Ismayıl Hakkı Baltacıoğlu and Alternative Interpretations of the Early Turkish Republican Modernization Project

This article aims to provide a map of Ismayıl Hakkı Baltacıoğlu's thought beyond education-related matters and to complement works related to his views on education. Baltacıoğlu also offered writings that are guides to his mind-set regarding his understanding of social change and the modernization project underway during the early years of the Turkish Republic. Baltacıoğlu argued for a wider definition of nationality and a more moderate stance towards religion, displayed an evident degree of detachment from intellectualism and rationalism, insisted on historical continuity and adhered to a self-defined form of traditionalism. Despite his conservative stance, the regime tolerated him within its elite and assigned him to positions of significance but neutralized him as soon as he was perceived as defiant and challenging to the core of the system. Thus, his ideas eventually situated him on the periphery of the establishment, but only until the end of the "High Kemalist years." In this sense, Baltacıoğlu's career bears witness to both the degree of flexibility within the early Turkish Republican regime and Kemalism and to its limit. In the historiography on the late Ottoman Empire and the early Turkish Republic, the years following the establishment of the Turkish Republic in 1923, particularly "Kemalism par excellence" or the "High Kemalist years" of the 1930s, 1 appear to be the zenith of a westernization/modernization process that began in the nineteenth-century Ottoman context and marked the shift to a different spirit and scope compared to the few borrowings from the West in the previous century. Although attaining modernity had already become the supreme ideology of the nineteenth-1 Soner Çağaptay, "Reconfiguring the
Citation Formats
Ş. A. Zorlu Durukan, “Ismayıl Hakkı Baltacıoğlu and Alternative Interpretations of the Early Turkish Republican Modernization Project,” pp. 40–63, 2012, Accessed: 00, 2021. [Online]. Available: