Negotiating the price of the new state and republican modernization: resistance to the agricultural taxes in modern Turkey


NEW PERSPECTIVES ON TURKEY, vol.63, pp.80-112, 2020 (SSCI) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 63
  • Publication Date: 2020
  • Doi Number: 10.1017/npt.2020.24
  • Journal Indexes: Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI), Scopus, International Bibliography of Social Sciences, ABI/INFORM, American History and Life, Historical Abstracts, Index Islamicus, Political Science Complete, Public Affairs Index, Sociological abstracts, Worldwide Political Science Abstracts
  • Page Numbers: pp.80-112
  • Keywords: Turkish modernization, state-making, agricultural taxes, peasant resistance, rural economy, informal economy, peasant politics
  • Istanbul University Affiliated: Yes


After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the building of the modern Turkish Republic was financed largely through the taxes extracted from the agricultural economy. Turkey's economy was largely based on agriculture and accordingly the new state relied heavily on rural resources. Despite the abolition of the tithe, many other agricultural taxes increased remarkably. This paper examines the peasants' everyday resistance to heavy taxes under the single-party regime in interwar Turkey. It shows that under an authoritarian single-party system, poor and small-income peasants used daily and mostly informal means to cope with the social injustice that resulted from the increasingly burdensome economic demands of the new state. In contrast to the existing accounts, which mostly regard the peasants as being atomized under the absolute control of the state, this paper portrays them as an active social dynamic that annulled the greater part of the taxes in practice and compelled the government to soften its heavy taxes. Based on new archival sources, such as gendarme records, politicians' reports, citizens' petitions, and newspaper reports, this paper reveals the peasants' different forms of politics and the direct and indirect impact of such politics on the social and political transformation of the new Republic and on the modernization of Turkey overall.