A Brief Overview on the History of Ülkü Ocakları, the Flag-bearer of National Ideals

It is the youth who will constantly re-build the future ideal of societies. The fact that the youth embrace national ideals in order to move towards new horizons guarantees the future of societies. There should be guides and intellectuals and leaders working for the nation in order for the youth to adopt national ideals.

In every era of the Turkish history, there have always been organizations and platforms which train the Turkish youth and provide them with national ideals. Turkish nationalists have tried to evoke a national revival by establishing several associations since the last era of the Ottoman Empire. Turkist intellectuals founded Türk Derneği (the Turkish Association), the first non-governmental organization on December 15th, 1908. Türk Ocakları Derneği (the Association of Türk Ocakları), whose base was laid by the students of military medicine, was officially founded by Turkist intellectuals such as Yusuf Akçura, Mehmet Emin Yurdakul, Ahmed Ferit Tek and Ahmet Ağaoğlu on March 25th, 1912. The members of Türk Ocakları, supported by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, took part in the War of Independence by organizing the Turkish people.

Nationalist youngsters studying in İstanbul University established Milli Türk Talebe Birliği (MTTB) (National Union of Turkish Students) on December 4th, 1916. MTTB and Türk Ocakları had been the most durable nationalist organizations until 1968. However Turkish nationalists were exposed to pressure by the then state officials. On May 3rd 1944, within the scope of the “Turkism-Turanism” lawsuit, Turkist intellectuals like Nihal Atsız, Alparslan Türkeş, Nejdet Sancar, Muzaffer Eriş, Zeki Velidi Togan, Reha Oğuz Türkkan and Osman Yüksel Serdengeçti were subjected to torture. After a crowded group of nationalist youngsters protested the arrest of Nihal Atsız and his friends, this day of May 3rd started to be celebrated as the Day of Turkism.

Alparslan Türkeş, known as Başbuğ (Chieftain), focused on youth activities after he became the leader of Cumhuriyetçi Köylü Millet Partisi (CKMP) (Republican Peasants’ Nation Party) in 1965. In order to facilitate the propaganda activities of the Youth Branches of CKMP, Genç Ülkücüler Derneği (Association of Young Idealists) was founded as a youth organization with the name of “ülkücü” (idealist) on February 29th, 1968.  After the Coup D’état of March 1971, the association moved its headquarters from Ankara to Yozgat and abrogated itself.

Ülkü Ocakları, the legendary youth organization of the Idealist Movement, was first founded as a thought club by nationalist youngsters in the Faculties of Law, Language History and Geography and Agriculture of Ankara University in 1966. As of 1968, nationalist students started to found a branch of Ülkü Ocağı in every university.

As none of these clubs had the statute of association, there was no union or coordination between them. Since May 1969, Ülkü Ocakları in universities started to be united under the name of Ülkü Ocakları Birliği (Union of Ülkü Ocakları). In these years, the separatist and anti-state activities of the communist groups accelerated and these groups killed many students from Ülkü Ocakları.

In this period, Ülkü Ocakları Birliği carried out protests and marches to defend and publicize outer Turks in mostly Middle East, Central Asia, Caucasia and Balkans. They also arranged memorial nights for idealist martyrs such as Ruhi Kılıçkıran, Süleyman Özmen, Yusuf İmamoğlu and Dursun Özkuzu.

After Ülkü Ocakları Birliği was closed after the coup d’état, Ülkü Ocakları Derneği (Association of Ülkü Ocakları) was founded on December 23rd, 1973 and Büyük Ülkü Derneği (Great Association of Ideal) was established on December 22nd, 1972 instead of Genç Ülkücüler Teşkilatı which operates for the youngsters in secondary education.

Ülkü Ocakları Derneği began to be organized opening new branches in every corner of Turkey and succeeded to open 400 branches country-wide. Ülkü Ocakları tried to educate the Turkish youth as conscious, nationalist, conservative, literate and idealist individuals through educational and cultural activities, some of which was attended by Başbuğ Alparslan Türkeş personally. They launched a volunteers’ campaign for Cyprus Turks during the Cyprus Peace Operation and organized “Enslaved Turks’ Weeks” for the Turkish communities living under the oppression of the Soviet Union.

They also struggled against the provocative activities of Marxist militants as idealist youngsters thought that those militants terrorized the public and tried to make the Republic of Turkey a satellite of the Soviet Union.

The leftist terror started to kill a couple of idealists every day especially after 1976. The CHP (Republican People’s Party) government supporting leftist groups exercised control over Ülkü Ocakları and filed charges against nationalist and idealist youngsters.

Ülkü Ocakları Derneği was closed in December 1978. The name of Ülkücü Gençler Derneği (Association of Idealist Youngsters) having founded earlier in Konya was changed as Ülkücü Gençlik Derneği (Association of Idealist Youth) on May 25th 1978 and its headquarters moved to Ankara. After the closure of Ülkü Ocakları, Ülkücü Gençlik Derneği (ÜGD) took over its activities and branches.

However the pressures of the CHP rule did not stop and the Pol-Der (communist police organization) gangs continued to torture idealists and arrested them as a result of several conspiracies. After the proclamation of martial law in 19 provinces, the activities of ÜGD were carried out by Ülkü Yolu Derneği (Association of Ideal Path) until the Coup D’état of September 12, 1980.

Under the leadership of Başbuğ Türkeş and Dündar Taşer, Ülkü Ocakları acting on science, faith, morality and ideal tried to protect the Turkish state, the values and culture of the Turkish nation and make their country a developed, prosperous, independent in every aspect and esteemed one in the international platform.

Ülkü Ocakları, grounding on Turk-Islam Ideal has raised a lot of intellectuals. However thousands of idealists were first killed by communist terrorists and then other thousands were imprisoned by the rule of 1980 Coup. The military rule of the coup tortured the members of Ülkü Ocakları in prisons and hanged 9 of them.

Experiencing these pains and struggle, the Idealist Movement has successfully served the mission trusted to it by the glorious Turkish history. Ülkü Ocakları has been re-established under the name of Ülkü Ocakları Eğitim ve Kültür Vakfı (Ülkü Ocakları Education and Culture Foundation) after the bans of the rule of 1980 Coup were lifted and continues to struggle for its ideals and for the great Turkish nation.

References

ÖZNUR, Hakkı, Ülkücü Hareket, (6 Ciltli), Alternatif Yayınları, Ankara, 1999
TOSUN, Kadir, Milliyetçi Ülkücü Hareket, 1. Baskı, Ankara, 2011
TURHAN, Metin, Ülkü Ocakları (1968- 1980), Bilgeoğuz Yayınevi, 1. Baskı, İstanbul, 2010