How Happy to Call Oneself a Turk

[ Middle Eastern Studies ]

How Happy to Call Oneself a Turk

Provincial Newspapers and the Negotiation of a Muslim National Identity

By Gavin D. Brockett

Challenging established views about the development of a secular Turkish national identity, this history explores how the Turkish people used print media to incorporate their Islamic heritage into Turkish nationalism following World War II.



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6 x 9 | 312 pp.

ISBN: 978-0-292-74400-4

The modern nation-state of Turkey was established in 1923, but when and how did its citizens begin to identify themselves as Turks? Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, Turkey's founding president, is almost universally credited with creating a Turkish national identity through his revolutionary program to "secularize" the former heartland of the Ottoman Empire. Yet, despite Turkey's status as the lone secular state in the Muslim Middle East, religion remains a powerful force in Turkish society, and the country today is governed by a democratically elected political party with a distinctly religious (Islamist) orientation.

In this history, Gavin D. Brockett takes a fresh look at the formation of Turkish national identity, focusing on the relationship between Islam and nationalism and the process through which a "religious national identity" emerged. Challenging the orthodoxy that Atatürk and the political elite imposed a sense of national identity from the top down, Brockett examines the social and political debates in provincial newspapers from around the country. He shows that the unprecedented expansion of print media in Turkey between 1945 and 1954, which followed the end of strict, single-party authoritarian government, created a forum in which ordinary people could inject popular religious identities into the new Turkish nationalism. Brockett makes a convincing case that it was this fruitful negotiation between secular nationalism and Islam—rather than the imposition of secularism alone—that created the modern Turkish national identity.

  • List of Illustrations
  • Preface
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1. Imagining the Secular Nation: Mustafa Kemal and the Creation of Modern Turkey
  • Chapter 2. Narrating the Nation: Print Culture and the Nationalist Historical Narrative
  • Chapter 3. Provincial Newspapers and the Emergence of a National Print Culture
  • Chapter 4. Religious Print Media and the National Print Culture
  • Chapter 5. Muslim Turks against Russian Communists: The Turkish Nation in the Emerging Cold War World
  • Chapter 6. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and Mehmed the Conqueror: Negotiating a National Historical Narrative
  • Chapter 7. Religious Reactionaries or Muslim Turks?: Print Culture and the Negotiation of National Identity
  • Conclusion. A Muslim National Identity in Modern Turkey
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index

As the newspaper helped the rise of the ideal of nationalism by expressing the social and local sentiments of the masses in a colourful way, so the book has been instrumental in the creation of the idea of internationalism . . . by formulating, in an abstract and exact style, the principles, rules, and formulae of civilization.

Ziya Gökalp, "Üç Cereyan"

This book originated in a serendipitous discovery of vast collections of newspapers published in Turkey's provinces in the decade following World War II. Gathering dust on the shelves of various libraries, these publications had gone unnoticed and remained an untapped yet potentially valuable source for the study of history. To be sure, various studies have documented the growth of printing and publishing first in the Ottoman Empire and then in its successor states in the Middle East, but scholars have almost entirely privileged metropolitan print media over those produced in provincial centers. Moreover, apart from emphasizing seminal moments in the history of Turkey's printing and publishing industry, scholars have failed to engage in deeper analysis: to examine the content of print media critically, to consider their growth in the context of Turkish society and politics, and thus to assess their contribution to Turkish history. Paradoxically, at the same time scholars have been content to depend on these poorly understood sources for much of their information when writing histories of modern Turkey.

The present study examines this wealth of provincial newspapers in the context of the unprecedented expansion of print media in Turkey between 1945 and 1954, situating it in terms of late Ottoman and early republican Turkish printing and publishing. I argue that in this decade a countrywide or "national" print culture emerged for the first time in Turkey. The sociohistorical approach in this study identifies this development as important because it facilitated the emergence of a popular national identity for the first time in Turkey since the establishment of the Republic in October 1923. To the majority of people living in the new Turkey, beyond the limited coterie of the ruling elite, the very idea of a "Turkish nation" was novel and largely devoid of meaning, for their frames of reference had been defined by the multiethnic and multireligious Ottoman Empire. The country's founding president, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (1923–1938), attempted to infuse the "nation" with meaning as part of a program of modernization imposed on the people in the form of the "Turkish Revolution" (Türk inkılâbı). Predicated on the domination of single-party authoritarian government starting in 1925, strict state control of the rather limited print media resulted in a near-complete absence of public debate for two decades. The subsequent introduction of multiparty politics in 1945, accompanied by a relaxation of restrictions upon the press and its corresponding rapid expansion, therefore marked a critical moment in the history of modern Turkey.

The nature of public debate that found expression in the new national print culture after 1945 casts doubt on the long-standing assumption that through the Turkish Revolution Mustafa Kemal actually succeeded in breathing life into the national framework that he established. Denied the means by which to participate in the process of nation formation throughout the single-party period, the people in fact did not identify with the nation as it was defined by the narrow dictates of the elite. Rather, it was only as a result of political liberalization subsequent to World War II that popular participation in defining the nation became possible. The dominance of the Kemalist state began to be challenged by those Turks who were on the periphery, both ideologically (not content to accept the tenets of Kemalism in their entirety) and geographically (living beyond the metropolitan centers of power). It was no coincidence that they conducted this challenge in the pages of the new print media of the time. These gave voice not only to disaffected members of the elite in Istanbul, Izmir, and Ankara, but also to people living in the provinces, where the expansion of print media had its greatest impact. The result was the beginning of the integration of Turkish society as a whole: the emergence of a national print culture that incorporated the perspectives of people across the country—the perspectives of the "nation" and not just those of the ruling elite.

The study of provincial newspapers from 1945 to 1954 suggests that the new national print culture contributed to the crystallization of an increasingly widespread national identity. Their content also justifies the conclusion that, in this first instance, popular identification with the nation was infused by an equally strong commitment to religious faith. Particularly striking in this print culture is the importance accorded to Muslim identities on the part of the people. For two decades the Kemalist elite had endeavored to emphasize the primacy of the nation and to minimize the relevance of Islam to daily life through the application of the Kemalist principle of laiklik (secularism). Now appealing to wider audiences beyond the Kemalist elite, print media quickly came to reflect the concerns and interests of that part of the population for whom Muslim practices and beliefs constituted a significant point of reference for both individual and collective identity.

