ISTANBUL (1930-40S) / PEOPLE’S HOUSE AND THE TURKISH HEARTHS — TURKISH NATIONALISM AS A SOCIO-POLITICAL REACTION

Both the People’s House and the Turkish Hearths were attempts to foster a nationalist ideology in the Turkish society and engineer a national identity through social institutions. This was a socio-political reaction internally to the Ottoman’s rule and externally to the Eurocentric modernization.

The Turkish Hearths (Türk Ocaklari) was the forerunner of the People’s House. Established in 1911, the Turkish Hearths aimed to formulate and disseminate nationalism in Turkey, to awaken the cultural consciousness and a feeling of cultural unity among the new national identity named by them as the real Turks. They advocated the necessity for all forms of cultural outputs, such as novels, plays and poems, and other intellectual activities to lead to the creation of a national faith (milli iman) by bolstering the Turkish men’s pride in his race and nation. Institutional buildings operated by the Turkish Hearths can be found in various city centres in Turkey, primarily providing services and organizing activities in the areas of health, rural improvement, social assistance, drama and music, culture (hars), economic development and sports. Courses on different disciplines were also provided as secondary function.

Operated by the intellectuals in Turkey, the Turkish Hearths attempted to find a new national identity as a socio-political resistance to the Ottoman’s imperial rule. Institutional buildings owned by the Hearths were utilized as instruments to fulfil its aim to disseminate nationalism as the core ideology in the new Turkish society free from Ottoman’s rule.

The Turkish Hearths was dissolved in 1931 with the establishment of the People’s House (Halkevleri) by the Republican People’s Party (RPP). As state-owned institution, the People’s House inherited the premises previously owned by the Turkish Hearths and the idea of nationalism promoted by the Turkish Heaths became ideological guide for the development of People’s House.

The People’s House was set up by the RPP as institutions for mass education that would foster Turkish national democracy. It was regarded as the main foundation of national life and education. Although the types of activities and services provided by People’s House were very similar to those by the Turkish Hearths, the culture promoted by the People’s House was hinted with admiration of Eurocentric modernity. The Western was seen as the civilized and privileged and the RPP envisioned the Turkish nation to become part of the Western world. The intellectual change in the people was seen as the first condition for modernization to take place in the Turkish nation. Rather to discover and pay respect to the traditional Turkish culture in the nation, the programme of the People’s Houses was intended to teach the Turks how to be a ‘model citizen’ and how a modern city should be like. The RPP attempted to impose a new national identity idealistic to the Eurocentric modernist, instead of re-discovering and reinforcing the identity of the real Turks in the Republic. This later became one of the main reasons for the public indifference and resistance received by the Houses.

 

 

References:

Karpat, K. H., 1963. The People’s Houses in Turkey: Establishment and Growth. Middle East Journal, 17(1/2), pp. 55–67.

Kezer, Z., 2015. Building modern Turkey : state, space, and ideology in the early republic.

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