This paper aims to offer some remarks on the relationship between Ottoman reforms and Atatürk's revolutionary laws – a relationship that is generally minimised or misperceived. The first part focuses upon the Ottoman system of relations between state and religious denominations. It challenges the theory of the theocratic character of the Ottoman Empire, which constitutes one of the traditional arguments strengthening the case against the importance of the Ottoman secularising reforms. The second part of the paper deals with the Ottoman reforms concerning dress, education and administration of justice. It stresses the secular character of such measures, and maintains that there is no historically grounding to the view that the secularisation of institutions is always accompanied by the secularisation of society. The third part takes into account the two elements that most distinguish Mustafa Kemal's reforms from the Ottoman ones: that is, the ideological nature of the principle of secularism, and the method of preparation and implementation of the revolutionary laws.