Niyazi Çi̇çek

Keywords: Alphabet Reform in Turkey, Correspondences, Diplomatics, Intrinsic Elements, Record Keeping in Turkey, Archives, The Records of Republic Period


Records are the written evidences of the will of the natural or legal persons. Depending on the aim of the will, various kinds of records are created such as report, franchise, correspondence, promissory note, certificate etc[1]. Each kind of document has its own formal characteristics including title, text, signature and date. These characteristics may change depending on the period in which the records are created. The regime of the state, reforms, changes of the procedures in question and the administrative action taken by the decision-making mechanisms may be the reasons for these changes. In this study, the changes in the characteristics of correspondences caused by the alphabet reform introduced in 1928 in Turkey will be examined.

Turks has a deep and old state tradition and culture of bureaucracy. While running the bureaucracy through executive public offices, they have also created and used different kinds of correspondence. Throughout the Turkish civilization history ranging from the Uyghur Turks to the Turkish Republic, the traditions of bureaucracy and correspondence have continued producing various kinds of documents. The records that have been created so far, particularly the ones created in the Ottoman period, constitute a rich collection in the archives of Turkey today.

The Turkish Republic was founded in 1923 following the opening of the Turkish Grand National Assembly in 1920 and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. Since Turks have a rich experience on state government thanks to the Ottomans, it did not take long for them to found the young republic and complete its structuring. A wide range of reforms were introduced with the thought of modernization and westernization. The effects of these reforms can be seen in the culture and tradition of bureaucracy as well as in other areas.

One of the most important reforms is surely the alphabet reform introduced in 1928. The Arabic alphabet was replaced by the Latin alphabet with “Law on Adoption and Application of Turkish Letters” (Türk Harflerinin Kabul ve Tatbiki Hakkında Kanun) that was accepted in the Turkish Grand National Assembly on November 1 1928.[2] The Latin alphabet was also adopted for the bureaucratic processes in the public offices as well as in the press and education. The reform has not only affected the bureaucrats and civil servants closely but also caused some changes on the formal characteristics of the documents bringing innovations to the administrative processes. After the correspondences started to be written in the Latin alphabet, the areas in the document profile were also changed accordingly. In Turkey where the Arabic alphabet was used before the alphabet reform, every kind of writing including official correspondences was written and read from right to left. Naturally, the documents were formed according to this system. With the adoption of the Latin alphabet, writing style changed and the formal characteristics of the documents were reshaped. Thus the period before and right after the alphabet reform should be analyzed in order to understand and compare the changes which appeared in bureaucratic processes.

This study is dealing with the intrinsic elements of records. The intrinsic elements are documentary form of records. They are considered to be those which constitute the material make-up of the document and its external appearance[3]. These elements are the script, the special sins, the seal etc. The subject of this article has been narrowed to entitling, date, title, text, eschatocol, signature and seal, namely the intrinsic elements, since examining all the formal qualities would be too large for this paper. In the study, the records of the Prime Ministry of the Turkish Republic and the relevant ministries between 1928-1930 are used as examples. The aim of the paper, as stated above, is to study the changes in documents affected by the alphabet.

Previous Studies[4]

The word “diplomatics” was derived from the Greek word “diploma” which means a written document attached between two tablets with a joint. Diploma was used to define the official forms of the records competent authorities created[5]. The rules of textual criticism were established in 1681 by Dom Jean Mabillion (1632- 1707), a French Benedictine monk[6]. The experts of diplomatics consider his studies as the origin of diplomatics and paleography[7].

While the diplomatics that Mabillion developed was a field which initially examined the Medieval documents, it actually has a more advanced methodology which analyzes the authenticity and originality of today’s documents which are also called modern documents and even electronic documents today.

Towards the end of the 19th century, it is seen that European historians and archivists handled diplomatics in a wider point of view. In 1898, Dutch archivists Samuel Muller, Johan Adrian Feith and Robert Fruin stated that diplomatics could be used as a tool for the assessment of the reliability of the documents which made up funds and series in the archives[8]. In the middle of the 20th century, experts, for instance Hilary Jenkinson and Georges Tessier, helped advance the theoretical substructure of the subject by publishing about the relation between diplomatics and record keeping [9]. The testing of diplomatic critics on contemporary documents relatively coincides with the last quarter of this century. British archivist Christopher Brook contributed much to the development of modern diplomatics with the studies he carried out in the 1970s. In the article titled “The Teaching of Diplomatics”, he expressed that diplomatic critics primarily helps the understanding of the information presented in a document, thus one needs to know the source of the document, its function, formal characteristics and its type. He also pointed out that before the historians and archivists consider the research value of the documents, it is crucial to understand from which source those documents have been produced, who have produced them and who have used them and the bureaucratic structure in which they have been produced[10].

It is seen that the studies that created a tremendous impact on the diplomatics of modern documents were carried out by two Italian archivists Paola Caucci and Luciana Duranti in the 1990s. Among the studies of those two scientists, Duranti’s articles published in Archivaria in English in 1989-1992 are especially remarkable. Later, Duranti collected her articles in her work Diplomatics: New Uses for an Old Science and published them as a book[11]. Today, the aim of diplomatics methodology is to develop enough to be applied to the diplomatics of electronic records. It is known that there have been several studies carried out and many projects are being created about this subject[12].

There were few studies about diplomatics in Turkey compared to the countries in Europe and America and those few studies were on the diplomatics of Ottoman documents. The first study that regarded diplomatics as science in Turkey is considered to have been written by Abdurrahman Şeref Bey, the last Vak’anüvis (chronicler) of the Ottoman State, which he published (1910) in Târîh-i Osmânî Encümeni Mecmuası titled “Evrak-ı Atîka ve Vesâik-i Târihiyyemiz” (the history of our records and documents)[13]. Şeref Bey categorized the documents which belong to Ottoman-Turkish bureaucracy in two parts: Before established the ministries and after established the ministries[14].

In this period, it is seen that Turkologists of German, Hungarian and Polish origins also studied the Ottoman diplomatics. One of the early examples of those studies is the article “İlk Osmanlı Padişahlarının İsdar Etmiş Oldukları Bazı Beratlar” (Some Records which were Issued by the Early Ottoman Sultans) written by Friedrich von Kraelitz[15]. In this article, Kraelitz classified the documents as hüküm (judgement) and ahkam (the plural form of hüküm).