Thus analysis of the pages of Turkish print media results in a conclusion that challenges a fundamental tenet of modern Turkish history. The political elite in the center could not simply impose change on the periphery. They could not transform a "backward" people into a cohesive, modern nation by fiat. The emergence of the nation—and, by extension, national identity formation—is a creative process in which all elements of society necessarily play a part. This process was not simply limited to the period of Mustafa Kemal's presidency; nor was it defined by his modernizing reforms alone. Certainly, the implementation of Mustafa Kemal's vision in the years 1923–1938 was critical, but in this book I argue that the very implementation of laiklik in fact proved to be an obstacle to national identification on the part of those Turks for whom religious identities remained important. It was only with the opening up of public debate in conjunction with the introduction of multiparty politics after 1945 that this obstacle could be resolved. Then it became possible to examine the relationship between nation and faith, to explore the place of Islam in modern Turkey. Popular identification with the nation therefore did not emerge exclusive of all other identities; rather, national identity came to be incorporated within a preexisting repertoire of popular identities, among the most important of which were those associated with Islam. These were the same religious identities that the Kemalist elite had hoped to sacrifice on the altar of the nation; yet after two decades of demotion and denigration they again became a prominent aspect of public discourse between 1945 and 1954.

Turkish print media facilitated this "negotiation of the nation," or what in fact was the transition from elite nationalism to popular identification with the Turkish nation. The notion of national identity frequently has been subsumed ambiguously under the single term "nationalism." Nonetheless it is important to distinguish between the two. Nationalism is perhaps best understood in terms of an "ideological movement for the attainment and maintenance of autonomy, unity, and identity on behalf of a population deemed by some of its members to constitute an actual or potential 'nation.'" The limited scope of this movement must be emphasized, restricted as it is to either a cultural or a political elite. The elite were committed to creating a nation to meet the requirements of the newly established state after the establishment of the Republic of Turkey in 1923. All too often scholars have taken at face value elements of the nationalist historical narrative that Kemalists produced in the process, implying that the people naturally shared the elite vision for the creation of a nation. According to this perspective, a broad-based national identity was the inevitable outcome of a nationalism that might be represented as a "river of wave-like movements starting out in its heartlands and gaining in power and extent of involvement as it gathers pace." Appealing though this interpretation may be, it implies that the elite nationalist vision was successfully implemented without challenge or opposition and that the people were little more than mindless participants in their own history. It reflects a false assumption concerning the ability of an elite to effect social change and to inculcate a popular national identity on its own terms. This interpretation also accepts the notion that the characteristically narrow conception of the nation put forward by the elite was the only acceptable definition, adhered to by everyone.

Anthony Smith has defined "the nation" as a "named human population sharing an historic territory, common myths and historical memories, a mass, public culture, a common economy and common legal rights and duties for all members." By the time of Mustafa Kemal's death in 1938, many of these elements undoubtedly were in place, not the least of which was a compelling mythology narrating the origins of the "Turkish nation." Yet notably absent was the existence of common legal rights as well as a mass public culture. The former largely began to be manifested through the practice of multiparty politics after 1945, and historians have explored this important transition at length. By contrast, we know almost nothing about the latter. This book considers the specific question of just how it was that a mass public culture began to emerge in Turkey as a result of unprecedented growth in printing and publishing. The overall argument concentrates on the role that this new national print culture—in which provincial newspapers were prominent—played in facilitating the negotiation of an identity that incorporated both the religious and the national in Atatürk's secular Turkey. It is an identity all too obvious to those familiar with Turkey today.

Ultimately, this book is based on the premise that to understand Turkey better today it is necessary to move beyond the person and ideas of Atatürk, although he cannot be ignored; beyond the period in which he was dominant; and beyond the ideological and geographic center from which Turkish history has long been viewed. Newspapers produced in the provinces after 1945 constitute an ideal source for this. Through an examination of the emerging national print culture, this book asks how people came to identify with the new Turkish nation, exploring some of the ways in which they participated in the transition from Ottoman Empire to Turkish nation-state.

In analyzing how print contributed to the crystallization of a popular Muslim national identity, we find that the very pages of print media reveal a great deal about aspects of Turkish history beyond the well-established political narrative that has dominated for so long. As a result, subsequent chapters interweave this argument with an examination of three interrelated themes as they relate to the last years of the Ottoman Empire and the initial three decades of the Turkish Republic. The first is the history of printing and publishing itself, in particular the growth of periodicals leading to the emergence of a national print culture. A second theme running throughout is the actual popular experience of laiklik and the meaning of both secularism and Islam to the people. Here it is necessary to explore the undeniable and continued importance of religion in the context of Mustafa Kemal's commitment to a secular nation. The final theme is the relationship between nationalism as ideology and the "nation": the process by which the people interacted with elite imaginings of the nation. Central to this process is the way in which members of the nation (the people) actively contributed to a shared understanding of the nation defined in terms of both its relationship to other countries and its imperial Ottoman past. In the years 1945–1954 perhaps the most important means for so doing was through newspapers produced in the provinces.

Provincial Newspapers and the Nationalist Narrative

A country's print culture includes a variety of publications, not all of which are equally important at a given time. This book devotes primary attention to periodicals (both newspapers and journals), because they enjoyed by far the greatest circulation. Along with a variety of books and brochures, in the decade after 1945 periodicals reached an ever-increasing number of readers. Of course, periodicals produced in metropolitan centers largely for the benefit of residents of Istanbul, Izmir, and Ankara were a critical component of the new national print culture. For the majority of the people, however, newspapers produced in individual provinces were more important. This provincial press (referred to variously in Turkish as the Anadolu basını, bölgesel basın, yerel basın, or taşra basını) was produced specifically for the residents of the particular province within which it circulated. Most newspapers were produced in provincial capitals but sometimes also in towns and in a few cases even in villages. They circulated mostly within a single province, although some had subscribers throughout the country. These constitute a novel source: while they provide considerable insight into the lives of that vast majority of the people who lived in the provinces, scholars have almost completely ignored them in favor of the most prominent metropolitan newspapers of record that present only a limited centrist perspective on Turkish history.

