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Theaters / Cinemas / Cultural clubs    EN

Theaters’ history
Cinemas’ history
Cultural clubs’ history

The first Turkish play was written in 1860 and in the same year an important stage, Gedikpaşa Theatre, opened. Still, as the theatre became a medium of political opposition too, censorship started. The theatre became popular as entertainment and as a kind of a stage show with songs and dances, and groups toured around the country under the name ‘kumpanya’ (‘company’).

Armenians played an important role in the Turkish theatre and Güllü Agop was an exclusive licensee for ten years. One of the most important figures of the Ottoman theatre, Tomas Fasulyeciyan (1843-1903), came to Trabzon on his way to his Caucasus tour of 1862 and stayed in Trabzon in 1863. According to his letter, dated 26 November 1863, there was a Lusinyan Theatre in the city. [1] He set up a Youth Theatre with the help of the Armenian church authorities and performed with the youngsters. In one of the plays, he played the part of Arshak II, the Armenian king. The nationalist show disturbed the governor and the local authorities and Fasulyeciyan left for Tbilisi. [2]

Some twenty five years later, Fasulyeciyan returned to Trabzon and invited Ahmet Fehim Bey (1856-1930), one of the pioneers of the theatre, to perform together with him (Ahmet Fehim is mistaken to write that this was the first time that a play was staged in Trabzon). This time, they had the help of the Trabzon governor, Ali Bey, who was a playwriter himself. However an amateur, Şevki Bey, commander of the Trabzon gendarme, was of much more help, as the troupe played his work and the commander sold the tickets himself. [3]

The Trabzon governor Ali Bey served the city between March 12, 1890 and April 20, 1892. He was a man of letters - a playwriter, who instigated possibly by Ahmet Fehim and his friends, wrote a play on Joseph the prophet and had a visiting acrobat troupe perform it. Following an investigation, Ali Bey was dismissed from his post and he was also refused permission to publish his work and one of his translations. [4]

As a matter of fact, Ali Bey’s translation of the three-act comedy Gavo Minar ve Şürekası was published in Trabzon in 1891. The interest in the theatre continued with the book by the French playwriter Labiche Eugéne, Müsaade Ediniz Madam, translated by Hacı Ali Hafızzâde M. Celaleddin (Trabzon Province Printing House, Trabzon, 1897). There is another book (play) translated from the French language by Celaleddin, called Müdahhak, which got printing permission from the government a year later. [5] We do not know if such a book exists and it is not certain if the two are actually the same.

We have no knowledge of a permanent theatre in Trabzon but it is interesting that in 1890 the Batum State Theatre got in contact with the theatre in Trabzon and the report of its director lies in the Batum archive [6]

The visiting theatre troupes and the plays acted by the school students were contantly persecuted. In 1894, the Armenian Mikailyan Jozef Efendi, a French teacher and a member of the censorship commission, was dissmissed from both posts after the plays performed in the Armenian schools that he oversaw were found to be ‘harmful’. [7] So in 1900 there was an order issued that no play, charity ball or lottery in the non-muslim schools would be approved without the consent of the Ministry of Education. [8]

It was not only non-muslim plays that the government banned; as we learn from another archive document, the famous actor Küçük İsmail (1854-1931) visited Trabzon in 1901 and out of his 28 plays planned,, only one was permitted. [9] For fourteen years he was working in İstanbul in the winters and in Trabzon in the summers. [10]

The theatre was not considered to be a state affair, so there wasn’t any official theatre department in the Ottoman era. In the Trabzon Vilayet Salnames, in 1904 we find in the “Direction for the Donation of Money for The Hedjaz Railway”, that 20 paras were to be donated from each theatre ticket. [11]

In the whole Trabzon Province, the only theatre house was in Bafra. [12] Pavlidi, the daughter of the mayor of Giresun Kapudan Yorgi Kostantinidis Paşa, owned and ran the theatre.

After the 1908 Revolution, the proclamation of the Constitution not only lifted the prohibitions on the plays and the related material, but also with the establishment of the freedom of the press, one can find news about the plays. There was an eagerness to bring everything out in the open, in the public sphere and in politics. So Namık Kemal’s famous play “Vatan Yahut Silistre” was performed many a times in Trabzon, as in other cities too. After the play’s first presentation by young people under the guidance of the Committee of Union and Progress Trabzon branch on November the 1st, 1908, the following day the Ottoman Dram Theatre played “Hicran-ı Ebedi” in Tuzluçeşme. On November 6 ,“Çoban Kızı” was performed. [13] Though not as vigorous as in the first months of the Revolution, the theatre plays carried on steadily. The plays were performed in Tuzluçeşme in an open air theatre operated by Kostaki.

One of the novelties of 1908 was the cinema. We know from the press that the first time a film screening took place, in open air, it was about the victory of Japan against Russia in the 1905 war.

We don’t know anything about the ‘Ottoman Cinematography Society’ mentioned in an archive document in 1911. 14] A regulation about the location sites of both theatres and cinemas (called ‘lubiyyat’ back then) was sent to the Trabzon government in 1916. [15]

The gorgeous Art Nouveau opera/theatre house was built in 1912. It was turned into the Turan Sineması in 1927 (the names changing in time, i.e. Yıldız, Sümer) until 1958 when it was demolished to make way for the new road.


