Ataturk: An Intellectual Biographyby M. ükrü Hanio
When Mustafa Kemal Atatürk became the first president of Turkey in 1923, he set about transforming his country into a secular republic where nationalism sanctified by science--and by the personality cult Atatürk created around himself--would reign supreme as the new religion. This book provides the first in-depth look at the intellectual life of the
When Mustafa Kemal Atatürk became the first president of Turkey in 1923, he set about transforming his country into a secular republic where nationalism sanctified by science--and by the personality cult Atatürk created around himself--would reign supreme as the new religion. This book provides the first in-depth look at the intellectual life of the Turkish Republic's founder. In doing so, it frames him within the historical context of the turbulent age in which he lived, and explores the uneasy transition from the late Ottoman imperial order to the modern Turkish state through his life and ideas.
Shedding light on one of the most complex and enigmatic statesmen of the modern era, M. Sükrü Hanioglu takes readers from Atatürk's youth as a Muslim boy in the volatile ethnic cauldron of Macedonia, to his education in nonreligious and military schools, to his embrace of Turkish nationalism and the modernizing Young Turks movement. Who was this figure who sought glory as an ambitious young officer in World War I, defied the victorious Allies intent on partitioning the Turkish heartland, and defeated the last sultan? Hanioglu charts Atatürk's intellectual and ideological development at every stage of his life, demonstrating how he was profoundly influenced by the new ideas that were circulating in the sprawling Ottoman realm. He shows how Atatürk drew on a unique mix of scientism, materialism, social Darwinism, positivism, and other theories to fashion a grand utopian framework on which to build his new nation.
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An Intellectual Biography
By M. Sükrü Hanioglu
PRINCETON UNIVERSITY PRESSCopyright © 2011 Princeton University Press
All rights reserved.
The ancient Macedonian capital of Salonica had seen numerous overbearing rulers come and go. The Ottoman Turks, who swept across the plains of Anatolia and into the Balkans in the fourteenth century, were merely the last in a long and illustrious series that included the Macedonians, Romans, Byzantines, Normans, Lombards, and Venetians. When the Ottomans conquered the city for the second time in 1430, however, they had little patience for the past; at the end of three days of pillaging, only 2,000 souls remained amid the ruins of the ancient city. These survivors were soon joined by 1,000 Turkish nomads, brought from the east, and the social fabric of Salonica was changed forever. Thus was founded what became the most cosmopolitan city in the Ottoman Empire, and it would serve as the seemingly improbable setting for the childhood of the architect of modern Turkey.
A second crucial impetus to the development of the city under Ottoman rule was the expulsion of the Jews from Spain and Portugal at the end of the fifteenth century. As thousands of Jewish immigrants flooded into the Ottoman domains, the authorities decided to direct a large number of them to Salonica, ensuring the city's future as one of the major Jewish centers of Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean world. Although a small community of Ashkenazi Jews had lived in the city since before the Ottoman conquest, the influx of large numbers of Sephardic Jews turned Salonica into the only sizable town in Europe with a Jewish majority. The Jewish community of Salonica was not only exceptional in size; it was also unique in composition. When in 1666 the Jewish messianic pretender Shabbetai Zevi converted to Islam to avoid execution, a considerable number of his Salonican followers, believing his conversion to be the final step prior to the fulfillment of the messianic prophecy, followed suit. They began to profess their adherence to Islam in public, while surreptitiously continuing the private practice of Jewish rituals. Thus was born the Shabbetaian Dönme (in Hebrew ma'amin, or believer) community, which was to become a singular feature of Ottoman Salonica. Despised by pious Jews and Muslims alike, the Dönmes were treated as Muslims by the Ottoman authorities for the purposes of administration and taxation.
