The flag of Turkey
Turkish workers carrying a bronze head of Atatürk, 1933

Turkish nationalism (Turkish: Türk milliyetçiliği) is a political ideology that promotes and glorifies the Turkish people, as either national or ethnic definition. Turkish nationalism is associated with Turkification as a series of cultural and linguistic practices to promote the Turkish language and culture. It also has a complicated relationship with Islam, Pan-Turkism, and Turanism.


An illustration depicting Atatürk's reforms. From right to left: The victory over the Greek invasion, the abandonment of the fez, the closure of the sectarian lodges, the adoption of the new Turkish alphabet, the adoption of the Turkish civil code.
A 5-lira banknote from the Atatürk era in Turkey.[1][2] The grey wolf is a symbol of Turkish nationalism, as well as of Pan-Turkism.[3]

See also: Pan-Turkism § History

After the fall of the Ottoman Empire, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk came to power. He introduced a language reform with the aim to "cleanse" the Turkish language of foreign (mostly Arabic and Persian) influence.[4] He also promoted the Turkish History Thesis in Turkish political and educational circles from 1930s. Turkish researchers at the time like Hüseyin Cahit Yalçın and Rıfat Osman Bey also came up with the idea that Early Sumerians were proto-Turks.[5]

The early Turkish nationalists were typically secular and often influenced by Ziya Gökalp (1876–1924).[6] Gökalp aimed for the Turkification of Islam; that the Quran should be translated from Arabic into Turkish, and that the adhan should be recited in Turkish instead of Arabic from the Minarets.[6] During the early years of the republic, religious traditions were not important and Turkish nationalists were much more open to the westernization of the Turkish society.[6]


Mehmet Emin Yurdakul, Turkish nationalist writer and politician; his writings and poems had a major impact on defining the term vatan ("Homeland" or "Motherland").
Ziya Gökalp, ideologue of Turkish nationalism and later member of Mustafa Kemal's Grand National Assembly

Ideologies associated with Turkish nationalism include Pan-Turkism or Turanism (a form of ethnic or racial essentialism or national mysticism), Turkish-Islamic synthesis (which combines Turkish nationalism with Islamic identity), Anatolianism (which considers the Turkish nation as a separate entity which developed after the Seljuk conquest of Anatolia in the 11th century), and secular, civic nationalist Kemalism (which defines the "Turks" as the national identity of the people of Turkey).[7] The term "ultranationalism" is often used to describe Turkish nationalism.[8]


Main article: Kemalism

See also: Mustafa Kemal Atatürk's cult of personality

Implemented by Atatürk, the founding ideology of the Republic of Turkey features nationalism (Turkish: milliyetçilik) as one of its six principles.

The Kemalist revolution aimed to create a nation state from the remnants of the multi-religious and multi-ethnic Ottoman Empire. Kemalist nationalism originates from the social contract theories, especially from the civic nationalist principles advocated by Jean-Jacques Rousseau and his Social Contract. The Kemalist perception of social contract was effected by the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire which was perceived as a product of failure of the Ottoman "Millet" system and the ineffective Ottomanism policy. Kemalist nationalism, after experiencing the Ottoman Empire's breakdown, defined the social contract as its "highest ideal".[citation needed]

In the 1930s Kemalism became an all-encompassing state ideology based on Atatürk's sayings and writings. The Kemalist definition of nationality was integrated to Article 66 of the Constitution of the Republic of Turkey. Legally, every citizen is defined as a Turk, regardless of ethnicity or religion. Turkish nationality law states that he or she can be deprived of his/her nationality only through an act of treason.[9]

Kemalist nationalism believes in the principle that the Turkish state is an indivisible whole comprising its territory and people, which is defined as the "unity of the state".


Main article: Pan-Turkism

"Turanist" nationalism began with the Turanian Society founded in 1839, followed in 1908 with the Turkish Society, which later became the Turkish Hearths[10] and eventually expanded to include ideologies such as Pan-Turanism and Pan-Turkism.

