2. History‎ > ‎

2.6. Ataturk

 Atatürk

Atatürk's Life

"There are two Mustafa Kemals. One is the flesh-and-bone Mustafa Kemal who now stands before you and who will pass away. The other is you, all of you here who will go to the far corners of our land to spread the ideals which must be defended with your lives if necessary. I stand for the nation's dreams, and my life's work is to make them come true."

Atatürk stands as one of the world's few historic figures who dedicated their lives totally to their nations.

He was born in 1881 (probably in the Spring) in Selanik, then an Ottoman city, now in Greece. His father, Ali Riza, a customs official turned timber merchant, died when Mustafa was still a boy. His mother, Zubeyde, a devout and strong-willed woman, raised him and his sister. First enrolled in a traditional religious school, he soon switched to a modern school. In 1893, he entered a military high school where his mathematics teacher gave him the second name Kemal (meaning "perfection") in recognition of young Mustafa's superior achievement. He was thereafter known as Mustafa Kemal.

In 1905, Mustafa Kemal graduated from the Military Academy in Istanbul with the rank of Staff Captain. Posted in Damascus, he started, with several colleagues, a clandestine society called "Homeland and Freedom" to fight against the Sultan's despotism. Mustafa Kemal's career flourished as he won fame and promotions because of his heroism in the farflung corners of the Ottoman Empire, including Albania and Tripoli. He also briefly served as a staff officer in Selanik and Istanbul and as a military attache in Sofia.

When the Dardanelles campaign was launched in 1915, Colonel Mustafa Kemal became a national hero by winning successive vistories and finally repelling the invaders. Promoted to general in 1916, at age 35, he liberated two major provinces in eastern Antalia that year. In the next two years, he served as commander of several Ottoman armies in Palestine and Aleppo, achieving anotherr major victory by stopping the enemy advance at Aleppo.

On May 19, 1919, Mustafa Kemal landed in the Black Sea port of Samsun to start the War of Independence. In defiance of the Sultan's government, he rallied a liberation army in Anatolia and convened the Congresses of Erzurum and Sivas which established the basis for the new national effort under his leadership. On April 23, 1920, the Grand National Assembly was inaugurated. Mustafa Kemal was elected to its Presidency.

Fighting on many fronts, he led his forces to victory against rebels and invading armies. Following the Turkish triumph at the two major battles at Inonu in Western Turkey, the Grand National Assembly conferred on Mustafa Kemal the title of Commander-in-Chief with the rank of Marshal. At the end of August 1922, the Turkish armies won their ultimate victory. Within a few weeks, the Turkish mainland was completely liberated, the armistice signed, and the rule of the Ottoman dynasty abolished.

In July 1923, the national government signed the Lausanne Treaty with Great Britain, France, Greece, Italy and others. In mid-October, Ankara became the capital of the new Turkish State. On October 29, the Republic was proclaimed and Mustafa Kemal Pasha was unanimously elected President of the Republic.

The account of Atatürk's fifteen-year presidency is a saga of dramatic modernization. With indefatigable determination, he created a new political and legal system, abolished the Caliphate and made both government and education secular, gave equal rights to women, changed the alphabet and advanced the arts, sciences, agriculture and industry.

In 1934, when the surname law was adopted, the national parliament gave him the name "Atatürk" (Father of Turks).

On November 10, 1938, following an illness of a few months, the national liberator and the Father of modern Turkey died. His legacy to his people and to the world endures.

Back to Top

 The National War of Independence

It was the 13th of November 1918. Istanbul was overcast with dark clouds reflecting the mood of the people who were down and out. The Ottomans had lost World War I and allied navy had anchored in the harbor. The city was unofficially occupied.

Haydarpasa was the western terminus of the Istanbul-Baghdad railway. A young handsome general got off the train and took one of the little boats the Turks called "çatana", to cross the Bosphorus...

We talked about Turkish history in the previous chapters. Among the various states the Turks had founded, the most important, the largest and the longest lasting was the Ottoman Empire which, between the 14th and the 19th centuries, established a "Pax Ottomana" on three continents ruling over many nations. The Ottomans who entered their period of decline in the 18th century took part in the First World War on the side of the Axis Powers. On October 30,1918 they signed the Mudros Armistice which had heavy terms that spelled, in brief, unconditional surrender. On the 13th of November, allied battleships and cruisers anchored in the Istanbul harbor.

That same day, Mustafa Kemal, a full-general at the age of 37, the brilliant tactician of the Dardanelles and other fronts, disembarked from the train which brought him back home from the southern front. Passing between the warships of a mighty armada which had anchored in the harbor, his face was tired but his eyes shone as usual with their penetrating brilliance. Addressing his adjutant, he said: "Don't you worry young man. They shall go the way they came."

The National War of Independence

Emerging defeated from the First World War, the Ottomans were forced to sign an armistice embracing the most onerous conditions, whereby the Anatolian Peninsula, that had been the Turkish homeland for a thousand years, was divided up and subjected to imperialistic designs.

The economy was a shambles, and from every standpoint the Ottoman society was in ruins and in collapse. Seemingly there was no hope. The views expressed at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919 were that Turkey would be divided up. But one thing had been forgotten, and that was that the Turks had founded one of the world's most powerful states with Anatolia at its core. Another fact was that the Turks had an ancient and deeply rooted past.

These facts, plus the fact that a people who had lived for centuries on this soil could not be dissolved, had to be made known to the world. To this end associations were founded in various parts of the country, and patriotic citizens did their best to organize. But meanwhile in the Aegean region the Greek Army was advancing swiftly, equipped by Great Britain with the most modern weapons of the day, the French were rapidly occupying in southeastern Anatolia and in the east the Army of the Armenian Republic was advancing. The Ottoman government, implementing the terms of the armistice, was against any form of resistance on the grounds that it would "anger" the enemies. What was to be done?

