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Political distribution of the countries and autonomous subdivisions where a Turkic language has official status.

Pan-Turkism[1] is a political movement started more than 100 years ago aiming to unite the various Turkic peoples into a modern political state [2][3][4].



In the research literature, the term "Pan-Turkism" is used to describe the idea of political, cultural and ethnic unity of all Turkic-speaking people. Turanism is a closely related movement but a more general term than Turkism, since Turkism applies only to the Turkic peoples. However, researchers and politicians engaged in the field of Turkic ideology have used these terms interchangeably in a multitude of sources and literature.[5] The term "Turkism" started to be used with a prefix "Pan" (from Greek pan = all), for a "Panturkism".[6]

While the various Turkic peoples often share historical, cultural and linguistic roots, the rising of a pan-Turkic political movement is a phenomenon only of the 19th and 20th century [7] and can be seen in parallel with European developments like Pan-Slavism and Pan-Germanism or with Middle-Eastern Pan-Iranism. Proponents use the latter most often as a point of comparison as the concept of "Turkic" is not a true racial or ethnic description but more of a linguistic and cultural distinction. This is to differentiate it from the term "Turkish" which is more of an ethnic/racial term for the citizens and denizens primarily residing in Turkey. Pan-Turkic ideas and "re-unification" movements have been popular since the collapse of the Soviet Union in Central Asian and other Turkic countries.


Pan-Turkish rally in Istanbul, March 2009.

In 1804, Tatar theologian Kursavi wrote a treatise calling for Islam’s modernization. Kursavi was a founder of the religious thought of Jadidism (from Arabic 'jadid', which means 'new'). The idea of Jadidism was encouragement of critical thinking, as opposed to insistence on unquestioning loyalty. It supported education for Muslims and promoted equality among the sexes; advocated tolerance for other faiths, Turkic cultural unity, and openness to Europe’s cultural legacy.[8] In 1843 in Kazan the Jadid movement was created. Its aim was a semi-secular modernization and educational reform, and within Jadid for the first time sprout the idea of a national, and not religious identity of the Turks. Before that they were solely Muslim subjects of Russia, and the Empire continued this attitude to its very collapse.[9]

Following the upsurge in Russian colonization of the Volga area in 1880s, the Islamic social movement Jaddidism added motives of national-liberation, but as a result of increase of the imperial tendencies in the Russian internal politics after the 1907 many partisans of Turkic unity immigrated to Turkey.

In 1908 the “Unity and Progress” committee came to power in Ottoman Turkey, and the Ottoman Empire turned toward nationalistic ideology. From the 16th c. the Empire was a Muslim Empire and the Sultan was a Caliph for the part of the Muslim lands under his control. From Russia, the exiled Enlightenment leaders espousing Pan-Turkism fled to Istanbul, where a powerful Pan-Turkic movement rose. From that time, the Turkish Pan-Turkism grew into a nationalistic, ethnically oriented replacement of the Caliphate by a worldwide state. Following the fall of the Ottoman Empire with its multi-cultural and multi-ethnic population, influenced by emerging racial theories and Turkish nationalism of the Young Turks, some tried to replace the lost empire with a new Turkish commonwealth. But a speedy collapse of the Ottoman Empire brought about Mustafa Kamal (Atatürk), who replaced Pan-Turkic idealism with solely Anatolian nationalism aimed at preservation of an Anatolian nucleus instead of global imperial pretences, with some isolationist tendencies. Mustafa Kamal Atatürk penalized Pan-Turkist groups and closed all publications of Pan-Turkic orientation.[9]

One of the most significant early exponents of pan-Turkism was Enver Pasha, the Ottoman Minister of War and acting Commander-in-Chief during World War I. He later became one of the leaders of the national-liberation Basmachi uprising against the Russian Empire and Soviet Russian rule in Central Asia.

The last episode in the history of Pan-Turkism played out during WWII, when the Nazis attempted to undermine Soviet unity under a flag of Pan-Turkism in their fight with the USSR. The German intrigues, however, did not bear any results.[5]

While of little impact during much of the 20th century, the dissolution of the Soviet Union in the late 20th century meant that the majority of the Turkic peoples were suddenly again able to exert considerable independence in business and political endeavours.

