KEMALISM
Perry Anderson

London Review of Books (subscription)
http://www.lrb.co.uk/v30/n17/ande01 _.html
Sept 2 2008
UK

'The greatest single truth to declare itself in the wake of
1989,' J.G.A. Pocock wrote two years afterwards, is that the
frontiers of 'Europe' towards the east are everywhere open and
indeterminate. 'Europe', it can now be seen, is not a continent - as
in the ancient geographers' dream - but a subcontinent: a peninsula
of the Eurasian landmass, like India in being inhabited by a highly
distinctive chain of interacting cultures, but unlike it in lacking
a clearly marked geophysical frontier. Instead of Afghanistan and
the Himalayas, there are vast level areas through which conventional
'Europe' shades into conventional 'Asia', and few would recognise
the Ural mountains if they ever reached them.

But, he went on, empires - of which in its fashion the European Union
must be accounted one - had always needed to determine the space
in which they exercised their power, fixing the borders of fear or
attraction around them.

A decade and a half later, the matter has assumed a more tangible
shape. After the absorption of all the former Comecon states, there
remain the untidy odds and ends of the once independent Communisms
of Yugoslavia and Albania - the seven small states of the 'West
Balkans' - yet to be integrated in the EU. But no one doubts that,
a pocket still to be mopped up behind borders that already extend
to the Black Sea, they will enter it in due course. The great issue
facing the Union lies further east, at the point where no vast steppe
confounds the eye, but a long tradition has held that a narrow strip
of water separates one world from another. No one has ever missed
the Bosphorus. 'Every schoolchild knows that Asia Minor does not
form part of Europe,' Sarkozy told voters en route to the Elysée,
promising to keep it so: a pledge to be taken in the spirit of the
conjugal reunion on offer in the same campaign. Turkey will not be
dealt with in that way. Within the EU the official consensus that it
should become a member-state in full standing has for some time now
been overwhelming. Such agreement does not exclude arrière-pensées
in this or that government - Germany, France and Austria have all at
different points entertained them - but against any passage of these
to action lies the formidable barrier of a unanimity of media opinion
more complete, and more committed to Turkish entry, than that of the
Council or Commission itself. There is also the simple fact that no
country that has been accepted as a candidate for accession to the
EU has ever, once negotiations were opened, been rejected by it.

The expansion of the EU to the lands of the Warsaw Pact did not require
much political defence or illustration. The countries concerned were
all indisputably European, however the term was defined, and all had
famously suffered under Communism. To bring them into the Union was
not just to heal an ancient division of the continent, anchoring them
in a common liberal-democratic capitalism, but to compensate the East
for its misfortunes after 1945, relieving the West of a bad conscience
at the difference in fates between them. They would also, of course,
constitute a strategic glacis against any resurgence of Russia,
and offer a nearby pool of cheap labour, although this received less
public emphasis. The uncontentious logic here is not, on face of it,
immediately transferable to Turkey. The country has long been a market
economy, held parliamentary elections, constituted a pillar of Nato,
and is now situated further from Russia than ever in the past. It
would look as if only the last of the motives in Eastern Europe,
the economic objective, applies - not unimportant, certainly, but
incapable of explaining the priority Turkey's entry into the EU has
acquired in Brussels.

Yet a kind of symmetry with the case for Eastern Europe can be
discerned in the principal reasons advanced for Turkish membership
in Western capitals. The fall of the Soviet Union may have removed
the menace of Communism, but there is now - it is widely believed
- a successor danger in Islamism. Rampant in the authoritarian
societies of the Middle East, it threatens to stretch into immigrant
communities within Western Europe itself. What better prophylactic
against it than to embrace a staunch Muslim democracy within the EU,
functioning as both beacon of a liberal order to a region in desperate
need of a more enlightened political model and sentinel against every
kind of terrorism and extremism? This line of thought originated in
the US, with its wider range of global responsibilities than the EU,
and continues to be uppermost in American pressure for Turkish entry
into the Union. Much as Washington set the pace for Brussels during
expansion into Eastern Europe, laying down Nato lights on the runway
for subsequent descent by the EU, so it championed the cause of Turkey
well before Council or Commission came round to it.

But although the strategic argument, for a geopolitical bulwark
against the wrong kinds of Islam, is now standard in European columns
and editorials, it does not occupy quite the same position as in
America. In part, this is because the prospect of sharing a border
with Iraq and Iran is not altogether welcome to many within the
EU, however vigilant the Turkish Army might prove. Americans, at a
greater distance, find it easier to see the bigger picture. But such
reservations are not the only reason why this theme, central though
it remains, does not dominate discussion in the EU as completely as in
the US. For another argument has more intimate weight. Current European
ideology holds the Union to offer the highest moral and institutional
order in the world, combining - with all due imperfections - economic
prosperity, political liberty and social solidarity in a way no rival
can match. But is there not some danger of cultural closure in the very
success of this unique creation? Amid all its achievements, might not
Europe risk falling - the very word a reproof - into Eurocentrism:
too homogeneous and inward-looking an identity, when the advance
guard of civilised life is necessarily ever more multicultural?

Turkey's incorporation into the EU, so the case goes, would lay such
fears to rest. The greatest single burden, for present generations,
of a narrowly traditional conception of Europe is its identification
with Christianity, as a historic marker of the continent. The greatest
challenge to this heritage long came from Islam. What then could be a
more triumphant demonstration of a modern multiculturalism than the
peaceful intertwining of the two faiths, at state level and within
civil society, in a super-European system stretching, like the Roman
Empire, to the Euphrates? That Turkey's government is for the first
time professedly Muslim should not be viewed as a handicap, but as
a recommendation for entry, promising just that transvaluation into
a multicultural form of life the Union needs for the next step in
its constitutional progress. For its part, just as the new-found or
restored democracies of the post-Communist East have benefited from
the steadying hand of the Commission in their journey to normalcy,
so Turkish democracy will be sheltered and strengthened within the
Union. If enlargement to Eastern Europe repaired a moral debt to those
who lived through Communism, inclusion of Turkey can redeem the moral
damage done by a complacent - or arrogant - parochialism. In such
dual atonement, Europe has the capacity to become a better place.

In this self-critical mode, a historical contrast is often
drawn. Christian Europe was for centuries disfigured by savage
religious intolerance, by every kind of persecution, inquisition,
expulsion, pogrom resorted to in the attempt to stamp out other
communities of faith, Jewish or Muslim, not to speak of heretics within
the faith itself. The Ottoman Empire, on the other hand, tolerated
Christians and Jews, without repression or forcible conversion,
allowing different communities to live peaceably together under
Muslim rule, in a premodern multicultural harmony. Not only was this
Islamic order more enlightened than its Christian counterparts, but
far from being an external Other of Europe, for centuries it formed
an integral part of the European system of powers itself. Turkey is
in that sense no newcomer to Europe. Rather its entry into the Union
would restore a continuity, of mixtures and contacts, from which we
still have much to learn.

Such, roughly speaking, is the discourse of Turkish entry into the EU
that can be heard in chancelleries and chat rooms, learned journals
and leading articles, on platforms and talk shows across Europe. One
of its great strengths is the absence to date of any non-xenophobic
alternative to it. Its weakness lies in the series of images d'Epinal
out of which much of it is woven, obscuring the actual stakes in
Turkey's suit to join the Union. Certainly, any consideration of these
must begin with the Ottoman Empire. For the first, and most fundamental
difference between the Turkish candidature and all those from Eastern
Europe is that in this case the Union is dealing with the descendant
of an imperial state, for long a far greater power than any kingdom
of the West. A prerequisite of grasping that descent is a realistic
understanding of the originating form of that empire.

The Osmanli Sultanate, as it expanded into Europe between the 14th
and 16th centuries, was indeed more tolerant - however anachronistic
the term - than any Christian realm of the period. It is enough
to compare the fate of the Muslims in Catholic Spain with that
of the Orthodox in the Balkans under Ottoman rule. Christians and
Jews were neither forced to convert nor expelled by the sultanate,
but allowed to worship as they wished, in the House of Islam. This
was not toleration in a modern sense, nor specifically Ottoman,
but a traditional system of Islamic rule dating to the Umayyad
Caliphate of the eighth century. Infidels were subject peoples,
legally inferior to the ruling people. Semiotically and practically,
they were separate communities. Taxed more heavily than believers,
they could not bear arms, hold processions, wear certain clothes,
have houses over a certain height. Muslims could take infidel wives;
infidels could not marry Muslim women.

The Ottoman state that inherited this system arose in 14th-century
Anatolia as one Turkic chieftainry competing with others, expanding to
the east and south at the expense of local Muslim rivals and to the
west and north at the expense of the remains of Byzantine power. For
two hundred years, as its armies conquered most of Eastern Europe,
the Middle East and North Africa, the empire it built retained this
bidirectionality. But there was never any doubt where its strategic
centre of gravity, and primary momentum, lay. From the beginning,
Osmanli rulers had drawn their legitimacy from holy war - gaza -
on the frontiers of Christendom. The subjugated regions of Europe
formed the richest, most populous and politically prized zones of
the empire, and the theatre of the overwhelming majority of its
military campaigns, as successive sultans set out for the House of
War to enlarge the House of Islam. The Ottoman state was founded,
as its most recent historian Caroline Finkel writes, on 'the ideal of
continuous warfare'. Recognising no peers, and respecting no pieties
of peaceful coexistence, it was designed for the battlefield, without
territorial fixture or definition.

