Sunday, 1 April 2018

Kurt Seyit ve Sura - TV Series Review

Welcome readers ~ today I’m excited to present my review for something a little different - an epic period romance TV series, Kurt Seyit ve Sura, now available on Netflix, North America. The TV series is based on the true story of Seyit (officer in the Russian Tsar’s Imperial Guard) and Sura (daughter of a Russian nobleman) who fall in love but then must flee the Bolshevik revolution of 1917. The TV series is based on the series of books by Nermin Bezmen, the actual granddaughter of two of the characters in the story. I have not read the books but rather my review is for this gorgeous, romantic, tragic TV series.

Normally I review young adult and fantasy books but this incredible series has just yanked me by the heartstrings and I want to tell you all about it. That said, the real Sura is noted to be 15-16 at the time of the story so that definitely rates as YA territory.

I will be comparing bits of the true story that I’ve gathered from blogs and websites to the TV series storyline to fill out my review because once you start watching this series you will probably want to know just how much of it is taken from the true story just as I did! Warning – spoilers ahead!

The Book(s):
Kurt Seyit ve Sura (1st in series)
Book by: Nermin Bezmen 
Publish Date: December 18, 2017
Published:  Create Space Independent Publishing Platform
Genre: Historical, Romance, Epic, International
Pages:  446

An instant best seller since its debut in 1992, Nermin Bezmen’s Kurt Seyt & Shura is a classic of contemporary Turkish literature, a sweeping romantic drama set around the time the splendor of Imperial Russia is obliterated in the wake of the Great War. Bezmen tells the story of two star-crossed lovers fleeing the wave of devastation wreaked by the Bolshevik Revolution-- and does so with great sensitivity: one half of this couple who sought refuge in the capital of the dying Ottoman Empire was her grandfather. 
Translated into 12 languages, Kurt Seyt & Shura inspired a sumptuous T.V. series that continues to enchant millions of viewers across the world. With the publication of this novel in the United States, English-speaking fans will now be able to read the true story of this great love affair, which triumphed over so much adversity yet failed to overcome human fallibility. 
Kurt Seyt, the son of a wealthy Crimean nobleman, is a dashing first lieutenant in the Imperial Life Guard. Injured on the Carpathian front and later sought by the Bolsheviks, he makes a daring escape across the Black Sea. Too proud to accept payment for the boatful of arms he hands over to the Nationalists, he faces years of struggle to make a new life in the Turkish Republic rising from the embers of the dying Ottoman Empire. All he has is his dignity and love. 
Shura: An innocent sixteen-year-old beauty enchanted by Tchaikovsky’s music and Moscow’s glittering lights, falls in love with Seyt. A potential victim of the Bolsheviks due to her family’s wealth and social standing, she is determined to follow her heart and accompanies Seyt on his perilous flight over the Black Sea. Their love is the only solace to their crushing homesickness for a land and family they will never see again, two lovers among hundreds of thousands of White Russian émigrés trying to eke out a living in occupied Istanbul. 

Source for My Review:  Kurt Seyit & Sura, TV Series on Netflix, 46 episodes
Principals (really hard to trim this list!):

Kurt Seyit            Kivanç Tatlitug
Sura                     Farah Zeynep Abdullah
Murvet                 Fahriye Evcen

Petro Borinsky    Birkan Sokullu
Baronesa Lola     Asli Orcan

Celil Kamilof       Ushan Cakir
Tatya                     Eva Dedova
Guzide                  Elcin Sangu

Ahmet Yahya      Tolga Savaci  (owner of Seref Hotel in series, and author's husband!)
Lieutenant Billy  Cem Bender 

Where else does an epic historical romance begin except at the scene of combat, here at Russian pre-revolutionary Carpathian front line skirmishes. Director, Hilal Saral, starts with the events that lead to Petro Borinsky’s intense, poisonous hatred of his friend Seyit Eminof which comes to dominate many of the dramatic and tragic events that occur in the TV series. To Lieutenant Eminof honour is everything, but it seems that maybe even honour pays a price …

We now attend Alexandra (Sura) Verjenskaya’s first society ball in Petrograd (St. Petersburg, Russia). Seyit is stunned by his first sight of the luminous, innocent Sura and immediately realizes that she will not be one of his usual society girl conquests. Kivanc Tatlitug as Seyit Eminof is strikingly handsome with the formal manners of a courtier and such intense blue eyes you just know Sura won’t last one minute once they lock with hers. When Seyit falls in with her social circle, at first she’s too tongue-tied to even speak to him and you just feel for her naïvete and hope that she will withstand Seyit, the wolf.

