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The term Pan-Turkism refers to an intellectual and political movement advocating the union of all Turkic peoples. Although some promoters of this ideology went as far as calling for a political union including all Turkic groups, many others envisioned only a cultural unity.

Intellectual Origins and the Impact of European Works

European works such as Joseph de Guignes's Histoire générale des Huns, des Turcs, des Mogols, et des autres Tartares occidentaux, &c. avant et depuis Jésus-Christ jusqu'à present (Paris, 17561758) and Arthur Lumley David's A Grammar of the Turkish Language with a Preliminary Discourse on the Language and Literature of the Turkish Nations (London, 1832) paved the way for a debate on Turkish peoples living under different administrations and their common ethnic bonds. David rejected the lumping together of all Turkic tribes under the rubric of Tatars, and proposed the generic name Turk for all these peoples; this made many intellectuals in the Ottoman Empire and other Turkic states reevaluate their approach to their peoples' ethnic origins. A French translation of the work was submitted to the Ottoman Sultan Mahmud II in 1833, and was widely read by Ottoman intellectuals and linguists. A Polish convert, Mustafa Celâleddin Pasha (Constantine Borzecki), who had fled to the Ottoman Empire after the unsuccessful 1848 revolution, liberally used de Guignes's work in preparing his own study, Les turcs anciens et modernes (Constantinople, 1869). Mustafa Celâleddin Pasha maintained that Turks and Europeans were from the same "Touro-Aryan" race. Works of Arminus Vámbéry, who traveled widely in Central Asia and underscored the common racial "Turanian" characteristics of the Turkic peoples, and Léon Cahun's Introduction á l'histoire de l'Asie (Paris, 1896) presented the "Turanian" race as one that brought civilization to Europe; this strongly influenced many Turkish intellectuals. Vámbéry should be credited as the first non-Turkish savant who, in 1865, entertained the idea of a Turkic "empire extending from the shore of the Adriatic far into China." Many Ottoman intellectuals paid close attention to these new ideas. It is interesting to note that in the prefatory article of the Young Ottoman journal Hürriyet (established 1868), the Turks were portrayed as "a nation in whose medreses Farabis, Ibn Sinas, Ghazzalis, Zamakhsharis propagated knowledge." Another leading Young Ottoman, Ali Suavi, underscored the common ethnic origins of the Turkic groups in his journal Mukhbir (1878). In an essay on Khiva he criticized the Ottoman policy toward this Central Asian khanate and described its people as "Muslim Turks who belong to our religion, nation, and ethnic family." In 1876 Süleyman Pasha prepared the first volume of his "World History" to be used as a textbook at the Royal Military Academy; in it he underscored the common bond uniting the Turkic peoples by drawing heavily on de Guignes's work. Beginning in 1877 history textbooks referred to the Turkish ancestry of the Ottomans, and the Ottoman press developed a keen interest in Turks living in Central Asia and the Caucasus, publishing many articles on them.

First Pan-Turkist Ideas

Despite the emergence of a national consciousness among the Turks living in the Ottoman Empire and the Turkic peoples of the Caucasus, Central Asia, and Iran, and a strong focus on their common origins, no intellectual or politician openly promoted unification of the Turkic groups until 1904. In an essay published in 1881 Gaspirali İsmail (Isma'il Bey Gasprinskii) debated the reasons for the decadence of the great "Turco-Tatar nation scattered in Asia and parts of Europe." He argued that "Turks, Turcomans, Mongols, Tatars, Uzbeks, and Yakuts [were] all from the same family." He advocated similar theses in his journal Tercüman, published in Bakhchesaray in the Crimea. The importation of this influential newspaper was occasionally banned by the Ottoman authorities. Nevertheless, it was widely read by Ottoman intellectuals and strongly influenced them.

In 1903 a Young Turk journal called Türk started publication in Cairo. This journal promoted a more developed Turkish nationalism and devoted its efforts toward "the moral and material progress of the Turkish world." In it Yusuf Akçura, a Young Turk intellectual and a former military officer of Tatar origin, published an essay entitled "Üç Tarz-i Siyaset" (Three kinds of policy). He asserted that there were three alternatives before the Ottoman administrationPan-Ottomanism, Pan-Islamism, and Pan-Turkismand that the best choice would be "to pursue a Turkish nationalism based on race." This essay, which first appeared in 1904, might be considered the first clear-cut intellectual formulation of the Pan-Turkist idea. Following the Russian Revolution of 1905, Gaspirali started using the motto "Unity in Language, Thought, and Work" under the masthead of his journal Tercüman. He presented his aim as an attempt to create a united front of Turks living under tsarist rule. He maintained that such unity would enable the Turks to defend their rights better. There is no doubt, however, that in reality he intended more than uniting Turks living in Russia. The Russian Revolution of 1905 and the increased cultural activities of the Turkic peoples under tsarist rule made the Ottoman press in the empire and in exile pay more attention to these groups and to relations between them and the Ottoman Empire. Many Turkic journals, mostly published by Azerbaijani and Tatar intellectuals, promoted closer cultural relations among Turkic peoples.

