Uc Tarz-i Siyaset (THREE POLICIES), Yusuf Akcura (1876-1935)

Editor's Introduction

Akcura's Uc Tarz-i Siyaset (Three Policies) appeared during 1904 in the newspaper TURK (Nos. 24-34) in Cairo, then under British rule. The work was re-printed in 1912 in Istanbul, as a pamphlet. In 1976, Uc Tarz-i Siyaset was re-issued with the late E. Z. Karal's introduction, also containing two of the original responses to the work: by Ali Kemal and Ahmet Ferit (Tek).[1] Due to the prevailing censorship in Istanbul, a number of periodicals opposing the rule of Abdulhamid II were being printed in Cairo.[2] One such paper of the era was AL-NAHDAH[3] published by Ismail Bey Gaspirali (1854-1914)[4], who was related to Akcura by marriage.

The issues discussed in Three Policies have occupied the thoughts of a large number of individuals belonging to almost all persuasions, and the administrative strata of the majority of political entities of its time. The perspectives from which Ak ura viewed those issues are also very wide, and the conclusions he reached essentially foretold what was to become. The concerns Akcura articulated are still valid for most of the region.

A brief biography of Akcura is provided by David Thomas, immediately following the translation proper.[5]


Yusuf Akcura

(Translated by David S. Thomas)

It seems to me that since the rise of the desires for progress and rehabilitation spread from the West, three principal political doctrines have been conceived and followed in the Ottoman dominions. The first is the one which seeks to create an Ottoman Nation through assimilating and unifying the various nations subject to Ottoman rule. The second seeks to unify politically all Muslims living under the governance of the Ottoman State because of the fact that the prerogative of the Caliphate has been a part of the power of the Ottoman State (this is what the Europeans call Pan-Islamism). The third seeks to organize a policy of Turkish nationalism (Turk Milliyet-i siyasiyesi) based on ethnicity.

The first of these principles had an important influence on the general political policy of the Ottoman Empire, whereas the last appeared only recently in the writings of certain authors.


The desire to bring into being an Ottoman nation did not aim at a lofty objective nor high hopes. Rather the real purpose was to grant and impose the same rights and political duties on the Muslim and non-Muslim peoples of the Ottoman dominions, and thus to realize perfect equality between them and to grant complete freedom of thought and worship. The aim was thus to create an Ottoman Nation (Osmanli Milleti) a new nationality united in a common country similar to the American nation in the United States of America by blending and assimilating to each other the above mentioned peoples in spite of the religious and racial differences [existing] among them. The ultimate result of all these difficult processes was to be the preservation of the "High

Ottoman State" in her original external form, that is within her old boundaries. Although the continuance and strengthening of the power of a state whose majority was Muslim and Turkish in its major part was beneficial to all Muslims and Turks, this political principle would not directly serve them. For this reason the Muslims and Turks living outside the Ottoman lands could not be so interested in this policy. The point is that it would only be a local and internal matter.

The policy of creation of an Ottoman nation arose seriously during the reign of Mahmut the Second.(1) It is well known that this ruler said: "I wish to see the religious differences among my subjects only when they enter their mosques, synagogues, and churches..." Around the beginning and the middle of the nineteenth century it was natural that this policy was thought preferable and practicable for the Ottoman dominions. At that time in Europe the idea of nationalism, through the influence of the French Revolution, accepted as the basis of nationality the French model based on the principle of conscience rather than that of descent and ethnicity. Sultan Mahmud and his successors, self-deceived by this principle which they could not thoroughly comprehend, believed in the possibility of blending, and molding the subjects of the state who were of different ethnicities and faiths into a united nation, by means of freedom, equality, security and fraternity. Some examples which could be observed in the history of the integration of nationalities in Europe also strengthened their conviction. In fact did not the French nationality originate from a compound of German, Celtic, Latin, Greek, and other elements? Were there not many Slavic elements digested in the German nationality? Is not Switzerland a nation despite differences of ethnicity and religion? It is not improbable that these Ottoman statesmen, through an inadequate understanding of the nature of the policies pursued by the Germans and the Italians, who were striving for their political unity at that time, presented these movements as evidence to support the correctness of their policy.

The idea of an Ottoman national unity was observed especially during the time of Ali and Fuat Pasha. Napoleon the Third, the apostle of creating nations according to the French principle of the plebiscite, was the most powerful supporter of these Westernized pashas. The French inspired reforms during the time of Sultan Abdulaziz and the lycee at Galatasaray which this reform symbolized were all results of the time when this system was fashionable.

