Constantinople, 23 November 1916.
Mr. Foreign Minister,
The Ottoman Chamber of Deputies, which assembled on the 14th of this month, has difficulties in gathering the sufficient amount of members to form a quorum, since only 140 out of its approximately 250 members are here in Constantinople. Some of the deputies are serving in the army; some of them are in their constituencies or in Europe, and others have resigned or seem to have disappeared completely (Arabs, Armenians). It is still not possible, though, to get exact information about who among the members of the Chamber are missing, and this will only become apparent when the by-elections gradually have to be approved by the Chamber. At the moment only 4 new elections have taken place all in all, so that the killed Armenian Deputy, Zohrab [Sohrab, Zohrap], has been replaced by the former Prefect in Constantinople, Ismet Bey. The seats of the other disappeared Deputies have not yet been occupied.
But the meetings of the Chamber, of which there still are no minutes available of an official nature, have been opened by a speech by its chairman, Hadji Adil Bey, who dwelled extensively on ”the wonderful awakening of the Turkish people, which the government has long worked to bring about, and which had to happen sooner or later, but which the war has now hastened.”
The reawakening of the Turkish soul, of the national consciousness in Turkey has facilitated the splendid victories, the Chairman said, and the whole world now sees that the Turkish people still possesses the qualities and virtues of their forefathers.
It is not Hadji Adil Bey alone who speaks of the reawakening of the Turkish nation: Everywhere, in magazines as well as in newspapers, one is confronted by the same perception. A series of new creations within Turkish society also seem to confirm the truth of the assertions.
As I have touched upon many times earlier, the Young Turk party was formed and brought to power under the banner of ”Ottomanism.” The only purpose of the Committee was to give the country a free constitution, and it worked under the motto: Equal rights for all Ottomans. The leading Young Turks, among whom there were many Christians as well as Jews, had no connection with the pan-Islamic movement that surfaced simultaneously, and it was only a narrow circle of young poets and men of letters who already then kept a view of a national Turkish movement instead of Ottomanism.
But Ottomanism was soon shipwrecked, and the Balkan War was in reality its last convulsions. It had become apparent that the differences between the various peoples living in Turkey were too big, and at the most critical moment during the Tchataldja-days, the main part of the non-Turkish Ottomans were in fact ready to participate in the winding up of the Turkish estate.
[Note: The Chataldja/Tchataldja-line, about 30 km north of Constantinople, was the last Ottoman line of defence before the capital during the Balkan wars 1912-13. By the end of 1912, Bulgarian forces had pushed the Ottoman army back toward this line, thereby threatening Constantinople.]
The emergency situation in which the Turkish Empire found itself in 1913 did, however, play a part in shaking up all the Turks (as also expressed by Hussein Djahid Bey, the present Vice-President of the Chamber, former editor-in-chief of ”Tanin”), and little by little a movement was spreading from the aforementioned literary-national clique to replace ”Ottomanism” as the ideal of the Young Turks with ”Turkism” or ”Turanism.”
Thus, when the very idea of Ottomanism had been quickly abandoned – the non-Turkish nations had tried to use the Constitution as a vehicle for national development from the very beginning – the resistance against ”Turkism” did not come from Young Turk circles, but to a far larger extent from clerical, Old Turk layers of the population.
For this by no means insignificant part of the populace, nationality was an unknown concept. Does not the Koran say that Allah knows only believers and infidels, not the various nationalities? To these circles, a Turkish movement, which for national reasons even wanted to have the Koran translated into Turkish, was an abomination.
Despite all direct and indirect resistance, the years 1914-1916 witnessed the victory of ”Turkism” in leading Turkish circles. All the Young Turks who are now holding the reins of power became devoted followers of the national movement; the university became the headquarters of the ”Turan movement,” which is what the nationalist movement is called when the issue is the national development among not only the Turks in Turkey, but also among the peoples of Turkish descent living in southern Russia, in the Crimea, in Turkestan, in Persia, etc.
Two societies in particular became organs for the national development: Turk Odschagi [Turk Ocagi: ”Turkish Hearth Society”], which was founded in 1912 and has, among other things, emphasized the inoculation of new ideas everywhere among the masses, not least through the religious schools (Madrasses), and Turk Bilgi Dirneï [Turk Bilgi Derneyi/Dernegi: "Association for Turkish Knowledge"], which has on its program a national development of the language by the removal of the many Arabic and Persian words and expressions that hitherto have characterized the literary language.
At the same time, the national movement took the economic corporations into its service. Those trades in which the Turkish element plays a role all have their solid guilds. The national cause was worked for through the guilds by attempts at boycotting the non-Turkish tradesmen, a purely practical way of implementing the national program which particularly suited these layers of the population.
And it is undeniable that there are many obvious results of the national struggle. It is understandable that there are Turks who have compared this development with the national awakening in Germany in the beginning of the 19th Century. Nevertheless, it is perhaps correct to measure by a more critical standard, for instance because it is not yet possible to decide whether the national development has been given the pride of place by anyone but a small number of people.
It is safe to say, though, that the whole of the Turkish press is an ardent supporter of the new ideas, but at the moment the opinion of the press is synonymous with that of the government – and I have just mentioned that the members of the government are supporters of the movement.
There can hardly be any doubt that the movement for better education in a similar way originates from above, from the government and the circle that is closely connected with the government. But it is certain that new schools have been build all over the Empire, that the formerly so notorious Madrasses have been improved to a large degree, the university has been reorganized, etc.
The clearest example of the nature of the development is perhaps the Turkish ”scout movement.” Here there is no room for voluntariness. All schools have been ordered to establish physically and nationally educational corps, and seem everywhere to have obeyed the order. But opinions seem to vary as to the significance of the movement under such circumstances.
Everywhere the national movement rears its head. Not only in the struggle for linguistic purity, in the prohibition of signs in foreign languages, in the attempt to regenerate Turkish scenic art, but also in the Mosque itself, where the prayer for the Caliph is now being read in Turkish – this would have been unthinkable just a few years ago. And regarding the economic side of the matter, one national company after another is being established – purely Turkish transport- and trade companies, etc. It is now the plan to establish a Turkish national bank, which is most likely meant to take over the functions of the international Ottoman bank.
But one must not forget, though, that the Turkish government has the game all to itself at the moment. Not only does it receive economic aid from Germany for all its undertakings, it has also eliminated all resistance by way of its energetic police regime and has forced the Ottoman, non-Turkish circles, which formerly were among the leading ones, to withdraw from public and economic life if they were not ready to uncritically participate in the advance of the Young Turks (which is what certain Jewish circles have preferred to do).
In Turkey, one must always remember that it is very difficult to get to the bottom of matters. For instance, an observer immediately sees that, as opposed to the situation a few years ago, national commemorations are now being celebrated on a large scale, something that is saluted in the press as manifestations of the true national spirit. But that same observer is perhaps not aware that it is very possible that the grand national celebrations are arranged by the same 2-3 enthusiastic men of letters who salute it in the magazines, and that the participants are nothing but Hamal (i.e. unskilled workers) associations – whose members have no understanding of it all – [and] school children and police departments on display.
Because of these conditions, it is too early to judge the Turkish-national movement and its lasting significance for country and people. That this ”national awakening” certainly not yet includes morality seems clear. No progress concerning morality can be traced, and the demoralization of the Turkish civil servants seems actually to have increased.
Many high-ranking civil servants here, who formerly had very little money, are for instance now apparently possessing large amounts of money, and every night they are gambling away large sums in the clubs of Pera.
With the highest esteem I remain, Mr. Minister, yours faithfully