a state ideology, came to be associated with non-nationalness. For more on celebi, see Sabri Esat Siyavusgil, Karagoz: Psiko-Sosyolojik Bir Deneme (Istanbul: Maarif Matbaasi, 1941), 159-160.

(44) M. Sabri Koz, "Karagoz'un Yeni Baskisi Uzerine," in Karagoz, ed. Cevdet Kudret, rev. ed., vol. 1 (Istanbul: Yapi Kredi Yayinlan, 2004), 7. The three volumes of this work were first published in 1968, 1969, and 1970 respectively.

(45) Kudret, Karagoz, vol. 1, 213-33.

(46) Here "Turkish" means Ottoman Turkish, and the three languages composing it are Arabic, Persian, and Turkish.

(47) Kudret, Karagoz, vol. 1, 221-24.

(48) Kudret, Karagoz, vol. 2, 759-78.

(49) Kudret, Karagoz, vol. 2, 771-73.

(50) Kudret, Karagoz, vol. 3, 1134-41; "ince meslek."

(51) Jacob, "Zur Grammatik Des Vulgar-Turkischen," 700.

(52) This apparent tension between Karagoz and Armenians over the Turkish language has escaped the attention of Nilgun Firidinoglu, who apologetically argues that there was no discrimination in the representation of non-Muslims in "Traditional Polk Theatre," that violence was distributed equally, and that nobody could escape the beating of Karagoz. Nilgun Firidinoglu, "Geleneksel Halk Tiyatrosunda Gayrimuslimlerin Temsili," Tiyatro Arastirmalari Dergisi 27, no. 1 (2009): 51-59 (59). Ilhan Basgoz, long before Firidinoglu, argued that Karagoz reflected a world in peace and harmony. Ilhan Basgoz, "Karagoz ve Hacivat Tipinin Evrensel Boyutlari ve Karagoz Oyununun Yapisi," in Oral, Hayalden Gercege Karagoz, 107.

(53) The situation is the same in more popular and recent collections of Karagoz. One reason for this is that Kudret's work is arguably the major source for those who are interested in Karagoz in Turkey. For an example, see Unver Oral, ed., Karagoz Oyunlari (Istanbul: Kitabevi Yayinlan, 2002). There are two Armenian figures in the twelve plays brought together by Oral. In the seven plays recorded by Mustafa Rona and printed between 1944 and 1947, there is a single Armenian figure and it is the same play with one of the two Oral included in the abovementioned collection. See Mustafa Rona, ed., Karagoz'un Agaligi (Istanbul: Turkiye Yayinevi, 1944).

(54) Mizrahi, "Diversity and Comedy," 150.

(55) For a detailed linguistic account of the accents of stereotypes in Ottoman shadow play performances, see Jacob, "Zur Grammatik Des Vulgar-Turkischen," and Mizrahi, "Diversity and Comedy," 144.

(56) Jacob, Das Turkische Schattentheatre, 37; "Die Dialekte sind nun keineswegs mit realistischer Treue kopiert; man hat jedesmal etwa ein halbes Dutzend Eigentumlichkeiten beobachtet und wendet diese noch zum teil falsch an. Ein korrekter Dialekt wurde ja auch garnicht komisch sein; die komische Wirkung wird erst durch das Bestreben korrekt turkisch zu sprechen, ohne es zu konnen, erzielt."

(57) Oral has published dozens of books and texts over the last fifty years. Even though they do not meet scholarly standards, they are indispensable for students of Ottoman popular performances. Except a few, there is no clear explanation as to how these texts were edited. Moreover, in the prefaces he tells the reader that he carefully cleaned the language in the plays and removed the obscene words and "all the inappropriate addresses, conversations, and comical elements." Karagoz Oyunlan, vol. 2, xv; Karagoz Oyunlan, vol. 1, Kar-i Kadim (Istanbul: Kitabevi Yayinlan, 2007), xx; Karagoz Oyunlan, vol. 3, Yeni (Istanbul: Kitabevi Yayinlan, 2007), x; "yakisiksiz butun hitaplar, konusmalar ve gulduru unsurlan temizlenmistir."

(58) Oral, Karagoz Oyunlari, vol. 1, 39, 78-81; "Turkce soyle."