But when Napoleon and the French Empire fell in 1870-1871 which symbolized the victory of the German interpretation of nationality, that of assuming ethnicity as the basis of nationality, which, I believe, is closer to reality, the policy of Ottoman unity lost its only powerful supporter. It is true that Mithat Pasha was to a degree a follower of the two famous ministers mentioned above but his political program which was more complex in relation to theirs disappeared very quickly. As for the program of present-day Young Ottomans, who pretend to follow the work of Mithat, is very vague. I believe therefore it would not be a mistake if one assumes that the illusion of organizing an Ottoman nation passed away with the French Empire and, like it, can never be revived again.

When the policy of creating an Ottoman nation failed, the policy of Islamism appeared.(2) This idea which the Europeans term Pan-Islamism was recently developed out of Young Ottomanism, namely by a group who partially adopted a policy of forming an Ottoman nation. The point to which many Young Ottoman poets and politicians ultimately arrived, having begun first of all with the slogans "Homeland" and "Ottomanizm" --that is Ottomanizm composed of all the peoples living in the homelands-- was "Islamism." The most influential cause of this metamorphosis was their experience of Europe and their closer observation of Western ideas. When they were in the East they stuffed their heads with the ideas of eighteenth century political philosophy --one of them was a translator of Rousseau-- but they were unable completely to comprehend the importance of ethnicity and religion and especially they were unable to understand completely that the time had passed for creating a new nationality; that the interests, if not desires, of the various elements under the rule of the Ottoman state were not in accordance with such a unity and blending and hence that the application of the French conception of nationality was impossible in the East. When they were in foreign countries, however, they saw their own country with greater clarity from afar, and they were successful in understanding the gradually increasing political importance of religion and ethnicity for the East. As a result they realized that the desire to create an Ottoman nation was an illusion.

Thereupon they became convinced of the necessity to unify completely all Muslim peoples using all possible means, starting first with those living in the Ottoman dominions and then with those living in the remainder of the world, without regard to differences of ethnicity, but taking advantage of their common faith. In accordance with the rule that "religion and nation are one" which every Muslim learns from his earliest years, they believed that it was possible to put all Muslims in the form of a unified nation in the sense given to a nation in recent times. In one respect this would lead to dissolution and separation among the peoples of the Ottoman dominions. Muslim and non-Muslim Ottoman subjects would now be divided. On the other hand, however, this would be the means of uniting all Muslims in an even greater unification and assimilation. This policy, in comparison to the previous policy, was more extensive, or in current terminology, it was world-wide (mondiale). This idea which in the beginning was purely theoretical, appearing only in the press, gradually began as well to have practical application. During the last years of Sultan Abd l-aziz's reign the word Pan- Islamism was frequently heard in diplomatic conversations. The establishment of diplomatic relations with certain Muslim rulers of Asia were undertaken. After the fall of Mithat Pasha, that is after the complete renunciation of the idea officially of creating an Ottoman nation, Sultan Abdulhamid the Second strove to follow this policy. This ruler, in spite of the fact that he was the irreconcilable adversary of the Young Ottomans, was, to a degree, their political disciple. The Young Ottomans, once realizing that the non-Muslim subjects did not want to stay within the Ottoman Commonwealth, even if they were granted complete equality in rights and freedom, had begun to express their enmity toward these non-Muslim subjects and towards their Christian protectors. The present-day policy of the Padisah exhibits a striking resemblance to Young Ottoman ideas after this change in their outlook. (3)

