The Sons of Two Fatherlands: Turkey and the North Caucasian Diaspora, 1914-1923 by Ryan Gingeras

European Journal of Turkish Studies
Social Sciences on Contemporary
Turkey 2011

“We have citizens and co-nationals in the contemporary Turkish nation who wish to propagate notions about Kurdish-ness, Circassian-ness and even more so Lazness or Bosnian-ness inside of the political and social collective. But this false naming, which is a product of the despotism of the past age, for anyone other than a few reactionary tools of the enemy and imbeciles, had no other effect on the nation other than worry and stress. Because the individuals of this nation, like the whole Turkish community, are in possession of a common past, history, morality and law.”[1]

“No Matter what happens, it is our obligation to immerse those living in our society in the civilization of Turkish society and to have them benefit from the prosperity of civilization. Why should we still speak of the Kurd Mehmet, the Circassian Hasan or the Laz Ali. This would demonstrate the weakness of the dominant element… If anybody has any difference inside of him, we need to erase that in the schools and in the body politic, so that man will be as Turkish as me and serve the homeland.”2 1 Pronouncements such as these underscore the fundamental premise of ethnic politics in the Republic of Turkey for much of its brief history. Turkish nationalism, as suggested in the quotes above is the mortar with which the Turkish state is kept together. A rich heritage and culture binds all those born within Turkey’s borders. To suggest otherwise condones the subversive and reactionary politics of the Ottoman past. [2] 

The above summations on the subject of nationalism in Turkey nevertheless reference a core truth regarding the nature of politics and society in Anatolia. Turkey is a country of immense cultural, religious and ethnic diversity. Contemporary debates over Kurdish cultural or political self-expression represent only a fraction of the profound heterogeneity found among Turkey’s citizenry.  Moreover, there was indeed a time, before the Kemalist ascendency, when it was possible for inhabitants of Anatolia to articulate and publicize differing notions of identity. Both of the above statements blithely refer to the last decades of the Ottoman Empire, an era of unprecedented interest and activism in the realm of identity politics.

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