Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Turkish Nationalism

America's perspective of nationalism is one of inclusivity, relatively speaking. We welcome new citizens with open arms, effectively extending all services and freedoms to these new comers. They are immediately "American." Though most strongly hold onto their roots as well, the idea of becoming an American citizen is like getting the golden ticket. Though in truth, this is far from reality. Perception and idealism propels dreams, not reality.

During a game of "OK"- a Turkish version of gin rummy, some friends and I discussed the differences in American and Turkish perceptions of nationalism. 

In Turkey, nationalism is approached quite differently. With the creation of modern day Turkey and the end of the Ottoman empire, the difficulty in creating a nation was evident. The Ottoman empire was vast and diverse. With nationalist movements cropping up all over the world, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk hopped on the bandwagon to create what we know as modern Turkey. This did not come without a price. The Turkish government and the Greek government exchanged populations- it was mandatory. This was a religious exchange, with all the Christians forced to move to Greece and the Muslim Greeks forced to move to Turkey. After the population exchange, the Turkish government, with its newly created borders basically encircled all within- declaring "you are Turkish." There is a famous quote from Ataturk, the nationalist leader which hangs in most schools and public buildings- "How happy is the one who says I am a Turk."  This poses a problem for the Kurdish population in Turkey. They were swept into the Turkish state, willingly or unwillingly- this is highly disputed. The issue of Kurdish rights and sovereignty stems from this issue of originally including them into the Turkish state. In the case of Turkey, nationalism was a thing you got- not something you can get, or choose for that matter. 

Our perceptions of nationalism are in fact, quite different. Or at least the roots of nationalism were planted and have produced different uses of that nationalism. Do you ever wonder how different our perceptions of things like nationalism, freedom, sovereignty and independence are? This is exactly the kind of thing that fascinates me- the reason why I want to speak other languages- to begin to truly understand the perceptions language and culture can engrain in a person. 

Ataturk, the national leader being celebrated at a ceremony

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