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Andrew Mango 18 septembre 2014

Posted by Acturca in History / Histoire, Turkey / Turquie.
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The Daily Telegraph (UK) Thursday, September 18, 2014, p. 31


Atatiirk’s biographer and an authority on modern Turkey who ran the BBC’s foreign broadcasting service Andrew Mango, who has died aged 88, was Britain’s leading authority on modern Turkey and wrote the definitive biography of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Turkish Republic.

Born a British subject in Istanbul on June 14 1926, three years after the establishment of the Republic, he came to Britain in 1947 to work at the BBC and to read Persian and Arabic at the School of Oriental and African Studies (Soas). There, he added two more languages to the five acquired from his upbringing – he already spoke English from his father (a Lincoln’s Inn barrister) and from the English High School in Istanbul; Russian from his mother; French and Greek (also spoken at home); and Turkish.

Mango’s Persian and Arabic studies equipped him to master Ottoman Turkish, essential for his later research. His PhD thesis at Soas was on the legend of Iskandar (Alexander the Great) in the classical literature of Islamic Persia. He would retain links with Soas throughout his career, appearing frequently as a guest lecturer and as an adviser on modern Turkish studies.

The BBC External Services (now called the World Service) was where Mango spent his professional career. For some 40 years, analytical programmes on Turkish affairs would frequently include a contribution delivered in his deliberate, rather professorial voice. His analysis, always incisive and usually borne out by subsequent events, reflected detailed knowledge about Turkey.

But the principal beneficiaries of Mango’s expertise were listeners to the BBC’s Turkish broadcasts, which he managed and edited for 14 years from 1958. In that year, as Mango was to write in The Turks Today (2004), the bubble burst for Adnan Menderes’s Democrat government. Although elected, its increasingly repressive style of government provoked bitter opposition, and in May 1960 triggered the Republic’s first military coup. Mango had ensured that BBC Turkish Service listeners were well–informed about the country’s economic and political realities in the final Menderes years, when news inside Turkey was strictly controlled. The BBC Turkish Service reports provoked the inevitable complaints from Ankara, but after the coup, Mango and the BBC acquired considerable prestige in Turkey, and he won lasting friends amongst the country’s politicians, journalists and diplomats.

The BBC Turkish Service again provided a vital service of uncensored news following a further coup in 1980. By then Mango had been promoted to oversee the Corporation’s broadcasts in Greek, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese, as well as Turkish. But his South European department was severely affected by efforts in 1979 and 1981 to reduce the External Services’ operating costs. The government was resolved to assert its right to determine the BBC’s broadcast languages, and in November 1979 it announced that seven language services would close – four of them in Mango’s department: Turkish, Greek, Italian and Spanish.

This provoked outrage in Parliament and the press, and the seven services were eventually reprieved. But the government returned to the charge in 1981. By then, General Evren’s coup in Turkey had secured the future of the Turkish service: discreet lobbying by Mango resulted in agreement to expand its broadcasting by 50 per cent. With Turkish saved, Greek was no longer threatened; but Italian and Spanish ceased broadcasting. These closures were a painful experience for Mango, but in his final years before retirement the French Service (broadcasting both to Europe and to Africa) was added to his department.

Mango was a dedicated practitioner of BBC editorial values. He saw a natural affinity between the academic and journalistic worlds, and encouraged talented journalists in his department to work for other media outlets that were not direct competitors; his aim, he said, was to run a happy department. But he became uncomfortable with a management culture of annual efficiency savings and corporate compliance. Early in his BBC career he had been an effective trade union representative and a tough negotiator, but his own politics were conservative, and he was often critical of BBC domestic current affairs. In a senior management meeting, he once irritated Alasdair Milne – then Director–General – by asking whether he was happy to be running a broadcast version of The Guardian.

Respected and liked by his BBC colleagues, he published extensively. Turkey appeared in 1968, and Turkey: a delicately poised ally in 1975. His productivity as a writer and lecturer increased after retirement from the BBC in 1986. Turkey: the challenge of a new role (1994) considered the country’s position in the world after the collapse of communism; and his final book, From the Sultan to Atatürk (2009), examined Turkey after the First World War. But it was Atatürk (1999), the first major biography in English of its subject to draw on Turkish sources, which established him internationally as a leading authority on modern Turkey and its origins. The book was well–received by critics, and enthusiastically praised in Turkey.

Andrew Mango is survived by his wife, Mary, and by a son and a daughter.

Andrew Mango, born June 14 1926, died July 7 2014


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