Turkey-Russia: Two Periods of Rapprochement

Salt Galata

March 15 – March 16, 2019

Huseyinbahrialptekin Karadenizharitas 1999 Hüseyin Bahri Alptekin, <i>Karadeniz Haritası</i>, 1999
SALT Araştırma, Hüseyin Bahri Alptekin Arşivi
Hüseyin Bahri Alptekin, Black Sea Map, 1999
SALT Research, Hüseyin Bahri Alptekin Archive
The cooperation between the newly established Republic of Turkey and the USSR at the beginning of the 20th century expanded beyond the political and military affairs. Intense exchanges in the fields of commerce, education, science, sports, and culture were common among the two “non-western” countries in their akin mobilization for modernization and development. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, the cultural intimacy between the countries were manifest in many incidents varying from painter Alexis Gritchenko’s Istanbul visit underlined by his collaboration with painter İbrahim Çallı, and Soviet musicians and ballet dancers’ public performances in the three largest cities in Turkey to actor and director Muhsin Ertuğrul’s inspiration to adapt Soviet practices into the reorganization of the City Theater, Dârülbedâyi, in Istanbul, and artist Abidin Dino’s research visit to the Lenfilm Studios in Leningrad, where he explored film production. The epitome of the ongoing alliance is surely the documentary Ankara: Türkiye’nin Kalbi [Ankara: The Heart of Turkey], commissioned by the Turkish government to the directors Sergei Yutkevich and Lev Arnshtam in 1933.

During and after the Second World War, the two states grew distant in line with their committed positions within the political camps forming across the world. Following the dissolution of the Union, Turkey and the former Soviet republics started to renegotiate new interactions. Proceeding through intense transformations under the impact of globalization and (neo)liberalization, parties involved reformed cultural relations, this time, thanks to the civilian initiatives, which maintained horizontal dialogues based on individual efforts. The resulting collaborations with artists and curators from the former Soviet region were visible in Istanbul Biennials as well as in other international exhibitions.

Organized as part of L’Internationale’s recently announced four-year project Our Many Europes, the conference will elaborate on diverse experiences of modernization and practices in identity building exemplified in the relations of the two countries. The exchanges from the beginning and the end of the 20th century will be detailed through political conditions, local developments, and complex interplays.

Turkey-Russia: Two Periods of Rapprochement will be held in English and Turkish with simultaneous translation to both languages. The program is free and open to all.


15.00 Opening:
Meriç Öner, Director of SALT Research and Programs

15.15 Turkey-Russia Relations in the 20th Century
Moderator: Onur Yıldız
• Faruk Alpkaya, “Eternal Enemy, Forever Ally: Russia”
• Mühdan Sağlam, “The Role of Turkey’s Turkic Countries Policy in Turkey-Russia Relations between 1991-2000”
• Hatice Deniz Yükseker, “Suitcase Trading and Social Relations Between Turkey and Russia in the 1990s”

17.15 The Art of the State: Manifestation of Political Construction
Moderator: Duygu Demir
• Cem Bölüktaş, “The Politics of Culture and Art in Turkey and USSR during the First Half of the 20th Century”
• Zeynep Yasa Yaman, “Relations with the Soviet Union/Russia in the Modernization History of Ottoman Empire/Turkey in the Field of Arts”

18.30-19.00 Coffee break

19.00 The Artist of the New Society: Art and Design Education in Soviets
• Christina Lodder, “The Moscow Vkhutemas: Training Artists for the New Society”


15.00 The Borders of Europe: Constructing “East” and “West” in the 1990s

• Agata Pyzik, “Market as ‘Civilization’: Fake Fashion Brands Sales and Production Between Former Socialist Countries, Poland, and Russia in the 1990s”

16.15-16.45 Coffee break

16.45 Civilian Connections: Contemporary Art in the 1990s
Moderator: Merve Elveren
Speakers: Beral Madra, Luchezar Boyadjiev

18.30 Istanbul Beyond East and West
Speakers: Ali Akay, Vasıf Kortun

Ali Akay is the head of Sociology Department at Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University in Istanbul. Author of multiple articles and books on arts, sociology, and philosophy, he has initiated many exhibitions in and outside Turkey since 1994. Most recently, he curated the section “Can We Really Talk about ‘Asiatic Mediterranean Area’ in Terms of Global Geopolitics and Cosmology?” in the 2018 Kuandu Biennale.