The present-day ruler tried to substitute the religious title of Caliph for the terms Sultan and Padisah. In his general policies, religion, i.e. the religion of Islam, held an important place. In the curricula of the secular schools the time allotted to religious instruction was increased; the basis of education was religious. Religiosity and pietism --even if it were external and hypocritical-- became the most important means for attracting the protection of the Caliphal favor. The imperial residence of Yildiz was filled with hojas, imams, seyyids, sheikhs, and sherifs. It became a custom to appoint men with turbans to certain civil posts. Preachers were sent among the people to inspire firmness in religion, strong loyalty to the office of the Caliphate --to the person who occupied that office rather than the office itself-- and hatred against the non- Muslim peoples. Everywhere tekkes, zaviyehs, and jamis were built and repaired. Hajis won great importance. During the pilgrimage season, pilgrims passing through the city of the Caliphate were honored by the blessing and favor of the Ruler of the Muslims. Their religious allegiance and loyalty of heart to the office of the Caliphate was sought. In recent years envoys have been sent to the countries of Africa and China thickly populated by Muslims. One of the best means of carrying out this policy has been the building of the Hamidiye-Hijaz Railway. Yet with this political policy the Ottoman Empire resumed the form of a theocratic state that it had tried to abandon in the period of the Tanzimat. It now became necessary [for the state] to renounce all freedom, the freedom of conscience, thought and political freedom, as well as religious, ethnic, political and cultural equality. Consequently, it was necessary to say farewell to an European-type constitutional government; to accept an increase of the already existing enmities and antipathies arising out of the diversity of ethnicities, religions and social positions, which ultimately led to an increase of revolts and rebellions, as well as to an upsurge in Europe of enmity against the Turk. In fact that is just what occurred.(4)

The idea to bring about a policy of Turkish nationalism based on ethnicity is very recent. I do not think this idea existed in either the Ottoman Empire up to now nor in other former Turkish states. Although L on Cahun, the partisan historian of Chinggis and Mongols, has written that this great Turkish Khan conquered Asia from end-to-end with the ultimate intention to unite all the Turks. I am unable to say anything concerning the historical authenticity of this assertion. Furthermore, I have not encountered any trace concerning the existence of an idea to unite the Turks during the Tanzimat and in the Young Ottoman movements. Probably the late Vefik Pasha, when he showed interest in a pure Turkish language by writing his Dictionary, was fascinated for a while with this utopian idea. It is true, nevertheless, that recently in Istanbul a circle, scientific rather than political, has been founded to pursue the idea of Turkish nationalism. It seems to me that an increase in the relations between the Ottomans and the Germans, and the growing acquaintance among Turkish youth of the German language and especially the historical and philological studies done by the Germans, have been very influential in the formation of this circle. In this new group, rather than the light, frivolous, and political style characterized by the French tradition, there exists a soundly-based science which has been obtained quietly, patiently, and in a detailed fashion. The most prominent members of this group are Semseddin Sami, Mehmet Emin, Necip Asim, Velet Celebi, and Hasan Tahsin; while Ikdam, up to a point, seems to be their organ. The movement is developing rather slowly because the present-day government apparently does not look with favor on this mode of thinking.(5)

I do not know whether followers of this idea exist in places other than Istanbul in the Ottoman Empire. Yet Turkism, just like Islamism, is a general policy. It is not limited to the borders of the Ottoman Empire. Consequently it is necessary to look at the other parts of the world inhabited by the Turks. In Russia, where most of the Turks live, I know of the existence in a very vague form of the idea of the unity of the Turks. The nascent Idil literature is more Turkish than Muslim in character. If external pressure had not existed, the regions of Turkistan, Yayik and Idil, wherein the great majority of the Turks are found, could have provided a more favorable environment than the Ottoman dominions for the flourishing of this idea. This idea may also exist among the Caucasian Turks. Although the Caucasian Turks have had an intellectual influence on the Azerbaijan Turks, I do not know to what degree the Turks of Northern Iran have embraced the idea of Turkish unity. In any case the formulation of a policy of nationalism based on ethnicity is still in its infancy and not widespread.


Now let us investigate which one of these three policies is useful and practicable.

We said useful, but useful to whom and to what purpose? To this question only our natural instincts, in other words our sentiments which reason is still unable to analyze and justify, can give an answer. "I am an Ottoman, a Muslim, and a Turk. Therefore I wish to serve the interests of the Ottoman state, Islam, and all Turks." But are the interests of these three societies, which are political, religious, and ethnic, common? That is to say does the strengthening of one imply the strengthening of the others?

The interests of the Ottoman state are not contrary to the interests of Muslims and Turks in general, inasmuch as both Muslim and Turkish subjects would become powerful by its gaining power, and at the same time other Muslims and Turks [outside] will also have support.

But the interests of Islam do not completely coincide with Ottoman and Turkish interests, because the strengthening of Islam would lead in the end to the separation of some non-Muslim peoples from the state. The rise of the conflicts between the Muslims and the non-Muslims would lead to a partition of the present-day Ottoman commonwealth and its weakening.(6)

As for the interests of the Turks, they also do not completely coincide with the interests of the Ottoman state or with Islam, since the division of Islamic society into Turkish and non-Turkish parts, will weaken it, with the result that this would release discord among the Ottoman Muslim subjects and lead to a weakening of the Ottoman Empire.

