Kemalism – The Turkish Model of a Secular Republic

von by Sara-Marie Demiriz Original aufOriginal in German, angezeigt aufdisplayed in English
PublishedErschienen: 2023-07-24
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    The new state's norms and values were primarily established in the founding years of the Turkish Republic. Kemalism was the driving force behind Turkey's nationalization and state-building process. It was the product and further development of a course of nationalization that had its roots in the Ottoman Empire and the ideas and utopias originating in Europe. Atatürk and the Turkish state elite formed their own national concepts from these ideas and translated them in Kemalism into political action. Kemalism was intended to accomplish the transformation from empire to republic, replacing Islam as the "social glue" with a robust Turkish nationalism.

    InhaltsverzeichnisTable of Contents


    Kemalism is generally understood to be the founding ideology of the Turkish Republic, which is traced in name solely to the father of the nation and first president of , Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (1881–1938)[Mustafa Kemal (Atatürk) (1881–1938) IMG]. The term Kemalism is already found in the young republic (1923–1938), where the Turkish state doctrine was also called Kamalism.1 Kemalism was thus a product of its time and shaped in its content by Kemal Atatürk and his comrades-in-arms. Despite the many continuities between the Republic and its predecessor, the , the proclamation of the Republic and the policies pushed by Mustafa Kemal represented a new beginning and a rupture with the Ottoman legacy. The founding of the Republic changed the balance of power and political order in the new Turkish state. While not everything old disappeared immediately, and certainly not everything new could be instantly put in place, the proclamation of the Republic at least expressed a desire for change.  Kemalism was supposed to transform Turkey, propel it to new greatness and, above all, put it on an equal footing with the powers of Europe. It embodied values and norms as well as new rules of political and social coexistence.

    Nevertheless, there was no clear definition of Kemalism. Its content was only vaguely defined; Kemalism was not a cohesive ideology. There was neither an ideological opus, nor profound teachings, nor a core philosophy. This ideological vacuum was to be filled in 1931 with the formulation of Kemalist principles: nationalism, republicanism, revolutionism, etatism, populism, and secularism. They were represented as six arrows (altı ok) in the party emblem and incorporated into the constitutional text in 1937.2 The writing of Mustafa Kemal's Great Speech, the Nutuk, as well as the Turkish History Thesis3 and Sun Language Theory4 were also intended to form part of an ideological framework.

    Notwithstanding its limited ideological depth, Kemalism characterized a key era in Turkish republican history and gave it a name.5 Kemalism was perceived and sometimes admired by as well as by democratic states such as the USA, and also in the Arab world. It forged a new state elite and achieved a rather peaceful transition from a one-party regime to a democratic multi-party system in 1950.6 Turkish parties from the far right to the left still draw on Atatürk's image for their policies and argue about "true" Kemalism. To this day, no president can avoid having to be legitimated by Atatürk.

    The aim of this paper is to describe Kemalism in its formative and peak phases in the 1920s and 1930s and to inquire how Kemalism managed to become a force capable of transforming Turkey from Ottoman Empire to Turkish Republic and aimed at forming citizens out of subjects.

    The roots of Kemalism

    The men, and in some cases women, who shaped Kemalism were socialized during the late period of the empire: Their ideas, beliefs and visions were strongly influenced by various processes, political philosophies, but also specific events between the 1880s and 1910s.7 The political ideas and revolutionary reform program with which Atatürk and his followers molded the new Kemalist republic were products of a reorganization that began as early as the mid-19th century.

    The idea of a Turkish community to be built on national values (in contrast to Ottoman society which was based on a religious foundation), the belief in progress, civilization and a secularized order were adapted and developed in visions of the Kemalist elite by both the Young Ottomans of the Tanzimat period and the Young Turks (1908–1922).8 Its ideological antecedents were Ottoman scientism, Westernization during the Young Turk era, and emerging Turkish nationalism in the 1910s and 1920s.

    The nationalist movement around the Young Turks had the greatest influence on the ideological thinking of the Turkish ruling elite of the 1920s and 1930s. It formed at the end of the 18th century on the fringes of the empire and in the cities of the provinces. It was initially founded as a secret national movement called the Committee for Unity and Progress (KEF, İttihad ve Terakki Cemiyeti),9 before it became known as the Young Turks.10 Unlike the old bureaucratic state elite of the ruling dynasty, the Young Turks did not come from the epicenter of power . Faction membership consisted primarily of young cadets, students, and graduates of the Royal War Academies,11 who received a largely secular (European) education due to educational reform. As a result of their birth cohorts, Mustafa Kemal and his later comrades-in-arms belonged to a younger generation of this opposition movement against Abdülhamid II (1842–1918)[Abdülhamid II. (1842–1918), der "rote Sultan", um 1900 IMG].12

    The main venue for influencing the thinking and later actions of the fledgling cadets and officer candidates who would later guide the fortunes of the new Turkish Republic were the empire's military academies. The war academies not only imported Western war strategies and a new secular education, but also the political and philosophical ideas of 19th century Europe into the Ottoman Empire. French philosophers and writers in particular, but also writings by German thinkers and military leaders, flourished at the academies. One of the most widely read and influential works was Colmar von der Goltz's (1843–1916) The Nation in Arms: A Treatise on Modern Military Systems and the Conduct of War (1883). It was part of the official reading list and translated into Turkish just one year after its publication. Goltz's ideas influenced almost the entire senior Ottoman officer corps as early as 1908, who believed in and worked toward the establishment of a military-led "nation in arms." This also applied to Mustafa Kemal, who, however, envisioned a "Turkish nation in arms,"13 not an Ottoman one.14

    With the "vulgar materialism" of the 19th century imported from Germany, the Young Turks believed in science and technical progress as modernizing forces and oriented themselves to the findings of the Darwinian theory of evolution. Ludwig Büchner's (1824–1899) Force and Matter, "which was regarded as a sacred book,"15 formed the basis for many Young Turks' understanding of science and religion.16 Atatürk's and many Kemalists' faith in science found its origin in the scientism of this intellectual elite of the empire, who came to be dominated by the Young Turks at the turn of the century at the latest.17