Faruk Alpkaya was a lecturer in the Faculty of Political Sciences at Ankara University between 1996 and 2016. He is the author of Türkiye Cumhuriyeti’nin Kuruluşu (1923-1924) [The Foundation of Republic of Turkey (1923-1924)] (1998) and the co-author of 20. Yüzyıl Dünya ve Türkiye Tarihi [20th Century History of World and Turkey] (2004), as well as the co-editor of 1920’den Günümüze Türkiye’de Toplumsal Yapı ve Değişim [Social Structure and Transformation in Turkey from 1920 to Today] (2012).

Luchezar Boyadjiev is the founding member of the Institute of Contemporary Art in Sofia. Curator of the Pavilion of Bulgaria at the 3rd Istanbul Biennial directed by Vasıf Kortun in 1992, and participating artist at the 4th Istanbul Biennial in 1995, Boyadjiev’s works have been shown in numerous biennials and institutions.

Cem Bölüktaş is a PhD candidate who started his studies at the Philosophy Department at Université Paris 8 Vincennes - Saint-Denis, later to continue at the Department of Art History at Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University in Istanbul. He currently teaches visual culture and design at the Arel and Medipol universities in Istanbul.

Duygu Demir continues her doctoral research on art history at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She worked as a programmer at SALT between the years 2011 and 2014. Recently, she co-edited the book İsmail Saray (SALT, 2018). The exhibitions she curated were hosted by institutions such as SALT (Istanbul and Ankara), Arter (Istanbul), and Tate Modern (London).

Merve Elveren is an independent curator. She worked as a programmer at SALT between 2011 and 2018. She won the Gerrit Lansing Independent Vision Curatorial Award in 2018, and will be curating the Guest Programme of the 39th Eva International in 2020.

Vasıf Kortun is a curator, educator, writer and currently the Chairman of the Foundation for Arts Initiatives. He was the founding director of the SALT Research and Programs between 2011 and 2017. He curated many international biennials and exhibitions including the 3rd Istanbul Biennial(1992) and 9th Istanbul Biennial(2005) (with Charles Esche). His last e-book 20 came out in 2018 from SALT.

Christina Lodder is an Honorary Professor at University of Kent, the president of The Malevich Society and the co-editor of the series Russian History and Culture published by BRILL. She recently edited the book Celebrating Suprematism: New Approaches to the Art of Kazimir Malevich (2018).

Beral Madra is an art critic, writer, and curator. She directed the 1st and 2nd Istanbul Biennials, and curated Turkey based artists’ exhibitions to the 43rd, 45th, 49th, 50th and 51st Venice Biennial. She contributed to the foundation of the Department of Art Management at Yıldız Technical University in Istanbul between the years 2000 and 2004 and lectured at the same program in 2005 and 2006. She also initiated the foundation of the Turkey branch of the International Association of Art Critics (AICA) in 2003.

Agata Pyzik is a Polish researcher, journalist, and cultural critic. She writes for various publications including The Wire, The Guardian, New Statesman, frieze, and New Humanist. Pyzik is also the author of the book Poor But Sexy: Culture Clashes in Europe East and West (2018).

Mühdan Sağlam is a doctoral student in the Department of International Relations at Ankara University. Her research focuses on energy policies, political-economy, relations between the governments and energy companies, and transformation of state in Russia and energy policies, as well as Eurasia. Her book Gazprom’un Rusyası [Gazproms Russia] was published in 2014. She writes regularly for the online newspaper Gazete Duvar.

Zeynep Yasa Yaman is an art historian and a member of the Department of Art History at Hacettepe University in Ankara. She has researched and written extensively on modernism/post-modernism, modern/contemporary art, Ottoman and Turkish modernization, traditional practices in modern art, culture and art policies and women’s issues in Turkish art.

Onur Yıldız is the senior public programmer of SALT. He obtained his Ph.D. on politics from the University of Essex. His research interests include critical theory, democratic politics, populism, and political uses of art.

Hatice Deniz Yükseker is the head of the Department of Political Sciences and International Relations at Istanbul Aydın University. Her doctoral dissertation, completed in the Sociology Department at Binghamton University, was published under the title Laleli-Moskova Mekiği. Kayıtdışı Ticaret ve Cinsiyet İlişkileri [Laleli-Moscow Shuttle. Informal Commerce and Gender Relations] (2003).