But it was also pragmatic. From the outset, ideological warfare against
infidels was combined with instrumental use of them for pursuit of
it. From the perspective of the absolutist monarchies that arose in
Western Europe somewhat later, each claiming dynastic authority and
enforcing religious conformity within its realm, the peculiarity of
the empire of Mehmed II and his successors lay in its combination of
aims and means. On the one hand, the Ottomans waged unlimited holy
war against Christendom. On the other hand, by the 15th century the
state relied on a levy - the devshirme - of formerly Christian youths,
picked from subject populations in the Balkans themselves not obliged
to become Muslims, to compose its military and administrative elite:
the kapi kullari or 'slaves of the sultan'.

For upwards of two hundred years, the dynamism of this formidable
engine of conquest, its range eventually stretching from Aden to
Belgrade and the Crimea to the Rif, held Europe in awe. But by the end
of the 17th century, after the last siege of Vienna, its momentum had
run out. The 'ruling institution' of the empire ceased to be recruited
from the offspring of unbelievers, reverting to native-born Muslims,
and the balance of arms gradually turned against the Porte. After the
late 18th century, when Russia inflicted successive crushing defeats
on it north of the Black Sea, and revolutionary France took Egypt in
a trice, the Ott0man state never won a major war again. In the 19th
century its survival depended on the mutual jealousies of the predator
powers of Europe more than any inner strength of its own. Time and
again, it was rescued from further amputation or destruction only by
the intervention of rival foreign capitals - London, Paris, Vienna, in
one memorable crisis even St Petersburg - at the expense of each other.

But though external pressures, ever more ominous as the technological
gap between Ottoman and European empires widened, might in principle
have continued to neutralise each other long enough to allow for
an effective overhaul of state and society to meet the challenge
from the West - the example of the Porte's rebel satrap in Egypt,
Mehmet Ali, showed what could be done - the rise of nationalism
among the subject Christian peoples of the Balkans undermined any
diplomatic equilibrium. Greek independence, reluctantly seconded
by Britain and France from fear that Russia would otherwise become
its exclusive patron, shocked the sultanate into its first serious
efforts at internal reform. In the Tanzimat period (1839-76),
modernisation became more systematic. The palace was sidelined by
the bureaucracy. Administration was centralised; legal equality of
all subjects and security of property were proclaimed; education
and science promoted; ideas and mores imported from the West. Under
successive pro-British viziers, the Ottoman order took its place
within the European state system.

But the reformers of the time, however secular-minded, could
not transform the religious foundations of Ottoman rule. Three
inequalities were codified by tradition: between believers and
unbelievers, masters and slaves, men and women. Relations between
the sexes altered little, though by the end of the century preference
for boys had become less frequent among the elite, and slavery was -
very gradually - phased out. Politically, the crucial relationship
was the first. Ostensibly, discrimination against unbelievers was
abolished by the reforms. But disavowed in principle, it persisted
in practice, as non-Muslims continued to be subject to a poll tax,
now disguised as payment for draft exclusion, from which Muslims
were exempt. The army continued to be reserved for believers, and
all significant civilian offices in the state remained a monopoly of
the faithful. Such protection of the supremacy of Islam was, however,
insufficient to appease popular hostility to reforms perceived as a
surrender to European pressures and fashions, incompatible with piety
or the proper position of believers in the empire. Quite apart from
unseemly displays of Western ways of life in the cities, unpopular
rural taxes were extended to Muslims, while Christian merchants,
not to speak of foreign interests, flourished under the free trade
regime conceded by the reformers to the Western powers.

Neither consistently modern nor robustly traditional, the Tanzimat
regimes were also fiscal failures. Tax-farming, officially disavowed,
lingered on; rather than increasing, public revenues declined;
capitulations - extra-territorial privileges granted to foreigners
- persisted. Foreign borrowing ballooned, before finally bursting
into state bankruptcy in 1875. Two years later, Ottoman armies
were once again thrashed by Russia, and in 1878 - after a brief
constitutional episode had fizzled - the empire was forced to accept
the independence of Serbia, Montenegro and Romania, and the autonomy
of most of Bulgaria. For the next thirty years, power swung back from
the bureaucracy to the palace, in the person of Sultan Abdulhamid
II, who combined technological and administrative modernisation
- railways, post offices, warships - with religious restoration
and police repression. With the loss of most of the Balkans, the
population of the empire had become more than 70 per cent Muslim. To
cement loyalty to his regime, the sultan refurbished the long neglected
title of caliph, broadcasting pan-Islamic appeals, and topping up the
ranks of his administration with Arabs. But no amount of ideological
bluster, or fabrication of tradition in the approved Victorian style,
could alter the continued dependence of the empire on a public debt
administration run by foreigners, and a European balance of power
incapable of damping down the fires of nationalism in the Balkans.

A broad swathe of Ottoman rule still extended to the Adriatic, in which
various insurgent bands - most prominently, the Macedonian secret
organisation IMRO - roamed the hills, and the cream of the army was
stationed in garrison towns to hold what was left of Rumelia, the rich
original core of the empire, its 'Roman' part. Here opposition to the
sultan's tyranny had become widespread by the turn of the century among
the young of all ethnic groups, not least Turks themselves. In 1908
rumours of an impending Russo-British carve-up of the region triggered
a military rising in Monastir and Salonika. The revolt spread rapidly,
and within a couple of weeks had become irresistible. Abdulhamid
was forced to call elections, in which the organisation behind the
uprising, newly revealed to the world as the Committee of Union and
Progress, won a resounding majority across the empire. The Young
Turks had taken power.

The Revolution of 1908 was a strange, amphibious affair. In many
ways it was premonitory of the upheavals in Persia and China that
followed three years later, but with features that set it apart from
all subsequent such risings in the 20th century. On the one hand,
it was a genuine constitutional movement, arousing popular enthusiasm
right across the different nationalities of the empire, and electing an
impressively interethnic parliament on a wide suffrage: an authentic
expression of the still liberal zeitgeist of the period. On the other
hand, it was a military coup mounted by a secret organisation of
junior officers and conspirators, which can claim to be the first
in a long line of such episodes in the Third World. The two were
not disjoined, since the architects of the coup, a small group of
plotters, gained empire-wide support virtually overnight in the name
of constitutional rule - their party numbering hundreds of thousands
within a year. Nor, formally speaking, were the objectives of each
distinct: in the vocabulary of the time, the 'liberty, equality,
fraternity and justice' proclaimed by the first were conceived as
conditions of securing the integrity of the empire sought by the
second, in a common citizenship shared by all its peoples.

But that synthesis was not - could never be - stable. The prime mover
in the revolution was the core group of officers in the CUP. Their
overriding aim was the preservation of the empire, at whatever
cost. Constitutional or other niceties were functional or futile to
it, as the occasion might be - means, not ends in themselves. They
weren't liberals but nor were they in any sense anti-colonial, in
the fashion of later military patriots in the Third World, often
authoritarian enough, but resolute enemies of Western imperialism
- the Free Officers in Egypt, the Lodges in Argentina, the Thirty
Comrades in Burma. The threats to the Ottoman Empire came, as they
had long done, from European powers or their regional allies, but
the Young Turks did not reject the West culturally or politically:
rather, they wanted to enter the ring of its Machtpolitik on equal
terms, as one contestant among others. For that, a transformation of
the Ottoman state was required, to give it a modern mass base of the
kind that had become such a strength of its rivals.

But here they faced an acute dilemma. What ideological appeal could
hold the motley populations - divided by language, religion and ethnic
origin - of the Ottoman Empire together? Some unifying patriotism
was essential, but the typical contemporary ingredients for one were
missing. The nearest equivalent to the Ottoman order was the Habsburg
Empire, but even it was considerably more compact, overwhelmingly of
one basic faith, and in possession of a still respected traditional
ruler. The Young Turks, in charge of lands stretching from the Yemen to
the Danube, and peoples long segregated and stratified in a hierarchy
of incompatible confessions, had no such advantages. What could it
mean to be a citizen of this state, other than simply the contingent
subject of a dynasty that the Young Turks themselves treated with
scant reverence, unceremoniously ousting Abdulhamid within a year of
taking power? The new regime could not escape an underlying legitimacy
deficit. An awareness of the fragility of its ideological position was
visible from the start. For the Young Turks retained the discredited
monarchy against which it had rebelled, installing a feeble brother
of Abdulhamid as a figurehead successor in the sultanate, and even
trooping out, in farcical piety, behind the bier of Abdulhamid when
the old brute, a King Bomba of the Bosphorus, finally expired.

