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The Flagship Institution of Cold War Turcology

Türk Kültürünü Araştırma Enstitüsü, 1961-1980
İlker Aytürk


The study of the cultural Cold War, the untold story of how the USA and the USSR employed and often exploited the academia and the arts for war purposes, is now a particularly fruitful line of inquiry, but it has scarcely reached the field of Turkish studies. This article focuses on the Türk Kültürünü Araştırma Enstitüsü (TKAE), founded in Ankara in 1961. Ostensibly, the TKAE was an academic institute, doing research on the Turkic world; however, its political objectives, as I attempt to show, went far beyond the scholarly confines of academia. I will first describe the Cold War environment in which the TKAE was born by putting this institution into its international and domestic contexts in two separate sections. Proving the convergence of American interests and the interests of right-wing Turkish elites is going to be my goal here. Next, I will provide information about the foundation of the TKAE, its institutional structure, membership, aims and activities. Finally, I will conclude by discussing what the TKAE episode teaches us in understanding Cold War Turkey.

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Marie Bossaert and Emmanuel Szurek invited me twice, to İstanbul and Hamburg, for presenting earlier versions of this article and encouraged me all along. Audiences at the İstanbul workshop and the Orientalistentag at Hamburg provided comments and suggestions. I must particularly single out those by Ryosuke Ono. Anonymous reviewers of the EJTS helped me improve the argument. Finally, Oğuz Can Ok was of great assistance in doing research, sorting out research material and preparing the tables. My thanks go to all.

1Sometime in 1966 or 1967, a phone rang in the office building of Türk Kültürünü Araştırma Enstitüsü (Institute for Research on Turkish Culture, hereafter TKAE) at Tunus Caddesi No. 16 in downtown Ankara. The man in the room, Enver Altaylı, was working on newspapers and documents from the Soviet Central Asia, which had recently arrived at the institute library. Enver was quite young at 23, but he already had a very stormy past behind him. He was born in 1944 in Adana, Turkey into a family of Uzbek refugees. His father named him after Enver Paşa, who died fighting Bolsheviks and whose name was etched in the memory of this politically active family. Young Enver enrolled in the Turkish War College and was expelled from school together with all his schoolmates after a coup attempt in 1963 by the former school commander, Colonel Talat Aydemir. Following that, he found a temporary job as reporter at the nationalist daily Yeni İstanbul, but clearly reporting was not his forte: Journalism did not quench his passion for being a mover and shaker. Throughout 1964 and 1965 he supported the nationalist leader Alparslan Türkeş and organized the youth branch of the party-in-the-making (Ülkü 2008: 100-103).

2When the phone rang, Enver Altaylı was working at the TKAE as research assistant upon the recommendation of his former boss at Yeni İstanbul. His memoirs give the impression that he had no clue who was calling him. When he picked it up, he was taken aback to find out that on the other end of the line was Fuat Paşa, otherwise known as Major General Fuat Doğu, the then recently appointed director of the Turkish intelligence (Milli İstihbarat Teşkilatı, hereafter MİT). This was an invitation for a tête-à-tête meeting with Doğu at a secret MİT office near the Gençlik Parkı in the heart of the city. During the meeting the same day, Enver Altaylı was recruited for MİT service and given the code name Ümit (Hope) (Ülkü 2008: 113-114). Little did he know that he would soon find himself a major actor in great power politics, rubbing shoulders with presidents, generals, politicians, intellectuals on the one hand, and informants and secret agents on the other.

3The fact that Altaylı got employed at the TKAE in the first place and that he received that fateful phone call from Fuat Paşa at his office were by no means a coincidence. For a good part of its early history (and probably thereafter, too), the TKAE stood at the center of crisscrossing relationships between the Turkish government, the military, the secret service, the academia, right-wing print media and right-wing intellectuals. It was an open secret that behind the façade of an academic research institute, the TKAE served as the rallying point against, first, left-wing activism in Turkey, and, second, the Soviet Union.

4In this article, I focus on the role of the TKAE in Cold War Turcology, that is, from its foundation in 1961 to 1980. Within this framework, I aim to address three broad sets of questions. First, taking my cue from the burgeoning field of cultural Cold War studies, I want to throw some light on the interaction between the international and the domestic, and see how the Cold War imposed a straightjacket on social sciences and humanities in Turkey, in general, and on the field of Turcology, in particular. In other words, what was the role of the Cold War and Cold War actors in shaping frameworks of intellectual debate and production of knowledge in Turkey? How can we uncover traces of this interaction between the international and the domestic? What particular evidence should we be looking for: Bilateral relations between Turkey and foreign actors (in this case, the USA)? Financial and infrastructural support from abroad? Or, the export of institutions and institutional experience? Second, I will problematize the agency of the state. How and why did the Turkish state get involved in Turcological debates? Why did the state assemble and maintain “friendly” networks of academics, artists and intellectuals to produce and disseminate “convenient” knowledge? Furthermore, are we talking about a monolithic state, or can we actually break the seemingly singular “state agent” down into its components? Who or which actors acted in the name of the state? Did those actors speak with one voice, or did they fight over policy? What insights do such conflicts give us on the proverbial polarization in modern Turkish politics between civil/military bureaucrats and elected politicians? Third, does this micro-level study on one particular institution allow us to question, and even challenge, a long-standing cliché in modern Turkish history? Contrary to the established wisdom, which posits mutual loathing between Kemalist state elites and right-wingers of all sorts during the multiparty period, is TKAE one example of many avenues of cooperation between the two groups, based on common interests?

5Doing research on the TKAE is a doubly difficult task for a historian of ideas. The difficulty partly stems from the fact that Cold War studies in Turkey have so far been the exclusive preserve of international relations scholars, who, of course, approached the subject from a security perspective. The impact of the Cold War on wholesale transformation of Turkish society, economy, military and bureaucracy, not to speak of the redrawing of the ideological map in post-1945 Turkey, largely escaped the attention of scholars. We must admit that the Cold War factor in modern Turkish studies is an extremely understudied topic (Örnek et al 2013; Örnek 2015; Işıksel 2014) and this neglect becomes all the more deplorable, when the Cold War has become a very fruitful field of research in the past 20 years, especially in NATO countries. Cultural, social and humanities aspects of the Cold War in Turkey certainly deserve consideration and I would argue that this is a prerequisite to understanding Turkey’s current political class and senior bureaucrats, most of whom are shaped by and products of Cold War conditions.