Therefore a person belonging to each of the three societies must work for the interests of the Ottoman state. Yet in which one of these three policies, which we are discussing, lies the interest of the Ottoman state itself? And which one of these is practicable in the Ottoman Commonwealth? III The creation of an Ottoman Nation is the sole means for preserving the Ottoman Empire within its present-day borders. Yet, does the real strength of the Ottoman state lie in its preservation within its present-day geographical form?

In the case of an Ottoman nation, it is believed that a composite nation will come into existence from among the various religions and ethnic groups based upon liberty and legal equality. They [the people] will be united only by the ideas of homeland (The Ottoman Dominions) and nation (The Ottoman Nation). The conflicts and animosities arising from religious and ethnic differences will cease, and in this fashion the Greeks and Armenians, like the Arabs will be fused into a unity. The Ottoman Turks who are the basic foundation of the Ottoman state will be content with the spiritual benefits of attributing the name of Osman Bey, their first leader, to their homeland and nation and especially by seeing the empire which came into existence through the efforts of their ancestors not partitioned any further. Perhaps they may even be forced to drop this name altogether because in this free state, in which the former conquered peoples constitute a majority, the name "Ottoman," which to them is a symbol of their former subjugation, may be abolished by their will!

The Ottoman Turks may continue their actual predominance for a limited duration of time thanks to their sovereignty exercised through past centuries, yet it must be remembered that the duration of the force of inertia in the social realm is no more than the one observed in the realm of nature.

As for the generality of Muslims who live in the Ottoman nation, since they will constitute the majority, the complete power of rulership in the administration of the state will pass into their hands. Consequently, if it is recognized that spiritually and materially the Islamic element will derive the greatest benefit from this composite society, then we also must admit that in this Ottoman nation religious conflicts remain, a real equality does not exist and the various elements have not truly been merged into one.

To say that in the creation of the Ottoman Nation the Turkish and Muslim population and their power will not be increased is not to say that the power of the Ottoman state will be decreased. Nevertheless our basic question is the power of the state. Power will certainly be increased. The people of a state organized in a rational, closely-knit fashion, in short, as a block, rather than being in the state of continuous disputes and conflict (anarchy), will certainly be more powerful. But the basic problem is whether or not the elements belonging to different ethnicities and religions which up to now have never ceased being in conflict and contention with one another can now be united and assimilated? We have seen above that experiments of this nature in the past have ended in failures: in order to understand henceforth whether or not success is possible, let us survey the causes of this failure.

1. Muslims, and especially Ottoman Turks, did not themselves wish this combination and assimilation. Such a policy would have put an end legally to their six hundred year-old sovereignty, and they would descend to the level of equality with reayas whom they had become accustomed over many years to regard as subjugated peoples. As the most immediate and material result of it they would be forced to let the reayas enter the government and army positions that they had customarily monopolized up to that time. In other words, by leaving an occupation looked on as honorable by the aristocratic peoples, they themselves would be forced to enter into trade and industry which they looked down upon and with which they were little acquainted.

2. Likewise, the Muslims did not wish this inasmuch as this powerful religion which looked after the real interests of its followers from a very material and human point of view, did not accept complete legal equality of Muslim and non-Muslim: the Zimmis were to remain always on a secondary level. As for liberty, although it is true from every aspect that Islam, among all the religions, has been the most liberal, nevertheless as a religion, having its origin in the supernatural, it regards every custom not entirely of its own principles and customs, derived [as they are] from absolute truths, as contrary to the true path. It would not accept, therefore, merely for the goal of human happiness, complete freedom of thought and conscience.

3. The non-Muslims, too, did not want it, because all of them had their own past, their own independence and their own governments in that past which was now being glorified because of the revival of national consciousness. Muslims and especially the Turks had ended their independence and had destroyed their governments. And, under the Ottoman rule, they believed, they had experienced injustice and not justice, contempt and not equality, misery and not happiness. The Nineteenth century had taught them their past, their rights and their nationality on the one hand, and had weakened the Ottomans, their masters on the other. And some of the fellow subjugated peoples had already won their independence. Now their weakened masters are extending their hand of brotherhood unwillingly and hesitantly. They wanted them to share sovereignty; they wanted to equalize the privileges. These invigorated subjects, whose wisdom was now brighter than their masters' and who understood that some of the hands extending towards them were really sincere, did not fail to recognize the role played on the formation of this new policy by the pressure of Western powers, who, for their own interests, sought the maintenance of the integrity of the Ottoman Empire. The interests of some of them were probably with the idea of the Ottoman nation, yet they were also prone to exalted emotions rather than cool calculations. Thus, literally none of them wanted to form a new national unity by letting themselves merge with those whom they looked upon as their enemies.

