The end of the Ottoman Empire
The outcome of the First World War was fatal for the centuries-old Ottoman Empire which had sided with the central empires in the conflict. After all the Arab countries (Syria, Palestine, Mesopotamia, Arabia) broke away from it between 1916 and 1918, the Treaty of Sèvres, signed in 1920 between the Ottoman government and the Entente powers, sanctioning these territorial changes and by planning others, he jeopardized the unity and independence of Turkey itself: Istanbul passed under allied protection, the straits were internationalized and vast areas of Anatolia invaded. While the sultan accepted the harsh terms of the treaty, sections of the army revolted. The nationalist revival movement, led by Mustafa Kemal, an officer of reformist and radical ideas who distinguished himself during the conflict in the defense of the Dardanelles, succeeded in four years of struggle to repel the occupying forces from Anatolia and eastern Thrace and to reconquer Smyrna, which had been invaded by the Greeks in 1919. The armed reaction to the foreign occupation was accompanied by the exhaustion of the sultan’s powers and by the launch, under the impulse and by direct will of Kemal, of great constitutional and revolutionary reforms. In April 1920 a National Assembly was elected which, meeting in Ankara, proclaimed itself sovereign and set up a Council of Ministers presided over by Kemal; in 1922 the sultanate was abolished; in October 1923 the assembly proclaimed the Republic of Turkey and elected Kemal as first president; in March 1924 the caliphate was definitively abolished and all the members of the Ottoman dynasty were expelled from the country; in April 1924 a republican constitution was adopted, with a clause that still maintained Islam as the state religion but was abolished four years later. Endowed with extensive powers from the 1924 Constitution, Kemal subjected Turkey, whose capital had meanwhile been moved from Istanbul to Ankara, to a program of radical secularization and modernization reforms. Islamic canon law was abolished and family law was secularized, while the Latin alphabet and Gregorian calendar were adopted and Sunday replaced Friday as a public holiday. Among other things, the process of secularization favored the rapid improvement of the social status of women, who were granted the right to vote and to be elected to Parliament. On the economic level, a policy of industrialization of the country was initiated and a cautious agrarian reform was introduced, however, it essentially failed in the face of the reaction of the large landowners. Kemal remained head of the state he founded until his death in 1938; four years earlier, in 1934, the Grand National Assembly had given him the name of Ataturk (literally “Turkish father, great Turk”, “father of the Fatherland”). For Turkey history, please check ehistorylib.com.
The after Ataturk
Kemal Ataturk’s legacy was taken up by Ismet Inonu, who had been his closest and most trusted collaborator in the struggle for independence and then, as head of government, in the years of the great Westernizing reforms. In 1938 Inonu assumed the office of President of the Republic and the leadership of the Republican People’s Party, the party founded and directed by Ataturk until his death and remained the de facto single party of Turkey until the Second World War. In foreign policy, the strengthening of relations with Great Britain initiated by Kemal continued. Despite the signing in 1941 of a non-aggression treaty and a trade agreement with Berlin, Turkey managed to remain neutral during the Second World War, only to enter the war alongside the allied powers at the beginning of 1945. when the defeat of the Axis had become inevitable. At the end of the conflict, under the pressure of Soviet expansionism, Turkey turned to the United States and during the Cold War settled firmly in the Western camp, obtaining in return important economic and military aid. Internally, the authoritarian policy, which strengthened during the World War, caused a growing discontent, which led Inonu to initiate a limited liberalization. Moreover, the first results of the education campaign promoted by Kemal, which had significantly raised the levels of schooling, and the growth of the middle and professional classes, converged in this direction. who demanded greater freedom also in the name of that model of democracy that the Western choice helped to spread in the country. The most important sign of the new political course was the end of the one-party system. From a split of the Republican People’s Party the Democratic Party arose in 1946, which immediately achieved considerable electoral success, to the point of pushing sectors of the Republican People’s Party and the government to demand its suppression. The request was rejected by President Inonu, firm in supporting the reasons for the multi-party choice. In 1948 the National Party was founded, with conservative tendencies, while the measures to control the press were made less severe, independent newspapers were born and the first trade union organizations were authorized (although the right to strike was only granted in 1963 and the activities of communist and socialist groups continued to be severely repressed). In a more open political atmosphere, the elections of 1950 gave the majority of votes and seats to the Democratic Party, whose leaders assumed both the presidency of the Republic and the leadership of the government. Confirmed the pro-Western orientation, Turkey participated in the Korean War (1950) and joined NATO (1952). The government of the Democratic Party gradually abandoned the line of secularization of public life, especially in the educational sector, and pursued an economic policy of encouraging foreign investments and privatizations. However, starting in 1955 high inflation and trade imbalances created increasing difficulties. The decline in popularity of the Democratic Party manifested itself in the 1957 elections; the Republican People’s Party and other opposition parties tried to form a coalition, which would have resulted in a majority, but such coalitions were promptly outlawed. The attacks of the opposition then became more severe: the Democratic Party was accused not only of the anti-constitutional attitude, but also the abandonment of the principles of Kemalism and the policies that had characterized it. In the years 1958-60 the economic situation worsened further with the decline in investments and the rise in inflation, while unemployment was producing its effects especially in large cities. where the population had grown massively in recent years. The government attempted to stifle popular protest by exacerbating the regime’s authoritarian characters, but was overthrown in May 1960 by a military coup led by General Cemal Gursel. The army was thus openly entering the political scene.