Mustafa Kemal Pasha knew what had to be done. His thinking ran along these lines. "The Ottoman Empire, which lasted more than six hundred years, has come to the end of its natural lifespan. It is dead, and the dead cannot be revived. The Ottoman governments have no power or decisiveness. Therefore the Turkish nation must decide its own fate and map its own future. The only path to this goal is the founding of a new state based on the sovereignty of the nation. If the nation unbinds the knots that have held it for centuries, and establishes unity, it can save the homeland."

It soon became apparent just how correct this strategy was. On his return from the front to Istanbul, Mustafa Kemal Pasha realized the hopelessness of the situation, and that the time had come to put into action the plans he had nourished since his youth. He decided to go into Anatolia and pursue the struggle from there. In the early months of 1919 Anatolia was a hotbed of troubles, and Mustafa Kemal requested that the government assign him to go and deal with them. This request was accepted, and he left Istanbul with this understanding. On May 19, 1919 he set foot in Samsun. Mustafa Kemal Pasha was now in Anatolia, to unite it and reconcile antagonistic factions.

His first step would be to bring about the congresses he had planned, one by one. An association known as the Legal Society for the Defense of Anatolia and Rumelia wanted the Ottoman Parliament to convene and establish peace conditions, but in this matter Mustafa Kemal was not hopeful. Nevertheless the Parliament, in the National Oath of January 28,1920, asked for an honorable peace in which all borders were removed that threatened the territorial integrity of Turkey. Only if this condition were met could peace talks be held.

The Entente Powers, who had thought the Eastern Question was resolved, were greatly disturbed by this action taken under the influence of the Anatolian National Movement, and in their anger occupied Istanbul on March 16,1920. Thus for the first time in 467 years the city no longer had the status of Ottoman capital.

Not long before this, on December 27, 1919, Ankara had been made the center of national resistance, and it was now time to found a National Parliament. On April 23,1920, a National Assembly deriving its authority from the nation held its opening session, and by an unanimous vote Mustafa Kemal was chosen to preside.

In order to carry out their project of dividing Anatolia, the Entente Powers wished to extinguish the movement, which in their view was not serious. They therefore dictated the final peace of the First World War, the Peace of Sevres (August 10,1920), which the Ottoman government was forced to sign. Under the terms of this peace, all of eastern Thrace, plus Izmir and the Aegean region, were ceded to Greece. The straits were to be managed jointly, without the participation of the Turks. In addition, a large part of the country's eastern territory was ceded to Armenia, which had been established in Russia. Southern Anatolia was to be settled by French, Italian and British populations, so that only a small Ottoman State was left in Anatolia.

This peace roused the patriotic fervor of the Turks even more, and the youthful army of the new state began to win its first victories. The Armenian army, which had occupied Eastern Anatolia at the end of World War I, was expelled from these territories and signed a peace at Gümrü on December 3, 1920, while the progress of the Greeks, who had set their sights on Ankara, was brought to a halt. The first diplomatic contacts with the new Turkish state now began to be made, as the Soviet Union, impressed by the victories we have cited, signed an aid agreement at Moscow on March 16,1921. Meanwhile the French advance in the southeast was put to a definitive halt by the brave Turkish militia.

These developments led Greece, at the instigation of Great Britain, to prepare a major new offensive, and they advanced as far as the Sakarya River near Ankara. Meanwhile the National Assembly was temporarily relieving Mustafa Kemal of his powers so that he could devote his attentions to the war as Commander in Chief. The Greeks renewed their offensive on August 23,1921, and were repulsed on September 13 after 22 days and nights of fighting in which no quarter was given. With this victory, a thousand years of the Turkish presence in Anatolia were confirmed.

After this victory won with the meagerest of means, the French signed a peace with Ankara on October 20,1921, while the Italians also evacuated from the territory they had occupied. This left the Greeks and British alone. The following year, in September, 1922, the Greeks were expelled from Anatolia as the result of a grand Turkish offensive.

The British were determined to remain in eastern Thrace and the straits at all costs, but thanks to the wise policies of the Turkish government they found themselves isolated. They were thus compelled to sign an armistice, at Mudanya on October 11,1922. There was all the difference in the world between this armistice and that of Mudros signed some four years previously.

After his victory at the Battle of the Sakarya, Mustafa Kemal was given the rank of Marshal by the National Assembly and in addition was awarded the title of Gazi. This title is reserved by the Islamic world for only its greatest heroes.

Mustafa Kemal Pasha wanted to sign a peace which would confirm the independence and freedom from conditions of the new Turkish state, while the Allies, preparing to meet in Lausanne, aimed for an agreement which would take the Treaty of Sevres as its model, even though the National Assembly did not recognize this treaty. In order to divide the Turks at the conference, the Entente Powers had also invited the Istanbul government. This was taken as an outrage by the National Assembly, which had no choice but to legally dissolve the Ottoman Sultanate. This they did on November 1, 1922. Thus the Ottoman Sultanate, which had already expired in fact, legally too became a thing of the past. Henceforward there was only one government in Turkey, that founded by the National Assembly.

The Turkish state was represented at Lausanne by a national hero, Ismet Pasha (Inönü). The Turkish delegation stood alone, for England, France and their allies had formed a common front in order to preserve their interests. There was no one to back Turkey's cause, so that Ismet Inönü and the rest of the delegation were compelled to wage a diplomatic battle like that of the Sakarya. The peace signed at Lausanne on July 24,1923, put an end to the centuries-old Eastern Question, and gave the new Turkish State complete independence. The forces of occupation in Istanbul, which had arrived on November 13, 1918, departed on October 2, 1923, saluting the Turkish flag as they left.

