Rıza Tevfik Bölükbaşı

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Rıza Tevfik (far left) with the three other representatives and signatories of Ottoman Turkey at the Treaty of Sèvres; the grand vizier Damat Ferid Pasha, the Ottoman education minister Bağdatlı Hadi Pasha, and the ambassador Reşad Halis; on board an Allied warship taking them to the Paris Peace Conference.

Rıza Tevfik (Rıza Tevfik Bölükbaşı after 1934; 1869 – 31 December 1949) was a Turkish philosopher, poet, politician, and a community leader (for some members among the Bektashi community) of late 19th century and early 20th century. A polyglot,[1] he is most remembered in Turkey for being one of the four Ottoman signatories of the disastrous Treaty of Sèvres, for which reason he was included in 1923 among the 150 persona non grata of Turkey, and he spent 20 years in exile until he was given amnesty by Turkey in 1943.

Early life and career[edit]

Rıza Tevfik was born in 1869 in Mustafapaşa, today Svilengrad in Bulgaria. He had a brother, Besim, who would later commit suicide in Edirne.[2] Placed in a Jewish school in Istanbul by his father, who was a prefect, Rıza Tevfik learned Spanish and French at an early age. He was remarked as a restless personality during his student years, first in the famed Galatasaray High School, and then in the Imperial School of Medicine (Tıbbiye), and he was arrested and incarcerated several times, not falling short of inciting fellow inmates to revolt during his prison months. He could graduate at the age thirty and became a doctor. In 1907, he joined the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP), and was one of that party's deputies for Edirne[2] in the Chamber of Deputies (the popularly-elected lower house of the re-established Ottoman Parliament) of 1908. He split with the CUP in 1911, joining for a short while the newly founded opposition Freedom and Accord Party (Liberal Entente),[1] and was vehemently opposed to its entry of the Ottoman Empire into World War I.

Political career in the Ottoman Empire[edit]

Rıza Tevfik was named the Minister of Education of the Ottoman Empire (Turkish: Maarif Nazırı) in several cabinets (11 November 1918 – 12 January 1919)[1] formed after the fall of the CUP and the Ottoman Empire's defeat in the World War I. He was also appointed to the Senate (the upper house of the Ottoman Parliament) by the sultan, of which he became President twice (24 May – 18 June 1919 and 31 July – 21 October 1920).

He was one of the four signatories of the stillborn Treaty of Sèvres, being included in the delegation to the Paris Peace Conference by the grand vizier Damat Ferid Pasha, although he occupied no official position at the time of the negotiations, simply being a professor in Istanbul University. Since he was one of the signatories of the abortive treaty, he was included in the 150 persona non grata of Turkey after the Turkish victory in the Turkish War of Independence, and he had to leave Turkey in late 1922.

Exile, return to Turkey, and death[edit]

Rıza Tevfik lived in the United States, Cyprus, Hejaz, Jordan (where he was made the director of the National Museum and Library in 1925), and Lebanon during the following 20 years, until he could return to Turkey in the frame of a 1943 amnesty.[1] He adopted the last name Bölükbaşı after the 1934 Surname Law. In the meantime, he had had his collection of poetry published in Lefkoşa.

He resumed work as a university professor in Istanbul until his death on 31 December 1949.[1] Aside from his poetry and his articles on philosophy, he is also notable for his translations into Turkish of Omar Khayyam. He also wrote his partial memoirs.

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