Such shreds of a faded continuity were naturally not enough to
clothe the new collective emperor. The CUP needed the full dress of
a modern nationalism. But how was this to be defined? A two-track
solution was the answer. For public consumption, it proclaimed a
'civic' nationalism, open to any citizen of the state, no matter what
their creed or descent: a doctrine with broad appeal, greeted with a
tremendous initial outburst of hope and energy among even the hitherto
most disaffected groups in the empire, including Armenians. In secret
conclave, on the other hand, it prepared for a more confessional or
ethnic nationalism, restricted to Muslims or Turks. This was a duality
that in its way reflected the peculiar structure of the CUP itself. As
a party, it had won a large parliamentary majority in the first
free elections the empire had known, and with a brief intermission
in 1912-13, directed the policies of the state. But its leadership
shunned the front of the stage, taking neither cabinet posts nor top
military commands, leaving these to an older generation of soldiers and
bureaucrats. Behind a facade of constitutional propriety and deference
to seniority, however, actual power was wielded by the party's Central
Committee, a group of 50 zealots controlling a political organisation
modelled on the Macedonian and Armenian undergrounds. The term Young
Turks was not a misnomer. When it took over, the key leaders of the CUP
were in their thirties or late twenties. Numerically, army captains
and majors predominated, but civilians also figured at the highest
level. The trio who eventually occupied the limelight would be Enver
and Cemal, from the officer corps, and Talat, a former functionary in
the post office. Behind them, publicly less visible, but hidden drivers
of the organisation, were two military doctors, Selânikli Nazim and
Bahaettin Sakir. All five top leaders came from the 'European' sector
of the Empire: the coxcomb Enver from a wealthy family in Istanbul,
the mastiff Talat and the clinical Sakir from today's Bulgaria,
Nazim from Salonika, the slightly older Cemal from Mytilene.

The CUP was soon put to the test of defending the empire it had
been set up to defend. In 1911 Italy seized Libya, the last Ottoman
province in North Africa, Enver vainly attempting to organise desert
resistance. A year later, Serbia, Montenegro, Greece and Bulgaria
combined to launch a joint attack on the Ottoman armies in the
Balkans, which within a matter of weeks had all but swept them out of
Europe. The CUP, which had been briefly dislodged from power in the
summer of 1912, escaped the odium of this massive defeat, and when
its enemies fell out with each other, was able to regain at least
the province of Edirne. But the scale of the imperial catastrophe
was traumatic. Rumelia had long been the most advanced region of the
empire, the prime recruiting ground of Ottoman elites from the time
of the devshirme to the Young Turks themselves, who kept their Central
Committee in Salonika, not Istanbul, down to 1912. Its final loss, not
even at the hands of a great power, reducing Ottoman domains in Europe
to a mere foothold, and expelling some 400,000 Turks from their homes,
was the greatest disaster and humiliation in the history of the empire.

The effect on the CUP was twofold. The empire was now 85 per cent
Muslim, lowering any incentive for political appeals to the remaining
quotient of unbelievers, and increasing the attraction of playing the
Islamic card to rally support for its regime. But though the leaders
of the committee, determined to keep hold of the Arab provinces, made
ample use of this, they had before them the bitter lesson taught by
the Albanians, who had seized the opportunity offered by the Balkan
Wars to gain their independence - a defection by fellow Muslims
that suggested a common religion might not be enough to prevent a
further disintegration of the state they had inherited. The result
was to tilt the ideological axis of the CUP, especially its inner
circle, in an increasingly ethnic - Turkish, as distinct from Muslim -
direction. The shift involved no cost in outlook: virtually to a man,
the Young Turks were positivists whose view of matters sacred was
thoroughly instrumental.

Nor were they disposed to accept a diminished station for the
empire. Expulsion from Rumelia did not inspire a defensive posture, but
an active will to avenge defeats in the Balkans, and recoup imperial
losses. 'Our anger is strengthening: revenge, revenge, revenge; there
is no other word,' Enver wrote to his wife. In a speech he exclaimed:

How could a person forget the plains, the meadows, watered with
the blood of our forefathers; abandon those places where Turkish
raiders had hidden their steeds for a full four hundred years, with
our mosques, our tombs, our dervish retreats, our bridges and our
castles, to leave them to our slaves, to be driven out of Rumelia to
Anatolia? This was beyond a person's endurance. I am prepared gladly
to sacrifice the remaining years of my life to take revenge on the
Bulgarians, the Greeks and the Montenegrins.

The lesson the CUP drew from 1912 was that Ottoman power could
be upheld only by alliance with at least one of Europe's Great
Powers, who had stood aside as it was rolled up. The Young Turks
had no particular preference as to which, trying in turn Britain,
Austria-Hungary, Russia and France, only to be rebuffed by each,
before finally succeeding with Germany on 2 August 1914, two days
before the outbreak of the First World War. By now the CUP occupied
the foreground: Enver was minister of war, Talat of the interior,
Cemal of the navy. The treaty as such did not commit the empire to
declare war on the Entente, and the Young Turks thought to profit
from it without much risk. They banked on Germany routing France in
short order, whereupon Ottoman armies could join up safely with the
Central Powers to knock out Russia, and garner the fruits of victory
- regaining a suitable belt of Thrace, the Aegean islands, Cyprus,
Libya, all of Arabia, territory ceded to Russia in the Caucasus,
and lands stretching to Azerbaijan and Turkestan beyond.

But when France did not collapse in the west, while Germany pressed
for rapid Ottoman entry into the war to weaken Russia in the east, much
of the cabinet got cold feet. It was only after weeks of disagreement
and indecision that Enver, the most bellicose member of the junta
now in control, succeeded in bouncing the government into war in
late October 1914, with an unprovoked naval bombardment of Russian
coastal positions in the Black Sea. However, the Ottoman navy, even
manned by German crews, was in no position to effect landings in the
Ukraine. Where then was Young Turk mettle to be displayed? Symbolic
forces were eventually sent north to buff out Austro-German lines in
Galicia, and half-hearted expeditions dispatched, at the prompting of
Berlin, against British lines in Egypt. But these were sideshows. The
crack troops of the army, led by Enver in person, were flung across the
Russian border in the Caucasus. There, waiting to be recovered, lay the
three provinces of Batum, Ardahan and Kars, subtracted from the empire
at the Conference of Berlin in 1878. In the snowbound depths of the
winter of January 1915, few returned. The Ottoman attack was shattered
more completely than any comparable offensive in the Great War - fewer
than one out of seven survived the campaign. As they straggled back,
frost-bitten and demoralised, their rearguard was left exposed.

In Istanbul, the CUP reacted swiftly. This was no ordinary retreat
into the kind of rear where another Battle of the Marne might be
fought. The whole swathe of territory extending across both sides of
the frontier was home to Armenians. What place could they have in
the conflict that had now been unleashed? Historically the oldest
inhabitants of the region, indeed of Anatolia at large, they were
Christians whose Church - dating from the third century - could
claim priority over that of Rome itself. But by the 19th century,
unlike Serbs, Bulgars, Greeks or Albanians, they comprised no compact
national majority anywhere in their lands of habitation. In 1914,
about a quarter were subjects of the Russian, three-quarters of the
Ottoman Empire. Under the tsars, they enjoyed no political rights,
but as fellow Christians were not persecuted for their religion,
and could rise within the imperial administration. Under the sultans,
they had been excluded from the devshirme from the start, but could
operate as merchants and acquire land, if not offices; and in the
course of the 19th century they generated a significant intellectual
stratum - the first Ottoman novels were written by Armenians.

Inevitably, like their Balkan counterparts, and inspired by them,
this intelligentsia developed a nationalist movement. But it was
set apart from them in two ways: it was dispersed across a wide and
discontinuous expanse of territory, throughout which it was a minority,
and it was divided between two rival empires, one of which posed
as its protector, while the other figured as its persecutor. Most
Armenians were peasants in the three easternmost Ottoman provinces,
where they numbered perhaps a quarter of the population. But there
were also significant concentrations in Cilicia, bordering on today's
Syria, and vigorous communities in Istanbul and other big cities. State
suspicion of a minority with links across a contested border, latent
popular hostility to unbelievers, and economic jealousy of alien
commercial wealth made a combustible atmosphere around their presence
in Anatolia. Abdulhamid's personal animus had ensured they would
suffer under his rule, which saw repeated pogroms against them. In
1894-96, anywhere between 80,000 and 200,000 died in massacres at the
hands of special Kurdish regiments he created for ethnic repressions
in the east. The ensuing international outcry, leading eventually
to the theoretical appointment - it came to nothing - of foreign
inspectors to ensure Armenian safety in the worst affected zones,
confirmed belief in the disloyalty of the community.

The CUP's immediate fear, as it surveyed the rout of its armies
in the Caucasus, was that the local Armenian population might
rally to the enemy. On 25 February, it ordered that all Armenian
conscripts in its forces be disarmed. The telegrams went out on the
day Anglo-French forces began to bombard the Dardanelles, threatening
Istanbul itself. Towards the end of March, amid great tension in the
capital, the Central Committee - Talat was the prime mover - voted
that the entire Armenian population in Anatolia be deported to the
deserts of Syria, to secure the Ottoman rear. The operation was to
be carried out by the Teskilât-i Mahsusa, the 'Special Organisation'
created for secret tasks by the party in 1913, now some 30,000 strong
under the command of Bahaettin Sakir.

