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“Usable Past” and the Turkish History Thesis - Elites’ control over “history” to generate mass mobilization. - “Usable Past” and creation of national self-confidence.

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Presentation on theme: "“Usable Past” and the Turkish History Thesis - Elites’ control over “history” to generate mass mobilization. - “Usable Past” and creation of national self-confidence."— Presentation transcript:

1 “Usable Past” and the Turkish History Thesis - Elites’ control over “history” to generate mass mobilization. - “Usable Past” and creation of national self-confidence - “Usable Past” as the legitimizer of unpalatable social change - Creation of “us” and “them” by using history Thesis : How elites of the new Turkish Republic in 1920s and 1930s tried to shape the society with “usable past” in order to shift the society from religious one to a secular one and while it was trying to create unity, “us” feeling, how this usable past formed the opposite concept “them-other.”

2 Background Information : “We have made Italy, now we have to make Italians” – said by Massimo d’ Azeglio at the parliament of the newly united Italian Kingdom. - Fall of the Ottoman Empire & Rise of the New Turkish Republic - The new Turkish state was militaristic and diplomatic success yet there was hardly a cultural unity. - Society was a religious one (ümmet) more than a national one (millet). - In order to succeed the shift from religious community to a western type secular nation, state has begun series of cultural policies which were aimed to erase the Ottoman and Islamic past of Turkey.

3 Some of the Cultural Reforms of the one party government : - “Hat Reform” that compelled all male citizens to abandon the fez for the Western brimmed hat. -Turkish Ezan (call for prayer) instead of Arabic one. -The adoption of the Gregorian calendar and European measurements - Replacement of the Arabic Script with the Latin. Cutting the society off from its past. -Other than these cultural policies, state control over intellectual organizations. - Foundation of new organizations : Turkish Linguistic Society & Society for the Study of Turkish History. September 20, 1928 – President Mustafa Kemal teaching new Turkish alphabet

4 Us & Them : “It’s not love,friendship respect that unites people… It is the shared hatred towards something – Anton Cekhov -Others of the new republic : -Europe (positive & negative other) -Ottoman & Islamic Past (negative other)

5 Europe as the “other” - Positive “other” : Modernization movements of the Turkish Republic was influenced by Europe. One of the main aims of the republic – to reach the “stage of the modern civilizations”- which was European civilization -Negative “other” : Social-Darwinist Theories that were based on Europe showed Turks as “secondary people” who belong to “yellow race”. - To answer these claims “Main Features of Turkish History” was prepared by Society for the Study of Turkish History in For the first time this book presented “Turkish History Thesis” which give shape the new Turkish history writing.

6 “The Turks of BC lived around a great inland sea, which occupied much of Central Asia between the Caspian, the Hindu Kush and the Himalayas. Here, they developed metalworking, domesticated animals and discovered techniques of settled agriculture. At the end of the Ice Age, however, the land started to dry up; lakes and swamps replaced the sea, north winds brought masses of sand and conditions became intolerable for the settled millions. Fortunately, the change in climate opened up routes out of the homeland,and Turks emigrated in all directions.” Europe as the “other” Lost Continent of “MU” – first homeland of Turks according to Turkish History Thesis

7 Europe as the “other” Claims of the Thesis : -Turks as the contributor of great civilizations – Aztecs, Incan, Maya, Egypt, Sumer, Hittities -Turks are not from yellow race, rather white race. -In an interesting way, together with the boast of “we created the civilization”, the message of “we are also white like you! Don’t think of us as yellow’” is being sent to Europe. Thus reason of replying European theories was both to get rid of the inferiority feeling in order form self-confidence citizens, but at the same time in order to be a part of European civilization.

8 Ottoman / Islamic Past as the “other” -To adapt western values such as secularism Kemalist ideology did not hesitate to loosen the ties between Ottoman Legacy, Islamic Past and new Turkish Republic. -In order to secularize today, Thesis tried to create secular Turkish past by focusing on Central Asian and so-called Anatolian past rather than the Ottoman and Islamic past. School book from the period : - “Turks were a great nation even before they had converted to Islamic religion. After Turks had converted to this religion, this religion had no effect in terms of making Arabs, Iranians from the same religion and others like that to create a nation uniting with Turks. Conversely, it loosened Turkish nation’s national bonds, it numbs its national feeling, national excitement. This was natural because the ideology of the religion that Muhammed established was to create a religious community above and including all of the nations”

9 Ottoman / Islamic past as the “other” - In all era’s official history books parts about Ottoman past are very short. -Successes of the Ottoman was based on Turkish race. - As long as the Ottoman Empire’s accomplishments continue, it was under the sphere of “us” yet when its political failures began, it was pushed under the “other” concept.

10 Turkish Hittities Mustafa Kemal is examining antiques from the Hattusa (capital city of Hittities near modern Ankara) excavations. -Showing Hittities as the descendant of Turks in Anatolia and making them as “us” was a total “invention tradition” which helped to accomplish several goals : -Formation of feeling of Turkish continuity in Anatolia. -Hittities as the pre-islamic secular past of the Turks. -Hittities’ influences over Greek civilization. -The statement that Hittities had been living in Anatolia long before the Greeks who had claimed a right on Western Anatolia and Armenians on east, suggested an idea of “the one who comes first has the right”

11 Turkish Hittities -During this era, symbols of Hittities became popular. -Hittitie Sun Disc -Foundation of Etibank (1935) -Eti biscuits – “civilization of flavor” (1961) Hittitie Sun Disc – One of the symbols of modern Ankara

12 Turkish History Thesis – failure or success ? - Turkish History Thesis and Sun-Language Theory were weakened after the death of Mustafa Kemal and they were abandoned in 1940s. -Failure in rural areas, more succesful in urban areas -Starting from 1950s (two party regime was adapted), Ottoman and Islamic past put under the sphere of “us” once again. Even today, traces of Turkish History Thesis can be seen in popular literature and official history books which are supplemented with similar maps and similar claims about the greatness of Turkishness. Recently published book named as “Lost Continent Mu”


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