Back to Top

 Proclaiming of The Day the Republic

The Gazi gathered around his table in Çankaya Fethi, Ismet and some generals and Members of Parliament whom he knew well. In the course of that memorable dinner their host remarked : "Tomorrow we will proclaim a republic." Since all guests were supporters of the democratic regime, they applauded his decision. Each of them was initiated into the role he would have to play on that historic day. The decision had been taken at the right time, since suspiciouns of what might happen were already awakened; on the other hand, the absence of the four discontented generals, and also Rauf, Adnan and other leaders, would make the task easier.

On the morning of the 29th, there was a meeting of the parliamentary group of People's Party, under the Presidency of Ali Fethi, to discuss the list of candidates. No agreement could be reached, so that a motion was accepted asking that the Gazi, in his position as President of the party, should be given the task of resolving the problem. The Gazi came to the meeting, and asked for an hour in order to present the means of solution that he had found. During that time he interviewed those people whom it was necessary to inform of the events which were to follow immediately.

Returning to the party meeting, he mounted the platform, and declaring his conviction that the system in operation was the cause of the difficulties which occured every time it was necessary to form a cabinet. He was submitting a plan for the party's approval to remedy this defect in the system. He came down from the platform and gave the motion to one of the secretaries for him to read aloud.

Those who were not in the secret heard not the names of the possible commissars, but a modification of the Constitutional Law. To its first article there was simply added the following : "The form of government of the Turkish state is the republic." In other articles, it was established that the President of the Republic should be elected by the Assembly from its own members, and that it was possible for him to be reelected; he would have the right of presiding over the Assembly and the Council of Ministers. From among the Assembly's members he would choose a Prime Minister who would form the cabinet.

Four and a half hours of discussion were needed to approve the modifications proposed. The session of the Assembly opened at 6 o'clock in the evening. Some unimportant matters were dealt with, while awating the report of the commission on the Constitutional Law, which was favourable; only one phrase was added : "The religion of the Turkish state is Islam." Ismet Pasa, who was acting as President of the Assembly, proposed the vote to amend the law, and this was carried.

Thus the Republic was born in Turkey on the 29th of October 1923. The official name of the state was to be : "The Republic of Turkey".

Immediately afterwards, the Assembly was asked to elect the President of the Republic; it could be no other than the man who had been exercising the chief magistracy of the state since its foundation. This transcendental event was announced to the people that night by a 101-gunsalute; Ismet formed the first republican cabinet."

From : "Atatürk" by Jorge Blanco Villalta, translated from Spanish by William Campbell
Türk Tarih Kurumu Basimevi, Ankara, 1991, pp.336-337

Back to Top

 Reforms

Some of the Important Reforms Introduced Under Mustafa Kemal Atatürk

  • Sultanat was abolished in 1922.
  • With the proclomation of the Republic on the 29th October, 1923, Caliphat was abolished. This gave the pave to the disbandment of other theocratic institutions on which Caliphat was founded.
  • In place of the traditional head garment, the fez, introduced under the rule of Sultan Mahmut II, the Western style of hat was introduced together with an overall revolution in dress (1925).
  • The international calendar and time were adopted (1925).
  • Within a series of legal reforms Swiss civil law was adapted to the conditions and needs of the country (1926). The Civil Code, Penal Statute Book and the Trade Law Book were introduced.
  • The Latin alphabet was adopted (1928).
  • The legal position of women and their place in society in the new republic was greatly improved (for example the active and passive voting right at national and local elections before many European Countries.)

 Policy between 1923 - 1938

 - Domestic Policy

Why did the reforms which began in the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century fail to meet with the success achieved by those in Japan?

The Empire was not homogenous: The nationalist movements that began in the 19th century could not have been prevented.

The nations of the West constantly fomented troubles among the Ottoman minorities, with which they felt an affinity.

Russia wished to establish its presence on the Mediterranean by protecting those of the Orthodox Faith, who constituted the largest non-Muslim minority in the Ottoman Empire. Great Britain saw this Russian policy as a threat to its own interests, and "protected" the Ottomans until the end of the 19th century. This was, however, exploitative protection. When the German Union was established in 1871, this new imperialist force effected a rapprochement with the Ottomans.

Having been on the defensive in an endless series of wars since the early 18th century, the Ottomans found themselves with an economy in collapse. The capitulations had been used entirely as a means of explorations.

Most important of all, the Turks had watched passively as science and technology developed in Europe, and had failed to reform their educational system.

The reforms of the 19th century had created a polarity in the culture, for the old scholastic system of education continued to exist side by side with the new schools, and there was a chasm between those who emerged from the one and those who emerged from the other.

Despite legal reforms, the state continued to be a theocratic one, thus limiting the effectiveness of what Westernizing reforms were made.

In founding the Turkish Republic, the great leader Atatürk was well aware of all this. In addition, he took inspiration from the Age of Enlightenment and the French Revolution, with the democratization that it brought.

All of the principles of Turkish reform were established by Atatürk. This powerful leader put his principles into action whenever the opportunity presented itself, and philosophized about them afterwards. At the same time he strove to make them permanent. In a succinct manner he described the aim of all the reforms: To achieve the level of contemporary civilization, which of course meant Western civilization. But Atatürk was a pragmatist, and knew that civilization was to be taken from any and all sources, so long as it could be adapted to Turkish society.

At the heart of Atatürk's reforms were rationalism, the use of intelligence, and the love of humankind.

The Political Side

At the very outset of the War of Independence, a new state was founded that replaced an age-old Turkish tradition, the sovereignty of one individual, with the sovereignty of the nation (April 23,1920), and this for the first time in Asia.

