Kemalist Ideology- Turkish National Secular Movement

Kemalist Ideology (“Atatürkçü Düşünce”), also known as Kemalism (“Kemalizm” or “Atatürkçülük”) and Six Arrows, is based on Mustafa Kemal Atatürk‘s six principles (Altı Ok) during the Turkish national movement. The principles were not defined as an ideology during the life of Atatürk, but formulated later on. It constitutes ground rules for state nationalism in Turkey.


The history of the concept of Kemalism can be traced back to Second Constitutional Era of the Ottoman Empire. The political experience of the Ottoman Empire, through Tanzimat, and the First Constitutional Era of the Ottoman Empire were synthesized into Kemalism.


Republican People's Party logo, and six principles as arrows


Republican People’s Party logo, and six principles as arrows

The Republican People’s Party was established by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk on October 29th, 1923, about a week before the declaration of the Republic of Turkey on the September 9th. The party uses the ideology to symbolize itself.


There are six fundamentals of the ideology. Secularism and reformism principles were accepted and entered into the constitution following the first four, and came to be recognized as unchangeable and sacrosanct shortly thereafter.


Republicanism (Cumhuriyetçilik) is recognized as a republican regime for Turkey, was a change from the multi-national millet and later Ottomanism to the establishment of the nation state of Turkey and the realization of the national identity of modern Turkey. Kemalism believes that only the republican regime can best represent the wishes of the people. This form of republican regime is summarized under the politics of Turkey.


Populism (Halkçılık), is defined as a social revolution in term of its content and goals. This was revolution led by an elite with an orientation towards the people in general. The Kemalist reforms brought about a revolutionary change in the status of women through the adoption of Western codes of law in Turkey, in particular the Swiss Civil Code. Women received the right to vote in 1934. Atatürk stated on a number of occasions that the true rulers of Turkey were the peasants. This was actually a goal rather than a reality in Turkey.[citation needed] In fact, in the official explanation given to the principle of populism it was stated that Kemalism was against class privileges and class distinctions and it recognized no individual, no family, no class and no organization as being above others.[citation needed]

Kemalist ideology was, in fact, based on supreme value of Turkish citizenship. A sense of pride associated with this citizenship would give the needed psychological spur to the people to make them work harder and to achieve a sense of unity and national identity.


See also: Secularism in Turkey and Laïcité

Secularism meant separation of state and religion. Kemalist secularism is Laïcité (Laiklik), the absence of religious interference in government affairs, and vice-versa; solidified in public educational, government subsidized cultural and legal affairs. Kemalist Secularism does not extend to Agnosticism or Nihilism; it meant independence of thought and independence of institutions from the dominance of religious thinking and religious institutions. The Kemalist principle of secularism did not advocate atheism. It was not an anti-God principle. It was a rationalist, anti-clerical secularism. Many Kemalist reforms were made to bring about secularism, and others were realized because secularism had been achieved. Thus, the Kemalist revolution was also a secularist revolution.

The Kemalist principle of secularism was not against an enlightened Islam, but against an Islam which was opposed to modernization and democracy, the Islamists in Turkey are opposing this principle of Kemalism because its aim was the secularisation of the Islamic society.

Political power The political power is perceived as the only source of sovereignty and is the exclusive right to exercise supreme political (e.g. legislative, judicial, and/or executive) authority over a geographic region (Turkey), group of people (Turkish People), or oneself. The reach that position, the Caliphate was abolished on March 3rd, 1924. As a result of two pieces of legislation dating from 1931 and 1937 respectively the article stating that “the established religion of Turkey is Islam” was removed from the constitution and the principles of secularism and revolutionism added to the constitution in their stead. No Turkish politician can claim to be a protector of any religion or religious sect, which constitutes sufficient legal grounds for the permanent banning of political parties.