(59) Oral, Karagoz Oyunlari, vol. 1, 57, 66.

(60) Oral, Karagoz Oyunlari, vol. 2, 144, 148.

(61) Oral, Karagoz Oyunlari, vol. 1, 179; Karagoz Oyunlan, vol. 3, 27.

(62) Nutku does not explain how exactly the stories in his collection or the manuscripts they were taken from were dated.

(63) Nutku, Meddahlik, 235-48.

(64) The Arab is warned by Nedim Hoca once during the cacaphony of languages: "Say it in Turkish! Don't you know Turkish?" Nutku, 244; "Turkce soyle, Turkce bilmez misin?"

(65) Nutku, 236-38; "Ben Ermenice bilmem"; "Sana Turkce soyle diyorum, sen hala Ermenice soyluyorsun. Ben Ermenice anlamam, Turkce soyle!"; "Turkce, benim dilim ile soyle!"; "Sen dil bilmez misin?"; "Hay dilini esek arisi soksun"; "(Agzindaki dilini gosterub): Bu dil ile soyle!"

(66) Nutku, 241.

(67) Onver Oral, "Bir Meddah Hikayesi": Borekci Guzeli (Ankara: Kultur Bakanligi Yayinlan, 1999), 13-14. In Oral's collection of texts on Meddah, there is a section on excerpts from stories. These stories' sources are mostly unknown or not explained. Yet one can easily see that the Jew seems to have been the most popular non-Muslim steretoype. Unver Oral, ed., Meddah Kitabi, (Istanbul: Kitabevi Yayinlan, 2006), 143-98.

(68) Mustafa Kose, "1927 Nufus Sayimi ve Sonuclarinin Degerlendirilmesi" (master's thesis, Afyon Kocatepe Universitesi, 2010), 162. Moreover, there were more than 30 mother tongues listed in the official population records from the early Republican era. Strauss, "Linguistic Diversity," 127.

(69) Strauss, "Linguistic Diversity," 128, 130. For details, see Hrach'eay Ajarean, T'urk'ereni Azt 'ets' ut 'iwne Hayereni Vray ew T'urk' erene P 'okhareal Parere Bolsi Hay Zhoghovrtagan Lezuin Mech [The Influence of Turkish on Armenian and Turkish Loanwords in the Daily Language of Istanbul Armenians] (Moscow: n.p., 1902), 6.

(70) M. Sukru Hanioglu, A Brief History of the Late Ottoman Empire (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008), 37.

(71) Cimen Ozcam, "Turkiye Turkcesi ile Ilgili Gramer Calismalari: Bibliyografya Denemesi," Turk Dunyasi Arastirmalari, no. 110 (October 1997), 121-63.

(72) Turkish scholars use the term "simplification" (sadelesme) while writing about this process. Agah Sirri Levend, Turk Dilinde Gelisme ve Sadelesme Evreleri (Ankara: Turk Dil Kurumu Yayinlan, 1972), 113-77.

(73) One of the best examples is Agop Dilacar (1895-1979, nee Hagop Martaian), who, as a linguist, had a chief position in the Turkish Language Association that was founded to carry out the language reform of the young Turkish republic. Martaian, as a young lieutenant, had met Mustafa Kemal on the Palestinian front in 1917. It was thanks to a grammar book by a Hungarian Turkologist (Gyula Nemeth, Turkische Grammatik, Berlin, 1916), in the hands of Martaian, that Mustafa Kemal had seen Turkish language written in Latin alphabet for the first time. As the president of the Turkish Republic, he would later invite him to Ankara to work for the language reform. Martaian, having adopted the new surname (dilacar literally means "language opener") Mustafa Kemal had offered, would work as the chief specialist in the association. Besides his efforts in the Turkification of scientific terms and very important contributions in the field of lexicology, he had extensively written and translated texts on the history of Turkish language. Kaya Turkay, A. Dilacar (Ankara: Turk Dil Kurumu Yayinlan, 1982).

(74) Murat Cankara, "Rethinking Ottoman Cross-Cultural Encounters: Turks and the Armenian Alphabet," Middle Eastern Studies 51, no. 1 (2015): 1-16 (5-6, 11).