The aim of all Turks is to unite with the Turkic borders. History is affording us today the last opportunity. In order for the Islamic world not to be forever fragmented it is necessary that the campaign against Karabagh be not allowed to abate. As a matter of fact drive the point home in Azeri circles that the campaign should be pursued with greater determination and severity.[10]

Today, many new Pan-Turkic movements and organizations are concentrating on economic integration of the 7 sovereign Turkic states, and hope to achieve an economic-political union very similar to the EU. The general popularity of these movements has risen dramatically over the years in the Turkic world.[citation needed]

Turkey's role

Turkey has become a major business partner to many Central Asian Turkic states, helping with the reform of higher education, the introduction of the Latin alphabet, economic development and commerce.[citation needed] However, these efforts have not met the expectations of either the Turkic states nor the Pan-Turkist sentiment in Turkey. For example:

  • Housing projects of modest size promised to the Crimean Turks have not been completed after many years.
  • Although Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Azerbaijan have switched to the Latin alphabet, they are not as compatible with the Turkish alphabet as Turkey hoped. Kazakhstan has decided to switch its alphabet back to Latin from the current Cyrillic,[11][12] but the transition has been slow. Kyrgyzstan, meanwhile, has never decided to adopt the Latin alphabet. Additionally, other problems persist, such as lack or delay of the printing and teaching materials.

Recently Turkey removed all vi, in hope of having closer ties with people from the same roots.


Pan-Turkism is and has always been a movement viewed with suspicion by many, often perceived as nothing else but a new form of Turkish imperial ambition. Some view the movement as racist and chauvinistic, particularly when considering the associated racial and historical teachings. Specifically, the young Turks who carried pan-Turkist ideologies[13][14] as their guiding principle are accused of the Armenian Genocide, Greek genocide and Assyrian Genocide.


Armenian Genocide

Pan-Turkism is also cited by critics as a direct cause for the Armenian Genocide of 1915, in which Enver Pasha was involved, as an attempt to remove non-Turkic and non-Muslim minorities from the late Ottoman Empire in order to foster a new Pan-Turkish state.[15][16].

Greek Genocide

The Greek genocide[17] is a term used by some academics to refer to the fate of the Greek population of the Ottoman Empire during and in the aftermath of World War I (1914-1923). Like Armenians and Assyrians, the Greeks were subjected to various forms of persecution including massacres, expulsions, and death marches by Young Turk and Kemalist authorities. George W. Rendel of the British Foreign Office, among other diplomats, noted the massacres and deportations of Greeks during the post-Armistice period.[18] It is estimated that hundreds of thousands of Ottoman Greeks may have died during this period as a result of these persecutions.[19]

Assyrian Genocide

Alongside the Armenian and Greek Genocides, the Assyrian Genocide took place at the hand of the pan-Turkist young Turk regime in the Ottoman empire[20]. By 1922, in a memorandum from the Assyro-Chaldean National Council, an estimate of approximately 275,000 Assyrians were killed[20].

Dersim Ethnocide

In 1937–1938, approximately 65,000–70,000 Alevi Kurds[21] were killed and thousands were taken into exile. A key component of the turkification process was the policy of massive population resettlement. Referring to the main policy document in this context, the 1934 law on resettlement, a policy targeting the region of Dersim as one of its first test cases, with disastrous consequences for the local population[22]. The Dersim ethnocide[23] is often confused with the Dersim rebellion that took place during these events. Today, not much is left of Derim's distinctive culture and the majority of its people live in the diaspora[21].


The movement has also been seen as the cause for the policy of "Turkification" which Turkey has attempted to impose on its ethnic minorities such as the Kurds until 1991. During the 1930s and 1940s, the Turkish government denied the existence of a separate Kurdish ethnic identity and statistically categorized them as "Mountain Turks".[24]

