June 7, 2013

Turkey is Byzantine, Part XXXVII

With Turkey back in the news, it's fun to link to my old series of blog posts on one of the more influential yet little-known elements within the Istanbul elite, the Donmeh.








For other sources on the Donmeh, there's Wikipedia, the Jewish Encyclopedia, and Marc David Baer's 2009 book from Stanford University Press, The Dönme: Jewish Converts, Muslim Revolutionaries, and Secular Turks.  Here's the summary by Baer, a professor of history at UC Irvine:
This book tells the story of the Dönme, the descendents of Jews who resided in the Ottoman Empire and converted to Islam along with their messiah, Rabbi Shabbatai Tzevi, in the seventeenth century. For two centuries following their conversion, the Dönme were accepted as Muslims, and by the end of the nineteenth century rose to the top of Salonikan society. The Dönme helped transform Salonika into a cosmopolitan city, promoting the newest innovation in trade and finance, urban reform, and modern education. They eventually became the driving force behind the 1908 revolution that led to the overthrow of the Ottoman sultan and the establishment of a secular republic. 
To their proponents, the Dönme are enlightened secularists and Turkish nationalists who fought against the dark forces of superstition and religious obscurantism. To their opponents, they were simply crypto-Jews engaged in a plot to dissolve the Islamic empire. Both points of view assume the Dönme were anti-religious, whether couched as critique or praise. 
But it is time that we take these religious people seriously on their own terms. In the Ottoman Empire, the Dönme promoted morality, ethics, spirituality, and a syncretistic religion that reflected their origins at the intersection of Jewish Kabbalah and Islamic Sufism. This is the first book to tell their story, from their origins to their near total dissolution as they became secular Turks in the mid-twentieth century.

Baer's claim of "near total dissolution as they became secular Turks in the mid-twentieth century" appears dependent upon his emphasis on Donmeh religious exercise, as opposed to, say, their continuing to in-marry, and being Foreign Minister in the last pre-Erdogan government, and so forth.

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm less interested in the current politics of Turkey and more interested in the Turks on an HBD level. My understanding is that genetically, the actually Turkic component of the Turkish genome is really quite modest. Most modern Turks are almost indistinguishable from the Greeks-eastern Mediterranean people with a slight overlay of Near East, Celtic (remember the Galatians?), Slavic, and Turkic genes. Is that what accounts for the Turks being pretty consistently the most advanced people in the Islamic world, since Thrace and western Anatolia have always been rich, strategic places?

And what to make of the fact that the most popular actor in the Islamic world is Kivanc Tatlitug, a Turkish actor who looks more like Chris Hemsworth than Borat?

http://images5.fanpop.com/image/photos/26600000/K-van-Tatl-tu-Turkish-actor-hottest-actors-26667060-800-600.jpg

John said...

Turkish Wikipedia hastens to assure me that the Sabetaycılık, as it calls the beliefs of the Dönme, has been adjudged by the Turkish Religious Works Ministry (yes, there is one) to be NOT Islamic. The non-transsexual Dönme, I mean - ya gotta go through some disambiguation first. On Wikipedia. On the ministry's native website as well as on its English version (yes, there is one) there are no hits.

I'm not sure what this means, but that a Wikipedia-contributing Turk would trouble to wonder doesn't surprise me. Turks, perhaps all Asiatics, like to file group-identity stuff. And once you've been filed under your group, you're harmless. I think that is to Turks' credit: these people never struck me as haters. Certainly the Turks in that railway compartment didn't hate me when I, an obvious foreigner, peeled open a beer. Hey, it wasn't getting any colder!

Dr Van Nostrand said...

Steve sometimes your shtick reminds me of a bit where Russel Peters portrays media bias by the "what do you think" gag...
a bombing followed by footage of Arabs....what do you think?

A weasely manner of making implicit connections but hiding behind plausible deniability when accused of bias

I notice whenever you bring up Jews,it goes something like

Arent these Jews so powerful and amazing that they run our countries? Dont you think they should be admired for their smarts and drive?oh and btw on a completely unrelated topic Jews are actively working to undermine our culture"

What do you think?

