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Contextualising ‘Turkification’: nation-building in the late Ottoman Empire, 1908–18

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This article offers an analytical framework for understanding the peculiarities of the Ottoman Empire's nationality policies in the second constitutional period (1908–18). It will examine the extent to which the nationality policies of the Young Turks can be perceived as a nation-building project, and question whether it is reasonable to apply the term ‘Turkification’ to these policies. The primary goal of the paper in this context is to identify how and to what degree a nationalist outlook shaped imperial polices of the late Ottoman Empire. Engaging in a critical dialogue with the existing historiography, the article argues that ‘Turkification’ should be conceptualised solely as a project of nation-building in the multiethnic Ottoman Empire. It was only one of the policies employed by the imperial elite and it coexisted with other imperial policies ranging from centralisation to decentralisation, assimilation to dissimilation and integration to homogenisation. The paper concludes by contending that only by contextualising and understanding this complexity and only by taking geographical variations into account can the peculiarity of ‘Turkification’ be grasped.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of International Relations, İstanbul Bilgi University, İnönü cad. No. 28, Kuştepe 34387, Şişli-İstanbul, Turkey

Publication date: 01 October 2005

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