How Is Nation Building Depicted in Yakup Kadri's the Alien? Essay

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Yakup Kadri's Yaban and the Depiction of Nation-Building in Turkey

Yakup Kadri Karaomerlio-lu's novel, Yaban, is considered a modern classic by the people of Turkey and international observers of the Middle East. Its author, Karaomerlio-lu, came from a famous political family of the late Ottoman period and was a privileged, committed member of the Turkish Republic elite. His novel, Yaban, though fictional, is highly inspired by his experience as a bureaucrat investigating the Anatolian countryside during the early days of the Turkish Republic.

Nation-building in the Turkish countryside was performed mainly by displaced urban elites, who understood little of the true concerns of the peasants. Nation-building was achieved through the rhetoric of "liberation," "development," and "enlightenment," most of which the Anatolian villagers felt no need for.


The Fall of the Ottomans and the Rise of the Turkish Nationalists

As the Ottoman Empire began to weaken in the 19th and early 20th centuries, the many peoples under its sovereignty began to assert their ethnic identity. Turkish nationalism was represented by the Turkish Society, established in 1908 with the Turkish Society. The Young Turk revolution which overthrew the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, making the Turkish Nationalist the dominant political force in 1908. ( Fleet, Faroqhi, & Kasaba, p. 153).

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The Three Pashas, who advocated pan-Turkism, took control of the late Ottoman empire, brought the Ottomans into World War I on the side of the Central powers. ( Fleet, Faroqhi, & Kasaba, p. 154). They were ousted with the defeat of the Central powers, leaving a power void in the old Ottoman territories, which were temporarily occupied by Allied forces. ( Fleet, Faroqhi, & Kasaba, p. 156). Yet the allied occupation only extended to the valuable parts of the Ottoman empire, of Istanbul, Marmara and the Aegean coast, ignoring the harsh steppes of the interior. ( Fleet, Faroqhi, & Kasaba, p. 156).

The Nationalist Resistance and Anatolianism

Essay on How Is Nation Building Depicted in Yakup Kadri's the Alien? Assignment

The Turkish Nationalist resistances force led by General Mustafa Kemal retreated into the "Turkish heartland" of Anatolia, far from the original center of Turkish Nationalism. ( Fleet, Faroqhi, & Kasaba, p. 156). They chose Anatolia not only from its remoteness from allied bases, but because it was the recently discovered "origin" of Turkish culture, the Turkish motherland. (Baykan & Robertson, p. 182-183). They set up their base in Ankara as the seat of Turkish civilization, making Ankara a rallying point for resistance movements and Turkish nationalists. ( Fleet, Faroqhi, & Kasaba, p. 157). The Nationalists knew little about the Central Anatolian steppes, however, and the Anatolian villagers knew little about Nationalism.

General Mustafa Kemal came to power after defeating the Allied occupation forces in 1923, ushering in the Republic of Turkey with Kemal, now known as Ataturk, in power. The new Republic began a number of ambitious legal and social reforms meant to modernize and civilize the nation. ( Fleet, Faroqhi, & Kasaba, p. 159) the reforms, problematic everywhere, were particularly problematic for the Anatolian villagers, who believed that such reforms had little to do with them.


The Revolutionary Period and Yaban

Karaosmano-lu's novel portrays the experience of a former Ottoman Imperial army officer, Ahmet Celal, as he tries to acclimate himself to an Anatolian village during the years of the Nationalist resistance, in 1919-1923. Celal, who lost his arm fighting for the Turk-led Ottomans during World War I, decided to leave Istanbul for the Turkish motherland Anatolia but wanted to avoid Ankara because of his disability. Instead, he settled in an Anatolian village that was close enough to Ankara, invited by his former comrade and village native, Mehmet Ali.

Celal also secretly desires a connection to the Turkish motherland which he had fought so hard for. He hoped to be admired as a loyal patriot and looked up to as a model of the new Turk. However, Celal is disappointed by the reality of the "Turkish motherland" that he finds in the poor, neglected, and ignorant village of Anatolia. Conversely, the villagers, unlettered and unmannered peasants, exhibit a dismissive contempt for Celal, whom they call the "stranger."