With victory won, the sultanate was abolished forever (November 4, 1922) and a Republic proclaimed (October 29, 1923), so that there was no longer any need for the Caliphate, which was at odds with the fundamental philosophy of the new state, and was abolished by the National Assembly on March 3, 1924. A new organization responsible to the Prime ministry was established to deal exclusively with matters of Muslim worship. Thus the theocratic nature of the government was reduced almost to nil, and a secular state launched.

In 1924 a modern new Constitution was adopted , with the aim of creating the conditions necessary for democracy.

In 1928 an amended Constitution removed the last vestiges of government involvement in religion, thus making the Republic thoroughly secular.

In 1934 another amendment to the Constitution gave women the right to vote for deputies to the National Assembly, and to run for office. In this matter Turkey was in advance of many European nations.

Further change in 1937 put into the Constitution six of the fundamental principles of Turkish reform:

Republicanism, nationalism, populism, statism, secularism and reformism. These principles are still part of the Constitution today.

Republicanism
As for Republicanism, with this principle Turkish reforms find concrete backing in the structural nature of the state. Turkey is a state, governed by democratic principles and democracy itself is basically political, intellectual and egalitarian.

Nationalism
The main objective of the Kemalist revolution was to create an independent national state whose basis was the national resistance spirit. The last stage reached today in the development of societies is the nation. Through Nationalism, Atatürk gave his own people a national identity and the Turkish Nation reached the final victory by orientation to the national objectives and common interests. The nation is not a race, but a togetherness of spirits and a moral medium moulded by history. The spirit of nationality, or simply nationalism, appears as a deep-rooted psychological affinity to and respect for the national history and successes and miseries in the past. This spirit does not solely consist of an appreciation of the past and of the things which occurred in the past. There is another factor of nationalism: the aims, hopes and expectations directed to the future.

Populism
The principle of Populism symbolizes the contemporary concept of democracy, and the rational nationalism that can develop and flourish only in free and democratic countries. Populism is a cornerstone of the state and is a form of the consciousness of national sovereignty. The nation shall be governed by persons elected by the people. Their duty is to defend the country's independence both at domestic and international levels. Parallel to the essence of this principle it has been guaranteed, in the Turkish laws that each Turkish citizen possesses equal rights regardless of race, sex, creed etc. and the state treats them equally.

Statism
Statism was admitted into the political life of Turkey in 1936 as one of the basic characteristics of the Turkish State by a constitutional amendment. The statism adopted by Turkey, retains individual initiative as the basic factor while it commits the state particularly in the field of economics in order to raise the country to a high level of welfare taking into account the general and high interests of the nation. According to Atatürk, the moderate statism that he had devised is the system best suited to the country's requirements. He has made the following priority listing for the duties and responsibilities of the state:

- to act in leading Turkey toward industrialization and the contemporary level of civilization;

- to establish and maintain public order in the country and to preserve individual freedoms;

- to provide the means of political freedom and well-being of individuals;

- to maintain good relations with foreign powers in order to safeguard and guarantee the country's future.

Secularism
Secularism, a corollary of democracy, characterizes best Atatürk's modern society and the young Turkish Republic. This principle provides for the administration of the state by contemporary laws based on scientific facts as well as for freedom of thought distinct from the pressure of any type of dogma.

Reformism
The principle of Reformism is instrumental in following up developments and advances in the world of science. Through reformism, Turkey can reach the level of contemporary civilization.

These six basic principles constitute the roots of the Republic of Turkey.

How, then, did democratic movements come about in the framework of these reforms? Atatürk was passionate about liberty and democracy. "All rights," he said in 1931, "are based on the individual... In a democracy neither the state nor any other party may interfere with the freedoms of the individual." "Democracy means love of the country."

Following the foundation of the Republic, Atatürk wished to institute democracy in all its principles and manifestations, and said, "We Turks are at heart democratic."

Despite the evident respect and even longing for democracy inherent in these words, until 1945 Turkey did not have a multi-party system, even though there was nothing in the Constitution or in law to prevent the founding of political parties. The leader of the nation also was eager on this point. One may cite two instances of an approach to a multi-party system prior to 1945. One was in 1924, when a number of Atatürk's comrades in arms opposed him for personal and ideological reasons, and founded a new party. This was tolerated even though the regime had as yet scarcely been established.

The Depression of 1930 affected Turkey as well as other countries, and Atatürk was of the opinion that the government should be controlled, new ideas presented. For this, a multi-party system was needed. At that time the renowned statesman Fethi (Okyar) Bey, a close friend of Atatürk's, was the Ambassador to France. He declared his intention, probably with the encouragement of Atatürk, to found a new party. Atatürk's response was positive. As long as it did not violate the principle of secularism, new parties would be welcome. Thus in 1930 Fethi Bey established the Republic's third political party. Unfortunately a certain number of conservatives who were disturbed by Atatürk's reforms used this party for their own purposes. The party lost its democratic basis, and eventually dissolved itself.

Legal Reforms
Canonical law was the essence of the Ottoman legal system, although a combination of custom and jurisprudence also existed that gave the sultan a certain freedom of action. In point of fact, Islamic law was progressive for its age, and with the exception of certain matters was even modern. But through the ages, while secular law was being developed in the West, Ottoman law, as in so many other areas, remained rigidly fixed.

In 1839 the famous Tanzimat reform movement brought legal changes as well as others, as certain European laws not in direct contradiction with the Islamic code were adopted. Nevertheless the legal system still left much to be desired.

The Republican government put an end to the confusion in this sphere. Above all; there was now a national state, so that the conditions existed for legal reform.

The essence of this reform was that men and women be completely equal before the law. There had to be a civil code which would resolve this and other problems, and after long debate the most recent, advanced code in Europe was settled on in 1926, the civil code of Switzerland. According to this,

- Men and women were equal,
- Women were free to choose any profession,
- Marriage was to be with a single spouse,
- Divorce would involve equal conditions for the man and woman,
- Men's and women's shares in heritance were to be equal.

