Pan-Turkism is a political movement that emerged during the 1880s among Turkic intellectuals of the Russian region of Kazan (Tatarstan), Baku Governorate (modern-day Azerbaijan) and the Ottoman Empire (modern-day Turkey), with its aim being the cultural and political unification of all Turkic peoples. Turanism is a closely-related movement but a more general term, because Turkism only applies to Turkic peoples. However, researchers and politicians who are steeped in Turkic ideology have used these terms interchangeably in many sources and works of literature.
Although many of the Turkic peoples share historical, cultural and linguistic roots, the rise of a pan-Turkic political movement is a phenomenon of the 19th and 20th centuries. It was in part a response to the development of Pan-Slavism and Pan-Germanism in Europe and influenced Pan-Iranism in Asia. Ottoman poet Ziya Gökalp defined pan-Turkism as a cultural, academic, and philosophical and political concept advocating the unity of Turkic peoples. Ideologically, it was premised on social Darwinism.
In research literature, "pan-Turkism" is used to describe the political, cultural and ethnic unity of all Turkic-speaking people. "Turkism" began to be used with the prefix "pan-" (from the Greek πᾶν, pan = all).
Proponents use the latter as a point of comparison, since "Turkic" is more a linguistic, ethnic and cultural distinction than a citizenship description. This differentiates it from "Turkish", which is the official term used for citizens of Turkey. Pan-Turkic ideas and reunification movements have been popular since the collapse of the Soviet Union in Central Asian and other Turkic countries.
In 1804, the Tatar theologian Ghabdennasir Qursawi wrote a treatise calling for the modernization of Islam. Qursawi was a Jadid (from the Arabic word jadid, "new"). The Jadids encouraged critical thinking, supporting education and the equality of the sexes, and advocated tolerance of other faiths, Turkic cultural unity, and openness to Europe’s cultural legacy. The Jadid movement was founded in 1843 in Kazan. Its aim was a semi-secular modernization and educational reform, with a national (not religious) identity for the Turks. Before that they were Muslim subjects of the Russian Empire, which maintained this attitude until its end.
After the Wäisi movement, the Jadids advocated national liberation. After 1907, many supporters of Turkic unity immigrated to the Ottoman Empire.
The newspaper Türk in Cairo was published by exiles from the Ottoman Empire after the suspension of the Ottoman constitution of 1876 and the persecution of liberal intellectuals. It was the first publication to use the ethnic designation as its title. Yusuf Akçura published "Three Types of Policy" (Üç tarz-ı siyaset) anonymously in 1904, the earliest manifesto of a pan-Turkic nationalism. Akçura argued that the supra-ethnic union espoused by the Ottomans was unrealistic. The Pan-Islamic model had advantages, but Muslim populations were under colonial rule which would oppose unification. He concluded that an ethnic Turkish nation would require the cultivation of a national identity; a pan-Turkish empire would abandon the Balkans and Eastern Europe in favor of Central Asia. The first publication of "Three Types of Policy" had a negative reaction, but it became more influential by its third publication in 1911 in Istanbul. The Ottoman Empire had lost its African territory to the Kingdom of Italy and it would soon lose the Balkans. Pan-Turkish nationalism consequently became a more feasible (and popular) political strategy.
In 1908, the Committee of Union and Progress came to power in Ottoman Turkey, and the empire adopted a nationalistic ideology. This contrasted with its largely Muslim ideology which dated back to the 16th century, when the sultan was the caliph of his Muslim lands. Leaders who espoused Pan-Turkism fled from Russia to Istanbul, where a strong pan-Turkic movement arose; the Turkish pan-Turkic movement grew into a nationalistic, ethnically oriented replacement of the caliphate with a state. After the fall of the Ottoman Empire with its multi-cultural and multi-ethnic population, influenced by the nationalism of the Young Turks, some tried to replace the empire with a Turkish commonwealth. Leaders like Mustafa Kemal Atatürk acknowledged that such a goal was impossible, replacing pan-Turkic idealism with a form of nationalism which aimed to preserve an Anatolian nucleus.
The Türk Yurdu Dergisi (Journal of the Turkish Homeland) was founded in 1911 by Akçura. This was the most important Turkist publication of the time, "in which, along with other Turkic exiles from Russia, [Akçura] attempted to instill a consciousness about the cultural unity of all Turkic peoples of the world."