(75) Derya Bayir, Minorities and Nationalism in Turkish Law (London: Routledge, 2013), 46-49.

(76) Rukiye Akkaya Kia, "1876 Kanun-1 Esasi'nin 18. Maddesi Uzerine," Erzincan Oniversitesi Hukuk Fakultesi Dergisi XV, no. 3-4 (2015): 35-45 (36, 41).

(77) A pressing reason for the promotion of Turkish in public education throughout the Hamidian regime was to meet the demands of the expanding bureaucracy in this period. Selcuk Aksin Somel, The Modernization of Public Education in the Ottoman Empire, 1839-1908: Islamization, Autocracy and Discipline (Leiden: Brill, 2001), 274.

(78) David Kushner, The Rise of Turkish Nationalism, 1876-1908 (London: Frank Cass, 1977), 93.

(79) Metin And, Osmanli Tiyatrosu (Ankara: Dost Kitabevi, 1999), 27.

(80) And, Osmanh Tiyatrosu, 66-84. Beneath the surface, however, the committee allegedly aimed also to intervene in the repertoire. See Gullu, Vartovyan Kumpanyasi, 93-96.

(81) The article appeared on the front page of Hayal, no. 83 (Julyl874) with no title. The author is likely to be the editor Teodor Kasab himself; "Hristiyan telaffuzuyla Turkce soyleyerek"; "sen ise hala lisan-1 maderzadini dogru bilmedigin halde."

(82) Rifat N. Bali, '"Vatandas Turkce Konus!' Veya Bir Ulus-Devletin Kurulusunda Dil Birliginin Gerceklesmesi Cabalari," in Vatandas Turkce Konus!, trans. Omer Turkoglu (Ankara: Kebikec Yayinlari, 2000), vii-viii.

(83) The debates around the vernacularization of Turkish language began around the mid-nineteenth century. Yet in modern Turkish historiography it is with Omer Seyfettin's article titled "The New Language" (Yeni Lisan), published in 1911, that a quest for a national literature based on a national language is marked. This would later be re-formulated by the sociologist Ziya Gokalp (1876-1924), probably the most influential thinker on the establishment of Turkish Republic, in his famous Esssentials of Turkism (Turkculugun Esasian, 1923): "Write as the people, especially as the women of Istanbul, speak!" Niyazi Berkes, ed., Turkish Nationalism and Western Civilization: Selected Essays of Ziya Gokalp, trans. Niyazi Berkes (New York: Columbia University Press, 1959), 291. Gokalp's emphasis on pronunciation for the standardization of a national language is quite important for the aims of this paper. Furthermore, for an argument on the phonetization of Turkish, see Erturk, Grammatology.

(84) Geoffrey Lewis, The Turkish Language Reform: A Catastrophic Success (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 2.

(85) Gokalp made a distinction between national culture (hars) and international civilization (medeniyet). The idea of a synthesis between these two played a central role in his formulation of modernization. Gokalp argued that a national culture could only be created with the combination of tradition and Western technique. Uriel Heyd, Foundations of Turkish Nationalism: The Life and Teachings of Ziya Gokalp (London: Luzac, Harvill, 1950), 122.

(86) Ismayil (Ismail) Hakki Baltacioglu, Karagoz: Teknigi ve Estetigi (Istanbul: Kultur Matbaasi, 1942). For an account of Baltacioglu's attempts at modernizing Karagoz withing the context of the construction of the Turkish nation-state, see Erdogan, "Populer Anlatilar ve Kemalist Pedagoji" and Kani Irfan Karakoc, "UIus-Devletlesme Sureci ve 'Turk' Edebiyati'nin Insasi: 1923-1950" (PhD diss., Ihsan Dogramaci Bilkent Universitesi, 2012), 213-229.

(87) Centers for popular education during the 1930s and 40's, aiming to propagate Republican ideology. Sibel Bozdogan, Modernism and Nation Building: Turkish Architectural Culture in the Early Republic (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2001), 87.

(88) Serdar Ozturk, "Karagoz Co-Opted: Turkish Shadow Theatre of the Early Republic (1923-1945)," Asian Theatre Journal 23 (2006): 292-313 (301, 303).

(89) For an analysis of Karagoz scenarios from the Republican period, see Erdogan, "Populer Anlatilar ve Kemalist Pedagoji."