6To make things worse, there is also a problem of sources. Official documents of the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where the TKAE had its initial institutional home, and MİT, which gave constant support throughout, are currently classified and will likely remain so in the foreseeable future. The founders’ generation has also passed away, so doing oral history for the early years of this institution would not yield an insider’s view either. In the absence of those sources, one could hardly ascertain facts and write a definitive study free of speculation. In other words, scholars who want to do research on the TKAE – and on much of post-1945 republican history – unfortunately have to start by recognizing this limitation and should seek to meet the challenge by exploiting alternative sources. In the case of the TKAE, data need to be collected painstakingly from two open sources: TKAE publications, on the one hand, and memoirs, on the other. The number of books, academic or otherwise, published by the TKAE has now exceeded several hundred and, once in a while, their forewords and introductions contain hints that can be used to re-construct institutional history. Likewise, the institute journal Türk Kültürü (Turkish Culture), currently running into its 55th volume, and other occasional books and brochures that deal with the history of the TKAE contain useful evidence. However, by far the most important source for understanding why the TKAE was founded, how it worked, which principles guided its activities, and, finally, how it became a burden and gradually faded into unimportance in the late 1970s, is memoirs of people who were either affiliated with the institute or whose work shaped the institute’s fortunes. Two memoirs, one by the founding director of the TKAE, Ahmet Temir, and the other by the former MİT operative, Enver Altaylı, shed light on the foundation and activities of the TKAE during its heyday from 1961 to the early 1970s (Temir 2011; Ülkü 2008). Very helpful in recognizing the American perspective on the cultural Cold War in Turkey is the biography of Ruzi Nazar, a very colorful figure who was the CIA case officer in Ankara from 1959 to 1971 (Altaylı 2013). The fact that this biography is written by none other than Enver Altaylı, life-long associate and friend of Nazar, lays bare the extent of cooperation between Turkish and American intelligence services during the Cold War. Finally, two more memoirs from the 1970s, by Prime Minister Nihat Erim (1971-1972) and Vice Premier Sadi Koçaş (1971), help us explain the gradual downsizing of the TKAE in the early 1970s (Erim 2005; Koçaş 1977; Koçaş 1978).

7In this article, I will first describe the Cold War environment in which the TKAE was born by putting this institution into its international and domestic contexts in two separate sections. Proving the convergence of American interests and the interests of right-wing Turkish elites is going to be my goal here. Next, I will provide information about the foundation of the TKAE, its institutional structure, membership, aims and activities. In this section, I will also make a numerical content analysis of approximately 1800 articles published in the TKAE journal from 1962 to 1980. Finally, I will conclude by discussing what the TKAE episode teaches us in understanding Cold War Turkey.

I. Context 1: The International

8Until the late 1980s, scholars of international relations and security studies had established a virtual monopoly over research on the Cold War (Leffler et al 2010). It was only after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc countries that a serious stocktaking began and scholars from very diverse backgrounds and disciplines got involved in writing a total history of the conflict that defined twentieth century politics. For our purposes, the 1990s witnessed the birth of a new field of research, now called the cultural Cold War, as a result of the widespread recognition that the impact of the Cold War went far beyond the narrow confines of a military, political and economic conflict between two superpowers. The cultural Cold War was a supplement to the conflict and waged by the superpowers with three broad expectations:
a. Maintaining a friendly bloc of artists, intellectuals and opinion leaders at home and preventing sympathy for, or defection to, the other side,
b. Winning hearts and minds of artists, intellectuals and opinion leaders of the rival superpower and allies,
c. Pursuing the same goals in non-aligned, or newly independent Third World countries.

9We know comparably little about the Soviet cultural policy during the Cold War (Richmond 2003; Roth-Ey 2011; Tsipursky 2016), but the American side of the story has now appeared in great detail in a torrent of publications since the 1990s. Although not the first one to expose the CIA’s involvement in the cultural Cold War, Frances Stonor Saunders’ 1999 book (Saunders 1999) made the greatest impact and influenced a new generation of scholars, who put more flesh on the main contours of her argument.

10The most important discovery by Stonor Saunders was the CIA’s “long leash policy.” As early as the late 1940s, that is a few years into the Cold War, the CIA operatives in Europe came to the conclusion that artists and intellectuals in Europe had to be won over to the American cause, but that it was not that easy to achieve this end with the tried and tested methods of traditional intelligence warfare. Direct recruitment by the intelligence service worked successfully in only a handful of cases, and not only did it not create the expected spill-over effect, but, as a method, it carried the unwanted potential to backfire, since the European (and for that matter, American) art and intellectual scene was already left-leaning in the immediate post-WWII years. These men and women, who the CIA hoped to recruit for the American cause and to combat Soviet cultural influence in Europe and the USA, would never have collaborated with an American secret agency knowingly. In other words, on the part of the artists and intellectuals, any prospective collaboration with the CIA had to be, or at least look, unintentional: the CIA had to be several steps removed from the target individual with no face-to-face interaction and an effort was made to convince these unsuspecting collaborators that they were serving higher moral principles such as freedom and liberty rather than US national interests. CIA officers, therefore, set up cover institutions, which posed as intellectual and art platforms, or as civil society organizations, but which in effect shepherded intellectual and art capital toward desired goals. The most notorious of those proxies was the Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF), which maintained offices in all major European countries, published journals, organized international conferences, art exhibitions and performances, and all this with CIA money that reached it via secret channels. Established in 1950, the CCF carried out its mission by cajoling dozens of liberal artists, intellectuals and scholars into fighting Soviet and communist influence over arts and culture in Europe, until the exposure of its secret link to the CIA in 1966 (Harris 2016). Likewise, alongside the CIA, various other American organizations, too, invested heavily in creating networks of anticommunist opinion leaders in Europe and in other key countries, which were at the forefront of the Cold War (Scott-Smith et al 2008; Scott-Smith 2012; van Dongen et al 2014). All in all, the “long leash policy” proved to be a success in the sense that it motivated large numbers of liberal and, sometimes, left-leaning intelligentsia, who would not have otherwise supported American interests, to rally against the rigidities of Soviet-style communism (Whitfield 1996; Dunne 2013; Barnhisel 2015; Doherty 2003; Prevots 1998; Pavitt 2008; Poiger 2000).

