In 1965, nationalist politician and ex-Colonel Alparslan Türkeş, who had trained in the United States for NATO, founded the Turkish Gladio Special Warfare Department, gained control of the conservative rural Republican Villagers Nation Party (Turkish: Cumhuriyetçi Köylü Millet Partisi, CKMP). During an Extraordinary Great Congress held at Adana in Turkey on 8–9 February 1969, Türkeş changed the name of the party to the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).
The MHP embraced Turkish nationalism, and under the leadership of Türkeş, militias connected to the party were responsible for assassinating numerous left-wing intellectuals and academics, including some Kurds, during the 1970s. The leader of the party's youth wing, known as the Grey Wolves after Turkic mythology, claimed that they had an intelligence organization that was superior to the state's own.
On the other hand, MHP had links to the Aydınlar Ocağı (AO; "Hearth of Intellectuals"), a right-wing think tank launched in 1970 by established university professors, which served as a connecting link between secular-conservative, nationalist and Islamic rightists, promoting the ideology of Turkish-Islamic synthesis. AO's ideas, which have been compared to those of the French Nouvelle Droite, had a determining influence on MHP's programmes and served to lend the far-right party a more legitimate, respectable appearance.
On May 27, 1980, the party's deputy leader and former government minister Gün Sazak was assassinated by members of the Marxist–Leninist terrorist group Revolutionary Left (Turkish: Devrimci Sol or Dev Sol) in front of his home.
When the Turkish army seized power on September 12, 1980, in a violent coup d'état led by General Kenan Evren, the party was banned, along with all other active political parties at the time, and many of its leading members were imprisoned. Many party members joined the neoliberal Anavatan Partisi or various Islamist parties. Party member (Agâh Oktay Güner) noted that the party's ideology was in power while its members were in prison.
The party was reformed in 1983 under the name "Conservative Party" (Turkish: Muhafazakar Parti). After 1985, however, the name was changed to the "Nationalist Task Party" (Turkish: Milliyetçi Çalışma Partisi) then back again to its former name in 1992. In 1993, Muhsin Yazıcıoğlu and five other deputies separated and founded the Great Union Party, which is an Islamist party.