Another organization that developed an interest in such ideas was the Ottoman Committee of Union and Progress. Following its reorganization in 19051906, this committee established ties with Turkic intellectuals and provided finance to help some of them publish their journals. The committee supported the creation of a "Turkish Union in the regions from the Adriatic Sea to the Chinese Sea" and promised to extend a helping hand to these Turkic groups once it had toppled the regime of Sultan Abdülhamīd II. Strident letters sent from Azerbaijani and Tatar organizations to this committee reveal that such an idea was also popular among the intellectuals of these peoples.

Pan-Turkism, 19081922

The Young Turk Revolution of 1908 brought the Committee of Union and Progress to power in the Ottoman Empire. Many Turkic intellectuals participated in its policy-making bodies along with Turkist intellectuals. The committee supported the establishment of various organizations such as the Türk Ocaği (Turkish Hearth) (established in 1912), and it published journals such as Türk Yurdu (Turkish homeland) promoting cultural or political Pan-Turkism and Pan-Turanism. It should be remembered, however, that despite their Turkist and Pan-Turkist proclivities, the leadership of the Committee of Union and Progress viewed these ideologies as tools with which to save the Ottoman Empire and employed them alongside the rival ideologies of Ottomanism and Pan-Islamism. The Ottoman entry into World War I against Russia gave a considerable edge to Pan-Turkism and a free hand to the Committee of Union and Progress leaders in propagating it. The leading ideologues of Pan-Turkism and Pan-Turanism, such us Moiz Cohen (Tekin Alp), Ziya Gökalp, and Ömer Seyfeddin, further entertained the idea of a future Turanian state including all Turkic peoples. Ottoman war propaganda made much use of this idea. Despite this fact, the accomplishment of that goal had been envisioned by its major promoters as a gradual and long-drawn-out development. Even in 1918 Ziya Gökalp likened the accomplishment of this distant ideal to reaching a pure communist society. During the war, Ottoman agents worked in the Caucasus and Central Asia and were aided by the German government in their efforts to spread Pan-Turkist sentiments. In the final phases of the war, new governments promoting Pan-Turkism were set up in the Caucasus through Ottoman military incursions. Even after the war, the Young Turk leaders in exile made efforts aimed at arousing Pan-Turkish sentiment in an area stretching from the Caucasus to Central Asia and Afghanistan. During this period between 1918 and 1922, Pan-Turkish ideas were put to a test on the ground; however, the Soviet victories and the establishment of the Turkish Republic reduced Pan-Turkist activities to the publication of a few journals by various Turkic expatriate groups in France, Germany, Poland, and Romania.

Pan-Turkism from 1922 to the Present

Both the Soviets and the Turkish Republic, which was established in 1923, officially shunned Pan-Turkism and considered it a harmful form of adventurism. This view continued to be the official Soviet position on Pan-Turkism until the end of the Soviet Union. In Turkey, however, various Pan-Turkist groups were allowed to publish journals beginning in 1931. They were nevertheless closely scrutinized by the government. These groups were later backed by the Nazi government and tolerated by the Turkish administration, which wanted to avoid a confrontation with Germany; but with the waning of the German power in 1944, the leading Pan-Turkists were tried and sentenced to hard labor. The subsequent deterioration of TurcoSoviet relations, however, triggered a retrial in 1946 resulting in the dismissal of all charges against the leading Pan-Turkists. Later, Pan-Turkism was promoted by various cultural groups and political parties, the most important of which was the Nationalist Action Party under the leadership of Alparslan Türkeş.

The collapse of the Soviet Union and the emergence of new Turkic states gave fresh hope to many Pan-Turkists in Turkey, the Caucasus, and Central Asia. Developments to date, however, suggest that the most that they can hope for is a better cultural understanding between peoples living in nation-states with clearly molded identities and well-defined borders.

See also Ethnicity and Race ; Pan-Africanism ; Pan-Arabism ; Pan-Islamism .


Akçuraoğlu, Yusuf. Türk Yili, 1928. Istanbul: Yeni Matbaa, 1928.

Ali Suavi. Hive. Paris: n.p., 1873.

Arai, Masami. Turkish Nationalism in the Young Turk Era. Leiden: Brill, 1992.