4. The greatest enemy of the Ottomans, Russia, as well as its satellites, the Balkan states, also did not want it. Russia wanted to get possession of the Straits [Bosphorus and Dardanelles], Anatolia, and Iraq, Istanbul and the whole of Balkans, the Holy Lands, and thus to realize its political, economic, national and religious aims. By occupying the Straights, Russia would obtain a large and protected port for its naval fleet, freely roam the important trade routes of the Mediterranean. From that position, Russia could, at any time, ambush the British Naval and commercial fleets, the caravans of our time, thereby at will could sever the British lines of communication with her wealthiest colony. In short, Russia could flank India, which it has coveted for a long time, again, this time from the West. By occupying Anatolia, Russia would be in a position totally to control the most fertile and productive continent on earth. By expanding into Iraq, Russia would complete its conquest of Asia, thus tilting the age old competition with Britain for the control of the Islamic holy-lands and populations in its own favor. As a result, by gaining the Straits and a substantial portion of Ottoman Asia, Russia would reap important political and economic benefits.

By annexing the Balkans to its already wide lands, [Russians would] unify the South Slavs, and by planting the Cross on St. Sophia, gain control of the lands from which the Russian Orthodox religion originated. This would allow the extremely devout Russians, to claim with all their hearts, their highest religious and emotional objectives.

The realization of these aims depended upon a weak, troubled and divided Ottoman state. Therefore, Russia could never tolerate the rise of an Ottoman nationality.

Then, those Serbian and Greek states, which had recently gained political life, would want to increase [sic] their populations "that have been left under the yoke of the Turks." This could only be attained by segregating the Ottoman communities. They would have strived towards that [objective]. 5. The idea was not well received in some sections of European public opinion. Some of those who manipulated European public opinion were still under the influence of the age-old religious quarrel between Christianity and Islam. They were still following the tradition of the Crusades. They wanted to rescue the Christians from the Muslim yoke, to clear the infidels out of Europe and the lands of the Christians. Some of them, giving a more humane and scientific color to their claims, wanted not only to rescue the "European nations capable of progress" from the yoke of the half-barbarian Turanians who knew nothing but waging warfare, but also to push these Asiatics back to the deserts of the continent from which they originated. Frequently these two theses became mixed and confused with each other so that it was not clear which one was derived from the other.

We see, therefore, that in spite of the desires of all peoples living in the Ottoman lands and in spite of all external obstacles, only a few persons who were at the top of the Ottoman government wanted to create an Ottoman nationality simply by relying upon the support of certain European governments (especially of the France of Napoleon III)! It was an impossible task. Even if these men at the top were great geniuses, it would not in the least have been possible to overcome so many obstacles. In fact, their efforts ended in failure.

Those obstacles have not decreased since then. On the contrary they have become more numerous. Abdulhamid's policy increased the enmity and the gulf between the Muslims and the non-Muslims. Additional numbers of non-Muslim peoples were getting their independence and this doubled the enthusiasm of the others. Russia increased its power and became more aggressive. European public opinion turned more bitterly against the Turks. France, the most powerful supporter of the idea of Ottoman nationality, lost its greatness and became a follower of Russia. In short, both inside and outside, the conditions became more and more unfavorable to the scheme. It seems, therefore, that from now on to follow the policy of Ottomanism is nothing more than a waste of time.

Now let us see if the policy of Pan-Islam is beneficial and practicable for the Ottoman state.

As has been alluded above, the application of this policy would increase the already existing rivalries and animosities among the peoples of the Empire and thus would mean the weakening of the state. Moreover, the Turks would find themselves separated into Muslims and non-Muslims and thus the common affinity based on ethnicity would be destroyed by religious conflicts.