More generally, provincial newspapers cannot be considered in isolation from other print media, for they represent only part of the larger whole that is a national print culture. That said, few scholarly works deem the provincial newspaper a valid object of study. It remains on the periphery of scholarship devoted to the printing and publishing industry. On a theoretical level, Benedict Anderson touched briefly on provincial print media in his seminal study on print and nationalism. In Imagined Communities he identified the provincial newspaper as uniting European colonies in South America into communities distinct from the larger polities from which they hailed in Europe. Yet with the rise of the nation-state they began to play a very different role, uniting the nation through a creative tension. A lone study of the Irish provincial press suggests its contribution to social history: it gives people a voice on the national stage where none existed before; it validates the local with reference to the national. Provincial newspapers connect local communities to the nation, investing those communities with credibility and inviting them to participate in the "theatre of the nation." Accordingly, the very notion of the nation obtains value among the people. So too provincial newspapers played an important role in the emergence of the Turkish nation-state. The national print culture to which these newspapers contributed reinforced the very idea of the nation, while at the same time providing people a means to participate in debate after 1945 about just how to define that nation.

In this first decade of relatively free public debate in Turkey a synergy emerged between provincial newspapers and those metropolitan publications that broke with the tradition of the single-party period and began to question the legacy of Mustafa Kemal's policy of laiklik. The result was public recognition of the importance of religion to the nation. Consequently, a focus on the perspective promoted by provincial print media produces a fundamental reorientation in our approach to nationalism and national identity. It helps us to explore the possibility of alternatives to the dominant narratives of Turkish history, in this case that of secularism. Analysis of the content of provincial publications as well as metropolitan print media advocating similar perspectives focuses attention on debates that permeated the entire country. Provincial print media make it possible to consider how Turks understood and responded to the nationalist assumptions that had long characterized elite political discourse.

A nationalist elite undoubtedly does play a critical role in articulating the parameters of the nation with which the people come to identify, but the transition from an elite nationalist ideology to a broad-based popular national identity cannot be taken as either automatic or unproblematic. In comparison with the neat lines of nationalist historical narratives, the histories of national identity formation must surely be untidy and difficult to trace yet exceedingly rich. In his schema designed to explain eastern European nationalism, Miroslav Hroch has identified a third and final stage: "mass mobilization" or popular identification with the nation. Hroch maintains that it must be possible to explain why people develop a national consciousness and that this can only occur when awareness of "membership in the nation" is coupled with "the view that this membership is an inherently valuable quality." In order for nationalist ideologies to mobilize popular support they must promote the "interests of the groups" to which they "make [their] appeal" or at least contain in part "the kind of programme which is close to their interests."

To be sure, Hroch has defined a critical element in the transition from nationalism to national identity: however, an unspoken corollary is of equal significance. This is the necessity that the nation as defined by the elite in no way contradict or offend popular notions of identity and, just as importantly, that the elite not alienate the people through implementation of intolerant policies in seeking to inculcate their vision of the nation in the people. In the case of Turkey, Kemalist efforts to define the nation along exceedingly narrow lines that denied legitimacy to long-standing religious identities, to say nothing of the authoritarian and sometimes brutal actions that characterized efforts to realize the modern nation, in fact arrested the process by which the people could fully and unconditionally identify with the Turkish nation. To the majority of Turks, the inherent value of identification with the Kemalist nation was open to question between 1925 and 1945.

Nationalist movements typically infuse the nation with an essentialism that denies diversity or the possibility of internal conflict. Other possible foci of loyalty are either subordinated to the nation or forcefully suppressed. Nationalist elites implement policies along these lines in the belief that by subsuming other identities "in the larger category of the nation" they improve their "prospects of winning mass support and mobilizing to achieve their goals." History demonstrates that primary among the identities that nationalism seeks to subsume are those associated with religious beliefs and practices that it identifies as being in opposition to the nation.

The point is not to idealize alternative perspectives—after all, religious ideologies can be no less essentialist and no less intolerant than nationalism. Yet when history is written according to the precepts of nationalist ideology, the resulting narrative is severely deficient: it fails to consider how individuals and groups accepted, rejected, or adapted certain tenets. As Şerif Mardin has observed, it takes for granted the "constraints of domination, power and coercion" and neglects the very important matter of the "resources of the dominated." Rather than recognize that many elements in a population have the capacity to reshape and modify the nationalist vision on the basis of "an inherited fund of symbols, memories, myths and traditions," this approach resorts to simplifying national identity formation and condemning any modification of the elite view through the appropriation of pejorative and opaque terms such as ignorance, backwardness, resistance, and reaction. On the contrary, provincial print media in Turkey after World War II offered people the means to reshape the original Kemalist vision of the nation, resulting for the first time in the crystallization of a popular national identity—a Muslim national identity.

Print Media, Religion, and Negotiating the Nation

This book presents a novel approach to print media that deviates from the dominant assumption that print was simply a tool in the hands of an elite devoted to modernization and secularization, leading to the inevitable denouement of the modern nation-state. The focus is on a national print culture in which the single most important element was a provincial newspaper press. These newspapers facilitated a negotiation between the elite nationalist vision of the nation and popular conceptions of identity. Print media undoubtedly contribute to framing and reifying the very idea of the nation that originates with nationalist elites; but as a print culture expands to include the perspectives of those on the periphery, they inject new ideas into public discourse. Negotiation takes the form of both validating alternative perspectives of the nation—reflecting back to people their understanding of Turkey as a Muslim nation—and providing a forum for the explicit challenge of previously dominant and exclusive interpretations of the nation. Of course such a role is provocative and necessarily tests the commitment of a political elite to the preservation of the freedoms that make a national print culture vital in the first place.

