Greeks Tune in Turkish TV, Despite Critics

The Turkish television series The Magnificent Century depicts the life of Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, and is popular in Greece. (Reuters)

Greeks have been enthralled by Turkish TV series, The Magnificent Century in recent months. The series is comprised of historical recreations of 16th-century Sultan Suleiman’s life and slick soap opera-like tales of intrigue and family drama, prompting alarmed nationalists to issue warnings that fans should stop watching.

Greek viewers said they love the vicarious thrill of seeing how rich Turks live, and the shows make Istanbul seem an irresistible place to visit, while others relate to the problems of ordinary Turks.

“The plots are very intricate and there is a lot of tears and drama, and there are shootings too,” Antonia Thoma, 84, told Southeast European Times. “The direction and casts are better than Greek TV,” Regina Antoniadou, 51, a language tutor, told SETimes. “They present the beauty of their country and it makes you want to go there.”

Greek fans of Turkish actor Burak Hakki, who plays Dudaktan Kalbe in the series, created a fan club with 4,500 members. One hundred lucky fans were chosen to travel with Hakki on a mini-cruise on the Bosphorus. Hakki said he so appreciated the admiration of his Greek fans he decided to visit the country to express his gratitude.

The series has become so popular that nationalist Thessaloniki Bishop Anthimos and the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party have both condemned the show and urged Greeks not to watch. “No one should watch Muhtesem Yuzyil, The Magnificent Century,” Anthimos said. “By watching the Turkish series we are telling them we have surrendered.”

But the attempt at prohibition has fallen on deaf ears as the glitzy tales of forbidden love, adultery, clan loyalties and betrayal have become a comfort for recession-hit Greeks. The Turkish shows’ prevalence is also a matter of economics as Greek television stations find it less expensive to buy them than to produce their own.

“I hope the Greek people and administration are not affected by such discriminatory views,” Tamer Kasim, Deputy Chairman of the Ankara-based International Strategic Research Organisation (USAK,) told SETimes. Kasim said encouraging people in both countries to watch the shows could foster cultural interaction between the two countries.

In addition to the fan clubs on Facebook, Greek viewers are using Turkish words on their accounts and magazines have begun offering CDs for intensive Turkish language lessons. The critics are missing the point, according to Dimitrios Triantaphyllou, an Associate Professor of international relations at Kadir Has University in Istanbul. “This siege mentality has had an impact on one’s outlook toward the rest of the world, so it is also ‘anti-anything not Greek’,” Triantaphyllou told SETimes.

Other Turkish shows such as Ezel, Ask ve Ceza  and Ask-I Memnu show panoramic shots of Istanbul, alluring to potential visitors. “Ezel and the other series portray a lost dimension of Greek society that has been buried in recent years. It awakens in today’s Greek a lost identity,” Nikos Heiladakis, a novelist, said.

The TV series have shown that despite the Greek nationalists’ grudge over the 400-year-long Ottoman rule that ended almost two centuries ago, Greeks and Turks have many cultural similarities. Kleon Antoniou, a guitarist with the Greek music group Mode Plagal, which has worked with the Turkish group Orchestra Bosphurus, said cultural exchanges break down prejudices. “A lot of music today in Greece we took from Asia Minor. We communicate with our colleagues in Turkey and are close to them,” Antoniou told SETimes.

Many doubt the critics will stop the cultural phenomenon and keep Greek fans from watching the Turkish shows, especially by using shaming language.  “I do not see it as unpatriotic, and I am the daughter of a priest,” Thoma said.

(By Andy Dabilis and Erisa Dautaj for Southeast European Times,, in Athens and Istanbul. Reprinted by permission)


  1. I believe SETimes occasionally has Andy write articles for it but I’m hoping Andy doesn’t put his personal career ahead of his country’s interests.

    Setimes is clearly biased against greeks. It is paid for by US miliary. To give substance to my claim of biase… for years it has dishonestly pretended not to notice FYROM’s sudden shift into “ancient Macedonians” and irredentist rhetoric against Greece.  It also constantly gives FYROM nationalist extremists a podium to push their “macedonia” gibberish.

