Garo Paylan, an Armenian member of the Turkish parliament representing the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) reflected on the Armenian cultural heritage in Turkey during the budgetary debates of the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism.
Addressing the parliament session, the lawmaker stressed that the appropriated heritage is misrepresented in the country, noting that those in Turkey fail to admit the fact that the architect of Dolmabahçe Palace in the Beşiktaş district of Istanbul was an Armenian, Ermenihaber reports.
“Why don’t you say that Dolmabahçe Palace belongs to us, Akhtamar belongs to us … During the college years, when we visited Dolmabahçe, the guide said that the palace was built by Italian architect Baliani. I believed, but when I returned to college I found out that Dolmabahçe was built by Armenian architect Garabed Balyan,” Paylan was quoted as saying.
“Can you imagine? There is a perception that an Italian architect is preferable to an Armenian one. Many sites in Istanbul bear the marks of the famous Balyan family. Why do you deny this? Why don’t you say that Sultanahmet, Dolmabahçe Palace and Akhtamar are ours?” he asked.
The Balyan family was a prominent Ottoman Armenian family of court architects in the service of Ottoman sultans and other members of the Ottoman dynasty during the 18th and 19th centuries. For five generations, they designed and constructed numerous major buildings in the Ottoman Empire, including palaces, mansions, konaks, kiosks, yalis, mosques, churches, and various public buildings, mostly in Constantinople (present-day Istanbul).
The nine well-known members of the family served six sultans in the course of almost a century and played an important role in the westernization of Ottoman architecture during the Tanzimat period.