ISTANBUL (1930-40S) / 5. FATALITY OF PEOPLE’S HOUSE: STRUCTURE AND POWER OVER PEOPLE

The architectural as well as urban development of Istanbul have much to do with its political circumstances. For it had gone through a rapid change in political status in the region since early 1900s. These series of threads aim to examine the relationship of these dependent factors that cultivated the swift transformation of Istanbul and even Turkey since the 1930s.

In the early republic years, the party saw architecture more than just a symbol that signifies modernisation as well as a literal device that engenders the modern of Turkey, they are an instrument that express the Kemalist ideals and they are a network of organised and controlled spaces that penetrate almost aspects of the people’s life. That was a time where the party strive for rapid reform and modernisation. However, we shall not forget that that was also a time where the political status was insecure and social stability was not maintained. The People’s House and People’s Room were originally set up to be a institutional device that practices Populism, educates the crowds and empowers the people, men and women, young and old. Yet, criticism in later years over the overwhelming propaganda of the party and ideology that injected into the activities was widespread over the country[1]. The People’s Houses and Rooms had turned into a political container eventually.

It was obvious that the People’s Houses and Rooms failed by the observable fact that public indifference was resulted in the later years around 1940s despite the efforts of the party to erect as much Houses and Rooms as possible all over the country.

First reason being the fact that some party leader saw people as a lifeless material to be moulded in these nationalist institutional architectures [2]. The goal of modernising the country and differentiate itself with the Muslim empire was of a over prominent goal that blindfolded the leader to allow machine-like “manufacturing of modern Turkish people”. The people passively resist the organised events by the Houses and Rooms and refused to embrace cultural forms and spatial practices they considered to be alien in a provincial level. Examples such as parents did not let their children to enroll in free music classes at the House but hire the same teacher teaching those classes to privately tutor their children [3] because that way they can avoid all unnecessary forms of propaganda of the party and Kemalism. Besides, the curriculum of the class in the Houses were predetermined whereas it could be free to the teacher’s will teaching off the House. The executions had simply deviated from the vision set by Ataturk after the takeover of power within the party.

Second reason was brought by the excessive control of the House by the Party, the structure for a People’s House and People’s Room consists of a committee of intellectuals and experts such as teachers, but more often the party’s officials. Each committee was led by a Chairman appointed by the party directly, and there were one separate committee that was responsible for each of the 9 departments of the House, they are also led by people with connection to the party. This structure especially the appointment of the Chairman is criticised by the member for it deprived them of a genuine attraction for the people. Despite the recognition and partial liberalisation of this structure in 1939-1940 [4], this structure, which was implemented for a strict and effective monitoring of the homogeneous nationalist content and quality of activities held, was a fatal factor to lead to the rejection of the Houses and later even the Party later in 1949 to 1951.

The intended purpose of bridging the gap between cities and villages by the Party for their proclaimed mission to serve the people was also not executed as expected. The already existing gap between the city and village, turned into a abyss that the party could never resolve. The differences in mentality stemming from the new secularist-modernist indoctrination of the cities and the industrialistaion through the exploitation of agriculture pushed the village further into its traditional isolation and poverty. The fact that several departments in the Houses were never able to hold any activities in the village such as the Arts, Theatricals, and Libraries and Publishing Departments since the villages’ focused were seldom aligned to the central party’s. Another fact that could proof this failure was the implement of the Village Institute in later years as a vocational education department to educate villagers practical skills and craftsmanship instead of attempting their literacy was obvious that the inability of the Republican People’s Party to control their execution of their vision and changing attitude towards the people as the “ruler of Turkey”. This led to the opposition of the Houses and gave raise to other political power among the people later [5].

Having stood up for 19 years, the People’s Houses and People’s Room had deepended the gap between the government and people, something which the Houses were originally intended to eliminate. With the ascendancy of the Democratic Party to power in 1950, the People’s House was put to an end in 1951. Once an useful tool of People’s House is to the republican party had then became its fatality.

 

Reference:

[1] Zeynep Keyer, “Manufacturing Turkish Citizens,” in Building Modern Turkey – State, Space, and Ideology in the Early Republic (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2015), 229.

[2] Kemal H. Kerpat, “The People’s Houses in Turkey: Establishment and Growth,” Middle East Journal 17, no. 1/2 (1963): 65-66, accessed December 13, 2017, doi:147.8.106.78.

[3] Zeynep Keyer, “Manufacturing Turkish Citizens,” in Building Modern Turkey – State, Space, and Ideology in the Early Republic (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2015), 230.

[4] Kemal H. Kerpat, “The People’s Houses in Turkey: Establishment and Growth,” Middle East Journal 17, no. 1/2 (1963): 66, accessed December 13, 2017, doi:147.8.106.78.

[5] Kemal H. Kerpat, “The People’s Houses in Turkey: Establishment and Growth,” Middle East Journal 17, no. 1/2 (1963): 66, accessed December 13, 2017, doi:147.8.106.78.

1 Comment on “ISTANBUL (1930-40S) / 5. FATALITY OF PEOPLE’S HOUSE: STRUCTURE AND POWER OVER PEOPLE

  1. From my understanding of the this text, Istanbul as a city was morphed by the great discrepancy between political and religious ideologies. As city shaped by strife. How the modernization of Istanbul meant completely dissociating from the then reigning Ottoman Empire. But I wonder if the city never underwent though such a drastic shift in political status – how would it have continued to have developed? If in an alternate reality Kermalism never took place and the inevitable downfall of the Ottoman Empire happened – one wonders how Turkey as a whole would have turned out.

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