History of Turkey

Anatolian Civilization and  Ottoman Empire

Anatolia is one of the oldest continually inhabited regions in the world, and it has repeatedly served as a battleground for foreign powers. The earliest major empire in the area was that of the HITTITES, from the 18th through the 13th century BC. Subsequently, the Phrygians (see PHRYGIA), an Indo-European people, achieved ascendancy until their kingdom was destroyed by the CIMMERIANS in the 7th century BC. The most powerful of Phrygia’s successor states was LYDIA. Coastal Anatolia (IONIA) meanwhile was settled by Greeks. The entire area was overrun by the Persians during the 6th and 5th centuries and fell to Alexander the Great in 334 BC. Anatolia was subsequently divided into a number of small Hellenistic kingdoms (including BITHYNIA, CAPPADOCIA, PERGAMUM, and PONTUS), all of which had succumbed to Rome by the mid-1st century BC. In AD 324 the Roman emperor CONSTANTINE I chose Constantinople, now Istanbul, as the capital of the Roman Empire. It subsequently became the capital of the Eastern Roman or BYZANTINE EMPIRE.

In 1055 a group of Central Asiatic Turks, the SELJUKS, conquered Baghdad and established a Middle Eastern and Anatolian empire. When this empire was broken up by the Mongol invasion, one of the remaining local powers became known as the Ottoman dynasty, after its leader OSMAN I. The OTTOMAN EMPIRE spread from northwestern Anatolia and captured Constantinople in 1453. At the peak of their power the Ottomans controlled much of the eastern Mediterranean. The Ottomans had a sophisticated system of internal administration and also organized the first standing army in Europe.


Anatolia, the land of sun and history, is one of the rare places in the world which have been inhabited ever since the first man was seen on the earth. The Palaeolithic Age, which we call the Stone Age, reigned between the years 600.000-10.000 B.C. in Anatolia and was followed by the Mesolithic and Neolithic Ages. The men began to leave their caves between the years 8000-5500 B.C. during the Neolithic Age, and to establish villages on the meadows. We can conduct studies on this culture in ancient localities of habitation such as Diyarbakir, Catalhoyuk, Konya and Burdur Hacilar. The men lived the Chalcolithic age, which we call the metal-stone, after Neolithic Age. The early Bronze Age followed the metal-stone age and it was lived through very gloriously in Anatolia. An indigenous tribe called Hatti lived in central Anatolia during this age. We see the golden works of art of this magnificent civilization belonging to the years 2300-2000 B.C., in the royal tombs in Alacahoyuk. A civilization similar to this one was lived in Troy II during the same age in Anatolia.

The Hittites who came to Anatolia in the ears of 2000 B.C. lived in principalities for a while, and then in the years of 1800 B.C., they, established a state and made Hattusas the capital. We can study the art of the Hittite people who created a great civilization in Anatolia between the years 1800-1200 B.C. in the localities such as Hattusas (Bogazkoy), Yazilikaya and Alacahoyuk.

The Hittites were destroyed by the unceasing attacks of the sea tribes during the years 1200 B.C., But their usage and customs survived until 650 B.C. in the south Anatolian cities such as Malatya, Maras, Kargamis, Zincirli, which are called the late Hittite city-states. When the Hittite State ceased to exist, the Urartu people founded a state in eastern Anatolia, made Van the capital city and stepped on the scene of history (860-580 B.C.). The works of art made of ivory and bronze which showed their master workmanship were discovered as a result of the excavations carried on in the Fortress of Van, in Urartu cities such as Toprakkale, Altintepe and Cavustepe. When the Urartus were utterly destroyed by the Ischits in the year 580 B.C., the Phrygians founded a state in central Anatolia, with Gordion as the capital, but they also disappeared from the scene of history at the beginning of the 8th century B.C. by reason of the raids of the Kimmers. The Phrygian works of art found in the tomb of their legendary King Midas, are exhibited at the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara. The Lydians succeeded the Phrygians by founding a state in western Anatolia and made Sardes the capital. When the Lydians were defeated by the Persians in the year 546 B.C., the whole Anatolia was conquered by the Persians.