Another Turcologist of Hungarian origin, Lajos Fekete, who has both theoretical and practical studies on Ottoman archives and their functions, also studied Ottoman diplomatics. He also carried out the task of the arrangement of Ottoman archives for some time. In his work which he wrote in German, Einführung in die osmanisch-türkische Diplomatic der Türkischen Botmässigkeit in ungarn, (Introduction to Ottoman-Turkish Diplomatics Related to the Turkish Administration in Hungary) he dealt with the documents which belonged to the Ottoman administration in Hungary between the 16th and 17th centuries[16]. Classification and evaluation method he applied to Ottoman documents has also been used by later scholars. One of them is Boris Nedkov, the Bulgarian writer of Osmano-Turska Diplomatika i Paleografia (Ottoman-Turkish Diplomatics and Paleographia). The other one is Mikhail Guboğlu, a Romanian historian. In his work, Guboğlu arranged the works by kadis (Muslim judges) and bureaucrats such as Ottoman sultans (emperors), viziers (prime ministers) and defterdars (book-holders) in chronologic order[17] (1972). He used a wide bibliography about Ottoman history, documents and the types of documents. Another important work on Ottoman-Turkish diplomatics is Zarys dyplomatyki osmańsko-tureckiej (The Handbook of Ottoman-Turkish Diplomatics), which was written by Jan Reychman and Ananniasz Zajaczkowski in Warsaw in 1955[18]. The book was then translated into English.

Dissertations written by Turcologists about Ottoman diplomatics are remarkable as well. Josef Matuz wrote his doctoral thesis on Das Kanzleiwesen Sultan Süleymans des Prächtigen (Chancery of Grand Sülayman), which it was published as a book in 1974 and examined different types of documents such as berat, hüküm, nişan etc. in terms of diplomatics[19]. Then, there is another doctoral thesis about Ottoman diplomatics written by Valery Stojanow in Berlin Humboldt University in 1981 and published in 1983[20].

As it can be seen, the contributions of researchers of foreign origin to Ottoman paleography and diplomatics are very significant. Although Turkish scholars wrote articles on documents, they only transliterated documents but they have not dealt with the diplomatics of documents.

With the universities beginning to teach courses on paleography and diplomatics in 1970s a few Turkish scholars developed an interest in diplomatics and they published articles and papers. Diplomatics gained popularity in academic circles with diplomatic courses and seminars in Istanbul University thanks to the great efforts of Prof. Dr. Mübahat Kütükoğlu. One of the seminars is “Tarih Boyunca Paleograyfa ve Diplomatik Semineri” (Paleography and Diplomatics Throughout History Seminar) which was held in 1986[21]. These works and efforts both raised interest in the field. After all these efforts and courses, Kütükoğlu published a book titled Osmanlı Belgelerinin Dili: Diplomatik (The Language of Ottoman Records: Diplomatics) in 1994[22]. The work is considered to be a reference guide frequently consulted by document publishers, record keepers, historians and academicians from various disciplines.

There are only two studies on the documents of the Republican era which are titled “the international political relations of the Turkish Republic” and “Correspondence standards in the Republican era”[23]. In the last twenty years, there has been a growing interest in the diplomatics of the documents of the era of the Republic as well as Ottoman documents in the relevant departments at universities in Turkey. The writer of this article has studies[24] which examine the formal characteristics of today’s documents in terms of diplomatics and he also published an independent work in 2009[25].

Even though there have been several dissertations[26] and scientific studies[27] on the effects of the alphabet reform on education, libraries and the press, there has been no research made on how the reform changed correspondence in the bureaucracy. At the “Symposium of Turk Alphabet Reform”[28] organized in 2008 a wide range of effects of alphabet reform were discussed but the effects of the reform on documents were not examined in detail.

Modern diplomatic methodology

Records have their own specific characteristics depending on which type they belong to. These characteristics make up some formal features that constitute a document. The characteristics, also called documentary structure of documents, are a whole consisting of components ranging from title to signature. The components are shaped by the presentation rules used for conveying information through records.

Some of the formal features which form this integrity are related to the contextual structure of the document and the others develop through external factors during administrative processes. The features that constitute this contextual structure of a document are called “intrinsic elements”. These elements which indicate the information presented in a document are intellectual parts of records. Thus, these elements are also known as “intellectual form”[29]. The features which shape the form of a document in visual terms are called “extrinsic elements”. They determine the shape of the document. In short, the two groups of elements constitute the characteristics of a document, thus forming the integrity of it[30].

In this article, “the intrinsic elements” of the documents which have been chosen as an example from documents created in the central offices of the Prime Ministry of the Turkish Republic between 1928s-1930s will be discussed. By examining these documents, we aim to understand how the alphabet reform affected the intrinsic elements of the correspondence. The intrinsic elements are categorized as protocol, text and eschatocol using the analysis method that modern diplomatics experts use[31].


Diplomatics experts call the first part of documents protocol[32]. The protocol, also called the opening section, contains the elements from the beginning of the text until its main body[33]. These elements are the author, the administrative context of the action and the initial formula of the document[34].

The protocol section exists in the documents of the Republican era as well as in Ottoman documents. This section is composed of entitling, invocation, inscription subject, control number, reference and invitation.


The most distinctive element of the opening section in the documents is entitling. It is also known as letterhead. In a correspondence it is pre-printed on the upper right of a document. The section starts with the name of the country, then follows the institution and unit which create the document. Two examples are given below. In the document on the right given below the author of the document is stated as Türkiye Cumhuriyeti Maliye Vekaleti Emlak-ı Milliye Müdüriyeti (Republic of Turkey, Ministry of Finance and Department of National Estate). Then comes numero (number), title of the document just below the entitling part (See Att., Doc. 2).

The entitling generally used to be on the upper right part of the paper in the documents of the Ottoman State and the Republican period until the alphabet reform. Thus, how and where the entitling was written in correspondences early republican era is quite similar to the style in the late Ottoman period. On the document on the left (in pic. 1), in a letterhead placed in the upper right part of an irade (decree) signed by Sultan Vahdettin, there writes Bab-ı âli hariciye nezareti sicil-i ahval müdürüyeti, which makes clear which institution produced it[35]. “Bab-ı ali” (Ottoman State), “Hariciye Nezareti” (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) and “Sicil Müdürlüğü” (Register Office) are placed one under the other according to a hierarchical order. The word adet (registry number of the document), which was replaced by “sayı” in the Republican era, comes after them. As it can be seen in the examples, almost the same title structure in the entitling style was used both in the republic period until the Latin alphabet started to be used and in the documents belonging to the late Ottoman period (See att. doc. 1 and 2).