The relationship of print media, nationalism, and the creation of modern nations has long been debated. It is at the center of numerous theoretical works as well as historical studies of specific countries. Indeed, intellectuals and politicians have long assumed the importance of print to the creation of a nation. The author and poet Namık Kemal (1840–1888) was among the earliest Ottoman publicists to recognize this connection. Convinced that journalism (gazetecilik) constituted an almost sacred duty with regard to the fatherland (vatan), he attributed the Ottoman Empire's "backwardness" relative to Europe to its lack of a newspaper press until his time. In keeping with European theories, Kemal believed that the primary value of the press lay in the opportunity constantly to repeat ideas, influence public morals and values, and imbue readers with a love of their country.

In the early twentieth century the Young Turks were neither less paternalistic toward their readers nor less confident as to the powers of print. Those producing satirical publications reflected the belief that they had "the freedom to determine wrongs, to disseminate doctrines and, through relatively uncensored narrative and cartoon, to reach a hitherto less reachable audience." Following the establishment of the Republic of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal determined that newspaper journalists should carry out this responsibility in service to the nation and made no apologies for expecting the press to "always have [the] national interest in mind." Memoirs written by Turkish journalists make no effort to disguise that Mustafa Kemal frequently cajoled them into writing articles in support of the state and at times dictated the actual content of articles, convinced that the press was crucial to inculcating and spreading his reforms among the wider populace.

It is no accident that Mustafa Kemal deemed print important to a process of transformation that included the introduction of laiklik. Among early theorists of nationalism, Hans Kohn—a contemporary of Mustafa Kemal—assumed that nationalism in the "East" replicated developments in western Europe in that it replaced religion as "the principle governing all social and intellectual life." To Kohn, writing in the years after World War I, Kemalist nationalism and secularism in Turkey offered an ideal example of this very process. In the context of the Cold War (after 1945) scholars of development and modernization again identified Turkish nationalism as prototypical—and in this case the evident growth of mass media in Turkey was seen as important. Here the history of print all too readily became integral to an account of how the state and nationalist elites in metropolitan centers might introduce new forms of media for the purposes of nation building. Following World War II, the "development" of what came to be known as the Third World was seen as "the grand transformation that began in Western Europe at the end of the Middle Ages and that in our own day has engulfed the remotest countries." Social scientists deemed "secularization" to be an integral aspect of this modernization and assumed that a growth in the means of communications enabled the state to "create a public," to effect control over popular behavior, and to mold people according to its image. In the words of Karl Deutsch, "nationality" consisted of "the ability to communicate more effectively, and over a wider range of subjects, with members of one large group than with outsiders."

There was general consensus that no other country exemplified this better than Turkey, where political liberalization following World War II combined with a "communications revolution" was resulting in the gradual triumph of those whom Daniel Lerner called the "Transitionals" in a process that was the inevitable "passing of traditional society" in the Middle East.20 Lerner himself anticipated that as media (radio in particular but also print) penetrated rural Turkey people would inevitably identify with Mustafa Kemal's vision of the modern Turkish nation and that the "old" would be transformed by the "new."

While print media may have aided in the process of forming the nation, a close reading of Turkish history suggests that they did not do so in the way that theorists of nationalism typically assume. Nation and religion were by no means mutually exclusive: the former was not predicated on the inevitable decline of the latter. In fact, one of the early proponents of Turkish nationalism, Mehmed Ziya Gökalp (1876–1924), recognized this reality. In the context of intense early twentieth-century debates as to how the peoples of the Ottoman Empire might preserve their independence in the face of European imperialism and colonialism, Gökalp argued that it was essential to awaken latent popular identification with the Turkish nation. Nationality based on language offered the most inclusive form of social and political organization; however, Turkish nationalism could also incorporate the powerful influences of both Islam and modernity.

Drawing on the work of the Frenchman Gabriel Tarde (1843–1904), Gökalp concluded that this inclusive nationalism might be fostered by the newspaper and the book. The newspaper contributed to forging a "common consciousness" among people who spoke the same language because it was published in the local vernacular. It would lead to the rise of nationalism by conveying ideological currents in other countries and by "expressing the social and local sentiments of the masses in a colourful way." By contrast, the book contained language more abstract and conceptual in nature and thereby contributed to what Gökalp termed the "idea of internationalism" by expressing "the principles, rules, and formulae of civilization."

According to Gökalp, Turkish "internationality" or civilization was defined by Islam. Contrary to the nationalism that came to define the new Republic of Turkey during the Atatürk era (infused by Kemalist laiklik), Gökalp believed that nation and religion were not mutually exclusive. They existed in a symbiotic relationship that modern print media nurtured. Gökalp's distinction between the specific contributions that the book and the newspaper made to this symbiosis surely failed to recognize that neither medium was the exclusive preserve of either nationalism or internationalism. Nevertheless, he did recognize the important contribution that print made by bringing the nation and religion together, in distinct opposition to the notion that print facilitated the emergence of the former and demise of the latter.

The content of Turkish print culture in the decade after World War II makes it abundantly evident that Gökalp was correct. Ironically, just as modernization theorists identified Turkey as the ideal example of a modern, secular country in the early Cold War, other scholars—less concerned with theoretical models than with what they actually observed while living in Turkey—wrote a bevy of articles exclaiming about the apparent "resurgence" of Islam in a country that they had understood to be "secular." According to them, the prominence of a variety of publications (pamphlets, books, journals, and newspapers) devoted to addressing the religious concerns of Turks was particularly noteworthy. The evidence was clear that the new Turkish nation remained deeply influenced by religion despite Mustafa Kemal's commitment to modernization and the secularism denoted by laiklik. Turkey was a Muslim nation.

At the same time, the question remains: just how did print contribute to the emergence of a "common consciousness" or a national identity? A significant problem facing historians is determining just what impact the content of printed texts as well as the act of reading had on a wider populace. Identifying the people who in fact read the growing number of printed works and how they understood them remains a conundrum solvable only in part by the scraps of evidence (records of private libraries and booksellers and personal diaries) that survive in written form. Yet scholars are increasingly challenging the notion of elite cultural hegemony, speculating that peasant populations actually used literacy and print as a means to protect their own interests and preserve important traditions. Rather than submit to the designs of the elite, the people perhaps created the "cultural universe" that contributed to the definition of the nation by choosing which literature to purchase and consume.