Anatolia was taken over by Alexander the Great when he defeated the Persians in 333 B.C., and by his inheritors after his death. So, Anatolia was the site of the Hellenistic period between the years 330 and 30 B.C. We observe that the Kingdom of Pergamum developed and became more powerful during this period. Many works of art created during the Hellenistic Period were inspired by the style of art, called the Pergamum style. Since Attolos III. the king of Pergamum, had no inheritors, he ceded his territory to Rome in 133 B.C., and Anatolia was wholly integrated to Roman territory in this way. Anatolia was furnished with magnificent structures during the Roman period, too. The structures of the Hellenistic Period and those of the Roman Period are seen to exist in an intermingled manner with each other in antique cities.

When Rome was divided into two as the Eastern Rome and Western Rome in the year 395 A.D., Anatolia was left in the possession of the Eastern Roman Empire. The most important works of art belonging to this empire. briefly called Byzantium, are the magnificent works in such as Hagia Sophia, Chora and Hagia Irene. The exquisitely beautiful Anatolia mosaics are seen here. In many localities of ruins, the works of art belonging to the Anatolia period are seen to have succeeded the works of art belonging to the Roman period.

The Seljukians who defeated the Anatolia people in 1071 during the pitched battle in Malazgirt, took possession of Anatolia gradually. They founded the Seljukian State of Anatolia and made Konya the capital. Medresses with magnificent stone doors, caravanserai inns and mosques have also survived until today from the time of the Seljukians. The most famous ones among these are Buruciye in Sivas, The Medresse With Double Minarets in Sivas. Yakutiye in Erzurum, The Medresse With Double Minarets in Erzurum, the Medresse With Fine Minarets in Konya, the Medresse of Karatay Saib Ata. The mosques such as the Grand Mosque of Divrigi, the Grand Mosque of Malatya, the Mosque of Alaaddin in Konya, the Grand Mosque of Beysehir are some of the mosques belonging to the Seljukian period. In addition to these, many caravanserais built in order to provide halting places for the caravans and monumental tombs which have survived standing magnificently until today, are the most beautiful examples of the Seljukian art. Owing to the fact that the Seljukiyans were left powerless by the Mongolian invasion and ceased to exist officially later, the principalities subjected to the Seljukians declared themselves independent in certain places. One of them was the Ottoman principality which declared independence in So§¼t in the year 1299. The Ottoman principality became more powerful day by day and enlarged its territory continually thus transforming itself from principality to an empire. The Ottomans ruled over Anatolia for 600 years between the dates 1299 and 1923 and they provided training facilities for architects, like Sinan the Architect, leaving behind magnificent works of art such as the Mosques of Selimiye, Suleymaniye, Sultanahmet and many other architectural works such as palaces, kiosks and fortresses. They created wonders in handicrafts of carpet making, tile-making and miniature, besides the architectural works.

The Ottoman State collapsed after the World War I and the young was founded in its place in 1923, with Ankara the capital city. In addition to many antique cities that can be visited in Turkey there are other interesting places which have a varied history, namely Cappadocia, the Mount Nemrut, Lycian Region. The Black sea is a land of greenness in itself. It is an inconceivably beautiful travel to experience through history in the crystal blue waters during the Blue Voyage from Bodrum to Antalya.

Turkey, which is a paradise of nature, history and sun, will keep on being a candidate for becoming the most interesting country for Tourism, with all these riches of hers.