Ethnic cleansing on a massive scale was no novelty in the
region. Wholesale expulsion of communities from their homes, typically
as refugees from conquering armies, was a fate hundreds of thousands
of Turks and Circassians had suffered, as Russia consolidated its grip
in the northern Caucasus in the 1860s, and Balkan nations won their
independence from Ottoman rule in the next half century. Anatolia
was full of such mujahir, with bitter memories of their treatment by
Christians. Widespread slaughter was no stranger to the region either:
the Armenian massacres of the 1890s had many precedents, on all sides,
in the history of the Eastern Question, as elsewhere. Nor was forcible
relocation on security grounds confined to one side in the First World
War itself: in Russia, at least half a million Jews were rounded up
and deported from Poland and the Pale by the tsarist regime.

The enterprise on which the CUP embarked in the spring of 1915 was,
however, new. For ostensible deportation, brutal enough in itself,
was to be the cover for extermination - systematic, state-organised
murder of an entire community. The killings began in March, still
somewhat haphazardly, as Russian forces began to penetrate into
Anatolia. On 20 April, in a climate of increasing fear, there was an
Armenian uprising in the city of Van. Five days later, Anglo-French
forces staged full-scale landings on the Dardanelles, and contingency
plans were laid for transferring the government to the interior,
should the capital fall to the Entente. In this emergency, the CUP
wasted no time. By early June, centrally directed and co-ordinated
destruction of the Armenian population was in full swing. As the
leading comparative authority on modern ethnic cleansing, Michael Mann,
writes, 'the escalation from the first incidents to genocide occurred
within three months, a much more rapid escalation than Hitler's later
attack on the Jews.' Sakir - probably more than any other conspirator,
the original designer of the CUP - toured the target zones, shadowy and
deadly, supervising the slaughter. Without even pretexts of security,
Armenians in Western Anatolia were wiped out hundreds of miles from
the front.

No reliable figures exist for the number of those who died, or
the different ways - with or without bullet or knife; on the spot
or marched to death - in which they perished. Mann, who thinks
a reasonable guess is 1.2 to 1.4 million, reckons that 'perhaps
two-thirds of the Armenians died' - 'the most successful murderous
cleansing achieved in the 20th century', exceeding in its proportions
the Shoah. A catastrophe of this order could not be hidden. Germans,
present in Anatolia as Ottoman allies in many capacities - consular,
military and pastoral among others - witnessed it and reported home,
many in horror or anguish. Confronted by the American ambassador,
Talat scarcely bothered even to deny it. For its part the Entente,
unlike the Allies who kept silent at the Judeocide in the Second World
War, denounced the extermination without delay, issuing a solemn
declaration on 24 May 1915, promising to punish as criminals those
who had organised it.

Victory in the Dardanelles saved the CUP regime. But this was the
only real success, a defensive one, in its war effort. Elsewhere,
in Arabia, in Palestine, in Iraq, on the Black Sea, the armies
of a still basically agricultural society were beaten by its more
industrialised adversaries, with great civilian suffering and huge
military casualties, exceeded as a proportion of the population only
by Serbia. With the collapse of Bulgaria, the Ottoman lifeline to
the Central Powers, at the end of September 1918, the writing was on
the wall for the CUP. Talat, passing back through Sofia from a trip
to Berlin, saw the game was up, and within a fortnight had resigned
as grand vizier. A new cabinet, under ostensibly less compromised
leaders, was formed two weeks later, and on 31 October the Porte
signed an armistice with the Entente, three days before Austria on
3 November and two weeks before Germany on 11 November. It looked as
if dominoes were falling in a row, from weakest to strongest.

The impression was misleading. In Vienna, the Habsburg monarchy
disintegrated overnight. In Berlin, soldiers' and workers' councils
sprang up as the last Hohenzollern fled into exile. In Sofia,
Stamboliski's Peasant Party, which had staged a rising even
before the end of the war, came to power. In each case defeat
was incontestable, the old order was utterly discredited by it,
and revolutionary forces emerged amid its ruins. In Istanbul there
was no such scenario. The Ottoman Empire had entered the war with
a gratuitous decision unlike that of any other power, and its exit
was unlike that of any other too. For the CUP leaders did not accept
that they were beaten. Their handover of the cabinet was a reculer
pour mieux sauter. In the fortnight between their resignation from
the government and the signature of an armistice, they prepared for
resistance against an impending occupation, and a second round in the
struggle to assert Turkish might. Enver invoked the Balkan disasters
of 1912-13, when redemption had been snatched with his recovery of
Edirne, as inspiration for the future. Talat set up a paramilitary
underground, Karakol, headed by close associates - they included
Enver's uncle - and equipped with arms caches and funds from the
Special Organisation, which was itself hastily dissolved, and the
Unionist Party renamed. Archives were removed and incriminating files
methodically destroyed.

When surrender was signed off the island of Lemnos on 31 October,
but Allied forces had not yet entered the Straits, the CUP leaders
made their final move. Dispositions were now complete, and there was
no panic. During the night of 1-2 November, eight top leaders of the
regime secretly boarded a German torpedo-boat, the former Schastlivyi
captured from the Russians, which sped them to Sebastopol. Germany,
still at war with the Entente, controlled the Ukraine. The party
included Enver, Talat, Sakir, Nazim and Cemal. From the Crimea, Enver
made in the direction of the Caucasus, while the rest of the party
were taken by stages in disguise to Berlin, which they reached in
January 1919. There they were granted protection under Ebert, the
new Social Democratic president of the republic. Unionism was not
Nazism, but if an analogy were wanted, it was as if in 1945 Hitler,
Himmler, Kaltenbrunner, Goebbels and Goering, after laying careful
preparations for Werewolf actions in Germany, had coolly escaped
together to Finland, to continue the struggle.

Ten days later, the Allies entered Istanbul. At the war's end, the
Habsburg Empire had spontaneously disintegrated; the Hohenzollern gave
way to a republic that had to yield up Alsace-Lorraine and suffer
occupation of the Rhineland, but no real loss of German territorial
integrity. The Ottoman Empire was another matter, its fate far more
completely at the mercy of the victors. In late 1918, four powers -
Britain, France, Italy and Greece - shared the spoils, the first two
dividing its Arab provinces between them, the latter competing for
gains in south-west Anatolia. It would be another two years before
any formal agreement was reached between them on how the empire was
finally to be dismembered. Meanwhile, they exercised joint supervision
in Istanbul, initially quite loose, over an apparently accommodating
cabinet under a new sultan, known for disliking the CUP.

The postwar misery of a defeated society was much worse than in
Germany or Austria, but its resources for resisting any potentially
Carthaginian peace were greater. In the capital, Karakol was soon
funnelling a flow of agents and arms into the interior, where plans
had already been laid during the war to move the centre of power, and
there was little foreign presence to monitor what was going on. And,
crucially, the October Revolution, by removing Russia from the ranks of
the Allies, not only ensured that Eastern Anatolia remained beyond the
range of any occupation. It left the Ottoman Ninth Army, which Enver
had sent to seize the Caucasus, intact under its Unionist commander,
once the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk cleared the path for it to advance
all the way to Baku.

In the spring of 1919, another Unionist officer stepped on
stage. Kemal, who also came from Rumelia, was an early member of the
CUP, who had risen to prominence in the defence of the Dardanelles,
before spending the bulk of the war in Syria. Uneasy relations with
Enver had excluded him from the inner core of the party, absolving
him from involvement with its Special Organisation. Returning from
Damascus in pursuit of a ministry in the postwar cabinet, he was
offered instead a military inspectorate in the east. The proposal
probably came out of discussions with Karakol, with whom he made
contact on getting back. Once arrived on the Black Sea coast, he moved
inland and began immediately to co-ordinate political and military
resistance - at first covert, soon overt - to Allied controls over
Turkey. In what would in time become the War of Independence, he was
assisted by four favourable factors.

The first was simply the degree of preparation for resistance left
behind by the CUP leaders, which included not only extensive arms
dumps and intelligence agents underground, but also a countrywide
network of Societies for the Rights of National Defence as a quasi
political party above ground; plus - more by fortune than forethought -
a fully equipped regular army, out of Allied reach. The second was the
solidarity extended by Russia, where Lenin's regime, facing multiple
Entente interventions to overthrow it in the Civil War, supported
Turkish resistance to the common enemy with arms and funds. The third
lay in divisions of the Entente itself. Britain was the principal
power in Istanbul. But it was unwilling to match its political weight
with military force, preferring to rely on Greece as its regional
proxy. But the Greek card - this was the fourth essential element in
the situation - was a particularly weak one for the victors to play.

Greece was not only resented as an inferior rival by Italy, and
suspected as a British pawn by France. In Turkish eyes a jackal
scavenging behind great powers, who were worthy adversaries of the
empire, it had made virtually no contribution to the defeat of Ottoman
arms, and yet was awarded the largest occupied zones, where substantial
numbers of Greeks had already been expelled by the Special Organisation
before the war, and ethnic tensions ran high. On top of all this,
Greece was a small, internally divided state, of scant significance
as a military power. A better target for a campaign of national
liberation would have been difficult to imagine. Four days before
Kemal arrived on the Black Sea, Greek troops landed in Smyrna and
took over the surrounding region, igniting anger across the country,
and creating perfect conditions for an enterprise that still looked
risky to many Turks.

