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303 The East­ ern Ques­ tion in Turk­ ish Re­ pub­ li­ can Text­ books Set­ tling Old ­ Scores with the Eu­ ro­ pean and the Ot­ to­ man “Other” Nazan Çiçek On a cold Jan­ u­ ary day in 1923 in Eski¸sehir, a small An­ a­ to­ lian town near An­ kara, Mus­ tafa Kemal (Atatürk) gave a ­ lengthy ­ speech to the of­ fi­ cials and not­ ables who had gath­ ered at the ­ governor’s of­ fice to hear him. Dur­ ing the ad­ dress, which ­ touched upon many press­ ing mat­ ters, Mus­ tafa Kemal dis­ cussed the Lau­ sanne Con­ fer­ ence (1922–23), which was still in prog­ ress. He com­ plained that de­ spite sev­ eral long and tir­ ing ses­ sions, there was still no good news to cel­ e­ brate. He ve­ he­ mently pro­ tested that “en­ e­ mies” held the An­ kara govern­ ment re­ spon­ sible for a se­ ries of mat­ ters con­ cern­ ing many cen­ tu­ ries of his­ tory that had noth­ ing to do with the peo­ ple of ­ today’s Tur­ key. “If our en­ e­ mies were fair, hu­ mane, and con­ scien­ tious, the prob­ lem would be ­ solved in two days” he ­ argued, “but we know that they are not.”1 A few days later, this time in the movie house of I ˙ zmit, a small town east of I ˙ stan­ bul, he re­ peated that the Lau­ sanne Con­ fer­ ence did not look prom­ is­ ing. “Nev­ er­ the­ less,” he added, “this is only nat­ u­ ral, be­ cause this con­ fer­ ence has not been try­ ing 304 Nazan Çiçek to sort out and set­ tle ac­ counts that ­ merely ­ emerged yes­ ter­ day. It has been deal­ ing with prob­ lems that first ap­ peared hun­ dreds of years ago and be­ came ex­ tremely acute re­ cently. It is never an easy task to re­ solve such ab­ struse, pro­ found, in­ tri­ cate, and cor­ rupt mat­ ters.”2 By “en­ e­ mies” and “in­ tri­ cate and cor­ rupt mat­ ters,” Mus­ tafa Kemal meant Eu­ ro­ peans and the East­ ern Ques­ tion, al­ though he did not em­ ploy the term as such. As the ­ phrase the “East­ ern Ques­ tion” it­ self sug­ gests, the West­ ern world de­ fined the East, rep­ re­ sented by the Ot­ to­ man Em­ pire, as a prob­ lem, and “pro­ blem­ a­ tized” it dis­ cur­ sively.3 For the West­ ern world, the East­ ern Ques­ tion was, in sim­ plest terms, the an­ swer ­ sought to the ques­ tion of “what to do with the Turk?”4 Could he be re­ formed, civ­ i­ l­ ized, or even if pos­ sible Chris­ tian­ ized? Or would it be bet­ ter to leave him alone to meet his fate in his “bar­ baric,” “back­ ward,” and “Is­ lamic” state? ­ Should the Ot­ to­ man Em­ pire be sup­ ported in order to slow its pos­ sible dis­ so­ lu­ tion and delay its final col­ lapse? These ques­ tions ap­ peared as ­ by-products of more com­ pli­ cated ques­ tions of ­ far-reaching ef­ fect that had been keep­ ing Eu­ ro­ pean po­ lit­ i­ cal de­ ci­ sion mak­ ers busy for some time: Who (or what) would fill the vac­ uum in the re­ gion after The Turkish Historical Society visits the Museum of Old Eastern Historical Artifacts, 15 September 1934. Those pictured, including Afet ˙Inan, who was also Mustafa Kemal’s adopted daughter, and Yusuf Akçura, were the architects of the Turkish History Thesis. (reprinted with permission from the Turkish Historical Society, file HEE-D 57-N 23-Ön Yüz) The Eastern Question in Turkish Republican Textbooks 305 the seem­ ingly im­ mi­ nent col­ lapse of the Ot­ to­ man Em­ pire? Who would be­ come the heg­ e­ monic power gov­ ern­ ing the east­ ern Med­ i­ ter­ ra­ nean? How would the pa­ ram­ e­ ters of the Con­ cert of Eu­ rope and the bal­ ance of power es­ tab­ lished after the Con­ gress of ­ Vienna in 1815 ­ change, and at whose ex­ pense? In a frame­ work con­ structed by these ques­ tions, main­ tain­ ing the in­ de­ pen­ dence and ter­ ri­ to­ rial in­ teg­ rity of the Ot...


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