Following the collapse of the Seljuk State, one of several states to be established in Central Anatolia was that of the Eretna emirate, which was founded by Eretna Bey. When Eretna Bey died in 1352, the state was left in the hands of weak administrators and superceded by a state founded by Burhaneddin, a Kayseri judge. In the meantime, Turkmen leaders took advantage of the political vacuum that existed to declare the establishment of their own principalities in the 13th century. Among others were the Karamanogullari in Central Anatolia, the Esrefogullari in and around Beysehir, the Germiyanogullari in the Afyon region and the Hamidogullari in the Isparta-Burdur region.

At the beginning of the 14th century, other principalities were set up, such as the Inancogullari in the Denizli region, the Aydinogullari in the Aydin region, the Karesiogullari in the Balikesir region, the Saruhanogullari in the Manisa region and the Candarogullari in the Kastamonu-Cankiri-Sinop region. Oguz tribesmen of the Kayi clan had migrated to Anatolia during the Seljuk era and it was this clan, under the leadership of Ertugrul Gazi which was to form the nucleus of the Ottoman principality. Settling first on the Byzantine frontiers around Sogut in the region of Bilecik under the direction of the Seljuks. It was during the final years of the Seljuk State that they declared themselves an independent principality known as the ‘Ottoman Principality,’ which was named after Ertugrul Bey’s successor Osman Bey (1299-1326). Under Orhan Bey (1326-1362), who was Osman Bey’s successor, they captured Bursa and declared it the Ottoman capital.

The city of Iznik is considered the cradle of Ottoman architecture and it is here that the first Ottoman mosque was built, the Haci Ozbek Mosque. This mosque, which was constructed in 1334, is notable for its single dome, a wall construction consisting of one row of cut stone and three rows of brick along with a three-room congregation area. During the reign of Orhan Bey, Kara Halil Hayrettin Pasha had the Yesil Cami (Green Mosque) built by architect Haci Musa in Iznik and was completed after his death by his son, Ali Pasha in 1392, with the exterior covered with marble blocks. The materials that went into the construction of the minaret showed the continuation of Seljuk traditions.

Ottoman architecture, which got its start in Iznik showed development which reached a monumental scale in Bursa. The mosque that was constructed for Osman Gazi’s son, Alaeddin Bey in 1326 and the Orhan Bey Mosque that was constructed in 1339 have both been restored several times over the years. From their flashy exterior design, both the Murad Hudavendigar Mosque and its surrounding complex, which were built in Bursa-Cekirge, give off a palatial appearance (1385). In 1382, while he was still the son of the sultan, Yildirim Bayezid had a complex of buildings constructed in the town of Mudurnu, which consisted of a single-domed mosque, a school of theology and two baths. He also had the Ulu Mosque of Bergama constructed in 1398. The grand mosque that he is truly known for is the Ulu Mosque in Bursa, which was constructed between 1396-1400. The pulpit of the twenty-domed mosque is the masterpiece of Haci Mehmet bin Abdulaziz ibn el Huki, who was from Antep. The progress of Ottoman architecture was badly shaken and even halted for awhile at the beginning of the 15th century. It regained some liveliness when Yildirim’s son Celebi Sultan Mehmed had the architect Haci Ivaz commence with the construction of the Yesil Cami (Green Mosque) and its surrounding complex (1424).

Subsequently, architectural planning continued to develop without a break. Construction of this mosque lasted ten years and was built entirely from cut stone and marble. The marvelous arched gateway, external niche, the ornamentation on the frames and windows reflect an attentive stone masonry. Subsequent to Bursa and Iznik and prior to the capture of Istanbul, the temporary capital of Edirne symbolized the highest level of the art of the Ottoman Empire.

The first monumental construction was that of the Edirne Eski Mosque, which was started in 1403 by Emir Suleyman Celebi and completed by Celebi Sultan Mehmed in 1414. The architecture of the mosque built with nine domes upon four heavy square pillars belonged to Haci Alaeddin of Konya. Built by Sultan Murad II in 1436, the Edirne Muradiye Mosque was named after him and with its porcelain coating and porcelain niche, constitutes the most important example of Turkish decorative art after the Yesil Mosque in Bursa.