Within a year, Kemal had set up a National Assembly in Ankara, in open
defiance of the government in Istanbul, and assembled forces capable of
checking Greek advances, which had occupied more and more of western
Anatolia. Another Greek push was blocked, after initial gains, in the
autumn of 1921, and a year later the aggressor, still stationed on the
same lines, was routed. Within ten days, Kemal's army entered Smyrna
and burned it to the ground, driving the remaining Greek population
into the sea in the most spectacular of the savageries committed on
both sides. In Britain, the debacle of his protégé brought the rule
of Lloyd George to an end. Philhellene to the last, when he threatened
to take the country to war over Turkish successes in October 1922,
he was ousted by a revolt in the Carlton Club.

The following summer Curzon, abandoning earlier Entente schemes for
a partition of Anatolia, accepted the basic modern borders of Turkey
and the end of all extra-territorial rights for foreigners within
it, signing with his French, Italian and Greek counterparts the
Treaty of Lausanne that formally ended hostilities with the Ottoman
state. Juridically, the main novelty of the treaty was the mutual
ethnic cleansing proposed by the Norwegian philanthropist Fridtjof
Nansen, who was awarded, the first in a long line of such recipients,
the Nobel Peace Prize for his brainwave. The 'population exchange'
between Turkey and Greece reflected the relative positions of victor
and vanquished, driving 900,000 Greeks and 400,000 Turks from their
homes in opposite directions.

Hailed as liberator of his country, Kemal was now master of the
political scene. He had risen to power in large measure on the back
of the parallel state Unionism had left behind when the Schastlivyi
slipped its moorings, and for a time had more the status of primus
inter pares among survivors of the CUP regime than of an uncontested
chief. As late as the summer of 1921, Enver had hovered across the
border on the Black Sea coast, waiting to re-enter the fray and
take over leadership from Kemal, should he fail to stem the Greek
advance. Military victory made Kemal immune to such a threat, which
Talat in Berlin anyway thought ill-advised, instructing his followers
to stick with the new leader. But the CUP also represented another
kind of danger, as a potential albatross around the legitimacy of his
rule. For under the Allied occupation, trials had been held of the key
officials responsible for the Armenian genocide by the government in
Istanbul, and all eight of the top leaders who had sailed to Sebastopol
were condemned to death in absentia.

The Weimar regime, fearing they might implicate Germany if extradited,
had given them cover. In Berlin, they had developed their own ambitious
schemes for the recovery of Turkish power, crisscrossing Europe
and Asia - Talat to Holland, Sweden, Italy; Cemal to Switzerland,
Georgia; Sakir and Enver to Russia; others to Persia and Afghanistan -
with differing plans for a comeback. Had they remained at large, they
would have been an acute embarrassment to Kemal's regime, as reminders
of what linked them, forcing it to take a public position it wished
at all costs to avoid. By a stroke of irony, Kemal was spared this
problem by the Central Committee of the Armenian Revolutionary Party,
the Dashnaks. Deciding at a meeting in Erevan to execute justice on its
own account, the party dispatched operatives to carry out the verdicts
of Istanbul. In March 1921, Talat was felled by a revolver outside
his residence in the Uhlandstrasse, just off the Kurfurstendamm, in
the centre of Berlin; in April 1922, Sakir and Cemal Azmi were shot
a few doors down the same street; in July, Cemal was assassinated
in Tbilisi; in August, beyond the reach of Dashnak vengeance, Enver
was tracked down - supposedly by an Armenian Chekist - and killed
fighting the Bolsheviks in Tajikistan. No clean sweep could have
been more timely for the new order in Ankara. With the CUP chiefs
out of the way, Kemal could proceed to build a Turkey in his image,
unencumbered by too notorious memories of the past.

Three months after Enver was buried, the Ottomans finally followed the
Habsburgs, Romanovs and Hohenzollerns, when the sultanate that the CUP
had so carefully preserved was abolished. A year later, after tightly
controlled elections had been held, Kemal was proclaimed president of
a Turkish Republic. The symbolic break with centuries of a dynastic
aura to which Unionism had clung was sharp enough, but by then small
surprise. No such predictable logic marked what ensued. In the spring
of 1924, Kemal scrapped the caliphate, a religious institution still
revered across the Muslim world (there was a wave of protest as far
away as India), and was soon closing down shrines and suppressing
dervishes, banning the fez, changing the calendar, substituting civil
law for the sharia, and replacing Arabic with Latin script. The scale
and speed of this assault on religious tradition and household custom,
embracing faith, time, dress, family, language, remain unique in the
Umma to this day. No one could have guessed at such radicalism in
advance. Its visionary drive separated Kemal from his predecessors
with éclat.

But systematic though it was, the transformation that now gripped
Turkey was a strange one: a cultural revolution without a social
revolution, something historically very rare, indeed that might look a
priori impossible. The structure of society, the rules of property, the
pattern of class relations, remained unaltered. The CUP had repressed
any strikes or labour organisation from the start. Kemal followed
suit: Communists were killed or jailed, however good diplomatic
relations were with Moscow. But if there was no anti-capitalist
impulse in Kemalism, nor was there was any significant anti-feudal
dimension to it. Ottoman rule, centred on an office-holding state,
had never required or permitted a powerful landowning class in the
countryside, least of all in Anatolia, where peasant holdings had
traditionally prevailed - the only real exception being areas of
the Kurdish south-east controlled by tribal chiefs. The scope for
agrarian reform was thus anyway much more limited than in Russia,
or even parts of the Balkans, and no attempt at it was made.

Yet the social landscape hit by the cultural revolution was at
the same time the opposite of a stable traditional order, in one
crucial respect. If no class struggles lay behind the dynamics of
Kemalism, ethnic upheavals on a gigantic scale had reshaped Anatolian
society. The influx of Turks and Circassians, refugees from Russian or
Balkan wars, the extirpation of the Armenians, the expulsion of the
Greeks, had produced a vast brassage of populations and properties
in a still backward agricultural economy. It was in this shattered
setting that a cultural revolution from above could be imposed without
violent reaction from below. The extent of deracination, moral and
material, at the conclusion of wars that had continued virtually
without interruption for more than a decade - twice as long as in
Europe - permitted a Kulturkampf that might otherwise have provoked an
unmanageable explosion. But by the same token the revolution acquired
no active popular impetus: Kemalism remained a vertical affair.

Though it broke, sharply and abruptly, with Ottoman culture in
one fundamental respect by abolishing its script and so at a stroke
cutting off new generations from all written connection with the past,
in its distance from the masses Kemalism not only inherited an Ottoman
tradition, but accentuated it. All premodern ruling groups spoke idioms
differing in one way or another, if only in accent or vocabulary, from
those they ruled. But the Ottoman elite, for long composed not even
principally of Turks, was peculiarly detached from its subjects, as a
corps of state servants bonded by command of a sophisticated language
that was a mixture of Persian, Arabic and Turkish, with many foreign
loan words, incomprehensible to the ruled. Administrative Ottoman
was less elaborate than its literary forms, and Turkish remained in
household use, but there was nevertheless a huge - linguistically
fixed - gulf between high and low cultures in the empire.

Kemalism set out to do away with this, by creating a modern Turkish
that would no longer be the despised patois of Ottoman times, but
a language spoken alike by all citizens of the new republic. But
while it sought to close the gap between rulers and ruled where it
had been widest in the past, at the same it opened up a gap that
had never existed to the same extent before, leaving the overall
distance between them as great as ever. Language reform might unify;
religious reform was bound to divide. The faith of the Ottoman elites
had little in common with the forms of popular piety - variegated
cults and folk beliefs looked down on by the educated. But at least
there was a shared commitment to Islam. This tie was sundered by
Kemal. Once the state started to target shrines and brotherhoods,
preachers and prayer meetings, it was hitting at traditional objects
of reverence and attachment, and the masses resisted it. At this
level, the cultural revolution misfired. Rejected by the rural and
small-town majority, Kemalist secularism was, however, adopted with
aggressive zeal in the cities by modernised descendants of the Ottoman
elite - bureaucrats, officers, professionals. In this urban stratum,
secularism became over time, as it remains today, in its blinkered
intensity, something like an ersatz religion in its own right. But
the rigidity of this secularism is a peculiarly brittle one. Not just
because it is intellectually thin, or divorced from popular feeling,
but more profoundly because of a structural bad faith that has always
been inseparable from it.