11What is more, it also provided a model to be emulated in the scholarly world, as well. If the art and culture scene could be manipulated with a long leash, why should the same policy not work in the academia, especially during the postwar expansion of the higher education system in the western world, where thousands of academics were in constant search of funding and new venues for publication? Indeed, the CIA worked behind the scene to found the Munich Institute for the Study of the USSR (O’Connell 1990) in 1950 with precisely these practical concerns in mind. On the surface, the institute was the brainchild of eight academic (or semi-academic) refugees from the USSR, who aimed “. . . to conduct research into the theory and practice of various aspects of the state and social order of the USSR . . . for the purpose of providing the non-Soviet world . . . with reliable information on developments in the Soviet Union” (O’Connell 1990: 4). Funding for the institute personnel and activities came, seemingly, from The Radio Liberty Committee, composed of “concerned American citizens,” which also funded the Radio Liberty that made broadcasts to the Soviet-dominated world (O’Connell 1990: 2). The institute built a state-of-the-art library, funded research, published books and journals in many languages, offered a platform for conferences, and even a summer school for future Sovietologists. Behind that academic façade, however, there was a murky story. Some of the original eight founders had collaborated with the Nazis during WWII; they shifted loyalties for a second time and offered their services to the advancing American forces at the end of the war. At least six out of eight were known to be working for the CIA by 1950 (O’Connell 1990: 18 and 29). A CIA handler, posing as an advisor, was affiliated with the institute and money continued to pour in until 1971, when the CIA connection was exposed by a maverick US senator, Clifford Case, thereby shattering the academic respectability of the institute (O’Connell 1990: 2).

12While the Munich institute never did cutting edge science, it always maintained the academic link and that must have been what mattered for the CIA above all. If it ultimately aimed to convince European and, more importantly, Third World intellectuals that the socialist path to modernity was a recipe for disaster, this message had to be conveyed with the authoritative tone of a scientist. Of course, it would be extra helpful if the “scientist” was a former Soviet citizen, who grew up experiencing first hand shortcomings of the socialist system.

13Under conditions of an intellectual war between rival ideologies, questions regarding the scientificity of their academic work bothered neither producers of knowledge at the institute, nor consumers of that knowledge at the other end of the assembly line, that is as long as the anticommunist scientist got his/her numbers right and conformed to the established standards of doing social science. Indeed, when Munich scholars published, say, damning figures about the state of the Soviet economy, or reports about the frustration of artists in Soviet-controlled Eastern Europe, they did not lie. Their talks, panels, conferences, reports, articles and books, all pointed at some failing aspect of variants of socialism as they had been practiced in many socialist countries at the time. What was problematic about their “academic” work was, however, that they were not free in their choice of topic, approach or paradigm. Characteristically, all scholars affiliated with the Munich Institute or who collaborated with it were anticommunists. Some were already anticommunist before and were drawn to the institute by ideological affinity. Others had to skew their research and findings to make them fit the institute agenda; this they did for a variety of reasons, including the search for research funds, readily available publication venues, access to an enthusiastic reading public, and prestige accorded to rubbing shoulders with bureaucrats and top policy-makers. The ways in which the Cold War impacted on the development of social sciences and humanities in the western world has actually been studied in great detail (Gilman 2003; Solovey; Cravens 2012; Price 2016). In any case, this lack of freedom in choosing one’s research question and approach introduced a major flaw into their otherwise academic work right from the beginning. The same kind of flaw afflicted and could be observed in the work of other anticommunist research institutes elsewhere, i.e. TKAE, which were modeled after the mother institution in Munich.

II. Context 2: The Domestic

14In order to understand the emergence of the TKAE in 1961 ‑ literally, out of the blue ‑ and policies and concerns that paved the way for its foundation, we also need to place this institution in its domestic context, recognizing the fact that home factors played a role as much as the international did. The 1960s was a special decade because, alongside Turkey, studies on Greece (Kazamias 2002-2003), Ireland (Delaney 2011), Italy (Del Pero 2001; Jachec 2005), and Spain (Wilhelm 1998) show that right-wing establishment elites in those countries, too, perceived a greater threat to regime stability and followed similar paths to deal with the “Red Peril.” One common feature that arises from those studies is the significance of the right-wing elites, who dominated national politics in many NATO countries at the time, and how their threat perceptions were shaped by and, in return, prolonged the cultural Cold War.

15The worst nightmare of the Turkish establishment in the 1960s was the possibility of a socialist takeover. Those worries were not totally unfounded. Turkey barely survived threats from Stalin’s Russia at the beginning of the Cold War and was forced to give up traditional neutrality and join NATO. Turkey was the only NATO country that shared a common border with the USSR, facing the threat of a Soviet invasion of NATO’s southern flank. Turkish state elites found some consolation, however, in knowing that there were very few socialists in Turkey in the 1940s and the 1950s, and those few had virtually no impact on Turkish politics. Despite later attempts to amplify its weight and impact, socialism arrived quite belatedly in the Ottoman-Turkish context and remained weak during its first few decades (Tunçay 2009). According to Kemal Karpat, “the number of convinced leftists in Turkey . . .” in the immediate post-WWII years “. . . probably never exceeded a thousand” (Karpat 1966: 177). As a result, socialism advanced with baby steps initially and, while socialists were tolerated individually, all attempts at organizing socialists into a movement were scuttled from the 1930s on. State persecution of socialists intensified even further following Turkish membership in NATO. Unlike most other NATO countries, Turkey did not have a legal, systemic socialist or communist party in the early years of the Cold War.

16Things were going to change drastically in the aftermath of the military coup d’état in 1960. Learning lessons from the Democratic Party era (1950-1960) and determined to prevent yet another domineering single-party government, the junta of young officers took several measures to limit executive power in the future. Most importantly, the 1961 Constitution, which was drafted according to the wishes of the military:
a. Created a neutral president (and there was a tacit agreement that all future presidents were going to emerge from among the ranks of the officer corps),
b. Conceived new institutions (e.g. the Senate, the Constitutional Court, the National Security Council, the State Planning Organization), which were meant to undercut executive power,
c. Consolidated institutional autonomy of the judiciary and the universities as well as civil liberties to block government intervention.

