Nazim Hikmet Ran Biography

A Turkish poet, playwright, novelist, director, and screenwriter

Who was Nazim Hikmet Ran?

Born on January 15, 1902, in Salonika / Turkey—died on June 3, 1963, in Moscow—Turkish poet, playwright, novelist, director, and screenwriter.

Nazim Hikmet was admired for his rich memory of statements. Described as a “romantic communist” and “romantic revolutionary,” he was repeatedly arrested for his political views and spent most of his adulthood in prison or exile. His poems have been translated into more than fifty languages.

According to Nazim Hikmet, he was from a Turkish father and a German, Polish, and Georgian mother. Nazim Hikmet’s mother was from a prominent family with Circassian roots (tribes from the Caucasus), high social status, and relations with the Polish nobility. He had Turkish heritage on his father’s side.

Who was Nazim Hikmet Ran? | Nazim Hikmet Ran Biography

His father was Hikmet Bey, the son of Circassian Nazem Pasha, who was named Nazim Hikmet after him. Nazim’s maternal grandfather was Hasan Anwar Pasha, son of Mustafa Jalaldin Pasha of Poland and Saft Hanim, daughter of Omar Pasha of Serbia, and Edavieh Hanim of Circassian, daughter of Circassian Hafez Pasha.

Nazim Hikmet was born on January 15, 1902, in Selânik (Thessaloniki), where his father served as an Ottoman government official. He studied at Taşmektep Elementary School in the Göztepe district of Istanbul and later in the high school section at the prestigious Galatasaray High School.

Beyoğlu enrolled and started learning French there. However, in 1913, he was transferred to Numune Mektebi in Nişantaşı district. In 1918, he graduated from the Ottoman Naval School in Hibliada, one of the Prince’s Islands in the Sea of Marmara. His education coincided with political upheaval, during which the Ottoman government entered World War I and allied with Germany.

He was briefly appointed as a naval officer on the Ottoman cruiser Hamidiyah. But he became seriously ill in 1919 and, unable to recover fully, was discharged from naval service in 1920.

The early life of Nazim Hikmet

The early life of Nazim Hikmet

In 1921, he went to Inbulu in Anatolia with his friends Vela Nour al-Din (Vâ-Nû), Yusuf Zia Ortach, and Farouk Nafis Chamlibel to join the Turkish War of Independence. From there, he (along with Vela Nuruddin) walked to Ankara, where the headquarters of the Turkish Liberation Movement was located.

In Ankara, they met Mustafa Kemal Pasha (Atatürk), who wanted the two friends to write a poem inviting and inspiring Turkish volunteers in Istanbul and elsewhere to join their struggle. This poem was very well received, and Mohsin Beg (Birgen) appointed them Sultani (high school) teachers in Bulu instead of sending them to the front as soldiers.

However, their communist views were not appreciated by the conservative authorities in Bolo. So the two decided to go to Batumi in the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic to see the results of the Russian Revolution 1917, arriving there on September 30, 1921.

In 1922, the two friends moved to Moscow, where Ron studied economics and sociology at the Eastern Communist University of Toilers in the early 1920s. There, he was influenced by the artistic experiences of Vladimir Mayakovsky and Vsevolod Meyerhold, as well as the ideological insights of Lenin.

Achievements of Nazim Hikmet

Achievements of Nazim Hikmet

Despite writing his first poems in syllabic meter, Nazim Hikmet distinguished himself conceptually from “syllabic poets.” As his poetic sensibility developed, the narrow syllabic forms became too restrictive for his style, and he began to search for new forms for his poems.

He was influenced by young Soviet poets who favored Futurism. Returning to Turkey, he became the charismatic leader of the Turkish avant-garde and produced a stream of original poems, plays, and screenplays. In 1922, in Moscow, breaking the boundaries of syllabic meter, he changed his form and began to write free verse that was in harmony with the rich vocal qualities of the Turkish language.

Writers’ Opinion about Nazim Hikmet

Turkish and non-Turkish writers have compared him with figures such as Federico García Lorca, Louis Aragon, Vladimir Mayakovsky, Faiz Ahmad Faiz, and Pablo Neruda. Although Ran’s works are similar to these poets and are sometimes indebted to their form and style, his literary personality is unique in his combination of heresy and sonnet writing, ideology, and poetic poetry.

Turkish composers Zulfo Livanelli and Cem Karaja have arranged many of his poems. Some of his works have been translated into Greek by Yanis Ritsos, and some translations have been arranged by Greek composers Manus Louisos and Thanos Mikrotsikos.

Nazim Hikmet’s works were banned in Turkey from 1938 to 1965 due to political opinions.

The legacy of Nazim Hikmet

The legacy of Nazim Hikmet

Nazim Hikmet’s imprisonment in the 1940s became a well-known cause among intellectuals around the world. In 1949, a committee that included Pablo Picasso, Paul Robeson, and Jean-Paul Sartre campaigned for his release.

On April 8, 1950, Nazim Hikmet went on a hunger strike to protest that the amnesty law was not included in the agenda of the Turkish parliament before it closed for the upcoming general elections. Then he was transferred from Bursa prison, first to Sultan Ahmed prison in Istanbul, then to Paşakapişı. Ron, seriously ill, suspended his strike on April 23, National Children’s and Sovereignty Day.

