Pan-Turkism is a political movement aiming to unite the various Turkic peoples into a modern political state, a confederation, or an economic union closely resembling that of the European Union.


In the research literature, the term "Pan-Turkism" is used to describe the idea of political, cultural and ethnic unity of all Turkic-speaking people. Turanism is a closely related movement but a more general term than Turkism, since Turkism applies only to the Turkic peoples. However, researchers and politicians engaged in the field of Turkic ideology have used these terms interchangeably in a multitude of sources and literature.Iskander Gilyazov, " [ Пантюрκизм, Пантуранизм и Германия] ", magazine "Татарстан" No 5-6, 1995. ru icon] The term "Turkism" started to be used with a prefix "Pan" (from Greek pan = all), for a "Panturkism". [Mansur Hasanov, Academician of Academy of Sciences of Tatarstan Republic, " [ Великий реформатор] ", in magazine "Республика Татарстан" № 96-97 (24393-24394), 17 May 2001. ru icon] While the various Turkic peoples often share historical, cultural and linguistic roots, the rising of a pan-Turkic political movement is a phenomenon only of the 19th and 20th century [ [ Pan-Turkism - Britannica Online Encyclopedia] ] and can be seen in parallel with European developments like Pan-Slavism and Pan-Germanism or with Middle-Eastern Pan-Arabism. Proponents use the latter most often as a point of comparison as the concept of "Turkic" is not a true racial or ethnic description but more of a linguistic and cultural distinction. This is to differentiate it from the term "Turkish" which is more of an ethnic/racial term for the citizens and denizens primarily residing in Turkey. Pan-Turkic ideas and "re-unification" movements have been popular since the collapse of the Soviet Union in Central Asian and other Turkic countries.


In 1804, Tatar theologian Kursavi wrote a treatise calling for Islam’s modernization. Kursavi was a founder of the religious thought of Djadidism (from Arabic al-djadid, which means renewal or reform). The idea of Djadidism was encouragement of critical thinking, as opposed to insistence on unquestioning loyalty. It supported education for Muslims and promoted equality among the sexes; advocated tolerance for other faiths, Turkic cultural unity, and openness to Europe’s cultural legacy.Rafael Khakimov, " [ Taklid and Ijtihad] ", "Russia in Global Affairs", Dec. 2003.] In the 1843 in Kazan was created a movement Djadid. Its aim was a semi-secular modernization and educational reform, and within Djadid for the first time sprout the idea of a national, and not religious identity of the Turks. Before that they were solely Muslim subjects of the Russia, and the Empire continued this attitude to its very collapse.N.N., " [ Полтора Века Пантюрκизма в Турции] ", magazine "Панорама". ru icon]

Following the upsurge in Russian colonization of the Volga area in 1880s, the Islamic social movement Djadidism added motives of national-liberation, but as a result of increase of the imperial tendencies in the Russian internal politics after the 1907 many partisans of Turkic unity immigrated to Turkey. In 1908-1913 Russia enforced the so called “struggle against Pan-Islamist movements among Tatars”. The tsarist secret service used methods of crude lies, provocation, and it times adept falsification to fabricate criminal actions. The secret service ran searches, arrests, and relied on paid informers and fabricated witnesses. Later, the regimes in USSR/Russia, China and Iran adopted the theses and methods developed in imperial Russia for their own internal policies.

In 1908 power in Ottoman Turkey received the “Unity and Progress” committee, and the Ottoman Empire turned toward nationalistic ideology. From the 16th c. the Empire was a Muslim Empire, the Sultan was a Caliph for the part of the Muslim lands under his control. From Russia, the exiled Enlightenment leaders espousing Pan-Turkism fled to Istanbul, where rose a powerful Pan-Turkic movement. From that time, the Turkish Pan-Turkism grew into a nationalistic, ethnically oriented replacement of the Caliphate by a world-wide state. Following the fall of the Ottoman Empire with its multi-cultural and multi-ethnic population, influenced by emerging racial theories and the Turkish nationalism of the Young Turks, some tried to replace the lost empire with a new Turkish commonwealth. But a speedy collapse of the Ottoman Empire brought about Mustafa Kamal (Atatürk), who replaced Pan-Turkic idealism with solely Anatolian nationalism aimed at preservation of an Anatolian nucleus instead of global imperial pretences, with some isolationist tendencies. Mustafa Kamal Atatürk penalized Pan-Turkist groups and closed all publications of Pan-Turkic orientation.

One of the most significant early exponents of pan-Turkism was Enver Pasha, the Ottoman Minister of War and acting Commander-in-Chief during World War I. He later became one of the leaders of the national-liberation Basmachi uprising against Russian Empire and Soviet Russia rule in Central Asia.

The last episode in the history of Pan-Turkism played out during WWII, when the Nazis attempted to undermine Soviet unity under a flag of Pan-Turkism in their fight with the USSR. The German intrigues, however, did not bear any results.

While of little impact during much of the 20th century, the dissolution of the Soviet Union in the late 20th century meant that the majority of the Turkic peoples were suddenly again able to exert considerable independence in business and political endeavours.

Turkey's role

Turkey has become a major business partner to many Central Asian Turkic states, helping with the reform of higher education, the introduction of the Latin alphabet, economic development and commerce. However, these efforts have not met the expectations of either the Turkic states nor the Pan-Turkist sentiment in Turkey. For example:
*Housing projects of modest size promised to the Crimean Turks have not been completed after many years.
*Although Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Azerbaijan have switched to the Latin alphabet, they are not as compatible with the Turkish alphabet as Turkey hoped. Kazakhstan has decided to switch its alphabet back to Latin from the current Cyrillic, [ [ "Homeland starts with native language", Interviewed by Mikhail Abramov, Kazakhstan Pravda, 8 November 2006] ] [ [ Kazakhstan switching to Latin alphabet] ] [ [ Kazakh President Revives Idea Of Switching To Latin Script] ] [ [ "Turkey-Kazakhstan cooperation in language", KazInform official state news agency, June 13, 2007] ] [ [ Government adopting Latin Alphabet, AmCham Kazakhstan Newsletter, 6.11.2006] ] [ [ "Kazakhstan places accent on economic cooperation with Turkey", by Marat Yermukanov, KazInform official state news agency, January 11, 2007] ] but the transition has been slow. Kyrgyzstan, meanwhile, has never decided to adopt the Latin alphabet. Additionally, other problems persist, such as lack or delay of the printing and teaching materials.

Recently Turkey removed all visa requirements to other Turkic states, in hope of having closer ties with people from the same roots.


Pan-Turkism is and has always been a movement viewed with suspicion by many, often perceived as nothing else but a new form of Turkish imperial ambition. Some view the movement as racist and chauvinistic, particularly when considering the associated racial and historical teachings. Kaveh Farrokh claims that Pan-Turkists are at the forefront of major historical revisionism regarding Turkic history and world history in general. [" [ Pan-Turanianism Takes Aim at Azerbaijan: A Geopolitical Agenda] " by Dr. Kaveh Farrokh] Critics also believe that the concept of Pan-Turkism is flawed because of the difficulty to comprehend the distinct languages among each different group of Turkic peoples. [ [ Turkish Cypriots Fear 'Turkification'] , BBC World News] On the other hand, according to Don Peretz, the Turkish nationalism has been free from racism. [Don Peretz. "The Middle East Today", Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1963, p. 165.]

Pan-Turkism is also cited by critics as a direct cause for the Armenian Genocide of 1915, in which Enver Pasha was involved, as an attempt to remove non-Turkic and non-Muslim minorities from the late Ottoman Empire in order to foster a new Pan-Turkish state. [ [ Young Turks and the Armenian Genocide] , Armenian National Institute] The movement has also been seen as the cause for the policy of "Turkification" which Turkey has attempted to impose on its ethnic minorities such as the Kurds until 1991. During the 1930s and 1940s, the Turkish government denied the existence of a separate Kurdish ethnic identity and statistically categorized them as "Mountain Turks". [ [ Turkey - Linguistic and Ethnic Groups - U.S. Library of Congress] ]

Exploitation of Pan-Turkism

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To discredit the national-liberation idea of Türkism in the eyes of the Russian population, the Tzarist Secret Service began attributing to Türkism purposes and features incompatible with it, namely aggression and expansionism. The term "Türkism" started to be used with a prefix "Pan" (from Greek meaning "all"), to create "Panturkism". The Türkic peoples of Russia began to be threatened with Turkish expansion, I. Gasprinsky and his adherents were labeled "Turkish spies". Unfortunately also later, after the revolution of 1917, the attitude to Türkism did not differ from the attitude of the Imperial powers. At the 10th congress of Bolshevik Communist Party in 1921 was formulated the official doctrine where the party "condemned Panturkism as a sloping to the bourgeois-democratic nationalism". The emergence of a "Panturkism" scare in the Soviet propaganda caused "Panturkism" to become one of the most frightening political labels in the USSR. The most widespread accusation used for fatal repressions in the 1930es of the educated Tatars and other Türks was the accusation in "Panturkism". [Mansur Hasanov, Academician of Academy of Sciences of Tatarstan republic, in "People's Political Newspaper" № 96-97 (24393-24394) 17 May 2001] Russia, China and Iran, claim that they perceive Panturkism as nothing else but a new form of Turkish imperial ambition. Some see it as downright racist, particularly when considering the associated racial and historical teachings. Critics also believe that the concept of Pan-Turkism is flawed because of the distinct dialects among each different group of Türks, which sometimes lead to problems of understanding between people speaking different Turkic language. There is also concern over religious differences too. Although most Türks follow the Sunni sect of Islam, the Azeris of Azerbaijan are distinct in that they follow the Shi'a school. Some nationalist critics also claim that Pan-Turkists are at the fore front of major historical revisionism regarding Turkic history and world history in general. [ [ Pan-Turanianism Takes Aim at Azerbaijan: A Geopolitical Agenda" By: Dr. Kaveh Farrokh] ] Still, proponents see Pan-Turkism as a way of increasing regional security, economic growth and as a viable bulwark against Islamist movements, by furthering secular and democratic government in the region.

Key personalities

*Ziya Gökalp
*Pal Teleki
*Hüseyin Nihâl Atsız
*Abülfaz Elçibay
*Ismail Gaspirali
*Enver Pasha
*Talat Pasha
*Nejdet Sançar
*Mirsaid Sultangaliev
*Zeki Velidi Togan
*Alparslan Türkeş


*"Dilde, fikirde, işte birlik" translated "Unity of Language, Thought and Action" by İsmail Gaspıralı, 1839 a Crimean Tatar and famous member of the Turanian Society

*"Bu yürüyüş devam ediyor. Türk orduları ata ruhlarının dolaştığı Altay ve Tanrı Dağları eteklerinde geçit resmi yapıncaya kadar devam edecektir." translated "This march is going on. It will continue until the Turkic Armies' parade on the foothills of Altai and Tien-Shan mountains where the souls of their ancestors stroll." Hüseyin Nihâl Atsız, a famous Pan-Turkist.

ee also

*Ethnic nationalism
*List of Turkic states and empires


Further reading

* Jacob M. Landau. "Pan-Turkism: From Irredentism to Cooperation". Hurst, 1995. ISBN 1-85065-269-4

External links

* [ Encyclopaedia Britannica Entry - Pan-Turkism]
* [ Ildiko Beller Hann - Article on Pan-Turkism]
* [ Alan W. Fisher - 'A Model Leader for Asia, Ismail Gaspirali']
* [ Amir Taheri - Book Review of "Sons of the Conquerors: Rise of the Turkic World"]
* [ Article on Pan-Turkism in The Tatar Gazette]
* [ World Turanian's Turanist Site]

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