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AKSUN, Ziya Nur

Historian (b. 29 May 1930, Konya). He completed his primary and elementary education in Konya. He graduated from Ankara University, Faculty of Law in 1955. He was known not for his works but his conversations. His deep knowledge of Ottoman and Islam history, his evaluation of daily politic events with a firm background in history and interesting ideas about the Ottoman and Turkish government thinking, influenced young spectators from every level of society who gathered around him. After the death of Dündar Taşer, he collected and published his conversations with Dündar Taşer (1925 – 1972) and Erol Güngör (1938 – 1983) on the matters of country and national thought in his book Dündar Taşer’in Büyük Türkiye’si (The Great Turkey of Dündar Taşer), under the pen name Z.N.

His other major work is İslâm Tarihi (The History of Islam by Ahmet Hilmi, Consul of Plovdiv), which he simplified and added notes and appendices in addition to a biography of the author, which was a work of a great research. This work has yet to be surpassed in its way of dealing with the history of Islam. It is completely different from similar works from the point of view of the method and it perfectly evaluates the impact of the Turks, Seljuk, Ottomans and Mongols on the history of Islam. The Sunnite and Shiite sects, religious and political movements are mentioned with a summary of information and evaluation that act as answers to the questions of the new generation. The work was reprinted many times between 1974 and 1982.

In addition, Ziya Nur Bey has published articles in the review Diriliş with the pen name Z. N. Actually; his greatest work is Osmanlı Tarihi (Ottoman History) with over 3000 pages in draft form. Unfortunately this work has not been finished and includes the period of history to World War I. Studying almost seven thousand items of resource between the years 1965 and 1976, Ziya Nur answered his friends who wanted him to publish his work without delay that since his thoughts had changed a great deal from the time he started to write the history, he wanted to re-evaluate what he had written and he had also decided to add a long introductory section of about 200 pages on Ottoman governmental thought, which he had already drafted.

He lost the ability to speak and write after he had a stroke in 1976. Even though he attempted to improve his ability to speak it was not enough for him to work. Ziya Nur, as well as an historian, is also known as a scholar who followed European philosophy and politics closely, was skillful in fine arts, especially in painting and an admirer of Turkish poetry and music. The number of his oil paintings are more than enough to open an exhibition.

His conversations used to continue to daybreak in the Marmara Café where new thoughts were born in Beyazıt in 1960. People spoke about the day’s issues and their historical background, smoked cigarettes and drank tea around the tables. The main person at the table was of course Ziya Nur who used to look at Ottoman civilization and history from an extraordinary perspective and transfer that perspective to his books. Everyone supposed his surname was Nur; but Nur was not his surname but a mark of his respect to Bediüzzaman. His surname was actually Aksun and apart from his conversations in the Marmara Café, which was known at that time as the “Ash Tray”, he used to go to Söğüt every year to participate in the Ertuğrul Gazi festivals.

The sudden death of his two close friends, Erol Güngör and Dündar Taşer, tinged these conversations with grief and after Ziya Nur had a stroke, which paralyzed the right side of his body, the conversations ended.

According to his sister Belma Aksun, Ziya Nur once asked his teacher in his school: “Teacher, Fatih, Kanuni and Beyazid were emperors. Were they wicked people?” His teacher had never encountered a question like that before and called him “the historian”. When he once heard Sultan Abdülhamit, whom he knew as “The Red Emperor” at school, mentioned in a shoemaker’s shop as “Our Abdülhamid Majesty” by ordinary people, he was surprised and his interest in history started. Afterwards this curiosity and interest was to be followed by the writing of Osmanlı Tarihi (The Ottoman History) in 6 volumes and the simplified edition of İslâm Tarihi (The History of Islam) of Filibeli Ahmet Hilmi with appendices.


Dündar Taşer'in Büyük Türkiyesi (The Great Turkey of Dündar Taşer, with the pen name Z. N., 1974), İslâm Tarihi (The History of Islam, simplified edition from Ahmed Hilmi of Plovdiv with appendices, 1974, 1982), Enver Paşa ve Sarıkamış Harekâtı (Enver Paşa and the Sarıkamış Operation, edited by Erol Kılınç, 2005).