Against such disadvantages, however, this policy had the advantage of unifying all Muslims, and consequently the Turks, would create an Islamic Commonwealth more solid and compact than the unity of the Ottoman nation. More important than this, it would prepare the ground for the rise of a larger unity, based on religion, which would be able to survive alongside the great powers arising out of Anglo-Saxon, Germanic, Slavic, Latin and perhaps Sino blocs.

The realization of this ultimate aim would undoubtedly take a long time. In the beginning it would suffice to strengthen the already existing spiritual relations and to set down the outlines of future organization. But gradually the outlines will begin to take a more clear and definite form, and then it would be possible to create a stable spiritual unity extending over the greater part of Asia and half of Africa which would serve to challenge the above mentioned great and formidable blocks. But is it possible to pursue this policy in the Ottoman lands successfully?

Islam is one of the religions which puts much importance on political and social affairs. One of its tenets may be formulated by the saying that "religion and nation are the same." Islam abolishes ethnic and national loyalties of those who embrace it. It also tends to do away with their language, their past and their traditions. Islam is a powerful melting pot in which peoples of various ethnicities and beliefs, produces Muslims who believe they are a body with the same equal rights. At the rise of Islam there was within it a strong orderly political organization. Its constitution was the Koran. Its official language was Arabic. It had an elected head and a holy seat. However, the changes observable in other religions can be seen in Islam, too. As the result of the influences of ethnicity and various events the political unity achieved by religion became partly disrupted. A century had not even passed since the hijra before the national conflicts between the Arabs and the Persians (taking the form of the struggles between the Umayyads and Hashemites dynasties) had opened an unbridgeable rift in the unity of Islam. It created the great schism between the Sunni and Shii Muslims. Later on various other elements like the Turks and Berbers appeared in addition to the Arabs and the Persians. In spite of the great levelling, assimilating and unifying power of Islam, the unity of the official and religious language, too, disappeared. Persians claimed equality with Arabic. A time came when the power of Islam began to sink to its lowest ebb. Part of the Muslim lands and then gradually a great part of them (more than three fourths) passed under the domination of the Christian states. The unity of Islam became more disrupted. And, in recent times, under the impact of Western ideas ethnic and national feelings which previously had been subsumed by Islam began to show their force.

In spite of all these forces which have weakened the power of Islam, religious beliefs are still very influential. We can safely say that among the Muslims skepticism toward their faith and the doctrine of atheism are not yet wide spread. All followers of Islam still seem to be faithful, enthusiastic, obedient believers, who can face every sacrifice for the sake of their religion. Although the new legislations of some Muslim states have diverged from the sheria of Islam, these states still pretend to maintain the Islamic law as the basis of legislation. Arabic is still the only religious language of science and literature among the Muslims of certain lands. Many Muslim madrasa, with a few exceptions, still teach in Arabic and follow the same scholastic programs. Still many Muslims are saying "Thank God, I am a Muslim," before saying "I am a Turk or an Iranian." Still the majority of the Muslims of the world recognize the Emperor of the Ottoman Turks as their Caliph. Still all Muslims turn their faces to Mecca five times a day and rush from all corners of the world, enthusiastically facing all kinds of difficulties, to the kabah of Allah to kiss the Black Stone. Without hesitating, we can repeat, therefore, that Islam still is very powerful. Thus, it seems that the internal obstacles against the policy of Pan-Islam may more or less easily be overcome. The external obstacles, on the other hand, are very powerful. On the one hand, all of the Islamic states, with one or two exceptions, are under the influence of the Christian states. On the other hand, all of the Christian states, with one or two exceptions, have among their subjects, Muslims.

These states believe that the allegiance of their Muslim subjects, even if this allegiance is only in a spiritual sense, to a foreign political power is contrary to their interests and is something which might prove dangerous in the future. Therefore, these states would naturally use every means within their power to prevent the realization of a Pan-Islamic unity. And, through their influence and might over the Muslim states, they are in a position to prevent it. Therefore, they can follow and eventually succeed in the materialization of a policy contrary to the Pan-Islamic program of the Ottoman government which is the strongest Islamic power today.

Now, let us survey the benefits of the policy of Pan- Turkism (tevhid-i Etrak). By such a policy all Turks living in the Ottoman Empire would be perfectly united by both ethnic and religious bonds and the other non-Turkish Muslim groups who have been already Turkified to a certain extent would be further assimilated. Those who have never been assimilated but at the same time have no national feelings would be entirely assimilated under such a program.

