Journalist-writer Umur Talu has signed a study that sheds light on the history of the epidemics with his book “Let Your Name Be Corona”. In his book, Talu includes the centuries-long history of the pandemics that shook the world, especially the Spanish flu of 1918, and the lessons that shed light from those epidemics to the present.
The book reveals how the Spanish flu, which affected the world more than the Corona virus epidemic, changed the fate of the Ottoman Empire and even Mustafa Kemal and the War of Independence: “Sultan Reşat dies from the virus, is replaced by Sultan Vahdettin. Mustafa Kemal goes to Samsun with 3 doctors on the Bandırma ship, which was disinfected after getting rid of the virus. Doctors revolting in Sivas accompany Mustafa Kemal, due to the importance of fighting the epidemic, 15 doctors will enter the first Parliament. ”
“The Spanish flu also changes the fate of Germany and Europe, which defeated World War I. Sitting on the table with the Spanish flu he was caught, US President Woodrow Wilson cannot prevent France, which imposes harsh conditions on Germany in the Versailles Agreement. The agreement paves the way for Adolf Hitler and Nazism in Germany, and changes the fate of Italy after Italian Prime Minister Benito Mussolini survives the flu. The Ottoman Empire is signing a heavy armistice like the Mondros Armistice with Ahmet İzzet Pasha, who replaced the grand vizier who died of flu. ”
Umur Talu also tells the story of scientists and doctors who have been working for humanity for centuries. Talu examines this history in medical terms with a comprehensive study extending from centuries ago to the Corona virus, and sheds light on the present with interesting fictions between the past and the present. We talked to Umur Talu about his book “Let Your Name Be Corona”, which brings together over 1000 heroes and hundreds of real epidemic stories.
VOA Turkish: “Why did you write the book on the epidemic?”
Umur Talu: I read the book “The Next Outbreak” in 1995 by “Pulitzer Prize-winning American” science journalist “bacteriologist Laurie Garret, and this book was very impressed with me. It was there for the first time that I saw how the epidemics are an essential part of humanity, nature and history. ”
VOA Turkish: “You talk extensively about the Spanish flu of 1918 in your book. How do you compare between the Corona virus and the Spanish entry? ”
Umur Talu: “In fact, it is a time I admire but painfully, the Spanish flu period. It is a much more severe epidemic than today. The First World War, the Soviet revolution, the armistice, the empires are falling apart, the Versailles Treaty, the Mondros armistice… Think of the events between 1918-1920. The Spanish uprising, the Spartkist uprising. Revolution and counter-revolution movements everywhere. It is a very striking period. ”
VOA Turkish: “Isn’t the epidemic a story that accompanies this whole history?”
Umur Talu: “one. We do not know how much the epidemic that started a few months before the ceasefire after World War II accelerated the ceasefire. Germany closed the Russian front, became very advantageous, Russia undergoing revolution was no longer a risk. He had shifted all his armies to the west. But how did such a strong Germany come to kneel? Of course it was defeated by the arrival of the American army. But that arrival virus has also brought. The virus, which started in Kansas, spreads to Europe by entering from Brest Harbor. ”
VOA Turkish: “You say German Nazism wouldn’t have gone so high if it wasn’t for the Spanish flu? Why is that?”
Umur Talu: “Of course, these are sentences that we can express with ‘maybe’. Wilson comes to Europe twice. The table is set in Paris. Sevres will also come there, but first of all, France wants to finish Germany’s job. Wilson is getting very sick. But everyone at the table is a little bit struck by this flu. (Prime Minister) Lloyd George slept seriously in England, and French (Prime Minister Georges) Clemenceau got caught a bit. Wilson is also getting mad there at the hotel. Corona-like symptoms, coughs, choking, and they say; If Wilson could stand stronger and healthier at that table, the predictions for Europe and the Ottoman Empire would have been different, France’s passion to crush Germany finds its place there. The violence of the Versailles Treaty combined with the 1929 crisis; It paves the way for Hitler, the Nazis. ”
The virus that changed the fate of the Ottomans
VOA Turkish: “Anatolia was very active in the same period …”
Umur Talu: “In Anatolia, at that time, there was no struggle only with the enemy, the invaders. The name of the Spanish flu is not well known. But there is typhus, tuberculosis, dysentery, syphilis. There are only 300-500 doctors struggling with all this. These doctors are so important that some of them are in 1920, 15 of them are deputies. Mustafa Kemal goes to Samsun with 3 doctors. In summary, when Cumhuriyet sets out, there are only 300-350 doctors.