After the reform, both the formal features of the entitling and its place on the document changed. Although the information presented was not really different, the place of the entitling was not in the right part of the page as it used to be, but on the left part[36]. Still, it kept its place on the upper part of the page (See att. doc. 5).

After adopting the Latin alphabet, the name of the country, Türkiye Cumhuriyeti (Republic of Turkey), was not abbreviated. The whole name was written explicitly just as in the period when the Arabic alphabet was used. We see that the way the explicit name of the country, institution and units were given on the paper after being classified is the same as in the period before the alphabet reform[37]. The name of the country was at the top, the name of the institution was written in the second place and the unit was below them.

In later years, style of writing the name of the country without abbreviation and smaller than the name of the unit went on being used although more rarely. Yet this has been abandoned in time. In one or two years after the alphabet reform, it was decided to abbreviate the name of the country using the capitals of Türkiye Cumhuriyeti, TC, started to be used. Although there are some documents in which the explicit name was used in 1930s, it is seen that the abbreviation TC gained wide currency in the documents.

In the first examples the use of the abbreviation is quite noteworthy. In the documents produced by Maliye Vekaleti (Ministry of Finance), Dahiliye Vekalati (Ministry of Interior), Diyanet İşleri Reisliği (Presidency of Religious Affairs), Evkaf Umum Müdürlüğü (Directorate of Pious Foundations) etc. in those years, there are also examples in which the “T” and “C” in the abbreviation are intertwined.

We do not know if this kind of intertwined usage of T and C was affected from the political, ideological or innovative movements of that period or if that practice had a special meaning or it was just a result of aesthetic concerns. Still, it is an important hint for the diplomatic analysis although it seems like a detail. Thus, it is obvious that knowing that there is such a usage in the early examples which started to be written using a abbreviation of the name of the country leads us to an important point about the forms of the letterheads used in the diplomatic analysis of that period’s documents (see att. doc. 4).

Seeing that different representations of the abbreviation “TC” in 1929s and 1930s in the examples of the entitling, it is understood that forms of the letterheads differed in institutions and even in the units of them. This different usage started to standardize after 1930. Then, the abbreviation of the name of the country was changed into “TC” as it is used today.

It is obvious from the examples of the documents of that period that there is not a standard usage about the number of the information lines; in other words, how many units should be written while putting the information about the institutions in hierarchical order. Although it seems that the number of the units that should be on that part was limited to two along with one line for the name of the country in the documents (see att. doc. 5), it is possible to see four or even fivelined entitling. A remarkable detail in these many-lined-examples is that the unit at the bottom was added to the pre-printed entitling part with typewriter. In entitling, the names of the institutions and the units were explicit. But the name of the units was abbreviated such as “M” for müdürlüğü, (department) “Ş” for şubesi (branch office) and “K” for kısmı (division).


Title is the name of the document and it shows whether the document is an agreement, a minute or and indenture and its subject as well as its administrative and legal status. It is given as a formal element after the entitling in a document. Although there is a title in agreements or indentures, but there is not usually any in Turkish documents.


In the Ottoman period, records were started by writing the name of God. We can see this in both public and private documents in the Ottoman period. This tradition was followed in the Republic period until the adoption of the Latin alphabet. It could be seen in the documents issued by particularly religious bodies and private persons but more rarely in the early periods of Republic (see att. doc. 1).

When it appears, it takes place in the center of the paper. It starts with the words “in the name of God” and it is known as a prayer for the state, government or president. Afterward the form of invocation was changed into a symbol. It was expressed by a plurality of Arabic letter (praying monogram for God) “h” or “hü” that explains God. This letter is not one of 99 names of God, it is only symbol that indicates God in Islamic way of life. It is possible to say that modern and contemporary records do not contain invocation[38].


There is the name of the addressee (muhatap) of the document on upper middle part of the page and on the left of the entitling. This address part which is known as the name of addressee in the modern documents was called serlevha[39] and ser-name[40] (the name of office) in Ottoman documents. Ser-name was above the text section and the way of giving the name and title of the addressee was like dahiliye vekalet-i celilesine (to the honorable ministry of interior) (see att. doc. 2).

Ser-name style went on being used in the Republican era as well. Because there is addressing style to addressee like “…Müdürlüğüne” (…to the office), “… Başbakanlığa” (…to the prime ministry) in the expression form of ser-levha, it is also named addressing title. The information in the addressing part may differ depending on the addressee of the correspondence. This difference is determined considering if the document would be presented to an office –if the receiver would be a superior or an inferior one, or a legal person. In the examples that seen in Republican Archives, it is understood that this part did not go through a remarkable change in style although it shows variation in quality.

To illustrate, although the title of the addressing is generally used like Baş Vekaleti Celileye [41] in the correspondences for an office, different styles stand out in the documents of later times (1930s) as in the examples below:

Başvekalet “yüce katına”[42] (to the supreme office of prime ministry)

Başvekalet “Yüksek Makamına”[43] (to the eminency office of prime ministry)

Reisicumhur Hazretlerinin “Yüksek Huzurlarına” [44] (to the eminency office of the honorable president)

Whereas using the name of addressee in this way was a common style in the correspondences for the offices in the 1930s, more plain titles were also used. The title of a correspondence dated 22.02.1934 sent from the Ministry of Foreign affairs to the Prime Ministry was Başbakanlığa[45] (to the prime ministry), which was quite plain.

Considering the Prime Ministry, expressions like makamına or katına (to the office of...) were not used in the correspondences sent to inferior offices, rather public entity of the office was stated.

Niğde Valiliğine[46] (to the office of the governor of Niğde)

İktisat Vekaletine [47] (to the ministry of economy)

In a ministry, if the correspondence is addressed to minister, makamına expression like “Vekalet Makamına” is used.

The office is addressed directly in the correspondences between two municipalities of the same level. For instance the name of addressee of a correspondence dated 29.06.1931 sent from Ministry of Economy to Ministry of Defense is given below:

Milli Müdafa Vekaletine[48] (to the ministry of national defenses)

In addition to the correspondence sent to institutions, there is also another group of style which consists of the correspondence with the legal persons in real or special status. Some of them may be the owner of the title or the real person who represents the institution.