In 1446, during the rule of Murat II, Yahsi Bey had the Imaret Mosque built in Tire. This mosque is important in that for the first time ever, it utilized a half-dome design and a five-room final congregation place in its front section. As far as architectural development was concerned, the Uc Serefeli Mosque that Murat II had built in Edirne between the years 1438-1447 was a truly surprising masterpiece. It was here that flying buttresses were constructed to support the dome for the first time. Another first was applied here, with four minarets, which were twisted, hollow-grooved, diamond-shaped and zigzagged. There were two inscriptions that bore the name of Sultan Murad and the pediments of both the courtyard windows were made with dark blue and white colored porcelain tiles. The Mezit Bey Mosque, constructed in 1434, along with the Darul Hadis, which was constructed in 1435, are the other major works that enriched Edirne.

After conquering Istanbul in 1453, Sultan Mehmed opened a new epoch, in which 300 mosques, eighty-five of which were domed, fifty-seven theology schools, fifty-nine Turkish baths, twenty-nine covered markets, bridges, palaces, castles and city walls were constructed in various cities throughout the empire. The first mosques that were constructed in Istanbul after its conquest followed the layouts of mosques that were built in Iznik, Bursa and Edirne, but later on, a new style gradually emerged and the half-dome became more prominent.

The first application of this in Istanbul was seen with the Fatih Mosque and its surrounding complex, which was constructed by Architect Sinaneddin Yusuf between 1462-1470. The complex, which consisted of a theology school, health clinic, printing facilities, caravanserai, Turkish bath and tombs, saw its mosque collapse in the 1765 earthquake, whereas today’s existing structure with its four half-domes, was built by Sultan Mustafa III. However, the mosque’s courtyard, bottom part of the minarets and niche were remnants of the destroyed mosque.

The inscription etched in the general public gate belonged to Ali bin Safi. Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror’s grandest masterpiece was Topkapi Palace. He was succeeded by his son Sultan Bayezid II (1481-1512) who ordered the architect Hayrettin to construct a complex of buildings in Edirne, which included a mosque, soup kitchen, theology school and Turkish bath between 1484-88. The same sultan ordered the architect Yakup Sah bin Sultan Sah to construct another complex in Istanbul between 1501-1506 known as the Bayezid complex. It was here that some developments were made, including a second half-dome to the north and an addition of a small dome on each side.

Bayezid’s successor was Yavuz Sultan Selim (1512-1520), who during his eight years on the throne participated in major campaigns while nothing new appeared on the architecture front. In the meanwhile, the governor of Diyarbakir, Biyikli Mehmet Pasha had the first Ottoman mosque with four half-domes built in his province between 1516-20. Yavuz Sultan Selim was not able to complete the mosque that was to be in his name. His son, Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent completed the half-finished mosque. Ottoman art lived through its most brilliant period under the rule of Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent (1520-1566). In addition to other artists of this age, it fostered a genius by the name of Sinan the Architect and it was his splendid works of art that symbolized the power and energy of the Ottoman Empire.

In 1522, Sinan the Architect completed the half-built Yavuz Sultan Mosque and in the same year, he also finished the Fatih Pasa Mosque in Diyarbakir. In 1523, he built the mosque and the accompanying complex of the ex-governor to Egypt, Coban Mustafa Pasha in Gebze, near Istanbul. It was in 1539 that Sinan the Architect constructed his first masterpiece in Istanbul, the Haseki Complex. It was comprised of a health clinic, an elementary school, a theology school, a fountain and a soup kitchen and while it made up a whole unit, it was built in completely separate place from the mosque.

At the age of 54, Sinan the Architect considered himself to an apprentice when he built the Sehzade Mosque between 1543-1548, because it was here that he encountered the problem posed by the half-dome, though he came up with a very nice central structure with four half-domes. Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent ordered the mosque built in memory of his beloved son, Prince Mehmet. The Sehzade Complex, the construction of which was completed before the mosque, was made up the Tomb of Sehzade Mehmed, a theology school, a soup kitchen and printing house.

