In 2006, the Law on the Organization and Functions of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism (Law No. 4848) established the Directorate General of Research and Training as the implementing body for research, inventory-making, archiving, registration, promotion, establishing expert committees and developing cooperation and coordination with national and international institutions. An Expert Commission for Intangible Cultural Heritage was established in 2011 to set the vision of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism (MoCT) concerning the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage. Initially, the Expert Commission was composed solely of academics, but it now also includes non-governmental organizations which are active in the safeguarding of living heritage. The four main axes of activity of the Expert Commission are: developing the legal and institutional context; identifying, inventorying and defining intangible cultural heritage; raising awareness; and specific measures. Boards for intangible cultural heritage have been set up in national and regional bodies along with expert commissions in each of the 81 administrative units of the country to act as a coordinating mechanism. Other government institutions relevant to intangible cultural heritage include the General-Directorate for Charitable Foundations; the Konya Turkish Sufi Music Group; the Istanbul Historical Turkish Music Group; and the Turkish Wrestling Federation. A diverse set of non-governmental organizations also play important roles in the safeguarding of living heritage.
Intangible cultural heritage is also regulated by other policy instruments, such as the Regulation on the Certification and Qualifications of Cultural Investments and Initiatives (2009). These cover, inter alia, certification for Centres for Intangible Cultural Heritage which carry out research. A draft Regulation for intangible cultural heritage is intended to cover: identifying the necessary measures which should be taken in order to safeguard and promote the functions of intangible cultural heritage; promoting public access to intangible cultural heritage; ensuring intergenerational transmission of intangible cultural heritage; providing support for inventorying; and raising awareness and appreciation of the importance of intangible cultural heritage at all levels.
The MoCT is the main body responsible for training in Turkey. Some universities (e.g. the Turkish Folk Culture Research and Implementation Centre at Gazi University) and research centres are active both in training and in research, as well as other activities.
Established in 1966, the Folk Culture Information and Documentation Centre of the MoCT is the documentation institution for intangible cultural heritage in Turkey. Almost all the documents in the centre have been digitized and are available for public access. The outcome of research and studies is widely open to the public and relevant institutions.
The 2006 Law on Intangible Cultural Heritage includes a requirement to identify and inventory elements of intangible cultural heritage and more than 300 field studies had been conducted to this end by 2012. Turkey has two types of inventory: (a) the National Inventory of elements of intangible cultural heritage; and (b) the Living Human Treasures National Inventory. The criteria used for inclusion of intangible cultural heritage in the National Inventory include: that it should be deeply rooted in the cultural traditions of communities, groups and individuals and that it should hold outstanding value for presenting the creativity of Turkish culture; elements containing features of representative and artistic value in the tradition of communities, groups and individuals can be included; the element should be transmitted from generation to generation through traditional means; it should play a role in strengthening social cohesion and enhancing solidarity and social stability; it should face threats of disappearance due to social transformation or a lack of safeguarding measures; it must be recognized by the community as significant for its identity and defined as representative of its intangible cultural heritage; and inventorying of the element should fully respect customary practices governing access to specific aspects of certain heritage. The inventory takes into account the viability of intangible cultural heritage since one of the criteria mentioned is that the element should face threats of disappearance.
For the Living Human Treasures National Inventory, the inscription criteria include: excellence in the practical application of the knowledge; dedication to a specialized area; the ability to pass on the knowledge and skills to trainees (this criterion requires at least one apprentice); and that it is unique in the field of intangible cultural heritage.
As for community involvement in this process, the inventory project is conducted at the national level with the active involvement of local practitioners, tradition bearers, researchers, academics, representatives of non-governmental organizations and local governments. Generally, the inventory-making approach is bottom-up and information is coordinated by the local Boards for intangible cultural heritage in each administrative unit of Turkey. The 81 regional expert commissions conduct inventory-making processes with non-governmental organizations, bearers, etc. Communities, individuals and bearers can fill in the inventory registration forms and send them directly to the MoCT where they are evaluated by the Expert Commission. The latter then advises the Directorate General of Research and Training to inscribe or proclaim them, with ministerial approval.