For instance, the way which the title of the document was expressed in the correspondence sent to İsmet İnönü, who was the Prime Minister (PM) in 1928s, had elkap style (the use of the title of the person depending on the person’s status), which had been used in Ottoman documents written with Arabic letters.

Başvekil Paşa Hazretlerine[49] (to the honorable PM)

Başbakan General İsmet İnönüne[50] (to PM General İsmet İnönü)

Bay Kemal Delegeç Başvekalet Müsteşarı [51] (to undersecretary of prime ministry Kemal Delegeç)

It is also seen that the term Bay (Mr) was used instead of Sayın (venerable) that we prefer today in the correspondences addressed to person.


There comes hülasa (summary) section, in which the subject is explained, below the letterhead part. In this section, the content of the writing is summarized using short but effective expressions composed of key words (See Att. Doc. 2).

This section was written under the title hülasa on the left-hand side of the documents with Arabic letters. This title was still used in the early times of the alphabet reform but then it gave way to plainer expressions such as “Öz:” or “Özü:” (abstract). The use of such words came about as a result of attempts to purify the language from its largely Arabic and Persian vocabulary that dominated Ottoman Turkish. The use of pure Turkish words was encouraged by state institutions which aimed to set an example for simplifying the language using largely words of Turkish origin[52].

After adopting the Latin alphabet in the correspondences, hülasa section was given on the right part of the writing in a single or a few lines[53]. Hülasa generally ends with ... hakkında (about). Although this summary section seems like a general formal feature of these documents, it is possible to find examples that this section was not completed[54].

Like letterhead, number and city, the word hülasa as a title is also pre-printed on the documents in this period. There were a few lines left for the explanation after the title of hülasa[55]. In this period, it is also seen that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was very meticulous about these sections in the documents. We understand that they pay attention to this matter from the correspondences they sent to other ministries.

With a circular dated 11.5.1931 and number 8705/32 the Ministry of Foreign Affairs demanded that the correspondences should include hülasa section which explains the subject[56].

Control Number

The documents produced in organizations are given some control numbers such as the record number of the file, issue number and decision number. This control number is the serial number which was given to the documents in the files starting from 1 every year like 1930/1 or the number under which they had been recorded when they were sent to or from an institution.

One of the bureaucratic innovation movements starting with Tanzimat reorganization) period (1830-1876)[57], which made reformations in administration of the Ottoman government, was file works. File recording works started with the foundation of the ministries in the last century of the Ottoman period. The subject, date of the documents, in which bureaus they were and where they would be sent were recorded in the record files before they were sent. The document was given a record number from the file and that number was written on the document and then it was sent [58]. The same processes were valid for the received documents. This file recording has continued in the institutions in the Turkish Republic even today.

Record number of the file which was the control number of the documents produced in the years of the alphabet reform was on the last line of the entitling, forming integrity with it.

Although the place of the number on the document was always the same, how that number was given changed according to the institution it was produced in. This number could be shown either using only Sayı (number) or in two different styles. One of them is U standing for umumi (general) and H standing for hususi (special). As far as the works on file records and the way they were used in institutions show hususi is the number given by the unit or department in which it was produced and umumi is the general file number of the document given by the institution that it was produced in.


It is necessary to show ilişik (relevant) or zeyl (attachment) for the previous works or correspondences to be able to set up an organic relation among the correspondences exchanged for a case. This reference section is also known as ilgi (relevance) in today’s modern documents[59]. It is on the last part of the opening section according to the diplomatic methodology in the documents written in both Arabic and Latin alphabet. This section is also the part directly above the text.

For instance, in this example “23 teşrinsani 927 tarih ve 1274/8711 numaralı tahrirat-ı acizaname zeyldir:” the reference considered to have a relation (connection) with this document is indicated. There is also a date and number of the document that is connected with the postscript.

Looking at the available examples of correspondence, this reference style continues to be used in correspondences with the Latin alphabet.

Still, as a result of adopting the Latin alphabet and the efforts for making the Turkish language plainer by giving up the usage of words of foreign origin like Arabic or Persian, “… cevaptır” (an answer to) and then “karşılığıdır.” (response) started to be used instead of zeyldir of Arabic origin at the end of the reference sentence.


A common tradition as the culture of correspondence in Ottoman documents is writing elkap before the text. This elkap style simplified[60] widely after Tanzimat period was turned to a plainer style in Republic period, then it was fully abandoned towards 1930[61]. We see this elkap tradition in the institutions of Republic period was mostly used in the correspondences sent from inferior offices to superior ones. The expression style is Efendim Hazretleri (My sir his honorable). Elkap style continued as Efendim for some time after alphabet reform (see att. doc. 1).


Text is the section where the will that will be used for legal transaction is explained and is the core of the document. It is the central part of the document, where we find the manifestation of the will of the author and it contains action and explains the evidence of the act. After writing the title of the addressing and the address in the name of a natural or legal person, there comes the text section. The way to start writing the text was nearly the same in the Ottoman and Republic period correspondences.

In the examples of correspondence, it is seen that the text section starts with either explaining the main subject directly or nakil (preamble) part, a linking expression which explains the background of the subject and the part of the subject under treatment. This part of the text is a preamble and it gives the ethical and juridical principle. In this sense, it can be said that the nakil[62] part is available in documents both in the Ottoman and Republic period. It should be also noted that there was another common method of starting writing the text by giving reference to a previous document apart from nakil/iblağ (preamble/notification) style.

Türk uçakları merkez heyet-i riyaseti tarafından[63] (by Turkish planes central commission president)

21/8/1929 tarih ve 6/3165 numaralı tezkereye cevap olarak[64] (in response to document number 6/3165 and date 21/8/1929)

The form of the documents and how they were written changed during the years in which the alphabet reform took place. Similarly, the written language used in the documents had a transition period as well. The innovations in administration, education, bureaucracy and in some other areas showed themselves on language too. Ottoman and Arabic phrases and words were replaced with plainer ones. Still, it is seen that that transition period did not take place in an instant but extended over a period of time. Although the reason of this situation can only be understood after a detailed examination, it may be related with the situation of the bureaucratic staff producing the document. Naturally, the staff of Ottoman institutions and bureaus used the traditionalized expressions and the ones they knew well. Thus, how the text is formed in the documents was a result of that tradition. Then, the efforts for pure Turkish and making it plainer, which coincided with the alphabet reform, also affected the written language. In addition to this factor, it is seen that official written language and the traditionalized expressions used in correspondences also got plainer with old bureaucrats’ giving way to new and young ones having been educated in Republican period. Furthermore, it is understood that the attempts for pure Turkish changed depending on the decisions of the institutions, mainly the central organization of Prime Ministry. Also, some of the institutions went through this transition period fast and some others were insistent on using the traditional expressions.

