Umit Kurt

The Balkan Wars and the rise of the reactionary modernist utopia in young Turk thought and the journal Türk Yurdu [Turkish Homeland]


The formation and construction of Turkish identity and nationalist ideology was not the natural end of a gradual rise in nationalism but an outcome of explosions, ruptures and climactic incidents. Like all other nationalisms, the Turkish nationalism that crystallized in the aftermath of Balkan Wars (1912-13) was also a compound of a comprehensive (yet inconsistent) set of ideas and a system of thought. This paper will maintain that the Balkan Wars were constitutive of Turkish nationalism as we know it; the trauma and mindset of this particular juncture was essentialised and eternalized. Devoting itself to delineating the contours and premises of this predisposition, the emergence of which was catalyzed by the Balkan Wars and which enjoyed a formative influence on the Turkish political culture and Turkish nationalism, this paper will argue that these premises and themes made up ‘reactionary modernism’, to adapt Jeffrey Herf’s terminology. These themes will be observed in Türk Yurdu (Turkish Homeland), the most eminent Turkist journal of the time and the intellectual organ of the Union and Progress Party (CUP). Not taking Young Turks and their mindset as unique and in isolation but developing a comparative framework, this paper will further assess the Young Turk ideational trajectories concomitant with the continent-wide intellectual and cultural shifts and rifts. By examining the articles published in this journal, I will attempt to analyze the fabric of Turkish nationalism, the patterns as exposed in these articles against the backdrop of the devastating Balkan Wars. By analyzing the pieces in the journal, I will also aim to expose the traces and influence of antecedents that shaped the historical creation, development and evolution of Turkish nationalism.