The Seljuks of Rum in Turkish Republican Nationalist Historiography

The Seljuks of Rum in Turkish Republican Nationalist Historiography

By Dogan Gurpinar

MA Thesis, Sabanci University, 2004

Abstract: This study investigates how Seljuks of Rum are posited within the Turkish history in the republican era. Although this study had confined itself only to academically oriented studies, rather than being a study of historiography, it tried to display the nationalist baggage that had to be tried to realized upon constructions of Seljuks of Rum. After overviewing the late Ottoman historiography and their shy encounter with Seljuks of Rum and “western Turks”, the study begins with discussing the Kemalist imagination of Turkish history with a special focus on the Kemalist position towards Seljuks of Rum in this imagination. Fuad Köprülü, who had revolutionary impact on the studies of Seljuks of Rum had been also under scrunity and had been analyzed how he had posited Seljuks of Rum in the Turkish history. Finally, study approaches to the later works on Seljuks of Rum and Great Seljuks by politically conservative oriented scholars and especially Osman Turan. In the conclusion, all these alternative interpretations of Seljuks of Rum had been analyzed in the light of their differing modes of nationalism and concluded that different interpretations although clashing partially had been reflections of the gradually consolidating of ideology of the modern Turkish nation-state.

Introduction: The Rum Seljuks occupy a unique position within Turkish history. Manzikert is one of the most commemorated events of Turkish history if not the most. It was the socalled “opening of Anatolia as a homeland (heimat) to Turks” in the Turkish nationalist discourse which in decades became the cliche incorporated to the popular mainstream discourse beyond narrow nationalist circles as a self-evident truth. The making and rise of the discourse of Manzikert and the emotional significance and dramatization attributed to the war worth a treatment and an analysis.

Manzikert was not a pre-planned strategic victory for Seljukids. Alparslan did not aim to attack Byzantines but had to encounter the marching army of Byzantium. He achieved victory over the ambitious Byzantine army before moving to his real combat ground, to the south to face Fatimids for the supremacy of abode of Islam. He had to meet the Byzantine army which gathered to carry out an ambitious project, to end the continuos Turkoman raids and ventures into Anatolia which they already had began from the 1050s until the frequency of the raids made the Byzantines reluctant to face the raiders but in the end they failed drastically. “Alp Arslan’s object was not to destroy Byzantine Empire; he contended himself with frontier adjustments, promise of a tribute and an alliance-settlement which the downfall of Romanos Diogenes rendered impermanent.” However, what followed the war was the very quick and curious Turkification and Muslimization of Anatolia. “This was due to the internal political unrest and disorder in the Byzantine realm. These domestic conflicts not only induced Turcomans to raid the west of Cappadocia but also enabled them to take hold and settle in these lands.” within two centuries mainly in two waves; first in the second half of the eleventh century; second after the flight in front of Mongols although the influx never stopped within these two centuries. Manzikert paved the way to a very dramatic Turkish colonization and within time caused the complete transformation of Anatolia. It is the time when Anatolia became a Turkish heimat. One can also add to that Anatolia became Islamized as well. This colonization is yet to be explained. It is still out of our reach to comprehend the aspects and dimensions of this massive Turkification and Islamization process. How much of the Turkish populace had came to Anatolia ? Was it predominantly a phenomenon of a conversion/assimilation to Turkishness/Muslimness ? How a demographic revolution took place ? We do not have enough evidence to be able to assert a convincing claim. However, to our knowledge, it is more likely that the aggregate of Turkish populace which had rushed into Anatolia looks like far from inducing an overturn of the demographic composition in Anatolia. This figure is lower than it had been assumed.

One theory to explain the “decline of Hellenism” in Asia Minor had been developed by Speros Vryonis who had claimed that the collapse of Christianity was due to the destruction of the churches and church organization in general. The collapse of the church did not only cause the destruction of the hegemonical-spiritual center of Greek Christianity but also brought the destruction of the social support mechanisms of the establishment. This semi-economical theorization balances both economical perspectives and idealistic approaches. This approach is healthier than thinking in terms of confessions (Muslims, Christians, heretical Christians) and ethnicities (Turks, Greeks, Armenians). One’s confession and belief system is an outcome of the circumstances and the socio-political and socio-economical environment in which he lives. Studies concerning later periods provide us evidence in favor of an assimilationist approach. Heath Lowry’s study on the Muslimization/Turkification of Trebizond after the take over of Trebizond shows us that Trebizond had been Muslimized/Turkified in an amazingly short time due to massive local conversions.

We also have little evidence to contemplate on exactly which periods this demographic revolution had taken place. Throughout the two centuries following Manzikert, there was a regular migration to Anatolia once the gate was opened. The push factors, the devastation of the East by ravaging hordes in the east supported this process. However, we can speak of two waves, first in the aftermath of Manzikert, second following the Mongol devastation of Iran and Khorasan in 1230s. The second wave looks as drastic as the first one if not more so.

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