There is no reason to suppose that Kemal himself was anything other
than a robust atheist, of more or less French Third Republic stamp,
throughout his life. In that sense, he is entitled to be remembered
as a Turkish Emile Combes, scourge of monkish mystification and
superstition. But in his rise to power, he could no more dispense
with Islam than Talat or Enver had done. 'God's help and protection
are with us in the sacred struggle which we have entered upon for our
fatherland,' he declared in 1920. The struggle for independence was a
holy war, which he led as Gazi, the Warrior for the Faith of original
Ottoman expansion, a title he held onto down to the mid-1930s. 'God
is one, and great is his glory!' he announced without a blush, in
a sermon to the faithful delivered in a mosque in 1923. When the
constitution of the Turkish Republic was framed in the following
year, Islam was declared the state religion. The spirit in which
Kemal made use of Muslim piety in these years was that of Napoleon
enthroning himself with the blessing of the pope. But as exercises in
cynicism they moved in opposite directions: Napoleon rising to power
as a revolutionary, and manipulating religion to stabilise it, Kemal
manipulating religion to make a revolution and turning on it once his
power was stabilised. After 1926 little more was heard of the deity.

Tactical and transient, the new regime's use of Islam, when no
longer required, was easily reversed. But at a deeper level, a
much tighter knot tied it to the very religion it proceeded on the
surface to mortify. For even when at apparent fever pitch, Turkish
secularism has never been truly secular. This is in part because,
as often noted, Kemalism did not so much separate religion from
the state as subordinate it to the state, creating 'directorates'
that took over the ownership of all mosques, appointment of imams,
administration of pious foundations - in effect, turning the faith
into a branch of the bureaucracy. A much more profound reason, however,
is that religion was never detached from the nation, becoming instead
an unspoken definition of it. It was this that allowed Kemalism
to become more than just a cult of the elites, leaving a durable
imprint on the masses themselves. Secularism failed to take at village
level: nationalism sank deeper popular roots. It is possible - such
is the argument of Carter Findley in his Turks in World History -
that in doing so it drew on a long Turkish cultural tradition, born
in Central Asia and predating conversion to Islam, that figured a
sacralisation of the state, which has vested its modern signifier,
devlet, with an aura of unusual potency. However that may be, the
ambiguity of Kemalism was to construct an ideological code in two
registers. One was secular and appealed to the elite. The other was
crypto-religious and accessible to the masses. Common to both was
the integrity of the nation, as supreme political value.

As Christians, Greeks and Armenians were excluded from the outset. In
the first elections to the National Assembly in 1919, only Muslims
were entitled to vote, and when populations were 'exchanged' in 1923,
even Greek communities in Cilicia whose language was Turkish, so
thoroughly were they assimilated, were expelled on grounds that they
were nevertheless infidels - their ethnicity defined not by culture,
but by religion. Such excisions from the nation went virtually without
saying. But there remained another large community within the country,
most of whom spoke little Turkish, that could not be so dispatched,
because it was Muslim. In ethnically cleansed Anatolia, Kurds made up
perhaps a quarter of the population. They had played a central role in
the Armenian genocide, supplying shock troops for the extermination,
and fought alongside Turks in the War of Independence. What was to
be their place in the new state?

While the struggle for independence was in the balance, Kemal promised
them respect for their identity, and autonomy in the regions where
they predominated. 'There are Turks and Kurds,' Kemal declared
in 1920, 'the nation is not one element. There are various bonded
Muslim elements. All the Muslim elements which make this entity are
citizens.' But once victory was assured, Kurdish areas were stocked
with Turkish officials, Kurdish place names were changed, and the
Kurdish language banned from courts and schools. Then, with the
abolition of the caliphate in 1924, Kemal did away with the common
symbol of Islam to which he had himself appealed five years earlier,
when he had vowed that 'Turks and Kurds will continue to live together
as brothers around the institution of the khilafa.' The act detonated a
major Kurdish revolt under a tribal religious leader, Sheikh Sait, in
early 1925. A full half of the Turkish army, more than fifty thousand
troops, was mobilised to crush the rebellion. On some reckonings,
more of them died in its suppression than in the War of Independence.

In the south-east, repression was followed by deportations, executions
and systematic Turkification. In the country as a whole, it was
the signal for the imposition of a dictatorship, with a Law for the
Maintenance of Order that closed down opposition parties and press for
the rest of the decade. In 1937, in the face of a still more drastic
programme of Turkification, Alevi Kurds rose in the Dersim region,
and were put down yet more ruthlessly, with more modern weapons of
destruction - bombers, gas, heavy artillery. Officially, the Kurds had
by now ceased to exist. After 1925 Kemal never again uttered the word
'Kurd' in public. The nation was composed of one homogeneous people,
and it alone, the Turks - a fiction that was to last another three
generations.

But if Kurds were no different from Turks, whatever their language,
customs or sense of themselves, what defined the indivisible identity
of the two? Tacitly, it could only be what Kemalism could no longer
admit, but with which it could never dispense - religion. There were
still tiny Christian and Jewish communities in the country, preserved
essentially in Istanbul and its environs, and in due course these
would be subjected to treatment that made it clear how fundamental
the division between believers and unbelievers continued to be in the
Kemalist state. But though Islam delimited the nation, it now did so
in a purely negative way: it was the covert identity that was left,
after every positive determination had been subtracted, in the name
of homogeneity. The result has been that Turkish secularism has always
depended on what it repressed.

The repression, of course, had to be compensated. Once religion could
no longer function publicly as common denominator of the nation, the
state required a substitute as ideological cement. Kemal attempted
to resolve the problem by generating a legendary essence of race
and culture shared by all in the Turkish Republic. The materials to
hand for this construction posed their own difficulties. The first
Turkish tribes had arrived in Anatolia in the 11th century, recent
newcomers compared with Greeks or Armenians, who had preceded them
by more than a millennium, not to speak of Kurds, often identified
with the Medes of antiquity. As even a casual glance at phenotypes
in Turkey today suggests, centuries of genetic mixing followed. A
purely Turkish culture was an equally doubtful quantity. The Ottoman
elite had produced literary and visual riches of which any society
could be proud, but this was a cosmopolitan culture, which was not
only distinct from, but contemptuous of anything too specifically
Turkish - the very term 'Turk' signifying a rustic churl well into
the 19th century. Reform of the script now rendered most of this
heritage inaccessible anyway.

Undaunted by these limitations, Kemalism fashioned for instruction
the most extravagant mythology of any interwar nationalism. By the
mid-1930s, the state was propagating an ideology in which the Turks,
of whom Hittites and Phoenicians in the Mediterranean were said to
be a branch, had spread civilisation from Central Asia to the world,
from China to Brazil; and as the drivers of universal history, spoke a
language that was the origin of all other tongues, which were derived
from the Sun-Language of the first Turks. Such ethnic megalomania
reflected the extent of the underlying insecurity and artificiality
of the official enterprise: the less there was to be confident of,
the more fanfare had to be made out of it.

Observing Kemalist cultural policies in 1936-37, Erich Auerbach wrote
from Istanbul to Walter Benjamin: 'the process is going fantastically
and spookily fast: already there is hardly anyone who knows Arabic
or Persian, and even Turkish texts of the past century will quickly
become incomprehensible.' Combining 'a renunciation of all existing
Islamic cultural tradition, a fastening onto a fantasy "ur-Turkey",
technical modernisation in the European sense in order to strike the
hated and envied Europe with its own weapons', it offered 'nationalism
in the superlative with the simultaneous destruction of the historic
national character'.

Seventy years later, a Turkish intellectual would reflect on the
deeper logic of this process. In an essay of unsurpassed power,
one of the great texts in the world's literature on nationalism,
the sociologist Caglar Keyder has described the desperate retroactive
peopling of Anatolia with ur-Turks in the shape of Hittites and Trojans
as a compensation mechanism for the emptying by ethnic cleansing at
the origins of the regime. The repression of that memory created a
complicity of silence between rulers and ruled, but no popular bond of
the kind that a genuine anti-imperialist struggle would have generated,
the War of Independence remaining a small-scale affair, compared
with the traumatic mass experience of the First World War. Abstract
in its imagination of space, hypomanic in its projection of time,
the official ideology assumed a peculiarly 'preceptorial' character,
with all that the word implies. 'The choice of the particular founding
myth referring national heritage to an obviously invented history, the
deterritorialisation of "motherland", and the studious avoidance and
repression of what constituted a shared recent experience, rendered
Turkish nationalism exceptionally arid.'

Such nationalism was a new formation, but the experience that it
repressed tied it, intimately, to the nationalism out of which it had
grown. The continuities between Kemalism and Unionism, plain enough
in the treatment of the Kurds under the Republic, were starker still
in other ways. For extermination of the Armenians did not cease in
1916. Determined to prevent the emergence of an Armenian state in
the area awarded it - costlessly, on paper - by Woodrow Wilson in
1920, Kemal's government in Ankara ordered an attack on the Armenian
Republic that had been set up on the Russian side of the border in the
Caucasus, where most of those who had escaped the killings of 1915-16
had fled. In a secret telegram the foreign minister, later Kemal's
first ambassador to the US, instructed Kazim Karabekir, the commander
charged with the invasion, to 'deceive the Armenians and fool the
Europeans', in carrying out the express order: 'It is indispensable
that Armenia be politically and physically annihilated.' Soviet
historians estimate 200,000 Armenians were slaughtered in the space
of five months, before the Red Army intervened.