    The Young Turks already saw religion as the greatest "foe" of this modernizing science and an obstacle on the path to a modern (Turkish) nation. The Young Turk logic of "science before religion," which was later continued by the Kemalists, was reflected in the state's control of religion. In particular, Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–1778) and Auguste Comte (1789–1857), but also Émile Durkheim (1858–1917), Ferdinand Buisson (1841–1932) and Henri Bergson (1859–1941) as well as Gustave Le Bon (1841–1931) constituted the intellectual ferment of the future Turkish ruling elite.18 In line with the designs of sociologist Ziya Gökalp (1876–1924)[Ziya Gökalp (1876-1924)], leading ideologue of the KEF, the Young Turks aimed to create a liberalized Islam. Gökalp's national ideas also strongly influenced Atatürk. In his dealings with Islam, however, Atatürk later deviated from the former's ideas for his own version of Kemalism.19

    Finally, the Kemalist project of the Republic was strongly influenced by the Western orientation and Eurocentrism of the Second Constitutional Period under the Young Turks.20 They viewed the only true modernity as that of the West. Europe was civilization, and so all progress had to move in the direction of Europe. The adoption of the Western lifestyle was interpreted as an instrument for bringing about profound changes in Turkey's social and cultural life. Change induced from the outside was seen as an opportunity to affect a change in domestic attitudes: Civilization and progress could be achieved from within by transforming public policy.21 The myriad reforms that radically altered the country in the 1920s, and eventually implemented some of the goals already theorized by the Young Turks, are an expression of this mindset.22

    Atatürk's ideas of Kemalism

    Mustafa Kemal was not himself interested in establishing an ideology. He personally neither wrote an ideological treatise nor proclaimed corresponding doctrines that defined exactly what was to be understood by Kemalism and what it ultimately aimed at. He was neither philosopher nor thinker – he was not an ideologue. Nonetheless, he managed to assert his ideas of Turkey over other leaders and political tendencies that dominated the politics of the Republic between 1922 and 1925.23 His victories in the War of Independence helped make his claim to leadership a reality and elevated his ideas to a "sacred cause." On this foundation, he was able to turn utopias and ideas into reality, and to transform visions into political action. Thanks to Mustafa Kemal, Kemalism acquired a deep pragmatism.24 To a certain extent, Atatürk's Kemalism was defined by ideological gaps – no writings, no doctrines, no philosophy – and a strong practical orientation. This was demonstrated by the radical reform program that was pushed through from 1925 onward.25 It radically implemented the ideas and conceptions that the Kemalist elite had embraced during the Young Turk era. They utterly transformed the legal foundations of Turkish society and, invoking Kemalism, which remained vague, were expected to give the republic its Turkish, secular, and Western character.26 In essence, Atatürk's vision of Kemalism aimed to create a secular republic with enlightened, mature, and Westernized citizens.27

    The "Hat Revolution" (1925)Hutgesetz – Atatürk in Izmir 1925 is a striking example of the attempt to counter the religiously influenced dress culture of the Ottoman Empire with a new national dress code appropriate to the Turkish Republic.28 Just one year later, the parliament adopted the Swiss Civil Code (1926). Additionally, Italian criminal law and German commercial law became the basis of the new Turkish legislation. In 1924, was designated as the new capital of Turkey, replacing the (religious) power center of Istanbul. As further assimilations of the West and rejection of religious tradition, the Latin alphabetAtatürk führt das neue türkische Alphabet ein was introduced in 1928, European units of measurement in 1931, and Sunday was introduced as a holiday in 1935. From 1932 (until 1950), the call to prayer (ezan) was no longer in Arabic but in Turkish; the religiously connoted and Ottoman titles were banned in 1934, together with religious clothing. In a legal sense, the "total" transformation of the Turkish state into a secular republic was thus completed, at least on paper, by the mid-1930s.29

    The third Great Congress (Üçüncü Büyük Kurultay) of the Republican People's Party (CHP), held in Ankara from May 10 to 18, 1931, was instrumental in the creation of a Kemalist doctrine, albeit a rather tenuous one. Only a few months after the dissolution of the Free Party (Serbest Cumhuriyet Fırkası)30 – which was founded to "monitor" the growing political opposition at Atatürk's behest – and the Menemen Uprising31 in December 1930, the members of the party gathered and formulated the six Kemalist principles of the Republican People's Party.32 They comprised republicanism, populism, nationalism, secularism, etatism, and revolutionism, which were to provide "the maxims for action as well as the basis for a national ideology capable of creating identity."33 Moreover, the measures adopted at the party's Great Congress formulated "a redefinition of the relationship between the party and the state."34 It resulted in forcing institutions that were not within the state's purview to join state-controlled institutions.35

    Atatürk did not consider Islam a modernizing force or part of a Turkish ideology.36 At most, he expected Islam to be useful for the Kemalist project.37 The Kemalists implemented the imposition of restrictions on religion, which had already been pushed by the Young Turks, even more radically. With Diyanet, the office for religious affairs, they established an institution to keep tabs on all religious activities. The aim was to nationalize Islam.38 Atatürk was a believer in the laicism of . He saw himself as an enlightener and reformer.39 Religion needed to be stripped of its magic through positivist science, and the ulema was to be deprived of its interpretive sovereignty, in the hope of "privatizing religion and also promoting a Turkish Islam".40 Here lay the greatest differences and reorientations in contrast to the Young Turk model, which continued to see a liberal Islam as part of their national ideas and as an engine for modernization.