In 1548, Sinan the Architect built a mosque and accompanying complex for the Sultan’s daughter Mihrimah Sultan in Uskudar. Use of three half-domes was the second innovation of the mosque. In addition, the fact that there was a second final congregation place outside and an expanded width brought us face to face with a rather different mosque. Sinan followed this up by building an incredible complex and mosque for Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent, construction of which was started in 1550 and completed in 1557. It was with the Suleymaniye that two half-domes were utilized in the construction of a mosque. Along with the courtyard with a big fountain, the mosque’s interior and outer appearance were considered to a unified entity. The grand dome, which is supported in the middle by four heavy columns, is also supported on both the entrance side and the southern direction with half-domes. Minarets are in the courtyard’s four corners. The octagon-shaped tombs of both Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent and Hurrem Sultan are situated behind the niche wall. In 1555, Sinan the Architect built a mosque for Kaptani Derya Sinan Pasha in Besiktas. With rows constructed of cut stone and brick, he had experimented with a different wall bonding. Sinan the Architect constructed the Vizier Kara Ahmat Pasha Complex in Topkapi between 1554-58, the Molla Celebi Mosque in Findikli in 1561 and a mosque in Edirnekapi that was built between 1562-65 for the daughter of Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent, Mihrimah Sultan.

The domes over the courtyard portico and the final congregation room were built lower than normal giving this mosque, which had a single minaret, a more definite appearance. In 1561, he built a mosque in Eminonu for Rustem Pasha, who was the Sultan’s vizier and son-in-law. Sinan incorporated an eight-legged system, of which four were built into the walls and four were left standing independently. He also decorated it with the period’s Iznik porcelain tiles.

For the Sultan Suleyman’s daughter, Esma Sultan, who was also the wife of the Grand Vizier Sokullu Mehmed Pasha, he constructed the Sokullu Complex on hilly terrain in Istanbul Kadirga in the year 1571. Again, he chose to decorate the interior of the mosque with porcelain tiles. In 1573, Sinan built the Piyale Pasha Mosque in Istanbul Kasimpasa, in which he reverted to the style of the old Ulu Mosques by using the six equal dome layout. In 1566, Suleyman the Magnificent was succeeded by his son Selim II (1566-74), whereas Sinan constructed the Selimiye Mosque in Edirne in his name (1569-75).

Sinan had reached the peak of his profession and it was at this time that he was heard to say, “I showed that I was an apprentice with the Sehzade Mosque, an able contractor with the Suleymaniye Mosque and an expert with the Selimiye Mosque.” The towering dome and four minarets of this mosque, which took six years to built, was planted on the highest hill of Edirne and could be seen from far.

The dome’s weight was supported by eight interior columns and buttressing belts that were situated between the columns. Besides the mosque’s architectural design, there were also the decorative components such as the fine workmanship that went into the single piece stone pulpit, the porcelain decor of the window pediments and the walls around the niche, the colorful written works found in the private galleries and the fine manner in which the portico courtyard presented itself. Selim II died in 1574 and was succeeded to the throne by his son Murat III (1574-1595).

Up to then, Sinan had been in the service of four sultans, but in spite his advanced years, he went ahead and constructed the Muradiye Mosque in Manisa between 1583-85 for Sultan Murad III. He continued to wield great influence even after his death and well into the 17th century.

