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Anarchism in Turkey
A short history of Anarchism in Turkey
A short but good history of anarchism in Turkey involving revolutionaries form other nationalities as well.
In 1876, Christo Botev, “the first Bulgarian anarchist and national hero... perished for the liberation of Bulgaria from Turkish power”.
In 1878, after leaving Beirut, Errico Malatesta’s ship docks in Smyrna (Izmir), where the local authorities demand that Malatesta be handed over to them. Fortunately, the Captain of “La Provence” refuses the order and the ship continues on to Italy, France and Switzerland.
The earliest formations of socialist activity in Turkey come from the ethnic minorities of Bulgarians, Macedonians, Greeks and Jews. The focus of their activity is in Thessoloniki. In these early formations there is a split between the orthodox Marxists and a faction of Bulgarian and Jewish “anarcho-liberals”. The two factions try to form a mutual organization with the marxist Nicola Rusev as secretary. But a split soon occurs with the marxists decrying the activities of anarchist Pavel Deliradev whose associates include Angel Tomov and Nikola Harlakov as well as people from Abraham Benaroya’s Sephardic Circle of Socialist Studies.
The Bulgarian Macedonian Edirne Revolutionary Committee form in Thessaloniki 1893. This group is to evolve into the major Macedonian indepence group against the Ottoman Empire, IMRO (Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization). The spokeperson of IMRO’s left wing is Goce Delcev. He favors sabotage and attentats rather than the nationalist’s call for a general uprising, which, it is believed would be quickly crushed by the Ottoman authorities.
Bulgarian and Macedonian students in Switzerland frequent Russian immigrant circles and discover the ideas of Bakunin. In 1898, these students form the Macedonian Secret Revolutionary Committee and publish “Otmustenie” (“Revenge”). “Otmustenie” declares war on the nationalisms of the individual ethnic minorities of Ottoman Turkey, but rather makes a call to unite with the Muslim people against the Sultan’s government.
In 1896 Abraham Frumkin, a young man, came from Constantinople (Istanbul) to London. He became a friend of Rudolf Rocker. He born in 1872 in Jerusalem. He spent a year in Jaffa as a teacher of Arabic. In 1891 he went to Constantinople to study Law but he didn’t manage it because of lack of money. In 1893 he went to New York and came in contact with anarchist ideas for the first time. In 1894 he returned to Constantinople with lots of anarchist books and propaganda material. In the house of Moses Schapiro from South Russia and his wife Nastia, which was at that time a place for young active people, he found open ears and minds.
Schapiro, who had to flee from Russia because of his revolutionary activities, quickly was inflamed by the new ideas and went together with Frumkin to Paris and London. From there he took all books he could get about anarchism (Kropotkin, Reclus, Grave, Malato etc.) back home. From London the Yiddish anarchist paper “Arbeiterfraind” was sent to Constantinople where the Jewish community around Shapiro welcomed it happily. From now on Frumkin wrote for that paper. Then in 1896 they decided to go to London to open a print shop for Yiddish anarchist booklets. Many years later he wrote a book about this time “From the spring period of Jewish socialism”. Shapiro had to return to Constantinople in 1897. He left his print shop to Frumkin, who decided to publish an own little paper “Der Propagandist” (11 issues). After a while in Liverpool and Leeds in 1998 Frumkin went to Paris to stay for a year. Then he went again to America in 1899. Shapiro was later engaged in the Russian Revolution and was a co-founder 1922-23 of the IWA in Berlin. He went to the US where he died in 1946.
The Armenian, Alexandre Atabekian attempts on several occasions to distribute anarchist pamphlets in Istanbul and Izmir.
The Italian anarchist, Amilcare Cipriani, much to the chagrin of Malatesta, volunteers to fight in Crete’s 1897 revolt against Turkish occupation. He records his impressions in the “Almanach de la Questione Sociale” published in Paris by the Greek anarchist Paul Argyriades.
In 1903, the anarchist group “Gemidzii” makes contact with Goce Delcev. In April of 1903, the group carry out bombings on their own initiative in Thessaloniki against a French Passenger liner and Banque Ottomane Imperiale.
In May 1912, in London, Errico Malatesta is charged with being a Turkish spy. The accusation comes from the Italian patriot (and supposedly one-time anarchist) Bellelli who is offended by Malatesta’s outspoken opposition to Italy’s adventures in Libya.
Albert Meltzer’s pamphlet “International Revolutionary Solidarity Movement” includes documents by the Spanish anarchist “First of May Group”. This pamphlet makes numerous references to the activities of Turkish anarchists in the late 1960s. (However his remarks have been questioned).
The contemporary Turkish anarchist movement begins in the 1980s with some former Marxists publishing in Turkish the pamphlet “Kronstadt 1920” by Ida Mett.
In the late 1980s, two anarchist journals appear in Istanbul, “Kara” and “Efendisiz”.