Turkey Dictionary of History

By | December 18, 2021

The birth of modern Turkey. After the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in the First World War and the detachment of all Arab territories (➔ Ottoman, empire), the Entente powers placed Istanbul under their protection, occupying some parts of properly Turkish territory. The rebellion of sectors of the army strengthened after the Greek invasion of Smyrna (1919), while the sultan accepted the harsh conditions of the Treaty of Sèvres. Led by Mustafa Kemal (➔ Atatürk, Mustafa Kemal) the Turkish nationalists, after two years of war, repelled the occupying forces from Anatolia and Eastern Thrace and obtained more favorable conditions of peace with the Treaty of Lausanne. In April 1920 a National Assembly was elected, which proclaimed itself sovereign and set up a council of ministers chaired by Kemal; in 1922 the sultanate was abolished. In 1923 the Republic of Turkey was proclaimed and Kemal was elected president. The office of prime minister was assumed by Ismet Inönü, vice president of the People’s Republican Party (PRP) who, chaired by Kemal until 1938, was in fact a single party until 1946. Kemal subjected the Turkey to a program of radical reforms of secularization and modernization. A strict repressive policy was pursued against minorities, especially the Kurds. Admitted to the League of Nations (1932), Turkey joined the Balkan Entente in 1934 and signed an agreement of neutrality and friendship with the USSR in 1935. The strengthening of relations with Great Britain was continued, after Kemal’s death (1938), by Inönü. Neutral during the Second World War, only in Feb. 1945 Turkey declared war on Germany and later participated in the constitution of the UN. During the Cold War he placed himself in the Western camp, obtaining important economic and military aid from the USA. Internally, authoritarian politics provoked growing discontent, which prompted Inönü to initiate a limited liberalization of the regime and to introduce multi-partyism. The Democratic Party (PD), made up of dissidents from the PRP, won the 1950 elections and C. Bayar and A. Menderes assumed the presidency of the Republic and that of the Council of Ministers respectively. Confirmed the pro-Western orientation, Turkey participated in the Korean War (1950), joined NATO (1952) and the Baghdad Pact (1955).

The military regimes. Starting from 1955 the growing difficulties produced a strong discontent; the government was overthrown in 1960 by a coup d’état led by General C. Gürsel, who launched an austerity plan. After the launch of a new Constitution, Gürsel was elected president of the Republic, while Inönü, at the helm of successive coalition governments between the PRP and smaller forces, attempted to revive the economy. From the end of the 1960s the internal situation was characterized by the strengthening of social tensions, the spread of political violence and the emergence of inter-ethnic and religious tensions in the south-eastern provinces. On the international level, the intervention of the Turkish armed forces in support of the Turkish-speaking community in Cyprus led to a serious deterioration in relations with Greece. After the military coup of 1971, the governments that followed one another during the decade attempted to cope with the crisis by resorting to a harshly authoritarian policy. In the sept. 1980 a new coup d’etat brought General K. Evren to power who, at the head of a National Security Council (CSN), imposed martial law, dissolved the National Assembly and banned political parties. After the legalization of some parties, the elections of Nov. 1983 saw the victory of the Conservative-oriented Motherland Party (PM) whose dissolved the National Assembly and banned political parties. After the legalization of some parties, the elections of Nov. 1983 saw the victory of the Conservative-oriented Motherland Party (PM) whose leader Turkey Özal assumed the leadership of the government, carrying out a liberal economic program and developing a strongly repressive policy towards the left forces and the Kurdish minority, towards which in the following years the repression assumed the proportions of a real war, with tens of thousands of victims. In 1989 Özal was elected president of the republic and appointed Y. Akbulut to head the government. The economic situation remained difficult and the country continued to be affected by strong political and social tensions. For Turkey society, please check homosociety.com.

Secularism and Islam. In the 1990s, following the redefinition of the international structure following the collapse of the Soviet bloc, Turkey, a geographical, political and cultural meeting point between East and West, found it necessary to reformulate its position in relations with the ‘West and with Islamic countries, at the same time redefining the internal political scenario, in which the affirmation of Islamic-inspired parties introduced disturbing elements of the institutional framework. In the early elections of Dec. 1995, provoked by the resignation of the government of Turkey Çiller, the main Islamic-inspired formation, the Prosperity Party, with 21.4% of the votes won the relative majority. Its leader, N. Erbakan, after a long phase of difficult negotiations, formed a coalition executive in July 1996. The formation of an Islamic-led government, accompanied by a strengthening of relations with Iran, fueled, especially in the USA, the fear of a change in the international position of Turkey, despite the confirmation of the pro-Western orientation. Inside, where the government favored the start of a process of Islamization of the education and justice sectors, its action was hampered by the military leaders, whose growing pressure in June 1997 forced Erbakan to resign; a few months later, on Jan. 1998, a Constitutional Court ruling, challenging the condemnation of human rights organizations, outlawed the Prosperity Party. While the veterans of Islamic training were largely welcomed into the Party of Virtue, in the aftermath of the legislative elections of April of 1999 on outgoing premier B. Ecevit, leader of the Left Democratic Party which had obtained the relative majority, was at the head of a heterogeneous three-party coalition, allying himself with the far-right Nationalist Action Party (the so-called Gray Wolves) and the Motherland Party. A profound nationalism appeared to be the only cement capable of holding the old political class together, which dragged Turkey into a serious economic crisis and was unable to offer any effective resistance to the return to the scene of Erbakan’s heirs. After yet another anti-Islamic measure issued by the military also against the Party of Virtue, the Islamic front regrouped in 2001 in the ranks of the more moderate Justice and Development Party led by RT Erdoǧan. Meanwhile, in 1999, Turkey had obtained the status of a candidate country for accession to the European Union, which required substantial reforms in the field of human rights, to equate Turkey with standards community. Between 2000 and 2001 the crisis factors worsened further: corruption, lack of democracy and very strong inflation threatened the entire system of power, which was defeated in the 2002 elections, won by the Justice and Development Party. A conviction for incitement to religious hatred prevented Erdoǧan from assuming the leadership of the government until the approval of a constitutional amendment that in 2003 gave him back the active and passive electorate, allowing him to take over the office of prime minister from party comrade A. Gül. In 2007, the latter’s candidacy for the presidency of the Republic was strongly opposed by the armed forces, which became champions of the country’s secular traditions. The massive street demonstrations by supporters from both sides created a heated climate of tension, prompting the government to call early elections. The clear victory of the Justice and Development Party allowed Gül to be appointed as president and strengthened the leadership of Erdoǧan, who was able to resume the path of reforms necessary for the entry of the Turkey into the European Union and proceed with the launch of a constitutional reform (2010) limiting the power of the military.

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