The racist critics of Atatürk and Kemalism, from the 1930s to the 1960s
Journal of Contemporary History
308 - 335
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This article examines racist attitudes toward Atatürk and Kemalism from the 1930s to the 1960s. Liberal, leftist and conservative-Islamist critics of republican Turkey's founder and his policies have contributed to a widely shared image that, even if Kemalism was not essentially racist, the Kemalist approach to religious and ethnic minorities could hardly be described as egalitarian. Thus one is taken by surprise to uncover a parallel layer of virulent racist criticism, hidden under the deposit of decades of anti-Kemalist discourse. The most important ideologue of racism in Turkey, Nihâl Atsiz, and his circle attacked Atatürk's leadership, condemned Turkey's foreign policy, and particularly the appeasement policy vis-à-vis the Soviet Union, and, most importantly, ridiculed Kemalist attempts at building a civic nation model in the early republican era. Turkish racists never considered Atatiirk and the Kemalists as fellow nationalists; on the contrary, the research for this article shows that racists questioned their nationalist credentials and accused Kemalists of being cosmopolitans. The acrimonious relationship between the racists and the Kemalist establishment can be taken as an example of how the latter oscillated between a western, democratic orientation and an inward-looking, xenophobic worldview, providing us, therefore, with a more complicated and multi-faceted picture of Kemalism. © 2011 The Author.