Spinning the Cocoon of Time in Bursa

Spinning the Cocoon of time in Bursa

Bursa presents a scene of, on the one hand, mosques, madrasas and public baths from six hundred years ago; and, on the other modern residential units : and factories where hundreds of people are employed.

You may observe fruit orchards, groves of mulberry trees and silkworm cocoons; you may also observe research and development centers and a university where cocoons of knowledge are spun.

This evolution that Bursa has undergone over time is like a living section of the economic development history of Turkey in the Republican period.

What about the Bursa sung, by Ahmet Hamdi Tanpınar in his poem titled “Time in Bursa”? It has long since become a very ancient tune heard from afar.

Over the past seventy-three years, the former ancient capital has been dreaming and living innovation. While the production of progress has meant the exploitation of the accumulation of the past, it intends to make tomorrow’s Bursa from that of today. Now it is being mentioned not simply as one of the leading cities of industry and tourism, but as a city of the new century, whose canvas depicts matters ranging from education to health and from construction to environmental affairs.

The former grazing lands and mulberry groves in the vicinity of Hisar (castle), where the city was fırst founded are now occupied by factories manufacturing wool, silk, leather canned goods and automobiles. The covered markets and caravansery-type commercial buildings from centuries past are constantly undergoing alteration to keep pace with the evolving tissue of the city.

Unlike other cities whose history also goes back hundreds of years, Bursa is a city that keeps its face youthful looking.  Factors contributing to this are the possession of all the cultural products that have been transmitted from Anatolia and the constant flow of immigrant settlers.

It became a destination point of migration in the early and medieval Ottoman periods for those who came from the eastern provinces while in the late period it served natives of the territorities lost by the Ottomans in the Balkans and Thrace. In 1950, Bursa was one of the places where the state settled immigrants from Bulgaria. The first “immigrant quarter” of three hundred units erected on the Mudanya road has long since been incorporated in the city. The newcomers of the neighborhood of that time now identify themselves as Bursa natives.

In the first census conducted by the Republic, the population of the city of Bursa was nearly 70,000 (61,960) in 1 960.  According to the census of six years ago, 1,603, 137 people resided in Bursa proper. The population is estimated to rise to more than two million during the skiing and thermal springs resort seasons. To realize the effect of past years, a glance at the population composition is sufficient. Originally forming twenty per cent of the population, one portion of the minority residents of Greek, Armenian and Jewish origin have migrated and one portion has been assimilated.  This change in demographic structure can be clearly observed in the identity of the capital sector which has a determining force on the economy.

Particularly in the 1930’s and 1940’s, when capital was rapidly undergoing nationalization, Bursa commerce and capital was transferred from the minorities to the Turkish community. Up to that time, three-fourths of the silk manufactories and four fifths of the textile factories had been operated by Greeks and Jews, now these factories started to be operated by Turkish partners or the ownership was entirely given to Turks.

When we turn to the first years of the Republican period, in order to perceive the importance of Bursa as a manufacturing center we may note that the Bursa Textile Factory, whose foundation was laid in 1925, and İpekiş Fabrics went into production in 1926; and that in the years 1930-39-known as the early years of industrialization-we observe the emergence of Gemlik Artificial Silk and Viscose Factory and the first milk powder factory. We also witness that Merinos Woolen, one of the monumental institutions of Bursa, went into production within a short three years.  The factory, which was opened by Atatürk, took its place as one of the prominent enterprises not only because of its production and employee capacity, but as a model of operation.

Thus, around the turn of the century all of the forty-one raw silk factories in the country and five of the six textile factories were located in Bursa, which began to assume a key position in the output of the young republic. But, this venture, which made its start with silk and textiles, would, in a short time, participate in all sectors of the manufacturing industry with products ranging from milk powder and canned goods, from cement to wolfram and from bicycles to cars.

