Central Asia: Aspects of Transition

By Tom Everett-Heath | Go to book overview

5

NATION BUILDING IN TURKEY AND UZBEKISTAN

The use of language and history in the creation of national identity

Andrew Segars


Turkish state - Turkish nation?

According to Bernard Lewis, ‘the national revival of the Turks in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries has long been recognised as one of the most significant developments in the modern history of Islam’. 1 While few would dispute the central argument, namely that the emergence of ‘national’ identity among the Turks (of Turkey) represented a profound transformation, Lewis’s preferred terminology might be misleading. Indeed, how can one speak of the national revival of the Turks when the vast majority had never before exhibited a significant awareness of, or an affinity to, their nationality? 2 Turkish national identity had not been lost at some point in the past, only to be revived during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries; it had, quite simply, never existed, at least not for the majority of the population.

The virtual absence of national identity among the Turks was not a cause of concern at the height of the Ottoman era. During the period of its gradual disintegration, however, and the subsequent transition from empire to republic, the issue of identity became vitally important. In 1923, the question of identity - a subject of intellectual discourse amongst the Young Ottomans, and later the Young Turks - became a priority with the establishment of the Turkish Republic in 1923. Owing much to the attempts of earlier reformers, the pragmatic Mustafa Kemal believed that national identity was the basis for political unity in the modern world. As the new Turkish Republic was not built upon the ideological foundations of a nation, however, the Kemalists were obliged to develop a national identity by whatever means were available to them.

The prospect was daunting. Bound as they were to their religion, their families, regions, and even to the Ottoman dynasty, the vast majority of Turks did not perceive themselves to be citizens of the new Turkish state, let alone as members of an imaginary Turkish nation. Consequently, Mustafa Kemal strove ‘to wean his people away from their old sense of identity … and to create for them a new alliance’. 3

-80-

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Central Asia: Aspects of Transition
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Turkfront 5
  • 2 - The Kokand Autonomy, 1917-18 30
  • Notes 44
  • 3 - Ethno-Territorial Claims in the Ferghana Valley During the Process of National Delimitation, 1924-7 45
  • 4 - Land and Water ‘reform’ in the 1920s 57
  • 5 - Nation Building in Turkey and Uzbekistan 80
  • 6 - Nation Building and Identity in the Kyrgyz Republic 106
  • 7 - The Use of History 132
  • 8 - Soviet Development in Central Asia 146
  • 9 - Environmental Issues in Central Asia 167
  • 11 - The Uzbek Mahalla 205
  • Notes 217
  • 12 - ‘Fundamentalism’ in Central Asia 219
  • Notes 240
  • 13 - Water 244
  • Bibliography 264
  • Index 283
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