    Education and enlightenment of the people emerged as key points of the Kemalist program. This led to the introduction of compulsory and free education and the adoption of the "Law on the Unification of Education," which removed the clergy's influence on schooling. Also state educational work in the sense of the new Kemalist republican values and norms was carried outAtatürk besichtigt Volkshaus 1937 via People's Houses41 and People's Rooms.42 In particular, the People's Houses were to become centers of knowledge and education. The strengthening of school education was just as much a part of this as cultural, social, and civic education. Another focus was on hygiene and health education.43 The People's Houses sought to reach the part of the population that was no longer of school age. "Public buildings, factories, hospitals, but also mosques and coffee houses"44 were also home to so-called "schools of the nation"45 (Millet Mektepleri). They were meant to advance a rapid literacy program for all illiterate people between the ages of 16 and 30.46

    Nevertheless, Kemalist nationalism had also taken root in the ideological foundation of the Young Turks. Drawing on his Young Turk influences, "Atatürk wanted to have a Turkish nationalism supported by scientism, fashionable racial models based on phrenology, and popular Darwinian evolutionary theories."47 Although the question of "race" was still unsettled for the Young Turks, it was answered for the time being by the consequences of the First World War, territorial decline, the murder, expulsion and resettlement of various ethnic groups, and the victory of the nationalists in the War of Independence. Within the new borders of the former multiethnic state, the Turks formed the largest ethnic group, surpassing the Kurds.

    The "new" Turks were also to be given an old history. On the one hand, this helped to legitimize Turkish supremacy; on the other, it was intended to tell a national story independent of the Ottoman Empire and Islamic heritage. The Turkish Historical Society (TTK, Türk Tarih Kurumu), founded in 1932, and the Turkish Language Association (TDK, Türk Dil Kurumu), established in 1933, were entrusted with the task of constructing this history. These "lapdogs"48 of Atatürk were supposed to define Turkish nationalism, to put the republic and its emergence on a scientifically legitimized foundation.49 Essential tools for this purpose were the History Thesis disseminated by TTK and TDK and the Sun Language Theory. They allowed Atatürk to declare a Turkic Central Asia as the cradle of civilized peoples, the Turks as a white people, the Sumerians and Hittites as the ancestors of the Turkic peoples, as well as Turkish as the original language of humankind. With a view to orienting Turkey towards the West in terms of culture and civilization, Turkey was to be brought into line with the size and importance of the states of Europe and their histories were to be interwoven. Ottoman rule, conversely, was turned into a period of foreign domination. The purification of the Turkish language from Arabic and Persian elements was also intended to complete the rupture with the Ottoman heritage. For Ataturk, Kemalism was, above all, to be Westernized, civilized, secular, and Turkish.50

    Interpreters of Kemalism

    Unlike Atatürk himself, other intellectuals and statesmen within the Kemalist elite repeatedly tried to give Kemalism a stronger ideological profile. Among them were hardliners and liberals, extreme secularists and those more overtly opposed to Islam. They also molded the essence and aims of Kemalism. Broadly, they can be counted among the ruling elite of the Republic and are chiefly members of the second generation of the Young Turk movement (born around 1880). Government officials, parliamentarians who remained after the purge of the National Assembly in 1925 (although there were still opposition members), and parts of the intellectual elite (socialized in the decline of the Ottoman Empire, influenced by European education, foreign ideologies, and shaped by a belief in science and progress) all supported and promoted Kemalism through their professions. They formed the Republic's new – albeit weak – "bourgeoisie".51 Their actions influenced education, forged the ideas of a Turkish (national) history, and ensured the implementation of government objectives.52 As thinkers and leaders, they shaped the new Republic and witnessed the realization of their visions and utopias – even if they may have diverged. For example, Yusuf Akçura (1876–1935) influenced Kemalism through his Turkist ideas and promoted an ethnic interpretation of Turkish Kemalist nationalism. There were also members of the intelligentsia who supported anti-Islamic attitudes and calls for greater social infiltration of secular reforms.53

    Likewise, the circle of "'usual gentlemen' (mutat zevat)" had an impact on the face of the Kemalist republic. They were among Atatürk's closest friends and counselors and were his listeners, if not advisers, at informal meetings.54 Atatürk's foster daughters Afet İnan (1908–1985) and Sabiha Gökçen (1913–2001) were "icons of Kemalism" and worked towards Atatürk's vision of the Republic. The historian İnan made her mark on Kemalism by "researching" and disseminating "Turkish history," while Gökçen, the world's first female fighter pilotSabiha Gökcen (1913-2001) in Uniform, was stylized as a heroine. She was supposed to embody the symbol of the modern woman and a progressive Turkey.55

    The two most prominent groups within the state elite, however, were the left-wing Kemalism of the Kadro group and the right-wing Kemalism of the Ülkü group. Both factions tried to construct an ideology of Kemalism out of Atatürk's ideas. The left-wing Kemalists organized around the magazine Kadro. Founders and leading writers of the journal were Şevket Süreyya Aydemir (1897–1976), Vedat Nedüm Tör (1899–1967), İsmail Hüsrev Tökin (1902–1994) and Kadro's editor, Yakup Kadri Karaosmanoğlu (1889–1974).56 The political underpinnings of the group can be described as superficial and makeshift, a "combination of Marxism, nationalism, and corporatism."57 They rejected capitalism and imperialism; they also aimed to transform the RVP into a "trained elite, a cadre that would act as the vanguard of the Kemalist revolution."58 The group called for a strong state that would intervene in all areas of social, public, and cultural life. For them, etatism was an alternative to communism and capitalism. They saw the new Turkey as a classless society and a strong economically acting state as a means to maintain this polity.59

    Leading members of the state elite, such as the first prime minister and second president of the Republic, İsmet İnönü (1884–1973)[İsmet İnönü (1884-1973)], actively opposed the Kadro group.60 In particular, the İş-Bankası group, which was considered liberal and formed within the RVP around minister of economy and later prime minister, Celâl Bayar (1883–1986), and president of the İş-Bankası, Mahmut Soydan (1889–1936), opposed the strong etatism as well as the communist tendencies of the Kadro group and the idea of a classless corporatist society. İnönü was a proponent of a strong state with absolute control, but the Kadro men were too far to the left for his liking. Bayar, meanwhile, saw the strong state only as a transition toward a more liberal republic.61 The Kadro group's influence ultimately remained limited. It reached only a small elite circle, not the broad masses; its ideas were not taken up by the leadership. The etatism that Kadro called for remained limited to economic policy. Upon Karaosmanoğlu's "deployment" as ambassador to (1934), the group finally disbanded.62