Pan-Turkism (Turkish: Türkçülük or Pan-Türkizm), as he stated in his book Principles of Turkism, was also a part of Ziya Gökalp's nationalist view which he called "Turkism", as an ideal of the unity of Turkic peoples.[11]

The Young Turk Revolution which overthrew Sultan Abdul Hamid II, brought Turkish nationalists to power in the Ottoman Empire, eventually leading to the Three Pashas' control of the late Ottoman government.[12][13]


Anatolianism (Turkish: Anadoluculuk) takes as its starting point that the main source of Turkish culture should be Anatolia (Anadolu), and the main base of this thought is that the Turkish people had built a new civilization in Anatolia after 1071 when they won at the Battle of Manzikert.[citation needed]

In the early Republican era, some intellectuals like Hilmi Ziya Ülken,[14] Mehmet Râif Ogan[15] and Nurettin Topçu[16] proposed that the origins of the Turkish nationalism should be sought in Anatolia, not in "Turan".[17]

Hilmi Ziya Ülken, one of the founders of Anatolianism, was opposed to Neo-Ottomanism and Pan-Islamism, as well as to Turanism. In 1919, Ülken wrote a book titled Anadolunun Bugünki Vazifeleri (Present Duties of Anatolia), but it was not published. Ülken and friends published the periodical Anadolu. They worked to form an alternative philosophy to Ottomanism, Islamism and Turanism.

Turkish-Islamic nationalism

Main article: Turkish-Islamic nationalism

The Nationalist Movement Party is a far-right party in the Grand National Assembly of Turkey.

Turkish-Islamic nationalism, also known as the Turkish-Islamic synthesis (Turkish: Türk-İslam sentezi) is a far-right Islamic-conservative ideology that combines Turkish nationalism and Islam.

The term was coined in 1972 by the conservative historian İbrahim Kafesoğlu, who traced the Turkish-Islamic synthesis back to the first Muslim Turkic dynasty, the Karakhanids, in the 11th century. Kafesoğlu viewed the contact between the ancient steppe culture of the Turks and Islam as a process of refinement. The "synthesis" was represented in the 1970s in the intellectual club Aydınlar Ocağı (literally "The Hearth of Intellectuals") whose founder was Kafesoğlu.[18] Representatives of the intellectual club explicitly formulated their thoughts and in particular their understanding of history in 1973 in the text Aydınlar Ocağı'nın Görüşü (literally "The View of the Hearth of Intellectuals"). The starting point was anti-communism and an endeavor to counter the Marxist ideology, which was perceived as a threat to Turkish values.

After the turmoil of the 1970s with bloody clashes between political camps and the 1980 Turkish coup d'état, the junta tried, despite reservations about religious fundamentalism (Turkish: irtica), to use Islamic-conservative ideas and values to restore order and unity.[19] Following the 1980 coup d'état, the military dictatorship made a combination of Pan-Turkism,[20] Turkish-Islamic synthesis, and Kemalism as the official state ideology.[21] Thought leaders of the Turkish-Islamic synthesis assumed that the Turks played a prominent role in the spread of Islam and thereby developed their national identity as part of the Islamic ummah. According to this conception, being Turkish is only possible in connection with Islam. The idea of a Turkish-Islamic synthesis is still very popular in circles of the Ülkücü movement.

Turkish Cypriot nationalism

Main article: Turkish Cypriot nationalism

Turkish Cypriot nationalism emphasizes the support for the independence of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) and desires that the TRNC stay independent from Turkey while opposing the idea of a united Cyprus with the Greek-dominated Republic of Cyprus.[22]

Neo-Nazism and neo-fascism

A neo-Nazi group existed in 1969 in İzmir, when a group of former Republican Villagers Nation Party members (precursor party of the Nationalist Movement Party) founded the association "Nasyonal Aktivite ve Zinde İnkişaf" (National Activity and Vigorous Development). The club maintained two combat units. The members wore SA uniforms and used the Hitler salute. One of the leaders (Gündüz Kapancıoğlu) was re-admitted to the Nationalist Movement Party in 1975.[23]

Today, apart from neo-fascist[31] Grey Wolves and the Turkish ultranationalist[38] MHP, there are some neo-Nazi organizations in Turkey such as the Ataman Brotherhood,[39] or the Turkish Nazi Party[40] and the National Socialist Party of Turkey which are mainly based on the Internet.[41][42][43]

21st century secular nationalism

Following two decades long Islamic-conservative AKP rule, many authors and scholars point out a newly emerging wave, called secular nationalism by the most.[44] This new wave is yet to acquire a precise form and discourse,[45] but attracted interest mainly from young adults who are disillusioned with government policies - especially unregulated migrant inflow.[46]