This debate relates directly to the role of media in society and the powers of the press in particular. Put simply, does the press create and manipulate "public opinion" as a tool in the hands of an elite or is it an "instrument of the popular will" by virtue of free market conditions in that the press is subject to "election" every time it goes on sale, with the consumers rather than the producers setting the agenda? This either/or debate (with its emphasis upon the "effectiveness" of media as a tool) distracts from what is perhaps a more fruitful line of analysis: the "effects" on the society in which the media are produced.

Contrary to what they might like to think, the elite are part of larger social processes over which they cannot exert complete control. Of course a newspaper editor actively selects which news to print and thus contributes to the "frames of reference" within which people understand the local, the national, and the international. Yet editors themselves are products of the society that they are addressing, as are the frames of reference that they select. Moreover, as editors they might hope to shape popular opinion by way of what they choose to publish. Where a competitive capitalist market exists in conjunction with basic political freedoms, however, the very existence of alternative publications offers people the opportunity to form their own thoughts and thus a multiplicity of opinions. The relationship between print media and society therefore is far more dynamic than might first appear to be the case. The people do exercise considerable autonomy as they read and process the content of a newspaper, while in a competitive market the interests of readers necessarily affect what an editor chooses to include as content.

As Ziya Gökalp recognized, print itself contributes to larger processes underway, primary among these being the formation of modern nations. But print constitutes far more than a tool to be manipulated by a political elite. Benedict Anderson, of course, has developed this more abstract dimension of "print culture" in his Imagined Communities. He has argued convincingly that print created "unified fields of exchange" that enabled people to identify with otherwise complete strangers who read the same publications in distant locations; reading became a mass ceremony of simultaneous consumption. Just as maps and censuses helped to define the boundaries of the new nation, so the vernacular press enabled people to define their national loyalties relative to other entities.

This book, however, explores how print—in particular provincial newspapers—gave voice to alternative perspectives of the nation that had been suppressed during two decades of authoritarian rule. In particular, the expansion of a provincial newspaper press facilitated the growth of a national print culture that in turn fostered widespread debate. The duration of this debate proved to be limited, because in 1953–1954 the political elite reverted to efforts to restrict the public expression of opinions that challenged secular Kemalist ideology. Nevertheless, by that time print media had become too deeply rooted in Turkish society to be successfully suppressed. More to the point, the Muslim national identity that the media had spawned had been established beyond a shadow of a doubt. Thus I demonstrate that in Turkey print was ideally suited to play a critical role in the negotiation of a popular identity that was both religious and national at the same time. With political liberalization in 1945, print became a forum for the expression of multiple perspectives rather than the means for an elite to impose a narrow nationalist ideology.

The Prevailing Historical Narrative and the Topos of Total Transformation

The emphasis in this book on how people both experienced and influenced the formation of the nation-state implicitly challenges what has been the prevailing approach to Turkish history, which privileges elite politics over all else. This book cannot explore all the contours of Turkish historiography. It is significant, however, that the durable Western narrative of Turkish history as an account of total transformation authored by Mustafa Kemal took root at precisely the time when a national print culture was facilitating the negotiation of a Muslim national identity after World War II. In the years immediately after 1945 a new generation of foreign scholars began to devote their attention to Turkey. As they traveled to Turkey and worked there, they were deeply influenced both by the sources available to them and by the process whereby Turks were actively negotiating identification with the nation. These scholars then wrote what were to become extremely influential articles and books that have served until very recently as the primary texts of Turkish history in the English-language Western historical tradition. Products of the time in which they were written, these works perpetuate a fundamental contradiction in that they place undue emphasis on the "secular" Turkish Revolution while at the same time hinting that Islam remained an important force in Turkish society.

Foreign scholars based their analyses on two distinct sets of sources. The first was the corpus of texts that constituted the foundation of the Kemalist or nationalist historical narrative itself. These included Mustafa Kemal's various speeches (in particular the "Ur-text" of modern Turkey: his famous Speech [Nutuk] delivered before the Republican People's Party [Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi] in October 1927); adulatory accounts of Mustafa Kemal as well as memoirs written by members of the Kemalist elite; history texts produced for Turkish students such as the four-volume Tarih (1931) and later Enver Ziya Karal's The History of the Republic of Turkey; and, finally, the writings of certain influential Kemalist scholars such as the political scientist Tarık Zafer Tunaya. With limited or no access to primary documents or state archives, Western scholars established the basic outlines of Turkish history from these sources, while also adopting the modernist assumptions inherent in the Kemalist perspective.

The second set of texts on which Western scholars based their analyses was the literature produced by Europeans and Americans during the Atatürk era. This literature reflected a Western infatuation with Mustafa Kemal and his Turkish Revolution. The majority of it was anything but scholarly, devoted to satisfying the Western appetite for accounts of travelers' experiences in the "Orient." This corpus also included biographies of Mustafa Kemal and works of scholarship that, while detailed, did little to dispel the prevailing image of Atatürk as a benevolent despot single-handedly transforming backward Turkey. Although this literature reflected a continuation of long-standing Orientalist fascination with the "Turk," it signaled an important departure in that it betrayed an unequivocal admiration for the Turk—or at least the "Father of the Turk"—as well.

Indeed, as soon as Mustafa Kemal had led Anatolian resistance forces to victory in September 1922 and the Grand National Assembly had proclaimed an end to the Ottoman Empire, deeply rooted European prejudices against the Turk began to evaporate in favor of a mixture of awe and respect for Mustafa Kemal and his vision for the new Turkey. A stream of writers traveled to Turkey and wrote popular accounts published in newspapers and journals for audiences throughout the West. As early as March 24, 1923, Time magazine featured a picture of the great "Emancipator of Turkey" on the cover, lauding Mustafa Kemal as one who had "lifted the people out of the slough of servile submission to alien authority, brought them to a realization of their inherent qualities and to an independence of thought and action." From this point forward countless articles were written about Turkey, culminating sixteen years later when National Geographic published an extensive article entitled "The Transformation of Turkey" accompanied by twenty-three colorful and evocative photographs depicting "Old Pattern and New." More ambitious travelers took on the challenge of writing books. Those who ventured to offer biographical accounts of Mustafa Kemal even benefited from personal audiences that the president himself granted the authors. These books bore evocative titles such as Gray Wolf: The Life of Kemal Ataturk; Turkey in Travail: The Birth of a New Nation; Das land Kamâl Atatürks: Der Werdegang der modern Türkei; Mustapha Kemal ou L'Orient en marche; Allah Dethroned: A Journey through Modern Turkey; and The Rebirth of Turkey.