Bursa headed the list of provinces that benefitted in great measure from the efforts at development, which began in the early years of the Republic and accelerated in the 1930’s.  It enjoyed special attention and encouragement by all governments and the opening of factories was executed by the President. One that may be recalled here is that of Vatan Canning Industry and Trading Company, which was opened by the president of the 1951 government.

Bursa had by now become a city attractive to investors with its silk and textiles and its vegetable and fruit crops. The flow of foreign aid and capital and foreign bankers began to appear in Turkey. Bursa was making the acquaintance of a number of European bank representatives. Both by reason of its natural ground cover and the infrastructure in place, foreigners were to remain in the spotlight for a long time.

In the “60”s, the winds of reform furnished the city with a brand new identity. Bursa, which had been serving only domestic tourism with its thermal and public baths just at this juncture was introduced to a brand new means of transport.

The fortieth anniversary of the Republic was a turning point for Bursa. The opening of operation of the funicular railroad on Mt. Uludağ whose construction was begun in 1957 by the Swiss firm of Von Roll AG brought an element of excitement into the lives not only of the local residents, but of the whole country.  Now Mt. Uludağ was overflowing with mountain climbers, skiiers, sightseers and simply those who made a special excursion to view the cable car.

The cable car was succeeded the following year by the production of a domestic bicycle.  Bursa had finally become one of the wings that produced firsts for Turkey. 

When the Bursa Synthetic Yarns Manufacturing Company (SİFAŞ) and Nylon 6, Synthetic Yarns Factory went into production in 1964, it signalled the demise of production of crepe de Chine, crepon and pongee by synthetic silks. The opening of the Bursa Organized Industrial site in 1965 and, a year later that of the Yalakçayı Manufacturing district indicated that the traditional sectors and industry had made their mark on the city’s productive structure.

Cement, textiles and polyester factories and the Meat and Fish Association group , had laid their foundations and the Bursa to İnegöl road was under construction. In the '70's when the full force of the international economic crisis was upon us, Bursa was ready to respond with production.

Bursa Cement which went into production in 1970, BİSAŞ Yarns and Twine Factory Bustaş Refrigeration and Ice facilities one year apart were joined by TOFAŞ, Cemtaş Steel Machinery Manufacturing, Kimsan Regenerated Rubber Factory and Robert Bosch Factory.

Wolfram Concentrate Factory, founded to operate the raw tungsten mine whose annual production capacity was 560,000 tons, made, by virtue of its jewels, the apparently unattainable heights of Mt. Uludağ exceedingly attractive.

The center of silk production for years began to spin, with the skill of a silkworm, its own cocoon to prepare itself for the upcoming age. The age-old city of madrasas now had an institution of higher learning. At the close of the 1970’s, the Bursa Economic and Commercial Sciences Academy was opened, which would later take the name Uludağ University.

On the Threshold of a New Century

Nowadays, we see neither the giants in the silk business, like Hacı Sabri, Dervişyan, Koyucuyan, Morukyan and the firms that employed tens of workers like the Imperial Ottoman Textiles Company and Model Progress Factory nor the knifemakers of Niyazi Akıncıoğlu as commemorated in these lines:

I saw on the dagger of Rasim the Tough

His name the first time.

I was a child.

On the handle of the forked deer horn I first came to know Bursa.

It said: “Remzi the Knifemaker”

The silks, velvets and towels produced at the beginning of this century for the domestic market, most prominently Istanbul, and a variety of canned vegetables and candied chestnuts-from peaches to olives-the wealth of the Bursa plain are now available on Western markets. The knifemakers, however are gradually disappearing.

In the Bursa Organized Industrial District, which opened with one factory in operation is, at present, the site of more than one hundred-fifty fırms, such as textiles from the traditional sector and iron, steel, machinery and metalworking, automotive, paper products and foodstuffs industries, which create employment opportunities for approximately 25,000 people and contribute more than two hundred million dollars' worth of national exports.

Bursa:  By converting small-scale, local manufacturing to industry and by displaying a rapid adaptation to the new forms of production, it is getting ready for the new century.