One very nasty Western tendency has been fully embraced and fostered in Turkey: ethnic nationalism. The Armenians had already been exterminated by the progressive, Western-oriented “Young Turks” before the accession of Ataturk, and the ever dwindling Greeks have a very hard time. They are allowed to live only in the small European part of Turkey, and Greek citizens cannot settle in Anatolia (Asia Minor). How things have changed! In 1925 Istanbul harbored more Greeks, Armenians, Jews, Russians, and Levantines than Turks.

This strong ethnocentric nationalism has a lot to do with the Turks’ search for an identity. One school of thought, Turanianism, emphasizes the relationship between the Osmanic Turks and the Turkish populations in the Caucasus and Central Asia (sometimes even with the Hungarians). Certain Turkish intellectuals consider Islam to be the great obstacle in the way of the country’s development and claim that it can even be styled as unpatriotic; yet Islam is, at present, gaining strength here as elsewhere. There are Turks who “identify” with the Hittites, whose monuments are given much greater attention than the Greek ones.

Ataturk unfortunately never understood that the externals of Western civilization are not workable without their profound spiritual foundations. Islamic tradition was traumatized by his revolution, but Christianity was not admitted in its place. Turkey was to become a country of progressive, enlightened, practical, diligent middle-of-the-roaders with all the civic virtues, bent on the pursuit of happiness. But the Turks are not eighteenth-century deists, and the spiritual vacuum was soon filled by neo-Islamic revivalism and even more by rightist as well as leftist passions leading to terrorism. The democratic republic was not a huge success, and the history of Turkey is one of intermittent dictatorships. At present it can be called a democracy, though not a liberal one.

Erik von Kuehnelt Leddihn, “The Turks are Coming!” (National Review, Feb 27, 1986)


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