Approaching the mysteries of late-nineteenth century Istanbul: the publication of the serial novel ‘Beyoğlu Sırları’ in Karamanlidika Turkish

Authors: Evangelia Balta, Sada Payır

30 APRIL 2020

The publication of the Karamanlidika translation of the novel Τα Απόκρυφα του Πέρα [The Mysteries of Pera] by Epaminondas Kyriakides is part of a Project launched in 2017 by the Ottoman Studies Programme at the National Hellenic Research Foundation. The aim of this Project is to publish an annotated edition of translated Greek novels, which circulated in the Turkish language using Greek characters as serials in Karamanlidika newspapers and periodicals from the second half of the 19th century onwards. The Project attempts to rescue from oblivion unknown Turkish translations of outstanding works in Greek literature and in some cases through these translations to bring into the spotlight completely unknown, neglected and suppressed works or unknown and marginalised Greek authors and translators.

Forgotten, hard to find and unknown to this day, this literary production remains wholly inaccessible and unexploited. They are evidence of a mass production which, from the mid-19th century up to the first decades of the 20th century, supplied that transient world, the world of the daily and periodical press. The aim of drawing up a corpus of this type of Turkish translations of Greek literary works is on the one hand to present the works themselves and their pioneering authors and translators, and secondly to show in quantitative and qualitative terms the transfer of Greek literary production to the Turcophone Rums.

Research into Karamanlidika translations of Greek works goes beyond the form of the book into the terrain of the daily and periodical press, to collect and process unknown and hidden texts in this fragile material. The ultimate aim of this entire procedure is to study these Karamanlidika translations in the light of the cultural transfer between the Greek-speaking and Turkish-speaking Greek world. Because, as we all know, translations are not just a linguistic process but rather created by a historical juncture linked to cultural contexts. Hence the publication of these Karamanlidika translations in separate volumes is always accompanied by an extensive introduction which attempts to raise such issues for discussion. These Karamanlidika translations belong to historical research. They are not evaluated, as some naively attempt to do, by rejecting them on the basis of their dated Turkish language. These translations are a social and cultural phenomenon, witnesses to multiple relationships between cultures, evidence of the ‘construction’ of a language, the Turkish language spoken by the Turcophone Orthodox of the Ottoman Empire. At the same time they constitute evidence of a literature, as in most cases translators intervene in various ways in the source text, thus creating their own literary text for the recipients of this product, the Turkish-speaking Rums.

The release of those unknown Karamanlidika translations of Greek novels, contributes to their integration into the body of Ottoman literary production. Because the Karamanlidika translations of Greek works belong to this body, as do the corresponding translations of 19th-century Western novels, which were released in Arabic script.

Epameinondas Kyriakidis: Beyoğlu Sırları (tefrika roman / 1888-1889), transl. into Karamanlidika Turkish: Evangelinos Misailidis, eds: Evangelia Balta & Sada Payır, Istanbul: İstos Yayınları, 2020

Evangelia Balta is Director of Research at the Institute of Historical Research at the National Hellenic Research Foundation in Athens. She has been a longstanding cooperation partner of the Orient-Institut Istanbul’s research field “Self-Narratives as Sources for the Study of Ottoman History”.

Sada Payır is a Ph.D. student at the Faculty of Oriental Studies at Oxford University. In 2019, she held a scholarship from the Orient-Institut Istanbul in support of her field-research in Turkey.

Citation: Balta, Evangelia; Payır, Sada. “Approaching the mysteries of late-nineteenth century Istanbul: the publication of the serial novel ‘Beyoğlu Sırları’ in Karamanlidika Turkish,” Orient-Institut Istanbul Blog, 30 April 2020,


Istanbul; Ottoman Empire; Islamicate world; 19th century; literature; publication; Karamanlidika; minorities; Greeks