Use of Folklore in the Promotion of Turkey in the Republican Period (1920-1960)


MILLI FOLKLOR, vol.17, no.129, pp.149-161, 2021 (AHCI) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 17 Issue: 129
  • Publication Date: 2021
  • Journal Name: MILLI FOLKLOR
  • Journal Indexes: Arts and Humanities Citation Index (AHCI), Scopus, Academic Search Premier, International Bibliography of Social Sciences, Linguistics & Language Behavior Abstracts, MLA - Modern Language Association Database, TR DİZİN (ULAKBİM)
  • Page Numbers: pp.149-161
  • Keywords: Exhibition, Festival, Folklore, Promotion, Turkish culture
  • Yozgat Bozok University Affiliated: Yes


The aim of an event that takes the form of an exhibition, festival or national day is typically for the promotion or commercial utilization of a product or culture. In these exhibitions and festivals, the first of which was held in London in 1851 and later in major European capitals such as Vienna and Paris, each country favored exhibiting its own cultural elements as well as symbolic products showing their economic development and industrial achievements. The Ottoman State participated in these events for the commercial promotion of its raw materials as well as for diplomatic gain. From 1925 onwards, the Republic of Turkey set equal store by these events. While, on the one hand, Turkey's participation in exhibitions and festivals was gauged within the framework of economic marketing and tourism activities by the state bureaucracy, on the other, it became a way of promoting a western Turkey as opposed to the orientalist perspective of the country still prevalent in Europe. In this context, participation from the arts, music, the economy and other activities was used as a way to spotlight "Modern Turkey." However, research on this subject indicates that such activities focused solely on trade and tourism, and for this reason, the cultural elements of these exhibitions were chosen to be used for touristic promotion. Nevertheless, the fact that the cultural elements used in the organizations were also used as a way to exhibit the ancient cultures of the countries, was overlooked. This article examines the promotional activities carried out over three periods, as those of Ataturk, Inonu and Menderes. It seeks to understand which point of view was preferred in the selection of the cultural elements used in exhibitions and "Turkish Week" events, and what message they wanted to convey with the cultural elements they chose. Likewise, the study discusses the economic, touristic and ideological importance of the events, during each of the three periods. These activities, which caused institutional and conceptual turmoil in these three periods, as they were carried out emotionally and intuitively in the Ministries of Economy, National Education and Tourism, became the state policy through institutionalization with the transformation of the General Directorate of Cultural Affairs, which was under the Ministry of Tourism until 1971, into the Ministry of Culture. As a result, in the days of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, Ismet Inonu and Adnan Menderes it can be seen that the representational purposes of the cultural elements that formed part of the international exhibitions, festivals and events that were called the "Turkish Week," were used in different contexts. During the Ataturk period, there was an emphasis on western civilization through the modernization of products. During the time of Inonu, the aim was to draw attention to the richness of Turkish culture based on its past and the intercultural unity of Anatolia; while, during the Menderes period, teams of folk dancers from every region began to participate in events that emphasized Anatolia's cultural diversity. It can be seen that since the founding of the republic, by avoiding agricultural and industrial products as well as ideological approaches, the cultural elements on which these exhibitions and festivals have focused are items with heavy cultural symbolism, such as handicrafts and woven products, and traditional Turkish folk theater, such as the depiction of Karagoz.