    Even Recep Peker (18881950), secretary-general of the RVP between 1925 and 1936, publicly opposed the Kadro movement and made it clear that if there were to be an RVP ideology, the Kadro men would not be the ones to define it.63 Right-wing Kemalism thus emerged as a kind of counter-proposal and "rectification" of the political visions of Kadro. The instrument of dissemination of right-wing Kemalism was the magazine Ülkü (in English "ideal"), published by the People's Houses since 1933.64 Within its pages, the "corporatist and solidarity ideas"65 of the authors were presented and discussed as an ideological groundwork. This also meant that they assumed a nation without class distinctions. Turkey was conceived as a social organism, consistent with the division of labor in different occupational groups.66

    Models for this right-wing interpretation of Kemalism were also located in Europe, but they tended to be found in fascist Italy and Nazi Germany.67

    Apart from the "main ideologue of the movement,"68 Recep Peker, other leading men of the Ülkü group were Necip Ali Küçüka, Nusret Köymen, Mehmet Saffet, Kazım Nami Duru, Ahmet Nesimi, Ferit Celal as well as Behçet Kemal.69 They were all "well-known figures of the Republican People's Party,"70 as well as within the institution of the People's Houses. The Ülkü men felt "obliged to cultivate 'the people'"71 and "understood politics as a messianic practice".72 They placed themselves in the tradition of the French Revolution and espoused an idea of solidarity that embraced both "secular morality and Jacobin democracy".73 In this sense, group members can be understood as apostles and missionaries of their ideal of a new Turkish Republic. Through their version of Kemalism, they sought to spiritually illuminate (enlighten) and educate the Turkish population. They envisioned the Republic as a holy entity, with Mustafa Kemal as its mastermind and to whom they attributed divine leadership qualities.74 The aim of the group was to initiate a comprehensive nationalization of language, history, art and culture and, through journalistic means, to spread the spirit of the People's Houses.75 The group wanted to implement a new and positive image of Turks and stood behind Atatürk's History Thesis.76

    Recep Peker was not only a leading member of the Ülkü group, but one of the "most hardline members of the Kemalist regime"77 and held various ministerial posts. His last position was both minister of the interior and general-secretary of the RVP. Like his great examples Germany and Italy, in Turkey he wanted to place the state under the power of the party and give it sovereignty over the administration.78 In 1936, the proposal to do this caused a rift between Recep Peker and Ataturk, who did not support such a state-party nexus. To Atatürk's way of thinking, Recep Peker sought an ideology that was too narrow.79 Until that point, however, Peker's Kemalism had a sustained influence on the Republic's image. As secretary-general of the RVP, Peker, more than most, exerted influence wherever he could. Nonetheless, other men from the Ülkü group also partly occupied key government positions, were associated with the RVP, or were able to influence life in the Republic in other ways such as through newspapers, art, and literature.

    Kemalist state and personality cult

    While Kemalism80 may have been a weak ideology devoid of philosophy or doctrine, its influence on social, political, and cultural life in Turkey was not insignificant. In keeping with Atatürk's pragmatism, not only did an enormous reform program sweep through the Republic in the 1920s, but the Kemalist leadership similarly drove a massive program of symbolic communication and sacralized politics in the 1930s.81 They were responding to the realization that the reforms that had been implemented were not having as rapid and lasting an impact on society as they had intended. Islam was formally ousted from the public sphere, yet no substitute for this social glue was created. The secular reforms in particular were not as radical in reality as they appeared on paper.82 This gap was supposed to be filled and the population given something to believe in again by creating a Turkish nationalism in Kemalist doctrine.83 It would transform the former Ottoman subjects into Turkish citizens. It was intended, in this sense, to serve as a substitute for religion as opposed to a substitute religion. The salvation of the Turks lay in the salvation of the Republic. The instrument of this exchange Islam for Turkish nationalism was the Kemalist state and personality cult, which was orchestrated around Mustafa Kemal and the Republic at the latest with the tenth anniversary celebration of the Turkish RepublicJubiläumsrede Atatürks 1933. Turkish nationalism was sacralized by offering the people various cults – the cults of reason, the military, the republic; the personality cult around Atatürk84 – and by launching a bombastic symbol politics that was as far-reaching as it was profound. Kemalism did not develop a party cult as in National SocialismAnsprache von Adolf Hitler im Berliner Lustgarten 1932 IMG. Although the party focused more on symbolism in 1933 and 1938, it was never the center of political staging or propaganda. It was neither a bearer of salvation nor a force for attracting the masses. Recep Peker's departure from the scene also prevented the emergence of an RVP cult.85

    The cults were established by means of the ritual acts on the national holidays. Not only were they primarily designed by the chairman of the high holiday committee, Recep Peker, and parts of the Ülkü group, but they were also organized and implemented by a large number of the individuals mentioned above. Due to their joyful and festive character, the holidays had great integrative potential. They were accessible to all, regardless of educational level, and as an "experience of the masses" had a communal and sense-giving aspect.86 The festivities on the national holidays provided instructions on how to be a Turk: every national anthem sung, every Atatürk oath sworn, every parade, the numerous Turkish flags and graphic art, the achievements and values of the Republic, marches, plays, and poems. Thus, even in the 1930s, the Kemalists adhered to the notion that they could change the consciousness of Turkish citizens from the outside in. The vision of a Turkish identity was transformed visually into reality. The following media served the purpose of an absolute implementation of a Kemalist vision of the future of the new Turkey: music, theater, cinema, radio, literature, newspapers and poetry, clothing, headgearTürkische Kopfbedeckungen 1923architecture, monuments, statues and ephemeral buildings, squares and streets, the national flag and anthem, exhibitions, museums, banners, and images.87 Likewise helping to spread the nationalism "blessed" by Atatürk were People's Houses and Village Institutes under the leadership of the Ülkü group, language and history associations, as well as the ministry of education and magazines, such as La Turquie Kemaliste, published by the press office.88 At the same time, the "revolutionary programatics" became "compulsory material" in school.89 The Nutuk, which in terms of its content is primarily a justification for Atatürk's actions between 1920 and 1927 and a reckoning with his opponents within the independence movement, was ultimately largely insignificant.90 However, the "Speech to the Youth," which constitutes the last part of the Nutuk pointing to the future, actually became a canonical text of Kemalism through the ceremonies on public holidays.91 Parts of the speech were collectively sworn as an Atatürk oath and also repeatedly used by other speakers for their propagandistic writings.92