A significant early exponent of pan-Turkism was Enver Pasha (1881–1922), the Ottoman Minister of War and acting commander-in-chief during World War I. He later became a leader of the Basmachi movement (1916–1934) against Russian and Soviet rule in Central Asia. During World War II, the Nazis organized a Turkestan Legion composed primarily of soldiers who hoped to develop an independent Central Asian state after the war. The German intrigue bore no fruit.
Interest in Pan-Turkism declined, however, with the establishment of the Turkish Republic in 1923 under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, with Atatürk generally favoring Ziya Gökalp over Enver Pasha. The Pan-Turkist movements gained some momentum in the 1940s, due to the support which it received from Nazi Germany, which sought to use Pan-Turkism as leverage in order to undermine Russian influence in an effort to acquire the resources of Central Asia during the course of World War II. The development of pan-Turkist and anti-Soviet ideology, in some circles, was influenced by Nazi propaganda during this period. Some sources claim that Nihal Atsız advocated Nazi doctrines and adopted a Hitler-style haircut. Alparslan Türkeş, a leading pan-Turkist, took a pro-Hitler position during the war and developed close connections with Nazi leaders in Germany. Several pan-Turkic groups in Europe apparently had ties to Nazi Germany (or its supporters) at the start of the war, if not earlier. The Turco-Tatars in Romania cooperated with the Iron Guard, a Romanian fascist organisation. Although the Turkish government's archives which date back to the World War II years have not been declassified, the level of contact can be ascertained from German archives. A ten-year Turco-German treaty of friendship was signed in Ankara on 18 January 1941. Official and semi-official meetings between German ambassador Franz von Papen and other German officials and Turkish officials, including General H. E. Erkilet (of Tatar origin and a frequent contributor to pan-Turkic journals) took place in the second half of 1941 and the early months of 1942. The Turkish officials included General Ali Fuad Erdem and Nuri Pasha (Killigil), brother of Enver Pasha.
Pan-Turkists were not supported by the Turkish government during this time and on 19 May 1944, İsmet İnönü made a speech in which he condemned Pan-Turkism as "a dangerous and sick demonstration of the latest times" going on to say that the Turkish Republic was "facing efforts hostile to the existence of the Republic" and those who advocate these ideas "will only bring trouble and disaster". Nihal Atsız and other prominent pan-Turkist leaders were tried and sentenced to imprisonment for conspiring against the government. Zeki Velidi Togan was sentenced to ten years imprisonment and four years in internal exile, Reha Oğuz Türkkan was sentenced to five years and ten months in prison and two years in exile, Nihal Atsız was sentenced to six years, six months and 15 days in prison and 3 years in exile. Others were sentenced to prison terms which only ranged from a few months to four years in length. But the defendants appealed the convictions and in October 1945, the sentences of all the convicted were abolished by the Military Court of Cassation.
While Erkilet discussed military contingencies, Nuri Pasha told the Germans about his plan to create independent states which would be allies (not satellites) of Turkey. These states would be formed by the Turkic-speaking populations which lived in Crimea, Azerbaijan, Central Asia, northwest Iran, and northern Iraq. Nuri Pasha offered to assist Nazi Germany's propaganda activities on behalf of this cause. However, Turkey's government also feared for the survival of the Turkic minorities in the USSR and it told von Papen that it could not join Germany until the USSR was crushed. The Turkish government may have been apprehensive about Soviet might, which kept the country out of the war. On a less-official level, Turkic emigrants from the Soviet Union played a crucial role in negotiations and contacts between Turkey and Germany; among them were prominent pan-Turkic activists like Zeki Velidi Togan, Mammed Amin Rasulzade, Mirza Bala, Ahmet Caferoĝlu, Sayid Shamil and Ayaz İshaki. Several Tatar military units of Turkic speakers in the Turco-Tatar and Caucasian regions who had been prisoners of war joined the war against the USSR, generally fighting as guerrillas in the hope of independence and a pan-Turkic union. The units, which were reinforced, numbered several hundred thousand. Turkey took a cautious approach at the government level, but pan-Turkist groups were exasperated by Turkish inaction and what they saw as the waste of a golden opportunity to reach the goals of pan-Turkism.
