TURKEY: ‘ Just 81-Years Ago Today People were Confronted with Surname Law ‘

#AceHistoryNews – Turkey:June.21: Just 81 years ago today, Turkish people were confronted with a new law, which would make them choose a formal, legal family surname – a profound change in the ordinary life of Turks who had dealt with a series of radical reforms in their newly established country.

Starting in the early 1920s – after the Ottoman Empire collapsed and Turkey was declared a republic – a numerous social, political and economic reforms were passed with the aim of transforming Turkey into a modern country.

Among these deep social changes was the Surname Law adopted on June 21, 1934, which required all Turkish citizens to choose a surname for their family.

Before that, Turks, as well as other ethnicities living in the Ottoman Empire, had no surname. People were addressed with titles like “hadji” (pilgrim), “hodja” (teacher), “agha” (master), “pasha” (general), “hafiz” (someone who have completely memorized the Qur’an), “lady/madam” and so on.

Others were called with a reference to their hometown, like “Konevi” (meaning from Konya).

Although the new law was intended to ease the daily life of the public, not everybody was happy. Among them were some prominent Turkish names including Halide Edip Adivar, a novelist, nationalist, and women’s rights activist, and Nihal Atsiz, an author, poet, and a leading supporter of the pan-Turkist ideology.


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