By A.Holly Shissler
World-shaking revolutions in Russia in 1905 and 1917, in Ottoman Turkey in 1908, global struggle I, the defeat of the important Powers and triumph of the Entente, the Turkish conflict of Independence and the institution of the recent Turkish kingdom kingdom below Atatürk, and the institution of Azerbaijan: those occasions shape the backdrop to Ahmet Agaoglu’s lifestyles, which spanned the momentous interval from 1869-1939. This highbrow biography of this significant participant is a remarkable access element wherein those turbulent instances are introduced sharply into aid.
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Extra info for Between Two Empires: Ahmet Agaoglu and the New Turkey
Closer examination reveals they do not constitute a rejection of ethnonational identification; rather they form part of a more general insistence on limited borders. In fact, the selection from Atatürk’s Speech often cited in this regard belongs to a larger passage that embraces and validates ethnocultural considerations and specifically questions the notion of civic polities based on ‘humanitarianism’ and ‘brotherhood’. 30 The insistence on Anatolian borders and national sovereignty, the repeated criticisms of Ottoman multinationalism and Islamic unity and the minimizing of the role played by Unionists in the National Struggle, however, did make it easy for later historians to assert that the new regime represented an absolute break with the Turkism of the previous era and constituted the emergence INTRODUCTION 25 of a completely new kind of national ideology.
Far from a rejectionist stance or a retreat into tradition, Ağaoğlu’s stance was modernizing, an attempt to embrace change. As the discussion below will show, this is not unusual in cultural nationalists. What is more unusual is the way Ağaoğlu saw nationalism as intrinsic to modernity. 38 This perspective has enabled Hutchinson to make some revealing points about the nature of cultural nationalism. Most importantly, perhaps, he has called into question what he terms the ‘regressive thesis’ of the postWorld War II generation of historians, which tended to view cultural nationalism as a retreat by groups or nations into a mythic past and organic solidarity that served to compensate for their perceived weakness and backwardness visàvis the West.
And duly stripped of both agency and history, are the soil that the élites need in order to lift themselves onto the stage of History and begin the process of overcoming. Some societies never fully succeed in producing the upper, rational level, or their upper level somehow becomes separated from their unconscious, group level, and in such cases the societies in question fall out of the train of progress, are unable to move through all the stages of becoming and are doomed to extinction. And what determines this?