Guide to SKOPJE

I’m a proud member of this dear academy


Ilber Ortayli – historian, director of the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul

A man with great confidence and an expert in history renown throughout the world, who is often too outspoken in his manner of speaking. These are the basic characteristics of the the modern Turkish historian Ilber Ortayli. His definition about the history is “It can only help you to find out more about your identity, but for everything else is quite useless.”

Ilber Ortayli

They say he is like a historical atlas and that his knowledge about history must be respected by default. He is also known for his ability to speak for hours in front of the cameras, hypnotizing the audience in front of the TV screen, because they are never bored listening to him. For the history lovers it is a great honor to participate in his countless conferences around the world. He is a good storyteller and a man of great self-confidence, who speaks with great style and charming smile.

That is Ilber Ortayli, the professor of history and a director of the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul. He recently became a honorable member of the Macedonian Academy of Science and Arts. He was formally assigned with the academic title by the president of the academy Georgi Stardelov, who said that Macedonia gained a new big friend.


During his thirty minutes inaugural lecture on the subject “Macedonia in the last days of the Ottoman Empire,” Ortayli said that if the Balkan Wars and First World War did not happened, Macedonia would have been a bigger country, underlining the point that for Turkey Macedonia is a represent for a neighboring state. He also mentioned the fact that the founder of the Turkish Republic, Kemal Ataturk has origins from this area. Immediately after the lecture, visibly excited and happy with the presented title, Ortayli gave his statement for Balkon 3.

Ilber Ortayli and Georgi Stardelov

– We adore Macedonia, just how its is. Love it simply as Macedonia. The Turkish minority that lives here thinks the same and acts accordingly. I’m very happy that I became a member of the dear Academy of the beloved Republic. This is because the academy is apolitical institution and its very important for a small nation.


The modern Turkish historian is very outspoken. He vigorously discusses every topic without pardon, without considering the consequences. He openly declares that he detests the politics and he does not like political types.

– Maybe its not good to say this, but I don’t like them. They are ignorant people and I don’t want to debate with them, says Ortayli, adding however that he has friends from all the parties.

A few months ago, his sincerity caused a discord between him and the Prime Minister Erdogan.  Ortayli criticized the Prime Minister because he build universities in all the municipalities. Ortayli who disagrees with Erdogan policy said “The lead a state is not the same as to run a municipality.” The Prime Minister Erdogan responded to the criticism saying that the statement is not befit for a man like Ortayli – “I respect his knowledge, but in the same time I’m ready to talk about how to run a municipality.”


Ilber Ortayli has a fantastic memory. When I asked him how he enhances his memory, he responded: “Nothing special, you should just read all the time. It’s easier to remember the things when you read at young age. After the age of 60, its more difficult to remember. People need to learn when they are young. If I hear something now, I’m sure that I’ll forget it until tomorrow. Sometimes I forget the title of the book that I’m reading. That is why I keep the books from the last six months in a separate closet. The pages of the books are marked with red markers. Therefore I don’t have a practice to borrow books.

I read more books in comparison with the archived ones. I have archives, but my books are not classified.  It is all written in my notebooks. When I need some information, than that is a tiring quest that can last for hours… I have three libraries in three different houses.”

At the end, Ilber Ortayli has a message for the modern youth. “I feel sorry for those young people who are circulating around the party headquarters and the NGOs. When I was young, I didn’t do it. They should read, learn and attend different courses. The parties just push the young people to run around like fools.”