The planned new Regulation includes the aim of promoting the function of intangible cultural heritage in society, and financial support has been provided at local, regional and national levels. The MoCT has set up a dedicated safeguarding fund for training, researching, safeguarding, broadcasting and publishing purposes. By 2012, two thousand non-governmental organizations, institutions, foundations and organizations had benefited from this fund. Also, certain privileges, such as tax allowances, are available for registered bearers. Education and raising awareness are seen as policy priorities as well as promoting the transmission of intangible cultural heritage, for example through festivals. Central and local governments have provided financial support for holding performances and exhibitions of intangible cultural heritage in order to enhance the visibility and public understanding of living heritage.
The MoCT pursues opportunities for cooperation with other ministries and institutions in the educational field. In universities and high schools, educational programmes covering culture have been reshaped to include intangible cultural heritage with the purpose of raising awareness among the participants and students and encouraging them to get actively involved in safeguarding it. At primary-school level, an elective course named ‘Folk Culture’ was added to the curriculum in 2010. This course is aimed at developing a better understanding of oral expressions, social and cultural practices, rituals, traditional values and the main principles of intangible cultural heritage. The MoCT and the Ministry of National Education strongly encourage the active participation of practitioners and bearers in school courses where young people can experience the traditional means of transferring knowledge and masters of elements of intangible cultural heritage play a clear role in disseminating their traditional knowledge and skills.
With regard to extracurricular and non-formal education and training, various programmes are provided at different levels by communities, groups and local governments in community centres, public cultural institutions, libraries, museums, or in local centres throughout Turkey. For example, the Intangible Cultural Heritage Applied Museum organizes interactive training programmes to ensure the visibility and viability of intangible cultural heritage, as well as to raise awareness. Many museums plan to open special sections to provide information on living heritage. For instance, the Museum of Children’s Play and Toys in Izmir opened in 2010 and offers an interactive environment in which children can see and create traditional games and toys. Some museums related to intangible cultural heritage are also in the process of being built, with the positive support of local communities, authorities and groups. Municipalities have also been active in public education. For example, the Odunpazan Municipality in the city of Eskisehir has prepared various programmes, seminars, exhibitions, competitions and projects for youth and adults.
Turkey has played an active role in bilateral, sub-regional, regional and international cooperation by hosting and actively participating in meetings concerning the drafting of the Convention. In addition, Turkey has participated in various regional and international programmes and conferences. These include the South-Eastern European Experts’ Network on the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage and the TURKSOY International Organization of Turkic Culture Experts Network on Intangible Cultural Heritage. Turkey has also hosted twelve international meetings on subjects related to living heritage since 2008.
Turkey reports here on nine elements inscribed on the Representative List: Arts of the Meddah, public storytellers (incorporated in 2008, after having been proclaimed a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity in 2003); the Mevlevi Sema ceremony (also incorporated in 2008, after having been proclaimed a Masterpiece in 2005); the Āşıklık (Minstrelsy) tradition (2009); Karagőz (2009); Novruz, Nowrouz, Nooruz, Navruz, Nauroz, Nevruz (2009); the Kırkpınar oil wrestling festival (2010); the Semah, Alevi-Bektaşı ritual (2010); the Traditional Sohbet meeting (2010); and the Ceremonial Keşkek tradition (2011).
The impacts of inscription have been varied. With regard to the Meddah, it should be noted that inscription has raised awareness of intangible cultural heritage in general and has increased the visibility of the element at the local and national levels. This has increased the size of audiences and improved the creativity and productivity of the bearers. For the Āşıklık (Minstrelsy) tradition, inscription has motivated young people to safeguard the tradition and brought communities together; the media showed great interest when the custom was inscribed. Performances of Karagőz have increased thanks to a new perception of it as a valuable art form from both social and cultural points of view. With regard to the Traditional Sohbet meeting, interest has increased considerably at both local and national levels and cooperation among public institutions, non-governmental organizations, universities, communities and the bearers of tradition has intensified for designing a safeguarding action plan. For Nevruz, an agreement between the MoCT and the Ministry of National Education has been issued whereby universities and schools annually organize extracurricular activities on the element (e.g. exhibitions, competitions, symposiums and outdoor festive events). For many years, the Semah, an Alevi-Bektaşı ritual, had to be practised in secret; however, now the community and groups concerned have started openly celebrating it with dance and music and in the company of friends, families and strangers. A Regulation for the Historical Kırkpınar Oil Wrestling (2000) establishes a Steering Committee to ensure the safeguarding of the traditional form of the element. The reports on the elements were written by the Expert Commission with the participation (at varying levels) of the main non-governmental organizations and bearer associations, local authorities, academicians and bearers of the element.