We are proceeding on searching for the differences of Turkey. Last week we mentioned the ‘Turkish Islam’, plurality in the Turkish economy and the unique self- confidence of Turkey in her relations with the West. We will conclude this series with Turkish perception of Civilization and Turkish Nationalism:
By Sedat Laciner
Turkish Civilization Understanding
Turks spread out from the Central Asia to the whole world. They were nomadic. Being nomads, besides its many disadvantages, let the Turks be open to other lands and cultures. Turks, whose discontentment of their lands could be understood from the many military expeditions they held to many countries, continued to their contacts, which started with China, with north, Persia and Mediterranean coasts. Where they reached, they fought yet they contributed with their culture to where they went and added to their culture the culture of the invaded lands.
The restless Turks were like ‘running water’. From everywhere they passed through, they took something. They never culturally withdrew, and isolated themselves from other civilizations. They never poisoned themselves by searching pure Turkishness. Thus their culture enriched and race fed on other races.
It was a miracle that they transformed as much yet stayed the same ‘nation’ (millet). Arrival in Anatolia was the zenith of the process. Ancient Anatolian and Roman (Byzantine) civilizations were added up on the Chinese, Indian, Iranian and Arab. Both races and civilizations entangled together. Turks, who had been climbing up towards the leadership of Islam peoples, took the values indentified with the Romans and made them theirs. For example they obtained ‘Roman bath’ and presented it to Europe as the ‘Turkish bath’ making the very Roman very Turkish. Turkish identity fed on new cultures and values as they gained on in Europe continuing to brew as well.
An Inclusive Nationalism
All tribes founding great civilizations have to be inclusive and in some degree have to combine with other tribes. However it is difficult to find another tribe which carried this combination thus far. You can easily notice certain characteristics of their race when you look at most of the Russian, English or German people although they have established great empires in history. On the other hand when you look at the faces of the Turkish people you see the Turkish versions of faces from Uzbek to Kyrgyz, Persian to Armenian, Greek to Chinese. This situation cannot simply be regarded as a combination of bloods and genes. In this complicated process Turkish Nationalism has flourished not as a blood-and-gene-centered understanding but a civilization-based one. In this sense Turkish Nationalism, in contrast to common beliefs, has developed not after but before the nationalisms of Europe (French, German etc.) and, with its properties as such, it should be considered as an alternative to the western type of exclusionist and otherness-based nationalisms .
In the Ottoman times it was always possible for a Bosnian, Kurd or Albanian to be Turkish: It was as simple as speaking Turkish and calling themselves Turkish. From that moment on it was not much possible for the other Turks to question their Turkish citizenship or claim to be better Turks than them. Because everybody came from a different tribe and because ‘Turk’ was a name for a nation and a civilization rather than a race or tribe. For this reason the Yoruks (Turkmen) who seem to resemble the Turkish origin the most, with slant-eyes like in Central Asia, have never been accounted as the only true Turks or the natural leaders of the Turkish nation.
First the introvert withdrawal of Turkish Empire and then the collapse has added one more dynamic on Turkish Nationalism: migration towards the center. The Muslim factors of the Ottoman country, who so far has experienced expansionist migrations, almost sought refuge in Anatolia and Turks to survive. Thus the name ‘Turk’ deepened its meaning beyond being a name for a race but as a name for a people.
Turkish Nationality which Atatürk so truly summarizes with the words ‘How happy is he who can say I am a Turk’ unfortunately could not find the place it deserved in the problematic first period of the Republic. The young Republic, instead of accepting the inherited Turkish nationalism, may be the healthiest nationalism any human can find, next to it, envied the French nationalism and sometimes German and Italian fascism.
Republic’s inner conflict lasted long. Yet with every passing day Turks came to notice the treasures in their hands. Just as the ‘Turkish Islam’ (or Turkish Secularism) starts to take ‘militant secularism’s place, race-based-nationalism is giving its seat to the civilization-based ‘Turkish Nationalism’. In this regard, the rightist and the leftist nationalism which are based on race and ideology instead of civilizations are losing blood day by day.
Just as we have stated in our previous article, Turkish Nationalism is the most valuable capital of this nation. And of many aspects, this unique nationalism should be improved and be a model to other nations of the world. Because the otherizing and selfish western styles of nationalisms drags the world towards disasters. Since the French Revolution, the western styles of nationalism were the main source of exploitations and world wars. The West has established its nationalism on such unhealthy grounds that no matter how high it climbs technologically and civilization wise, it will always be endangered by political disasters.
On the other hand, ‘little’ Middle Eastern tribes with their tendency to divide are dragging themselves to destruction. As an example, in spite of coming from the same religion, language, culture and history, they search for sect, clan or community differences upon looking at each other.
Under these circumstances, whether we look at Arabs, English or German, there is need for a nationalism that wishes to come closer even to combine. As can be seen in the Turkish example, nationalism can be defined as tribes’ forming a new nation by merging on the good and right one and compete in the goodness, and thus can be constructed a new world of nations.
As is seen, there are very basic differences separating Turkey from her region. Here are many other distinctive factors such as Turkish Pragmatism, Adaptability of the Turk, and Turkish Conservatism that we have not mentioned. We are now concluding this issue leaving these factors, each of which can be the issue of a week, to future.
Source : Turkish Weekly