Nationalism and State Sovereignty Lesson 4 Background on Turkish Nationalism
Nationalism and State Sovereignty Lesson 4 Background on Turkish Nationalism

Time: 10  minutes
Skills: n/a
Objective 3
Related Resources:
- Cagaptay, Soner (2007, June 24). “Race, Assimilation and Kemalism: Turkish Nationalism and the Minorities in the 1930s.” Middle Eastern Studies. May2004, Vol. 40 Issue 3, p86-101. 16p.

Soner Cagaptay provides an excellent backgrounder to understanding Turkish nationalism in the 1920′s and 1930′s and the reading can used to provide context to the primary documents on Turkish nationalism:

“Turkish nationalism in the 1930s is an important episode in Turkish history, whose legacy seems to have imprinted itself on modern Turkey. During that decade, which witnessed the rise of nationalism in the European continent, but especially in Eastern Europe, the idea that the Turks were a glorious nation rose to prominence in Turkey. ‘Turkish History Thesis’ and ‘Sun Language Theory’ emerged in a series of official conferences and publications, emphasizing the role of race in defining the nation.”

“…As late as the 1920s, Turkishness had been mostly defined independently of race. At that time Turkey was busy trying to recover from the devastating destruction of a decade of wars, spanning the Balkan Wars of 1912–13 and the Turco-Greek War of 1920–22. At that time, millions of Turkish and non-Turkish Muslim immigrants, expelled to Anatolia and Thrace from Europe and the Black Sea basin since the eighteenth century, banded with the Anatolian Turks and Muslims. These defended Turkey, a land that they saw as their home. In 1922, Turkey was liberated, and in 1923, a republic was established.”

“An important demographic change at the time had been the death and emigration of most Anatolian Christians over the previous decade….Yet, even then, Turkey still had a heterogeneous population….The 1924 Constitution of the republic aimed to address this diversity: ‘The People of Turkey, regardless of religion and race, are Turks as regards citizenship.’7 Ankara wished to consolidate as many of the country’s minorities as possible into the Turkish nation. The government expected that non-Turkish Muslims would be assimilated.”

“…Consequently, there was now no mention of Islam as a component of Turkishness. This was because during the 1920s, staunch Kemalism had pushed Islam to the margins of society. Secularism aimed to strip the Turkish Muslims of their predominant collective identity…”

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