From Religious Empires to Secular States
State Secularization in Turkey, Iran, and Russia
By Birol Baskan
In the 1920s and the 1930s, Turkey, Iran and Russia vehemently pursued
state-secularizing reforms, but adopted different strategies in doing
so. But why do states follow different secularizing strategies? The
literature has already shattered the illusion that secularization of the
state has been a unilinear, homogeneous and universal process, and has
convincingly shown that secularization of the state has unfolded along
different paths. Much, however, remains to be uncovered.
This book provides an in-depth comparative historical analysis of state
secularization in three major Eurasian countries: Turkey, Iran and
Russia. To capture the aforementioned variation in state secularization
across three countries that have been hitherto analyzed as separate
studies, Birol Baskan adopts three modes of state secularization:
accommodationism, separationism and eradicationism. Focusing
thematically on the changing relations between the state and religious
institutions, Baskan brings together a host of factors, historical,
strategic and structural, to account for why Turkey adopted
accommodationism, Iran separationism and Russia eradicationism. In doing
so, he expertly demonstrates that each secularization strategy was a
rational response to the strategic context the reformers found
1. Introduction: The Secular State and Its Three Types.
2. Mobilizing Sheikhs and Ulama: Religion and the Ottoman Empire.
3. Accommodationist State Secularization in Republican Turkey.
4. Appeasing the Ulama: Religion and the State in Iran.
5. Separationist State Secularization in Pahlavi Iran.
6 Taming the Church: Religion and the Russian Empire.
7. Eradicationist State Secularization in Soviet Union.
8. Conclusion: The Fates of Three Models of Secular States.
Birol Baskan is an assistant professor of government at Georgetown
University School of Foreign Service in Qatar. He holds a PhD in
political science from Northwestern University. His research looks at
state-regime-religion relations in the Middle East.