Wednesday, January 28, 2015

French Colonialism, The Game

An appropriate follow-up to our collection of Hatay stamps, today we have some fantastic excerpts from a 1940 French board game called "The Game of the French Empire." Produced under the Vichy regime, the full board features a prominent picture of Marshal Petain, as well as that French fascist axe thing. While there were other French Empire board games that appeared earlier - and the French were always proud of their Empire - it took on a special meaning during Vichy. It was a particular point of pride for the humiliated country, but preserving the Empire against British encroachment also served as a justification for French cooperation with Germany. Fighting between the allies and Vichy forces in the colonies is an often-forgotten part of World War Two.

Anyways, the board features a map of the world, on which players depart from the port of Marseille and have to travel through all of the French colonies, braving scorpions, rain storms and more, before returning across the Atlantic to Le Havre. If your reading knowledge of French, like mine, is just good enough to understand the rules to a kids game, download the board and play along! Just remember, colonialism was not a game! Unless you were one of the colonizers, in which case you could treat it like a game, which was exactly what was so unfair about it in the first place.

Finally, as a bonus, we have some game pieces from a different French colonial board game featured on Slate's fantastic history blog, and the box cover to its British equivalent.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Hatay Devleti and other stamps from former states

The State of Hatay was only my favorite of the many countries that briefly existed as a result of the political upheaval following the end of World War One. These stamps are from the province's brief moment of independence before it joined Turkey in 1939. I'm indebted to Chris Trapani for this particular image. Pseudo-state stamp enthusiasts might also enjoy the following images, of stamps from the Autonomous Albanian Republic of Korca (flag here), the Autonomous Republic of Northern Epirus, and, of course, the French-occupied territory of the Saar Basin.


Oh and the Danzig Free State, and the autonomous Alawite State in Syria the French briefly tried to set up. We don't have a stamp from the short-lived Druze State that accompanied it, but you can buy a hat with its flag here.

Friday, January 16, 2015

World War Two in Cemal Nadir Cartoons

With Cumhuriyet's cartoonists back in the news over the past few weeks, we wanted to finally publish an amazing collection of the paper's cartoons that provide a remarkable narrative of the the final years of World War Two. These have been compiled and presented by Irina Levin, Afternoon Map's guest editor and so much more.

As anyone who read our piece on Arabs through Turkish eyes knows, the 1940s and 50s was an amazing era for visually-compelling, if often ideologically problematic, cartoons. Today, courtesy of Irina, we have a remarkable series on World War Two as seen through the cartoons of Cemal Nadir, one of Turkey's most famous illustrators (he has streets named after him in Ankara and Bursa!). These cartoons all appeared in Cumhuriyet. While the paper's editor, Yunus Nadi, received justifiable criticism for his pro-German sympathies during the war, Nadir's cartoons are relatively well-disposed to the Allies, particularly during this period when the war's outcome had become increasingly clear. It is also worth noting how the cartoonist positions Turkey, whose avowed neutrality had frequently been challenged during the course of the conflict. While Soviet Russia (always portly, always in red), England (Churchill, with obligatory cigar), the United States (Uncle Sam or Roosevelt), Germany (Hitler or German soldier), Japan (usually Tojo, in disturbing greenish yellow), and a colorful cast of Europeans (Tito, with a helpful "T" on his face, is easiest to spot!) dominate center stage, Turkey, when it comes in at all, is portrayed as a strong and well-meaning, if minor, player. For instance, in the cartoon entitled "Ümid Dünyası," the Turkish soldier or mehmetcik is pictured dreaming of "domestic and world peace," while the other countries' representatives display more self-serving geopolitical ambitions. In "Sağanak," in which the German soldier is under all-out attack by the Allies, Turkey is represented by a tiny cannon, poised but not actually firing, in the lower right-hand corner.

Nadir's series of cartoons chronicling the war appeared on the back page of Cumhuriyet once a week. Those featured here are highlights from 1944 and 1945, showing Germany's increasingly desperate position and growing US-Russian rivalry, as well as the challenges of decolonization and planning for a post-war world. We've provided translations for the captions (as well as some speculation about the minor characters in weird hats) but the beauty of these cartoons is that they speak for themselves.

Seesaw of Victory

Drowning in a Sea of Rebellion 

Downpour (The Dove's message says "Greetings from Tojo")

Monday, January 12, 2015

Imam Hatip Course Schedule

 I'm not sure what the class schedule looks like in Imam Hatip schools these days,  but in case anyone wondered what was taught in the fifties here's an interesting breakdown. For more information check out this fascinating article from 1955 by Howard Reed 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

2 Views of World War 1

A nice contrast between two great WWI propaganda maps. The first, an American one, shows the "subject peoples" of the Axis powers, for whom Woodrow Wilson sought self determination. The second, a German one, shows the overseas colonies of the Entente powers. To make a long story short, the Entente won, so their enemies' subjects in Eastern Europe, the Balkans and the Middle East were granted independence (well, with the exception of the ones in the Middle East). The subjects of the entente would have to wait until after World War Two.

More on the first map here and the second here.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The Politics of Ottoman History Again

I promised to stop writing about this a long time ago, but who would have thought that the Ottoman language would ever be making headlines. A slightly belated piece on teaching Ottoman from today's Foreign Affairs:

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently declared that, starting immediately, Turkish students would begin studying the Ottoman language in school. Erdogan defended the move by explaining that learning Ottoman, an older version of Turkish written the in Arabic script and used in the Ottoman Empire up into the early twentieth century, would help citizens “reconnect with their past.” But Erdogan’s critics condemned his decision as yet another heavy-handed attempt to promote a conservative version of Ottoman nostalgia, akin to his efforts to build a replica Ottoman barracks in the center of downtown Istanbul and a replica Ottoman mosque on the city’s highest hill.

For anyone who has ever struggled to learn the notoriously difficult Ottoman language—sometimes described as a practical joke played on historians—forcing it on a generation of schoolchildren might seem like the quickest way for Erdogan to destroy his popularity (and the Ottoman Empire’s as well). 

In fact, wrestling with Ottoman texts could give students a newfound appreciation for modern Turkey’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who transformed the Turkish language by adopting the Latin script in 1928. More seriously, if even a tiny percentage of students do manage to learn more than just enough to pass their tests or sound out inscriptions on old tombstones, they could present a major threat to Erdogan’s carefully cultivated version of a pious Ottoman past. Last year Erdogan famously lashed out at the directors of a popular soap opera for suggesting that Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent spent more time in the bedroom than on horseback. Who knows what he would he do if young students could suddenly read the wealth of homoerotic poetry composed in the Ottoman centuries.

Among the many reforms through which Ataturk distanced his new republic from its Ottoman past, the linguistic transformation was one of the most dramatic. Within three months in 1928, Turkish citizens went from writing their language in the Arabic script to the Latin script. Alongside a sweeping shift in vocabulary –  new replacements appeared for even some of the most common words, for example “school,” “north,” “south,” and even the phrase “for example,” – the alphabet change eventually rendered anything written before 1928 completely illegible to the vast majority of modern Turkish citizens.

There was, admittedly, a real mismatch between Turkish sounds and Arabic letters, though by 1928 they had been successfully used to write Turkish for a millennium or so. Ottoman script included a few characters Arabic didn’t—an extra two dots to distinguish “p” from “b” for example— but Arabic’s dearth of vowels was poorly suited for the vowel-heavy Turkish. As with English, jarring inconsistencies between spelling and pronunciation mounted with time: the Turkish word for “later,” now straightforwardly written and pronounced as “sonra,” was tortuously rendered in characters akin to s-u/v-k-r-h in the Ottoman script. A modified Arabic script could have solved these problems; indeed, Ottoman reformers had already made proposals to this effect in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. But Ataturk wanted to bring the Turks closer to the West, and so he chose the Latin script and severed Turkey from its past.

