The Charismatic Head of Turkey

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses a meeting of provincial election officials at the headquarters of his ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party in Ankara on January 29, 2019. (Photo by Adem ALTAN / AFP) (Photo credit should read ADEM ALTAN/AFP/Getty Images)

The charisma of  a politicianpolitical figure as a guarantee of success

The word charisma comes from Greek and means”divine grace”[i]. It is applicable espacially  in phrase”charismatic leadership”.

The power of a charismatic leader is in his rare grace. There are a number of circumstances conditioning the political leader’s role in society particularly the image of a leader, the mentality of the country’s population, the ethno-religious composition, the type of a country, etc. In many cases the success of a leader in politics is not only due to the effective implementation of his functions, but also to his intuitive, instinctive emotions, which are demonstrated by confidence in his own strength, and the ability to create conditions to save the situation. The leaders usually have the most important elements in their style i.e. external features, episodes of the past, voice intonation, maniera, origin and even such details as unique ring or clothing. Although, not always all these give enough information about the practical and moral features of the individual, they often have magic influence.

The personification of politics in the Republic of  Turkey

In December 2013, when Turkish Prime Minister RecepTayyip Erdogan made a speech in Istanbul, some of his supporters were wearing T-shirts, on which one could read “Man, we follow your footsteps”. The latter reminds the famous kemalistic slogan “Father, we follow your footsteps”. This and many other steps prove that an attempt is made in modern Turkey to create a cult over another personality, i.e. over Erdogan. Films are shot about him and books are written, works of art are created  to praise him. Almost everywhere one can see his wallpapers, flags, statues  with his figure, a lot of institutions are named after him[v].

The dominating elite headed by Erdogan brought new ideas which are based on islamic nationalism spiced by re-evaluation of the ottoman heritage[vi].

Recep Tayyip Erdogan as  a charismatic leader

Ataturk in Turkey as an image of charismatic leader remains unsurpassed, though president Erdogan strives for creating cult around his person. He has the necessary qualities characteristic to a religious and “street” leader[vii].

To understand the formation of Erdogan’s political orientation, his ideas and as a political figure, we need to start from his childhood. Erdogan was born in 1954 in Istambul in Kasmpasha district, which is famous in Istambul as an active, semicriminal district. Coming from Kasmpasha is associated with the image of  a brave, snappy”street boy” or “good boy”[viii]. In childhood he sold soft drinks and cookies in dengerous streets of the city. Erdogan has many times mentioned in his speech that he is from Kasmpasha. Especially in the opening of  Beyoglu-Kasmpasha tunnel he said in his speech he is lucky his fate was written in Kasmpasha[ix].Thus, the environment has had its  direct influence on the formation of the figure. According to the observation of Alin Ozanyan one of the guarantees of Erdogan’s success is that leaving the”street”  Erdogan did not forget the mentality and problems of those people[x]. It is important to pay attention to Erdogan’s education too. In 1973, he graduated from Imam Hatip School, the only religious school of the time in Istanbul, whose alumni was perceived as Islamists in the 70s and could face some difficulties[xi]. Erdogan wanted  to became a theologian, but later decided to engage in. The party “Justice and development” is just”the advocate and flagman of  Political islam”. Erdogan encourages the establishment of religious schools understanding  the importance of education in establishment of an individual.In 2017-2018 the number of  Imam Hatip schools reached 1453[xii]. Erdogan has never hidden his islamic views and ambitions to reestablish the Ottoman Empire. It could even be said that islamic position is interconnected with the desire of restoring the Ottoman impire. On this occasion, the visit of Palestin president Mahmud Abas in Ankara, in 2015, becamethe subject of great discussions[xiii]. Erdogan received him at his new residence in Ankara where he had moved in october 2014[xiv]. The new residence would symbolize the start of “New Turkey”[xv]. Erdogan met Abbas in the presence of 16 historical combatants in military uniforms armed with swords. People started to deride the accomplished in social nets. Particularly turkish journalist Kadri Gyursel qualified it as “Ottoman circus in palace”. He also mentioned with sarcasm that Erdogan as ” pasha”met governor Abbas from Ramallah in such a way as if the latter was representing the Palestiniane state of the Ottoman empire[xvi].Those 16 soldiers symbolized the 16 impires of turkish history[xvii]. These 16 empires also symboliz the 16 stars of the official seal of the Turkish presidency.

