Turkey: Roman Script and The Kemalist

By Naveed Tajammal

Editor’s Note: This is a special study conducted by Opinion Maker headed by Naveed Tajammal. The failures and the causes of the fall of Ottoman Empire have been identified in this paper. 

This is a cross post from : http://www.opinion-maker.org/2013/10/turkey-roman-script-and-the-kemalist/


By Naveed Tajammal

The Fall of Eastern Roman Empire on 29 May 1453 remained a sore point between both the Schismatic Christian Churches, as we study the past we see them in a continuous endeavour to revive their old past by fair or foul means. Vatican and the Eastern Church have since the rise of western powers 18th century onward focused on education as the sole means of transformation of mindsets as per their needs, with particular  reference to the change in the Turkish language Script, and a revival of Christian Latin script, by Kemalist one sees the role of the Church once again.

The decadence within the fabric of the Ottoman empire took its toll, earlier too; the enlightened Turks of Seljuk era had fallen prey to Persian poetry and its literature and had conveniently forgotten that they had a far superior script, which was used in the code of Ghenghis khan, and later by Amir Timur too in his Code, as well the first of Mughal Emperor Babar himself wrote his ‘Autobiography’ Tuzuk e Babari in the same old Turkish Script.

The Seljuk used a mixture of Turkish and Persian in literature and Arabic in Jurisprudence and Sciences; this is now classified as ‘Eski-Osmanla’ [Old Osamanli Turkish] and wrote in Perso-Arabic script, This remained in vogue till 16th Century, After Turks became the Caliphs, emerges the ‘Orta-Osmanla’ or the middle-Osmanali Turkish, Technically which is paramount till the fall of empire, this had Turkish as the base with heavy reliance on Persian and Arabic loan words in its vocabulary, after the Tanzimats [reforms starting 1839-comes influx of French terms or loan words within the statecraft ],as by than more and more western educated Bureaucrats entered the main stream of statecraft, The equally liberated sultan like Mahmud ll issued a Firman [royal edict] called Hatt e Sherif of Gulhane’ or the edict of the Royal garden [Gulhane] where from it had been proclaimed on 3rd November 1839,instead of improving the ‘Rot’ within the system, it was foolishly thought,  that, by importing and adopting new western ideas, codes and a change in dress and insignia, the decay would end, and the Tide would change, This edict put an end to the old Millat System evolved through ages by the empire builders of the past times, which was based on time tested solid grounds, and had been a successful, system.

Ottoman Empire was a heterogeneous empire which consisted of different nationalities and religions, Millat system  lasted with the a strong Ottoman writ enforced, however as the writ weakened the troubles  started, Turks had  always been liberal rulers, As per Millat system the subject races with their divergent religious beliefs were allowed to have their own civil laws and institutions, the head of each religious unit, had a right to impose their own tax’s ,to collect and spend it upon their own community, however loyalty to the state/empire remained paramount, all heads came directly under the Sultan and had seats within the court assembly when a member of any Millat committed a crime against a member of another, the law of the injured party applied, but in matters relating to crime against a Muslim or the state, the Islamic law was enforced, and matter adjudged in the court of the Qazi. So Eastern Greek Orthodox Church was represented by Patriarch of Constantinople [Istanbul] likewise was the head of Jewish sect in majority, or the Armenian or Syrian Church.

The Jews [Sephardic Jews] had flourished within the Ottoman empire since the fall of Muslim empire in Spain, and as the  Christian inquisitions increased the prosecution of Jews they all flocked within the Ottoman empire ”Thessaloniki, the second largest city of later Greece became the main trading centre of Jews, and was termed and called by them as ‘La madre de Israel’ [The mother of Israel],and here they lived, dominated the Trade within the Ottoman empire, till the great fire of 1917,Greeks were always an ethnic minority here in this city, it was only after the Christian ignited fire, that 72,000 Jews mainly perished in this fire and which rendered 50,000 plus Jews homeless ,all of them immigrated mainly to USA and later Israel, and Ethnic Greeks over 100,000 were transported here after 1922.

The Beheading of Kara Mustapha the Grand Vizier of Ottoman in 1683, can be termed as the day of decline of Ottoman Sultans, and rise of Harem intrigues. Sultans of late, had been having Christian Princess as mothers, who having been given freedom of their religion had vested interests. Kara Mustapha was the last visionary Grand Vizier to have thought of annexing Germany and making it the North western province of the empire.

With the decline in the moral character amongst the central figures of the administration, and with passage of time we see the emergence of ‘Eastern Question’, British throughout 18th/19th Century stood as champion’s of Ottoman empire as she had the imperial writ [Naval power] and colonies far and wide in the East; opening of Suez-canal had made it all more vital that she look after Ottoman power.