In addition to the switch in alphabets, the transition from Ottoman to Modern Turkish also entailed replacing words of Arabic and Persian origin with authentically “Turkish” alternatives (as well as words from French, the modern European language par excellence at that time),. Some replacements were found in the everyday speech of rural Anatolian villagers or the Turkic peoples of Central Asia, both of which were assumed to have preserved an untainted original Turkish. Others were simply invented by a special committee, then inserted in classrooms and dictionaries where some stuck and some didn’t.

At best, in its early stages, this effort rendered an elite written language comprehensible to the masses—the equivalent, perhaps, of replacing Latinate legalese like “sine qua non” with a plain English term like “necessary.” A decade later, though, the reforms themselves became an ideologically driven barrier to understanding, as perfectly commonplace words were replaced with new artificial-sounding creations. Imagine the government mandating that all “Exit” signs instead read “Goplace.” Eventually the effort was abandoned, while people satirized its absurdities by imagining fake new words like “oturaklı götürgeç, or “sitting-place-having bringing-thing” for “bus.”

Historians have increasingly criticized Ataturk for his revolutionary zeal and the authoritarian nature of his reforms. Many have plausibly claimed that his insistence on fitting a diverse society into the straightjacket of modern secular nationalism led successive governments to respond brutally when citizens wanted to keep speaking Kurdish or wearing headscarves.  But as Antoine de Saint-Exupery hints in the Little Prince, fault also lay with the Europeans, whose prejudices led them to see these reforms as necessary and take Turks in top hats, say, more seriously than Turks in fezzes.

Likewise, although there is no denying the radical transformation that Ataturk brought to his country’s language, or the speed with which he did so, the break was not as sudden as many now assume. In the early 1900s, the vast majority of Turkish citizens couldn’t read or write in any script, and among the elite that could, many were already familiar with Latin letters from studying French. And what’s more, for decades following 1928, many Turks—and, according to rumors, even Ataturk himself—continued to keep diaries, write to friends, and jot down shopping lists in the Arabic script they first learned in school. In a sense, Ataturk’s language revolution was only fully realized in the 70s when the first generation of adults came of age without any knowledge of Ottoman. 

Friday, January 2, 2015

Looking for Islamic Luthers

An early Protestant representation of Church-State relations
between the Pope and Holy Roman Emperor
Last week, in his annual Christmas address, Pope Francis prayed for victims of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. His prayers for both Christian and Muslim victims of the jihadis’ violence were a fitting tribute to one of the most dismal aspects of 2014. But the pope’s words also offered a striking contrast between the manifest humility of the Vatican — back on the good side of what seems like a decades long good-pope/bad-pope routine — and the savagery of a newly declared caliphate.
This contrast led some observers (like, say, Bill Maher) to declare we should stop being so politically correct and state the obvious: Islam remains stuck in the Middle Ages. And even those who found this particular formulation too crude were still struck trying to explain why it seems that so many Western countries have figured out how to separate Church and State, while Muslim countries from Saudi Arabia to Egypt to Turkey continue to struggle.
One of the most enduring explanations is that the Islamic world really needs its own Reformation — a Muslim Martin Luther to bring the religion of Mohammed into modernity. It’s an argument that Thomas Friedman and various others have been making for over a decade. In the last year aloneFetullah Gulen and Abdel Fattah el-Sisi were added to the short list of potential Martin Luthers. Many analysts and critics of Islam seem committed to the idea that, be it a reclusive Turkish preacher or a authoritarian Egyptian general, there must be someone out there who can straighten out the confusion over church and state in in the Muslim world and finally help Islam make the jump from totalitarian fundamentalism to enlightened, liberal religion, from Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi to Pope Francis. 
But before Western observers start applying lessons from European history to the Muslim world, a little self-reflection is in order. Wasn’t the Reformation an attack on the Catholic Church? Didn’t Martin Luther, the man who began it, once write a book called Against the Roman Papacy: An Institution of the Devil? Indeed, every time a Western writer identifies an Islamic Martin Luther, it highlights an unresolved question about Western society itself: Is today’s modern Christian world a triumph of Protestantism over the pope or a reflection of Christianity’s more secular essence, inherent in Protestantism and Catholicism alike?
For the rest of my belated and not all that original take on this issue check out the full article at Foreign Policy: