Last week, Turkey’s National Education Council voted to make the teaching of Ottoman Turkish compulsory in high schools. In 1928, Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, modernized the Ottoman language, replacing its Arabic alphabet, in use for than a thousand years, with Latin script. He also purged the language of many of its Arabic, Persian, and Greek words to create a new “pure” Turkish closer to the language people actually spoke.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan supports the highly symbolic move which has enraged secularists who claim he is pursuing an increasingly Islamist agenda, and that his vow to reintroduce Ottoman turkish “no matter what they say” was another bid to roll back Ataturk’s secular reforms, which were based on a strict separation between religion and state. This led to Erdogan’s prime minister insisting that learning the language would not be mandatory.