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The Politics Of Turkish National Identity

1667 words - 7 pages

The Politics of Turkish National Identity

?Modern Turkish National identity has been shaped by events that have taken place in the region throughout its history. The formation of the national identity can be attributed to two dichotomies of political thought and culture. Some people want to keep in line with Turkey?s modern history as a secular westernized country looking to join the European Union; while others hearken back to the days of the Ottoman Empire and wish to make Turkey a divided Islamic state. Conflict between those who consider themselves Turks and the Kurdish separatist party, a militant rebel force, has long shaped the changing Turkish national Identity. Today, Turkey in many ways has had ?to depart from a strict observance of the guiding principals of [Turkey?s modern history] and the kind of self-perception and views it aimed to instill in the population? (Kushner 232). Although the most westernized of all Middle-East countries, Turkey still must deal with Islamic fundamentalism prominent in the area. In recent history, Turkey has done a poor job balancing the differing desires of the members of its society: some would like to homogenize and westernize society while others want to be recognized as a deeply religious and individual sector of the Turkish population.


The country of Turkey, as we know it, has only come about in the last 80 years or so. Before this time, the land of present day Turkey was referred to as Anatolia. Anatolia is considered the bridge that connects the Middle East to Europe. Despite years of occupation by differing nations, the area of present day Turkey has held some consistency and continuity. This continuity is possible because even though many countries have opposed their languages and ways of thought on the land, they have also assimilated the customs of the people who occupied the land before them (A Country Study). The history of Turkey includes the Seljuks, who brought Islam and the modern Turkish language, and the Ottomans, who were a vast world power for centuries. This history culminated in the formation of the Republic of Turkey in 1923 through the leadership and vision of Mustafa Kemal. The goal of the new republic was to form a new country and society patterned after Western Europe. Kemal, the founder of Turkey, equated Westernization with the introduction of technology, the modernization of administration, and the evolution of democratic institutions (A Country Study). Kemal?s vision for Turkey embodied some ideas he instituted into the constitution of the Republic of Turkey. These ideas are republicanism, nationalism, populism, reformism, etatism[i], and secularism.

?Turkish society has changed due to a response to socioeconomic changes instituted by the secular government after 1923. Before the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, Turkish society was characterized by many illiterate farmers. Today however, through the leadership of the new...

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