VOA Turkish: “Sultan Reşat is also a victim of the virus, and this is why Sultan Vahdettin comes to the throne. The virus also changes the destiny of the Ottoman Empire … ”
Umur Talu: “When you think in parallel, Mustafa Kemal goes to Berlin with Vahdettin, who was the crown prince at the time, as the guest of Wilhelm II. There is also a relationship between them. Then Mustafa Kemal is disturbed by his kidneys on his return. He goes to Vienna first. It is then sent to Karlsbad. 33 years ago, Karl Marx came with his daughter several times to go to the hot springs where he was treated. Three years ago Freud is staying in the same place. ”
VOA Turkish: “Mustafa Kemal also catches the Spanish flu …”
Umur Talu: “Yes, while Mustafa Kemal is there, news comes that Sultan Reşat has died. He writes in his diaries that “I got sick, I have hurt on me”. He catches Spanish flu there. He survived the flu, but it is said that he was caught a second time while in Istanbul. Before leaving to Samsun by ship… That’s why the Bandırma ferry is first disinfected and there are 3 doctors in the delegation. Doctors are important both for Anatolia and for the voyage of that ship. We can only realize their importance when we look at them today. When Vahdettin ascended the throne, Mustafa Kemal Vahdettin was close at that time and a good mission awaited. But Vahdettin makes Ahmet İzzet Pasha the grand vizier. But Ahmet Pasha also catches the flu in the epidemic. Just as Wilson sleeps in Paris, Izzet Pasha has flu in Istanbul. He fits the Mondros Armistice to his grand vizier that lasts less than a month. ”
VOA Turkish: “The Bandırma ship is being disinfected, the struggle of the doctors, the habit of the Turkish people using cologne … Obviously, the flu hit Anatolia hard …”
Umur Talu: “The War of Independence, Samsun, congresses, the Ankara process is an organized war, not only an armed struggle, but also a vision. We have ignored the role of medicine in this struggle. Doctor Necdet, who opposed the mandate at the Sivas Congress. At that time, absence is not just a matter of weapons. The Istanbul government and invaders are also preventing the shipment of vaccines and medicines to Anatolia. It’s almost an obstacle more dangerous than a gun. Therefore, a vaccine factory is trying to be revived in Sivas. Doctors Necdet work with their classmates to produce vaccines before they graduate from medicine, and they are given medals for finding vaccines before a doctor. Doctors die in Erzurum. There is such a struggle in Anatolia. ”
VOA Turkish: “If we want to shed light on this information today, while people were in need of vaccines, they have become afraid of vaccines today. How do you evaluate the fear of so many vaccines? ”
Umur Talu: “Actually, the virus is killing dangerously. But it also teaches a lesson to many closeted nationalist leaders or popular sections. ‘I am a global thing, I have no boundaries, I can distinguish between rich and poor, but I do it less than you. On the other hand, how do you think of the struggle against me nationalist. It must be a global struggle that you have to do, by improving your relationships with nature, animals and each other. ‘ Vaccination is also a global invention, for all humanity. You understand this from what has been happening for a century. ”
VOA Turkish: “How do you consider the vaccine to be a migration story based on Turkish couples?”
Umur Talu: “When you look at two Turkish doctors, one is the son of a poor family from Iskenderun and the other is the daughter of a doctor in Istanbul. They go to Germany, the Turks find the vaccine in Germany, they make it with the American company. Here is every particle in this spherical. Of course, there are patents and information, but we cannot say that we cannot say ‘It is two people who found the vaccine’. All humanity has a common effort. ”
“Let your name be Corona”
VOA Turkish: “In your book, you compile 100 years of work of healthcare professionals, there is a deep respect for them. You also describe how the Corona virus was first detected. ”
Umur Talu: “The first discovery of the Corona virus is also a miraculous story. June, a high school girl in England, studies science, is very passionate about lab and microscopes. He has to work before he can graduate, but because he is very smart, he gives his school diploma. He gets a job in this direction, there he becomes the master of microscopes. He’s not even a doctor yet, but he’s changing the way he looks. As John Berger says, he sees details that no one sees because it changes the way he sees. Canada invites, becomes a medical doctor there, marries the Latin painter Almeida. Going back to England. In the early 1960s, there was a virus onset at a school in England. They ask June Almeida to come and look, and again she finds a crown-shaped virus with that different look. He calls it ‘Corona’, which means crown. Time passes. We are coming to 2019. The Chinese also diagnose the Corona virus. Now what do you call what June Almeida found, British, Canadian or Latin? These are all global issues. It is actually the essence of this book. I do not want to use the word fate, but all humanity is connected to each other by historical, cultural, sanitary and at the same time tangible ties. ”
VOA Turkish: “The epidemic continues to change the destinies of countries. Trump’s defeat and Biden’s victory are also attributed to the epidemic. Do you think my management of the Corona virus that made Trump lose the election? ”
Umur Talu: “There are two forces here. On the one hand, these pandemics prepare very serious grounds for authoritarian governments and the strengthening of authoritarian tendencies in the people. But on the other hand, there are revolts of those who are exposed to them or efforts to change the course of history. With the First World War and the epidemic, fascism has risen so much that Germany, Italy, Spain are turning to coups, civil war and fascism. In America today, Trump has been affected by the power of those who oppose racism and the epidemic. Those who were against racism, blacks, some Latinos, Asians, joined the polls more intensely. And of course the epidemic is badly managed. But there are over 70 million votes for Trump in the US, which shows us something else. The epidemic does not make everyone democrat, and it drives some to more authoritarian aspirations. It is a very exciting period, as in the Spanish flu period, there are always those opposing forces: revolution-counter-revolution, fascism-socialism, democracy-authoritarianism, all these contradictions act together. ”
VOA Turkish: “The Corona virus is not just a Pangolin story. Human relations with nature, production relations … When you consider all these, what kind of lesson, what kind of vision can be drawn from today and from the history of epidemics that exceed 100 years? ”
Umur Talu: “Of course, everyone will have different lessons. There are different pains, losses, anxiety or consolation. The desperation of the prosperous states is full of lessons in terms of health and protection of the welfare state. But the most important lesson for me is: The very important international reports released in September 2019 reveal how the world is unprepared for such a situation. There was a lack of preparation and imprecision. There are serious lessons about the health and insurance system. The second seems small, but the US’s relationship with the world ecology can change dramatically. After a leader like Trump emerged from the Climate Accord, Biden came directly with the Indian, black ministers he appointed to the post to solve this problem. Even if it’s a pre-election show, let’s forget Biden, but those people will try to do something.
In Turkey, maybe youth and recklessness of the population and increases the speed of transmission, as well as lower mortality figures are holding true. It is advantageous if the first wave comes late. China took refuge in the vaccine, Turkey. Chinese or German vaccine, I have no prejudice. Because China protected itself better. A period in which we will not act with our prejudices and speak objectively. When it’s my turn, I will be vaccinated immediately. ”