Active neutrality According to Turkish perception of the Laïcité, the Turkish state is to stand at an equal distance from every religion, neither promoting nor condemning any set of religious beliefs. The Republic of Turkey is neutral in religious affairs. Kemalism has an “active neutrality”; which actions related with religion should be carefully analyzed/evaluated by the government through of the Ministry for Religious Affairs. The Ministry for Religious Affairs is responsible for the religious management. The Ministry for Religious Affairs has to give effort (plan/coordinate/implement) balance this responsibility.

Kemalism has to balance the space between different sects. A course in Islamic doctrine is compulsory in all elementary and high schools except those responsible for minority communities, which have their own religious courses (regulated and administered by the Ministry of Education). The balance in this Islamic doctrine is debated.


Revolutionalism (Devrimcilik), a principle that Atatürk formulated was the principle of revolutionism. This principle meant that the country replaced traditional institutions with modern institutions. It meant that traditional concepts were eliminated and modern concepts were adopted. The principle of revolutionism went beyond the recognition of the reforms which were made. A considerable degree of controversy still exists with respect to the “proper name” of this principle. While most of the Turkish leftwing refers to it as Revolutionism, the center and right prefer to characterize it as Reformism – due, in some part, to the fact that all references to “revolution” were banned after the military coup in 1980. Atatürk’s revolutions in social and political life are irreversible, with no possibility of return to the old systems (this is especially true for the secular reforms that were introduced following the abolition of the Ottoman Caliphate, religious dress and the old Arabic script). Atatürk never entertained the possibility of a pause or transition phase during the course of the progressive unfolding or implementation of the Revolution.


Nationalism (Milliyetçilik); The Kemalist revolution was also a nationalist revolution. Its aim was to create a nation state from a former empire. Kemalist criteria for national identity refers to a shared language, and/or shared values (defined as a common history and will to share a future). Kemalist nationalism was not racist, membership is usually gained through birth within the borders of the state. Every citizen within the borders of Turkey is to be recognized as a Turk, regardless of such factors as ethnicity, religion, gender, race, sect, sexual preference or philosophical belief. Ideally (in theory), this nationalism denounces any links with fascism, and Atatürk’s nationalism, regarding expensionism, opposes imperialism, aims to promote peace in both the domestic and international arenas. In practice this interpreted as a goal to create a uniform type of citizen, usually with disregard/disdain for cultural/ethnic/religious minorities.[citation needed]

During the formulation dissolution of Ottoman Empire and its nation concept, “Millet (Ottoman Empire)“, played an important perspective. By moving the state to a neutral position Kemalism aimed to preserve the independence of the Republic of Turkey and form a stable structure for political development. It was aimed to develop just the opposite of Ottoman practice. It was a nationalism with a social content. It was also against the rule of a dynasty or of any particular social class over society. Kemalist nationalism believes in the principle that the Turkish state is an indivisible whole comprising its territory and people, named as “unity of the state”. It was a nationalism which respected the right to independence of all other nations. However ethnitic minorities within Turkey (Kurds for example) and Peoples of neighbouring countries (Particularly Armenians and Greeks) dispute this.[citation needed]


Statism (Devletçilik), Kemal Atatürk made clear in his statements and policies that Turkey’s complete modernization was very much dependent on economic and technological development. The principle of Kemalist Statism was interpreted to mean that the state was to regulate the country’s general economic activity and the state was to engage in areas where private enterprise was not willing to do so, or where private enterprise had proved to be inadequate, or if national interest required it. In the application of the principle of statism, however, the state emerged not only as the principle source of economic activity but also as the owner of the major industries of the country.

The power of the state is to intervene in all economic matters where the public interest and social welfare is of greater importance than individual or corporate profit-making.[citation needed] In addition, where the private sector is not powerful enough to increase employment and create new spheres of employment, the state is to make use of its initiative to conduct businesses, establish factories, banks, and so forth. This statism is not a derivative of communism, but bears a certain resemblance to state capitalism.


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