Kemalism refers to a series of sweeping reforms instituted by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, which included republicanism, populism, secularism, reformism, nationalism, and statism. Kemalist reforms had a direct impact on Turkish daily life (though with greater visibility in urban areas). For example, like Turkey’s patchwork of ethnic minorities, Ottoman Turkish was seen as a conglomeration of Turkish, Arabic, and Persian, was written in the Arabic script, and inherently linked to Turkey’s Islamic past. Past decades had already seen efforts to standardize language in the Empire as part of Ottomanism, but Atatürk’s language reforms were far more comprehensive. Atatürk replaced the Arabic script with Roman script, and then charged the Turkish Language Institute in 1932 with purifying Turkish by identifying “foreign” words and replacing them with authentic Turkish terms. Symbolically, these reforms marked a break with Turkey’s Islamic history, connecting a pre-Islamic Turkic past with secular modernity.


İlker Aytürk, “Turkish Linguists against the West: the Origins of Linguistic Nationalism in Atatürk’s Turkey,” Middle Eastern Studies, Vol. 40, No. 6 (2004), pp. 1-25.

See also: Turkey