Another factor which enabled the purification of the texts of the correspondences from Arabic phrases, expressions and religious symbols and titles was undoubtedly the law introduced in 1934, The Rejection of the Appellation and Titles such as Efendi (Sir), Bey (Mr.) and Paşa (General) (Efendi, Bey, Paşa gibi Lakap ve Unvanların Kaldırılmasına Dair Kanun).

Article 1: Appellations and degrees such as ağa, hacı, hafız, hoca, molla, effendi, bey, beyefendi, paşa, hanım, hanımefendi, hazretleri are rejected. Men and women citizens can only be called with their own names in official documents and in front of law. [65]

After the introduction of this act, expressions such as efendim (Sir), efendim hazretleri (Sir his honorable) were removed in the hatime (epilogue) parts of the document. Using the same law, we see that the name of some military rakings changed as well. General started to be used instead of Ferik, Liva and Amiral was used for sailors.

As the law concerning the numbers had been introduced before the alphabet reform, the application of Latin characters had already become valid. Thus, not Arabic numbers, but Latin numbers (European numerals) were used in the text of the correspondence.

Another important point that should be noted is that one of the important reforms that the young Republic government made was changing the calendar. With the act no 698 enacted by the assembly, Current Era, which has an international validity, started to be used from January, 1926 on[66].

Apart from the dates in the documents, the information represented with numbers such as the record number of the file in the text was also written using new numbers[67].

It is possible to find documents[68] written with handwriting in addition to the ones written using typewriters. When the document examples in the archive of the bodies such as ministries and central organization of Prime Ministry, which were transferred to Republic Archives, are examined, it is seen that typewriters were common in 1928 when the alphabet reform occurred and the documents were produced using typewriters instead of handwriting.

The last part of the text, namely hatime (final clause /epilogue), was also affected by those reforms. Thus, hatime, where words of rich elaborated style were used, started to be written with very plain ending sentences like … buyurulması rica olunur efendim (to command is requested, sir)[69]. An important point here is that the expressions changed depending on if the addressee was inferior or superior. For instance, hatime of a document sent from Ministry of Foreign Affairs to PM was ended using mağlumat leffen takdim kılınmıştır efendim (the information was introduced to you in attachment, sir)[70]. It is seen that in the correspondents which the ministries on equal levels sent to each other, hatime was ended using request (rica). In a correspondence sent from Ministry of Economy to Ministry of Interior, hatime was … malumat buyurulması rica olunur efendim (to command information is requested, sir)[71].

Examining the documents of that period, it is seen that this was the general usage. Still, one can find examples which bear the traces of the Ottoman tradition of correspondence. For instance, the introduction and ending part of the file sent from Ministry of Religion to PM is given below:

Makamı devletlerinden mübellağ… olunmasi hususu aynen bilimum müftülüklere tebliğ edildiği maattazimat maruzdur efendim hz (… to all offices of mufti)[72]

In this period, hatime part was ended with arz, rica, saygıyla rica ederim depending on the level of the office to which the document was sent and expressions like efendim was added to the end of the sentence as in previous years. In addition to them, it is also seen that there are documents in which efendim hazretleri and efendim hz., hazretleri and its abbreviation hz., were used (see att. doc. 1 and 4). For instance, Hatime parts of the documents sent from inferior to the superior were ended like:

… leffen takdim kılındı Efendim Hazretleri[73] (… it was introduced to you in attachment, sir his honorable).

…müsaade buyrulması arz olunur efendim[74] (… to give permission is submitted, sir).

…mektubun bir suretinin berayı malûmat leffen makımı samilerine takdim vesilesilede teyidi tazimat eylerim Efendim[75] (… one copy of letter was introduced to you in attachment, sir).

…teyit eder ve bu vesile ile yüksek saygılarımı arz ederim Efendim (I confirm and submit with my high respect to you, sir)[76].

If quite the reverse, hatime was ended like:

… rica ederim Efendim[77] (.. I request, sir)

… bahsi geçen Vekâletlere yazılmıştır efendim (written to confirmed ministries, sir)[78].

…vusulünün işarını rica ederim efendim (I request … getting information by you, sir)[79].

… buyurulmasını rica ederim efendim (I request to command by you, sir)[80].

In this period, different kinds of hatime styles were used in correspondences and petitions sent from public administration to private, public, associations and foundations and vice verca. For instance, in a correspondence dated 20.1.1935, which was sent from an association called Süleymaniye Terbiyei Bedeniye Yurdu (S.T.Y) (Sülaymaniye Sport Dormitory), hatime part is like:

… verilmiş olan binanın yine vekiller heyeti karariyle yurdumuza verilmesini gençlik adına diler ve sonsuz saygılarımızı sunarız yüce baş vekilimiz (We submit … our respect to you, our honorable prime ministry)[81].

Of course, request for a building from Prime Ministry could be the reason for using such honor expressions. Although there are exceptions, the same structure was also used in the documents presented by natural person to institutions. Another example is:

… verilmesine yüksek delâletlerini diler Cemiyetimizin sonsuz saygılarının kabulünü reca ederim efendim (I request … the respect of our community is accepted by you, sir[82].

… ifa buyurulmasını istirham eder ve şimdiden teşekkürle arzı tazimat ederiz Efendim Hazretleri (we present … with acknowledgement and is accepted by you, sir his honorable)[83].

Although elkap was already removed, a title similar to elkap, Pek muhterem Efendim hazretleri, was used in a correspondence sent by a müderris (professor) from Istanbul University to PM İsmet İnönü. Moreover, hatime was ended with:

… takdim ettiğim layıhai âcizanemi huzuru Devletlerine de arz ve refetmekle kesbişeref eder ve bu vesile ile en tazimkar hürmetlerimi takdim ederim Efendim Hazretleri (I present … my respect to your eminency office, sir his hibs)[84].