His doctor’s request to treat him in the hospital for three months was rejected by the authorities. Therefore, since the status of his imprisonment had not changed, he resumed his hunger strike on the morning of May 2.

Nazim Hikmet protests

Nazim Hikmet protests

Nazim Hikmet’s hunger strike made noise all over the country. Petitions were signed, and a magazine was published in his name. His mother, Salih, went on a hunger strike on May 9, followed by famous Turkish poets Orhan Vali, Melih Judet, and Oktay Rift the next day.

Due to the new political situation after Turkey’s 1950 general election, which was held on May 14, the strike ended five days later; on May 19, Atatürk Memorial Day, Turkish Youth and Sports Day, he finally passed a general amnesty law. He was freed. The new government approved it.

On November 22, 1950, the World Peace Council announced that Nazim Hikmet was among the recipients of the International Peace Prize, along with Pablo Picasso, Paul Robeson, Wanda Jakubowska, and Pablo Neruda.

Later, Nazim Hikmet fled from Turkey to Romania by ship through the Black Sea, and from there, he moved to the Soviet Union. Since there was only a recognized Turkish minority in communist Bulgaria in the Soviet bloc, the poet’s books were immediately published in the country, both in Turkish originals and Bulgarian translations. Bulgarian communist authorities honored him in Turkish and Bulgarian publications as a “poet of freedom and peace.”

The goal was to discredit Turkey in the eyes of Bulgaria’s Turkish minority as an “imperialist failure” of the United States. Many wanted to leave or be deported to Turkey in 1950-1953.

When the EOKA struggle began in Cyprus, Ron believed that the Cypriot population could live peacefully together and called on the Turkish minority to support the Greek Cypriot call for an end to British rule and union with Greece (enosis). Hikmet provoked an adverse reaction from the Turkish Cypriot community due to his opinions.

Nazim Hikmet Ran Biography | Nazim Hikmet Ran Biography

Nazim Hikmet Ran in pursuit and death

Nazim Hikmet, persecuted for decades by the Turkish Republic during the Cold War for his communist beliefs, died on June 3, 1963, at 6:30 a.m. while reading the morning paper at his summer home in Perdelkino. He died of a heart attack in Moscow.

From his dear homeland, He is buried in Moscow’s famous Novodevichy Cemetery, where his magnificent tombstone is still a pilgrimage site for Turks and many others worldwide. His last wish, which was never fulfilled, was to be buried under a plane tree (Platanus) in a rural cemetery in Anatolia.

The Turkish people have always respected Nazim Hikmet despite his persecution by the Turkish government. His poems depicting the people of the villages, villages, towns and cities of his homeland (Memleketimden İnsan Manzaralárı, i.e., human landscapes from my country), the Turkish War of Independence (Kurtuluş Savaşı Destanı, i.e., The Epic of the War of Independence), and the Turkish revolutionaries (Kuvâyi Milliye, meaning the power of the nation) are among the greatest patriotic literary works of Turkey.

After his death, the Kremlin ordered the publication of the poet’s first collected works in Turkish in communist Bulgaria, which at the time had a significant and still recognized Turkish national minority. Eight volumes of these collected works, Bütün Eserti, were published in Sofia between 1967 and 1972, in the last years of the educational and publishing system of the Turkish minority in Bulgaria.

Nazim Hikmet protests

Nazim had Polish and Turkish citizenship. The latter was abolished in 1959 and restored in 2009. His family has been asked if they want his remains returned from Russia.

In the 1940s, he painted while serving his sentence in Bursa prison. There, he met a young prisoner named Ibrahim Balaban. Nazim Hikmet discovered Balaban’s talent in drawing, gave him all the paint and brushes, and encouraged him to continue painting.

Nazim Hikmet influenced this peasant’s life and trained him, who had only completed three rural classes, to shape his ideas in philosophy, sociology, economics, and politics. Nazem highly admired Balaban’s wisdom, and in a letter to novelist Kamal Taher, he referred to him as “his peasant painter” (Turkish: Köylü Ressam). Their contact continued even after their release from prison.

Nazim Hikmet’s poem Kız Çocuğu expresses a plea for peace from a seven-year-old girl ten years after she was killed in the atomic bomb attack in Hiroshima. The poem has gained popularity as an anti-war message and has been performed as a poem by several singers and musicians in Turkey and around the world. It is also known in English and has various other titles, including Me Come and Stand at Every Door, I Unseen, and Hiroshima Girl.

The walnut tree poem by Nazim Hikmet

It is said that during the period when the Turkish secret police were looking for Nazim Hikmet, one day, he and his fiancee met under a walnut tree in Istanbul’s Greenhouse Park. Nazim Hikmetran came and waited under the tree, but suddenly noticed the constables around the park, climbed the tree, and waited for them to leave.

In the meantime, his fiancee came and waited under the tree for a while, hoping for her to come. Then he left, and Nazim Hikmet wrote the poem about the walnut tree in his mind. It describes his situation at the top of the tree as if he were the tree itself.

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