A Brief History of the Ottoman and Turkish Modernization (part 1)

I am beginning of a new series of posts about the Turkish modernization. In this part of this series, we will see the Turkish Progressivist perspective (i.e. Kemalism and the others) of the Ottoman and Turkish modernization. In next part, we will see it through the NRX perspective.

This post would include many Turkish terms which some of them has not one-to-one equivalents in English, I will put their approximate translations in the text.

Like everyone who had gone through the state education in Turkey, I had to take history lessons about the Turkish history naturally. The problem is that the Turkish education system is (so-called the reforms of JPP or AKP in Turkish have failed to change that) a highly progressive one. We had to learn the Official Progressivist History of Turkey. We call it as the Official History (Resmi Tarih in Turkish.).

In this Official History, we had to learn that modernization is a perfect thing, we had to keep in mind that we have to carry on the fight of modernization. After all, our leader’s official motto is to catch up the level of the civilized world. So, we have to catch up, boys and girls! Become a Nicolas Chauvin of the Turkish Modernization!

I am a trained historian, I have a Bachelor’s Degree in History, and a minor in the Turkish Literature. I am studying in a Master Program of History in Turkey, so i know a few thing about the Turkish history.

Normally, if you read history of the Turkish modernization from a modernist perspective (it isn’t matter if the author is Turkish or not, the important thing is modernist perspective, you shall see a sequence like that:

  • Ottoman Empire had entered to Stagnation period.
  • Ottoman state officials desperately tried to go back to the Golden Age of the Ottoman Empire, i.e. to the time of Suleiman the Magnificent and Mehmed the Conqueror.
  • These attempts failed, Ottoman Empire had begun to lose battles against the European states, eventually it lost some of its lands to these states.
  • Some enlightened Ottoman statesmen just after the French Revolution had thought that Westernization (this is the first phase of Westernization, taking only the material stuff, i.e. technology, especially military technology) of the Western.
  • A Westernization and Reform project had begun in the Ottoman Empire.
  • Unfortunately, this project halted by the supposedly Reactionary Alliance, which was formed by Ottoman Ulema (Ottoman Sunni Muslim Clergy), Janissaries (Ottoman Army and their officers), and the Esnaf (Shopkeepers, Artisans). The most of the enlightened Ottoman statesmen have been killed and the Sultan have been deposed at 1807.
  • Until the 1826, no reforms have been made.
  • At 1826, Sultan Mahmud the Second had abolished the Janissaries (he abolished the most important part of his own army!), and killed thousands of them with the support of Ottoman Ayans (Ottoman notables, kind of quasi-aristocracy) and some of the high-ranking Ulema.
  • A more extensive Westernization project had begun, a new army which was ruled by progressive, Prussian educated officers were created.
  • Ottoman Sultan had managed to crush the Ulema and the Ayans.
  • Tanzimat Period (Reorganization period) begun at 1839. It is considered as the beginning of the rule of the law by the progressivists, but actually it is the beginning of the Westernization of the entire country. Modernization of the state machinery.
  • Reform Edict of 1856, first sign of secularism in the Ottoman Empire.
  • Emergence of the faction of the Young Ottomans, first demands for a constitutional monarchy, Islam and Islāmic concepts used and shaped for Progressivist Ideas.
  • 1876, Sultan Abdülaziz has been deposed and died under mysterious circumstances, First Constitution and National Assembly proclaimed in the Ottoman empire.
  • 1878-1908, Abdülhamid the Second suspended the constitution, but nevertheless modernization of the state continued.
  • 1889, İttihat ve Terakki Cemiyeti (Committee of Union and Progress, CUP) has been created.
  • CUP has forced to Sultan Abdülhamid to re-proclaim the Constitution in 1908.
  • 1909: An anti-constitutional rebellion by the so-called Reactionary Alliance has been crushed.
  • 1919: War of Independence has begun.
  • 1922: War of Independence ended with a glorious Turkish victory. Turkish Progressivists and their leader, Mustafa Kemal became the victors. The Sultanate has been abolished, and the traitor Sultan escaped.
  • 1923: The Republic has been proclaimed.
  • 1923-1938: The Golden Age of the Turkish Republic, Atatürk made everything for Turkey.
  • 1938: The Great Turk died.
  • After 1938: His successors failed to catch up the level of the civilized countries. Reaction and obscurantism began to emerge in Turkey.

This is a rough summary of any progressive history book about the Ottoman and Turkish modernization in Turkey. There are many minor differences, even some major differences within the history books, but the main scheme has not changed.

To be continued.



6 thoughts on “A Brief History of the Ottoman and Turkish Modernization (part 1)

  1. Pingback: This Week in Reaction (2015/01/23) | The Reactivity Place

  2. Now this looks interesting.

    May I ask what’s your background? Secular kid from the Istanbul bourgeoisie? Actually practicing Muslim from the interior?

    How’d you get to this corner of the Internet? Moldbug?

    Turks obviously come from different ethnic backgrounds, I wonder how aware are people of that?
    I remember meeting a pale white redhead woman, to whom I asked where she was from, and she said “Turkey”. I answered “no way” and she was furious at me. Really offended.
    So I guess the official story is that everyone’s a Turk and different phenotypes are not to be noticed.

    Looking forward to this blog, it’s always nice to have worldwide perspectives.


    • I am an almost perfect example of Optimates in a Moldbuggian sense. I am a part of lower-middle/middle class family, but my family had produced state officials and army officers from the 1890s until the 1940s. My family is a progressive one, more progressive than the Turkish standards, even for the secular Turks. I was not a practicing Muslim, I was a Cultural Muslim, but I became a practicing one.

      How’d you get to this corner of the Internet? Moldbug? First I saw a poster of the Radish Magazine, then I began to read Anissimov, Antidem and Moldbug, I am reading the NRX blogs since August 2014.

      A pale white redhead woman is a rare thing for Turkey.

      Most of the Turkish families don’t have family trees, also population and cadastral archives are mostly restricted, even if one can get access to the records, mostly they would not able to read them, because of the alphabet change. A third thing that Turkey is a country of immigrants, between 1856 and 1923, five million people came to Turkey, and we have two million Syrian Arabs (for me they are the illegal Mexicans of Turkey.) Still, many immigrant and high-class families know their ancestry quite well.

      So I guess the official story is that everyone’s a Turk and different phenotypes are not to be noticed. Official story is like that, but certain state institutions like Turkish Army and police made unofficial racial checks. Also, until the 1990s, emigration from Central Asian and Balkan countries were encouraged. About the phenotypes, many people that I saw in Turkey (including myself) have Turanid phenotype. But, i see many people with different phenotypes.


  3. Pingback: A Brief History of the Ottoman and Turkish Modernization (Part 2) | theorientalneoreactionary

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s