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Şinasi, İbrahim (5 August 1826 – 13 September 1871), Turkish journalist. Şinasi is one of the more enigmatic figures of Turkish intellectual history. Despite his role as the founding father of modern Turkish journalism and his basic contributions to the rise of a Turkish critique of society, information about his life is insufficient to paint a portrait of him as an intellectual.

Şinasi began his career in government during the first years of the Tanzimat, the era of reforms and modernization initiated by the Giilhane Rescript of 1839. Encouraged by a patron of modernization in the Ottoman Empire, he was sent as a government-funded student to Europe in 1849. He remained in France until 1853 and is known to have been acquainted with such personalities as Alphonse de Lamartine. After his return he was appointed to the Educational Committee, which was engaged in redrawing Ottoman educational institutions.

Although quite cautious in his intellectual stance, he seems to have antagonized higher officials and was dismissed. Reinstated and dismissed once more in 1863, he eventually went into self-exile in Paris, where he devoted himself to the study of literature and linguistics. He returned permanently to Istanbul in 1870, where he lived as a recluse in some financial need.

Şinasi’s major contribution to Ottoman/Turkish intellectual life was the Journal Tasvir-i efkdr (Interpreter of Ideas, founded in 1862). This was not the first newspaper in the Ottoman Empire; an Englishman named Churchill had published an earlier gazette, and in 1861 Sinasi and his friend Agah Efendi had jointly published the Terceiiman-i ahval (Interpreter of Events); however, Tasvir-i efkdr was the first newspaper that (though careful in its approach) expressed a critique of the state of Ottoman government and society in the modern media. Şinasi’s second dismissal from his employment in the central government was due to his timid libertarianism: “mentioning matters of state too often” was the cause of his downfall. An article by Şinasi explaining the principle of “no taxation without representation” appeared in the Tasvir-i efkdr the day before the order for his dismissal was drafted and may have been the proximate cause of it.

Şinasi is unanimously considered by historians of Turkish intellectual history to be the first advocate of “europeanization” in the Ottoman Empire, a somewhat different project than that of “modernization” voiced before him. His impact, however, stems from his development of a medium that expressed private views about the state of the empire. Until Şinasi and his use of journalism as a medium for influencing-and, in a way, creating-public opinion, schemes of modernization had been the result of official concern with reform. Şinasi represents a new trend in which government officials concerned with the fate of the empire began to form an intelligentsia often contradicting positions adopted by their superiors. In that sense, he may be seen as having laid the groundwork for the Young Ottomans.

Another of Şinasi’s important contributions may be described as “encyclopedism,” or the attempt to inform his readers of the new methods and the new branches of knowledge that flourished in Europe in his time. Natural law, the historical method, the history of pre Ottoman Turkey, and Buffon’s Histoire naturelle were some of the ideas that he took up in the pages of Tasvir-i efkdr. In one of his most celebrated poems Şinasi praised the author of the Giilhane Rescript, Mustafa ReŞid Pasha (Mustafa Reshid Pasha), for having brought “the European climate of opinion” to Turkey, and for having reminded the ruler of his responsibilities. In another, the achievements of a later grand vizier were compared to those of Plato and Newton.

Şinasi’s mention in the preface of Terciiman-i ahral that he was using a language directed to “the people in general” also represents an important watershed. By the nineteenth century Ottoman Turkish as the language of officials had become a complex and flowery idiom difficult for the majority of the population, who used a vernacular called “rough Turkish.” One of Şinasi’s aims was to transcend officialese; he thus began the trend described by Grand Vizier Said Pasha, himself a writer, as “journalistic Turkish.” This trend was further promoted by the Young Ottomans. The celebrated article by Ziya Pasha, “Siir ve Insa’ ” (Poetry and Prose), is a good example of the further developments that much later, in the 1930s, took a more radical turn toward the “purification” of Turkish by the removal of words with Arabic and Persian roots.


Akyuz, Kenan. “Sinasi’nin Fransadaki Ogrenimi ile ilgili Baz1 Belgeler,” Turk Dili 3 (1954): 379-405.

Dizdaroglu, Hikmet. ~inasi-Hayatt ve Eserleri. Istanbul, 1954.

Iskit, Server N. Tiirkiyede Matbuat Idareleri ve Politikalan. Istanbul,


Rasim, Ahmad. Matbuat Tarihimize Methal. Istanbul, 1927.


Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/sinasi-ibrahim/

  • writerPosted On: August 11, 2017
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