But the main service of such a policy would be to unify all the Turks who, being spread over a great portion of Asia and over the Eastern parts of Europe, belong to the same language groups, the same ethnicity and mostly the same religion. Thus there would be created a greater national political unity among the other great nations. In this greater national unity the Ottoman state as the most powerful, the most progressive and civilized of all Turkish societies, would naturally play an important role. There would be a Turkish world in between the world of the Caucasian and the East Asian ethnicities. Recent events suggest that such a division of the world into two great blocs is imminent. In between these two blocks the Ottoman state could play a role similar to that which is played by Japan among the East Asian ethnicities.

But, over these advantages, there are certain disadvantages which may lead to the partition of the non-Turkish Muslims from the Ottoman Empire. These peoples cannot be assimilated with the Turks and therefore this policy would lead to the division of the Muslims into Turks and non-Turks and thereby to the relinquishment of any serious relations between the Ottoman state and the non-Turkish Muslims.

Moreover, the internal obstacles against this policy are greater in number than those which were unfavorable to the policy of Pan-Islam. For one thing, the Turkish nationalistic ideas which appeared under the influence of Western ideas is still very recent. Turkish nationalism --the idea of the unification of the Turks-- is still a new born child. That strong organization, that living and zealous feeling, in short, those primary elements which create a solid unity among Muslims do not exist in Turkishness (Turkluk). The majority of the Turks today have forgotten their past!

We must remember, however, that a great majority of the present-day Turks who seem to be amenable to unification, are of Muslim religion. For that reason, Islam may be an important factor in the realization of a Turkish unity. Religion is admitted as an important element in various definitions of nationality. Islam, however, to play such a role in the realization of the Turkish nationality has to face a change so that it can admit the existence of the nationalities within itself --a recognition achieved recently in Christianity. And such a transformation is almost inevitable. The dominant current in our contemporary history is that of the nations. Religions as such are increasingly losing their political importance and force. Religion is increasingly becoming less and less social and more and more personal. Freedom of conscience is replacing unity of faith. Religions are renouncing their claims to being the sole director of the affairs of the communities and they are becoming spiritual forces leading hearts towards salvation. Religion is nothing more than a moral bond between the Creator and the created. Religions, therefore, if they are to maintain any of their social and political importance can do so by becoming a helper and even a hand-maiden to the national unities.(7) External obstacles against the realization of the Turkish unification, on the other hand, are less strong in comparison with those working against Pan-Islamism. Among the Christian states only power to work against this policy will be Russia. As to the other Christian governments, they may even encourage this policy because they will find it against the interests of Russia. The following conclusions seem to emerge from our discussion. The policy of Ottoman nationality, though implying many advantages for the Ottoman state, seems to be impracticable. Other policies aiming at the unification of the Muslims or of the Turks, on the other hand, seem to imply advantages and disadvantages of almost equal weight. As to the practicability of these two policies, we see likewise that the favorable and the unfavorable conditions are equal.

Which one, then, should be followed? When I saw the name of your paper Turk, an uncommon name to be used [by the Ottomans], I hoped to find in your columns an answer to this question which used to occupy me continuously and I hoped that this answer would be in favor of the policy of Turkism. But, I see that the "Turk" whose rights you are defending, the "Turk" whom you are trying to enlighten and move is not anyone of that great ethnicity who live in the lands of Asia, Africa, and Europe, extending from Central Asia to Montenegro, from Timor Peninsula to the Karalar Ili[?], but he is just one of the Western Turks who is a subject of the Ottoman state. Your paper Turk knows and sees this "Turk" only as a Turk living from the Fourteenth century and whose history is known only through the eyes of the French historians. You are trying to defend the rights of only the "Turk" against the pressures of the foreign nations and the non-Muslim and Muslim peoples who are subjects of the same [Ottoman] state but who belong to a different [non-Turkish] ethnicity. For your paper Turk, the military, political and civil history of the Turks is nothing but the history of Murat the First, Mehmet the Conqueror, Selim the First, Ibn Kemal, Nef'i, Baki, Evliya Celebi and Namik Kemal. It does not and cannot be extended to the names of Oghuz, Chinggis, Timur, Ulugh Bey, Farabi, Ibn Sina, Taftazani and Navai. Sometimes your opinions seems somewhat close to the policy of Pan-Islam and the Caliphate leaving the impression that you are supporting the policies of Pan-Islamism and Turkism at the same time. You implicitly seem to believe that both groups being Muslims have common interests on vital questions. But you do not even insist upon this view.(8)

In short, the question which is in my thoughts and inviting an answer is still unanswered. The question is: of the three policies of Islamism and Turkism (Turkluk) which one is the more beneficial and practicable for the Ottoman state?

