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10-08-2015, 16:43

MUSTAPHA KEMAL AND THE MODERNIZATION OF TURKEY

Reformist elements in Istanbul, to be sure, had tried to resist the decline. The first efforts had taken place in the eighteenth century, when Westernizing forces, concerned at the shrinkage of the empire, had tried to modernize the army. One energetic sultan, Selim III (r. 1789–1807), tried to establish a “new order” that would streamline both the civilian and military bureaucracies, but janissary forces (the emperor’s private guard originally recruited from among Christian subjects in the Balkans), alarmed at the potential loss of their power, revolted and brought the experiment to an end. Further efforts during the first half of the nineteenth century were somewhat more successful and resulted in the removal of the janissaries from power and the institution of a series of bureaucratic, military, and educational reforms. New roads were built, the power of local landlords was reduced, and an Imperial Rescript issued in 1856 granted equal rights to all subjects of the empire, whatever their religious preference. In the 1870s, a new generation of reformers seized power in Istanbul and pushed through a constitution aimed at forming a legislative assembly that would represent all the peoples in the state. But the sultan they placed on the throne, Abdulhamid (r. 1876 –1909), suspended the new charter and attempted to rule by traditional authoritarian means. By the end of the nineteenth century, the defunct 1876 constitution had become a symbol of change for reformist elements, now grouped together under the common name Young Turks. In 1908, Young Turk elements forced the sultan to restore the constitution, and he was removed from power the following year. But the Young Turks had appeared at a moment of extreme fragility for the empire. Internal rebellions, com- bined with Austrian annexations of Ottoman territories in the Balkans, undermined support for the new government and provoked the army to step in. With most minorities from the old empire now removed from Istanbul’s authority, many ethnic Turks began to embrace a new concept of a Turkish state based on all residents of Turkish nationality. The final blow to the old empire came inWorldWar I, when the Ottoman government chose the wrong side during the war and lost much of its territory in the peace settlement (see Chapter 4). As the tottering empire began to fall apart, the Greeks won Allied approval to seize the western parts of the Anatolian peninsula for their dream of re-creating the substance of the old Byzantine Empire. The impending collapse energized key elements in Turkey under the leadership of war hero Colonel Mustapha Kemal (1881–1938), who had commanded Turkish forces in their heroic defense of the Dardanelles against a British invasion during World War I. Now he resigned from the army and convoked a national congress that called for the creation of an elected government and the preservation of the remaining territories of the old empire in the new republic of Turkey. Establishing his new capital at Ankara, Kemal’s forces drove the Greeks from the Anatolian peninsula and persuaded the British to agree to a new treaty. In 1923, the last of the Ottoman sultans fled the country, which was now declared a Turkish republic. The Ottoman Empire had finally come to an end. During the next few years, President Mustapha Kemal (now popularly known as Atatürk, or “Father Turk”) attempted to transform Turkey into a modern secular republic. The trappings of a democratic system were put in place, centered on the elected Grand National Assembly, but the president was relatively intolerant of opposition and harshly suppressed critics of his rule. Turkish nationalism was emphasized, and the Turkish language, now written in the Roman alphabet, was shorn of many of its Arabic elements. Popular education was emphasized, old aristocratic titles like pasha and bey were abolished, and all Turkish citizens were given family names in the European style. Atatürk also took steps to modernize the economy, overseeing the establishment of a light industrial sector producing textiles, glass, paper, and cement and instituting a fiveyear plan on the Soviet model to provide for state direction over the economy. Atatürk was no admirer of Soviet communism, however, and the Turkish economy can be better described as a form of state capitalism. He also encouraged the modernization of the agricultural sector through the establishment of training institutions and model farms, but such reforms had relatively little effect on the nation’s predominantly conservative peasantry. Perhaps the most significant aspect of Atatürk’s reform program was his attempt to limit the power of the Islamic religion and transform Turkey into a secular state. The caliphate (according to which the Ottoman sultan was recognized as the temporal leader of the global Islamic community) was formally abolished in 1924, and the Shari’a (Islamic law) was replaced by a revised version of the Swiss law code. The fez (the brimless cap worn by Turkish Muslims) was abolished as a form of headdress, and women were discouraged from wearing the veil in the traditional Islamic custom. Women received the right to vote in 1934 and were legally guaranteed equal rights with men in all aspects of marriage and inheritance. Education and the professions were now open to citizens of both sexes, and some women even began to take part in politics. All citizens were given the right to convert to another religion at will. The legacy of Mustapha Kemal Atatürk was enormous. Although not all of his reforms were widely accepted in practice, especially by devout Muslims, most of the changes that he introduced were retained after his death in 1938. In virtually every respect, the Turkish republic was the product of his determined efforts to create a modern nation, a Turkish version of the “revolution from above” in Meiji Japan.

 

 

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