17Furthermore, a new electoral law was adopted in 1961 that leaned toward proportional representation in spirit and was likely to produce coalition governments (as it did between 1961 and 1965, and from 1973 to 1980). All in all, there were two major consequences of the 1960 Coup: First, the Turkish military re-emerged as a decisive political actor and established a military tutelage over civilian politics that was going to last until the 1980 Coup and beyond; and, second, the Turkish political center fragmented, thereby ending the two-party system of the 1950s and paving the way for radical parties on the right and the left.

18The Turkish left was one political movement that reaped the benefits of the new environment the most. Indeed, if there is one defining characteristic of Turkey in the 1960s, that has to be the rise of the Turkish left. This was partly a result of changing demographics. The number of wage earners in Turkey increased to nearly two million in the 1960s (Karpat 1966: 177), creating a potential base for leftist politics. Right after the coup, a new, Kemalist-socialist journal, Yön, began publication in 1961 and its first issue contained a memorandum, or a socialist recipe for speedy development in Turkey. The memorandum was undersigned by more than a thousand academics, journalists, artists, authors, poets, a who’s who of Turkish intelligentsia at the time, showing the broad appeal of socialism in the country (Lipovsky 1992: 85-108; Ulus 2011: 20-42). The Turkish grande école, the Faculty of Political Sciences at Ankara University, otherwise known as the Mülkiye, which educates Turkey’s top bureaucrats, concurrently became the focal point of socialist activism. While not so strong in the ballot box, the Turkish Workers’ Party, on the other hand, was founded in 1961 by labor unions and immediately sent shock waves through the establishment with its eye-catching propaganda tactics, effective opposition at the parliament, and, finally, with its party support for Kurdish rights in Turkey (Lipovsky 1992: 9-82). The Turkish left, both at the parliament and on the street, seemed to have a monopoly over ideas: Turkish leftists could easily point at economic “miracles” such as the Soviet Union, China, or Cuba—of course, little was known about the human cost of those miracles—and claimed that all Turkey had to do was to follow the same path toward development, a claim which could hardly be matched by Turkish right-wing elites at the time. Concerns over the rapid success of leftist parties, movements and ideas grew into alarm by 1968, when the global student movement finally reached Turkish campuses, and scores of radicalized students chose armed struggle against the government as the legitimate path to a socialist revolution in Turkey. To add another layer of complexity, socialism made inroads into the Turkish military, winning over many junior, and occasionally senior, officers as well (Ulus 2011).

19The majority of the senior officer corps, however, was and remained solidly pro-NATO and anticommunist. Toward the end of the 1960s, they were faced with a leftist tide, which was partly their own creation. In this new atmosphere, the Turkish military, arguably the most decisive actor in Turkish politics in the 1960s, was forced to resort to new strategies to deal with this unexpected and unwanted challenge. The military’s response manifested itself in several fronts. First, a slow but methodical purge removed virtually all leftist officers from the military following the military intervention of 1971. In the same vein, the generals took the opportunity in the same year to impose an amendment of the 1961 Constitution that reversed its liberal character. With the closure of the Turkish Workers’ Party by court order a couple of months after the military intervention (Aydın; Taşkın 2014: 206-207 and 223-228), the Turkish radical left did not necessarily lose its effectiveness, but largely went underground and ceased to be a systemic actor.

20The mastermind behind this political and legal onslaught against the left was no other than a compact of senior generals. Particularly between 1966 and 1971, a triumvirate composed of President Cevdet Sunay (General and former Chief of the General Staff, 1960-1966; President of the Turkish Republic, 1966-1973), General Memduh Tağmaç (Chief of the General Staff, 1969-1972), and Major General Fuat Doğu (head of the Turkish secret service, 1962-1964 and 1966-1971) devised and coordinated measures against the Turkish left, which were then communicated at the National Security Council to the center right Süleyman Demirel Government (1965-1969 and 1969-1971), which was in collusion with them. Although the inaccessibility of official documents make it impossible to ascertain the nature and the extent of those measures, historians of the period are able to catch a glimpse of this powerful triumvirate from the diaries and memoirs of Prime Minister Nihat Erim (1971-1972) and Minister of State and Vice-Premier Sadi Koçaş (1971). Both Erim and Koçaş describe (and complain about) an extremely powerful secret service, which even dared to spy on the leftist faction within the main opposition party and its leader, future Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit (Erim 2005: 945). Koçaş portrays the secret service boss, Fuat Doğu, as the man who fanned the flames by sending a flood of anticommunist reports to Sunay and Tağmaç (Koçaş 1978: 104-165 and 202-203). It was Koçaş, in particular, who warned Fuat Doğu “not to transgress the law” and “not to get involved in party politics” (Koçaş 1978: 119-120); according to Koçaş:

Chief of the General Staff [Memduh Tağmaç] is unfortunately totally under the command of the President [Cevdet Sunay]. The President, on the other hand, is under the influence of the Undersecretary of MİT [Fuat Doğu]. In other words, they constitute a tripod . . . .[Fuat Doğu] has no regard for the rule of law . . . (Koçaş 1978: 165)

21When Erim and Koçaş finally decided to remove Doğu from power, this was discussed at a National Security Council meeting and met with stiff resistance from the President and the Chief of the General Staff. Sunay and Tağmaç surrendered only after Koçaş threatened them with the resignation of the government. (Koçaş 1978: 241-252)

22The evidence at hand reveals the commitment of the Turkish secret service, the MİT, under Fuat Doğu, to arresting the expansion of leftist influence in Turkey at all fronts. Under Cold War conditions, one could imagine that Doğu’s crusade against the left also involved rallying public opinion against them, and doing this by implementing the long-leash policy and giving a boost to right-wing civil society organizations or founding them where they did not exist. After all, it was extremely important to depict state anticommunism as an outcome and a reflection of national sentiments; not only did this reinforce the already negative image of the left as an alien abnormality, a tumor to be excised from the Turkish body, but it also helped the secret service to occasionally outsource the excision operation to these organizations, which remained in the orbit of the state elites in spite of their private, civil nature. As a matter of fact, one could only marvel at the rapid increase after 1965 in the number of right-wing organizations such as Mücadele Birliği (1967), Ülkü Ocakları (1968), Aydınlar Ocağı (1970) Kubbealtı Cemiyeti (1970), MİSK (1970) or the transformation and expansion of others such as Millî Türk Talebe Birliği (1965), Komünizmle Mücadele Derneği (1965) and how this period of right-wing activism overlapped with the tenure of Fuat Doğu at the MİT.