Over here you present a crackpot theory that Jews have corrupted and destroyed a traditionalist and powerful empire from the inside.....
And then you seem to say ...oh that theory is so silly....but

What do you think?


And then Steve, you are shocked SHOCKED to find deranged anti semites posting their opinions on your board

Where was that WASP honor you were going on and on about?

Anonymous said...

Dönme were normal intelligence Sephardic Jews not high IQ Ashkenazi Jews. Is their success an argument for nurture over nature?

Hunsdon said...

DVN: Sir, you are attempting to elide Whiskey's one great contribution to this blog: the verb verb VERB (or adverb adverb ADVERB) formula.

Please, give credit where credit is due. Your sentence should properly read: And then Steve, you are shocked shocked SHOCKED to find deranged anti semites posting their opinions on your board.

John said: Turks, perhaps all Asiatics, like to file group-identity stuff. And once you've been filed under your group, you're harmless.

Hunsdon said: Who now remembers the Armenians?

DVN said: Over here you present a crackpot theory that Jews have corrupted and destroyed a traditionalist and powerful empire from the inside.....

Hunsdon quoted: Most important, several Dönme were leading members of the Committee for Union and Progress, the revolutionary party known as the Young Turks, who in 1908 forced the Sultan to grant a constitution. The Dönme, like Jews and Freemasons, sympathized with the CUP’s scientific, reformist program, though Baer emphasizes that the CUP was not a Dönme party—any more than the Russian Bolsheviks, though they included many Jews, were a Jewish party.

What do you think?

Anonymous said...

They eventually became the driving force behind the 1908 revolution that led to the overthrow of the Ottoman sultan and the establishment of a secular republic.

That sounds somehow familiar. Can anyone help me remember where else that has happened?

Anonymous said...

I fear for you your reader said and strongly hypothesize,
Those who play this game so well will disallow someone so wise.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Van Nostrand

Steve knows exactly what he is doing.

Anonymous said...

"That sounds somehow familiar. Can anyone help me remember where else that has happened?"

Russia.

Dutch Boy said...

One of the "accomplishments" of the Dönme-led Young Turk movement was the massacre of the Armenian and Greek inhabitants (i.e., the Christians) of the Ottoman Empire during WWI.

Anonymous said...

"Dönme were normal intelligence Sephardic Jews not high IQ Ashkenazi Jews. Is their success an argument for nurture over nature?'

1) Middle eastern IQ is lower than Western European IQ, so relatively speaking the Dönme may still be higher IQ than the locals.

2) It's not nature vs. nurture; it's a well organized, united minority vs. a disorganized, disunited majority.

ATBOTL said...

We should let folks like Dr Van Nostrand do our thinking for us and tell us what we are and are not allowed to notice and comment on.

If DVR doesn't like discussion of Jewish influence, then we should stop talking about it, period. Otherwise, we'd be anti-Semites, which is the worst thing in the world one can be.

Anonymous said...

There's also the Sabbatean-inspired Frankists, followers of Jacob Frank, who converted to Christianity in the 18th century. According to some, a lot of prominent people have been descended from Frankists, and Frankists have played a major role in European history.

Anonymous said...

Not sure exactly how this fits, but it's all Byzantine... Turkey has a really big military by most standards:


"In 2010, the Turkish Army had around 402,000 active personnel making it the second largest army in NATO (after the United States). ...combined active and reserve personnel strength of around 1,041,900 personnel."


And Turkey is in an operational sense a nuclear power:

"Turkey is one of five NATO member states which are part of the nuclear sharing policy of the alliance, ... A total of 90 B61 nuclear bombs are hosted at the Incirlik Air Base, 40 of which are allocated for use by the Turkish Air Force in case of a nuclear conflict..."

Finally, Turkey has been conducting a big military build-up and modernization over the last 15 years or so (Turkey has over 3000 tanks but they are getting a bit old):

"In 1998, Turkey announced a programme of modernisation worth US$160 billion over a twenty year period in various projects including tanks, fighter jets, helicopters, submarines, warships and assault rifles..."

This includes attempting to reach the level where it can manufacture all its own major weapons and perhaps become a significant exporter. For instance, with South Korean help Turkey developed its own main battle tank:

"Turkey plans to build a total of 1,000 new Otokar Altay MBTs..."