Farah Zeynep Abdullah as Sura gives a rare natural sweetness to our beautiful heroine. Despite Sura’s crushing attraction to the dashing lieutenant she summons the nerve to get to know him. But this is a powerful two-way attraction and both Seyit and Sura are soon in each other’s thrall.

We break to visit the Eminof family in Alushta, Crimea, with Seyit and his male buddies (Crimea is that little peninsula that hangs down from the Ukraine into the Black Sea) and learn Seyit’s father is very traditional and more so, very traditional Turkish. Interestingly, Seyit’s family’s values are the next source of looming problems between him and Sura. Seyit then goes to fight at the front but when Russia withdraws from WW1 and Russian society begins to disintegrate to the rebels, he must flee Petrograd. He and Sura are now hopelessly in love and she breaks with her family (who are also fleeing the capital) to run with him back to his family home in Alushta.

The TV series is in spoken Turkish with English subtitles so busy watching, but I would rather hear the natural voices of the actors and just deal with subtitles. Turkish is a curious language, unlike any other that I've ever heard. Even so, you pick up a few words here and there from the subs.

I’ve read that in the real story Petro is finished when they reach Alushta, but in the TV series, he continues with them to Istanbul. Close friend in arms, Celil too doesn’t make it past Alushta in real life but is a significant player in the TV series to the end. Both characters (along with Misha) contribute significantly to the series story line though so this was definitely a great move on the part of the script writers.

Emotions run high through all 46 episodes. Turkish cinema does not shy away from intense, soulful, even poetic expressions of love by both the men and women and while there are no Hollywood style bedroom scenes, you scarcely miss them. The pain of lost loved ones is met with heavy sorrow, and loyalty to family and friends is profound and unbreakable so betrayals are evil and unbearably destructive.

Kivanc Tatlitug is outstanding in his role, lavishly giving us everything;
·     Laser perception of everything that’s happening around him in war and in his personal life.
·     The most tender, sweet expressions of his love for Sura.
·     Intense grieving for his murdered family.
·     A man’s terrible righteous anger.
·     Caring of young children and siblings.
His emotional range through this series is spellbinding and it’s easy to see why Kivanc is currently named one of Turkey’s highest paid actors. He's especially brilliant in expressing those emotions through his eyes.

Seyit and Sura eventually make it to the Seref Hotel in Istanbul, a safe haven for Russian emigres run by Ali and Yahya two kindly brothers and their families. We are taken often to the hub of the place, the kitchen, and you feel just like one of the family in no time in getting to know everyone and everything that’s going on.

Supporting characters and their story lines fill out the main wonderfully and we follow sister Valentina and the Baron, a scheming Baronesa, Celil and Tatya, then Guzide, and Yahya, Binnaz, Ayse, Alya, a young lad, the terrible Lieutenant Billy, and even Murvat through these turbulent times.

The Flaws (flaws make for great drama)
Let’s look at handsome Petro first. Because of a single mistake at the beginning, Petro evolves into a magnificently pathological character. As Baronesa Lola says, he is Evil. Petro is conniving, manipulative, a liar even to himself, and a sneaky traitor. All of these ‘qualities’ I find Birkan Sokullu plays with insidious subtlety. He keeps Petro believable under the guise of being a noble gentleman but who keeps getting away with it. On one level you can't help admiring Petro's malevolent cleverness.