23How could academic support for this anticommunist bloc be procured? What kind of academic infrastructure and resources were available to combat leftist intellectuals? Apart from very few institutions of higher education in Turkey in the 1960s, two very important institutes could have been expected to join in, but did not. Türk Tarih Kurumu (the Turkish History Institute) and Türk Dil Kurumu (the Turkish Language Institute) were established in the early 1930s as semi-private societies, which nevertheless maintained a privileged relationship with the Turkish state until the early 1950s. From the very beginning, they dealt with humanities with a special emphasis on the language(s) and history of the Turkic peoples, exactly the kind of academic knowledge Fuat Doğu needed to support Turkish anticommunism. Both institutes were home to researchers (émigrés or otherwise), who could speak Turkic dialects of Inner Eurasia and do original research on the Turkic minority groups in the Soviet Union; their libraries had already been accumulating standard reference works and monographs on those subjects for decades. However, their contribution to the anticommunist struggle in the 1960s can be described as minimal to non-existent. Both institutes and their cadres of research still reflected concerns of the early republican Kemalist founders dating back to the 1930s, which was, namely, to consolidate an Anatolia-centered Turkish nation-state. The more academic of the two, Türk Tarih Kurumu, largely avoided getting drawn into ideological fracas and, as its output and activities show, continued its tradition of Kemalist prerogatives under two long-serving chairmen, Şemsettin Günaltay (1941 to 1961) and Şevket Aziz Kansu (1962-1973). Türk Dil Kurumu, on the other hand, had already made a name for being a bastion of left-wingers since the 1950s and was in open conflict with right-wing intellectuals, who abhorred its revolutionary language policy. With no significant support coming from these two institutes, the road was paved for the foundation of a new one.

III. The TKAE: Infrastructure, Goals, and Activities

  • 1 Ahmet Temir’s bio resembles the bios of the founders of the Munich Institute in uncanny ways. He sp (...)

24The origins of the TKAE actually date back to the Democratic Party era. The founding chairman of the TKAE, Ahmet Temir1, relates in his memoirs that an American delegation arrived in Ankara in the 1950s to discuss the possibility of opening a branch of the Munich Institute for the Study of the USSR in Turkey to conduct research about dış Türkler, Turks or Turkic peoples living outside the boundaries of the Turkish Republic. While they lay bare the institutional linkage between Munich and the future TKAE, these early contacts did not produce concrete results and were cut short by the 1960 Coup (Temir 2011: 215). However, something much more important was brewing simultaneously in faraway Washington, DC, exposing further the American role in the foundation of the TKAE. This was an encounter that involved two very unusual characters, Alpaslan Türkeş and Ruzi Nazar, and both need a short introduction.

25Türkeş was a junior officer in the Turkish army and burdened with a checkered past. As a young cadet, he was a protégé of the Turkish racist Nihal Atsız in late 1930s and was imprisoned and appeared before a court in the Racism-Turanism Trials between 1944 and 1947. He was eventually acquitted and admitted back to the army, advancing swiftly thanks to his charismatic personality. He was going to get involved in the 1960 Coup and appointed as Undersecretary of the Prime Minister’s Office, a very powerful office which he held for four months. Fault lines emerged soon within the junta, however, and Türkeş was exiled to Delhi, where he was to stay until 1963. Upon his return to Turkey, Türkeş established and led Turkey’s most important nationalist party, the Nationalist Action Party, until his death in 1997 (Turgut 1995). Ruzi Nazar, on the other hand was born an Uzbek citizen of the USSR, joined the Soviet army, and was captured by the Nazis during the WWII. He, first, offered his services to his Nazi captors and helped them organize the Turkestanischen Legion out of Turkic captives from the Soviet army to fight against their former masters. When the Nazis were defeated by the Allied powers, Nazar changed sides for a second time and was now recruited by the American intelligence. He climbed the hierarchical ladder and, most significantly, served as the CIA case officer in Turkey from 1959 to 1971 (Altaylı 2013).

26Nazar was of the opinion that the Soviet Union, despite its ostensible strength, had a soft belly, and that was the nationalities question. He believed that Moscow had tried, but not been able, to smother nationalism of dozens of ethnic minority groups under the federal umbrella and Soviet power could be checked primarily by keeping national aspirations alive and supporting them whenever possible (Altaylı 2013: 367). As he himself belonged to one of those minority groups, Nazar wanted to concentrate his professional efforts on the Turkic peoples living in Soviet Central Asia and the Idil-Ural region. Of course, Turkey as the only independent Turkish state, which also was a prized NATO ally due to its border with the Soviet Union, constituted the natural stepping-stone for the realization of this policy.

  • 2 Nazar’s role in spotting and bringing individual right-wingers into a common network and forming a (...)

27To reach his goal, Nazar befriended Turks in Washington, DC, before he was eventually posted to Ankara.2 This is how he approached Colonel Alpaslan Türkeş, who was in DC and Arlington, Texas from 1955 to 1957 as part of the Turkish military delegation in NATO; their acquaintance soon grew into a lifelong friendship (Altaylı 2013: 323-325). Türkeş must have known Nazar’s CIA connection, but two factors seem to have moderated the situation. First, those were the initial, euphoric years of Turkey’s admission to NATO as a full member and, at the height of the Cold War, the close rapport between a Turkish officer and the American intelligence might have been considered less of a problem. Second, and more relevant, the two men shared an emphatic confidence in the future of Turkish nationalism and were, thus, bound by ideological ties, as well. During his American sojourn, Türkeş introduced Nazar to another Turkish officer, a senior officer this time, Fuat Doğu, the future head of the Turkish intelligence, who was also visiting the American capital for an extended stay (Altaylı 2013: 355; Ülkü 2008: 136).

28According to Altaylı ‑ and we should always take claims by a former intelligence officer with a pinch of salt ‑ Fuat Doğu sought to re-organize the Turkish secret service and endow it with a new set of goals. Turkish intelligence until the 1960s was weak and primitive, Altaylı argues; its primary focus was counter-espionage ‑ obstructing operations by unfriendly nations on Turkish soil ‑ and providing logistical support to allies and their intelligence services, which enjoyed far greater operational capabilities. Doğu, however, wanted to change this and create a more powerful, assertive and enterprising organization with two new and predominant roles:
1. Psychological warfare against legal and illegal groups within Turkey, who, Doğu assumed, supported Soviet plans over Turkey,
2. Exploiting the nationalities question to bring down the Soviet enemy, and doing this by, a) reviving old Muslim and Turkish espionage networks in the Soviet Union, dating back to the Ottoman times, and b) recruiting personnel from within Turkey and from the Turkic diaspora precisely for this purpose (Ülkü 2008: 141-144).

