Turkish exhibit shows World War One propaganda was part of the everyday

Tue Mar 31, 2015 5:26pm EDT
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By Ayla Jean Yackley

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Beer mugs and embroidered handkerchiefs are among the everyday items repurposed for World War One propaganda and now on display in Istanbul, showing how the conflict 100 years ago touched ordinary peoples' lives.

"Propaganda and War: The Allied Front During the First World War" is also one of the rare centennial exhibitions organized by one of the losers of the Great War.

The show "looks at the vanquished at the onset of the war when they still hoped for victory," said Edhem Eldem, Bogazici University history professor who wrote texts for the exhibit.

"It aims to show how obscene propaganda is. Using puppies with flags in their paws for destruction is terrible."

The Turkish Ottoman Empire joined what initially was a European War in the belief German military might guaranteed victory, giving it a chance to regain territory recently lost in north Africa and the Balkans.

Instead, defeat was crushing, bringing the curtains down on the Ottoman era after seven centuries of rule over swathes of territory. Sources say close to 5 million Ottoman troops and civilians perished. In total, the war claimed 16 million lives.

In the heady early days of war, every imaginable medium could be employed to carry messages of strength to a disparate cultural, ethnic and religious coalition, which combined the Germans, Ottomans, Austro-Hungarians and Kingdom of Bulgaria.

Earthenware with the leaders of the four so-called Central Powers surrounded by garlands and inscribed with the German legend "Aus Grosser Zeit" ("Of Great Times") are among the objects from a private Turkish collection.   Continued...

A visitor looks at WWI posters at an exhibition titled "Propaganda and War: The Allied Front During the First World War" in Istanbul March 17, 2015.  REUTERS/Murad Sezer