Racism-Turanism trials

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Defendants at the Racism-Turanism trial

During the Racism-Turanism trials (Turkish: Irkçılık-Turancılık Davası) the prosecution accused the defendants of spreading racist and Turanist (Central Asian unity) ideologies[1] and attempting a coup on the Turkish Government.[2] The trials lasted between May 1944 and March 1947,[1] and were triggered by nationalist demonstrations on 3 May 1944 in support of Nihal Atsız who was on trial against Sabahattin Ali for defamation.[1][2]


In a reaction to the rallies on 3 May 1944, from 9 May onwards around thirty people were detained, most of them known Pan-Turkists like Nihal Atsız.[3] Reha Oğuz Türkkan was arrested on 10 May[4] and Atsiz's brother Nejdet Sançar on 14 May in Balıkesir.[2] Several Turkish journalists supported the Turkish Government and blamed the people attending the manifestations of being racists and Turanists.[3] The Turkish President İsmet İnönü took the lead in the political sphere during a speech in the Ankara Stadium in which he proclaimed that Turkey was a nationalist country, but deemed Turanism of causing hostilities with its neighboring countries.[3][5] Journalists Hüseyin Cahit Yalçın and Mehmet Emin Erişirgil and other Turkish nationalists followed suit and also criticized the imprisoned Turkists.[6]


The Racism-Turanism trial against twenty-three defendants started on the 7 September 1944. Besides those mentioned above, notable defendants included Zeki Velidi Togan, Hikmet Tanyu, Alparslan Türkeş and Orhan Şaik Gökyay.[7]

Arguments by the prosecution[edit]

The prosecution attempted to portray the prominent racist ideologue Atsiz as not being of Turkish stock himself,[8] while Togan and Türkkan were accused of having been involved in the secret organization Görem established in 1941 in order to support an eventual alliance with Nazi Germany and liberate the Turkish people in the Soviet Union.[7] The indictment accused the defendants of having wanted to overthrow the acting Turkish Government.[9]

Arguments by the defendants[edit]

The defendants put forward several arguments. Türkkan argued that he only followed what the Turkish Government also demanded, because Kurdish and Greek nationalists were denied their right of being judges, and several governmental institutions were only open to Turks;[10] therefore, Türkkan claimed, the Turkish Government was also propagating racist policies. [10] Türkeş denied being a racist but defended the right of being a Turkish nationalist and believed in the martial superiority of the Turks as taught by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and in the Turkish Military institutions.[10] Asked whether he acknowledged the existence of other ethnicities who claimed to be Turks, Türkeş confirmed it, but demanded their complete Turkification.[10] Türkeş deemed the trial as an attack against Turkism and argued that racism was a part of Turkish politics since the time Atatürk was Turkey's President.[11]


On 29 March 1945, Togan was sentenced to ten years' imprisonment, Türkkan to five and Atsiz to six.[12] Another ten were sentenced to lesser prison terms while ten others were found not guilty.[12] The defendants appealed the verdict, alleging that they were victims of torture while in prison.[1] The Military Court of Cassation acquitted them and ordered their release.[1] The Military Court of Appeals objected and ordered a retrial, which began on 26 October 1945.[12] On 31 March 1947 all the defendants were acquitted because the Istanbul Martial Law Court argued there was no evidence for an attempt to overthrow the government; further, since the Turkish Settlement Law included notions of those who belong to the Turkish race and those who do not, racism was not contrary to the Turkish Constitution.[12]

Nihal Atsız on the way to court on 3 May 1944


Türkkan, Atsız, Togan, Sançar and others, who at the time were imprisoned in the Tophane Military prison, held a reunion on the 3 May 1945 to remember the demonstrations in support of Atsız. [13] Since, the day is celebrated as Turkism Day by Turkish nationalists.[14]


  1. ^ a b c d e Öztürkmen, Arzu (2005). "Folklore on Trial: Pertev Naili Boratav and the Denationalization of Turkish Folklore". Journal of Folklore Research. 42 (2): 195–196. ISSN 0737-7037.
  2. ^ a b c Uzer, Umut (2016). An Intellectual History of Turkish Nationalism: Between Turkish Ethnicity and Islamic Identity. University of Utah Press. p. 151. ISBN 978-1-60781-465-8.
  3. ^ a b c Landau, Jacob M. (1995). Pan-Turkism: From Irredentism to Cooperation. Hurst. p. 117. ISBN 978-1-85065-269-4.
  4. ^ Uzer, Umut (2016). p.157
  5. ^ Uzer, Umut (2016). p.152
  6. ^ Uzer, Umut (2016). p.153
  7. ^ a b Uzer, Umut (2016). pp.154–158
  8. ^ Uzer, Umut (2016). p.155
  9. ^ Uzer, Umut (2016), p154
  10. ^ a b c d Uzer, Umut (2016). p.159
  11. ^ Uzer, Umut (2016). p.149
  12. ^ a b c d Uzer, Umut (2016). pp.160–161
  13. ^ Management, Information Technology Department/Software Development. "Turkism Day, the day of 3 May 1944". - FACULTY OF ECONOMICS, ADMINISTRATIVE AND SOCIAL SCIENCES – Istanbul Gelisim University (in Turkish). Retrieved 2021-09-07.
  14. ^ "Turkey's nationalist party to hold extraordinary congress". www.aa.com.tr. Anadolu Ajansı. 8 April 2016. Retrieved 2021-09-07.