    I could understand if it at least provided Greeks an outlet in equal measure but in practice there are virtually no articles addressing on Greek concerns over FYROM irredentism and attempts to usurp our identity. Much like Ostrich they bury their head in the ground and pretend not to notice. (not to mention dishonestly evade mentioning to their readers even the US government used to say there is no such thing as an “ethnic Macedonian”)

    The American people would not tolerate funding if was a podium for Mexican nationalists trying to usurp identity of americans and suppporting 1/3 of the US being annexed to Mexico.

  2. Its nice that some  want to be comrades with Turks. However doing so at inappropriate moments like some leftists do is utterly irrational. Cozying up too much with the current Turkish government,,,,that is actively lobbying behind against Greeks on FYROM issue.,,, is plain bizarre. This is effectively trying to be “friends’ with a government trying to ethnically erase us. 

    Andy these last few articles sound like they were written by the cowards in Syrzia not you. Please get back to writing articles that deal with reality not fantasy far leftust narratives of friendship with a country who’s current administration currently claims to be friendly publicly but in practice takes actions that are extremely hostile towards Greece. Friends don’t collude with those trying to commit genocide against friends.

    “Turkey is the first country to recognise the Republic of Macedonia’s
    constitutional name and its national identity. It sees Macedonia as a
    close friend, partner and credible collaborator in the Balkans. In this
    respect, Turkey was the first country to open an embassy in Skopje. The
    right of the Republic of Macedonia to determine its constitutional name
    should be respected,” Davutoglu says.”

  3. ““Ezel and the other series portray a lost dimension of Greek society
    that has been buried in recent years. It awakens in today’s Greek a lost
    identity,” Nikos Heiladakis, a novelist, said.”

    How are we supposed to protect our country when alleged Greek leftist are trying to argue we are actually Turks? Biizarre

    This commissioned article is clearly geared towards trying to erase our Greek identity (presumably to justify US betrayal on FYROM issue). Every point is an attack against Greek identity. Pardon. Since when did being Greek become a crime? ts precisely loonie left articles like this,,,commissioned by a foreign military funded organization…. that are driving Greeks in droves to the right.

    Andy please don’t put your wallet ahead of our country. is a front for US interests not  It is an extremely anti-Greek organization. (as this article that attemps to rewrite our identity further illustrates)

  4. Its pathetic how anti-Greek trollers at manipulatively keep trying to undermine Greek identity. I mean stooping to using a crappy TV show as state propaganda?. Its selective sourcing of opinions here is clearly is intended for Greeks to give up their Greek identity.

    I have to wonder how much money the US military (that owes pays writers of these articles? Too many of them, and its starts to smell like treason and corruption.

  5. It is highly inappropriate for someone in Greek media to accept payment to write articles for media owned by foreign military organizations. (especially if they have anti-Greek agenda like Perhaps we could take more seriously if they mentioned “minor” details like this in their alleged reporting.

    “This (US)
    Government considers talk of Macedonian “nation”, Macedonian
    “Fatherland”, or Macedonia “national consciousness” to be
    unjustified demagoguery representing no ethnic nor political reality, and sees
    in its present revival a possible cloak for aggressive intentions against
    Greece” – US State Department Dec, 1944 (Foreign Relations Vol. VIII
    Washington D.C. Circular Airgram – 868.014/26)

  6. “The Southeast European Times is sponsored by the US European
    Command, the joint military command responsible for US
    operations in 52 countries. EUCOM is committed to promoting stability, co-operation and prosperity in the region.”

    In other words… manipulative pricks trying to avoid conflict between Greece and FYROM at all costs to hide their shame for supporting them. They are perfectly willing to sacrifice the Greek people to hide their betrayal. (Chamberlain comes to mind)

    Shame on America for funding this offensive anti-Greek agenda. These sorts of political manipulations remind me of when US government funded CIA overthrow of Greek government. Unless is going to start writing about FYROM’s irredentism and attempts to usurp out identity (defending Nato member Greece rather than undermining it like communists once did), I think any Greeks that deal with it should stop accepting any money and having any association with it.

  7. The endeavour to end Greekness and the pride of being a Greek continues.

    We smarten up against our enemies.

  8. This kind of culture exchange can help erase our old war minds that helped create the current society. As a Turk, I hope to see Greek shows in Turkey, this kind of dialogue is important to move forward to a better world. When one thinks about a country, they should not limit this to its government. We Turks don’t always agree with our government, in fact I would be here all day if I started but you will find that as a society, we are warm blooded, friendly and generous people, just like our neighbor. Peace