After these changes, others were made in other areas. For example, under the old system two female witnesses were required, but only one male witness. Laws concerning commerce and business were revised, as were articles of the penal code. In all these areas there was reform.

Education
Reforms in education were particularly important if changes in other areas were to be properly grasped, and to be lasting. The fundamental reforms enacted by the government of the Republic were as follows:

- All education based on religion was abolished, and all schools placed under state direction.
- Serious steps were taken to make primary school education mandatory.

The biggest single step was the adoption of the Roman alphabet. Arabic script, completely incompatible with Turkish, had been a major cause of sterility in philosophy and letters, and in 1928 it was replaced by an essentially Roman alphabet in the short space of only six months. Suddenly the reading and writing of Turkish became far easier to learn, and tens of thousands of adults were taught literacy in the special schools set up for this purpose. This single reform did much to make the culture of the West accessible to the Turkish nation.

It was only natural that all of this should have an impact on the life of science, scholarship and thought. Among the Ottomans there were many madrashahs, where Islamic thought was the subject of study, and only in 1900 was the first university opened in Istanbul. True universities were needed if science and letters were to progress, and in 1933 Atatürk refounded the University of Istanbul. This is an important date for higher education in Turkey, for at this time Turkey opened its arms to Jewish and other scholars and scientists fleeing, or being run out of, Hitler's Germany. In Turkey they found safety and civilized surroundings, and they were the true founders of Turkish universities, which today number thirty.

The modernizing reforms together make up a whole. Having turned its face to the West, the nation brought about a great change through individual steps, each of which may seem like a detail, but taken together amount to a great achievement. Those we may cite are the following:

- Clothing was secularized. Henceforward divines were to dress like any other citizen, except when leading worship. An exception was the highest placed divine in each religion.

- The fez, which in point of fact has no place either among the Turks or in Islam, had in a short time become a symbol of religion. Now it was abolished.

- The internationally accepted calendar was adopted, as were European units of time, weight and length. Numerals also took their western forms.

In all these reforms, the goal was to create a modern, advanced society.

Back to Top

 - Foreign Policy

The young Turkish State had won a great victory in the War of Independence, but the heart of its foreign policy was in the now-famous phrase, "Peace at home, peace in the world." Atatürk had this to say on the subject: "War should be a necessity. My true opinion is this ; in leading my people into war 1 should feel no pangs of conscience. We should only go to war to preserve our lives against those who would take them. Unless the life of the nation is at stake, war is homicide. "

The great leader saw war as homicide, and erected his foreign policy accordingly. Indeed, the longest period of peace in Turkish history is embraced by the years of the Republic. With the exception of Korea, in which a small unit fought as a United Nations force, and the operation on Cyprus to save the Turkish population there, for 71 years Turkey has avoided armed conflict.

Until the death of Atatürk in 1938, the goals of foreign policy were:

- To rectify certain problematical features of the Lausanne Treaty.
- To take every precaution to ensure peace.

The first group of goals were brought about for the sake of peace. The Treaty of Lausanne had left Anatolia's southwestern border still undrawn, and this was remedied by the treaty of June 5, 1926 among Turkey, Great Britain and Iraq. In 1930 the problems arising after an exchange of populations between Turkey and Greece were resolved.

Mussolini's policy in the Mediterranean was disturbing to Turkey, as it was to France and Great Britain. The benefits of this may be analyzed as follows:

The Lausanne Treaty failed to give Turkey military sovereignty over the Straits, a situation which was harmful to Turkish security. With aggressive governments in both Italy and Germany, the question of the Straits became even more critical. In the end all the signatories to the Lausanne Treaty, with the exception of Italy, came together at Montreux. The status of the Straits changed, as passage in times of pace was guaranteed, and Turkey given complete control over the Straits (July 20, 1936). This agreement, originally intended to last for twenty years, is still in effect today. Further, with the help of Great Britain which wished to see France become a Turkish ally, Hatay ( with a Turkish population but outside the borders of Turkey), peacefully joined the homeland in 1939.

Although Atatürk was a powerful leader, he avoided the paths of dictatorship, thus making himself more popular with the democratic nations, and in the east providing an example to nations under the yoke of oppression.

One of the greatest reformers of all time, Atatürk passed away at a relatively early age on November 10, 1938. The death of such a great leader was mourned throughout the world. Much had been written about Atatürk during his lifetime, and since his death there have been further assessments and studies right up to our day, showing that Atatürk put his stamp on the age in which we live.

The researcher Orhan Kologlu has gathered the following published statements about Atatürk:

- This famous man, who has few peers, has attained a position in history reserved for the very few ( Iranian Speaker of Parliament Isfandiyari, at a session of Parliament).

- Together with Gladstone we can say the following. " Since the death of this rare individual the world is a less interesting place (Kojuhof in the newspaper Bulgar Slove).

- To his nation he devoted a zeal for reform (Camille Huysmans, Speaker of the Belgian Parliament, at a session of Parliament).

- He was a great soldier, a genius as a statesman, and a historical personage (Hitler in a message to Inönü).

- His inspiring successes have placed him in the galaxy of the immortals whom future generations will look upon with awe (Punjab President Sir Sikander Hayat Hun).

- His achievements, wrought with intelligence and success, will leave their mark on the history of peoples (French President Albert Labrun in a message to A.Renda).

- Atatürk won independence for his nation, and for himself the respect of the whole world (USA President F.D.Roosevelt).

- He was a very great man, a political genius (Former French Ambassador to Ankara Kammerer, in the newspaper Excelsior).

