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May 2022
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Cultural preservation through radio broadcasting


Some 18 languages spoken in Turkey are threatened with disappearance, but if Nor Radio has anything to stay about it, Anatolia will live on as the multicultural mosaic it has always been.

Founded in 2009, the station broadcasts in rare languages Homshetsi, Laz, Adyghe, Chechen and Pomak, in addition to Kurdish, Armenian, Georgian and Turkish. Staff members see themselves as protecting the country’s cultural heritage from oblivion.

“We support the communities that wish to learn and speak their mother tongue,” Murat Gozoglu, chief broadcast director at Nor Radio, told SES Türkiye. “For instance, Kurds want to have mother language rights. We contribute to that by preserving the language.”

Nor was originally conceived as an Armenian radio station. But just as “nor” means “new” in Armenian, the founders later decided to take a truly unique path. They chose to turn the airwaves over to other peoples.

“Nor Radio was established to destroy the walls between peoples that keep us foreign to each other,” Gozoglu said. “We follow the principles of multilingualism and cultural pluralism. Now everyone is represented on the editorial board: Turks, Kurds, Georgians, Hemshins, everybody.”

Indeed, the station’s goals aren’t limited to protecting languages. Nor Radio seeks to build cross-cultural cooperation from the bottom up, according to Gozoglu.

“Beyond the radio programmes, nine people from different communities sit around the same table to make common decisions about the station,” he said. “Maybe these people from different communities used to just walk past each other on the street, but know they know each other, make common decisions, and learn each other’s languages and cultures.”

This interaction is not limited to the station’s staff. Audience members have also used Nor’s shows to build bridges, according to Kadir Polat, producer of a Chechen language program at the station.

“Our people, who were exiled from the Caucasus, are a little bit insular. At the beginning, they weren’t really receptive toward other languages, but Nor Radio changed their thoughts,” he told SES Türkiye.

“Now, they’re more understanding towards other languages and peoples and just have a different perspective.” The station broadcasts online and communicates with its audience via Twitter, Skype and Facebook, connecting Anatolians abroad with a taste of their heritage.

Firdevs Periloglu, producer of a Laz programme at Nor, agreed that the station’s programming increases cultural understanding.

“The non-Laz audience usually asks me about the Laz songs I play, while young Laz listeners ask me where or how they can learn their language,” he told SES Türkiye. “Adult listeners give me advice about what songs to play and which issues to discuss.”

Periloglu added: “[Recently], I talked about Iskender Tzitasi, a very important person for Laz culture and history, with my guest. He lived in Soviet Russia and wrote a book with the Laz alphabet. He was later executed. The program drew positive responses from my audience.”

For the station’s producers, the Nor Radio’s importance is underlined by the fact that many of their listeners don’t know their native languages. Instead of feeling hopeless, they see this fact as a reason to work harder to preserve their culture. As a non-commercial institution, the station relies on voluntary labor.

“Unfortunately, the number of people who speak my mother language is very low. Members of my community can speak Turkish but don’t know their mother tongue,” Polat said. “I talk about our culture, history, and issues and I would like to reach as many people as possible, which is why I speak both languages during the program.”

Polat added that his own experience shows that reviving endangered languages isn’t a lost cause.

“I learned Turkish when I was seven. I was forced and beaten. The teacher would hit me with a ruler when I didn’t speak Turkish,” he said. “After that period, I forgot my language. But I made an effort to remember it, and now I can speak both languages.”

The station’s operators also said they would like to add the Zazaki, Assyrian, Arabic and Romaic to their list of languages featured in programming.