ISTANBUL -- In a collection of essays published in 1959, the writer Aziz Nesin made an apparently anodyne declaration: "Socialism is ethical," he wrote.
Unfortunately for Mr. Nesin, a typesetter's error turned the Turkish word "ahlak" into "allah," resulting in the pronouncement that "socialism is God." Half a century later, the book remained officially banned, as the trustees of his estate found to their surprise a couple of years ago, when a dozen copies were confiscated at the airport.
"They were seized from the luggage of a colleague who was traveling abroad and had taken them along as gifts for friends," Suleyman Cihangiroglu, director of the Nesin Foundation, said in an interview in Istanbul this week.
The book, it emerged in heated discussion with security officials at the airport, still figures on a list of nearly 2,000 publications that are officially banned in Turkey by half-forgotten orders of various courts, ministries, emergency rule officials and other institutions.
The list of banned publications has been accumulated over more than 60 years, but this chapter is now coming to an end.
Effective on Jan. 5, all bans will be lifted, freeing 453 books and hundreds of periodicals, magazines and newspapers from prohibition, the Office of the State Prosecutor in Charge of Media Crimes confirmed by telephone from Ankara this week.
"The repeal of the bans will enable society to open a new page," the prosecutor, Kursat Kayral, said in a statement last week, announcing his decision to waive objections to a repeal of the prohibitions by Parliament.
The banning of books was neither in step with the information age nor suited to a country that was signatory to numerous international agreements on free speech and other fundamental freedoms, Mr. Kayral said. In addition, most bans referred to outdated editions or obsolete laws, while some court orders could not even be found any more, he said.
In an amendment to the press law passed in July as part of a judiciary reform package, Parliament declared all past publication bans null and void unless renewed by order of a court within six months of the law coming into effect, a deadline which expires on Jan. 5. The prosecution's decision not to apply for any renewals means that all publications will be permitted from that date.
Among the works to be legalized by the move are several books by Turkey's greatest 20th-century poet, Nazim Hikmet, including an edition of his "Collected Works," banned by an Ankara court in 1968, as well as a book by the country's most influential theologian, Said Nursi.
The list also includes the Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx; a 1987 edition of the National Geographic Atlas of the World, banned by the government itself for designating Kurdistan and Armenia; a collection of folk songs from the rebellious province of Dersim; a 1996 human rights report by the Turkish Human Rights Association, banned by a state security court; and the Italian comic book Captain Miki, outlawed in 1961 for "leading children astray."
In some ways, the reform will merely align the law with the social reality of the land, where most of these books have been freely available for years despite the bans.
Forty years after the publisher Suleyman Ege was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison for publishing the Communist Manifesto in Turkish, readers today can choose between several Turkish editions of the book and even a Kurdish one.
"We have never been investigated or prosecuted," Hayri Erdogan, a publisher of the Manifesto, said in an interview in Istanbul this week. His publishing house, Yordam Books, has sold around 6,000 copies of its Turkish edition since 2008 and is preparing the fifth print run for January; it also offers the Kurdish translation.
"But the book is listed as banned with various institutions like police and prisons, so that prison inmates, for example, may not read it," Mr. Erdogan said, adding that he hoped the lifting of the ban would make it easier to read the work in schools or in jails.
Similarly, the works of Aziz Nesin have sold more than eight million copies in Turkey to date, including dozens of print runs of his satire collection Azizname, which has been officially banned since 1987. But the ban is still enforced in the army, where recruits are searched and banned books are confiscated, said Mr. Cihangiroglu, the Nesin Foundation director.
It remains to be seen whether the legal repeal of the bans will result in the army or prisons allowing the works, Mr. Cihangiroglu said. Referring to the confiscation of books at Turkish airports, he added, "We certainly hope such incidents will cease now."
The question of how significant the repeal of the bans is for free speech in Turkey has provoked a debate.
"Clearly, a new page has been turned," Ibrahim Kalin, an adviser to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said in an e-mail this week.
Mr. Kalin added that the government had introduced "wide-ranging measures for freedom of press" with the judiciary reform package.
Yavuz Baydar, a columnist, newspaper ombudsman and free speech activist, said by telephone this week that "it is certainly a positive step."
"But it is difficult to see it as part of a pattern, because there are so many contradictory signals" coming out of Ankara, he added.
Mr. Baydar pointed to a draft amendment to the broadcast law presented by a deputy from the governing party this month.
Seeking to stifle an allegedly frivolous depiction of an Ottoman sultan and his harem in a popular TV soap opera, the measure would make it illegal to disparage "historical events and persons integral to national values."
Yet this month, Turkey's broadcast watchdog fined a television station for offending religious values after it broadcast an episode of "The Simpsons," an animated series from the United States, in which God served coffee to the devil.
And several other provisions of the anti-terrorism law, the Internet law and the penal code continue to stifle free speech and freedom of press, with neither the government nor the main opposition acting to change them, Mr. Baydar said.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.