    If we direct our attention to what was proclaimed on the national holidays (the rituals),93 Kemalism elaborated a nationalism that was centered on a Turkish nation, demanded faith in science and the privatization of religion (laicism). To be a Turk meant to promote and love the fine arts and music, to be part of the civilized world. The History Thesis and the Sun Language Theory were also integral to the nationalism's conception of values and order. The War of Independence and the miracle of the Turkish victory became touchstones for all the Republic's accomplishments. The sacrifices of war were used to place the Republic on a sacred pedestal (republicanism). Turkey's achievements, progress and "modernity" (revolutionism) needed to be defended by all citizens against internal and external enemies. In this context, the military was elevated to the status of benefactor of peace, freedom, and the Republic, which should be supported and trusted. Without Atatürk – and this was the primary message of Kemalist symbolism and holiday politics – the republic, the nation, would not have come into being. Atatürk was the Republic – he was the nation – and vice versa. Therefore, to be Turkish meant to love and honor the father, Atatürk, the supreme commander, statesman, teacher, and eternal leader. He was the symbolic bedrock of Turkish nationalism. Democracy and participation (populism) were also showcased, but in the end they were intended to maintain appearances. Etatism remained rather marginal in the Republic's stagings, but was nevertheless posited – at least symbolically, for example, through the orations on holidays – and thereby also integrated. Kemalist principles thus did not play a role in state-building merely as empty slogans. The holidays turned them, in part, into direct calls to action. Their significance varied, however.94

    The funeral ceremonies for AtatürkAnıtkabir in November 1938 enshrined for future generations the Kemalism and the Turkish nationalism that Atatürk had put his stamp on. Kemalist ideas subsequently departed from the History Thesis and the Sun Language Theory. Nevertheless, what remained, by and large, deeply rooted in Turkish nationalism was the belief in science that Kemalism gave birth to, the strong military, and the sanctity of the Republic. The War of Independence was also the defining experience of the nation – the moment of birth of the fatherland (in Turkish motherland) and its leader, and especially the personality cult around Atatürk.95

    Atatürk was not the only one to establish Kemalist-style Turkish nationalism. Various groups and individuals exerted influence – ideological, theoretical, and practical. The Ülkü group, headed by Peker, had a lasting influence on Kemalism and on the face of the Republic through national holidays and other symbolic forms of expression. Although Atatürk's successor, İsmet İnönü, leaned more toward the left wing of the Kemalists, right-wing Kemalism became the basis of official state Kemalism in the 1930s.96

    In establishing the Republic, Atatürk had strong comrades-in-arms and supporters, but no real partners. He would remain during his lifetime the absolute national and eternal leader (Ulu ve Ebedi Önder). He permitted the ideas of others, letting his followers have their way when it seemed to him conducive to setting up his republic. If he saw their policies as part of his version of Kemalism, they were pragmatically adopted into the nation's (re)education program; however, if their plans and visions did not correspond to his ideas, he put an abrupt halt to their "shenanigans". Atatürk himself thus seems to have decided on the content, depth, and radicalism of Kemalism. The result was that Kemalism did not ossify, but remained essentially viable.

    Kemalism thus integrated partly divergent interpretations – which, however, were not entirely incongruous. Under the aegis of a critique of the past, it managed "to bring together various intellectuals from different circles such as İsmayıl Hakkı Baltacıoglu, Peyami Safa, Recep Peker, Ahmet Ağaoğlu and Şevket Süreyya Aydemir".97 First and foremost, they took aim at the traditional structures of the Ottoman Empire and religion.98

    In the end, Kemalism was to remain what it had always been for Atatürk: a driving force for the transformation from empire to republic, subject to citizen, and Ottoman to Turk. Atatürk, therefore, did not establish a self-referential ideology. He rather used Kemalism to shape a Turkish nationalism, whose characteristic features persist to this day, despite his absence. Thus, while there may been some scope for interpretation and "ideological freedom" between 1923 and 1938 about Kemalism, it nonetheless remained one thing above all: "Atatürkist".