29In other words, if we are to trust Altaylı verbatim, Fuat Doğu was suggesting a drastic overhaul of the traditional Turkish foreign policy vis-à-vis the Soviets by getting directly involved in Russian domestic affairs with hostile intentions. Altaylı did not even refrain from making a comparison with the demographic powerbase of the Israeli intelligence service, the Mossad. If the Mossad scored great success by making recourse to collaborators from among the Jewish diaspora around the globe, opined Altaylı, how much more could the Turkish MİT achieve, when Turkey renewed ties with and mobilized the 200 million strong Turkic diaspora, dispersed over vast areas in Eurasia? Information gathering on such a scale would help not only against the Soviet Union and Communist China, but it could also be useful against Turkey’s unfriendly neighbors, the pro-Soviet regimes in Syria, Iraq and the Balkans, which were home to Turkic minorities (Ülkü 2008: 167).

30We will probably never know if the inspiration for Doğu’s bold ideas came from Nazar and the CIA, but what we know for a fact is that this policy argument was taken seriously, at least by some in the Turkish establishment, because Colonel Türkeş, during those precious four months that he exercised power in Ankara, spared the time to initiate the TKAE project as the first step toward the realization of this long-term goal (Altaylı 2013: 363). The TKAE was not born as a fantasy of Türkeş alone; following the exile of Türkeş to Delhi, the project found another protector in General Cemal Gürsel, the nominal head of the 1960 Coup and, later, president of Turkey, who intervened to prevent the closure of the institute (Altaylı 2013: 363). Indeed, there were in the Turkish establishment formidable opponents of Doğu’s policy proposal such as İsmet İnönü, whose weight cannot be overestimated. İnönü belonged to the founders’ generation, served as prime minister and president for many years and, after 1950, as the leader of the main opposition party. Regarded by many as a foreign policy wizard, İnönü hated adventurism and represented a cautious, coolheaded approach to decision-making (Heper 1998: 56-89), which he considered a balancing act. Given İnönü’s well-known restraint, he could not have been expected to show interest in Turkic peoples living beyond Turkey’s borders, let alone drawing the ire of Turkey’s northern neighbor. Altaylı describes a particular scene in his memoirs that sums up the clash of mentalities in a nutshell. Right after his arrival in Turkey in 1959, Ruzi Nazar was introduced to İnönü, by Cüneyt Gökçer, Director of the State Theater and Opera, at the Ankara Opera House. In this short meeting, Nazar attempted to convince İnönü that the Soviet Empire was bound to collapse in the near future and drew İnönü’s attention to the role to be played by Muslim and Turkic peoples in bringing the Soviets down. İnönü’s response was negative: “Ruzi, Ruzi”, he is said to have exclaimed, “give up these empty hopes, they [Muslim and Turkic peoples] have long been Russified.” For İnönü, the fall of the Soviet regime was not imminent and not even in the horizon at that moment; Turkey had to maintain peaceful relations with its irritable neighbor for a long time to come and, therefore, any display of interest in Turkic peoples of Russian lands was not only a waste of money, but was also destined to provoke Moscow unnecessarily (Altaylı 2013: 367; Ülkü 2008: 149). İnönü refused to jump on the anticommunist bandwagon.

31Altaylı viewed İnönü and the like as remnants of early republican isolationism and called them Misak-ı Milliciler, who could not adjust to growing Turkish power during the Cold War (Ülkü 2008: 167). Despite objections, the TKAE project was launched in 1960 and a commission was set up to prepare the statute of the institute. Members of the commission were Abidin İtil (1910-1980), an Indologist at Ankara University, Osman Nedim Tuna (1923-2001), a philologist of Old Turkic, and Ahmet Temir (1912-2003), Turcologist and specialist in Mongolian studies at Ankara University. İtil was born in Baku, Azerbaijan and Temir in Kazan, making them ex officio representatives of dış Türkler on the TKAE board. The three-men commission submitted its proposal and statute to the Ministry of Interior and the TKAE was officially founded on 20 October 1961. İtil served as chair of the institute for one year, but after his departure, Ahmet Temir was appointed in İtil’s stead for a very long tenure from 1962 to 1975 (Temir 2011: 207-208). In 1968, the Turkish government granted the TKAE the special status of a “society that works for public benefit/kamu yararına çalışan dernek”, which comes with certain privileges and, more than anything else, shows the insider status of an otherwise private, civil society organization. Temir underlines the period from 1961 to 1973 as the most fruitful years of the institute, when the TKAE had a regular budget, a peak of 20 personnel, and accumulated a 10,000-volume library (Temir 2011: 219-220; TKAE 1986: 12). Although Temir is understandably silent about the source of their income, Altaylı divulges the information that Fuat Doğu contributed to the institute budget from the MİT’s discretionary funds throughout this period (Altaylı 2013: 363).

32Article 3 of its statute defined the TKAE’s job as “doing scientific research on, 1) history and the ethnic situation of Turkish world, 2) Turkish dialects, folklore and art, 3) social and religious problems of the Turkish world and its geopolitical standing.” The institute also aimed to provide funding to researchers and students, draw a common road map [for the Turkish world], and support publications and academic meetings (Temir 2011: 216). Temir spelled out the difference between the institute and other universities and research centers on several occasions and emphasized that, unlike others, the TKAE “adopted the principle of merging scientific mentality with a national perspective” (TKAE 1986: 5-6) and “studying meticulously its subject area within the framework of national interests and interpreting them according to an ongoing historical continuum” (TKAE 1971: 10). To put it differently, Temir did not mince his words and did not hide the raison d’être of his institute, which was clear to everyone involved from the beginning.

