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Tatavla Carnival.jpg
People of Tataula (now Kurtuluş) dressed in traditional costumes during the carnival, 1930s.
Date(s) Shrove Monday
Frequency Annual
Location(s) Tataula (now Kurtuluş), Istanbul, Turkey
Inaugurated again in 2010 after 66 years of ban
Kurtuluş is located in Istanbul
Location of Kurtuluş in Istanbul

Baklahorani (alternatively, Bakla Horani; Greek: Μπακλαχοράνι) or Tataula carnival (Greek: Αποκριές στα Ταταύλα) is a carnival celebrated annually in Istanbul, Turkey, by members of the local Greek-Orthodox community on Shrove Monday, the last Monday before Lent. The traditional celebration began in 19th century or earlier,[1] and ceased when it was banned by the Turkish authorities in 1943. However, beginning in 2010 there has been a revival initiative.[2]


For almost five centuries, the local Greek communities throughout Istanbul (former Constantinople) celebrated pre-Lent festivals with colorful events that included bawdy parades and parties held indoors and in the street. These lasted for weeks before the 40-day Lent period.[2] Baklahorani, on Shrove Monday, the last day of the carnival season before Lent, became the culminating event in the mid-19th century. It started as a masked parade that proceeded through Istanbul's Greek neighborhoods, beginning with the elite area of Pera and gathering people along the way before proceeding finally to Tatavla (now Kurtuluş) for festivities on the square at the Church of Saint Demetrius.[1][3] The name of the event literally translates as 'I eat beans', a reference to Lenten dietary restrictions.[4] Although the event was led by local Greeks, the celebrations were not limited among the Greek community of the city, but were open to everyone. It was also an opportunity to bring together people from various neighborhoods, while they gathered for the final celebrations in the Kurtuluş,[4] a neighbourhood in Şişli district that time known as Tataula and nicknamed Little Athens.[5]

The masked parade marched the route dancing tsamiko and Anatolian folk dances, accompanied by various traditional instruments, like drum, zurna, clarinet and mandolin. Residents from Bakırköy, Samatya, Fener, Balat crossed the Golden Horn on the Galata and Unkapanı Bridge, and then from Pera they reached dancing the large square opposite Saint Demetrius Church in Kurtuluş. On the other hand, another group of people from neighborhoods at Bosphorus, Şişli, Kemerburgaz gathered in front of the Pangaltı Catholic Cemetery and marched through the main street to the same square, where the celebrations culminated.[6] Young Greek men often wore the traditional fustanella costume, put on fake beards or moustaches, and painted their faces with flour or coal powder. Women often dressed in low-cut garments.[7]

Maria Iordanidou described Bakalahorani in her 1963 novel Loxandra, which tells the story of a young Greek woman of Constantinople in the earliest years of the 20th century. According to her description, people "from all over Istanbul" gathered in Tatavla, singing folk songs along their route. She wrote that: "Groups of young girls sang songs and children swung on gondolier swings or ride merry-go-rounds decorated with bands and flags. The young men of Tatavla would give displays of their unique dances and games.”[8]

The carnival reached its peak of popularity after World War I, during the years of the Allied Occupation of the city (1918–1922). It continued after the establishment of the Republic of Turkey until World War II.[5]

Prohibition and revival[edit]

Baklahorani was one of the most famous festivals by the Christians in Istanbul until its last celebration in 1941. After that, Greeks, along with the city’s other non-Muslim communities, were subject to social and financial discrimination.[2] A law banning people from wearing masks ended the original Baklahorani carnival in 1943.[9]

In 2010, nearly 70 years after the last celebration, the historical carnival was revived by a celebrating group of Greeks and Turks who sang, danced and paraded in costumes through the streets of Şişli district.[6] Principal organizers of the festival's reincarnation were Hüseyin Irmak, a researcher who was born in Kurtuluş, and Haris Theodorelis Rigas, a Greek who now lives in Istanbul, where he plays music in taverns, specializing in a "near-extinct" style of music blending Greek and Turkish influences. Irmak and Rigas consider the reestablishment of the carnival to be an opportunity for people to rediscover Turkey's multicultural past, while adding "colour" to people's lives.[10] Due to concerns about security, the 2010 celebration was conducted on a small scale without advance announcements, but the 2011 celebration was a "full-scale" public event.[2][6]


  1. ^ a b "Baklahorani Carnival". Greek Minority of Istanbul. Retrieved 13 January 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c d Yackley, Ayla Jean. "Istanbul celebrates carnival after nearly 70 years". Reuters. Retrieved 1 November 2011. 
  3. ^ Andrianopoulou, Konstantina. "Tatavla (Kurtuluş)". Εγκυκλοπαίδεια Μείζονος Ελληνισμού. Archived from the original on 30 April 2012. Retrieved 1 November 2011. 
  4. ^ a b Mullins, Ansel. "Reviving Carnival in Istanbul". New York Times. Retrieved 1 November 2011. 
  5. ^ a b Didem Danis, Ebru Kayaalp. "Elmadag: A Neighborhood in Flux" (PDF). Institut Francais D'Etudes Anatoliennes, Georges Dumezil. p. 19. Archived from the original (PDF) on 1 March 2012. Retrieved 16 December 2011. 
  6. ^ a b c Ziflioğlu, Vercihan. "Greek carnival enthusiasm on Istanbul streets". Hürriyet Daily News. Retrieved 1 November 2011. 
  7. ^ "Tatavla Karnavalı" (in Turkish). Tatavla. Retrieved 28 December 2011. 
  8. ^ "From Tatavla to Kurtulus; Social Events and Daily Life". Museum of Architecture. Retrieved 16 January 2012. 
  9. ^ Athanasiasis, Iason. "Istanbul revelers revive a Greek bacchanalia". Retrieved 1 November 2011. 
  10. ^ "Greek carnival saunters back to life". Hurriyet Daily News. Turkey. Retrieved 1 November 2011. 

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