As it can be seen, while elkap was not used and hatime part was very plain in the documents of public administration, writing style which bore the traces of Ottoman tradition and Ottoman expressions and sentence structures were used in the correspondences of natural persons or public administration.


Eschatocol is the section that comes after the text and is composed of date, signature, seal, appreciation, attestation and secretarial notes[85]. Processes as to the record of the file and information-purpose expressions are also in this section.


The date of the correspondences was given at the lower middle section of the text in Ottoman period and the early years of the Republican era. We know that this style was also used after the alphabet reform.

In Ottoman State had been used three Calendars, which were Muhammadan calendar (it is named hegira calendar that is the solar calendar with years reckoned from 622), Julian and Lunar. Until the change of the calendars, was used Julian calendar in the new state as in the Ottoman period. According to this type of calendar, date order was year, month and day (See Att. Doc. 1 and 2).

Although how the date was written was affected by the alphabet reform, the main change was caused by the change of numbers and calendars. Turkish Grand National Assembly introduced Gregorian calendar in 1926 and Latin numbers as a pioneer of alphabet reform in 24.05.1928[86]. The usage of numbers had already started as the law concerning it had been enacted earlier. We see that both Arabic and Latin numbers were used in 1928s [87].

With the usage of Current Era, both the order of the date and the names of the months changed. The new order of the day, month and year started to be used. Again in this period, the month was given either explicitly or with numbers.

It is also seen that the date of the document was given below the text or in the upper part, in the same level with letterhead. There are also some examples in which the date was written on the left upper part of the page before the alphabet reform.

Thus, it is likely that writing the date on the upper part of the page started to be applied earlier. However, it is also seen in the examined examples that writing the date after the text, in the same line with the sign part still continued in some institutions[88]. As a matter of fact it is understood from the fact that there were different usages that either where the date is put in the correspondences was not very important or it was written in the two above-mentioned ways.


Signature is for the identification of the records. It explains who schemed the form of the correspondence and is responsible for the content. The form of a signature is shown by a person’s writing their own names with their own handwriting, using symbols like letters which are officially used in their time.

In the first years of the alphabet reform, many people, mainly administrators and bureaucrats, put their signatures in these new letters. It is possible to see examples of this usage in the documents of President, PM, ministers and bureaucrats[89]. Until the alphabet reform the signature was on the left of the text in the Republic period as in Ottoman documents. Firstly, the title of the signer was typed and then the signature was below it. The name of the signer was not given explicitly in the documents in those years, only the signature was enough (see all att.).

Until 1928, documents which were signed in Arabic letters as well as in Latin letters are available. But the law of 1928 banned use of the Arabic script in correspondence from 1 June 1929. With the introduction of the Latin alphabet, the places of the form sections of the documents changed, thereby using signature on the right of the page rather than on the lef.


The alphabet reform involving public bureaucracy directly also affected the tools which maintained it. One of them is seal. As is known, a seal is issued for the identification of the person who produced that document and the processes which natural and legal persons run, and with which right. It stands for legal personality, position and authorization.

Seal has been used throughout Turkish history with the name of tamga[90]. Seals were formed in Arabic letters as all the processes had been run into Arabic alphabet before the alphabet reform.

After the reform, changing the seals was another issue. Firstly, the letters on the seals were changed into Latin letters. This was a necessity as far as what we understand from the documents from the Prime Ministry and other institutions were concerned. This change was made just after the alphabet reform judging from the dates of the correspondence about the change of the seals. For instance, in a correspondence dated 06.11.1928 it is seen that the undersecretary of Prime Ministry instructed the Chief documentation officer about reforming the seals in Latin characters. There is another instruction that seal would be prepared in Latin alphabet as well[91].

It is seen that while the seals were being rearranged in Latin letters after the alphabet reform, there were also some differences in size and dimension. Thus, with the request of the PM and with the decree of council of ministers, it was stated that seals in the same shape and dimensions would be used in all institutions in the decree dated 6.03.1929 and no: 7764[92].

After the above-mentioned decree which stated what the features of the seals that the domestic public institutions would use should be, another decree was published as to the seals that would be used in the embassies and consulates abroad. With the decree no: 8102, issued on 8/8/929, it was demanded that “T.C.”, the abbreviation of “Türkiye Cumhuriyeti” (Republic of Turkey), would be used in the seals and with the demand of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the decision that the new seals should be reformed according to this standard was determined by the council of ministers[93].

Although the seals that would be used in the institutions were determined with the decree no. 7764, we see that some changes in the shape of the seals were done later. In addition to this decree about seals another decree whose number was 8100 was enacted in 8.05.1929. This decree said that Resmi mühür numunesinin 4/929 tarih ve 1498 numaralı tezkeresiyle yapılan teklifi ve Maarif vekâletinin 19/5/929 tarih ve 1196 numaralı mütaleanamesi üzerine İcra Vekilleri Hayetinin 8/6/929 tarihli içtimasında tasvip olunmuştur (… official seal was accepted by ministries at the meeting of cabinet in June 8, 1929)[94], changing the direction of the moon figure which was in the middle of the seal to the left although it was previously directed to the right.


As a result of the analysis made in this study, it is seen that the alphabet reform caused changes on the intrinsic elements of the documents such as letterhead, summary, writing style, signature and date. With the introduction of the Latin alphabet, writing style of the person has undergone a change. Arabic letters were removed and Latin letters were adopted. The texts started to be written from left to right, not from right to left as in the Arabic alphabet. Although the correspondences were written both in handwriting and in typewriter in this period, official files were written in the Latin alphabet with handwriting for some time as typewriters were not provided at once. It is understood in an example in the Republic Archive that although the law enacted in November, 1928 entailed the usage of Latin alphabet in all the state offices, correspondence exchanging had been carried out in Arabic characters until the 1931s as it was difficult for people to give up habits.

The entitling part of the correspondence was the same as the ones in Ottoman documents at first. Although this old style was still used for a short time after the alphabet reform, some information in the letterhead was then shortened and its place on the page changed. The Letterhead part was given on the right part of the page rather than on the left after the introduction of Latin letters. The name of the country was also shortened, the abbreviation “T.C.” was used instead of writing Türkiye Cumhuriyeti explicitly. Similarly, the names of the inferior units were abbreviated.