- An astonishing, appealing individual, great as a soldier but even greater as a statesman (The Japan Times, Tokyo).

- The greatest leader to come out of Asia Minor for centuries (The Japan chronicle, Kobe).

- Every country erects statues to those who have guided it to victory in war and prosperity in peace. But Turkey will have to drill mountains to find stone for its statue of Atatürk. For here was a man who aroused the admiration of friend and foe alike, a genius whose loss is felt not only by Turkey but by civilization and the entire world (Katimerini, Athens).

- One of the rare geniuses the world has produced, who changed the course of history (An Nahar, Beirut).

- Europe has lost one of the few constructive statesmen to emerge since the war (The Spectator, England).

- He was one of the leading statesmen of the postwar era, in a class by himself and unique in almost every way (The Fortnight, London).

- A giant has toppled (Berlingske Tidende, Copenhagen).

- One of the most interesting individuals in history has departed from the world stage (the Chicago Tribune).

- One of the most able leaders of the post-war era (The New York Times).

- A human miracle (L'Orient, Beirut).

- He was the victor of Lausanne; the first victory in two centuries to be won by old Asia against Europe (The New York Times).

- He was passionate about civilization (Neue Zürcher Zeitung).

- A man of great ideas, the architect of a state (Neue Frei Press, Vienna).

- Among the greatest individuals the world has known (Star of India, Delhi).

- No other name in our time has aroused the respect felt for Atatürk (The Observer, London).

- The world is poorer for having lost this great man, his hero of war and peace (Pesterloyd, Budapest).

- In this one man there was military genius, alongside genius in the spheres of statesmanship and philosophy (Vanguardia, Barcelona).

- He was the man who created the most splendid event of the twentieth century (National Tidende, Denmark).

- No other statesman has done so much for his country in such a short time (Libre Belgique, Brussels).

- A man who transcended centuries (Brive Zeme, Latvia).

- He was not only the head of a heroic nation; at the same time he was the greatest inspiration to humanity (Iran, Teheran).

In a far clearer fashion, the Greek historian A.V. Daskalavi noted the formation of a team to enact the reforms, and how these created a new type of person:

"(Atatürk was researching the roots and origins of the Turks) Let the Turks not be over-affected by what foreign historians have to say by way of praise or censure concerning their roots, for Kemal Atatürk has given them nobility to be envied by all the world's nations. Future generations of Turks will be able to point with pride at their ancestors, thanks to him."

Such encomiums for a new nation and state derived from the belief that it was firmly established. In general the view of the world was that the developments in Turkey could never be reversed. This belief is aptly summarized in the following statement by the Danish newspaper B. Tridende:

"He has left behind a Turkey equipped morally and physically to follow in this path."

There were those who approached the question from the standpoint of certain features of the East:

"Usually when a great man dies in the East he leaves behind a great chasm which permits every sort of intrigue, and where the only thing we can say with certainity is that there is no political continuity. But Turkey arouses no such doubts: Atatürk's creation will continue to exist, for it is a work created by Turkey. The Gazi both formulated the nation's will, and made it sacred... Today's Turkey is sound. Certain disappointment awaits those who would gamble that the country's policies will turn around or be abolished" (Kenneth Williams).

Count Sforza points out what Atatürk gained for the peoples of the East.

"Atatürk is an unexampled phenomenon in the history of the East, the first dictator to accomplish fundamental change peacefully, and to die amid heartfelt mourning as one of the people at the summit of fame and power. Compared with a Cromwell, a Washington, a Bonaparte or a Covour, his political life seems very short and without adventure...On my visits to Asia I saw the respect in which the new Turkey is held... It was all the work of Kemal, and for once in the Old World people were more curious about the reformer than the victorious warrior.

One very important thing distinguishes Atatürk from other post-war dictators, and points up the radical difference. Turks are grateful to Kemal for having preserved democracy despite all external reforms... The most mature of the Turks feel, with sure instinct common to the East, that Atatürk forever removed the possibility of another dictatorship. The last time I spoke with him he said, "My dictatorship has only one aim: to make any sort of new dictatorship impossible in Turkey."

This may seem like a contradiction in Western Europe, but not on the shores of the Bosphorus.

The Contribution to Humanity
- The Search for an East-West Synthesis

The modern world has been especially interested in Turkish Reform because of its universal nature. Two points receive the focus of this interest, the first being the search for an East-West synthesis through endeavors in the area of modernity.

Professor Eugene Pittard, who knew Atatürk personally, has this to say:

"How many heads of state, having undertaken the mighty task of creating a nation and securing its future-and a triumphant future- can find time for scholarly pursuits?"

The Comte de Chambrun speaks of this matter in the following way:

"He was uncomfortable speaking about his victories. What he was truly proud of were his efforts toward modernization.

Another view to come from the West is that Turkey's move toward modernization was not simply a matter of changing alphabets.

"Atatürk was a source of civilization, who desired not merely to Europeanize, but to give his nation a defense and promise for the future. He also wished to make Turkey a bridge between the East and the West".

According to this view, this type of East-West synthesis was the most suitable. Far from distancing Turkey from Europe, Turkish nationalism created closer ties with the West. Also, this synthesis was important in terms of the world at large.

"The modernization of Turkey is an astonishing chapter in human history, and its creator was Kemal. His death is a tragic loss to his country, but also a loss to the world, for he directed his country down the world's path of progress and dedicated himself to this cause. Never did he follow an adventurer's course, never did he swerve from his great aim."

- A Turkey Free of Enmities, Guarantor of Peace
Another reason for the world's special interest in Turkish Reform is the nation's determination to follow a peaceful course. While Europe was preparing for a new war, Turkey was the only country to take peace not as a mere word, but as something to pursue in practice through international agreements.