(90) Ismail Hakki Baltacioglu, Karagoz Ankarada (Karagoz Piyesi) (Istanbul: Sebat Basimevi, 1940).

(91) This is not unique to the Armenian stereotype and is occasionally used for others.

(92) Ismail Hakki Baltacioglu, "Karagoz Koy Muhtari," in Karagoz: Iki Mukaddeme ve Yedi Senaryoyu Havidir (Ankara: Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi Yayini, 1941), 11-15.

(93) Kurulusundan Gunumuze Turk Dil Kurumu: Nizamname, Tuzuk, Yasa ve Yonetmelikler [Turkish Language Association from Its Establishment to the Present Day: Regulation, Code, Act, and Legislation] (Ankara: Turk Dil Kurumu Yaymlan, 2007), 69-70.

(94) For more details, see Babadogan, Understanding the Transformations of Karagoz, 23-24.

(95) Andreas Tietze, The Turkish Shadow Theatre and the Puppet Collection of the L. A. Mayer Memorial Foundation, The L. A. Mayer Memorial Studies in Islamic Art and Civilization (Berlin: Gebr. Mann Verlag, 1977), 55.

(96) What makes Nazif Efendi's collection noteworthy is the fact that he was the last palace puppeteer and in 1918, he "collected unwritten karagoz plays to remove undesirable political comment and crude expressions" in order to produce "expurgated written plays [that] were not the same as the improvised versions." Ozturk, "Karagoz Co-Opted," 298-99.

(97) Helmut Ritter, Karagbs: Turkische Schattenspiele, vol. 1 (Hannover: Orient-Buchhandlung Heinz Lafaire, 1924), 3.

(98) For an illustrative anecdote, see Ataman, DumbuUu Ismail Efendi, 73. Allegedly, some meddahs were poisoned by the people whose accents they mimicked. See also Nezih Erdogan, Sinemamn Istanbul'da Ilk Yillari: Modernlik ve Seyir Maceralart (Istanbul: Iletisim Yayinlari, 2017), 52.

(99) Mizrahi, "Diversity and Comedy," 199.

(100) Mehmet Fuat Koprulu, "Turk Edebiyati Tarihi'nde Usul," in Edebiyat Arastirmalari (1913; Ankara: Turk Tarih Kurumu Yayinlari, 1999), 19; "Turk ruhu."

"" Nihad Sami Banarli, "Karagoz'e Dair," 5-6; "Turk halkinda hadiselerden komedi yaratma kudreti" and "Turk'un komedi zekasi."

(102) Vasfi Riza Zobu, "Bu Kitap Dolayisiyla," in Dumbullu Ismail Efendi, by Sadi Yaver Ataman (Istanbul: Yapi ve Kredi Bankasi, 1974), 7-8; "milli tiyatromuz."

(103) Ataman, Dumbullu Ismail Efendi, 40; "Turk milletinin yaratma gucunden dogma."

(104) And, Geleneksel Turk Tiyatrosu. And served as the chair for many years of the Theatre Department in Ankara University's Faculty of Language, History and Geography, the first academic department in the field, founded in 1964.

(105) Ismail Hakki Baltacioglu (1886-1978), Selim Nuzhet Gercek (1891-1945), Enver Behnan $apolyo (1900-72), Sabri Esat Siyavusgil (1907-68), Cevdet Kudret (1907-92), Metin And (1927-2008), and Ozdemir Nutku (b. 1931). Oral's abovementioned collections of writings on Karagoz provide a plethora of examples.

(106) "Acem, Arap, Yahudi, Rum, Frenk, Laz, Kastamonulu, Arnavut." And, Geleneksel Turk Tiyatrosu, 459.

(107) Sabri Esat Siyavusgil, "Arap, Arnavut, Yahudi, Ermeni, Rum-Tath Su Frengi," in Karagoz, 144; "imparatorluk tipleri."

