|Is||Historian Art historian Military historian Educator|
|Field||Arts Academia Military Social science|
|Birth||21 May 1947, Bregenz|
İlber Ortaylı (born 21 May 1947) is a Turkish historian and professor of history at the Galatasaray University in Istanbul and at Bilkent University in Ankara. In 2005, he was appointed as the director of the Topkapı Museum in Istanbul, until he retired in 2012.
Family and personal life
As a descendant of a Crimean Tatar Mirza nobility from his mother, İlber Ortaylı's family fled Joseph Stalin's persecution and deportation, and was born in Bregenz, Austria in a refugee camp on 21 May 1947. He came to Turkey when he was 2 years old.
İlber Ortayli is heir to a bilingual Turkish family so that he obtained German from his father and Russian from his mother. As a polyglot historian he has enough competency in Italian, English, French, Persian and also in Ottoman Turkish and Latin in order to fluently employ or maintain historical research with historical documents in the archives. His published articles are mainly in Turkish, German and French and various of them are translated in English.
During his studies in Turkey, he also worked as a travel guide which according to him improved his approach to the history: cultivating his apprehension in practice and gave him an opportunity "to give lecture on history" to different groups of people from different backgrounds. He gives credit to his experiences as travel guide for writing "popular history" books and essays.
He made acquaintance with intellectuals both from Turkey and from other countries. Notable are Halil İnalcık, Murat Bardakçı, Irene Melikoff, Bernard Lewis, Andreas Tietze.
A biographical book Zaman Kaybolmaz: İlber Ortaylı Kitabı (Time doesn't go wasted: A book of İlber Ortaylı), long journalistic conversation with Nilgün Uysal: including passages from his childhood; student years in Ankara, Vienna and Chicago; his recent reflections on near history events and also anecdotes from the years he was working as a travel guide all over Turkey is published in 2006.
Ortaylı started elementary school at St. George's Austrian High School in İstanbul and then moved to Ankara Atatürk High School. He studied Public policy at Ankara University Mekteb-i Mülkiye (Faculty of Political Science) and then went to Vienna and attended University of Vienna. There he studied both Slawistik and Orientalistik and worked with Andreas Tietze. For his postgraduate studies, he went to Chicago and made his master's degree under the supervision of professor Halil İnalcık at the University of Chicago. He obtained his doctorate at Ankara University in the Faculty of Political Sciences. His doctoral thesis was Local Administration in the Tanzimat Period (1978). After his doctorate, he attended to the faculty at the School of Political Sciences of Ankara University. In 1979, he was appointed as associate professor. In 1982, he resigned from his position, protesting the academic policy of the government established after the 1980 Turkish coup d'état. After teaching at several universities in Turkey, Europe and Russia, in 1989 he returned to Ankara University and became professor of history and the head of the section of administrative history.
Criticism on Turkish intellectual and political figures
Among his interviews on TV, newspapers; Ortaylı’s critical discourse on Turkish intellectual and political figures became emblematically popular among public even as entertaining internet meme shared on social media such as humiliating notes written under his photograph as depiction of a superiour personality reacting to the ignorant others.
But his criticisms shouldn’t be confused with anti-intellectualism. Yet criticism of Turkish intellectuals is an old and an ongoing debate in Turkey and İlber Ortaylı may be put separate from other figures of Turkish media those who shape the public opinion as journalist commentators. He is one of very few to bring historical context -in respect to every subject in its own variety- to debates on contemporary social issues and debates so that his thoughts and opinions bring attention and his knowledge is praised widely among public.
Ortaylı's published articles as diplomatic, cultural and intellectual history are briefly on:
- Ottoman History
- Russian history (e.g. "Romanovs and Constantinople" and "19th century Russian Empire")
- Ottoman-Habsburg Relations
- German Influence in the 19th century Ottoman Empire (as his masters degree thesis)
- Travel writing In the Ottoman Empire
- History of Turkish Drama
And also urban history like "Latins of the Pera district of the Constantinople" for Istanbul and various historical cities which were once under the Ottoman influence; history of provincial administration focusing on the transformation of institutions in the Ottoman Empire from the beginning to the 19th century.
In 2001, he received the Aydın Doğan Foundation Award for his work "Family in the Ottoman History".
In 2007, Medal of Pushkin given to him for his "great contribution to the spread and study of the Russian language, the preservation of cultural heritage and the rapprochement and mutual enrichment of different nations’ and people's cultures" under a decree signed by Vladimir Putin and announced officially by the Kremlin, the ceremony took place at the Russian Consulate in Istanbul.
In 2011, he was chosen as honorary member to the Macedonian Academy of Sciences and Arts.
He is a member of the Foundation for International Studies, the Societas Iranologica Europeae and the Austrian-Turkish Academy of Sciences, Tarih vakfı (Economical and Social History Institute of Turkey)
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