There were magnificent masterpieces created in this century, which is known as the Late Classic Age. The first of these was the Yeni Mosque in Eminonu. Architect Davud Aga had laid the foundations of this mosque and its surrounding complex for the mother of Sultan Mehmed III, Safiye Sultan in 1598. When he died the following year from the plague, Dalgic Ahmed took over and raised the structure up to its lower windows. When Mehmed III died, his mother, was sent to the old palace where as construction was halted in 1603. Construction of this mosque was finally completed in 1663, by the mother of Mehmet IV, the Queen Mother Turhan Hatice Sultan. Sultan Ahmed I succeeded Mehmed III to the throne (1603-17), who commissioned the Architect Sedefkar Mehmet Aga, who was trained by Sinan the Architect and Davud Aga, to construct the Sultanahmet Mosque, which for all the blue porcelain tiles that decorated its interior, was also to be known as the Blue Mosque.

There were a number of changes in the sultanate. For a time, during the reign of Ahmed III (1703-1730) and under the impetus of his grand vizier Ibrahim Pasha, a period of peace ensued. In the meantime, due to its relations with France, Ottoman architecture began to be influenced by the Baroque and Rococo styles that were popular in Europe. A thirty year period, known as the Tulip Period, in which all eyes were turned to the West, and instead of monumental works, villas and pavilions around Istanbul were built. However, it was about this time when construction on the Ishak Pasha Palace in Eastern Anatolia was going on, (1685-1784). With Ahmed III’s death, Mahmud I took the throne (1730-1754). It was during this period that Baroque-style mosques were starting to be constructed.

The most important of these was the Nuruosmaniye Mosque, which was begun by Sultan Mahmud I in 1748 and completed by Sultan Osman III (1754-57) in 1755. There were eleven steps that one had to walk over in order to reach the porticoed courtyard, and the interior, which was completely covered in marble, was decorated in a highly Baroque fashion. A second work in which the Baroque style played a more prominent role was the Laleli Mosque, in which Sultan Mustafa III (1757-1774) commissioned the Architect Tahir Aga.

Sultan Mustafa III’s successor to the throne was Abdulhamid I, who had the Beylerbeyi Mosque built for his mother in 1778. Selim III followed Sultan Abdulhamid I to reign the empire (1789-1807), whereas this sultan had a mosque built in his name, the Selimiye Mosque in Uskudar (1805). This mosque had continued with the Baroque style in Istanbul. Meanwhile, there were some works under construction outside Istanbul that conveyed the same style. Leaving the 18th century and entering the 19th century, in addition to the Baroque and Rococo styles, the Empire and Neo-classic styles were also appearing. Around the time that the Baroque style was starting to catch on in Istanbul, the Empire style was ruling Europe, whereas this style over to the Ottomans at practically the same time. Sultan Abdulmecid sat on the throne from 1839-61 who after having the Mecidiye Villa constructed within the Topkapi Palace grounds, also commissioned to have the Dolmabahce Palace built, which was an exact copy of a typical European palace.

He also had both the Dolmabahce and Ortakoy Mosques commissioned in the Empire style in honor of Bezmi Alem Valide Sultan. Sultan Abdulaziz succeeded him to the throne (1861-76) and continued with the construction activities by having both the Beylerbeyi and Ciragan Palaces built. Handicrafts and decorative arts developed parallel to architecture in the Ottoman Empire. Without a doubt, porcelain would be at the top of the list. Besides the most beautiful examples of Iznik porcelain tiles that have decorated mosques and tombs in the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries, incredible works of art such as dishes, cups and oil lamps found in mosques. After the 17th century, the art of Iznik porcelain was taken over by that of Kutahya.

After the acceptance of Islam by the Turkish people, branches of art that were quite restricted, such as painting and sculpture, latched onto new interpretations, one of which was the art of miniature. The developing art of miniature, which was dependent to the palace during the Ottoman period, brought up some major artists, such as Matrakci Nasuh, Nakkas Osman, Nigari and Levni. One of the branches of art that the Turkish people have always been involved with and developed is that of precious metal workmanship. Today, the finest examples of the mineral masterpieces that we can see in the Topkapi Palace are used in special ceremonies. These are masterpieces that reflect the splendor of the Ottomans, works such as the Topkapi Dagger, goblets, helmets, quivers, shields and stirrups, all adorned with precious stones. Koran covers adorned with precious stones form a separate group.