The most important factor in establishing the Balkan Entente and the Sadabat Pact was the final resolution of the age-old Eastern question. But there are three points to bear in mind.

The Creation of a Strong Turkey Dedicated to Peace
This matter is best expressed by the Speaker of the Hungarian Parliament, Gyulaa Kornis:

"In 1918... Turkey was a defeated nation seemingly in irreparable collapse. Today, twenty years later, we see a nation on the borders of Europe and Asia, economically and culturally prosperous, once again important internationally, and profiting from peaceful relations with all its neighbors."

Having earned a respect beyond that normally accorded a nation of 16 million, Turkey is now a power to be reckoned with in Europe.

A Turkey Freed of all its Former Enmities
Turkey is spoken of positively even by its enemies. The clearest examples are to be found in Greece. Standing before the coffin of this truly great man, a Greek journalist could not help but recall how much Atatürk's spiritual force, military prowess and abilities had cost the Greek nation... But this was forgotten on the day two friends and allies, Turkey and Greece, advanced together on the road of peace and prosperity, thanks to Atatürk's force and good will.

General Metaxas, a powerful man who was the Greek Premier, sent a message to the Turkish Prime Minister Celal Bayar in which he said the following.

"Greece, which has the highest estimation of the renowned leader and heroic soldier, enlightened creator of Turkey. We will never forget that President Atatürk was the true founder of the Turkish-Greek alliance, and that based on a framework of common ideals and peaceful cooperation he developed ties of friendship between the two nations which it would be unthinkable to dissolve. Greece will guard its fervent memories of this great man, who determined an unalterable future path for the noble Turkish nation."

Freedom from enmity was to apply to every nation. Mushanov, a former Bulgarian prime minister, said the following.

"During my visit to Ankara he expressed the view that Bulgaria and Turkey should be friends. An enemy of Bulgaria, he said, is an enemy of Turkey."

The Yugoslavs have similar observations:

"All friendly and allied nations, particularly Yugoslavia, share Turkey's pain at this moment. We will never forget that on the aftermath of King Alexander's assassination Atatürk sent a telegraph that included the words "Shall I declare mobilization?" Yugoslavia will never forget the name of Atatürk, the founder of a completely nationalist, powerful modern Turkey, whose influence is felt increasingly not only in Europe but also in Asia."

Turkey, Guarantor of Peace from the Danube to the Indian Border
This image has been repeated by all who spoke of Turkey.

"The internal and external security that is a symbol of the Atatürk era, combined with increasing prosperity and a response met in the world at large, all of this in a Turkey which in the Near and Middle East is now and will continue to be a factor for peace from the Danube to the Indian border."

Turkey's situation vis-a-vis the Straits and in the Middle East compel the great powers to consult her on all matters of import. The one-time trouble-maker now takes her place as a valuable and advanced element of European policy and is thus an example to all nations with which she allied (the Balkan and Sadabat Pacts).

Turkey's quality as a peace-loving nation is seen in her attitude toward competition, not to set nation against nation, but to live together in peace. This was true even at Atatürk's funeral:

"His funeral was Atatürk's final triumph, as opponents stood in silence before his coffin. Turkish and German soldiers walked together in one line behind it, and in another line Stalin's and Hitler's representatives were side by side. A wreath was sent by both Valencia (of the Republicans) and General Franco. Fascists, Democrats and Communists stood bowed before the coffin, while Turks of every class joined in weeping and lamentation. In this there was no difference between the rich and the poor, the high and the low. The ceremony experienced in Ankara today was like none ever seen in the world before."

This policy of Atatürk's was not for Turkey alone, but was an example and protection for all the nations from the Danube to the Indian border, and was stressed as such by the Asians (Japanese Press).

Beginning with the founding of the Republic, it was Atatürk's original genius that led to a realistic approach breaking down old habits to keep to this type of domestic and foreign policy... At the time of Atatürk's death the chief aim of Turkish foreign policy was to preserve peace and stability in the Near East, the Balkans and Western Asia, and to reinforce this approach in the nations of this region. This aim was able to prevent them from adopting one or the other of the ideologies threatening to break up Europe.

A Guarantor for the Future of Weaker Nations
Atatürk's emphasis on the importance of a bloc of smaller nations to oppose the super powers is seen in his speeches and in the policies of Republican Turkey.One day he said to me that there are smaller nations with ties to the larger, and that the future belongs rather to these smaller nations. This statement remains in my mind, for they came on the eve of his death from a man who was the wisest and most dependable in all of the Near East and indeed all the Orient, showing the profound meaning of a life full of successes (A French journalist). There was a great interest in Atatürk in oppressed nations, particularly those of the East. Proof of this is seen in many forms. Upon Atatürk's death, a month of mourning was declared in Iran; in India many shops were closed when the news of his death arrived, and Parliament was recessed. In Beirut, Damascus, North Africa and India, Mevlids were read in the mosques, sometimes bringing together as many as sixty thousand Muslims, and special days were set aside for this "greatest of Turkey, Islam and the world."

An Indian leader said the following:

"Among the worthy persons to come out of the war and play a role in the balance of powers in Europe after 1918, Kemal Atatürk was by far the most creative and constructive. His great success in war saved his people from foreign occupation. Following a number of defeats, his tireless and able diplomacy earned for Turkey a place among the major nations of Europe. At the same time by overcoming all insults and threats, he prevented Turkey from becoming a second-class nation paying tribute."

Leader of All Eastern and Weaker Nations
All the nations seeking this sort of respectability considered him the leader not just of Turkey, but of all the East and all oppressed peoples.

The assessment in Syria and Lebanon was generally that this was "a great loss not only for the Turkish nation, but for all the Eastern nations that were in need of a similar leader."