Erdogan often refers to the prerepublican period of  Turkey and as a result very often is accused of trying to weaken the country’s secularism and modern structure.

In  2011 Erdogan gave strict response to the draft project of condemning the denial of the Armenian Genocide by France. Addressing to the French President Sarkozy, Erdogan read a historical document-letter, written in 1526, by the Sultan Suleyman the Mangnificent to Francis the 1st, the king of France. It was the response of Francis’s request for help, who was captured at that time. At the begining of the letter mentioning all the countries he invaded, Suleyman referred to the King of France Francis saying that the latter would learn what was he going to do from the ambassador. In his speech Erdogan especially wanted to emphasize the contrast between Sultan Suleyman-the owner of numerous countries and the abducted and help requesting king of  France[xviii]. In his another speech Erdogan spoke of being the grandchildren  of  Sultan Suleyman[xix].

On February 11, 2018 on the 100th anniversary of the death of Sultan Abdulhamid the 2nd Erdogan mentioned in his speech[xx] that some people were trying to cut them off their roots and consider the  begining of their country as  1923[xxi]. He mentioned that the Republic of Turkey is the successor of the Ottoman empire and from now on the ottoman and the republican regions should not be supposed separately. Erdogan considered Abdul Hamid “the last universal emperor of the world”. By this speech Erdogan tried to remove the depth between republican and Ottoman periods of Turkey created by kemalists.

It was the result of effective economic policy because Turkey could resist the global crisis and even grow. This helped the country together with the foreign policy to become a leading country in the region. This progress is mostly ascribed to Erdogan and JDP.

It is not difficult to see that during his public speeches Erdogan gets the warmth and support of the people. The tone of his voice, the confidence, the power, and faith are attractive and influential. The speeches of Erdogan are emotional spiced with proverbs and ottoman words. The president’s love for poems is not a secret, either. He has chosen the way to reach people’s heart through influential and exciting poems. It is one of the important elements of Erdogan’s charismatic image.”The Leader”addresses people primarily with prayer-poems[xxiii].

The fact that president Erdogan has gained complete support in the country became clear also from the failure of revolution attempt on July 2016. One of the main reasons of revolution failure  was the fast mobilization of Erdogan`s followers[xxv].  Erdogan could skilfully use the whole potential of his loyal forces from the first hours of the case addressing to citizens to capture the public spaces and not allow the soldiers to establish their authority in the country[xxvi].For the mobilization of people The authority chose the slogan “to stand up for democracy” which had its success.

 Recep Tayyip Erdogan nominated by the “Justice and Development” party receiving about 53% of votes was re-elected to the post of president[xxx].

[i]Խարիզմա բառի ստուգաբանություն/

[ii]Վ. Գեղամյան, «Խարիզմատիկ առաջնորդություն»/ Բուն TV-26.10.2017

[iii]Վ. Գեղամյան, «Սոցիալ-մշակութային դինամիկան Թուրքիայում Ի. Ինոնյուի նախագահության շրջանում» Սեղմագիր ⁄ ՀՀ Գիտությունների ազգային ակադեմիա, Արևելագիտության ինստիտուտ 2017⁄ էջ 3:

[iv]Վ. Գեղամյան,  ««Երկրորդ մարդը», Անձի պաշտամունքը և միջկուսակցական պայքարը Թուրքիայում, 1938-1950»:  ⁄  Արևելագիտության հարցեր, մաս 10-րդ, ԵՊՀ հրատ., 2015⁄ էջ 79:

[v]Վ. Գեղամյան,  ««Երկրորդ մարդը», Անձի պաշտամունքը և միջկուսակցական պայքարը Թուրքիայում», 1938-1950:  ⁄  Արևելագիտության հարցեր, մաս 10-րդ, ԵՊՀ հրատ., 2015⁄  էջ 94:

[vi]Վարուժան Գեղամյան «Աթաթուրքի իսկական հետևորդը», Թուրքագիտական պորտալ:

[vii]Ռուբեն Մելքոնյան, «Թուրքիան ավտորիտարիզմի և սադրանքի զուգահեռականներում»:  ⁄«Անդին» գրական-մշակութային ամսագիր ⁄ 2016

[viii]Ռուբեն Մելքոնյան, «Թուրքիան ավտորիտարիզմի և սադրանքի զուգահեռականներում»:  ⁄«Անդին» գրական-մշակութային ամսագիր ⁄ 2016