Further information: White Turks

The "Insulting Turkishness" laws

Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code, which is perceived as contrary to the notion of freedom of speech, took effect on June 1, 2005, and was amended in 2008, states: The person who publicly denigrates the Turkish Nation, the Republic of Turkey, the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, the Government of the Republic of Turkey and the judicial organs of the State, shall be punished with imprisonment of six months to two years. The article also states, expressions of thought intended to criticize shall not constitute a crime, and that it cannot be invoked without the approval of the Minister of Justice.[47]

There have been recent indications that Turkey may repeal or modify Article 301, after the embarrassment suffered by some high-profile cases.[48] Nationalists within the judicial system, intent on derailing Turkey's full admission into the European Union, have used Article 301 to initiate trials against people like Nobel Prize–winning Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk, the Turkish novelist Elif Shafak, and the late Hrant Dink[49] for acknowledging the existence of the Armenian genocide.

In May 2007, a law was put into effect allowing Turkey to block websites that are deemed insulting to Atatürk.[50]

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Türkiye Cumhuriyeti Kağıt Paraları". Archived from the original on 2007-02-24. Retrieved 2007-02-24.
  3. ^ "ATATÜRK VE BOZKURT". Archived from the original on 2007-01-11. Retrieved 2007-01-11.
  4. ^ Landau, Jacob M. (1984). Atatürk and the Modernization of Turkey. Boulder: Westview Press. p. 133. ISBN 0865319863.
  5. ^ Shay, Anthony (2002). Choreographic Politics: State Folk Dance Companies, Representation, and Power. Wesleyan University Press. p. 210. ISBN 0-8195-6521-0.
  6. ^ a b c Aytürk, İlker (2014). "Nationalism and Islam in Cold War Turkey, 1944–69". Middle Eastern Studies. 50 (5): 693–694. doi:10.1080/00263206.2014.911177. hdl:11693/12599. ISSN 0026-3206. JSTOR 24585883. S2CID 143785390 – via JSTOR.
  7. ^ Xypolia, Ilia (2017). British Imperialism and Turkish Nationalism in Cyprus, 1923-1939 : divide, define and rule. London: Routledge.
  8. ^ Rayner, Jeremy; Falls, Susan; Souvlis, George; Nelms, Taylor C. (2020). Back to the '30s?: Recurring Crises of Capitalism, Liberalism, and Democracy. Springer Nature. p. 161. ISBN 978-3-030-41586-0. In the prevailing literature, the term ultra-nationalism is often used to describe Turkish nationalism.
  9. ^ Hanioglu, M. Sükrü (2018). Nationalism and Kemalism. Vol. 1. Princeton University Press. doi:10.23943/princeton/9780691175829.001.0001. ISBN 9780691175829.
  10. ^ "Turkish Society". Britannica Online Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2008-07-01.
  11. ^ Türkçülüğün Esasları pg.25 (Gökalp, Ziya)
  12. ^ Ayşe Hür, Mustafa Kemal ve muhalifleri (1), Radikal, February 18, 2007.
  13. ^ Guy E. Métraux, International Commission for a History of the Scientific and Cultural Development of Mankind, The new Asia, New American Library, 1965, p. 73.
  14. ^ "ÜLKEN, Hilmi Ziya - TDV İslâm Ansiklopedisi".
  15. ^ "OGAN, Mehmet Râif - TDV İslâm Ansiklopedisi".
  16. ^ "TOPÇU, Nurettin - TDV İslâm Ansiklopedisi".
  17. ^ Identity, Culture and Globalization - Annals of the International Institute of Sociology, ISBN 9004128735, ISBN 978-90-04-12873-6, pg. 182 - 183.
  18. ^ Werner Ende und Udo Steinbach: Der Islam in der Gegenwart. München 1996, S. 236