As the Russian Czars were fast moving here in this sector as well, all British key-naval routes were associated with Ottoman Empire. If had the Czars succeeded, the routes would have come under threat or blockade. Austro-Hungarian Empire too had a common foe in Russia, and Czars were spending a lot of Gold to stir the Pan-slavian movement, linked with Russian Slavs; Austria herself was a multi-racial empire, and feared a rise of slav nationalists of Balkans, as it affected her southern dominions and trade on the Danube river. French of late had become the main protectors of Roman Catholics of the Ottoman regions, and France was focused on Egypt and Syria, Germany too wanted her share in the changing fortunes of the old Turkish Empire, commercial interests were foremost for French. Serbs with Russian gold, were first to revolt in 1804 however hard did Kara George try it was only under Milos Obrenovich [1815] that Serbia emerged under Russian Protectorate, The Greeks revolted in 1820,a series of wars broke throughout empire, Ambitious Pasha’s were the foremost Actors in this Drama, privy to the weakness within the empire, at the first hand, they became the fifth columnists and secessionist, Not realizing that it was the Empire which had created them in the first place.

The Christian missionaries opened western educational schools, by the end of 19th century, 1500 such institutions were all over the Turkish Empire, with no intellectual worth his salt, left to oppose the new thought process. The, Christians, changed and created a new class of men, the champions of a new order called “Secularism”.

The same Turk who under the leadership of, Kara Mustapha, the Grand Vizer, was at Vienna, in 1683,who with an army of 500,000,was thinking of making Germany his new north western, province of the Empire, now had Sultans ,attending, like Abdul Aziz. The Paris exhibition of 1867,and later going to London to receive from the Queen of the British, Victoria, “The Order of Garter” meaning thereby, “the prime order of Christendom “which was awarded to the following five: The Prelate, or the Bishop of Winchester: The Chancellor, the Registrar, the King of Arms, or the Chief Herald (servant) at Windsor, the seat of the British Monarch, and lastly to the Usher, the man in charge of the “black rod:”An ebony stick which had a gold top of lion, the symbol of British Monarchy. The Usher was the Sergeant at Arms of the monarch in the House of Lords.

Thus such a fate befell, the caliph of Muslims and the Sultan of the Turks, when he stooped to accept the ‘Order of the Garter’ from the British Queen, it was this Sultan and his team of advisor’s, who bankrupted the state too, for the services rendered to the west he was allowed the privilege of joining their self created elitist club, It was in 1853,that the term, ‘the sick man’ was coined by the west and the process of the Empire’s balkanization started.

Unfortunately, in the last 20 years of the 19th century, all major industries of the Turkish Empire had been handed over to the foreign firms, the railways, mines, and the armament industries. Throughout, these 20 years Turkey had been gradually sold out and pawned off to foreigners. A secret revolutionary society had been formed in the period of Ali Pasha, the Grand Vizier, around 1867 or so called the young, “Ottomans” poets like Namik  Kemal Bey, and Zia Pasha, had fled to Paris, and were inciting the public. Good men and a few honest statesmen had held the tottering empire. On the other hand, under the shelter of these capitulations, British, American, French and later, Germans stared schools. The later famous Robert College at Istanbul and the American University at Beirut  arose out of the Tanzimats.

The mektab and ma’drs’ah died, they were blamed for being in the way of progress of a new Turkey. What the Turk failed to realize was that it was this very education & well established with which, they were at the doors and inside Europe, whenever they wished. With the new mode of education the Turk not only lost the empire but himself too. The cause of success had been the education and the “esnafs “or the guilds, these esnafs, were provided special privileges, thus trade and handicrafts obtained an important status and a system of self government among part of Muslim population of the empire as far as their occupational rights were concerned, Now the foreign products were allowed to enter the markets, the old guilds died.  The gradual, decay in the Ottoman Empire, cost her between, 1878 and 1882, an area of  232,000 square Kilometers of territory and a loss of 6 million subjects too.

In 1863 Robert College was established in Istanbul sponsored by a wealthy American [Christopher Robert] and the Job was entrusted to another American Religious Cleric, ”Cyrus Hamlin’[1811-1900] who was a Congregationalist Missionary, who aim in changing the mindsets through Education imparted through their own created subtle educational syllabus, however they move in a systematic way, first they create a cadre of teachers who are competent, to handle regions entrusted To  them, and with their missionary zeal they impart education, Cyrus was a product of ‘Bangor Theological Seminary located at Bangor, Maine, USA.