In each case, the authors readily imbibed Kemalist rhetoric related to secularization and modernization; they then repeated this to their Western readers. Even scholars who earlier had evinced a dislike for the Ottoman "Turks" were no exception. This change of heart was most clearly evident in the writings of the influential historian Arnold Toynbee. In the midst of World War I he had excoriated the "evil" Turks—"a band of freebooters from Central Asia"—for the treatment of the Ottoman Armenian population in his booklet The Murderous Tyranny of the Turks. Reporting on the conflict in Anatolia in 1921, he had begun to develop considerable sympathy for the Turks in the face of Greek atrocities. Remarkably, by 1926 Toynbee had sacrificed the prestigious Koraes Chair, in Greek and Byzantine studies at King's College, London, to become an ardent admirer of Mustafa Kemal and the new Turkey. Turkey (his history of the new state, written with Kenneth Kirkwood) was unabashedly adulatory. Mustafa Kemal, driven by a "revolutionary zeal," was thoroughly transforming the country: "the ideals of Western civilization are permeating the country and gradually converting it from an Oriental community, depressed by the weight of Islamic laws and customs and the incubus of superstition, into a Westernized community enlightened in its outlook and progressive in its attitude."

Toynbee's various publications, in fact, were among the most important foreign sources on which the emerging Western historical narrative would be based in the years immediately after World War II. Three of the scholarly works that defined this tradition are particularly noteworthy. The first is Turkey by Geoffrey Lewis, published in 1955. A newly minted professor of the Turkish language at Oxford, Lewis wrote his work as a contribution to the Nations of the Modern World series and consciously built on the model first established by Toynbee and Kirkwood in their 1926 history by the same title. Following their example, Lewis situated the history of the Turkish Republic in the broader context of the decline of the Ottoman Empire and the onset of modernization in the nineteenth century.

The second text is The Emergence of Modern Turkey by Bernard Lewis. A classic Orientalist by training, Lewis held an endowed chair in Near and Middle Eastern history in the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London. Although The Emergence of Modern Turkey was not published until 1961, it was based on research that Lewis conducted in Turkey during the early 1950s, when he published a number of articles on contemporary developments.

The third text is Atatürk: A Biography of Mustafa Kemal, Father of Modern Turkey written by Lord Kinross (Patrick Balfour). This too was published in the 1960s, but it was the culmination of a long-standing fascination with "Asia Minor" that Kinross first developed during a series of trips throughout Turkey between 1947 and 1954—precisely the period when Turks were engaged in debating Mustafa Kemal's legacy and in confirming him as the living symbol of the nation. Initially Kinross published two accounts in the vein of classic Orientalist travel literature, before embarking on his extensive research into the life of Mustafa Kemal. No other biography of Mustafa Kemal rivaled his extremely readable account until Andrew Mango published his work in 1999.

The foundation for the Western historical narrative that these three texts established was faithful to the national narrative emerging in Turkey after 1945 (explored in the following chapters) and incorporated important modifications to the Kemalist interpretation of the Ottoman past. The foreign authors readily accepted Mustafa Kemal's assertion concerning the existence of an ancient, primordial Turkish nation; however, they also drew attention to connections between modern Turkey and its Ottoman heritage, freely interchanging the words "Turkey" and "Ottoman Empire" with regard to developments in the nineteenth century. As a result, the establishment of the Republic of Turkey appears to be an inevitable, natural occurrence, intimately tied to the narrative of reform and modernization. At the same time, the authors cast Mustafa Kemal as the primary protagonist in the emergence of the modern Turkish nation. To be sure, Kinross—writing self-consciously in the biographical tradition first established by Harold Armstrong's Gray Wolf—did not shy away from recording Mustafa Kemal's less attractive personality traits. But at no time did Geoffrey Lewis, Bernard Lewis, or Lord Kinross call into question the nationalist version of history with Mustafa Kemal at its center.

These works perpetuate the earlier Western preoccupation with Mustafa Kemal as the great secular modernizer. Each leaves no doubt that he was responsible for rescuing his nation from near demise and subsequently for transforming it—to the point that they credit him with "creating" a "new Turkey." An almost continuous refrain of dates and reform legislation runs through these books. The story of transformation is charted chronologically from one reform to another, thereby providing the sense of total change predicated on the assumption that legislation passed in Ankara inevitably altered society in toto. In this vein, the authors all but trip over their words in their eagerness to use hyperbole to exalt Mustafa Kemal. According to Kinross, in "a few hours Kemal had swept away an epoch of history." Whereas for the previous century reformers had waged "a slow battle against religious conservatism," Mustafa Kemal had abruptly accelerated it and brought it "to its logical end," becoming the "first ruler to openly assault and vanquish the entrenched forces of an orthodox Muslim state." In the words of Geoffrey Lewis, Mustafa Kemal drove the people "along the road to Western civilization" and "forced the Turks to emerge from the crumbling ruins of the Ottoman Empire and to become a nation, at a time when many European and Asiatic peoples were lapsing into demoralization and despair amidst the wreckage of ancient empires." Finally, Bernard Lewis cast Mustafa Kemal as a "brilliant and inspired leader who snatched the Sick Man of Europe from his death-bed and infused him with a new life and vitality"; he fashioned "a nation from the debris of the shattered empire" and forcibly transformed the nation "from one civilization to another."