"Liberation": Patriotism

As they are in a war of resistance against the Allied occupation forces, much of the initial nation-building occurs through patriotic appeals to expel the foreigners from the Motherland. Nationalism was always emphasized as resistance against the Imperialist forces, represented by the Allied occupational forces. (Baykan & Robertson, p. 182). It was also emphasized as the continuation of resistance against the old Imperialist forces of the Ottoman Empire. (Baykan & Robertson, p. 182-183).

When he first enters the village, he proselytizes for the Nationalist cause at a village cafe. There, he preaches to the villagers about the Imperialist oppression of Turkish people in an attempt to incite their nationalist feelings. (Yaban, 65). Celal hopes to impress the villagers with his knowledge of the political forces threatening them.

Celal is genuinely puzzled when he first encounters apathy towards the Nationalist, anti-Imperialist cause. He wonders, "Aren't you as poor, as miserable as I am? Aren't you as powerless as I am in expressing your troubles? For me, your face is the face of Woman Zeynep. Then, what prevents us to understand each other?" (Yaban, p. 86) Celal apparently knows more about the Turkish motherland of Anatolia than the illiterate villagers, considering the claim that Anatolia was the origin of Turkish civilization had only recently been disseminated, and through an academic article, no less. (Baykan & Robertson, p. 182-183).

In his education of the villagers, Celal is careful not to educate them too much. He let them know the Republic expected in return for their liberation and enlightenment of the villagers. (Yaban, p. 76). For example, Nationalists of this period, after seeing the Russian Red Revolution, did not want peasants to participate in or even pay attention to the class antagonisms of the Western-liberal democracies. (Turke? 2001, 98-99). Rather, they should focus on cooperating with the Nationalist government and support it in its efforts to change their lives for the better. (Yaban, p. 76; p. 161).

"Development": Civilization, Industrialization, and Modernization

The Kemalist regime's view of civilization is based on modern, industrialized, and secular, Western models, in contrast to the backwards, agrarian, and theocratic model that dominated during the Ottoman empire. (Baykan & Robertson, p. 184). The regime believed that the Republic of Turkey should be counted among the group of civilized nations, and saw the countryside as an unsightly reminder of how far the Republic had to go. (Baykan & Robertson, p. 184).

The Civilizing mission of the Turkish Nationalists is represented by Celal's visit to the village itself. He refers to the villagers initially as "creatures" but idealizes them as simple, pure country folk. (Yaban, p. 11). He warns the villagers about the importance of hygiene and respect for civil rights. (Yaban, p. 65).When his expectations are shattered by their brutish, often depraved behavior, he judges them to be completely savage, even wondering how such animals could make love and form relationships. (Yaban, p. 35).

His civilizing posture is also revealed in his personal relationships. For instance, the peasant girl he has fallen in love with, Emine, who he, ironically loves for her classical Greek features. (Yaban, 139). Celal believes that he has found a diamond in the rough, believing that Emine would be so much more beautiful if he could just fix her. (Yaban, p. 100). He considers the possibilities in his mind, "I would wash her real clean. Then I would rip off the layers of clothes that mess up with her body lines and burn them in this fireplace…I would knit her shiny scarlet hair into two thick queues and let them behind her neck. I would have made her wear a nice low necked cotton shirt with hefty sleeves." (Yaban, p. 100).

"Enlightenment": Secularization

Nationalization also required a process of secularization. The Islamic religion reserves key areas of the political sphere for Muhammad and God, which was inconvenient for the Kemalists establishing a new political order. They wanted to distance their Republic from the religion of the backwards, oppressive Ottoman empire. (Baykan & Robertson, p. 185).

The rural areas penetrated by Islam were not enlightened to the proper role of Islam in the new Turkish state, as urbanites like Celal were. Celal embodies this hostile attitude towards religion, especially to entrenched religious authorities. Celal liberates the Anatolian villagers from the deception perpetrated on them by local religious authorities, such as the Shiekh, eventually kicking the Shiekh out of the village. (Yaban, p. 165-166).

Celal, like most bureaucrats, believed that religion had made the peasants superstitious and ignorant. The villagers believed that the world was ruled by miracles and prayers instead of science and political organization. (Yaban, p. 73). Such people could not be good, patriotic Turks unless their loyalty went to the state first. Therefore, they had to be taught the proper role of religion in the new Turkish state.

The Nationalist hostility towards religion would occur at the institutional level after the events of Yaban, though during the travels… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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