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The Young Turks and the Boycott Movement: Nationalism, Protest and the Working Classes in the Formation of Modern Turkey

The Young Turks and the Boycott Movement: Nationalism, Protest and the Working Classes in the Formation of Modern Turkey
Dogan Y. Cetinkaya

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The first decade of the twentieth century was the Ottoman Empire's 'imperial twilight'. As the Empire fell away however, the beginnings of a young, vibrant and radical Turkish nationalism took root in Anatolia. The summer of 1908 saw a group known as the Young Turks attempt to revitalise Turkey with a constitutional revolution aimed at reducing the power of the Ottoman Sultan, Abdulhammid II- who was seen to preside over the Ottoman Empire's decline. Drawing on popular support for the efence of the Ottoman Empire's Balkan territories in particular, the Young Turks promised to build a nation from the people up, rather than from the top down. Here, Y. Dogan Cetinkaya analyses the history of the Boycott Movement, a series of nationwide public meetings and protests which enshrined the Turkish democractic voice. He argues that the 1908 revolution the Young Turks engendered was in fact a crucial link in the wave of constitutional revolutions at the beginning of the twentieth century- in Russia (1905), Iran (1906), Mexico (1910) and China (1911) and as such should be studied in the context of the wider rise of democratic nationalism across the world.

The Young Turks and the Boycott Movement is the first history to show how this phenomenon laid the foundations for the modern Turkish state and will be essential reading for students and scholars of the Ottoman Empire and of the history of Modern Turkey.

Author Info

Dogan Cetinkaya is Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Political Sciences at Istanbul University, Turkey.


'This study of the social dimensions of early Turkish nationalism, along with its author Y. Dogan Çetinkaya, marks an extraordinary achievement by a representative of the emerging generation of Turkish historians who are transforming Ottoman and modern Turkish historiography. Çetinkaya broadens and deepens what we understand of the Young Turks, taking the reader beyond intellectual and political history, the story of committees and 'Great Men', into the mass activities of mobilized protestors. The boycott movement with its dramatic eruptions, port workers refusing to offload goods or crowds tearing up foreign-made fezzes, has largely been neglected up to now. By telling this story Çetinkaya gives us a revealing lens into the social history of the last years of the Ottoman Empire.'
Ronald Grigor Suny, Charles Tilly Collegiate Professor of Social and Political History, The University of Michigan

'Y. Dogan Çetinkaya’s important and careful analysis of the boycott movements in the late Ottoman Empire shows us important stages of a process in which the shared euphoria of Turks, Greeks and Armenians immediately after the constitutional revolution of 1908 would lead to expulsions and massacres only six years later. He demonstrates a clear pattern of escalation and convincingly shows that it was not just the nationalist economic policies devised at the center, but also the active involvement of local Muslim entrepreneurs and workers, who managed to exploit and steer those policies, that determined the outcome.'
Erik J. Zürcher, Leiden University, Chair of Turkish Studies

'This book provides an in-depth narrative of the boycott movement during the Young Turk period, initially directed against Austria-Hungary, then against the Kingdom of Greece, and finally against non-Muslims (mostly Greek-Orthodox) within the Ottoman empire. Differing from the conventional historiography on the subject, Y. Dogan Çetinkaya highlights not so much intellectual currents as the motor of the rising Muslim/Turkish nationalism, but rather the agency of social groups –workers, merchants, urban notables, civil servants and officers – that formed the backbone of numerous initiatives and organizations which succeeded in imposing the boycott on an empire-wide scale and thus exercised a direct influence on the political process. Although the ruling elite swiftly learned how to manipulate the population and control its reactions, the author argues persuasively that it was basically the interests of the Muslim middle class, articulated increasingly in the context of mass politics, which effected the shift from the Ottomanist discourse of 1908 to a radical nationalism that demanded the elimination of non-Muslims from the economy from 1914 onwards. On the whole, the book represents an important contribution to the history of Islamization and Turkification of Asia Minor in the twentieth century.'
Fikret Adanir, Ruhr University, Bochum

'Fascinating insight into mass mobilization in the late Ottoman Empire.'
Today’s Zaman

Bibliographic Info

Imprint: I.B.Tauris
Publisher: I.B.Tauris & Co. Ltd.
Series: Library of Ottoman Studies

ISBN: 9781780764726
Publication Date: 18 Dec 2013
Number of Pages: 320
Height: 216
Width: 134
Illustrations: 2 maps

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