Quite naturally, Kinross's narrative ends with the death of Mustafa Kemal, so in his work the narrative of total transformation remains unrivaled. The same cannot be said of the histories by Geoffrey Lewis and Bernard Lewis, who both endeavored to bring the narrative up to date, to the early years of the post–World War II era. Consequently their books contain a fundamental contradiction. Indeed, this contradiction underlies the Western narrative of Turkish history: specifically the reality that, despite the Turkish Revolution, Islam remains alive and well in Turkey. Both authors were aware that some scholars already had suggested the need for more nuance in analyses of Mustafa Kemal's efforts at secular reform; but it was their own experiences in Turkey, while preparing their books, that forced them to recognize that the Turkish Revolution had not resulted in the eradication of Islam from Turkish society. Contrary to the view that had come to prevail in interwar Europe, religion had not been marginalized. In fact, Geoffrey Lewis and Bernard Lewis were only two of the scholars who witnessed the vitality of Muslim beliefs and practices in Turkey and published articles drawing attention to this fact in scholarly journals of the time. Whereas earlier Western writers had noted the absence of Turks at regular prayers, Geoffrey Lewis commented on the overwhelming popular participation, to the point that the "vicinity of a Turkish mosque on Fridays is nowadays an astonishing spectacle."

Bernard Lewis and Geoffrey Lewis therefore not only stressed the topos of "total transformation" but also acknowledged that in fact the story was more complicated. Juxtaposed with the gross generalizations of wholesale change are admissions that the reality was very different. Geoffrey Lewis could not help concluding that "Turkey is still a Muslim land," while Bernard Lewis wrote that "Islam is too deeply rooted an element in the Turkish national identity to be lightly cast aside." In the end they had no choice but to qualify earlier statements: thus reforms aimed at women, it turns out, had no impact beyond urban centers and wholesale transformation did not occur. Bernard Lewis concluded that in "spite of all this, there is much evidence that the secularization of Turkey was never quite as complete as was sometimes believed . . . the deepest Islamic roots of Turkish life and culture are still alive, and the ultimate identity of Turk and Muslim in Turkey is still unchallenged."

Dependent as they were on Kemalist and Western sources, and too close to the developments they observed to obtain critical distance, these scholars were unable to reconcile Islam in Turkey with the narrative of secular transformation to which they were unequivocally loyal. The inevitable contradictions in their texts echo the Kemalist tendency to render Turkish history in terms of a bitter conflict between the forces of progress and conservative tradition. Kinross's intimate portrayal of Atatürk presents him in a perpetual battle against "reactionary sentiments" exploited and fanned by fanatical religious extremists.52 Earlier, Geoffrey Lewis had offered this same analytical framework for interpreting events during the Atatürk era, not hesitating to subscribe to the notion that the country faced a threat from the "fanatically religious," who were capable of actions described as "hideous" manifestations of "religious reaction."53 It fell to Bernard Lewis, however, to enshrine in the prevailing narrative the most enduring images of this conflict between the modern nation and "the forces of reaction." In The Emergence of Modern Turkey he employed the phrase "clash of civilizations" that has become so ubiquitous in more recent years. He did so in assessing the bleak prospects for a "synthesis of the best elements of West and East" in Turkey.

Immediately after World War II, therefore, a new generation of foreign scholars passed up the opportunity to offer a critical interpretation of the founding of the Turkish nation-state. Instead they adopted the essence of the Kemalist historical narrative and projected it through an Orientalist lens for Western readers eager to learn of surprising developments in the "Orient." Mustafa Kemal represented the antithesis of the "backward" Near or Middle East, and the West was flattered by his determination to imitate modern Western civilization. Given the long tradition of Western discomfort with, even hostility toward, the East and especially Islam, Mustafa Kemal offered a rare reason for Orientalists to express confidence in the possibility of change and progress beyond the boundaries of Europe. After 1945 foreign scholars arriving in Turkey were well aware that the total transformation trumpeted by foreign writers during the interwar period had not occurred, in particular that "secularism" had not resulted in an end to Islam in Turkey. Although they duly noted this, their own predisposition—and that of the readers for whom they wrote—was to retain an emphasis on Mustafa Kemal as secular reformer and modernizer. That predisposition remains current in Western representations of Turkish history and accounts in large part for the prevailing contradiction concerning Islam and secularism that fails to explain the reality that is Turkey today.

A Social History of National Identity

The social history of national identity formation explored in this book explicitly challenges those perspectives on Turkish history that concentrate on the person and ideas of Mustafa Kemal. The prevailing topos of total transformation—with laiklik at its core—derives from an emphasis on Mustafa Kemal himself and on the litany of reform legislation introduced by his government. It is not based as much on careful consideration of the actual impact of the Turkish Revolution and popular reception of the reforms. The tendency has been to assume that legislation passed in Ankara radically altered the daily lives of Turks, that Mustafa Kemal alone created the Turkish nation. Enduring and inspiring though this narrative may be, it is severely deficient. We must perforce move beyond it. Undoubtedly Mustafa Kemal did play an important role in Turkish history, but we can no longer exalt his contribution to the exclusion of all else.

Although political scientists—and to a lesser degree sociologists and anthropologists—are now engaged in examining and explaining the complexities of Turkey today, they sorely lack the benefit of a mature and independent historical literature that might enable them to situate recent events in their appropriate historical contexts. Scholars are correct to argue that significant social, economic, and political change in the late 1980s and early 1990s contributed to more recent developments, but they do so in part because of the dearth of historical studies that consider catalysts for change over the much longer term. The extensive literature that perpetuates the focus on Mustafa Kemal simply fails to constitute an adequate foundation on which to build a comprehensive explanation of the forces that have contributed to the making of Turkey as we know it today.

In recent decades some Turkish and foreign scholars have challenged the prevailing emphasis on Mustafa Kemal in the historical narrative. Although this movement has been slow to take root, it appears that we are on the cusp of a fruitful period in which the richness and complexity of Turkish history will be revealed. This book is a contribution to these efforts, adopting a sociohistorical perspective to examine the intersection between Mustafa Kemal's vision for a modern secular nation and the experiences of the people. It explores the dynamism resulting from Mustafa Kemal's commitment to laiklik but also the undeniable continuing importance to the people of their identities as Muslims. Ultimately this dynamism resulted in the crystallization of a popular Muslim national identity in Turkey: however, it did not occur under Mustafa Kemal's tutelage during the Turkish Revolution but after his death, as a direct result of political liberalization beginning in 1945. In the first decade of multiparty politics, conditions permitted the unprecedented emergence of a national print culture through which Turks across the country began to participate in the process of debating the nation. It was as a result of this debate that the people negotiated a sufficiently generous and flexible notion of the nation to accommodate—rather than exclude—their identities as Muslims.