Turkey's efforts have not met the expectations of the Turkic states or the country's pan-Turkist supporters. Modest housing projects promised to the Crimean Tatars have not been completed after many years.
Some language communities have switched to the Latin alphabet, but the official Turkmen, Uzbek and Azerbaijani Latin alphabets are not as compatible with the Turkish alphabet as Turkey had hoped after a Pan-Turkic Alphabet with 35 letters had been agreed upon in the early 1990s prior to the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The Kazakh alphabets already include Latin ones, and Kazakhstan is planned to be fully converted to the Latin alphabet by 2025. Kyrgyzstan has not seriously considered adopting the Latin script, but the idea was entertained by some politicians during the country's first few years of independence, and Roman Kyrgyz alphabets exist.
Pan-Turkism is often perceived as a new form of Turkish imperial ambition. Some view the young Turk leaders who saw pan-Turkist ideology as a way to reclaim the prestige of the Ottoman Empire as racist and chauvinistic.
Clive Foss, professor of ancient history at the University of Massachusetts Boston, has done extensive archaeological work in Turkey and he is also an expert on ancient Armenian coins. In his article, "The Turkish View of Armenian History: A Vanishing Nation", Foss writes that the Turkish government was "systematically changing the names of villages in order to make them sound more Turkish. Any name of a village which does not have a meaning in Turkish, or any name of a village which does not sound Turkish, whatever its origin, is replaced with a banal name which is assigned by a bureau in Ankara, with no respect for local conditions or traditions". According to Foss, the Turkish government "presented [Armenia] ambiguously, without clear identification of [its] builders, or as examples of the influence of the superiority of Turkish architecture. In all this, a clear line is evident: the Armenian presence is to be consigned, as far as possible, to oblivion".
Foss critically notes that in 1982: The Armenian File in the Light of History, Cemal Anadol writes that the Iranian Scythians and Parthians are Turks. According to Anadol, the Armenians welcomed the Turks into the region; their language is a mixture with no roots and their alphabet is mixed, with 11 characters which were borrowed from the ancient Turkic alphabet. Foss calls this view historical revisionism: "Turkish writings have been tendentious: history has been viewed as performing a useful service, proving or supporting a point of view, and so it is treated as something flexible which can be manipulated at will". He concludes, "The notion, which seems well established in Turkey, that the Armenians were a wandering tribe without a home, who never had a state of their own, is of course entirely without any foundation in fact. The logical consequence of the commonly expressed view of the Armenians is that they have no place in Turkey, and they never did. The result would be the same if the viewpoint were expressed first, and the history were written to order. In a sense, something like this seems to have happened, for most Turks who grew up under the Republic were educated to believe in the ultimate priority of Turks in all parts of history, and ignore the Armenians all together; they had been clearly consigned to oblivion."
Kâzım Karabekir said
The aim of all Turks is to unite with the Turkic borders. History is affording us today the last opportunity. In order for the Islamic world not to be forever fragmented it is necessary that the campaign against Karabagh be not allowed to abate. As a matter of fact drive the point home in Azeri circles that the campaign should be pursued with greater determination and severity.
Western Azerbaijan is a term used in Azerbaijan to refer to Armenia. According to the Whole Azerbaijan theory, modern Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh were once inhabited by the Azerbaijanis. Its claims are based on the belief that current Armenia was ruled by Turkic tribes and states from the Late Middle Ages to the Treaty of Turkmenchay which was signed after the 1826–1828 Russo-Persian War. The concept has been sanctioned by the government of Azerbaijan and its current president, Ilham Aliyev, who has said that Armenia is part of ancient Turkic, Azerbaijani land. Turkish and Azerbaijani historians have said that Armenians are alien, not indigenous, in the Caucasus and Anatolia.
Ahmad Kazemi, the author of the book Security in South Caucasus, told Iran's Strategic Council on Foreign Relations in a 2021 interview that "Azerbaijan is seeking to establish the so-called pan-Turkish illusionary Zangezur corridor in south of Armenia under the pretext of creating connectivity in the region", arguing that "this corridor is not compatible with any of the present geopolitical and historical realities of the region".