(108) Metin And, "Arap, Arnavut, Yahudi, Rum, Tatlisu Frengi," in Dunyada ve Bizde Golge Oyunu (Ankara: Turkiye Is Bankasi Kultur Yayinlari, 1977), 294-95; And, Geleneksel Turk Tiyatrosu, 460. Elsewhere And mentions the Jew, but not the Armenian or the Greek, while randomly listing the stereotypes a meddah would usually mimic. In the same article, however, Armenians among the audience of popular performances, or Armenian meddahs are mentioned. Metin And, "Meddah, Meddahlik ve Meddahlar," in Oral, Meddah Kitabi, 3-17.

(109) And, Osmanli Tiyatrosu.

(110) Metin And, Tanzimat ve Istibdat Dbneminde Turk Tiyatrosu (1839-1908) (Ankara: Turkiye Is Bankasi Kultur Yayinlari, 1972), 450.

(111) In fact, the Armenian stereotype is mentioned in the same work. And, Geleneksel Turk Tiyatrosu, 458, 461.

(112) The militant organization Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia was active from the mid-1970s to the early 1990s. The organization, generally known for assassinating Turkish diplomats, also played a crucial role in making the Armenian deportation in 1915 known worldwide. Its aim was to force Turkey into recognizing 1915 as a genocide, paying compensation, and abandoning Historical Armenia. Omer Turan and Guven Gurkan Oztan, Devlet Akli ve 1915: Turkiye'de "Ermeni Meselesi" Anlatisinin Insasi (Istanbul: Iletisim Yayinlari, 2018), 219.

(113) The Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK) was established in 1984. Aiming for an independent state, it launched an armed struggle against the Turkish state, which still continues.

(114) The work in question is McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of World Drama: An International Reference Work in 5 Volumes, edited by Stanley Hochman (1984).

(115) Metin And, "Ek: Ermeniler ve Ermeni Sorunu," in Osmanli Tiyatrosu, 288-97; "Ermeni soykirim savinin yaziya girmemesini saglamis"; "soykirim savi."

(116) Turan and Oztan, Devlet Akli ve 1915, 209-24.

(117) Oral, Karagbzname, 5, 44, 288, 306, 340; Oral, Hayalden Gercege Karagoz, 59, 95, 144, 311-13.

(118) Serpil Soyer, Gulter Kocer and Ahmet Borcakh, ed., Milli Kutuphane Karagoz Katalogu (Ankara: Basbakanhk Basimevi, 1974). The reason for this could simply be that there were no Armenians, or non-Muslims in general, in the plays of Muhittin Sevilen, who made these tasvirs. His collection of plays is quite important as it was first printed by the Turkish state in 1969, among the "1000 Fundamental Works" (1000 Temel Eser) and afterwards by the Ministry of Education, and it therefore has an official status. In fact, Muhittin Sevilen was the real name of Hayali Kucuk Ali, a famous hayali who was employed by Ankara People's House and served to instruct people, especially the youth. Ozturk, "Karagoz Co-Opted," 307. Even though Sevilen mentioned the Armenian among the stereotypes of traditional shadow play performances in the Ottoman Empire, there are no Armenians in his plays. In just one, he kept Ayvaz from the Van province, an obviously Armenian stereotype mentioned in many sources. However, it was impossible for a contemporary audience to understand that Ayvaz was an Armenian. Apart from this, in two of the plays, Hacivat asks Karagoz whether he knows Armenian. Karagoz replies "yes" but, as expected, totally misunderstands the Armenian utterance by Hacivat. Muhittin Sevilen (Hayali Kucuk Ali), Karagoz (Istanbul: Milli Egitim Basimevi, 1969), 7, 94, 135, 254.

(119) The Greek is neither mentioned nor represented in the booklet. Duyuran Durusehvar, Karagoz: Topkapi Sarayindaki Tasvirleriyle (Istanbul: Arkeoloji ve Sanat Yayinlari, 2000), 34; "Kavim ve azinlik tiplerinin en onemlileri."

(120) The institution that published the booklet, The General Directorate of Press, Publicity and Tourism (Basin-Yayin ve Turizm Genel Mudurlugu), functioned between 1949 and 1957. The author of the booklet was a well-known professor of literature. Sabri Esat Siyavusgil, Karagoz: Son Histoire, Ses Personnages, Son Esprit Mystique et Satirique (Istanbul: Direction generale de la presse, de la radiodiffusion et du tourisme, 1961), 17.