33The principles which guided the work of the TKAE were explicitly spelled out in the very first article, entitled “Our Aim and Our Way”, of the first issue of the institute journal Türk Kültürü in November 1962. Published in the name of the editorial board, but actually penned by Ahmet Temir, it declares the institute and the journal to be above and independent of any contemporary ideology. Reading a few paragraphs of this article, however, shows beyond doubt that Temir and his colleagues did not consider ethnic nationalism an ideology: with references to Nietzche and Fichte, nationalism and national identity appear here not as a modern construct to be problematized, but rather as a fact and force of nature, a natural identity, not to be questioned but to be embraced (TKAE 1962: 5-13). Left-wingers and communists who dared to question this “fact” strayed away from reason and the natural course of history. Indeed, the predominant viewpoint in this and hundreds of other articles in Türk Kültürü is to bring all speakers of Turkic languages under the umbrella of the Turkish nation. Adopting a language and culture-based definition of nationhood, Temir left no room for scientific subtleties such as the terms “Turkic”, “Turkish-speaking”, or “Turkic-speaking” (Findley 2005: 21-55). Actually, Temir buttressed the point that the work of the TKAE was going to be totally scientific, because the Turkishness of various Turkic-speaking groups in Eurasia was nothing but scientific “truth” (TKAE 1962: 5).

34Nevertheless, it was also the intention of the founders to endow the institute with an aura of academic respectability ‑ similar to the case of the mother institute in Munich ‑ by restricting membership to academic elites. The initial statute of 1961 limited eligibility to only those who held a PhD degree and were preferably teaching at a respectable academic institution. Members were also expected to have made a name in their fields with their scientific contributions on Turkish culture and, last but not least, they were also expected to agree with the broader goals of the TKAE (Temir 2011: 217). Following the academic tradition in the western world, membership was divided into three: regular, corresponding and honorary. Of the 25 regular members, 15 seats were reserved for academic dış Türkler, while the remaining 10 were to be appointed from among Turkish citizens. It was soon brought to the attention of the institute that this last stipulation was in conflict with the Turkish Law on Societies and duly deleted with an amendment in 1962 (Temir 2011: 217).

35It is not a coincidence that the TKAE kept a low and strictly academic profile from 1961 to 1965, a period that overlapped with the three coalition governments formed by İsmet İnönü. Under the Demirel Governments (1965-1969 and 1969-1971), however, the institute entered a stage of activism, which lasted until the mid-1970s. 1965 marked a turning point, according to Altaylı, in that the newly elected Prime Minister Süleyman Demirel expressed confidence in Fuat Doğu and supported his policy of reaching out to dış Türkler. Although we need to interpret the Demirel-Doğu relationship with a more critical eye than Altaylı suggests, there is no escaping the fact that the Demirel Government drafted a new law in 1965, completely re-organizing the Turkish secret service, and appointed Fuat Doğu as its boss for a second tenure in 1966 (İlter 2002). From then on, the TKAE increased its activities in terms of both publications and academic meetings. It published several volumes of Cultura Turcica, an academic annual in foreign languages, Türk Kültürü Araştırmaları, an academic annual in Turkish, and Türk Kültürü, a monthly semi-popular journal. The TKAE also sponsored publication of a series of monographs ‑ several hundred volumes in all, since its foundation in 1961 to this day ‑ on all aspects of Turkic history and culture (TKAE 1995). Its best-known contribution, on the other hand, is a humongous, quarto size and 1500-page handbook of Turkish studies, Türk Dünyası El Kitabı, which appeared in 1976 and has remained a classic in the field ever since (TKAE 1976). The TKAE also sponsored and hosted the 16th Permanent International Altaistic Conference in Ankara in 1973, and a secret, three-day conference in Ankara in 1971, where participants from the Turkish intelligence and the military met representatives of the Turkic diaspora, invited by Fuat Doğu for this special occasion (Ülkü 2008: 178-179). This stage of activism came to a conclusion when Prime Minister Erim and Vice-Premier Koçaş in 1971 turned the spotlights on the MİT and removed Doğu from office despite resistance from the president and the military. With his financial and moral support cut off, Ahmet Temir was to follow suit and resign as director of the TKAE in 1975. From the mid-1970s on, there was a visible decline in the activities of the institute and its influence over policy-making. It still survives to this day, primarily as an academic research institution and a meeting and publication venue for nationalist Turcologists.

36A closer look at the most popular publication of the TKAE, the journal Türk Kültürü (Turkish Culture) and its editorial policy from 1962 to 1980 imparts further insights into the ideological makeup of this Cold Warrior institute. I aim to do this by providing a numerical content analysis of a total of 1826 articles published in Türk Kültürü from 1962 to 1980. The articles are categorized according to their title and contents under two main subheadings: a) themes (Atatürk, nationalism, Turkish culture, education in Turkey, communism, Turkish left, Russia, important Turkish figures, other), b) Turkic communities according to country/region of origin (Balkans, Middle East, Cyprus, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Crimea, Caucasus, Turkestan, Turkish groups without state). In Table 1, the number of articles published in each category is given in a yearly breakdown, and Table 2 presents the same information in percentages. It must be stressed again at this point that Türk Kültürü did not have any pretensions to be a strictly scientific journal. On the contrary, most of the articles are short and do present a mixture of facts and subjective convictions, which disclose the ideological leaning of their authors. Occasionally, however, articles that excelled above others in terms of method, research and content also appeared in Türk Kültürü, reflecting the status the journal held among Turkish scholars of Turcology.


38Overall, the predominant theme in Türk Kültürü was the Turkish culture itself. To repeat, the editorial board had a very expansive definition of both Turkishness and culture: while all Turkic-speaking communities were subsumed under the category of “Turks”, articles which dealt with the culture of these groups, dwelled on anything from political culture to child-rearing practices, from shamanism, occult and magic to music and health. With the exception of a few years, articles under this category made up more than a fifth of the total number of articles published annually, and sometimes reached nearly half. Another visible theme, particularly until and including 1970 (and unsurprisingly, post-coup issues in 1980) is Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, whose deeds and thoughts were given regular coverage. The stress in Türk Kültürü on Atatürk ought to be seen as a response to the Yön Movement, a Kemalist-leftist group of intellectuals and their supporters in the civil and military bureaucracy during the 1960s, who wanted to derive legitimacy for left-wing interventionism from a newly-constructed image of Atatürk as an anti-imperialist revolutionary. Temir and his colleagues engaged in this battle over Atatürk’s soul and claimed him as one of their own, a nationalist hero struggling against all kinds of imperialism, including the Russian-Soviet. Finally, a large proportion of each issue of Türk Kültürü was reserved for the dış Türkler. Although the material conditions of Turkic communities living under socialist regimes and infringements on their rights and well-being received special attention, Turkic minority groups in Greece and the Middle East were not forgotten either.