The subject section was also known as hülasa in Ottoman and Republic documents. Terms like “Öz:” or “Özü:” were used instead of the title of the hülasa after the alphabet reform. While it was given on upper right of the page in the correspondence written with Arabic letters, it was put on the upper left part of that page in the one with Latin letters.

Although elkap style was very common in Ottoman documents, it was not very credited in the Republic era. Elkap which was written for the addressee of the correspondence was shown using der devletlü, muhabbetlü, şevketlü efendüm, hazretleri previously, but it was made plainer in Republic era, turned into efendim hazretleri, efendim and removed completely after the alphabet reform.

Alphabet reform relatively changed the signing style as well. The document author, editors and the witnesses’ signatures were initially Arabic, but then they started to sign in Latin letters. Initially this change was not in the shape of the signature, but the letter characteristic of it. Also, the place where the sign was put on the page changed from left part to the right.

The seals used in official processes have their share in this change too. They were re-arranged in Latin letters after the alphabet reform. Initially there was not a serious change in the content, but then the seals were reformed with the decrees issued by the council of ministers. For instance, the crescent and the star of the Turkish flag were used in the seals.

In short, one of the areas that the alphabet reform had an effect on is the correspondence which had many formal features including entitling, signature, date and seal. In this study only the intrinsic elements of the correspondences were examined in the light of diplomatic methodology, it has been seen that the adoption of the Latin alphabet changed the formal features of the documents. It is important for record keepers, historians, document experts, jurists and the ones studying on the forgery of documents to know this period well.

List of Abbreviations

att. : Attachment
BCA : Turkish Republic, Republic Archive-Ankara.
doc. : Document
İÜ : İstanbul Üniversitesi
PM : Prime Minister
RG : Resmi Gazete (Official Journal)
TOEM : Tarihi Osmani Encümeni Mecmuası


