Nationalism and Islam in Cold War Turkey, 1944-69
Middle Eastern Studies
Taylor & Francis
693 - 719
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Our current knowledge on the history of Turkish nationalism during the Cold War is a blend of facts and myths. One of those myths is the argument that the Turks developed a special relationship with Islam following their massive conversion in the eleventh century to the extent that religion has become the most important ingredient in Turkish national identity over time, even more pronounced than ethnic attributes. Secular visions of Turkish nationalism, on the other hand, which emphasize ethnic characteristics, are generally regarded as curious but unimportant exceptions. This article challenges that narrative and maintains that the alleged unimportance of secular nationalism is an invention of the late 1960s. It provides evidence that there was no consensus among Turkish nationalists on the question of Islam; on the contrary, the role of Islam in the making of Turkish identity was the most hotly debated topic among rival nationalist circles. It was not until the turning point in 1969 that a host of factors such as demographic change, anti-Kemalist and anti-RPP sentiments, and electoral behaviour in Cold War Turkey convinced Turkish nationalists to adopt a more Islamic-leaning discourse to be more successful at the ballot box.