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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.

Course objectives

The course aims to expose students to the major issues in contemporary Turkey by following a chronological and at the same time 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

280 hs = 40 hours in class, 120 hours reading/preparation, 120 hours research/term paper.

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%)

All students are required to submit an abstract of their term paper during the semester. They then hand in the draft version of their paper I the third week of January and get feedback from the teacher. The deadline for the final version of the paper is two weeks after the handing in of the draft.

Students who earn a mark lower than 5.50 (=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.


Students are required to register through uSis. To avoid mistakes and problems, students are strongly advised to register in uSis through the activity number which can be found in the timetable in the column under the heading “Act.nbr.”.


Prof.dr. Erik-Jan Zürcher.


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).