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TURKEY RAILWAYS MAP / ART DECO DESIGN: Türkiye Cumhuriyeti Demiryolları.



A masterpiece of Art Deco design, being a large format separately issued map of Turkey with its railway systems, made during the height of the Kemalist Era when the republic’s railways were under the process of nationalisation and expansion, a key part of Atatürk’s political and economic agenda, published in Ankara – extremely rare.

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This highly attractive map is a stellar example of Art Deco design and showcases the Republic of Turkey’s railway system during a critical period when it was in the processes of nationalization and expansion.  The map depicts the entire country, outlining all major geographical features, while labelling all key cities and towns.  All rail lines are delineated with great care towards both the style and legibility of information; all stations are noted, as are the distances along each route (measured in kilometres), while key place names are attractively stylized in Art Deco lettering.  The State Railways of the Republic of Turkey [Türkiye Cumhuriyeti Devlet Demiryolları, TCDD] which aimed to become the national rail monopoly, was then in the gradual process of assuming possession and operation of all the country’s rail lines (traditionally most of the railways in Turkey were privately run).  As shown here, the lines already under the control of the TCDD as of early 1933 are heightened in orange, while the routes still under private control are shown as black lines.  The several routes that were still in progress are designated by intermittent lines (either orange or black, as appropriate).   

Perhaps the most remarkable feature of the map, located in the lower right corner, is the stylized Art Deco sketch of the entire national railway system, emanating out of Ankara. 

The present map is extremely rare, which is perhaps not surprising given that the survival rate of such ephemeral works is very low.  We can trace only a single institutional example, held by the Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Hamburg Carl von Ossietzky. 

Unifying the Turkish Republic: The Formation of the TCDD and the Nationalization of the Railways 

The Republic of Turkey’s founding leader, President Mustafa Kemal ‘Atatürk’ (in office 1923-38) recognized that the control and expansion of the national railway system was central to his revolutionary programme, which sought to spread economic and social modernization across the whole of Anatolia.  The inherent challenge was that the country was, for the most part, incredibly rugged, and in the era before good automotive or air travel was exceptionally difficult to traverse.  Indeed, it could take many days to travel from Ankara to parts of Eastern Anatolia that were distant from the rail network.  Atatürk’s national vision would not be realized until all regions of the country were brought into proximity to the rail system.  Moreover, it was believed that Turkey required an integrated railway network, under central control, and that this could only be achieved by nationalization (especially as many of the lines were not considered, at least for the time being, commercially viable).   

In 1927, the TCDD was formed with a view towards the takeover and integration of all the country´s railways, which were hitherto operated as separate systems under different forms of management.  Importantly, this process was to be done in an orderly, technocratic manner, such that the outgoing lines´ proprietors were to be properly compensated, while the transfer in operations was to be carefully phased in.  As such, the nationalization process took several years.  At the same time, the TCDD was to rapidly expand the system, with special attention to the underserviced central and eastern parts of the country.  

The backbone of the Turkish Railway system was the still uncompleted Anatolian-Baghdad Railway (known in German as the Baghdadbahn), shown here running from Istanbul down to through Konya to Nusabyn, on the Syrian border (plus the key branch line running to Ankara).  Prior to and during World War I this line was one of the World’s greatest geopolitical flashpoints, as it formed a key element of the Ottoman-German strategic vision, aiming to eventually connect Berlin with the Persian Gulf.  Even though the line was not finished during that time as intended, it still played a critical role in the Middle Eastern theatre.  Since the war the Anatolian-Baghdad Railway was envisaged as powerful tool of civilian development, creating a vital corridor through Turkey, while linking the country to the Levant and Iraq.  The Turkish state had by 1924 assumed control of the line from the former Swiss-chartered holding company, the Chemin de fer d’Anatolie-Baghdad, and this mandate was inherited by the TCDD upon its foundation.  

Critically, the TCDD expanded the network in Central Turkey to reach Kayseri in 1927, Sivas in 1930, and Samsun in 1932.  In 1929, it took over the Mersin-Adana Railway, followed in 1931 by the Mudanya-Burgas Railway.   Additionally, many new branch lines where built from the main trunk of the Anatolian-Baghdad Railway.  By the time that the present map was made, the only major railway yet to be nationalized was the Izmir-Cassaba system in Western Anatolia (which would be taken over in 1934). 

The TDCC would continue rapidly building lines through the 1930s.  It was not long before Zonguldak, Erzurum, Erzincan, Diyarbakır and Elazığ were connected.  The seamless line from Istanbul to Baghdad was finally achieved in 1940.  However, the advent of World War II slowed expansion and it was not until 1955 that Gaziantep was served by rail, while Van was not reached until 1962.   

Today, the TDCC operates 12,532 km (7,787 mi) of track carrying over 25 million passengers a year.  However, as an example of things going full circle, some of its lines are today being denationalized, such that many railways in Turkey will now return to their private roots. 

References: Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Hamburg Carl von Ossietzky: Kt 1953/77 / OCLC: 245774711.

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