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Turkey in Transition: Ottoman Empire to 2012. Mustafa Gökçek , Ph.D. Assistant Professor, History Department Director, Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies Program Niagara University. Thesis.

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turkey in transition ottoman empire to 2012

Turkey in Transition:Ottoman Empire to 2012

Mustafa Gökçek, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, History Department

Director, Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies Program

Niagara University

  • Republican Turkey, in order to transform Turkey into a modern, western, nation-state, formed its own secularist elite detached from the people.
  • Various social changes led to increased visibility and upward mobility of conservative masses.
  • A combination of democracy, passive secularism, and social practice of Islam defines the Turkish model.
ottoman times
Ottoman Times
  • Limits on the Sultans
  • Tanzimat Reforms, 1839
  • First Constitutional Period, 1878-9
  • Second Constitutional Period, 1908-1918
  • From Abdulhamid II (1876-1909) to Young Turks
republic of turkey
Republic of Turkey
  • 1920, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk
  • Modernization of a nation-state
  • Cultural revolution
    • Hat, script, school, religion, nation
  • The six arrows of Kemalism
    • Secularism, Nationalism, Statism, Republicanism, Populism, Revolutionism
  • “For the people, despite the people”
post atat rk policies
Post-Atatürk Policies
  • Elite
    • Assertive secularist,
    • Assimilated through education,
    • Controlled wealth
  • The pledge:
    • I am a Turk, I am trustworthy, I am hard working. My principle: it is to defend my minors and to respect my elders, and to love my homeland and nation more than my self. My goal: it is to rise and progress. O Atatürk the great! I swear that I will enduringly walk through the path you opened and to the target you showed. May my personal being be sacrificed to the being of the Turkish nation. How happy is the one who says: “I am a Turk.”
  • Banning the Quran, translating Ezan, selling mosques
  • Neutral during WWII
democracy with bumps
Democracy with Bumps
  • 1946 – first multiparty elections
  • 1950-1960 – Democrat Party
  • 1960 coup, executing a p.m.
  • 1971 coup, military memorandum
  • 1980 coup, against communism
  • Military and its allies
    • media, president, judiciary, higher education, business associations
societal transformation urbanization
Societal Transformation: Urbanization
  • Population growth -> gecekondu (shanty towns)
  • More schools, banks, hospitals, institutions, professionals in cities
  • Hemseri (same hometown) culture
  • Women’s liberation
  • Trade/ big businesses/ shopping malls
  • Rise of a middle class
  • Cultural interaction (forceful) -> spatial democratization
societal transformation urban religion
Societal Transformation: Urban Religion
  • Religious continuities
    • Sufi brotherhoods form communities
  • New movements: Said Nursi
    • Muslims embrace modernity
    • Sciences lead to Unity -> education
  • Religious visibilities
liberalization under turgut zal
Liberalization under TurgutÖzal
  • 1983-1991
  • Liberal economic policies
  • Privatization
  • Exports
  • Birth of civil society
the lost 90s
The Lost 90s
  • 1991-2002
  • Coalition governments
  • Two economic crisis: 1994, 2001
  • Rise of Kurdish terrorism
  • Corruption
  • 1997, post-modern coup against political Islamists
rise of ak party
Rise of AK Party
  • Justice and Development Party led by RecepTayyipErdoğan
  • Conservative Democracy
  • Increasingly popular
    • 2002 – 36%
    • 2007 – 42%
    • 2011 – 50%
  • 2002-2007, European Union reforms
  • 2003-2004 coup plans
  • 2007, e-coup - defeated
hizmet movement
Hizmet Movement
  • Fethullah Gülen
  • “a civil society movement of volunteers”
  • Focused on education, dialog
  • A “glocal” community
  • Emphasis on democratization, freedoms, rule of law
threshold passed
Threshold Passed
  • 2003-2004, EU reforms
    • Military dominance in NSC, State Security Courts and other high councils are eliminated
  • 2007, Ergenekon Case
  • 2010, Referendum
    • President by elections
    • Judicial reform
  • 2012, Court cases against 1980, 1997 coups
  • Rise of an alternative media
making sense of the change
Making Sense of the Change
  • Finding a middle way between Islam and modernity
  • “An agency-based ideological transformation”
  • Based on structural, socio-political transformations
  • Dialectic – coups reinforced a reaction
  • Modernization – urbanization, education, middle-class, reflected in change of state apparatus
emergence of a new turkey
Emergence of a ‘new Turkey’

By Ihsan Dagi – Today’s Zaman

The old Turkey was a country where people were supposed to serve and remain loyal to the state and satisfy the demands of the state elite. It was a country that existed for the state and its owners, i.e., the state elite. Citizens were commanded to be stripped of their ethnic, religious and even ideological identities. In the old Turkey, the nation was imagined to be homogenous despite the diversities on the ground. The old Turkey was based on a notion of the superiority of the state over the society -- an understanding that gave a privileged status and power to the bureaucracy over the citizens, which is an anomaly by any democratic standard. It was a republic in which the civilian and military bureaucracy imagined for itself a “right to rule.” Thus, military takeover was the rule in the old Turkey. Our generals thought they were not only commanding their troops but the country. They hanged a prime minister, made constitutions, closed down political parties and destroyed the lives of millions. Civilians were not in a position to challenge the power of the juntas in the military; they were imprisoned by their own military.

In the old Turkey, the economy was run by the state, to be more specific, by unrepresentative and unaccountable bureaucrats, sitting in a position to redistribute the resources of the nation. The old Turkey was an inward-looking country where relationships with the world were at a minimum. This was a country and society in which it was convenient to be “ruled by fear.”

The old Turkey thus feared anything foreign and different. It not only had external enemies but also plentiful “internal enemies.” Any different identity, ethnicity, religion or ideology was treated as a threat. The old Turkey was a burden for its Western allies, too. It was unable and unwilling to resolve its own problems at home and abroad.


Since 1999, with the start of the EU integration process, which unleashed domestic dynamics for change, the old Turkey has begun fading away. The ideas and ideals of democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights and minorities and a market economy have gained currency in this old country. As a result, for the last 10 years or so Turkey has been going through a tremendous process of change.

Change is everywhere: in politics, business, civil society and foreign affairs. We should try to understand the dynamics and actors of this new Turkey. And we should not make a mistake in identifying the driving forces behind the efforts to build a new Turkey. I think it is not the political leadership but social and economic forces that we need to look at to understand the dynamics pushing for the new Turkey. We make a fatal mistake if we think that the new Turkey is the Justice and Development Party’s (AK Party) Turkey. It is a phenomenon that goes far beyond it. The new Turkey is being created by a new business elite, new media, a new generation of intellectuals and an assertive civil society. A feature of the new Turkey is its self-confidence. It is now a country that says, “Yes, we can.” Democracy is becoming firm and irreversible. The military is being increasingly controlled by civilian authorities, just like in other Western democracies. The will to make a new liberal constitution is strong as demonstrated by the latest constitutional referendum held on Sept. 12. The economy is increasingly being integrated in global markets and institutions.

It seems that continuity and stability characterize the new Turkey. As democratization and economic development unsettles the status quo and disturbs established interests, it encounters resistance from the circles who think they would be the losers in the new Turkey. But their power to dominate political, economic and social space is so limited now that they are unable to stop the process of transformation. Stability and continuity are likely to go hand-in-hand with the process of change. Therefore, a new Turkey experiencing change in stability and continuity awaits us. The outcome of this will be further prosperity and democratization.

It is a relief for democrats that the new Turkey is a post-Kemalist republic based upon the virtues of democracy, pluralism, an open society and a market economy.


homework for democratization
Homework for Democratization
  • A New Constitution
  • Inner-Party Democracy
  • Basic Freedoms
    • speech
    • religious practice
    • ethnic identity
  • Larger space and recognition for civil society
    • Think-tanks
    • Business organizations
    • Religious communities