Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format



Master of Arts




Dr. Robert K. Barney


Set within the context under which ethnic-Turks suffered seriously amidst rising communism in post World War II Eastern Europe, this thesis examines the socio-political-cultural circumstances surrounding the life and sporting career of Olympic weightlifter Naim Suleymanoglu, a Bulgarian-born Muslim of Turkish descent. This thesis examines several phases of Suleymanoglu’s life, much of which was devoted to aiding and abetting a mass exodus of Muslim ethnic-Turkish community members from Bulgaria to Turkey, the pursuit of Olympic achievement, and service to the enhancement of the sport of weightlifting in Turkey. By utilizing sports platforms and his remarkable success in weightlifting, widely reported by world media, Suleymanoglu’s life, in the end, translated to a new dimension surrounding the identification of Turkey in the sporting world, one in which weightlifting rivalled time-honoured wrestling as Turkey’s national sport.

This study concluded that: (a) the commitment of Naim Suleymanoglu to his ethnic Muslim-Turkish heritage, (b) his defection to Turkey in 1986, (c) his subsequent Olympic gold medal successes, (d) his post-athlete career in helping to raise the sport of weightlifting in Turkey to major status, and (e) his contribution to rising Turkish national identity in the post-Cold War world, collectively underscored a life worthy of socio-cultural/biographical examination. As this study’s aim is to create a historical narrative surrounding Suleymanoglu's life, a common situational biography/impact approach was used, presented in narrative/analysis character along chronological lines.

Summary for Lay Audience