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  1. Adnan Tuğ, Türk Özel Hukukunda Şekil, Mimoza, Konya 1994, p. 3.
  2. RG, date 01.11.1928, no. 1353.
  3. Luciana Duranti, Diplomatics: New Uses for an Old Science, Society of American Archivists, Lanham 1998, p. 134.
  4. The ‘previous studies’ part of the article was summarized from Niyazi Çiçek’s Modern Belgelerin Diplomatiği, with some changes and additions (Derlem, İstanbul 2009).
  5. Paul McDonald, ‘Mabillion and the Birth of Diplomatics.’ Studies in Religion, 8/4 (1979), p. 442.
  6. Duranti, op. cit., p. 37.
  7. McDonald, op. cit., p. 443.
  8. Dom C. Skemer, ‘Diplomatics and Archives.’ American Archivist, 52/3 (Summer 1989), p. 380.
  9. Hilary Jenkinson, ‘Archives and the Science and Study of Diplomatic.’ Journal of the Society of Archivists, 1/8 (October 1958), pp. 207-210.
  10. Christopher N.L. Brooke, “The Teaching of Diplomatic”, Journal of the Society of Archivists, 4/1 (April 1970), p. 8.
  11. Duranti, ibid.
  12. InterPARES Project. 2000. Authenticity task force: Lineage of elements included in the template for analysis (pre-InterPARES): from traditional diplomatics to contemporary archival diplomatics, 11, Accessed June 12, 2009. MethodologyState ment.pdf.
  13. Mübahat S. Kütükoğlu, Osmanlı Belgelerinin Dili (Diplomatik), Kubbealtı Akademisi Kültür ve Sanat Vakfı, İstanbul 1994.
  14. Abdurrahman Şeref Bey, “Evrak-ı Atîka ve Vesâik-i Târihiyyemiz”, TOEM, I/1(1910), pp. 9-19.
  15. TOEM (1914), pp. 242-250
  16. Lajos Fekete, Einführung in die osmanisch-türkische Diplomatik der türkischen Botmässigkeit in Ungarn, Königliche Ungarische Universitätsdruckerei, Budapest 1926.
  17. In this work, a small dictionary in which the Bulgarian correspondences of the Ottoman words in the documents are available and an appendix is given as well as the examples of tugra, seal and documents, (… Sofia: Dirjavno Izdatelstvo Naoka, 1972).
  18. Ananiasz Zajączkowski, Jan Reychman, Zarys dyplomatyki osmańsko-tureckiejç, Państwowe Wydawnictwo Naukowe, Warszawa 1955.
  19. Ali İbrahim Savaş, ‘Josef Matuz’un Das Kanzleiwesen Sultan Süleymans des Prächtigen, Muhteşem Sülayman’ın Kançılaryası Adlı Eseri Hakkında Bir İnceleme.’ Toplumsal Tarih, 6/31 (1996), 63 (transferred); Das Kanzleiwesen Sultan Süleymans des Prächtigen, Steiner, Wiesbaden 1974.
  20. Die Entstehung und Entwicklung der osmanisch-türkischen Paläographie und Diplomatik . Klaus Schwarz Verlag, Berlin 1983, 2th ed.
  21. Tarih Boyunca Paleografya ve Diplomatik Semineri, 30 Nisan - 2 Mayıs 1986, Bildiriler, İÜ Edebiyat Fakültesi Tarih Araştırmaları Merkezi, İstanbul 1988.
  22. Kütükoğlu, op. cit.
  23. İsmail Soysal, ‘Türkiye Cumhuriyetinin Uluslar arası Siyasi Bağıtları ve Belgelerinin Diplomatika Yapısı” Osmanlı-Türk Diplomatiği Semineri 30-31 Mayıs 1994 Bildiriler, İÜ Edebiyat Fakültesi, İstanbul 1995, pp. 217-226; Tülin Aren, “Cumhuriyet Döneminde Yazışmaların Standartlaşması”, Osmanlı-Türk Diplomatiği…, pp. 227-240.
  24. Çiçek, ‘Özel Diplomatik Analiz Metodu: Sağlık Bakanlığında Üretilen iki Yazışma Üzerinde Uygulama.’ Bilgi Dünyası 7/2 (2006), p. 268.
  25. Çiçek, Modern Belgelerin Diplomatiği.
  26. Selma Tuzkaya, Harf İnkılabı ve Balıkesir Basınına Yansımaları, Balıkesir Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü, Balıkesir 2006 (Unpublished Thesis).
  27. Meral Alpay, Harf Devriminin Kütüphanelerde Yansıması, İÜ Edebiyat Fakültesi, İstanbul 1976.
  28. 80. Yılında Türk Harf İnkılabı Uluslar arası Sempozyumu, (10-11 kasım 2008) Ed. Tülay Alim Baran, Yeditepe Üniversitesi Atatürk İlkeleri ve İnkılap Tarihi Enstitüsü, İstanbul 2009.
  29. Duranti, op. cit., p. 134; The form structure of records are both physical and intellectual. The physical form refers to the external make-up of the records, the intellectual form refers to its internal structure (Çiçek “Özel Diplomatik …”, p. 272).
  30. Bruno Delmas, “Manifesto for a Contemporary Diplomatics: From Institutional Documents to Organic Information”, American Archivists, 59/4 (Fall 1996), p. 447.
  31. Reychman; Zajaczkowski, Handbook of Ottoman-Turkish Diplomatics, Trans. Andrew S. Ehrenkreutz, The Hague, Paris 1968, p. 161; Duranti, op. cit., p. 150; Çiçek, Modern Belgelerin Diplomatiği, p. 25.
  32. Duranti, op. cit., p. 142.
  33. Ibid., p. 150.
  34. InterPARES Project, (2000).
  35. Kütükoğlu, op.cit., p. 189.
  36. BCA, 1111/, p. 3.
  37. BCA, 030.10/202.377.9.
  38. InterPARES Project, (2000). Ibid.
  39. Kütükoğlu, op. cit., p. 238.
  40. Ibid., p. 249.
  41. BCA, 030.10/138.985.6, p. 3.
  42. Ibid.
  43. BCA, 030.10/185.273.6, p. 1.
  44. BCA, 030.10/180.115.21.
  45. BCA, 030.10/252.698.16, p. 1.
  46. BCA, 030.10/114.200.2.
  47. BCA, 030.10/146.43.17, p. 3.
  48. Ibid., p. 7.
  49. BCA, 030.10/117.818.29.
  50. BCA, 030.10/125.889.18, p. 2.
  51. BCA, 030.10/26.48.1.
  52. Before the Turkish Language Association was established in 1932, language reform studies had been started by Language Committee that constituted by Education Ministry. The task of this committee is researching on Turkish. One of the main aim of committee was to initiate a language reform to replace loanwords of Arabic and Persian origin with Turkish equivalents (Agâh Sırrı Levent, Türk Dilinde Gelişme ve Sadeleşme Evreleri, Türk Dil Kurumu, Ankara 1972, 3th ed., p. 153).
  53. BCA, 272/, p. 6.
  54. Ibid., p. 5.
  55. BCA, 030.10/234.575.8.
  56. İdare, year 4, no. 38, (May 1931), p. 375.
  57. Tanzimat means reorganization in Turkish. Series of reforms undertaken in the Ottoman Empire to modernize society along secular and bureaucratic lines (1830-76). The first set of reforms sought to secularize the government’s treatment of people and property and to reform taxation and military conscription. Later reforms (1856) established a secular school system and a new law code. Efforts to centralize government administration, however, ended by concentrating all authority in the hands of the sultan, who often abused the power. The constitution of 1876, while promising democratic reforms, actually was intended to stave of European intervention. (Ali Akyıldız, “Tanzimat”, Türkiye Diyanet Vakfı İslam Ansiklopedisi, vol. 40, İstanbul 2011, pp. 1-10).
  58. Candemir, Bab-ı âli Evrâk Odası, 62.
  59. Çiçek, op. cit., p. 85.
  60. Kütükoğlu, op. cit., p. 234.
  61. The examples in which the expressions like elkap are mostly available in records sent from natural persons or institutions rather than public agencies. For instance in records which Turkish Anonymous Electricity Company sent to PM, an elkap like Efendim Hazretleri (my honorable sir) was used and then an introduction sentence as a linking expression like Aşağıdaki yazılı olan husustan arz ile kespi şeref eyleriz (we would be honored to present these subjects that written below) was written (BCA, 030.10/189.293.18, p. 7).
  62. “Nakil” is the explanation of why the document was written in Ottoman Diplomatics (Kütükoğlu op. cit., p. 108).
  63. BCA, 030.10/78.518.19.
  64. BCA, 030.10/95.305.4.
  65. RG, date 29.11.1934, no. 2867, Accessed August 11, 2008 tr/html/579.html.
  66. Faik Reşit Unat, Hicri Tarihleri Milâdi Tarihe Çevirme Klavuzu, Türk Tarih Kurumu, Ankara 1988, 6. ed. p. 160.
  67. BCA, 272/, p. 5.
  68. See document 3, (BCA, 030.10/83.547.16).
  69. BCA, 272/, p. 6.
  70. BCA, 030.10/.951.134.12.
  71. BCA, 272/, p. 4.
  72. BCA, 030.10/192.315.5.
  73. BCA, 030.10/229.543.23, p. 3.
  74. BCA, 030.10/9.52.1, p. 1.
  75. BCA, 030.10/138.985.6, p. 1.
  76. BCA, 030.10/187.115.21, p. 5.
  77. BCA, 030.10/142.17.7, p. 4.
  78. BCA, 030.10/146.43.17, p. 3.
  79. BCA, 030.10/11.26.8.
  80. BCA, 030.10/74.491.2, p. 4.
  81. BCA, 030.10/143.28.10, p. 3.
  82. Ibid.
  83. BCA, 030.10/189.293.18, p. 8.
  84. BCA, 030.10/144.32.11, p. 1.
  85. Zajączkowski, Reychman, Handbook of Ottoman-Turkish Diplomatics, p. 140.
  86. Sami Nabi Özerdim, Harf Devriminin Öyküsü, Türk Dil Kurumu, Ankara 1932, p. 6.
  87. BCA, 272/, p. 6.
  88. BCA, 030.10/122.868.3; 030.10/15.83.17. More examples are available
  89. Konukçu, Enver. “Yeni Harfler ve Devlet Büyüklerinin İmzaları”. 80. Yılında Türk Harf İnkılabı Uluslararası Sempozyumu (10-11 Kasım 2008), ed. T. A. Baran, Yeditepe Üniversitesi, İstanbul 2009, p. 298.
  90. See more information (Tezcan, Mehmet. Eski Türklerde Damga, Atatürk Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü, Erzurum 1990, (unpublished MA thesis)).
  91. BCA, 30.10/28.160.1.
  92. BCA,
  93. BCA,
  94. BCA,