To make this argument, the first two chapters address the interrelated themes of print culture, Islam and secularism, and nationalism as they relate to the late Ottoman Empire and early Turkish Republic. Here the emphasis is upon the absence of a popular national identity prior to 1945. Chapter 1 addresses the genesis of the very notion of a "Turkish nation" and the assumption that Mustafa Kemal in fact succeeded in creating this "nation" through the Turkish Revolution after World War I. I challenge his own claims that the Republic of Turkey is but the latest and greatest manifestation of the Turkish nation in world history. Rather, the Turkish nation is thoroughly new and modern. Mustafa Kemal's efforts to create a modern nation did not reach fruition, however, because they were limited by the authoritarian nature of his rule and the meaning he attached to laiklik. Chapter 2 examines in detail Mustafa Kemal's efforts to imagine the Turkish nation into existence and to use print media to narrate both its distant and immediate history. An examination of print culture during the single-party period shows that Mustafa Kemal indeed laid the foundation for a Turkish national identity, with himself at its center; but in his concern to control both the message and the medium he precluded the possibility that the people might actively contribute to the definition of the nation. In the absence of common legal rights and a mass public culture, the formation of the Turkish nation remained an unfinished enterprise throughout the single-party era.

Subsequent chapters make the case for locating the crystallization of a Muslim national identity in Turkey in the decade following World War II. Chapter 3 explores the emergence of a national print culture after 1945 in the context of the first decade of multiparty politics. It considers the relative importance of metropolitan and provincial newspapers to this print culture, arguing that the rapid growth of the latter is what is most noteworthy about these years. For the first time, provincial newspapers provided people across the country with the opportunity to contribute to the theatre of the nation. Thus a national print culture was the product of a flourishing printing and publishing industry, new press freedoms, and various other aspects of modernization that began to break down the isolation of rural Turks and allow them the opportunity to participate in public debate for the first time.

Chapter 4 argues that most noteworthy among the variety of publications that appeared between 1945 and 1954 was the unprecedented number of new religious periodicals. I situate these in the context of political debate concerning Islam, laiklik, and the nation and then examine various types of religious publications: those devoted to educating the people and those that adopted a more activist stance, engaging in public debate concerning the relationship between the religious and the national. Religious publications appeared in the provinces as well as in metropolitan centers. The chapter concludes with observations on how they influenced editors of mainstream political newspapers in the provinces to adopt far more generous and sensitive attitudes toward Islam than had been the case during the Atatürk era. This visibility of religion and validation of religious identities in the national print culture was instrumental in enabling people to begin identifying with the Turkish nation.

The emergence of a national print culture constituted the critical arena within which the Turkish nation might be debated after 1945, beginning an era of contestation. Examination of print media suggests two axes along which a popular national identity emerged in these years.

Chapter 5 considers the axis of Turkey's place in the emerging Cold War world and the Turks' concern to identify their nation as independent but also as central to Western efforts to combat both communism and Soviet imperialism. As Turks imagined their country in the wider global context, they very much cast it as a Muslim nation combating Soviet communism.

Chapter 6 addresses the axis of history and how Turks imagined their nation's past after 1945. Print media devoted considerable attention to this topic, involving two important dimensions of public debate. The first was popular determination not to scrutinize developments of the Atatürk era but rather to enshrine Mustafa Kemal as beyond criticism at the center of the new national identity. The second dimension was the introduction of an important modification to the Kemalist historical narrative with reference to the Ottoman past. An examination of how print media presented the Turkish nation in relationship to the Ottoman Empire—in light of the content of print culture during the single-party period—leaves no doubt that for Turks their Ottoman past was important. Moreover, as celebrations of Constantinople's 500th anniversary in 1953 demonstrate, the new national historical narrative acknowledged that this was not just an Ottoman past but also an Ottoman Muslim past.

Religion therefore comes across in print media as integral to popular definitions of the Turkish nation, but this in and of itself generated an intense debate throughout the country after 1945. Chapter 7 examines this debate as it was manifested in print, for here we see clearly the negotiation of the nation. Those involved in the production of religious print media of course believed that they were exercising their rights to engage in a public dialogue concerning the meaning of laiklik and the place of Islam in Turkish society. Secular Kemalists, however, viewed this new discourse as disturbing, even threatening to the nation that Mustafa Kemal had envisioned and with which they identified. For the first time, a discourse of difference was allowed to take place—and it did so in the newly flourishing print media of the time.

In fact, this debate proved short-lived, for authoritarian rule again reared its head with efforts to suppress the freedoms of the press and expression in 1953–1954. Nonetheless, by this time the national print culture had become deeply rooted, and the Muslim national identity to which it had contributed had been clearly defined. The process was by no means complete and in many ways continues to ferment to this day. Identity itself constitutes a constructed category rather than a primordial, organic state and is far more fluid than nationalists like to acknowledge. Moreover, national identity is not exclusive of other identities: they can and do coexist, grafted to each other.

This book puts flesh on the bones of the narrative of nation formation as it relates to the emergence of a popular Muslim national identity in modern Turkey. I neither take for granted the existence of a national identity nor accept that one man alone might be credited with creating the nation. It was only in 1923, after the establishment of the Republic of Turkey, that a state unambiguously began to mandate the existence of a Turkish national identity. Prior to this, identification with the idea of a Turkish nation had been limited to a small portion of the Ottoman Turkish elite familiar with European nationalist discourse. If one pervasive collective identity existed, then it was primarily religious, based on popular loyalty to the Muslim Ottoman dynasty. Therefore this book explores how people came to include identification with the Turkish "nation" among a repertoire of other identities, the most important of which were religious.

By Gavin D. Brockett

Gavin D. Brockett is Associate Professor of Middle East and Islamic History at Wilfrid Laurier University. He is editor, with Touraj Atabaki, of Ottoman and Republican Turkish Labour History.

"Brockett’s richly documented book is a significant contribution to the literature on nationalism and Turkish history for many reasons."
—Ramazan Kilinc, Contemporary Islam