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Midnight at the Pera Palace: The Birth of Modern Istanbul

At midnight, December 31, 1925, citizens of the newly proclaimed Turkish Republic celebrated the New Year. For the first time ever, they had agreed to use a nationally unified calendar and clock. Yet in Istanbul—an ancient crossroads and Turkey's largest city—people were looking toward an uncertain future.

Date & Time

Sep. 24, 2014
12:00pm – 2:00pm

Location

5th Floor, Woodrow Wilson Center
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Midnight at the Pera Palace: The Birth of Modern Istanbul

In beguiling prose and rich character portraits, former Wilson Center Fellow Charles King, author of the newly released book "Midnight at the Pera Palace: The Birth of Modern Istanbul," brings to life a remarkable era when the city of Istanbul stumbled into the modern world and reshaped the meaning of cosmopolitanism.

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 At midnight, December 31, 1925, citizens of the newly proclaimed Turkish Republic celebrated the New Year. For the first time ever, they had agreed to use    a nationally unified calendar and clock. Yet in Istanbul—an ancient crossroads and Turkey's largest city—people were looking toward an uncertain future.

 Never purely Turkish, Istanbul was home to generations of Greeks, Armenians, and Jews, as well as Muslims. It welcomed White Russian nobles ousted by  the Russian Revolution, Bolshevik assassins on the trail of the exiled Leon Trotsky, German professors, British diplomats, and American entrepreneurs—a multicultural panoply of performers and poets, do-gooders and ne’er-do-wells.

 During the Second World War, thousands of Jews fleeing occupied Europe found passage through Istanbul, some with the help of the future Pope John XXIII.

 At the Pera Palace, Istanbul's most luxurious hotel, so many spies mingled in the lobby that the manager posted a sign asking them to relinquish their seats to paying guests.

Charles King is Professor of International Affairs and Government at Georgetown University, where he previously served as chairman of the faculty of the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, the country's premier school of global affairs.

King's research has focused on nationalism, ethnic politics, transitions from authoritarianism, urban history, and the relationship between history and the social sciences. He is the author or editor of seven books, including Odessa: Genius and Death in a City of Dreams (W. W. Norton, 2011), which received the National Jewish Book Award, and The Ghost of Freedom: A History of the Caucasus (Oxford University Press, 2008), which was named "History Book of the Year" by the Moscow Times. His new book on the emergence of modern Istanbul will be published by W. W. Norton in 2014. His work has been translated into more than ten languages.

King's research has been supported by the Social Science Research Council, the International Research and Exchanges Board, and the Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies. In 2012-13 he was a Fellow of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. He has also held visiting appointments at the University of Michigan and Bosphorus University in Istanbul, where he was a Fulbright Scholar. He is a life member of the Council on Foreign Relations.


Hosted By

Global Europe Program

The Global Europe Program addresses vital issues affecting Europe’s relations with the rest of the world through scholars-in-residence, seminars, international conferences and publications. These programmatic activities cover wide-ranging topics include: European energy security, the role of the European Union and NATO, democratic transitions, and counter-terrorism, among others. The program also investigates comparatively European approaches to policy issues of importance to the United States, including migration, global governance, and relations with Russia, China and the Middle East.  Read more

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