Nazi Germany and pan-Turkism

In the 1940s, the Pan-Turkist also absorbed Nazi propaganda[25][26]. Nihal Atsiz, a prominent ideologue, advocated Nazi doctrines while advocating a Hitler-style haircut and mustache. Alparslan Türkeş, a leading pan-Turkist took a pro-Hitler position during the war[27] and established close connections with Nazi leaders in Germany[28]. Several pan-Turkic groups in Europe seemed to have maintained ties with Nazi Germany or its supporters at the start of the war, if not earlier[29]. The Turco-Tatars in Romania had cooperated with the Iron Guard, a Nazi inspired organization[29]. Although Turkish government archives for the period of WWII have not been released, the level of contact can be ascertained from accurately German archives[29]. During the early days of the War, publicly and officially, the government of Turkey maintained strict neutrality however there had been official and semi-official contacts[29]. In practice, however, there has been confidential semi-official contacts between both Germany and in Turkey, since 1941[29]. There was also no little sympathy for Germany in Turkey at the time [29]. A ten-year Turco-German 'Treaty of Friendship' was signed in Ankara on 18 January[29]. A series of official and semi-official meeting of German ambassador to Ankara, Franz von Papen, and several other German officials on one side and Turkish officials including General H.E. Erkilet, himself of Tatar origin and frequent contributor to pan-Turk journals took place in the second half of 1941 and early months of 1942[29]. Others included from the Turkish were General Ali Fuad Erdem, and Nuri Pasha, the brother of Enver Pasha, who is a romantic figure fore pan-Turkists[29]. While Erkilet discussed military contingencies[29], Nuri Pasha offered the Germans his plans for creating independent states which were to be allies but not satellites of Turkey[29]. These states were to be formed from the Turkic speaking population in Crimea, Azerbaijan, Central Asia, northwest Iran and norther Iraq[29]. Nuri Pasha himself offered to assist with propaganda activities to this effect. However, Turkey had also a fear for Turkic minorities of the USSR and [29] and told von Papen that it could not join Germany until the USSR was crushed[29]. The Turkish government was possibly apprehensive of the USSR's might[29]. Thus various pressure failed to bring the Turkish government to join the war during the period[29]. At less official levels, emrigrants from Turkic groups in the Soviet Union, played a crucial role in some of the negotiations and contacts of Turkey and Germany. Among these were pan-Turkist activits such as Zeki Velidi Togan, Mammed Amin Rasulzade, Mirza Bala, Ahmet CafarOglu, Sayid Shamil and Ayaz Ishaki[29]. Several Tatars, organized military units of Turkic speakers in Turco-Tatar and Caucasian regions from the prisoner of wars and these joined the war against the USSR, generally fighting as guerillas[29]. Many of them imbued with hopes of independence and several of these units aspired for a pan-Turkic union[29]. The units which were continuously reinforced numbered several hundred thousands of people of Turkic origin[29]. What is clear is that Turkey adopted a cautious approach at the government level[29], however pan-Turkist groups were exasperated by the Turkish government's inaction and by what they manifestly regarded as the waste of a golden opportunity in the realization of the goals of pan-Turkism[29].


Pan-Turkism and nationalist historiography has been used to deny the identity of Armenians and Kurds. At the same time, various revisionist claims were made on ancient peoples of the region and beyond.

Pan-Turkic historiography

Various groups including Parthians, Scythians, Sumerians, Indians, Akkadians, Elamites,Anzani, Kassites, Carians, Protohittites, Hittites, Mittani, Hurrians and others have erroneously been claimed as of Turkic origin by nationalist writers[30]. Lynn Meskell notes[31]: "Pan-Turkists who later became the ideologists of the racist movements of the present times, were rather pleased with the idea of affiliating Sumerians and Hittites to Turkish. Another historical theory developed under government sponsorship in those days held that all great civilizations — Chinese, Indian, Muslim, even ancient Egyptian and Etruscan — were of Turkish origin[32].

Viewpoint on Armenian history

Clive Foss, Professor of Ancient History at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, has done extensive archeological work in Turkey and is an expert on ancient Armenian coinage. In his article: "The Turkish View of Armenian History: A Vanishing Nation"[33] he notes that the Turkish government: "has been systematically changing the names of villages to make them more Turkish. Any name which does not have a meaning in Turkish, or does not sound Turkish, whatever its origin, is replaced by a banal name assigned by a bureau in Ankara, with no respect to local conditions or traditions." He also notes that the Turkish government: "presented ambiguously, without clear identification of their builders, or as examples of the influence of the superiority of Turkish architecture. In all this, a clear line is evident: the Armenian presence is to be consigned, as far as possible, to oblivion."[33].