Yusuf Akcura
Village of Zoya, Russia
15 (28) March 1904

Akcura's Notes

(1) Although it can be claimed that this policy had been followed in a natural fashion by certain Ottoman rulers up to the time of Selim I, it was not because of imitating Europe. Rather, it originated from the needs of the time and from the fact that Islam was not yet well established. Consequently it is not relevant to our discussion.

(2) This policy had been followed several centuries before by the Ottomans. Bayazit the Lightening, Mehmet the Conqueror, and Mehmet Sokollu pursued this idea. The desire to unify the world of Islam is obvious in almost every action of Selim I. These periods, however, do not fall within the scope of this article. (3) It must not be forgotten that this article was written over seven years ago. [Editor's Note to the 1912 re-print].

(4) My intention must not be misunderstood. There are several reasons for the hostility which exists among the diverse peoples and the conflicts between Europe and the Ottoman Empire. The cause I have mentioned above forms only one of several varied causes.

(5) If I am not mistaken the government did not permit publication of the second volume of the Turkish History [which this group prepared].

(6) Because the non-Muslim Turks are very few [in number], this last danger is not important.

(7) Examples are: the Orthodox church in Russia, Protestantism in Germany, Anglicanism in England and Catholicism in various countries.

(8) "Makam-i Celil-i Hilafet" Turk, 18 Kanunevvel 1319 (1903).

About the Life of Yusuf Akcura

David Thomas

Akcura was born in 1876 in Simbirsk (Ulyanovsk) on the right bank of the middle Volga. His father died when he was two; five years later he and his mother emigrated to Istanbul where henceforth he was to live. He received his early education in the schools of the Ottoman Empire and in 1895 he entered the Harbiye Mektebi (War College) in Istanbul. Upon graduation he was assigned to the Erkan-i Harbiye (General Staff Course), one of the most prestigious posts for young and ambitious cadets and one of the essential steps up the ladder of the Ottoman military hierarchy. Before he completed his training, however, he was accused of belonging to a secret society opposed to Abdulhamid and was sent into exile at Fezan in the interior of Libya, from where, in 1899, he and Ahmet Ferit [Tek], his close friend since their days together in the War College, escaped and made their way to Paris.

Akcura remained in Paris four years. It was a period which exerted a decisive influence on his thinking and which was to turn him completely away from a military career and reorient him for the remainder of his life toward intellectual and academic pursuits. He was given the opportunity to gain first-hand experience of European, specifically French culture, and to perfect his knowledge of French. At this time he became politically conscious and began to understand the motive forces and power of nationalism.

In 1903 Akcura left Paris and returned to his ancestral home in the Russian domains where he composed what was to become his best known work, THREE TYPES OF POLICIES. In this essay which appeared in 1904 in the paper Turk published in Cairo, Ackura advanced a number of arguments which, when taken together, were in fact a proposal to the Turks of the Ottoman Empire, urging them to recognize their national aspirations, to forget about being Ottomans and to adopt a policy of Turkish nationalism as the focus of their collective loyalty and identity. For their time these ideas were revolutionary. Among the Ottoman Turks they were either universally ignored or rejected and it was only during the period of the Second Mesrutiyet (Constitutional Monarchy) (1908-1918) that these notions were taken seriously and elaborated by Akcura and others into an ideology of Turkish nationalism.

In pursuit of this, Akcura founded the journal TURK YURDU which, from 1911 to 1917, became the foremost publication in the Turkish cultural world advancing the cause of nationalism "for all the Turks of the world." In it, Akcura elaborated his own comprehensive doctrine of Turkism which was radically different from that advanced by G kalp. His ideology of Turkish nationalism was distinguished by its definition of the Turkish nation in terms of ethnicity, its recognition that the Turks must develop a national economy to sustain national consciousness and its insistence on reform of all institutions of Turkish society in accordance with a program of total Westernization.

In the Turkish Republic, Akcura assumed a position of intellectual leadership. He continued to influence the ideological evolution of the new Turkish political entity, the Turkish Republic, through his position as an influential university professor and popular teacher, and through his ideas on the writing of history as well as his historical studies. He died in Istanbul in 1935.