Remembering Ahmet Ozkan
By Paul J. Magnarella
I first met Ahmet Ozkan in 1970 at a Georgian folklore event in Bursa. A folklore group performed traditional Georgian dances in a large hall before an enthusiastic crowd of spectators.
In 1969-70 I was conducting anthropological field research in Susurluk for my doctoral dissertation at Harvard University. Susurluk had a culturally mixed population consisting of Manavlar (historically sedentary Turks), Muhacirler (immigrant Turks from the Balkans), Turkmen, Circassians, and Georgians. Ahmet Seyhan, a Susurluk resident and a Georgian, observed that I was interested in the traditions and customs (orf ve adetler) of all peoples, so he invited me to attend a Georgian folklore event in Bursa and recommended that I meet Ahmet Ozkan, an expert on Georgian culture and history.
After the Georgian folklore performance in Bursa, Ahmet Ozkan invited me to visit the Georgian village of Hayriye, where a wedding was to take place. I went to Hayriye with Ahmet Bey and his family and observed the wedding ritual as well as the way of life of the villagers. Ahmet and I agree to work together to produce a book about Hayriye, its people, their history, traditions and customs. I was also interested in the emigration of Hayriye villagers to Germany to become guest workers (gasterbeiteren).
Subsequently, I returned to Haryriye several times to collect cultural, economic, historical and social information. I was always shown great hospitality by the Sabri Ergun family in whose home I stayed.
The result was the publication of a book entitled: The Peasant Venture: Tradition, Migration and Change among Georgian Peasants in Turkey. (Schenkman Publishing Company: Cambridge, MA, 1979). In 1997, the book was published in Turkish as: Bir Koyun Seruveni: Turkiye'deki Gurculer Arasinda Gelenek, Goc, ve Degisim. (Istanbul: Sinatle, 1997). This Turkish edition makes the book available to all those in Turkey who are interested in Georgian culture.
I would not have been able to write this book without the kind help of Ahmet Ozkan, his family and the people of Hayriye. Ahmet Ozkan supplied me with inspiration and the drawings for the book. He was an architect and an ambassador of Georgian culture.
Ahmet and I wanted the book to accurately describe Hayriye village's rich culture and to help preserve this knowledge for future generations.