In Iraq they said, "Atatürk brightened the East miraculously for this generation. His appearance stunned the nations of the West."

China considered him the father of all the Asian nations.

The belief that Atatürk was the leader of the entire East was most broadly met in India. In Delhi the speaker of Parliament said that it was against tradition to mention foreign rulers and leaders, but that in the case of Atatürk there was cause for making an exception. " His impact was felt in the world politics of our day more than that of any other person; and his impact on the peoples of Asia is unexampled in modern times."

Subhas Chandra Bose, presiding over the congress, had an interesting reason for suggesting a Kemal day in India. Should the nations of Europe ever again attempt to occupy Asia, our defender on the west will be Kemal's Turkey. The death of such a peerless individual naturally is mourned by the entire world, and especially by all the oppressed and exploited nations."

The views of two famous Indian thinkers of our age are noteworthy. The first is Rabindrath Tagore, who speaking to students said:

"There was a time when Asia, to forget its current abased condition, looked to a glorious past. This led to imitation of the West, and the acceptance of a period of hopelessness and darkness.

The sudden appearance of a renaissance was miraculous, and Asia began to make itself accepted. In the Far East Japan adapted its resources to the age, and thereby took its place among the most respected nations of the earth. How unfortunate that Japan's impudence is preparing the way for her own downfall, making it impossible to look upon her as the protector of Asia's respectability. As we turned our gaze once again to the Turkey of Kemal, the bitter news came of his death. Until Kemal appeared, and made of today's Asia a reminder of the glorious victories of the past, Turkey was known as the Sick Man of Europe. His example gave the East hope for a new life, and from this standpoint Kemal is worthy of our respectful admiration. His death is a loss not only for Turkey but for all of Asia . The heroism of Kemal Pasha was not confined to the battlefield. He conducted a relentless war against what may be the worst enemy a people has to fight, the cruelty of the mindless. He was a great liberator of his people, and a great example to us, for by standing on the shifting sands of the prejudice that is religiosity, we are headed toward the breakup of our nation I can safely say to my fellow Indians that our society is developing under the weight of meaningless traditions. Unless you can meet the challenge of a new age and give up your prejudices, you are lost.

Back to Top

 SPEECHES

ATATÜRK's Address to the Youth

Oh Turkish Youth! Your first duty is to preserve and defend forever Turkish independence and the Turkish Republic.

This is the only foundation of your existence and of your future. This foundation is your most precious treasure.

In the future, too, there will be malevolent people at home and abroad who will wish to deprive you of this treasure. If one day you have to defend your independence and your Republic, you will not tarry to weigh the circumstances before taking up your duty. These possibilities and circumstances may be extremely unfavorable. The enemies nursing designs against your independence and your republic, may have behind them a victory unprecedented in the annals of the world. It may come to pass that, by violence and ruse, all the fortresses of your beloved fatherland will be occupied, all its shipyards captured, all its armies dispersed, and every part of the country invaded. And what is sadder and graver than all these circumstances is that the people in power inside the country may be blind, misguided. They may even be traitors. The men in power may join their personal interest to the political designs of the invaders. The country may be impoverished, ruined and exhausted.

Oh, Child of Turkey's future, even in these circumstances it is your duty to save Turkey's independence and the Turkish Republic.

You will find the power you need in the noble blood in your veins.

Speech Delivered by Atatürk on the Tenth Anniversary of the Foundation of the Republic

The Turkish Nation!

We are in the fifteenth year of the start of our way of liberation. This is the greatest day marking the tenth year of our Republic.

May it be celebrated.

At his moment, as a member of the great Turkish nation, I feel the deepest joy and excitement for having achieved this happy day.

My citizens,

We have accomplished many and great tasks in a short time. The greatest of these is the Turkish Republic, the basis of which is the Turkish vallancy and the great Turkish culture.

We owe this achievement to the cooperative progress of the Turkish nation and its valuable army. However, we can never consider what we have achieved to be sufficient, because we must, and are determined to, accomplish even more and greater tasks. We shall raise our country to the level of the most prosperous and civilised nations of the world. We shall endow our nation with the broadest means and sources of welfare. We shall raise our national culture above the contemporary level of civilisation.

Thus, we should judge the measure of time not according to the lax mentality of past centuries, but in terms of the concepts of speed and movement of our century.

Compared to the past, we shall work harder. We shall perform greater tasks in a shorter time. I have no doubt that we shall succeed in this, because the Turkish nation is of excellent character. The Turkish nation is intelligent, because the Turkish nation is capable of overcoming difficulties of national unity, and because it holds the torch of positive sciences.

I must make it clear with due emphasis, that a historical quality of the Turkish nation, which is an exalted human community, is its love for fine arts and progress in them. This is why our national ideal is to constantly foster and promote, with all means and measures, our nation's excellent character, its tireless industriousness, intelligence, devotion to science, love for fine arts and sense of national unity.

This ideal, which very well suits the Turkish nation, will enable it to succeed in performing the civilised task falling on it in securing true peace for all mankind.

The Great Turkish Nation, you have heard me speak on many occasions over the last fifteen years promising success in the tasks we undertook. I am happy that none of my promises have been false ones which could have shaken my nation's confidence in me.

Today, I repeat with the same faith and determination that is will soon be acknowledged once again by the entire civilised world that the Turkish nation, who has been progressing towards the national ideal in exact unison, is a great nation. Never have doubted that the great, but forgotten, civilised characteristic and the great civilised talents of the Turkish nation, will, in its progress henceforth, rise like a new sun from the high horizon of civilisation for the future.

The Turkish nation,

I express my heartfelt wish that you will celebrate, after each decade elapsing into eternity, this great national day, in greater honour, happiness, peace and prosperity.

How happy is the one who says "I am a Turk."

Back to Top