Seyit’s flaw takes more time to uncover. One revealing incident in the TV series is on Seyit and Sura’s wedding day (by episode 29 things are actually getting a bit soap-opera-ish as there are several similar incidents). Because of continuous undermining behind the scenes by ‘friends,’ Seyit vanishes before this very special event. Using clever tactics he escapes being shipped back to Russia and certain death and in about a month and a half finds his way back to Istanbul and his fiancé. For unknown reasons he is unable to discuss what happened to him openly with Sura (!!!). Whether it is because men at the time didn’t consider it right to tell women the difficulties of life to protect their soft sensibilities, or other ‘masculine’ reasons, this incredibly important discussion does not take place.

Because of the real life timeline of some characters that did not make it to Istanbul, many of these betrayal ‘incidents’ portrayed in the TV series did not actually occur so something else was at play in the true story as Seyit and Sura never actually marry.

Neither do they marry in the TV series, but the series storyline offers these continuous heinous and painful betrayals by others as causes that lead to that eventuality.

In reality it seems that Seyit either was unable to get over the strictures of his father not to marry outside of their culture (his subsequent marriage to Turkish girl, Murvat, seems to bear this out), or he could just never properly own up to the young Russian girl he must have undoubtedly loved truly, and who gave up her whole world to be with him, because of cultural/social norms of men at the time, or expecting the little woman to have blind faith in her man with zero explanations of what’s going on, or really whatever. The world was very different in early 1900s let’s not forget.

As the denouement starts to unfold, Farah Zeynep Abdullah does a great job bringing a young, vulnerable Sura to the point where she eventually matures enough to comprehend Seyit’s limitations whatever their unknown source. This is difficult on a backdrop of having lost most of her own family and having the guts to start over in yet another foreign city. She’s a tough survivor who despite everything does believe in their love. In the end, I was left just shaking my head.

Still, intense experiences bind people together and I’ve read that Seyit never forgot Sura to his very death, and that she apparently wrote to him years after she moved away from Istanbul. Their story is drama-filled, emotional, and tragic and just pulled me in. It seems somehow impossible that a young couple in love who had endured so much to secure a new life together do not stay together in the end. Fairy tale endings in this world are no guarantee, that’s for sure.

This television series is really well produced and I think will be a big hit with North American audiences.

If you love epic period romance, check this out.
If you love sweeping historical/international films, check this out.
If you love costumers, check this out.
Just lay in with supplies as it’s hard not to binge-watch this magnetic series!
To learn more about Turkish history, check out
Ginger Monette on Turkish History where she gives a great run down without throwing the whole textbook at you.

About the Author
Nermin Bezmen is an accomplished artist, art teacher, yoga instructor, and broadcaster whose meticulous research into family history led to the publication of Kurt Seyt & Shura in 1992. This fictionalized account of her grandfather’s life became an instant best seller and is now considered a masterpiece of contemporary Turkish literature; in fact, it has reached textbook status in several secondary schools and universities. Exquisite detail distinguishes her writing as she proves that truth is indeed stranger than fiction and that our ancestors call out to us from the pages of history. Her powerful character analysis and storytelling skills invite readers to explore their own dreams, sorrows, anxieties, and even fleeting fancies. Bezmen has published seventeen novels, two of which are biographical and one of which is a fantasy. In addition, she has a children’s novel, a collection of short stories, and a book of poems to her credit. She has two children and three grandchildren and lives with her husband, actor Tolga Savacı, in New Jersey and Istanbul.


  1. Kivanc Tatlitug is a once in a generation actor--the best I've EVER seen. I'm baffled why Hollywood hasn't discovered him yet. He's extremely talented as an actor and in many other areas as well. He even speaks English (very well!) This video shows some of his versatility and great facial expression: To learn more about him visit and on Youtube, Twitter, IG, FB, and Pinterest.

  2. Thanks for checking out my blog post for Kurt Seyit ve Sura, Ginger! Kivanc Tatlitug is both talented and fearless in expressing emotions on screen in a way that I think many Western actors might shy away from or even be incapable of. The show really grabbed me and Kivanc's abilities are a big part of that. The other is the incredible story of course. Thanks for the suggestions about checking out more about him on the net. Readers, you will also find more shows done by Farah Zeynep Abdullah available as well. Turkish cinema is fascinating to learn about!


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