Nationalism: Turkish

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During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries the multiethnic, multireligious Ottoman Empire was transformed into a collection of nation-states in the Balkans and the Middle East. This was the result of social and economic developments and cultural changes brought about by internal and external forces at work in the empire. Although the reforms of the Tanzimat era (1839–1876) streamlined the empire's administrative and financial institutions and established new ones, it also inadvertently helped advance ethnic awareness.

The policies of Ottomanism pursued during the 1870s and 1880s, with the concept of citizenship replacing an individual's status as subject of the sultan, were unable to retain the loyalty of the various ethnic groups in the European provinces of the empire. After the loss of most of the Balkan territories and increasing European political and financial control of the Ottoman government's affairs, Sultan ˓Abd al-Hamid II's (1876–1909) policies were affected accordingly. With the influx of Muslims into the empire, mostly from the Caucasus, and the influence of Muslim intellectuals both at home and abroad, pan-Islam replaced Ottomanism. Islam became the social and political basis of the empire, and the Sultan emphasized his role as caliph, identifying with the anti-imperialist tendencies of Islam.

The Young Turk Revolution of 1908 brought about fundamental changes. The Union and Progress Party, in charge of the newly established parliament and controlled by the Young Turks, pursued secular and—in some important areas, such as education—pro-Turkish policies. The Arab Revolt in 1916 against the Istanbul government during the First World War clearly directed the course of nationalism in the Middle East. The nationalist movements of non-Turkish Muslims, Albanians, and Arabs gave impetus to Turkish nationalism. They influenced the emergence of a Turkish nationalism with secular tendencies, which received intellectual nourishment from its chief ideologue, Ziya Gokalp (1876–1924). Gokalp took a deep interest in the history of the ancient Turks and argued that the basis of nationality was culture (hars). This included all feelings, judgments, and ideals, as distinct from civilization (medeniyet) which encompassed rational and scientific knowledge and technology. Through his poems and essays, Gokalp sought a national revival of Turkish history and language. This, along with his search for new values, led to his movement of Turkism (Turkculuk). Thus, he in effect underwrote the ideals of Turkish nationalism.

During the War of Independence (1919–1922), the National Pact (1919), with its territorial definitions and populist expressions, set the agenda for the formation in 1923 of the Republic of Turkey. The first two decades of the Turkish Republic were a period of political and cultural consolidation under its first president, Mustafa Kemal (Ataturk). The government relied heavily on Turkey's past to bolster national pride and integration. Kemal blamed the religious leaders for opposing the spirit of Islam, and effectively reinterpreted religion and its role in the society according to nationalist ideas. Being aware of the symbolic powers of organized institutions, the government methodically disestablished the then-existing political, legal, and educational institutions of Islam, replacing them with adaptations of Western models. Turkish nationalism substituted itself for all loyalties and values earlier expressed through religion, and thus became the ideology of the Republic.

See alsoAtaturk, Mustafa Kemal ; Balkans, Islam in the ; Empires: Ottoman ; Nur Movement ; Nursi, Said ; Pan-Islam ; Young Ottomans ; Young Turks .


Lewis, Bernard. The Emergence of Modern Turkey. 2d ed. London: Oxford University Press, 1968.

Zurcher, Erik J. Turkey, A Modern History. London and New York: I. B. Tauris, 1993.

A. Uner Turgay

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Nationalism: Turkish

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Nationalism: Turkish