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Turkey: Television Drama Generates Official Angst

A soap opera or Turkey's true history? (Film Still: Muhteşem Yüzyıl/The Magnificent Century)

In most countries, it’s unusual for the looming death of a television character to become a source of official anxiety. In Turkey, however, a hit television series chronicling the 16th century reign of Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent has riled officials, who are looking to that era to help shape their own conservative message.

For decades, Turkey’s Ottoman heritage was downplayed by a secular governing elite that wanted to make a definitive break from the country’s Islamic, eastern-oriented past. Now, with the country’s star rising internationally, stories that lavishly recall a grand imperial past dovetail well with modern Turkey’s greater self-confidence.

But not all of these tales necessarily reflect the image of the country that the government wishes to project.

The television drama Muhteşem Yüzyıl (The Magnificent Century) offers a case in point. The sweeping historical saga has already enthralled legions of Turkish viewers for two years. But now the story is reaching an especially riveting point, the pending execution of Ibrahim Pasha, the sultan’s grand vizier.

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Alexander Christie-Miller is a freelance reporter based in Istanbul.

Turkey: Television Drama Generates Official Angst

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