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Quran—a fact that didn’t meld with a secular state. Rather than returning to the Göktürk/ Orkhon or the Uygur alphabets which preceded Arabic among the Turkic people of Central Asia, the Republic’s fathers chose a modified form of the Latin alphabet. In this matter, modernization and integration with the West prevailed over Turkish heritage considerations. In their nationalist zeal, they tried to purge all Arabic words and expressions; therefore, new words and expressions having Turkic roots had to be created to fill the void. Along with the new alphabet, new music, and performing arts genres, Western genres were introduced and institutionalized. The performing arts a vital yet under-stressed aspect of European cultural imperialism was willingly invited and accepted by the Turkish government. It had a profound impact upon Turkey’s society. 8 Changing the alphabet made a return to the past extremely difficult, and the journey forward irreversible. As a result of this new alphabet, the written and spoken words in the Turkish language were no longer at odds with each other. 10 The founders’ visions encompassed almost every aspect of life from religion, which was separated from the state, to education, which was secularized and modernized, to culture, which was crosspollinated with Western elements. The aim was not merely to modernize the society but to transform it by engaging in nation building from the inside out and outside in simultaneously. According to The New York Times circa November 18, 1928, Turkey’s reformers railed against the Arabic language as antiquated, stifling, and un-Turkish. They promoted the benefits to be gained by the Turkish people and their culture from using the Latin alphabet. One of the most significant improvements occurred when Parliament passed the University Reform Law No. 2252 on May 31, 1933. This law abolished the İstanbul Darülfünun, an early twentieth-century university, which previously had been a nineteenth century academy of higher learning based on the Islamic tradition derived from the medieval medrese.12 Thus began the revision of Turkey’s system of higher education, including the arts. When the Darülfünun was closed, 157

of its 240 faculty members were relieved of their duties and forced into retirement.13 This reform was the result of a three-year effort initiated in 1931, with an invitation to Swiss Professor Albert Malché (1876-1956) to observe and evaluate the current Turkish educational system and propose a plan for modernization. He evaluated the Darülfünun and his report was used as the basis for the implementation of reforms. Certainly, the influence of the political party in power had an impact on his final report. 14 When some Darülfünun professors criticized the regime’s official views in matters of history and language, two fundamental aspects of the young Republic’s politics of culture, during the deliberations of the First Turkish History Congress in 1932, they were perceived as obstacles to the cultural reforms. 15 Except for a few figures who later obtained important positions in the subsequently established universities, 16 most of the scholars who had been dismissed from their positions as part of the 1933 reform found themselves outside of the Republican establishment. In retrospect, Professor Sabri M. Akural summarized the reformas: “Secularism was the cornerstone on which all other Kemalist reforms were built. It is the most salient and fundamental aspect of Kemalism.” 17 Ten years after the introduction of the new alphabet, the Times reported: Influenced by the musical ideas of Ziya

Gökalp (1876-1924), 19 Atatürk soon formulated a national policy on music which was to use the Western-developed polyphonic technique. According to Dr. Orhan Tekelioglu, who has researched the impact of Western music on Turkey’s modernization: 20 What the new musical elite ultimately hoped for was a birth in the Turkish listener of the enjoyment of polyphonic music … which, it was assumed, the “modern” Western listener had already acquired. New cultural policies were built around the expectation that, along with an enjoyment of polyphonic music that was to gradually grow in the nation and with the contributions of Turkish performers and gifted composers trained abroad in the Western style, the ancient Anatolian melodies beloved of the people would eventually be recomposed along polyphonic lines. The new identity that the young Republic wanted to create for its people was that of a modern, European-oriented, secular society whose members considered themselves to be primarily Turks. The opening of Istanbul University in 1933 was followed by the creation of several institutions dedicated to the arts. Among these were the Conservatory of Music and the Academy of Fine Arts. Without the safe haven provided the émigré professors who played developmental roles, continued on page 16 FALL’09 | VOICE OF ATATÜRK  15

Voice of Ataturk  

The Atatürk Society of America

Voice of Ataturk  

The Atatürk Society of America

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