    Sara-Marie Demiriz



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    1. ^ See the expression Kamal: Hanioğlu, Atatürk 2011, p. 176.
    2. ^ Zürcher, Turkey 2012, pp. 181f.
    3. ^ In essence, the History Thesis propagated the idea that the cradle of human civilization was Central Asia. From there, the "emigration of Turks from Central Asia" (Kreiser, Geschichte der Türkei 2012, p. 53) to the entire "Old World" (Hanioğlu, Atatürk 2011, p. 164) had taken place. The Turks were made co-founders of the Hittite and Sumerian empires by the History Thesis. As a result, the modern Anatolian was to be counted as "'short-headed' among the European 'Alpines'" (Kreiser, Geschichte der Türkei 2012, p. 53), i.e. the Turk was to become part of the "European racial family." This was also intended to give the achievements of Greco-Roman civilization a "Turkish" origin (Hanioğlu, Atatürk 2011, p. 164). Alleged finds of Turkish skeletons in the soil of Anatolia – presented in Afet İnan's doctoral thesis – also established a kind of "proprietary right" of the new Turkish nation. (Kreiser, Geschichte der Türkei 2012, pp. 53–54).
    4. ^ The Sun Language Theory was conceived by Atatürk and his linguists in 1935. It was intended to support the History Thesis and the associated image of Turkey as the cradle of civilization. The theory advanced the notion that Turkish was the first language of mankind. Thus, in addition to validating the History Thesis, the theory was also used to explain and justify European words in Turkish, because this meant they remained intrinsically Turkish (see Hanioğlu, Atatürk 2011, pp. 176–177).
    5. ^ Thus, Zürcher refers to the years between 1926 and 1945 as the heyday of Kemalism or High Kemalism (see Zürcher, Turkey 2012, p. 4).
    6. ^ See Plaggenborg, Ordnung und Gewalt 2012, p. 352.
    7. ^ See Belge, Mustafa Kemal ve Kemalizm 2001, pp. 29–43; Findely, The Tanzimat 2008, pp. 11–37; Hanioğlu, The Historical Roots of Kemalism 2012, pp. 31–60; Hanioğlu, Atatürk 2011; Hanioğlu, A Brief History of the late Ottoman Empire 2008; Hanioğlu, Turkism and the Young Turks 2006, pp. 3–19; Zürcher, The Ottoman Legacy of the Kemalist Republic 2007, pp. 95–110 and Zürcher, Turkey 2012; Zürcher, Ottoman Sources of Kemalist Thought 2005, pp. 13–26.
    8. ^ See Hanioğlu, Turkism and the Young Turks 2006, pp. 3–19, here: p. 3.
    9. ^ Dreßler, Die civil religion der Türkei 1999, p. 29.
    10. ^ All opponents of the regime under Abdülhamid II are often subsumed under the collective term Young Turks. The individual groupings, their composition and ideological range within the Young Turks movement are described in particular detail in the contributions by Hanioğlu mentioned in footnote 7.
    11. ^ See Hanioğlu, Atatürk 2011, pp. 39–40; here: p. 43.
    12. ^ See Hanioğlu, Atatürk 2011, pp. 39–40; here: p. 43.
    13. ^ Hanioğlu, Atatürk 2011, p. 37.
    14. ^ See Hanioğlu, Atatürk 2011, pp. 31–47
    15. ^ Hanioğlu, Atatürk 2011, p. 49.
    16. ^ See Hanioğlu, The Historical Roots of Kemalism 2012, pp. 32–60; here p. 38 and Kreiser, Atatürk 2008, p. 43.
    17. ^ See Kreiser, Atatürk 2008, pp. 48–97.
    18. ^ Shaw, An Intellectualistic Interpretation of Modern Turkey 2009, p. 18.
    19. ^ See Hanioğlu, Atatürk 2011, p. 62.
    20. ^ See Hanioğlu, Atatürk 2011, p. 201.
    21. ^ "Das Kalkül war: Was Menschen auf dem Kopf tragen, macht sich auch in ihren Herzen breit" (Özdoğan, Nation und Symbol 2007, p. 266).
    22. ^ On Mustafa Kemal's orientation towards the West, see also Hanioğlu, Atatürk 2011, pp. 199–225.
    23. ^ See Kreiser, Geschichte der Türkei 2012, pp. 9–49.
    24. ^ See Hanioğlu, Atatürk 1999, pp. 147–172; here: p. 167.
    25. ^ See for the reforms e.g. Kreiser, Geschichte der Türkei 2012; Steinbach, Geschichte der Türkei 2007, pp. 30–37; Zürcher, Modern Turkey 2012, pp. 166–203, pp. 39–63.
    26. ^ For secularism, see also Hanioğlu, Atatürk 2011, pp. 129–159.
    27. ^ See Demiriz, Vom Osmanen zum Türken 2018, Fazit.
    28. ^ "Wer den Hut verweigerte, war öffentlich sichtbarer Konterrevolutionär." (Plaggenborg, Ordnung und Gewalt 2012, p. 318). The consequences ranged from imprisonment for five to fifteen years. In some cases, probably for deterrence purposes, even the death penalty was imposed (Plaggenborg, Ordnung und Gewalt 2012, p. 318).
    29. ^ See Kreiser, Geschichte der Türkei 2012, pp. 39–63 and Steinbach, Geschichte der Türkei 2007, pp. 30–37.
    30. ^ In the 1920s, the Kemalist leadership had to face political unrest and uprisings. They repeatedly defied the young republic, resulting in a corresponding crackdown by the state. In particular, the so-called independence courts became an instrument for eliminating opposition. They were used to remove the supposed "opponents of the Republic" – among them former supporters and members of the Committee for Unity and Progress – and to establish a deterrence for future resistance. In the summer of 1930, however, Mustafa Kemal again integrated some pluralism by founding the Free Party. The founding of the party must be understood as a democratic experiment that, after the political turmoil had subsided or been contained, was intended to reflect co-determination and pluralism, at least in a controlled manner. Atatürk's friend Fethi (Okyar) took over the leadership of the party. The members of the party were RVP deputies who were asked to cross over to the party. The party's unexpectedly large electoral success and disputes within parliament ultimately led to the party's dissolution and the abandonment of the democratic experiment. (See Steinbach, Geschichte der Türkei 2007, pp. 30–37; Kreiser, Atatürk 2008, pp. 49–58; and Zürcher, Turkey 2012, pp. 177–179).