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Hanioğlu, M. Şükrü. Preparation for a Revolution: The Young Turks, 19021908. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.

Ismail Bey. Gaspirinski, Russkoe musul'manstvo: mysli, zametki i nabliudeniia musul'manina. Simferopol', Russia: Tipografiia Spiro, 1881. Republished, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985.

Kushner, David. The Rise of Turkish Nationalism, 18761908. London: Frank Cass, 1977.

Landau, Jacob. Pan-Turkism: From Irredentism to Cooperation. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1992.

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Ziya, Gök Alp. Yeni Hayat. Istanbul: Yeni Mecmua, 1918.

M. Şükrü Hanioğlu

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a movement advocating the union of turkish peoples.

In the second half of the nineteenth century, Turkish-speaking Ottoman intellectuals became familiar with European cultural nationalism. The result was increased awareness of the origins of Turkish peoples, an enhanced consciousness of a distinct Turkish identity, and interest in Turks living outside the Ottoman Empire. Aided by the political interest the Ottoman sultans took in the Muslim Turks of central Asia under the onslaught of Russian imperialism, Turkish consciousness gradually became politicized and led to formulations for political unity of Turkish peoples.

Meanwhile, Eastern European scholars and nationalists fighting Russian expansionism stressed the Asian roots of their peoples and forged the notion of pan-Turanism. "Turan" refers to the Turkish-populated regions east of Iran and extending into the Ural and Altai mountains, also ancient home-land of Finns, Hungarians, and Mongolians. In strict terms "pan-Turanism" refers to a vague union of Ural-Altaic peoples. "Pan-Turkism," often used interchangeably with "Pan-Turanism," refers to a political union of Turkish peoples who in the nineteenth century lived within and beyond Turan.

Pan-Turkish ideas influenced Young Ottoman leaders (particularly Ali Suavi) and found systematic expression in a linguistic movement to simplify literary Turkish. From the 1880s on, Turks in Russia clung to pan-Turkish ideas to resist Russian cultural subjugation. The best-known propagandist was Ismail Gasprinski, a Tatar who published a journal called Interpreter. Emigrés from Russia propagated pan-Turkish ideas in the Ottoman realm. In 1904, Yusuf Akçura, a Kazan Turk educated in Constantinople (now Istanbul), wrote his influential Three Kinds of Policy, making a case for pan-Turkism against Ottomanism and Islamism. He also contributed to the foundation of cultural and literary Turkish societies, best known among them the Turkish Society and Turkish Hearth Association. Writers such as Halide Edip, Ömer Seyfettin, and Mehmet Emin Yurdakul joined Russian Turks (including Akçura, Ahmed Ağaoğlu, and Ali Hüseyinzade) in Turkish cultural activity.

In the Ottoman period, contrary to later nationalist contentions in the empire's successor states, pan-Turkism did not become the predominant ideology. Even in the thought of Turkists, such as Ziya Gökalp, Turkism could not be separated from Islamism or Ottomanism. As a political program pan-Turkism remained vague and marginal. Tekin Alp (Moise Cohen), a Jewish journalist, was an ardent propagandist. Pan-Turkish thought did promote nationalist consciousness among certain educated segments of Turks and, with the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, contributed to the crystallization of a Turkish nationalism limited in scope and restricted to Anatolia.

Pan-Turkism flourished at the end of World War I and until the consolidation of the Bolshevik state and the Turkish republic. The simultaneous collapse of the Russian and Ottoman empires stimulated fantastic, ill-conceived, and unrealistic schemes of unifying the Turks of Asia. Enver Paşa and Cemal Paça, who fled Istanbul at war's end, spent their lives in uncoordinated attempts to establish the great Turkish state. The Soviet governments discouraged and systematically undermined panTurkism in Central Asia.

Pan-Turkish sentiments briefly surged in Turkey during World War II with the aid of German propaganda and with the expectation that the Soviet Union would crumble. In the Republic of Turkey, pan-Turkish racialist ideas have inspired the ultranationalist right. A pan-Turkish political framework has not emerged as a realistic or popular scheme among the Turkish republics of central Asia since the breakup of the Soviet Union, while cultural and economic interchange among them and with Turkey has intensified.

see also ali suavi; cemal paşa; enver paşa; ottomanism.


Berkes, Niyazi. The Development of Secularism in Turkey. Montreal: McGill University Press, 1964; reprint, New York: Routledge, 1998.

Kushner, David. The Rise of Turkish Nationalism, 18761908. London: Cass, 1977.

Landau, Jacob M. Pan-Turkism: From Irredentism to Cooperation, 2d revised and updated edition. Bloomington: University of Indiana Press, 1995.

hasan kayali

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