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31 December 1998


It might be of interest to say a few words about the recent discussions involving Ismail Gaspirali (1851-1914), Crimean Tatar educator, publisher, and reformer. All the exchange of ideas and words took place in Turkish, namely thru the issues of Turkistan Bulteni, a subset of Turkistan-N published by SOTA. This summary is intended especially for those interested in Crimean Tatars but could not follow the discussion in original Turkish.

The controversy started with the publication of an article, "Cedidcilerin Bilinmiyen Yonleri" (Unknown aspects of Jadidists) by Alaeddin Yalcinkaya of Sakarya University in Turkey. It appeared in the October 1998 issue of the conservative Tarih ve Medeniyet (History and Civilization). While written in a low-key academic style, the article attacked Gaspirali and claimed that he was a Russian agent, even more dangerous than Russians themselves. In reality, Yalcinkaya's article sounded more like a rehash of the old Jadidist-Qadimist controversy, slanted toward the Qadimists of course.

Let me add parenthetically here that Jadidists were reformers, who advocated "usul-i jadid" or the new method, and included Gaspirali and his supporters. The Qadimists were traditionalists associated with Islamic schools (medreses) and defended "usul-i qadim" or the old method. The reform movement first began in education and later extended to other aspects of social life among the Muslim populations living in Tsarist Russia.

A passionate and detailed defense of Gaspirali was provided by Necip Hablemitoglu of Ankara University. His article, "Seriatcilarin Ataturk'ten sonra yeni hedefi: Gaspirali'ya Saldiri" (After Ataturk, the Islamic Right takes a new aim: Attack on Gaspirali), was distributed in two parts by Turkistan-N on 2 and 8 December 1998. Hablemitoglu, who has published extensively on Crimean Tatar history, showed that Yalcinkaya does not know the original historical sources well enough and did not do the required "homework." This point is well taken, as a close examination of Yalcinkaya's arguments and documentation indicates that the article is based on what others had said, mostly by Gaspirali's critics. However, Hablemitoglu took the jest of the article to be an attack on Ataturk's reforms and the western life style in Turkey.

There were three responses to Necip Hablemitoglu, two criticizing and one defending his views, and Hablemitoglu's own reply to his critics, distributed on 15 December and 23 December, respectively. The polemical exchange, which has gotten rather hot, perhaps no longer concerns Gaspirali, but is about the current reformist-Islamist debate in Turkey.

If you are interested, the above mentioned issues of Turkistan Bulteni are part of the Turkistan-N archives and are available on World Wide Web. (Please note that these articles are all in Turkish and relatively long.)


  1. Necip Hablemitoglu, "Gaspirali'ya Saldiri," Part I, Turkistan Bulteni No. 045, 02 December 1998; and Part II, No. 046, 08 December 1998.  (Part I)  (Part II)


  2. "Gaspirali'ya Saldiri yazisi uzerine," by Ekrem Kasap, Nail Unlu, and Sefa M. Yurukel, Turkistan Bulteni No. 047, 15 December 1998. 


  3. Necip Hablemitoglu's response to the above, Turkistan Bulteni No. 048, 23 December 1998. 

As a final point, I would like to note that I sensed no anti-Tatar sentiments in Yalcinkaya's article, neither the reviewers touched upon this aspect. Rather, the arguments focus mostly on reformist-traditionalist issues.

Inci Bowman
Washington, D.C.

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