By the end of the nineteenth century, the city was made up of three major religious groups inhabiting three distinct neighborhoods: the Jews, numbered approximately 49,000; the Muslims, 25,500 (including the Dönmes); and the Greek Orthodox, 11,000. Such simple confessional distinctions, however, obscured a far richer ethnic diversity of Sephardic and Ashkenazi Jews; Turkish, Albanian, Bosnian, Gypsy, and Dönme Muslims; Greek, Bulgarian, Kutzo-Vlach, and Albanian Orthodox; and pockets of Albanian Catholics, Armenians, and Serbs. In addition, Salonica boasted a sizable non-Ottoman European population, comprising some 7,000 British, French, Italian, Russian, and Spanish subjects, and a number of foreign missions, including the American, Danish, Dutch, and Swedish consulates. This latter-day Tower of Babel epitomized Ottoman cosmopolitanism more than any other city in the realm, with the possible exception of the imperial capital Istanbul.
Not surprisingly, Salonica was a fertile ground for the nationalist movements that mushroomed throughout the European provinces of the empire in the nineteenth century. When, in 1821 the Greeks in the Peloponnese launched their war for independence from Ottoman rule, the Salonican Greeks rose up in support of their brethren but were quickly suppressed by the Ottoman administration. Half a century later, in 1870, the Bulgarian intelligentsia of Salonica lent crucial support to the establishment of the autocephalous Bulgarian exarchate, a splinter denomination of Greek Orthodoxy. This religious-nationalist challenge to Greek domination of Orthodox Christianity sparked violent clashes between Greeks and Bulgars in the province. Eight years later, in the aftermath of the Russo-Ottoman War of 1877–78, the Ottomans ceded most of Macedonia — Salonica's hinterland — to the new autonomous principality of Bulgaria. While the Berlin Congress of 1878 restored Macedonia to the Ottomans on condition that they implemented pro-Christian reforms, Salonica, like other towns in the region, turned into a battleground among rival nationalist movements. The Macedo-Bulgarian revolutionary guerrilla organization VMORO (the Vnatrena makedonsko-odrinska revolucionerna organizacija, or Internal Macedonian-Adrianopolitan Revolutionary Organization) was founded in the city in 1893, while the local Hellenic consulate served as the headquarters of Greek armed activity in the region.
Like the other cities of the empire, Salonica was profoundly affected by the ambitious program of imperial reform launched by the Ottoman government in the mid-nineteenth century. Commonly referred to as the Tanzimat era, the period 1839–76 witnessed a sustained effort to modernize the Ottoman state. Led by a class of professional bureaucrats, the reforms aimed at achieving a wide variety of transformative changes, ranging from the introduction of equality of rights to the overhaul of the bureaucratic machinery of government. The reformers looked primarily to Europe in search of models for change. They sought to replicate the reforms of Peter the Great in Russia, the empire's great adversary to the north; to imitate the genius of Prince Klemens von Metternich's statecraft; to pursue the course of British industrialization; and to follow the path of enlightenment, legal codification, and centralization of government charted by France. Ultimately, they sought to Westernize the Ottoman Empire and enter, as equals, into the post-Napoleonic club of European states. To this end, the reformers built a host of new institutions of government and learning. They introduced new ideas that revolutionized prevailing worldviews, and reshaped the relationships among the various communities of the empire. Taken together, these changes drastically altered the fabric of Ottoman government and society. Yet in order to pave the way for the new order, the reformist statesmen did not find it expedient or possible to confront and destroy the old. Instead, they permitted time-honored institutions to survive alongside the new, in the hope that the former would naturally recede into oblivion in the face of the palpable advantages of progress. For instance, the government established new civil courts governed by new law codes adapted from European sources, yet it did not abolish the religious, shari'a-governed courts. Similarly, the government launched a new system of education based on the French model, but religious and community-based schooling persisted.