This was still, in some fashion, happening in time of war. Once
peace came, what was the attitude of the Turkish Republic to the
original genocide? To interested foreigners, Kemal would deplore,
usually off the record, the killings as the work of a tiny handful
of scoundrels. To its domestic audience, the regime went out of
its way to honour the perpetrators, dead or alive. Two of the
most prominent killers hanged in 1920 for their atrocities by
the tribunals in Istanbul were proclaimed 'national martyrs' by
the Kemalist Assembly, and in 1926 the families of Talat, Enver,
Sakir and Cemal were officially granted pensions, properties and
lands seized from the Armenians, in recognition of services to the
country. Such decisions were not mere sentimental gestures. Kemal's
regime was packed, from top to bottom, with participants in the murders
of 1915-16. At one time or another his ministers of foreign affairs
and of the interior; of finance, education and defence; and of public
works, were all veterans of the genocide; while a minister of justice,
suitably enough, had been defence lawyer at the Istanbul trials. It
was as if Adenauer's cabinets had been composed of well-known chiefs
of the SS and the Sicherheitsdienst.

What of Kemal himself? In Gallipoli till the end of 1915, he was posted
to Diyarbekir in the south-east in the spring of 1916, after the region
had been emptied of Armenians. He certainly knew of the genocide -
someone in his position could hardly have been unaware of it - but
played no part in it. How he would have acted had he been in the zone
at the time is impossible to guess. After the event, it is clear that
he regarded it as an accomplished fact that had become a condition
of the new Turkey. In this he was like most of his countrymen, for
the elimination of the Armenians in Anatolia, who were at least a
tenth of the population, unlike that of the Jews in Germany, who were
little more than 1 per cent, was of material benefit to large numbers
of ordinary citizens, who acquired lands and wealth from those who had
been wiped out, as from Greeks who had been expelled, another tenth of
the population. Kemal himself was among the recipients of this vast
largesse, receiving gratis villas abandoned by Greek owners in Bursa
and Trabzon, and the mansion on the hill of Cankaya that became his
official residence as head of state in Ankara. Originally the estate
of an Armenian family, there the Presidential Palace of the Republic
stands today, it too planted on booty from the genocide.

Yet between taking part in a crime, and gaining from one, there
is a difference. Kemal was one of history's most striking examples
of 'moral luck', that philosophical oxymoron out of which Bernard
Williams made a delphic grace. By accident of military appointments,
his hands were clean of the worst that was committed in his time,
making him a natural candidate for leadership of the national
movement after the war. Personally, he was brave, intelligent and
far-sighted. Successful as a military commander, he was formidable
as the builder of a state. Bold or prudent as the occasion required,
he showed an unswerving realism in the acquisition and exercise of
power. Yet he was also moved by genuine ideals of a better life for
his people, conceived as entry into a civilised modernity, modelled
on the most advanced societies of the day. Whatever became of these
in practice, he never turned on them.

Ends were one thing, means another. Kemal's regime was a
one-party dictatorship, centred on a personality cult of heroic
proportions. Equestrian statues of Kemal were being erected as
early as 1926, long before monuments to Stalin could be put up in
Russia. The speech he gave in 1927 that became the official creed of
the nation dwarfed any address by Khrushchev or Castro. Extolling his
own achievements, it went on for 36 hours, delivered over six days,
eventually composing a tome of 600 pages: a record in the annals of
autocracy. Hardened in war, he held life cheap, and without hesitation
meted out death to those who stood in his way. Kurds fell by the tens
of thousands; though, once forcibly classified as Turks, they were not
extirpated. Communists were murdered or jailed, the country's greatest
poet, Nazim Hikmet, spending most of his life in prison or exile. Kemal
was capable of sparing old associates. But Unionists who resisted him
were executed, trials were rigged, the press was muzzled. The regime
was not invasive, by modern standards, but repression was routine.

It is conventional, and reasonable, to compare Kemal's rule with the
other Mediterranean dictatorships of his day. In that wan light, its
relative merits are plain. On the one hand, unlike Salazar, Franco
or Metaxas, Kemal was not a traditional conservative, enforcing
reactionary moral codes in league with the Church, an enemy of
progress as the time understood it. He was a resolute moderniser,
who had not come to power as a defender of landlords or bankers. For
him, the state was everything, family and religion nothing, beyond
discardable backstops. At the same time, unlike Mussolini, who was
a modernist too - one from whom he took the penal code under which
Turkey still suffers - he was not an expansionist, hoping to build
another empire in the region. Recovery of so much more territory
than had seemed likely in 1918 was sufficient achievement in itself,
even if Turkish borders could still be improved: one of his last
acts was to engineer the annexation of Alexandretta (now known as
Iskenderun), with the collusion of a weak government in Paris. But
the imperial bombast of a New Rome was precluded: he was a seasoned
soldier, not an adventurer, and the fate of Enver was too deeply
burned into him. Nor did Kemal stage mass rallies, bombard the
nation with speeches on radio, go in for spectacular processions
or parades. There was no attempt at popular mobilisation - in this
Turkey was closer to Portugal or Greece than Italy. None was needed,
because there was so little class conflict to contain or suppress.

But just because his regime could dispense with a mass basis, Kemal
was capable of reforms that Mussolini could never contemplate. In
1934 Turkish women were given equal voting rights, a change that
did not come in Italy or France till 1945, in Greece the mid-1950s,
in Portugal the mid-1970s. Yet here too the limits of his cultural
revolution showed: 90 per cent of Turkish women were still illiterate
when he died. The country had not been transformed into the modern
society of which he had dreamed. It remained poor, agrarian, stifled
rather than emancipated in the grip of the Father of the Turks,
as he styled himself in the last period of his life.

By the end Kemal probably knew, at some level, that he had
failed. There can be no certainty about his final years, because so
much about his life remains a closely guarded secret of state. Only
surmises are possible. What is clear is that he had never liked the
administrative routines of rule, and from the late 1920s delegated
day-to-day affairs of government to a mediocre subordinate, Ismet
later called Inönu, who looked after these as premier, freeing Kemal
to devote himself to his plans, pleasures and fancies in the salons
of Cankaya or the cabarets of the Ankara or Pera Palace Hotels. There
he summoned colleagues and cronies for sessions of all-night gambling
or rousting, increasingly detached from daylight realities. In these
flickering conclaves, Kemal shared a predilection with Stalin and Mao:
all three, at the end, nocturnal rulers, as if tyranny requires the
secrecy of the dark, and reversal of the order of hours, to bind its
instruments to it. Nor did similarities stop there. If Kemal's style
of detachment from government resembled Mao's - in his case too, it
was a distance that did not preclude tight attention to big political
operations: the crushing of Dersim or the Anschluss in Alexandretta -
the fantastic theories of language that occupied his mind had their
counterpart in the linguistic pronouncements of Stalin's decline. All
three, as they withdrew from the day, ended by suspecting those who
had to live by it.

But in the taxonomy of dictators, Kemal stands apart in one unusual
respect. When Politburo members assembled at Stalin's villa, liquor
was poured throughout the night; but the general secretary himself was
careful to keep control of his consumption, the better to force his
entourage to lose theirs, with the chance of revealing themselves in
their cups. Kemal's sessions were more genuine revelry. He had always
been a heavy drinker, holding it well in debonair officer fashion. But
in his final years, raki took its toll of him. Normally, absolute power
is an intoxicant so much stronger than all others that alcohol, not
infrequently shunned altogether, is at most only a tiny chaser. But
in Kemal, perhaps because some scepticism in him - an underlying
boredom with government - kept him from a full addiction to power,
continual drinking became alcoholism.

Once pleasures of the will started to yield to pleasures of the
flesh, women were the other obvious consolation. But they were no
shield against his solitude; he was at ease only with men. In habits
a soldier formed by a career in the barracks, he would have liked
to move with grace in mixed society, that symbol of Western civility
ever since Lettres Persanes, but was too crude for it. A marriage to
the Western-educated daughter of a wealthy merchant lasted a couple of
years. Thereafter, random connections and incidents followed, sometimes
involving foreigners. A reputation for increasingly reckless behaviour
developed. Adoptive daughters, guarded - a less up-to-date touch - by
a black eunuch, multiplied. Towards the end, photographs of Kemal have
something of the glazed look of a worn roué: a general incongruously
reduced to a ravaged lounge lizard, terminal blankness nearby. Stricken
with cirrhosis, he died in late 1938, at the age of 57.

A ruler who took to drink in despair at the ultimate sterility of his
rule: that, at any rate, is one conjecture to be heard among critical
spirits in Turkey today. Another, not necessarily contradictory of it,
would recall Hegel's description of the autocrats of Rome:

In the person of the emperor isolated subjectivity has gained a
perfectly unlimited realisation. Spirit has renounced its proper
nature, inasmuch as limitation of being and of volition has been
constituted an unlimited absolute existence . . . Individual
subjectivity thus entirely emancipated from control, has no inward
life, no prospective nor retrospective emotions, no repentance,
nor hope, nor fear - not even thought; for all these involve
fixed conditions and aims, while here every condition is purely
contingent. The springs of action are no more than desire, lust,
passion, fancy - in short, caprice absolutely unfettered. It finds
so little limitation in the will of others, that the relation of will
to will may be called that of absolute sovereignty to absolute slavery.

