The Town of Belen, Hatay and the Turkmens in Historical Continuity
Pamukkale Üniversitesi, İnsan ve Toplum Bilimleri Fakültesi, Sosyoloji Bölümü, Denizli/Türkiye
Keywords: Mountain-pass, nation formation, continuity, national identity
The Ottomans’ effort to create a society suitable for the empire made connection points by organizing many different peoples within the framework of Turkish and Islamic characteristics. In the conjuncture of the ruling elites and the region, the rising and dominant value was Turkishness and Islam. The Ottomans established more institutional relations with the local people in Anatolia during the controversial periods of the seventeenth century. They aimed to increase the participation of the people of the region in state institutions by establishing connections in both administrative and educational fields. In the post-classical period, the Ottomans tried to provide this connection, sometimes by local administrators and sometimes by giving security after intervention in banditry activities. Thanks to these participations, local people would internalize social values and practices in coordination with state institutions and also reach an opportunity for a proper relationship with the norms and values of the ruling elite. The Ottomans, who made this connection to a large extent by the local nobility, provided social discipline with practices such as tax collection, meeting the needs of the soldiers, special assignments, and punishment of fugitives, and remained loyal to their customs. Based on Meeker’s (2001) arguments, the Hatay-Belen district is a vital interaction area between the state and society -with the benefit of its historical and strategic location. From a historical, sociological, and anthropological point of view, the modern state has chosen a particular ethnic group and religious belief as the ideal model as the basis for its nation-building project. Still, this selection activity had cultural and ethnic continuities long before the nineteenth-century conditions when nationalism emerged (Smith, 1986). Meeker argues that the Gellnerian (1983) view that the nation in its modern sense is not a cause but a construction of the nation-state is consistent with the Ottoman example. The state transferred the Turkmens to critical points, exempted them from taxes in some places, made the Islamic peoples superior to the others with the millet system, and strengthened the Sunnism as the prominent sect through the teachers it appointed. The social discipline formed here was seen as suitable for a settled life. Since it is a mountain pass and a bridge opening to the Arab lands, the Turkmen families settled in Belen, and the contributions of the people to the state at critical times are functional in terms of the discipline idealized by the state in practice. The fact that Muslim Turkmens were elected in these settlements created a dynamic platform in terms of topics such as a shared history myth, patriotism, national honor, and common destiny in the transition to the modern nation-state and nation-building.