In Tsarist Russian circles, pan-Turkism was considered a political, irredentist and aggressive idea. Turkic peoples in Russia were threatened by Turkish expansion,[clarification needed] and I. Gasprinsky and his followers were accused of being Turkish spies. After the October Revolution, the Bolsheviks’ attitude to Türkism did not differ from the Russian Empire’s. At the 10th Congress of Bolshevik Communist Party in 1921, the party "condemned pan-Turkism as a slope to bourgeois-democratic nationalism". The emergence of a pan-Turkism scare in Soviet propaganda made it one of the most frightening political labels in the USSR. The most widespread accusation used in the lethal repression of educated Tatars and other Turkic peoples during the 1930s was that of pan-Turkism.
Russia and Iran say that they perceive pan-Turkism as a new form of Turkish imperial ambition, and some see it as racist. Critics believe that the concept is flawed because of the distinct dialects spoken by the Turkic peoples, which sometimes led to miscommunication. Concerns also exist about religious differences. Although most Turks are Sunnis, there are also predominantly Shi'i peoples (like Azerbaijanis) and predominantly Christian peoples (like Chuvash or Yakuts). According to some, mostly critics from Iran, pan-Turkists are at the forefront of historical revisionism about world history in general and Turkic history in particular.
Mirsaid Sultan Galiev believes that Eurocentrist colonial regimes falsified Turkic history and divided Turkic peoples, who should return to Turkic territories.
Pan-Turkists like Reha Oğuz Türkkan have openly claimed that pre-Columbian civilizations were Turkic civilizations and they have also claimed that modern-day Native Americans are Turkic peoples, and activities which Turkish lobbying groups have conducted in order to draw Native Americans into the service of the wider Turkic world agenda have drawn criticism and triggered accusations that the Turkish government is falsifying the history of Native Americans in the service of Turkish imperialist ambitions. According to an article by Polat Kaya which was published by the Turkish Cultural Foundation, the exact origins of Native Americans remain unclear and while they are widely believed to have migrated from Asia, the exact connection between Native Americans and other Turkic peoples remains disputed, although linguistic coincidences between Turks and Native Americans are noticeable.
There is no such thing as the Kurdish people or nation. They are merely carriers of Turkish culture and habits. The imagined region proposed as the new Kurdistan is the region that was settled by the proto-Turks. The Sumerians and Scythians come immediately to mind.
— Orhan Türkdoğan - Professor of Sociology at Gebze Technical University
Pan-Turkism has been characterized by pseudoscientific theories known as Pseudo-Turkology. Though dismissed in serious scholarship, scholars promoting such theories, often known as Pseudo-Turkologists, have in recent times emerged among every Turkic nationality. A leading light among them is Murad Adzhi, who insists that two hundred thousand years ago, "an advanced people of Turkic blood" were living in the Altai Mountains. These tall and blonde Turks are supposed to have founded the world's first state, Idel-Ural, 35,000 years ago, and to have migrated as far as the Americas. According to theories like the Turkish History Thesis, promoted by pseudo-scholars, the Turkic peoples are supposed to have migrated from Central Asia to the Middle East in the Neolithic. The Hittites, Sumerians, Babylonians, and ancient Egyptians are here classified as being of Turkic origin. The Kurgan cultures of the early Bronze Age up to more recent times are also typically ascribed to Turkic peoples by pan-Turkic pseudoscholars, such as Ismail Miziev. Non-Turkic peoples typically classified as Turkic, Turkish, Proto-Turkish or Turanian include Huns, Scythians, Sakas, Cimmerians, Medes, Parthians, Pannonian Avars, Caucasian Albanians, and various ethnic minorities in Turkic countries, such as Kurds. Adzhi also considers Alans, Goths, Burgundians, Saxons, Alemanni, Angles, Lombards, and many Russians as Turks. Only a few prominent peoples in history, such as Jews, Chinese people, Armenians, Greeks, Persians, and Scandinavians are considered non-Turkic by Adzhi. Philologist Mirfatyh Zakiev, former Chairman of the Supreme Soviet of the Tatar ASSR, has published hundreds of "scientific" works on the subject, suggesting Turkic origins of the Sumerian, Greek, Icelandic, Etruscan and Minoan languages. Zakiev contends that "proto-Turkish is the starting point of the Indo-European languages". Not only peoples and cultures, but also prominent individuals, such as Saint George, Peter the Great, Mikhail Kutuzov and Fyodor Dostoevsky, are proclaimed to have been "of Turkic origin". As such the Turkic peoples are supposed to have once been the "benevolent conquerors" of the peoples of most of Eurasia, who thus owe them "a huge cultural debt". The pseudoscientific Sun Language Theory states that all human languages are descendants of a proto-Turkic language and was developed by the Turkish president Mustafa Kemal Atatürk during the 1930s. Kairat Zakiryanov considers the Japanese and Kazakh gene pools to be identical.
