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The Formation of Contemporary Turkey: Kemalism and Its Competitors


Admission requirements

Admission to an MA programme at Leiden University, in particular the MA Middle Eastern Studies, specialisation Turkish Studies or to the Research Master Middle Eastern Studies. Proficient reading skills in modern Turkish (level B2 European Common Framework). Students who are interested in taking this course, but who are not admitted to a Leiden MA programme and/or are not sure whether they meet the language requirement are requested to contact the convener, Prof.dr. Erik-Jan Zürcher.


The course takes the historical legacy of the early Kemalist republic (the one-party state between 1923 and 1945) as a starting point to discuss and analyze major issues that played a dominant role in the history of contemporary Turkey. The course initially discusses the formation of a new hegemony and a new historic block after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in 1922. After discussing the legacy of the Young Turk movement and the process of establishment of the Kemalist hegemony in 1930s, it discusses the struggle of the remnants of the Kemalist regime to retain control after the first democratic elections in 1950. The course discusses the Kemalist struggle for power with newly emerging political forces by placing the repeated military interventions in post-war Turkey (1960, ’62, ’63, ’71, ’80, ’97 and 2007) in the context of the major events of each respective intervention period. Finally the course discusses the emergence political Islam and of the AKP as the dominant political actor in Turkey after 2002. It asks if the recent developments can be considered as the signs of the emergence and the establishment of a new hegemony and a new historic block. This last session of the course is designed to be rather open-ended and discussion oriented given the ever-changing dynamics of contemporary Turkey.

Course objectives

The course aims to expose students to the major issues in contemporary Turkey by following a chronological and also a thematic framework. It aims to give them the state of the art knowledge of the field and the ability to engage with the topics critically. Each week the students are expected to have read the relevant reading material consisting of both secondary literature and primary source material. The first half of each course consists of a lecture and the second half relies on student presentations and a discussion session. This way the course aims to create a healthy discussion environment in which the students are well equipped about what they are expected to discuss. Students that finish this course by fulfilling its requirements will be well informed about the dynamics and history of modern Turkey.



Mode of Instruction

  • Seminar

Course Load

Assessment method

The final grade of this course will be composed of the following elements:

  • In-class participation and preparedness (20%)

  • Presentation on a course related topic in class (20%)

  • Term paper rough-draft (10%)

  • 5000-word essay (term paper) (50%)


  • Students who earn a mark lower than 6 owing to insufficient participation, including the presentation, will have to sit a written examination on the subjects discussed during the course. The result will contribute 50% to the final mark.

  • Students who do not deliver a term paper on time will automatically fail the course.

  • Attendance: Students are allowed to miss a maximum of two classes, provided they have a valid reason. Students, who miss more than two classes, are required to resit the course.


Blackboard will be used for internal communication and the distribution of additional reading and/or source material.


Registration via uSis.

Course schedule and reading materials

Below are the details of the course schedule and the relevant reading material. Lectures follow a chronological sequence and discuss the major topics in contemporary Turkey from 1920s to early 2010s. The readings are selected in order to present critical academic discussion on the relevant topic and to expose students to some primary material about that topic. Please be informed that all the reading material listed under the categories of “Secondary Texts” and “Primary Sources” are mandatory to read. In addition to that, students are required to independently read chapters 12-15 of E.J. Zürcher, _Turkey. A Modern History- by way of preparation for the course. Please remember that student reactions to the texts and lively in-class participation constitute % 20 of your overall grade. Therefore we strongly encourage students to read all mandatory materials before they come to the classes. It is not required to read the “Optional Text(s)”, they are included to encourage further discussion.

All listed lectures are scheduled on Fridays between 10.00-13.00.

Students are required to attend all classes, read the assigned material, expose themselves to the primary material, participate in the discussion sessions and complete the assigned workload of the course. Students are expected to critically engage with the course material.

Schedule and Readings:

Week 1: 7th of February

Introduction Class

Dedicated to the discussion of course logistics, aims and material and to handing out the assignments.

