Site hosted by Build your free website today!

Edited by  H. B. Paksoy

Table of Contents:

H. B. Paksoy "Ibadinov's Kuyas Ham Alav"
Peter B. Golden (Rutgers) "Codex Comanicus"
Richard Frye (Harvard) "Narshaki's The History of Bukhara"
Robert Dankoff (Chicago) "Adab Literature"
Uli Schamiloglu (Wisconsin-Madison) "Umdet ul Ahbar"
Kevin Krisciunas (Joint Astronomy Centre) "Ulug Beg's Zij"
Audrey Altstadt (UMass-Amherst) "Bakikhanli's Nasihatlar"
Edward J. Lazzerini (New Orleans) "Gaspirali's Tercuman"
David S. Thomas (Rhode Island) "Akcura's Uc Tarz-i Siyaset"

ISBN: 975-428-033-9
Library of Congress Card Catalog: DS329.4 .C46 1992
173 Pp. (paperback)  US$20 

ISIS Press

Isis Press
Semsibey Sokak 10
81210 Beylerbeyi Istanbul
Phone: +90 + 216 321 38 51
FAX: +90 + 216 321 86 66


Please refer to the printed version for the footnotes

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 laziz'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 renounceall 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
      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? 


     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
      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
      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 ben 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
      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
      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 T rk 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 T
rk, 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

(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, Protestanizm in
Germany, Anglicanism in England and Catholicism in various

(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 T rk published in Cairo, Ak ura
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
      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.

This counter has been placed here on 04 March 1999