Turkey will be exporting this tank to Saudi Arabia, perhaps because Turkey is looking for anti-Iranian allies.

There is considerable Turkish engineering prowess, perhaps we will see green stealth tanks:

"Otokar developed an electric engine for its buses and is working on retrofitting its design to the Altay tank."

Steve Sailer said...

Turkey is a militarily serious country. I believe it suffered the most casualties of any ally helping the U.S. in the Korean War. Turkish troops saved Jerry Pournelle's Army unit in Korea.

So, there's a lot of money sloshing back and forth between Turkey and the U.S. military-industrial complex, which leaves some nice crumbs to be picked up by Washington insiders. U.S. - Turkey relations have been pretty successful on the whole over the generations. So perhaps we don't want to know how the sausage is made.

On the other hand, it could suddenly turn out to be that Turkey turns into the new hot spot and then we'll need to know.

Dr Van Nostrand said...


DVN: Sir, you are attempting to elide Whiskey's one great contribution to this blog: the verb verb VERB (or adverb adverb ADVERB) formula.

Please, give credit where credit is due. Your sentence should properly read: And then Steve, you are shocked shocked SHOCKED to find deranged anti semites posting their opinions on your board.


DVN: haha ! Actually shocked SHOCKED is from Casablanca, not two thirds Whiskey!

John said: Turks, perhaps all Asiatics, like to file group-identity stuff. And once you've been filed under your group, you're harmless.

Hunsdon said: Who now remembers the Armenians?

DVN: Poor Armenians. They were the real losers of WWI and remain to this day to the triumphalist stance of Turkey

DVN said: Over here you present a crackpot theory that Jews have corrupted and destroyed a traditionalist and powerful empire from the inside.....

Hunsdon quoted: Most important, several Dönme were leading members of the Committee for Union and Progress, the revolutionary party known as the Young Turks, who in 1908 forced the Sultan to grant a constitution. The Dönme, like Jews and Freemasons, sympathized with the CUP’s scientific, reformist program, though Baer emphasizes that the CUP was not a Dönme party—any more than the Russian Bolsheviks, though they included many Jews, were a Jewish party.

What do you think?

DVN: Same as before! Most Young Turks were well Turks -secular Muslim Turks
Just as most German and French Reformers were gentiles and Jews saw an opening in secular society and aping their gentile masters shed any vestiges of traditional religion and culture and dived in

This does not excuse less than honorable behavior of said Jews. But the issue is they were often followers than leaders of these counterproductive ideologies

And yes the good relations of Israel and Turkey thus far managed to put the Armenian issue on ice in U.S all this time. And Israel has egg on its face for it.


Dr Van Nostrand said...


We should let folks like Dr Van Nostrand do our thinking for us and tell us what we are and are not allowed to notice and comment on.

If DVR doesn't like discussion of Jewish influence, then we should stop talking about it, period. Otherwise, we'd be anti-Semites, which is the worst thing in the world one can be."


I never stated any thing to the effect of that people should think a certain way about Jews.

My point was that Steve may or not be anti Semite as is understood but his writing implicitly(if perhaps inadvertently) encourage anti semites and make them feel like they are among friends.

No one told you to stop talking about anything. But I do wish those who were talking about it were honest about it like say Svigor.

I never claimed that Jews are perfect or they are victims in perpetuity. If that is their narrative then it is flawed to say the least. If they have achieved power ,it is due to their smarts and drive with yes some degree of nepotism.
But in this they are no different from other minorities dominant in countries not their own such as Indians in East Africa, Lebanese in West Africa, Arabs in South America,Chinese in south East Asia and Punjabis and Parsees in the Indian subcontinent.

If Jews in power behave badly its not because they are Jews its because power corrupts and it corrupts those especially who are unaccustomed to wielding it.


Anonymous said...

Sephardic Jews are just like the Ashkenazi.

Here in Brazil there is one TV channel owned by a Sephardic Jew of the Abravanel Family, the richest banker Family in Brazil are the Safra's from the former Ottoman Empire.

Hunsdon said...

DVN: This could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Scheissherr said...

Wait, so overthrowing an Islamic government and befriending the West is a *bad* thing?