Search for an ethno-secular delimitation of Turkish national identity in the Kemalist era (1924-1938) with particular reference to the ethnicist conception of Kemalist nationalism

Kadıoğlu, Ayşe
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Bilkent University
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This study deals with the search for the creation of an ethno- secular Turkish national identity with particular reference to the ethnicist conception of Kemalist nationalism espoused by a group of bureaucratic- intellectual elites over three distinct periods in the years between 1919- 1938 with an historical perspective. In the period of 1919-1924, nationality was defined by religion, and hence, Turkish national identity had a predominantly religious character. As a reflection of this state of "forced" pluralism, official political discourse considered ethnic diversity as a given social condition. In the second period (1924-1929), a radical rupture from the religious definition occurred with the adoption of Republicanism consisting of legal and political components. The legal component of the republican definition was overwhelmed by its political component, however. The motto of this definition was the "unity in language, culture and ideal" The third period (1929-1938) of the delimitation of Turkish national identity in the Kemalist era was characterised by the efforts of a group of bureaucratic-intellectual elites who adopted the ethnicist conception of Kemalist nationalism to articulate racial motives, which defined national community at the basis of Turkish ethnie and structured around the sense of common origin, into the republican definition. The symbolic reflection of this articulation was the motto of the "unity in language, culture and blood" The emergent definition of "ethno-secular Turkish man" within the evolution of the parameters of Turkish national identity during the Kemalist era(1924-1938) was that the complete, genuine, or pure Turk was the one who embraced the cause of the Republican ideal, devoted to Westernised Turkish culture, spoke Turkish and descended from Turkish origin. Those who lacked any of the said parameters had to be compensated for. Aloofness to religiosity, the adoption of Turkish not only as official language but also as the mother-tongue, devotion to the monolithically defined Westernised Turkish culture intermixed with the political ideal preached by the new Republic, and the attainment of purity and strength of race were the suggested "compensators." Ethnicism and Turkification policies were the two natural corollaries of the ethnicist conception of Kemalist nationalism. Being constituted as such, the "other" of this nationalism involved religious Turks, non-Turkish Muslim ethnies, and non-Muslim minorities.

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