By 1865 Armenian Christians [Apostolic Church] had been allowed to enter the Congregational Fellowships, one such inductee was Agop Martayan’ he graduated from Roberts College Istanbul in 1915, he was a Armenian Ethnically, but a gifted man with a command over 22 languages, and became soon after a teacher of English, Ottoman Turkish and ancient Eastern Languages. He played a major role in creation of the New Roman script based Turkish Language, on the orders of Mustafa Kamal, who entitled him with a term’, ‘Dilacar’ or The Language Opener’. So Agop Dilacar, was the one who spearheaded the new Vocabulary/Dictionary of Turkish, Expunging the old Persian and Arabic Terms from it, used in the Orta Osmanali, in which till than all old literature and its treasures had been composed, which were left to Rot, in the Vast Ottoman libraries.

Agop Dilcar was also made later the Secretary General of ‘Turkish Language Association ‘in Ankara, later it was he who was the man behind, the creation of Turkish Encyclopedia [1942-1960],Earlier a need arose to go in antiquity of this script and language, therefore full reliance was quoted about the ‘The Sun Language Theory’, this theory had been put forth again by a Christian preacher [Friar] who went around under the name of ‘Hilaire de Barenton [his real name was ‘Etienne Boule’ 1864-1946] he had been ordained a Catholic Priest in 1887,and later joined the of Capuchin Friars minor in 1889,and was assigned work in Ottoman empire, here we see him in close contact with Agop Dilacar, Kemalists loved his approach and theory, and Mustapha Kemal became the foremost admirer.

The Argument of this theory was that, all human languages are descendants  of one and only Proto-Turkish Primal Language, that, because this primal language had close phonemic resemblance to Turkish, therefore all Languages can be traced back to Turkic Roots, the Theory was based on old Turkish Sun Worship, The concept of light and darkness, the role of Sun, and Fire and bitter cold of Central Asia, As per this theory as the Sumerian are alleged to have been the first to create the script they being Turks, having migrated from Central Asia and brought the concept of Time and script with them, hence it were they who had civilized the world, with their knowledge, This theory also overcame the hard reality when these Christian linguists were unable to find substitute words in Turkish for those in Persian and Arabic, hence they were legitimized in the new Turkish dictionary.

To be continued.

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  • Naveed Tajammal  On October 14, 2013 at 4:32 am

    Thank you for the post.Yasmeen.

  • shahbazthuthaal  On October 14, 2013 at 4:50 am

    Naveed thanks for sharing

    Muhammad Shahbaz Thuthaal EME CHS Multan road,lahore. 0301-3667777

  • Khalid Rahim  On October 14, 2013 at 7:10 am

    In 1960 my late father as GOC East Pakistan had seriously suggested to Field Marshal Ayub Khan to follow the example of Malaysia, Indonesia and Turkey by adopting the Latin Script and make each language spoken in Pakistan easy to learn.

    • Ali Khan  On October 14, 2013 at 9:24 am

      Or you know they (the Bengalis) could have been left to govern themselves and not ruled overby the west-Pakistanis!

    • Naveed Tajammal  On October 15, 2013 at 12:29 pm

      On the lighter side the lament in this article Khalid sahib,Is on the issue of Kemalist reverting to the script of the Entity which they had routed in 1453.As an analogy,Earlier in 1880 the British had through a Order,stated that Bengali [written in perso-arabic,till then] will be written in Deva-Nagri Script,(as the Tagore family had,The press already using the Type Font of Nagri,) and hand written petition will be in Katai script,in the courts,so Bengali lost all its old literature,New Bengali Dictionary already prepared was put,up and so we see the seed of new mindset set up through the works of Rabindranath Tagore,[the Mukhti] It is amazing what you find,should you seek old records,The Turks likewise suffered too.When you have Time read my Six Articles on ‘Secularism’ with Reference to Ottoman empire and Kemalists.

    • DIL  On March 25, 2014 at 9:59 am

      I think someone in year 1970 presented the idea to Yehya Khan’s Govt for adoption of Arabic /Persian or Urdu lettersfor Bangla language for Witten ,,,

  • Ali Khan  On October 14, 2013 at 9:29 am

    Thanks Yasmin mam for sharing this very eye-opening piece! Just hope that our rulers and policy-makers open their eyes to these Ottoman blunders that cost them the empire, lest it cost us our very own republic, or what is left of it.

  • Ajmal  On October 17, 2013 at 8:58 am

    Brilliant; as usual. Hope not watching Turkish soap Mera Sultan based on the life/achievements of Sulaiman The Magnificiant?



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