Among the books he criticizes, Foss notes that the book written in Turkey by Cemal Anadol and titled 1982: the Armenian file in the light of history by Cemal Anadol claims the Iranian Scythians and Parthians as Turks. At the same time, Cemal Anadol claims that Armenian welcomed the Turks in the region, their language is a mixture with no roots, their alphabet is mixed with 11 characters being from ancient Turkic alphabet. Clive Foss states that to call the Turkish revisionism on Armenian history as "historical revisionism" is an understatement. He notes that: "The Turkish writings have been tendentious: history has been viewed as performing a useful service, proving or supporting a point of view, and so it is treated as something flexible which can be manipulated at will."[33]

He concludes with: "The notion, which seems well established in Turkey, that the Armenians were a wandering tribe without a home, who never had a state of their own, is of course entirely without foundation in fact. The logical consequence of the commonly expressed view of the Armenians is that they have no place in Turkey, and never did. The result would be the same if the viewpoint were expressed first, and the history written to order. In a sense, something like this seems to have happened, for most Turks who grew up under the Republic were educated to believe in the ultimate priority of Turks in all parts of history, and to ignore Armenians all together; they had been clearly cosigned to oblivion."[33]

View point on Kurdish identity

With the establishment of the republic of Turkey, a turkification program was pursued with vigor [32]. According to Martin van Bruinessen[32]: "The Kurdish language, Kurdish dress, Kurdish folklore, even the very word 'Kurd' were banned. Scholars provided 'proof' that the 'tribes of the East' were of pure Turkish stock, and that their language was Turkish, though somewhat corrupted due to their close proximity to Iran. Henceforth they were to be called 'Mountain Turks'. It goes without saying that there was no place for dissenting views in academic or public life."[32].

Ideologue views on pan-Turkism

Ziya Gökalp redefined pan-Turkism as a cultural, academic, philosophical[34] and political[35] concept advocating the unity and freedom of Turkic peoples.

Tsarist Russia and USSR viewpoint on pan-Turkism

Generally, the concept of Turkism was interpreted by Tsarist Russian circles as overwhelmingly political, irredentist and aggressive[36]. The term "Turkism" started to be used with a prefix "Pan" (from Greek meaning "all"), to create "Panturkism". The Türkic peoples of Russia began to be threatened with Turkish expansion, I. Gasprinsky and his adherents were labeled "Turkish spies". After the revolution of 1917, the attitude to Türkism did not differ from the attitude of the Imperial powers. At the 10th congress of Bolshevik Communist Party in 1921 was formulated the official doctrine where the party "condemned Panturkism as a sloping to the bourgeois-democratic nationalism". The emergence of a "Panturkism" scare in the Soviet propaganda caused "Panturkism" to become one of the most frightening political labels in the USSR. The most widespread accusation used for fatal repressions in the 1930es of the educated Tatars and other Türks was the accusation in "Panturkism".[37]

Russia, China and Iran, claim that they perceive Panturkism as nothing else but a new form of Turkish imperial ambition. Some see it as downright racist, particularly when considering the associated racial and historical teachings. Critics also believe that the concept of Pan-Turkism is flawed because of the distinct dialects among each different group of Türks, which sometimes lead to problems of understanding between people speaking different Turkic language. There is also concern over religious differences too. Although most Türks follow the Sunni sect of Islam, the Azeris of Azerbaijan are distinct in that they follow the Shi'a school. Some nationalist critics also claim that Pan-Turkists are at the fore front of major historical revisionism regarding Turkic history and world history in general.[38] Still, proponents see Pan-Turkism as a way of increasing regional security, economic growth and as a viable bulwark against Islamist movements, by furthering secular and democratic government in the region.[citation needed]

Key personalities


  • "Bu yürüyüş devam ediyor. Türk orduları ata ruhlarının dolaştığı Altay ve Tanrı Dağları eteklerinde geçit resmi yapıncaya kadar devam edecektir." translated "This march is going on. It will continue until the Turkic Armies' parade on the foothills of Altai and Tien-Shan mountains where the souls of their ancestors stroll." Hüseyin Nihâl Atsız, a famous Pan-Turkist.

