Islamic Studies Mehmet Ziya Gökalp
Recep Alpyağıl
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 September 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195390155-0125


Mehmet Ziya Gökalp (b. 1876–d. 1923) was one of the most significant political Muslim figures of the 20th century in Turkey. His real name was Mehmet Ziya, and “Gökalp” was his pen name. He is better known by his pen name after 1911. Gökalp lived and wrote in a time of profound crisis and change which marked the transition from the multiethnic Ottoman Empire (1922) to the nation-state of the Turkish Republic (1923). Under conditions of political turmoil, economic bankruptcy, world war, and a desperate search for cultural reorientation, he tried to create a synthesis of Turkic, Islamic, and Western values and concepts for the national revival of Turkey. He was a polymath: author, poet, sociologist, historian, philosopher, man of public affairs, ideological slogan maker. In this effort, he stands out in Turkey as the one person who was able to go beyond narrow ideological blueprints to a systematic theoretical construction. Gökalp was a man who tried to combine in his life the ancient values of the Orient with a scientific mind in the Western sense. He was one of the activists in the Committee of Union and Progress (İttihat ve Terakki Cemiyeti). Gökalp became a member of the Central Committee of the Union and Progress Party in 1910 and went to Salonika. He kept that influential position until 1918. Gökalp also taught sociology at the party school and directed the party’s youth department. He earned the respect of the party leaders and became a popular lecturer. Gökalp’s poems and philosophical essays appeared in the periodical Genç Kalemler in the years 1910–1912. He is also acclaimed as the father of Turkish nationalism. He favored the adoption of Western models and methods but not at the cost of national culture and identity. Gökalp’s influence on Turkish thought is unique and very extensive: philosophy, religious controversies, aesthetics, literature, music, and ethics. He is the person who initiated the so-called renaissance of modern Turkey. Later, Gökalp’s ideas motivated Ataturk’s movement and the official ideology of the present-day Turkish Republic.


Gökalp’s writings are mostly in the form of articles and poems, and even the majority of his books are only collections of writings previously published in periodicals. Binark 1971 and Tanyu 1981 are very helpful in understanding his ideas within the historical process. Jäschke 2010 is a helpful compilation of primary sources. A historical context reveals various changes of opinion and inner contradictions in different periods of his life.

  • Binark, İsmet. Doğumunun 95: Yıldönümü Münasebetiyle Ziya Gökalp Bibliyografyası. Ankara, Turkey: Türk Kültürünü Araştırma Enstitüsü, 1971.

    “Bibliography of Ziya Gökalp.” This is the best bibliography as it covers all kind of studies on Gökalp published in Turkish. Contains Turkish newspapers, journals, and books related to Gökalp. It also includes references in English, French, and German.

  • Jäschke, Gotthard. “Zur Ziya Gökalp-Bibliographie.” In Zeki Velidi Togan’a Armağan, 127–130. Ankara, Turkey: Türk Tarih Kurumu, 2010.

    “On bibliography of Ziya Gökalp.” Comprehensive bibliography in German. Small but very helpful literature in this field based on primary sources.

  • Tanyu, Hikmet. Ziya Gökalp’in Kronolojisi. Ankara, Turkey: Kültür Bakanlığı, 1981.

    “Chronology of Ziya Gökalp.” Gökalp has demonstrated significant changes and some contradictions in his thought life. In this regard, this is the best book to follow Gökalp’s philosophical development in a historical process. Covers all descents and ascents of Gökalp.

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