Murat Devres


Born in Istanbul, I grew up in a secular setting. We emigrated to Brussels, where I attended a Catholic High School. I first learned about the Armenian and Assyrian Genocide through a school assignment. I suffered from Tätertrauma and decided to study History. I wrote my thesis arguing against Erik Jan Zürcher’s Young Turk periodization. Having graduated from the ULB I returned to Turkey, where I became more aware of the sufferings of minority populations. My interest in Dersim stems from my great-grandfather who was deputy Tunceli. I entered Boğaziçi University and have just recently defended my dissertation “The Turkish Mission Civilisatrice? Governance of Dersim as an Internal Colony (1927-1952)”.




Socio-economic Transformation of Dersim Under Internal Colonial Rule


This paper shows how the violent destruction of the tribal socio-economic structure of Dersim lead not to the reinforcement of capitalist market economy, but to a wish to return to a communal and collective way of production. Modernization theory predicates that small -scale subsistence agriculture gradually transforms into market-oriented agriculture, which requires peasants to seek non-agricultural work in manufacturing and the service sector. The ethnically and religiously heterodox region of Dersim in the East of Turkey, was subjected to an internal colonial rule that lasted for twenty-five years, during which a genocidal episode occurred in 1937 and 1938. The traditional way of life based on pastoral nomadism and subsistence agriculture was violently challenged and a socio-economic transformation occurred that lead to a national market-oriented agriculture and animal husbandry. However economic underdevelopment in the region persisted, and efforts to integrate the region into the national market failed to concretize. What is the underlying reason for the persistence of economic underdevelopment in this region? I try to answer this question through a comparative analysis of socioeconomic data found in the critical reports of the deputy of Bingöl and Tunceli. Efforts by the national government to integrate the region within the national market not only failed but in fact resulted in a sustained subsistence crisis that led to a famine in 1942, proving that centralized agricultural policies do not benefit the local people and integration with the national and world systems, but to the contrary these policies result in a restrengthening of local identities.


Affiliation: Independent Researcher