In Istanbul and in Balkan cities like Salonica, the reform movement led to the formation of an exceedingly Westernized Muslim upper class. Knowledge of European manners, mores, languages, and sciences — subsumed under the banner of Alla Franca — formed the prerequisite for membership in this new elite, and the key to success and upward social mobility. The new elite accordingly embraced the reforms wholeheartedly. Not so the Muslim masses; to them the reforms appeared as European-instigated machinations, designed to rob them of their privileges and bestow advantage upon non- Muslims. Indeed, the reforms split the Muslim community, opening a chasm between the secular elite and the pious masses. As bureaucrats enthusiastically embraced European mores, devout Muslims fretted at the loss of commercial and moral ground to Christians. Thus, in Salonica in 1876, a Muslim mob lynched the French and German consuls while trying to snatch a Greek-Orthodox Bulgarian girl who wished to convert to Islam from a rival mob of Christians. Repeated attempts by Greeks and Bulgarians to replace the despised wooden church bells — historic markers of Christian inferiority — with metal ones precipitated similarly violent clashes.
The policies of the Tanzimat statesmen naturally engendered fierce opposition from Muslim clerics. Less immediately obvious was the reason for the resistance of non-Muslim religious elites. The reformers subtly challenged organized religion of all types by launching an ambitious effort to restructure the non-Muslim religious communities from within. Rather than wage war on the entrenched clerical establishments, which had managed the day-to-day affairs of their communities for centuries, they adopted a sophisticated, indirect approach. By endorsing laymen from within the community to promote an agenda of secularization and modernization on their behalf, the reformers were in fact mobilizing internal forces in an effort to edge the obscurantist clerics out of positions of power. At the same time, the government applied universal laws to these communities, thereby destroying centuries of communal autonomy. The empowerment of progressive lay elements within the religious communities, combined with administrative efforts to create universal institutions for all Ottoman subjects, drastically altered life in the various communities and in society as a whole. Although one of the major aims of the Tanzimat reforms was to combat ethnic separatism by centralizing imperial administration, the effect of the emergence of secular intelligentsias with power over community affairs was, ironically, to give impetus to burgeoning nationalist movements.
One area in particular on which laymen and clergy clashed was the school curriculum. While the former urged the adoption of secular curricula, the better to prepare the new generation for life in the modern world and to foster nationalist sentiment in the community, the latter fought to preserve the religious foundation of education. The new Regulations for Education, issued in 1869 under the influence of Jean-Victor Duruy's secular reform program in France, laid out a blueprint for a new educational system featuring preparatory, middle, and high schools, as well as colleges with modern curricula that included foreign languages. They also instituted a chain of military schools at middle school, high school, and college levels and permitted communities and individuals to establish their own schools.
The reform era left a particularly strong imprint upon Salonica, both because of the city's importance to the government — underscored by Sultan Abdülmecid's (r. 1839–61) unusual visit in 1859 — and because of its cosmopolitan character, which amplified the force of reforms targeting the empire's non-Muslim communities. In addition, the influx of European (including Jewish) capital into Salonica empowered local reformers who wished to enhance the city's infrastructure, and accelerated the pace of change. The Law of Provinces, issued in 1864, restructured provincial administration, but also established municipal administrations on the French model. The new municipality of Salonica demolished the city's sea walls and drained the surrounding marshes in the 1870s. A British company introduced street gaslighting in 1881, and electricity was installed in 1899. A great fire in 1890 destroyed the poorest Jewish neighborhoods and adjoining areas, providing an opportunity to widen the streets. Horse-drawn trams began operation in 1893 — this was the fifth tram line in the entire empire, and the first in the Balkans. A new telegraph line connected the town to the imperial capital and other major centers. So too did the railway: in 1870 a railway line from Salonica to Mitrovitza opened, later extended to link the city to Skopje, Monastir, and Istanbul. Increasing trade with Europe also played a significant role in the expansion of the city. Salonica became the largest seaport for exports in the Balkans and the fourth largest in the empire as a whole (after Izmir, Istanbul, and Beirut). In addition to commercial shipping, Ottoman, Greek, Egyptian, and European naval vessels scheduled regular visits to Salonica. The Imperial Ottoman Bank opened one of its first branches there in 1864. The Banque de Salonique and the Agricultural Bank (the official bank of the state) soon followed suit. The emergence of small factories for the production of construction materials, garments, tobacco, alcohol, beer, and soap turned the city into a major industrial center, as well as the hub of the Ottoman socialist movement. Industrial growth also triggered an influx of rural populations in search of work. Between 1839 and 1897, migration doubled the town's population.