    31. ^ Azak, A Reaction 2007, pp. 143–158.
    32. ^ Cümhuriyet Halk Fırkası, Nizamnamesi ve Programı 1931.
    33. ^ Dreßler, Die civil religion der Türkei 1999, pp. 31f.
    34. ^ Karaömerlioğlu, The People's Houses, pp. 67–91. Thus, the governors of the cities also became the party leaders of the cities.
    35. ^ For the reforms and principles, see also: Steinbach, Geschichte der Türkei 2007, pp. 30–37). For the implementation and response to the reform program, especially with respect to dress, language, and Children's Day, see: Yılmaz, Becoming Turkish 2013.
    36. ^ Hanioğlu, Atatürk 2011, p. 65.
    37. ^ See Hanioğlu, Atatürk 2011, p. 66.
    38. ^ See Flöhr, Ein traditioneller Korandeuter im Dienste des Kemalismus 2015; Schulze-Wessel, Nationalisierung der Religion und Sakralisierung der Nation im östlichen Europa 2006.
    39. ^ For example, the U.S. ambassador, Charkles Sherrill, compared Atatürk to Martin Luther (See: Hanioğlu, Atatürk 2011, p. 153).
    40. ^ Quote: Hanioğlu, Historical Roots 2012, p. 43; see Hanioğlu, Historical Roots 2012, pp. 38–45.
    41. ^ The People's Houses were a social and cultural institution with the help of which the Kemalists tried to spread national-republican ideas. The People's Houses originated from the institutions of the so-called Turkish Hearth (Türk Ocakları), which was founded in the 1910s with a similar purpose. The takeover of Türk Ocakları took place in 1931. Control of the houses rested with the provincial branches of the RVP. The houses were mostly located in the centers of the cities or districts and were supposed to become the central place of republican (educational) life. In a sense, they were also competing with the mosques. (See Zürcher, Turkey 2012, p. 180 and Kreiser, Geschichte der Türkei 2012, p. 67). See in depth also: Yeşilkaya, Halakevleri 2003 and Lamprou, Nation-Building in Modern Turkey 2015.
    42. ^ The People's Rooms (Halk Odaları) assumed the same function as the People's Houses, but were built in the smaller towns and villages (See Zürcher, Turkey 2012, p. 180 and Kreiser, Geschichte der Türkei 2012, p. 67).
    43. ^ See for example: Yeşilkaya, Halkevleri 2003, pp. 98ff. On sports policy in the early Republic as a guarantor of "robust" and strong youth, see: Akın, "Gürbüz ve Yavuz Evlatlar" 2004.
    44. ^ Kreiser, Atatürk 2008, p. 274.
    45. ^ Kreiser, Atatürk 2008, p. 274.
    46. ^ See Kreiser, Atatürk 2008, p. 274.
    47. ^ Hanioğlu, Historical Roots 2012, p. 51.
    48. ^ Hanioğlu, Atatürk 2011, p. 180.
    49. ^ The association was founded on June 12, 1932, initially under the name "Society for the Study of the Turkish Language" (Türk Dili Tetkik Cemiyeti). For more in-depth information, see: Bayram, Türk Dil Kurumu'nun 2007 and Lewis, The Turkish Language Reform 1999.
    50. ^ Hanioğlu, Atatürk 2012, p. 162.
    51. ^ It was entirely possible for Atatürk to remove a loyal supporter who had worked for the Republic for years from office because of a disagreement, or to simply disassociate himself from that person's advice and expertise. On the other hand, some early supporters, deputies as well as intellectuals, also parted ways with Atatürk and were critical of him and his policies in later years. During the years of cooperation, however, they are recognized as being loyal to the Kemalist regime.
    52. ^ Undoubtedly, this group must include men such as the journalist Ruşen Eşref Ünaydın (1892–1959), the publicist and founder of the pro-government newspaper Cumhuriyet, Yunus Nadi Abalıoğlu (1859–1945), as well as the publisher Falih Rıfkı Atay (1894–1971), but also Peker's successor in office and at the same time minister of the interior, Şükrü Kaya (1985–1959), can be counted (see Mango, Atatürk 1999, p. 461). Loyal followers of Atatürk, such as the commander-in-chief of the armed forces Fevzi Çakmak (1876–1950), the minister of education Dr. Reşit Galip (1893–1934) and the chairman of the Turkish Historical Society, Yusuf Akçura (1876–1935), also exerted an influence on Kemalism (see: Mango, Atatürk 1999, pp. 481–482). In his Nutuk, Atatürk praised the following people, some of whom have already been named: Adnan Adıvar, Halide Edip Adıvar, Mahmut Esat Bozkurt, Vadıf Çınar, Yusuf Kemal Tengirşenk, Cevat Dursunoğlu, Sülezman Necati, Hilaliahmer'den (Kızılay) Hamit Bey, Mazhar Müfit Bey, Hacı Muittin Çıraklı, Mehmet Vehbi Bolak, Hasan Fehmi, Ruşen Eşref (Ünaydın), Yunus Nadi (Abalıoğlu), Hüseyin Kazım, Mehmet Münir (see Cumhuriyet, 08.31.1988).
    53. ^ Paragraphs 18 and 19 are based on the author's remarks on the Kemalist state elite in her dissertation: Demiriz, Vom Osmanen zum Türken 2018, pp. 52–55.
    54. ^ They included Atatürk's friends Kılıç Ali (1889–1971), Salih Bozok (1881–1941), and Mahmut Soydan (Mango, Atatürk 1999, p. 459). Mango gives a good description of Mustafa Kemal's inner circle of supporters in his two chapters, "The Leader is Always Right" and "Table Talk." He is equally succinct in describing Mustafa Kemal's leadership style, which he would describe as "regal" rather than dictatorial: See Mango, Atatürk 1999, p. 482.