Week 2: 14th of February

Lecture: The Kemalist Legacy Part I: The Human Landscape (Elites and Masses)

Secondary texts:

  • Richard Robinson, The First Turkish Republic, (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1963), 34-64.

  • Cem Behar, Osmanlı İmparatorluğu’nun ve Türkiye’nin Nüfusu 1500-1927, Vol:2, (Ankara: Devlet İstatistik Enstitüsü Matbaası, 1996), 50-65.

Primary texts and materials:

  • Mahmut Makal, A Village in Anatolia, trans. from Turkish by Sir Wyndham Deedes, (London: Vallentine and Mitchell, 1965), 1-21.

  • Nazım Hikmet Ran, “Memleketimden İnsan Manzaraları”, in Bütün Şiirleri, (İstanbul: Yapı Kredi Yayınları, 2008), 963-978.

  • Murat Bardakçı, Talât Paşa’nın Evrak-ı Metrukesi,(İstanbul: Everest Yayınları, 2008), 35-47.

  • Max Weston Thornburg, Graham Spry and George Soule, Turkey: An Economic Appraisal, (New York: The Twentieth Century Fund, 1949), 43-52, 127-131.

  • Ottoman Population Charts for 1914, Online source on Blackboard.

Week 3: 21nd of February

Lecture: The Kemalist Legacy Part II: Politics and State

Secondary texts:

  • Metin Heper, The State Tradition in Turkey, (Walkington, England: The Eothen Press, 1985), 48-75.

  • Eric Hobsbawm, Age of Extremes, The Short Twentieth Century 1914-1991, (London: Abacus, 1995), 1-17.

  • Mark Mazower, Dark Continent: Europe’s Twentieth Century, (London: The Penguin Press, 1998), 40-76.

Primary texts:

  • Recep Peker’in Program Açıklaması 1935. Source: Taha Parla, Türkiye’de Siyasal Kültürün Resmi Kaynakları, Vol: 3 Kemalist Tek Parti Ideolojisi ve CHP’nin Altı Oku, (İstanbul: İletişim, 1991), 124-138.

  • Celal Bayar, Refik Koraltan, Adnan Menderes, Fuat Köprülü, Dörtlü Takrir (7 June 1945).

Week 4: 28th of February

Lecture: The Kemalist Legacy Part III: Economic Legacy

Secondary texts:

  • Zvi Yehuda Hershlag, “Some lessons of Etatist policies”, in Turkey: The Challenge of Growth, (Leiden: Brill, 1968), 123-143.

  • Şevket Pamuk, “Intervention during the Great Depression, Another Look at Turkish Experience”, in S. Pamuk and Jeffrey Williamson (eds.), The Mediterranean Response to Globalization Before 1950, (London and New York: Routledge Press, 2000), 321-339.

  • Rıfat N. Bali, Cumhuriyet Yıllarında Türkiye Yahudileri: Bir Türkleştirme Serüveni 1923-1945, (İstanbul: İletişim Yayınları, 2000), 450-464.

Primary texts and materials:

  • CHP promoted Milli Korunma Kanunu (1940) text.

  • Faik Ökte, Varlık Vergisi Faciası, (İstanbul: Nebioğlu Yayınevi, 1951), 205-215.

  • Max Weston Thornburg, Graham Spry and George Soule, Turkey An Economic Appraisal, (New York: The Twentieth Century Fund, 1949), 205-255.

  • Various photographs from 1950s Turkey. Online source on Blackboard.

Week 5: 7th of March

Lecture: The Kemalist Legacy Part IV: Culture

Secondary texts:

  • Sibel Bozdoğan, Modernism and Nation Building / Turkish Architectural Culture in the Early Republic, (Seattle and London, University of Washington Press, 2001), 56-79.

  • Duygu Kacar, “Ankara, A small town, Transformed to a Nation’s Capital”, in Journal of Planning History, 9:43, (2010), 43-65.

Primary texts and materials:

  • Mihri Pektaş, “Turkish Women”, in La Turquie Kemaliste, Vol. 32-40, (1939-1940), 10-14.