[1] Both Bijişkyan who came to initially found the Catholic Armenian school in 1817 and the actual founder Minasyan in 1846 were famous playwriters. Their students played not only for the Armenian community in the 1850’s, but also in Turkish with the attendance of the local authorities and the consuls.

[2] And: 1999, p. 244-245.

[3] Ahmet Fehim: 1977, p. 37-40.

[4] “Trabzon’da valinin de hazır olduğu bir tiyatro oyununda Hazret-i Yusuf'un kıssasının sahnelenmesi olayıyla ilgili olarak, tahkikat yapılması”, BOA.İ.DH.1295.102470: 14/N/1309 (12 April 1892); “Yusuf aleyhisselamın kıssasının tiyatroda sahneye konduğu, Trabzon Valisi Ali Bey’in yerine Maliye Nezareti müsteşarı Kadri Bey’in tayin edilmesi”, BOA. Y..PRK.BŞK.25.108: 20/N/1309 (18 April 1892); “Trabzon Valisi Ali Bey’in tercüme ettiği ve tabına ruhsat verilmiş olan tiyatro eserinin yayınlanmasına vilayetçe müsaade edilmemesi”, BOA.MF.MKT.140.77: 26/L/1309 (24 May 1892); “Eski Trabzon Valisi Ali Beyefendi’nin yazdığı tiyatro eserinin yayınlanmasının uygun bulunmadığı”, BOA.MF.MKT.141.11: 27/L/1309 (25 May 1892).

[5] “Celaleddin Efendi’nin Fransızcadan tercüme etmiş olduğu Müdahhak tiyatro risalesine ruhsatname verildiğinin Trabzon Maarif Müdürlüğü’ne bildirildiği”, BOA.MF.MKT.396.12: 3/M/1316 (24 May 1898).

[6] “Batum Çavçavadze Dramatik Devlet Tiyatrosu ile Trabzon Tiyatrosu’nun ilişkileri ve Batum Tiyatro yöneticisinin Türkiye gözlemleri” (Batum Archive; no: 357-1-311; Russian, Georgian), BOA.YB.(21).9.21. 1890.

[7] “Trabzon Ermeni mektepleri yararına oynatılan ve zararlı olan Ermenice piyesleri muayene eden Muayene-i Kitap Komisyonu azasından Mikailyan Jozef Efendi’nin bu azalıktan ve Mekteb-i İdadi Fransızca Muallimliği’nden azledilmesi”, BOA.MF.MKT.205.26: 29/L/1311 (5 May 1894).

[8] “Trabzon Valiliğince mekatib-i gayr-i müslime yararına düzenlenecek balo, tiyatro ve piyangoya Maarif Nezareti’ne sormadan ruhsat verilmemesi”, BOA.DH.MKT.2328.66: 4/Z/1317 (5 April 1900).

[9] In Demircioğlu: 2008, p. 27.

[10] Famous Abdülhamid censorship is documented in Trabzon by the orders to confiscate the theatre facsimiles and ban the plays: “Tiyatro aktörlerinin eşyaları arasında zuhur edip, Trabzon Rüsumat Müdüriyeti’nden gönderilen piyeslerin muhtevaları zararlı görüldüğünden, matbuat idaresince el konulduğu”, BOA.DH.MKT.694.47: 28/M/1321 (26 April 1903); Tiyatro kumpanyası tarafından verilen senede ve beyan olunan mahzura nazaran tiyatro oyununa ruhsat verilmediği. (Trabzon; 219958), BOA.BEO.2947.221025: 7/L/1324 (24 November 1906).

[11]Trabzon Vilayet Salnamesi, 1322/1904, V. 22, p. 50.

[12]Trabzon Vilayet Salnamesi, 1322/1904, V. 22, p. 163.

[13]Feyz, 2 Teşrin-i sani 1908; 6 Teşrin-i sani 1908; cited in Zengin: 2009, p. 33.

[14] “Trabzon’da teşkil olunan Osmanlı Sinematograf Müessesesi hakkında verilecek kararın tesrii”, BOA.ŞD.31.18.8/C/1329 (6 June 1911).

[15] “Trabzon’a gönderilen tiyatro vs. lubiyat mahallerinin açılmasına dair nizamnameye lüzumlu görülen tadilat yapılıp iade edildiği”, BOA.DH.EUM.MEM.73.1. 16/Ra/1334 (22 January 1916).


Başbakanlık Osmanlı Arşivi – Merkez Teşkilatı Mektubi Kalemi; Dahiliye Nezareti Mektubi Kalemi; Bab-ı Ali Evrak Odası; İrade Dahiliye; Yıldız Perakende Mabeyn Başkitabeti; Yabancı Arşivler

Ahmet Fehim Bey; Ahmet Fehim Bey’in Hatıraları, Hafi Kadri Alpman, Tercüman Y., İstanbul, 1977.

And, Metin; Osmanlı Tiyatrosu, Dost Y., Ankara, 1999.

Demircioğlu, Sezgin; Osmanlı Belgelerinde Trabzon, Trabzon Belediyesi Kültür Y., Trabzon, 2008.

Trabzon Vilayeti; Trabzon Vilayet Salnamesi, 1322 (1904), V. 22, Kudret Emiroğlu, Trabzon İli ve İlçeleri Eğitim, Kültür ve Sosyal Yardımlaşma Vakfı, Ankara, 2009.

Zengin, Necati; Osmanlı’dan Günümüze Trabzon’da Tiyatro, Trabzon Sanat Tiyatrosu Y., Trabzon, 2009.