The purpose of this paper is to give a factual history of the establishment of the Houses. The People’s Houses (Halkevleri) were founded in 1932 as cultural and political centres with the aim of educating the people in accordance with the nationalist, secularist and populist ideas of the new Republic. Their specific aim was to establish and reinforce a national culture based on Turkish folklore, teach the Republican principles, raise literacy rates and improve the living standards of the people. After nearly two decades of functioning, the People’s Houses were closed in 1951 by the Democrat Party. Although the People’s Houses were organised and conducted by the Republican People’s Party, the only political party in modern Turkey until 1946, they did not represent such a complete innovation in Turkish life as was often assumed. After the Young Turk revolution in 1908, thirteen social centres, called “Türk Ocağı” or “Turkish Hearth”, were established in various parts of the country to educate the common people in Turkish culture. Not all of these centres were successful, according to any standard; and they fell far short of the standard later set by the People’s Party. But those which survived the First World War were taken over by the People’s Party in 1923 and, after a complete reorganisation, renamed People’s Houses in 1932. Since they were organs of a political party, the People’s Houses were primarily centres of political propaganda. However, it must be remembered that the propaganda of the People’s Party was much wider in scope than that of a political party operating in a country with is a tradition of party conflict. Namely, the politics of the People’s Party were essentially national politics; its propaganda, rather than being directed to the criticism and ousting of other parties, aimed exclusively at national consolidation. In spite of the greatest temptations, the new Turkish Republic refused to abandon this enlightened view of propaganda, as testified by the multifarious activities of the People’s Houses. The Halkevleri played an enormous role in the life of the new Turkish republic. If not in their origin, then in their activities, and even more so in their achievements, they were unique and exemplary institutions, without which even so great a leader as Ataturk might have been unable to carry out the far-reaching changes that he did.
People’s Houses, People’s Halls, Turkish Hearths, Halkevleri, Türk Ocakları