39The case of Cyprus in this regard is very indicative of not only the attention paid to dış Türkler, but also for revealing fluctuations in editorial policy and how the editors responded to exigencies of the moment and possibly to political demands for supporting Turkish foreign policy through academic publications. The London and Zurich Agreements of 1959 paved the way for the creation of an independent Republic of Cyprus in 1960, but the Cypriot confessional political system failed to provide a basis for peaceful relations between the Greek majority and the Turkish minority on the island. As inter-communal clashes accelerated, successive Turkish governments in the 1960s threatened to intervene as a guarantor power, and the Ecevit Government finally did so in 1973, carving out a Turkish enclave in the north which eventually became the diplomatically unrecognized Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Therefore, Turkey collided with Greece, post-intervention Greek-led Cyprus and Greek lobbies in the west in a propaganda battle to convince western public opinion ‑ and of course the academia ‑ that the Turkish argument was right. We observe how this propaganda effort was reflected in the pages of Türk Kültürü. There is a significant increase in the number of articles on Cyprus in 1964 and 1965, when İnönü-led coalition governments threatened to intervene and were rebuffed by the Johnson Administration in the USA. Parallel to the upsurge in communal conflict in the early 1970s, we see another peak in the number of Cyprus-related articles in Türk Kültürü, reaching 14.29 percent following the Turkish intervention. To show the importance of Cyprus on their academic agenda, the TKAE board created in 1969 a special academic commission to work exclusively on Cyprus (TKAE 1986: 15) and published five books by 1975 (TKAE 1975: 12).

IV. Conclusion

40There are several conclusions to be drawn from this micro-study on the Türk Kültürünü Araştırma Enstitüsü. First, when put into its proper contexts, the TKAE episode shows the extent to which the Cold War shaped intellectual debates in Turkey, in general, and manipulated the trajectory of Turcology, again, in Turkey, in particular. The study of Turkish history and language in Turkey was instrumentalized by state authorities since the beginning of the republic ‑ one may push this as far back as the CUP period ‑ because the Turkish state demanded scientific or pseudo-scientific knowledge for fulfilling its own ‑ usually called “national” ‑ interests. Türk Tarih Kurumu and Türk Dil Kurumu represent the first wave of institution-building for political ends, ie. consolidating the Turkish nation-state and assuring for it a prestigious spot in the global political hierarchy of the 1930s. Those first-generation academic institutions, however, could hardly supply useful knowledge in the new context of the Cold War, and, therefore, the TKAE ought to be considered a follow-up in the spirit of the same tradition, an expression of the same state instinct of survival. The Cold War factor exerted so much pressure on domestic politics that factions within the Turkish state elite contemplated transcending the Kemalist nation-state model and expanding the definition of Turkishness to include dış Türkler as a viable policy line to contain Soviet plans over Turkey. Turcology, in other words, was now being harnessed by anticommunism to further and promote a new set of political objectives. What sets apart the 1960s from the 1930s and the second wave from the first, on the other hand, is the multiparty democracy context, in which state elites were now divided over what really constituted “national interests” and did not act in unison. The rise and fall of the TKAE is an excellent example of this quarrel over policy-making.

41Second, the foundation of the TKAE allows us a rare peek into the interplay between the international and the domestic. For the USA, Turkey’s proximity to the Soviet Union offered opportunities for collecting information, while the Turkic peoples living under the Soviet regime as well as the vast Turkic diaspora around the world could be tapped into to meddle in Russian domestic affairs. On the other side of the coin, the 1960s witnessed the crystallization of a right-wing elite pact in Turkey, composed of senior generals, the intelligence service, and the center-right Demirel Governments, on the basis of a common anticommunist platform. Although not entirely unopposed, this elite pact experimented with changing Turkey’s traditional foreign policy vis-à-vis the Soviets in order to roll back the Turkish left. Strong reaction from within the Turkish establishment against this experiment ultimately foiled the attempt, but the fact that such a bold idea was toyed with, even briefly, is a testimony to the shaping power of the international over identity formation.

42Finally, at a macro level, research on the TKAE leads us to question one of the salient clichés in the study of 20th century Turkish history. The post-Kemalist paradigm, which dominated modern Turkish studies for the past 30 years posited a clean break between Kemalist, westernizing elites versus a mass of conservative right-wingers. Actually, post-Kemalists defined this fault line, which supposedly divides the Turkish political and intellectual world into two antagonistic camps, as the main problematique of Turkish politics. Yet, too much emphasis on the fault line argument resulted in unintended reification of the concepts of “Kemalism” and “conservatism” as Weberian ideal-types: post-Kemalist scholars stressed and amplified conflict, rather than collaboration, and anticipated so-called “Kemalists” and so-called “enemies of Kemalism” to fit into an arbitrarily constructed binary opposition. Just like in the story of the proverbial Procrustean bed, atypical features and characteristics of these so-called enemies, or common interests and agendas that occasionally united both sides of the fault line, were dropped from the dominant narrative. As a result of this paradigmatic myopia, many hybrid figures, ideas and movements were either misrepresented or hidden from view. The TKAE is one such example of a research institute, in this case, which clearly represented the convergence of the interests of the Kemalist establishment, on the one hand, and the Turkish right, on the other.

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1 Ahmet Temir’s bio resembles the bios of the founders of the Munich Institute in uncanny ways. He spent the years 1936 to 1943 in Germany as a Nazi collaborator. He worked for the German Ostministerium, organizing and integrating Soviet Turkic POWs into the Nazi war machine.

2 Nazar’s role in spotting and bringing individual right-wingers into a common network and forming a bloc of Turkish anticommunists cannot be overstated. Nearly all major Turkish newspapers and news portals announced his passing in 2015 at the ripe age of 98, speaking in awe of the man’s talent and achievements. An eulogy on the website of the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty carried a picture of Nazar at old age and holding a bound volume of Türk Kültürü, the institute journal of the TKAE; see “Central Asian Cold Warrior Ruzi Nazar Dies in Turkey”, (, accessed on 01 July 2017.

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Electronic reference

İlker Aytürk, « The Flagship Institution of Cold War Turcology », European Journal of Turkish Studies [Online], 24 | 2017, Online since 08 November 2017, connection on 29 October 2021. URL : ; DOI :

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About the author

İlker Aytürk

Bilkent University, Ankara

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