  • “Le visage Turc” and “Ankara Construit”, in La Turquie Kemaliste, Vol. 25-26, (1938), 25-30.

  • An online image archive of architectural forms in Turkey:

Week 6: 14th of March

Lecture: Kemalist Secularism and its Opponents

Secondary texts:

  • Umut Azak, Islam and Secularism in Turkey / Kemalism, Religion and the Nation State, (New York, I.B Tauris, 2010), 61-82 (45-58, optional reading).

  • Amit Bein, Ottoman Ulema, Turkish Republic: Agents of Change and Guardians of Tradition, Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 2011), 136-153.

  • Andrew Davison and Taha Parla, Corporatist Ideology in Kemalist Turkey / Progress or Order?, (New York, Syracuse University Press, 2004),100-125.

Primary texts:

  • Necip Fazil Kısakurek, “Ayasofya Hitabesi.”

  • Mehmet Akif Ersoy, İstiklâl Marşı. Online source on Blackboard.

Week 7: 21th of March

Lecture: The Cold War and the Turkish Armed Forces

Secondary texts:

  • Ümit Cizre, “Ideology, context and interest: the Turkish military”, in The Cambridge History of Turkey vol. 4, Turkey in the Modern World, ed. by Reşat Kasaba, (Cambridge History Online: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 301-332.

  • Mehmet Ali Birand, Emret Komutanım, (İstanbul: Milliyet Yayınları, 1986), 423-450.

  • Ayşe Gül Altınay, The Myth of the Military-Nation / Militarism, Gender, and Education in Turkey, (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004), 13-33. (Optional reading).

Primary texts:

  • Adnan Menderes’ speech about Turkey and NATO, 1957.

  • Nazım Hikmet Ran, “Kore’de Ölen bir Yedek Subayımızın Menderes’e Söyledikleri / Diyet”, in Bütün Şiirleri, (İstanbul: Yapı Kredi Yayınları, 2008), 1690-1692.

  • Fethi Tevetoğlu, “Başvekil Saraçoğlu Şükrü’ye açık mektub”, in Türkiye’de Sosyalist ve Komünist Faâliyetler, (Ankara: Ayyıldız Matbaası, 1967), 607-612.

Week 8: 4th of April

Rough Draft Due Date. 5th of April is the due date for the term paper rough-drafts. Please bring your print outs to the classroom and send them to instructors email addresses on the same day.

Lecture: “Democrats” and the First Military Coup, 1960

Secondary texts:

  • Kemal Karpat, Turkey’s Politics / The Transition to a Multiparty System, (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1959), 442-460.

  • Frederick W. Frey, The Turkish Political Elite, (Cambridge, Massachusetts: M.I.T Press, 1965), 348-383.

  • Walter F. Weiker, The Turkish Revolution 1960-1961, Aspects of Military Politics, (Washington: The Brookings Institution, 1963), 64-80.

  • William Hale, “Turkey: The role of military in politics”, in Turkey in the Twentieth Century, ed. Erik-Jan Zürcher, (Berlin: Klaus Schwarz Verlag, 2008), 65-87.

  • Tim Jacoby, “For the People, Of the People and by the Military: The Regime Structure of Modern Turkey”, in Political Studies, 51:4, (2003), 669-685. (Optional reading)

Primary texts and materials:

  • Party Propaganda Posters of 1960 elections.

  • “Demokrat Parti’nin 1951 Büyük Kongresinde Başkan Adnan Menderes tarafından okunan faaliyet raporu” (16th of October 1951), in Tarık Zafer Tunaya, Türkiye’de Siyasi Partiler, (İstanbul: Doğan Kardeş Yayınları,1952), 685-687.

  • Sadık Balkan, Ahmet E. Uysal and Kemal Karpat trans., Constitution of the Turkish Republic, Ankara, 1961. See the web page for the document:

Week 9: 11th of April

Lecture: The Center Right, The Center Left and the Cyprus Question

Secondary texts:

  • Feroz Ahmad, “Military intervention, institutional restructuring, and ideological politics, 1960-1971,” in The Making of Modern Turkey, (London and New York: Routledge, 1993), 121-147.