  19. ^ Judith Hoffmann: Aufstieg und Wandel des politischen Islam in der Türkei. Berlin 2003, S. 25f.
  20. ^ Central Eurasian Studies Review, Vol. 3, Central Eurasian Studies Society, 2004, p. 23. Ekrem Buğra Ekinci, 16 TÜRK DEVLETİ Cumhurbaşkanlığı forsundaki 16 yıldız neyi ifade ediyor?, 2 February 2015.
  21. ^ Newspaper Radikal on 28 May 2006
  22. ^ "TRNC".
  23. ^ Jürgen Roth and Kamil Taylan: Die Türkei – Republik unter Wölfen. Bornheim-Merten, p. 119.
  24. ^ Political Terrorism, by Alex Peter Schmid, A. J. Jongman, Michael Stohl, Transaction Publishers, 2005, p. 674
  25. ^ Annual of Power and Conflict, by Institute for the Study of Conflict, National Strategy Information Center, 1982, p. 148
  26. ^ The Nature of Fascism, by Roger Griffin, Routledge, 1993, p. 171
  27. ^ Political Parties and Terrorist Groups, by Leonard Weinberg, Ami Pedahzur, Arie Perliger, Routledge, 2003, p. 45
  28. ^ The Inner Sea: The Mediterranean and Its People, by Robert Fox, 1991, p. 260
  29. ^ Martin A. Lee. "On the Trail of Turkey's Terrorist Grey Wolves". The Consortium.
  30. ^ "Crime of the Century". The Weekly Standard.
  31. ^ [24][25][26][27][28][29][30]
  32. ^ Avcı, Gamze (September 2011). "The Nationalist Movement Party's euroscepticism: party ideology meets strategy". South European Society and Politics. 16 (3): 435–447. doi:10.1080/13608746.2011.598359. S2CID 154513216. Pdf. Archived 21 May 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  33. ^ Çınar, Alev; Burak Arıkan (2002). "The Nationalist Action Party: Representing the State, the Nation or the Nationalists?". In Barry Rubin; Metin Heper (eds.). Political Parties in Turkey. London: Routledge. p. 25. ISBN 978-0714652740.
  34. ^ Huggler, Justin (20 April 1999). "Turkish far right on the rise". The Independent. Retrieved 21 May 2014.
  35. ^ Celep, Ödül (2010). "Turkey's Radical Right and the Kurdish Issue: The MHP's Reaction to the "Democratic Opening"". Insight Turkey. 12 (2): 125–142.
  36. ^ Arıkan, E. Burak (July 2002). "Turkish ultra–nationalists under review: a study of the Nationalist Action Party". Nations and Nationalism. 8 (3): 357–375. doi:10.1111/1469-8219.00055.
  37. ^ Butler, Daren (21 May 2011). "Pre-election resignations rock Turkish far right". Reuters. Retrieved 21 May 2014.
  38. ^ [32][33][34][35][36][37]
  39. ^ "Turkish far-right group beat Afghan man and shared video on social media - Turkish Minute". 30 December 2021. Retrieved 2022-07-17.
  40. ^ "Turkish Nazi Party". Archived from the original on 18 February 2014. Retrieved 7 July 2014.
  41. ^ "Nazi Party Established in Turkey". Retrieved 7 July 2014.
  42. ^ "They Might Be Joking But They Grow in Numbers". Retrieved 7 July 2014.
  43. ^ "Neo-Nazi Circassians on Turkey". Retrieved 7 July 2014.
  44. ^ Bora, Tanil (June 2022). "Milliyetçilik Özel Sayısı". Birikim (398).
  45. ^ Altundag, Mehmet Yasar (22 September 2021). "Öfkeli Genç Türkler ve Türkiye'de milliyetçiliğin dönüşümü". MedyaScope.
  46. ^ Dincaslan, M. Bahadirhan (2023). Seküler Milliyetçilik - 21. Yüzyılda Türk Milliyetçiliğinin Teorisi. Yenisey. ISBN 9786057291011.
  47. ^ "Kanun No. 5759" (in Turkish). Turkish Grand National Assembly, official Web site. 2008-04-30. Retrieved 2008-07-01.
  48. ^ "Turkey insult law 'may be dumped'". BBC News. 2005-12-28. Retrieved 2008-07-01.
  49. ^ Schleifer, Yigal (2005-12-16). "Freedom-of-Expression Court Cases in Turkey Could Hamper Ankara's EU Membership Bid". Retrieved 2007-04-13.
  50. ^ "Turkey adopts law to block 'insulting' websites". AFP. Turkish Daily News. 2007-05-07. Retrieved 2008-07-01.[permanent dead link]


Further reading