Philip L. Kohl notes that the above-mentioned theories are nothing more than "incredible myths". Nevertheless, the promotion of these theories have "taken on large-scale proportions" in countries such as Turkey and Azerbaijan. Often associated with Greek, Assyrian and Armenian genocide denial, pan-Turkic pseudoscience has received extensive state and state-backed non-governmental support, and is taught all the way from elementary school to the highest level of universities in such countries. Turkish and Azerbaijani students are imbued with textbooks making "absurdly inflated" claims that all Eurasian nomads, including the Scythians, and all civilizations on the territory of the Ottoman Empire, such as Sumer, ancient Egypt, ancient Greece, and the Byzantine Empire, were of Turkic origin. Konstantin Sheiko and Stephen Brown explain the reemergence of such pseudo-history as a form of national therapy, helping its proponents cope with the failures of the past.
It is commonly acknowledged that pan-Turkism, the movement aiming at the political and/or cultural unification of all Turkic peoples, emerged among Turkic intellectuals of Russia as a liberal-cultural movement in the 1880s.
Political movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, which had as its goal the political union of all Turkish-speaking peoples in the Ottoman Empire, Russia, China, Iran, and Afghanistan.
Turkism is not a political party but a scientific, philosophic and aesthetic school of thought.
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According to Adzhi, Huns, Alans, Goths, Burgundians, Saxons, Alemans, Angles, Langobards and many of the Russians were ethnic Turks.161 The list of non-Turks is relatively short and seems to comprise only Jews, Chinese, Armenians, Greeks, Persians, and Scandinavians... Mirfatykh Zakiev, a Chairman of the Supreme Soviet of the Tatar ASSR and professor of philology who has published hundreds of scientific works, argues that proto-Turkish is the starting point of the Indo-European languages. Zakiev and his colleagues claim to have discovered the Tatar roots of the Sumerian, ancient Greek and Icelandic languages and deciphered Etruscan and Minoan writings.
Discredited hypotheses – widespread in the 1920s and 1930s – about the Turkic origin of Sumerians, Scythians, Sakhas, and many other ancient peoples are nowadays popular
M. Zakiev claims that the Scythians and Sarmatians were all Turkic. He even considers the Sumerians as Turkic
Apparently innocuous were other contradictory and/or incredible myths related by professional archaeologists that claimed that the Scythians were Turkic-speaking
Thus, ethnic groups or populations of the past (Huns, Scythians, Sakas, Cimmerians, Parthians, Hittites, Avars and others) who have disappeared long ago, as well as non-Turkic ethnic groups living in present-day Turkey, have come to be labeled Turkish, Proto-Turkish or Turanian
Claims that many Iranian figures and societies starting from the Medes, Scythians and Parthians were Turks), are still prevalent in countries that adhere to Pan—Turkist nationalism such as Turkey and the republic of Azerbaijan. These falsifications, which are backed by state and state backed non—governmental organizational bodies, range from elementary school all the way to the highest level of universities in these countries.
Violent flirtation with PanTuranism had a lasting effect on kemalist Turkey and its historical ideology: Turkish pupils are imbued by history textbooks even today with a dogma of absurdly inflated PanTurkish history—Turkish history comprises all Eurasian nomads, Indo-European (Scythian) and Turk-Mongol, plus their conquests in Persia, India China, all civilizations on the soil of the Ottoman Empire, from Sumer and Ancient Egypt via Greeks, Alexander the Great to Byzantium.
...the second president of independent Azerbaijan, Abulfaz Elchibey, was a prominent pan-Turkist nationalist...
Naturally, they were associated with Elchibey's pan-Turkist aspirations...
Within Turkey, the pan- Turkist movement led by Alparslan Türkeş...
The late Alparslan Turkes, the former head of the MHP, actively promoted a Pan-Turkic agenda.