The picture is highly coloured, and no modern ruler has ever quite
fitted it, if only because ideology has typically become inseparable
from tyranny, where on the whole legitimacy sufficed in classical
times. But in its portrait of a kind of accidie of power, it hints at
what might, on another reading, have been the inner dusk of Kemal's
dictatorship.

His successor, whom he had wanted to discard at the end, was another
figure altogether. Inönu had served under Kemal as a CUP officer in
1916, collaborated with Karakol in the War Ministry in 1919-20, and
held a senior command in the independence struggle. He was dour, pious
and conservative, in appearance and outlook not unlike a somewhat less
plump Turkish version of Franco. With war in Europe on the horizon
by 1938, his regime sought an understanding with Germany, but was
rebuffed by Berlin, at that point angling for the favour of Arab
states apprehensive of Turkish revanchism. To insure itself against
Italian expansion, and the potential implications for Turkey of the
Nazi-Soviet Pact, Ankara then signed a defence treaty with Britain and
France in the Mediterranean, shortly after the outbreak of war. When
Italy attacked France in 1940, however, Inönu's government reneged
on its obligations, and within a year had signed a non-aggression
pact with Germany. Four days later, when Hitler invaded Russia,
the Turkish leadership was 'carried away with joy'.

Enver's brother Nuri was dispatched posthaste to Berlin to discuss
the prospect of arousing Turkic peoples in the USSR to rally to the
Nazis, and a pair of Turkish generals, Emir Husnu Erkilet and Ali
Fuad Erden, were soon touring the front lines of the Wehrmacht in
Russia. After briefings from Von Rundstedt in the field, they were
flown to Rastenberg to meet the Fuhrer in person. 'Hitler,' General
Erkilet reported, brimming with enthusiasm,

received us with an indescribable modesty and simplicity at his
headquarters where he commands military operations and dispatches. It
is a huge room. The long table in the middle and the walls were
covered with maps that showed respective positions at the battle
zones. Despite that, they did not hide or cover these maps, a clear
sign of trust and respect towards us. I expressed my gratitude for
the invitation. Then he half-turned towards the map. At the same time,
he was looking into our eyes as if he was searching for something. His
dark eyes and forelock were sweeter, livelier and more attractive than
in photographs. His southern accent, his formal, perfect German, his
distinctive, powerful voice, his sturdy look, are full of character.

Telling the Turks that they were the first foreigners, other than
allies, to be ushered into the Wolfsschanze, and promising them the
complete destruction of Russia, 'the Fuhrer also emphasised that
"this war is a continuation of the old one, and those who suffered
losses at the end of the last war, would receive compensation for them
in this one."' Thanking him profusely for 'these very important and
valuable words', Erkilet and Fuad hastened back to convey them to the
'National Chief', as Inönu liked to style himself.

Their mission was not taken lightly in Moscow. Within a week, Stalin
issued a statement denouncing Erkilet's exchange with Hitler, and
soon afterwards embarked on a high-risk operation to try and cut
off the prospect of joint compensation for 1918. Determined to stop
the Turkish army linking arms with the Wehrmacht in the Caucasus,
he sent the top NKVD operative Leonid Eitingon - responsible for the
killing of Trotsky two years earlier - to Ankara to assassinate the
German ambassador, Von Papen, in the hope of provoking Hitler into
a punitive attack on Turkey. The attempt was bungled, and its origin
quickly discovered. But Moscow had every reason for its misgivings. In
August 1942, the Turkish premier Saracoglu told Von Papen that as a
Turk he 'passionately desired the obliteration of Russia'. Indeed,
it was his view that 'the problem of Russia can only be solved by
Germany on condition at least half the Russians living in Russia are
annihilated.' As late as the summer of 1943, another Turkish military
mission was touring not only the Eastern Front but the west wall of
Nazi defences in France, before flying once more to an audience in the
Wolfsschanze. The war had revived Unionist ambitions: at one time or
another, Turkey manoeuvred to regain Western Thrace, the Dodecanese,
Syria, the region of Mosul, and protectoral rights over Albania.

Nor was alignment with the New Order confined to policy abroad. In June
1941, all non-Muslim males of draft age - Jewish, Greek or residual
Armenian - were packed off to labour camps in the interior. In
November 1942, as the battle for Stalingrad raged, a 'wealth tax'
was inflicted on Jews and Christians, who had to pay up to ten times
the rate for Muslims, amid a barrage of anti-semitic and anti-infidel
attacks in the press - Turkish officials themselves becoming liable
to investigation for Jewish origins. Those who could not or would not
meet the demands of local boards were deported to punishment camps in
the mountains. The effect was to destroy the larger part of non-Muslim
businesses in Istanbul.

The operation, unabashedly targeting ethno-religious minorities, was
in the lineal tradition of Turkish integral nationalism, passed down
from Unionism to Kemalism. 'Only the Turkish nation is entitled to
claim ethnic and national rights in this country. No other element has
any such right,' Inönu had declared a decade earlier. His minister
of justice dotted the i's and crossed the t's: 'The Turk must be the
only lord, the only master of this country. Those who are not of pure
Turkish stock can have only one right in this country, the right to
be servants and slaves.' New in the campaign of 1942-43 was only the
extent of its anti-semitism, and the fact that the Inönu regime -
hard pressed economically by the costs of a greatly increased military
budget - levied any part of its exactions on Muslims at all. Jewish
converts to Islam were not included among the faithful for these
purposes. Such was the climate in which Hitler returned the compliment
by sending Talat's remains back to Turkey, in a ceremonial train
bedecked with swastikas, to be buried with full honours in Istanbul,
by the Martyrs' Monument on Liberty Hill, where patriots can proceed
to this day.

However, once the tide started to turn in Russia, and Germany looked as
if it might be defeated, Ankara readjusted its stance. While continuing
to supply the Third Reich with the chromite on which the Nazi war
machine depended, Turkey now also entertained overtures from Britain
and America. But, resisting Anglo-American pressures to come down
on the Allied side, Inönu made it clear that his lodestar remained
anti-Communism. The USSR was the main enemy, and Turkey expressly
opposed any British or American strategy that risked altering Germany's
position as a bastion against it, hoping London and Washington would
make a separate peace with Berlin, for future joint action against
Moscow. Dismayed at the prospect of unconditional surrender, Inönu
issued a token declaration of war on Germany only after the Allies
made it a condition of his getting a seat at the United Nations, a
week before the deadline they had set for doing so expired, in late
February 1945. No Turkish shot was fired in the fight against Fascism.

Peace left the regime in a precarious position. Internally, it was
now thoroughly detested by the majority of the population, which had
suffered from a steep fall in living standards as prices soared,
taxes increased and forced labour was extorted in the service of
its military build-up. Inflation had affected all classes, sparing
not even bureaucrats, and the wealth tax had made even the well-off
jumpy. Externally, the regime had been compromised by its affair with
Nazism - which post-war Soviet diplomacy was quick to point out -
and its refusal to contribute to Allied victory even after it had
become certain.

Aware of his unpopularity, in early 1945 Inönu attempted to redress
it with a belated redistribution of land, only to provoke a revolt
in the ranks of the ruling party, without gaining credibility in
the countryside. Something more was needed. Six months later, he
announced that there would be free elections. Turkey, for twenty
years a dictatorship, would now become a democracy. Inönu's move
was designed to kill two birds with one stone. Abroad, it would
restore his regime to legitimacy, as a respectable partner of the
West, taking its place in the comity of free nations led by the
United States, and entitled to the benefits of that status. At home,
it could neutralise discontent by offering an outlet for opposition
without jeopardising the stability of his rule. He had no intention
of permitting a true contest.

In 1946, a flagrantly crooked election returned the ruling Republican
People's Party with a huge majority over a Democratic Party led by
the defectors who had broken with it over the agrarian bill. The
fraud was so scandalous that, domestically, rather than repairing the
reputation of the regime, it damaged it yet further. Internationally,
however, it did the trick. Turkey was duly proclaimed a pillar of the
West, the Truman Doctrine picking it out for economic and military
assistance to withstand the Soviet threat, and Marshall Aid began to
pour in. Economic recovery was rapid, Turkey posting high rates of
growth over the next four years.

These laurels, however, did not appease the Turkish masses. Inönu,
after first appointing the leading pro-Fascist politician in his party
- responsible for the worst repression under Kemal - as premier, then
attempted to steal the more liberal clothes of the Democrats, with
concessions to the market and to religion. It was of no avail. When
elections were held in 1950, it was impossible to rig them as before,
and by now - so Inönu imagined - unnecessary: the combination of his
own prestige and relief from wartime rigours would carry the day for
the RPP anyway. He was stunned when voters rejected his regime by a
wide margin, putting the Democrats into power with a parliamentary
majority, honestly gained, as large as the dishonest one he had
engineered for himself four years earlier. The dictatorship Kemal
had installed was over.

Perry Anderson teaches history at UCLA.

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