Salonica — famous in ancient times as Cicero's home in exile, and later as the hometown of Cyril, coinventor of the Glagolitic alphabet and cotranslator of the Bible into Old Slavonic — underwent a cultural renaissance during the reform era. This was particularly remarkable in the realm of print. Although the first Hebrew printing house in the Balkans had been founded in the town in 1512, it published principally religious treatises. A Turkish publishing house was set up in 1727 but did not last very long. The reform era witnessed the establishment of numerous multilingual printing houses. Dailies and journals also appeared. Judah Nehama began to publish the daily El Lunar (The Month) in 1864, followed in 1869 by the official provincial gazette Selânik (Salonica) in Turkish, Bulgarian, Greek, and Ladino. An independent Turkish daily, Zaman (The Times), hosted intellectual debates from 1880 onward. In 1895, one of the major Ottoman provincial newspapers, Asir (The Century), started publication. Salonica's first Greek newspaper, Hermes, came out in 1875. Muslim intellectuals produced many journals such as Gonce-i Edeb (Bud of Learning), Mecelle-i Mu'allimîn (Teachers' Journal), Mezra'a-i Maarif (Field of Education), and Tuhfetü'l-Edebiye li-Evlâdi'l- Vataniye (The Gift of Literature to the Children of Patriotism).
The school system in the city also underwent major change, as new institutions emerged to provide a modern education that traditional ones refused to adopt. The old sixteenth-century schools, like the Yakub Pasha Medresesi, the Talmud Torah Seminary, or the Greek Grammar School, had persisted in ignoring the challenges posed by modernity. When Sultan Abdülmecid granted a personal audience "only to those Jewish notables with whom he could converse in French, leaving the rabbinate out in the cold" during his visit, the state sent a strong signal that it was time for a change. Subsequently, the Jewish Alliance Israélite Universelle founded its Salonican branch in 1864, and after protracted debates with local rabbis who vehemently opposed nonreligious education, established a semisecular high school for boys in 1873. A year later the Jewish community instituted a similar school for girls; this was made possible by the generous help of the Baron Maurice de Hirsch, who had funded the construction of the Salonica-Mitrovitza railway (a more grandiose project of his, the construction of a 1,600-mile railway network across European Turkey, did not reach fruition). The Bulgarian community established the first semisecular Christian school in 1869. In 1875, the challenges posed by the onset of modernity proved irresistible even for the old Greek Grammar School, which submitted to the forces of change and became a modern gymnasium. In 1888 the German school opened its doors, primarily to the children of foreign workers. Nevertheless, many Ottoman Muslims and non-Muslims, hoping for a better education for their children, took to sending them there. In the wake of the 1869 reform in education, the central government opened a middle school for boys followed by one for girls; it also established a military middle school in Salonica.
Despite these impressive developments, the ruling establishment of the Muslim community — in Salonica as elsewhere — kept firm control over primary education. The Muslim religious authorities resisted any attempt to reform the elementary schools in which children received their first schooling. Primary schools thus continued to represent tradition, and rejected modern methodologies, curricula, and even equipment, such as blackboards, desks, and maps. While lay elements in non-Muslim communities succeeded in establishing private primary schools that provided a modern education, for most Muslims the only option was the traditional primary school system. It was left to enterprising pedagogues of the Salonican Dönme community to found the first private Muslim elementary schools with more modern curricula and less emphasis on religion.
Excerpted from Atatürk by M. Sükrü Hanioglu. Copyright © 2011 Princeton University Press. Excerpted by permission of PRINCETON UNIVERSITY PRESS.
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Meet the Author
M. Sukru Hanioglu is the Garrett Professor in Foreign Affairs in the Department of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University. His books include "A Brief History of the Late Ottoman Empire" (Princeton).
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A wonderful, readable insight into the man and the country he so greatly influenced.