Crossing Identities and the Turkish Military: Revolutionists, Guardians and Depoliticals
: A comparative historical analysis on Turkish military culture and civil-military relations

  • Hakki Goker Onen

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


One US senior marine notes that "military cultures are like great ocean liners or aircraft carriers: they require an enormous effort to change direction". Indeed, in most nations, military cultures are known for their resistance against change. The military ethos, which includes features such as absolute obedience, hierarchy, collectivism, and sacrificing oneself for all, makes military cultures less likely to adopt liberal and democratic values. In this regard, Turkey is in an interesting position in that military culture has constantly experienced transitions between three different identities: revolutionists, guardians and depoliticals. The first identity is modernist, progressive, and staunchly secular; the second is more conservative, less tolerant of the notion of individual rights and liberties, and more likely to maintain the status quo; the third is being politically neutral, committed to civilian supremacy, and likely to work in harmony with the politicians. Indeed, because of the role it played during the Liberation War, the military has had an unwritten legitimacy in national politics as the nation builder. Related to this, the military's priviliged position in the eyes of the people has enabled any change in military culture to make fundemental changes in politics. Yet, if one observes most cases of civil-military relations, one may see that the relationship between militaries and states tends to follow a stable, positive, or negative path regarding democratisation. But, in the Turkish case this relationship does not draw a steady line. Rather, it can show very different results depending on time and developments. Hence, the main purpose of this thesis is to identify the relationship between military culture and Turkish politics regarding our five civil-military models: the 'positive-undemocratic', 'negative-undemocratic', 'positive-democratic', 'negative-democratic', and variable relationships
Date of Award13 Apr 2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorDavid Galbreath (Supervisor)

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