  • James Ker-Lindsay, The Cyprus Problem: What Everyone Needs to Know, (Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), 25-44.

Primary texts

  • Correspondence between USA and Turkey on the Cyprus Question: Johnson’s letter and İsmet İnönü’s response.

  • Cypriot Constitutional Clauses on the British, Turkish and Greek guarantees.

Week 10: 25th of April

Lecture: The Left, PKK and “Our Boys”, 1971, 1980

Secondary texts:

  • Özgür Mutlu Ulus, “The Attitudes of the Radical Left in Turkey Towards the Army, 1960-1971”,(Unpublished PhD diss., Leiden University, 2007), 226-247.

  • Hamit Bozarslan, “Kurds and the Turkish state”, in The Cambridge History of Turkey vol. 4, Turkey in the Modern World, ed. by Reşat Kasaba, (Cambridge History Online: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 333-357.

Primary texts and materials:

  • Leftists’ Pamphlets against the visit of the USA 6th Fleet in Istanbul.

  • Various pamphlets and posters of radical groups in 60s and 70s.

  • Various pictures of the Kurdish movements and two party programs of PKK.

  • Coup declarations of the Military in 1971 an 1980. All are online sources on Blackboard.

Week 11: 1th of May

Lecture: From Import Substitution to Free Market Liberalism

Secondary texts:

  • Öniş, Ziya, “Turgut Özal and his Economic Legacy: Turkish Neo-Liberalism in Critical Perspective”, in Middle Eastern Studies, 40:4, (2004), 113-134.

  • Şevket Pamuk, “Turkey 1946-1990”, in A History of Middle East Economies in the Twentieth Century, ed. Roger Owen & Şevket Pamuk, (London and New York, I.B. Tauris, 1998), 104-126.

Primary texts:
Özal speech and Türk-İş speech on economic policies. Online source on Blackboard.

Week 12: 8th of May

Lecture: Milli Görüş and the “Post-modern Coup”, 1997

Secondary texts:

  • M. Hakan Yavuz, The National Outlook movement and the rise of the Refah Party in Islamic Political Identity in Turkey, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), 207-239.

  • İsmail Çağlar, “Good and Bad Muslims, Real and Fake Seculars / Center-Periphery Relations and Hegemony in Turkey through the February 28 and April 27 Process”, (Unpublished PhD diss., Leiden University, 2013), 50-66.

Primary texts:

  • Milli Nizam Partisi party program, (İstanbul: Haktanır Basımevi).

Week 13: 15th of May

Lecture: Ergenekon, Balyoz, KCK and AKP: A new Hegemony?

Secondary texts:

  • Ümit Cizre, “The Justice and Development Party and the military: Recreating the past after reforming it?”, in Secular and Islamic Politics in Turkey / The making of the Justice and Development Party, ed. by Ümit Cizre, (US and Canada: Routledge, 2008), 132-173.

  • Kenan Çayır, “The emergence of Turkey’s contemporary “Muslim Democrats“”, in Secular and Islamic Politics in Turkey / The making of the Justice and Development Party, ed. by Ümit Cizre, (US and Canada: Routledge, 2008), 62-80.

Primary Texts:

  • AKP party program for 2002 elections.

  • Pınar Doğan and Dani Rodrick, Balyoz: Bir Darbe Kurgusunun Belgeleri ve Gerçekler, (İstanbul: Destek Yayınevi, 2010), 9-17.
    For up to date information on the Balyoz trials and the book see:


Prof.dr. E.J. Zürcher
E. Erol


Students with disabilities

The university is committed to supporting and accommodating students with disabilities as stated in the university protocol (especially pages 3-5). Students should contact Fenestra Disability Centre at least four weeks before the start of their courses to ensure that all necessary academic accomodations can be made in time conform the abovementioned protocol.

Academic Integrity

Students are expected to be familiar with Leiden University policies on plagiarism and academic integrity. Plagiarism will not be tolerated. If you submit any work with your name affixed to it, it is assumed to be your own work with all sources used properly indicated and documented in the text (with quotations and/or citations).