    55. ^ See, for example, information on this and Sabiha Gökçen and Afet İnan in Kreiser, Atatürk 2008; Kreiser, Geschichte der Türkei 2012; Hanioğlu, Atatürk 2011; and Zürcher, Atatürk 2012.
    56. ^ See Talay, Karaosmanoğlu 2001, pp. 430–441. Türkeş, Kadro Dergisi 2001, pp. 464–476.
    57. ^ Lewis, The Emergence of Modern Turkey 2002, p. 470.
    58. ^ Zürcher, Turkey 2012, p. 198.
    59. ^ See also Türkeş, Kadro Dergisi 2001, pp. 464–476 and Alpkaya, Bir 20 2001, pp. 477–500.
    60. ^ See Türkeş, Kadro Dergisi 2001, pp. 464–476, here: p. 476.
    61. ^ See Türkeş, Kadro Dergisi 2001, pp. 464–476, here: p. 476.
    62. ^ Alpkaya, Bir 20 2001, pp. 477–500.
    63. ^ Türkeş, Kadro Dergisi 2001, pp. 464–476, here: p. 476.
    64. ^ The explanations about the Ülkü group and Recep Peker are largely taken from the author's dissertation: Demiriz, Vom Osmanen zum Türken 2018, pp. 221–229.
    65. ^ Schuß, Wirtschaftskultur 2008, p. 271.
    66. ^ Schuß, Wirtschaftskultur 2008, p. 271.
    67. ^ See Hanioğlu, Atatürk 2011, p. 190. See in more depth on regime comparison: Plaggenborg, Ordnung und Gewalt 2012.
    68. ^ Hanioğlu, Atatürk 2011, p. 190.
    69. ^ See for members: Aydın, The Pecularities 2003, p. 2.
    70. ^ Aydın, The Pecularities 2003, p. 2.
    71. ^ Aydın, The Pecularities 2003, p. 267.
    72. ^ Aydın, The Pecularities 2003, p. 268.
    73. ^ Aydın, The Pecularities 2003, p. 316.
    74. ^ See Edipoğlu, Säkularisierung oder Religionsersatz? 2002, p. 60.
    75. ^ The nation should be communalized into a single entity and be a social organism in which everyone has his role and duty. Quoted from Edipoğlu, Säkularisierung oder Religionsersatz? 2002, pp. 22–23.
    76. ^ See on the History Thesis and the Sun Language Theory in the OCT: Edipoğlu, Säkularisierung oder Religionsersatz? 2002, pp. 26–45.
    77. ^ Mango, Atatürk 1999, p. 553.
    78. ^ Mango, Atatürk 1999, p. 501.
    79. ^ Mango, Ataturk 1999, p. 501 and Ahmad, From Empire to Republic, 2014, p. 217.
    80. ^ This section is based on the author's dissertation: Demiriz, Vom Osmanen zum Türken.
    81. ^ See Demiriz, Vom Osmanen zum Türken; Yılmaz, Becoming Turkish 2013; Özdemir, Ankara's Hippodrome 2004; Bolat, Milli Bayram Olgusu 2012; Öztürkmen, Celebrating National Holidays in Turkey 2001.
    82. ^ The uprisings in Turkey between 1925 and 1930, made it clear that Turkey's successful social transformation had not been built overnight. Rather, the suppression of Islam lacked the social glue and one of the most important instruments of integration.
    83. ^ He took the idea that the new Turkish nationalism should be based precisely on science, history, and language as a substitute for religion from Émile Durkheim's Moralité Civique (see Hanioğlu, Atatürk 2011, p. 181). Likewise, they borrowed ideas from Rousseau.
    84. ^ See Hanioğlu, Atatürk 2011, p. 161.
    85. ^ See Hanioğlu, Atatürk 2011, p. 184.
    86. ^ See Demiriz, Vom Osmanen zum Türken 2018, p. 489 and Yılmaz, Becoming Turkish 2013, p. 179–225.
    87. ^ Individual elements and facets of the Kemalist cult, and the symbolic politics and symbolic communication that accompany it, were examined in various essays. A selection of these works is given below as examples: Seufert / Weyland, National Events and the Struggle for the Fixing of Meaning 1994, pp. 71–98; Bozdoğan, Rethinking Modernitiy and National Identity in Turkey 1997; Seufert, The Sacred Aura of the Turkish Flag 1997, pp. 53–61; Dreßler, Die civil religion der Türkei 1999; Bozdoğan, Modernism and National Building 2001; Öztürkmen, Celebrating National Holidays 2001; Doğramaci, Im Dienste Atatürks 2004, pp. 97–120; Dogramaci, Staatliche Repräsentation durch Emigranten 2005, pp. 61–74; Tekiner, Atatürk Heykelleri 2010; Bartsch, Musikpolitik im Kemalismus 2011; Doğramaci, Das Atatürk-Mausoleum in Ankara 2011, pp. 309–324; Hanioğlu, Atatürk 2011; Bolat, Milli Bayram Olgusu 2012; Yılmaz, Becoming Turkish 2013; Wilson, Beyond Anıtkabir 2013; and Demiriz, Vom Osmanen zum Türken 2018.
    88. ^ See Demiriz, Vom Osmanen zum Türken 2018, pp. 219–221; see Yeşilkaya, Halkevleri 2003; Çeçen, Halkevleri 2000.
    89. ^ See Kreiser, Geschichte der Türkei 2012, p. 51.
    90. ^ See Hanioğlu, Historical Roots 20012, p. 33.
    91. ^ Atatürk, Der Weg zur Freiheit 1928.
    92. ^ See Demiriz Ausführungen zum Treueeid: Demiriz, Vom Osmanen zum Türken 2018, pp. 266–270.
    93. ^ See on ritual in general: Wulf / Zirfas, Performative Welten 2004; Fischer-Lichte, Performance, Inszenierung, Ritual 2003, pp. 33–54; Thamer, Rituale in der Moderne 2008, pp. 63–68; Ozouf, Festivals and the French Revolution 1991. For Turkish holidays as political rituals, see: Demiriz, Vom Osmanen zum Türken 2018.
    94. ^ See Demiriz, Vom Osmanen zum Türken 2018, pp. 477–489.
    95. ^ See for Atatürk's funeral ceremonies: Demiriz, Vom Osmanen zum Türken 2018, pp. 355–476 and Wilson, Beyond Anıtkabir 2013.
    96. ^ Hanioğlu, Atatürk 2011, p. 192.
    97. ^ Aydın, The Pecularities, p. 58.
    98. ^ See Aydın, The Pecularities, pp. 58ff.

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    : Kemalism – The Turkish Model of a Secular Republic, in: Europäische Geschichte Online (EGO), hg. vom Leibniz-Institut für Europäische Geschichte (IEG), Mainz European History Online (EGO), published by the Leibniz Institute of European History (IEG), Mainz 2023-07-24. URL: URN: urn:nbn:de:0159-20230627104411695-7175732-8 [JJJJ-MM-TT][YYYY-MM-DD].

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