[ix]“Kasımpaşa Tüneli açılış Töreni”,« Türkie» թերթ, 27.01.2018

[x]«Ով է Էրդողանը», «ՍիվիլՆեթ» լրատվականի «Թուրքիան ինչպես որ կա» հաղորդում, փորձագետ Ալին Օզինյանի հետ լրագրող Թաթուլ Հակոբյանի հարցազրույցը: 03.07.2014

[xi]«Ով է Էրդողանը», «ՍիվիլՆեթ» լրատվականի «Թուրքիան ինչպես որ կա» հաղորդում, փորձագետ Ալին Օզինյանի հետ լրագրող Թաթուլ Հակոբյանի հարցազրույցը: 03.07.2014

[xii]“Imam Hatip okullarının sayısı arttı, öğrenci sayısı düştü”, Sputnik Türkiye, 12.11.2017

[xiii]” Abbas welcomed at Turkish presidential palace by Erdogan and 16 warriors”, The Guardian: 12.01. 2015

[xiv]“Analysis: Erdogan’s “Ottoman” Ceremonial Welcome Of Abbas Reflects His Regional Ambitions”,The Tower, 01.13.15:

[xv]“Abbas welcomed at Turkish presidential palace by Erdogan and 16 warriors”, The Guardian: 12.01.2015

[xvi] “Analysis: Erdogan’s “Ottoman” Ceremonial Welcome Of Abbas Reflects His Regional Ambitions”,The Tower, 01.13.15:

[xvii]“ekşisözlük” բառարան/16 türkdevleti–1516791

[xviii]BaşbakanRecepTayyipErdoğan’danSarkozi’eKanuni Sultan Süleyman’ınMektubuylaTavsiye/ Bilgisocialcom/

[xix]BaşbakanErdoğan:BizKanuni Sultan Süleyman’ıntorunlarıyız/ AktüelGündem/

[xx]Erdoğan’ınKemalistleriYerinDibineSokan ABDÜLHAMID konuşması/ SAVUNAN ADAM/

[xxi]Sabah./ CUMHURBAŞKANI ERDOĞAN:Abdulham¡d Han dünyanın son evrenselimparatordur.


[xxiii]RecepTayyipErdoğanDuaȘiiri/Koyun mu Dediniz?/

RecepTayyipErdoğanȘiirokuduherkesagladı/ emrebayram/


[xxiv]‘’halkı din ve ırk farkıgözeterek kin vedüşmanlığaaçıkçatahriketmek’’

[xxv]Վ. Գեղամյան, «Թուրքիայումկատարվածհեղաշրջումը»/Թուրքագիտականպորտալ:

[xxvi]Վ. Գեղամյան, «Թուրքիայումկատարվածհեղաշրջումը»/Թուրքագիտականպորտալ:

[xxvii]Referandumakatılımoranıarttı/CNN TÜRK/16.04.2017

[xxviii]Erdoğanaçıkladı…Erkenseçimtarihi belli oldu/ Hürriyet/18.04.2018

[xxix] Turkey election: Erdogan wins re-election as president/CNN/ 25.07.2018

[xxx]See the previous:

  1. Կարինե Սահակյան «Քաղաքական հոգեբանության ուրվագծեր»:
  2. Վ. Գեղամյան, ««Երկրորդ մարդը», Անձի պաշտամունքը և միջկուսակցական պայքարը Թուրքիայում» 1938-1950, Թուրքագիտական պորտալ(վերջին այցելություն`10.08.18):
  3. Վ. Գեղամյան, «Աթաթուրքի իսկական հետևորդը», Թուրքագիտական պորտալ(վերջին այցելություն`10.08.18):

4.Վ. Գեղամյան, «Սոցիալ-մշակութային դինամիկան Թուրքիայում Ի. Ինոնյուի նախագահության շրջանում» Սեղմագիր ⁄ ՀՀ Գիտությունների ազգային ակադեմիա, Արևելագիտության ինստիտուտ, 2017:

  1. Վ. Գեղամյան, «Խարիզմատիկ առաջնորդություն», Բուն TV:
  2. Վ. Գեղամյան, «Թուրքիայում կատարված հեղաշրջումը»/Թուրքագիտական պորտալ(վերջին այցելություն`10.08.18):


Author: Anahit Karapetyan.  © All rights are reserved.

Translator: Nelli Karapetyan.



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