See also


  1. ^ Landau, Jacob (1995). Pan-Turkism: From Irredentism To Cooperation. Indiana University Press. ISBN 0-253-20960-9, ISBN 978-0-253-20960-3. 
  2. ^ Jacob M. Landau, "Radical Politics in Modern Turkey", BRILL, 1974.
  3. ^ Robert F. Melson, "The Armenian Genocide" in Kevin Reilly (Editor), Stephen Kaufman (Editor), Angela Bodino (Editor) "Racism: A Global Reader (Sources and Studies in World History", M.E. Sharpe (January 2003). pg 278:"Concluding that their liberal experiment had been a failure, CUP leaders turned to Pan-Turkism, a xenophobic and chauvinistic brand of nationalism that sought to create a new empire based on Islam and Turkish ethnicity."
  4. ^ "Pan-Turkism." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2009. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 19 Jul. 2009 <>. Excerpt: Political movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, which had as its goal the political union of all Turkish-speaking peoples in the Ottoman Empire, Russia, China, Iran, and Afghanistan.
  5. ^ a b Iskander Gilyazov, "Пантюрκизм, Пантуранизм и Германия", magazine "Татарстан" No 5-6, 1995. (Russian)
  6. ^ Mansur Hasanov, Academician of Academy of Sciences of Tatarstan Republic, "Великий реформатор", in magazine "Республика Татарстан" № 96-97 (24393-24394), 17 May 2001. (Russian)
  7. ^ Pan-Turkism - Britannica Online Encyclopedia
  8. ^ Rafael Khakimov, "Taklid and Ijtihad", Russia in Global Affairs, Dec. 2003.
  9. ^ a b N.N., "Полтора Века Пантюрκизма в Турции", magazine "Панорама". (Russian)
  10. ^ Karabekir, Istiklâl Harbimiz/n.2/, p. 631
  11. ^ Kazakh President Revives Idea Of Switching To Latin Script
  12. ^ "Turkey-Kazakhstan cooperation in language", KazInform official state news agency, June 13, 2007
  13. ^ Jacob M. Landau. Pan-Turkism: From Irredentism to Cooperation. India University Press, 1995. 2nd Edition. pg 45: "Pan-Turkism's historic chance arrived shortly before and during First World War, when it was adopted a guiding principle of state policy by an influental group among the Young Turks"
  14. ^ Robert F. Melson, "The Armenian Genocide" in Kevin Reilly (Editor), Stephen Kaufman (Editor), Angela Bodino (Editor) "Racism: A Global Reader (Sources and Studies in World History", M.E. Sharpe (January 2003). pg 278: "Concluding that their liberal experiment had been a failure, CUP leaders turned to Pan-Turkism, a xenophobic and chauvinistic brand of nationalism that sought to create a new empire based on Islam and Turkish ethnicity." ..."It was in this context of revolutionary and ideological transformation and war that the fateful decision to destroy the Armenians was taken.
  15. ^ Young Turks and the Armenian Genocide, Armenian National Institute
  16. ^ Robert Melson, Leo Kuper, "Revolution and genocide: on the origins of the Armenian genocide and the Holocaust", University of Chicago Press, 1996. pg 139: "It was in this context of exclusion and war that CUP made a decision to destroy the Armenians as a viable national community in Turkey and the pan-Turkic empire. Thus a revolutionary transformation of ideology and identity for the majority had dangerous implications for the minority. As will be discussed in Chapter 5, the Turkish nationalists revolution, as initiated by the Young Turks, set the stage for the Genocide of Armenians during the Great war"
  17. ^ Assyrian International News Agency, International Genocide Scholars Association Officially Recognizes Assyrian, Greek Genocides, Retrieved on 2007-12-15.
  18. ^ Foreign Office Memorandum by Mr. G.W. Rendel on Turkish Massacres and Persecutions of Minorities since the Armistice (20 March 1922)
  19. ^ R. J. Rummel. "Statistics of Democide". Chapter 5, Statistics Of Turkey's Democide Estimates, Calculations, And Sources. Retrieved 2006-10-04. 
  20. ^ a b Samuel Totten, Paul Robert Bartrop, Steven L. Jacobs, "Dictionary of Genocide",Greenwood Publishing Group, 2008. pp 25-26