(121) Ugur Goktas, Karagoz Terimleri Sozlugu (Istanbul: Anadolu Sanat Yayinlari, 1986), 11.

(122) And, Osmanh Tiyatrosu, 67.

(123) And, Osmanh Tiyatrosu, 83, 119-20.

(124) Namik Kemal, "Mukaddime-i Celal," "Tiyatro," and "Tiyatrodan Bahseden Arkadaslara," in Namik Kemal'in Turk Dili ve Edebiyati Uzerine Gorusleri ve Yaztlari, ed. Kazim Yetis (Istanbul: Alfa Basim Yayim Dagitim, 1996), 91, 96, 350.

(125) Namik Kemal dealt with the questions of Turkish orthography and pronunciation in many articles and personal letters. He was fully aware that it was impossible to represent all the dialectical nuances of Turkish in a standard writing system and this was one reason behind the differences in pronunciation, hence "mispronunciation." See Namik Kemal, "Menemenli Rif'at Bey'e (II)" (1878), in Yetis, Namik Kemal'in Turk Dili, 439-40.

(126) Karnig Sdep'anean, Owrvakidz Arevmdahay T adroni Badmut can [An Outline of the History of Western Armenian Theatre], vol. 2 (Yerevan: HSSH K. A. Hrad., 1969), 78.

(127) In 1874, the performance of a play written by Semsettin Sami (1850-1904), one of the prominent authors and linguists of the time, provoked an important discussion when some people in the audience burst into laughter in the middle of a highly dramatic scene. One of the parties involved argued that the audience was laughing at the actors and actresses, which probably had something to do with their pronunciation. For the discussion, see Basiretci Ali Efendi, "Sark Ile 'Tiyatro' Hakkinda Munakasa," in Istanbul Mektuplari, ed. Nuri Saglam (Istanbul: Kitabevi Yayinlan, 2001), 342-44; and "Varaka," Sark, no. 277 (1874), 2.

(128) Selami Sedes, "Selami Sedes'in Konferansi," Turk Tiyatrosu, no. 86 (February 1938), 10; "Darulbedayi -o da son zamanlarda- sahnemizi Ermeni sivesinden kurtarir gibi oldu." In the case of Darulbedayi, there is yet another aspect of this problem which deserves an article on its own. The criticism directed against especially Armenian actresses' bad pronunciation was closely linked with the struggle to see Turkish/Muslim women on stage. Ozdemir Nutku, Darulbedayi'den Sehir Tiyatrosu'na (Istanbul: Is Bankasi Kultur Yayinlan, 2015), 177-84. Taking into account that Ziya Gokalp, as I have mentioned earlier, proposed Turks to write "as the women of Istanbul, speak" (Istanbul hanimlarinin konustuklari gibi yazmak), the gender aspect of Armenians' accents merits special emphasis.

(129) Ronald Grigor Suny, "They Can Live in the Desert but Nowhere Else": A History of the Armenian Genocide (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2015), 3-5.

(130) It would not be an exaggeration to say that there is no comedy on screen, in today's Turkey, without stereotypes with a strong accent. The only observable change throughout the last two or three decades is that the once-dominant Kurdish accent has recently been challenged by stereotypes from the Aegean, Black Sea, and Central Anatolia regions. For an account of the representation of Kurds in mainstream Turkish media and a counter-attempt at self-identification, see Anna Grabolle Celiker, "Construction of the Kurdish Self in Turkey through Humorous Popular Culture," Journal of Intercultural Studies 30, no. 1 (2009), 89-105.

(131) Alenka Zupancic, The Odd One In: On Comedy (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2008), 4. Compare and contrast this approach with a view of late Ottoman comedy as the metaphor of a missed opportunity for negotiation between the nations of the Ottoman Empire; see Mehmet Fatih Uslu, Catisma ve Muzakere: Osmanhda Turkce ve Ermenice Dramatik Edebiyat (Istanbul: Iletisim Yayinlan, 2014).

(132) Tugba Esen, ed., Aktor Dedigin Nedir ki (Kevork Malikyan Kitabi) (Istanbul: Aras Yayinlan, 2018), 53-4; "diksiyonu kokten bozuk."
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Author:Cankara, Murat
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Date:Sep 22, 2018
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