  21. ^ a b Martin van Bruinessen, "Genocide in Kurdistan? The suppression of the Dersim rebellion in Turkey (1937-38) and the chemical war against the Iraqi Kurds (1988)", in: George J. Andreopoulos (ed), Conceptual and historical dimensions of genocide. University of Pennsylvania
  22. ^ Genocide - George J Andreopoulos page 11
  23. ^ Martin van Bruinessen, "Genocide in Kurdistan? The suppression of the Dersim rebellion in Turkey (1937-38) and the chemical war against the Iraqi Kurds (1988)", in: George J. Andreopoulos (ed), Conceptual and historical dimensions of genocide. University of Pennsylvania
  24. ^ Turkey - Linguistic and Ethnic Groups - U.S. Library of Congress
  25. ^ Jacob M. Landau, "Radical Politics in Modern Turkey", BRILL, 1974. pg 194: "In the course of Second World War, various circles in Turkey absorbed Nazi propaganda; these were pro-German and admired Nazism, which they grasped as a doctrine of warlike dynamism and a source of national inspiration, on which to base their pan-Turkic and anti-Soviet ideology"
  26. ^ John M. VanderLippe , "The politics of Turkish democracy", SUNY Press, 2005. "A third group was lead by Nihal Atsiz, who favored a Hitler style haircut and mustache, and advocated racist Nazi doctorine"
  27. ^ Peter Davies, Derek Lynch, "The Routledge Companion to Fascism and the Far Right", Routledge, 2002. pg 244: "Alparslan Türkeş: Leader of a Turkish neo-fascist movement, Nationalist Action Party(MHP). During the war he took a pro-Hitler position and was imprisoned after a 1960 coup attempt against his country's ruler.
  28. ^ Berch Berberoglu, " Turkey in crisis: from state capitalism to neocolonialism‎", Zed, 1982. 2nd edition. pg 125: "Turkes established close ties with Nazi leaders in Germany in 1945 "
  29. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v Jacob M. Landau. Pan-Turkism: From Irredentism to Cooperation. India University Press, 1995. 2nd Edition. pp 112-114.
  30. ^ Speros Vyronis Jr. The Turkish State and History: Clio Meets the Grey Wolf. Thessaloniki: Institute for Balkan Studies. 1991
  31. ^ Lynn Meskell, "Archaeology Under Fire: Nationalism, Politics and Heritage in the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East", Routledge, 1998.
  32. ^ a b c d Martin van Bruinessen, "Genocide in Kurdistan? The suppression of the Dersim rebellion in Turkey (1937-38) and the chemical war against the Iraqi Kurds (1988)", in: George J. Andreopoulos (ed), Conceptual and historical dimensions of genocide. University of Pennsylvania Press, 1994, pp. 141-170.
  33. ^ a b c d Clive Foss, “The Turkish View of Armenian History: A Vanishing Nation,” in The Armenian Genocide: History, Politics, Ethics, ed. by Richard G. Hovannisian (New York: St. Martins Press, 1992)
  34. ^ Gökalp, Ziya; Devereaux, Robert (1968). The Principles of Turkism. E. J. Brill. pp. 125. "Turkism is not a political party but a scientific, philosophic and aesthetic school of thought." 
  35. ^ Kieser, Hans-Lukas (2006). Turkey beyond nationalism: towards post-nationalist identities. I. B. Tauris. pp. 19. ISBN 1-84511-141-9, ISBN 978-1-84511-141-0. 
  36. ^ Geraci, Robert P. (2001). Window on the East: National and Imperial Identities in Late Tsarist Russia. Cornell University Press. p. 278. ISBN 080143422X, ISBN 9780801434228. 
  37. ^ Mansur Hasanov, Academician of Academy of Sciences of Tatarstan republic, in "People's Political Newspaper" № 96-97 (24393-24394) 17 May 2001
  38. ^ Pan-Turanianism Takes Aim at Azerbaijan: A Geopolitical Agenda By: Dr. Kaveh Farrokh

Further reading

  • Jacob M. Landau. Pan-Turkism: From Irredentism to Cooperation. Hurst, 1995. ISBN 1-85065-269-4

External links


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary



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Pan-Turkism (uncountable)

  1. A political movement started more than 100 years ago aiming to unite the various Turkic peoples into a modern political state.

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