In addition, there are also several fields of art that the Ottomans had taken to an advanced state, including wood and mother-of-pearl inlaying, gilding, calligraphy, cloth and carpets.


The Republic of Turkey

Atatürk returned to Istanbul at the end of the war, his military reputation untarnished by the defeat of the empire that he had served. Revered by his troops as well as the Turkish masses, Atatürk soon emerged as the standard-bearer of the Turkish nationalist movement.

Born in Thessaloniki in 1881, Atatürk was the son of a minor government official in a city where Turks outnumbered Greeks. His ardent Turkish nationalism dated from his early days as a cadet in the military school at Monastir (in the present-day Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) during a time of constant conflict between Ottoman troops and Macedonian guerrillas, who attacked the Turkish population in the region. Following graduation from the military academy in Istanbul, Atatürk held various staff positions and served in garrisons at Damascus and Thessaloniki, where he became involved in nationalist activities. He took part in the coup that forced Abdül Hamid II’s abdication in 1909. Atatürk organized irregular forces in Libya during the war with Italy in 1911 and subsequently held field commands in the two Balkan wars (1912-13). Assigned to a post in the Ministry of War after the armistice, Atatürk quickly recognized the extent of Allied intentions toward the Ottoman Empire.

Plans for Partitioning Turkey

Allied troops–British, French, and Italian, as well as a contingent of Greeks–occupied Istanbul and were permitted under the conditions of the armistice to intervene in areas where they considered their interests to be imperiled. During the war, the Allies had negotiated a series of agreements that outlined not only the definitive dismantling of the Ottoman Empire but also the partitioning among them of what Turkish nationalists had come to regard as the Turkish homeland. According to these agreements, Russia was at last to be rewarded with possession of Istanbul and the straits, as well as eastern Anatolia as far south as Bitlis below Lake Van. France and Italy were conceded portions of Anatolia, and Britain had promised Izmir to Greece–although it had also been promised to Italy–to encourage Greek entry into the war in 1917.

The Bolshevik government had renounced tsarist claims when it made its separate peace at Brest-Litovsk, but Britain, France, Italy, and Greece all pressed their respective claims at the Paris peace talks in 1919. All agreed with the provisions of President Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points calling for an independent Armenia and an autonomous Kurdistan. How the Allies would implement the clause providing that the Turkish-speaking nation “should be assured of a secure sovereignty” was not clear.

The terms of a peace treaty with the Ottoman Empire were presented by the Allies in April 1920 at San Remo, Italy, and were embodied in the Treaty of Sèvres, which was concluded the following August. The treaty was shaped by the wartime agreements made by the Allies. In addition, France received a mandate over Lebanon and Syria (including what is now Hatay Province in Turkey), and Britain’s mandate covered Iraq, Jordan, and Palestine. Eastern Thrace up to a line from the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara as well as Izmir and its hinterland were to be occupied by Greece, with the final disposition of the territory to be decided in a plebiscite. The Treaty of Sèvres was never enforced as such, as events in Turkey soon rendered it irrelevant.

Nationalist Movement

The sultan was kept in the custody of the Allies to ensure the cooperation of an Ottoman administration, which had effective jurisdiction only in Istanbul and part of northern Anatolia, while they disposed of the rest of his empire. At the same time, a Turkish nationalist movement was organized under Atatürk’s leadership to resist the dismemberment of Turkish-speaking areas. Atatürk had been sent to eastern Anatolia as inspector general, ostensibly to supervise the demobilization of Ottoman forces and the disposition of supplies, but more particularly to remove him from the capital after he had expressed opposition to the Allied occupation there. Upon his arrival at Samsun in May 1919, Atatürk proceeded to rally support for the nationalist cause and to recruit a nationalist army. Guerrilla warfare against the government gradually grew to full-fledged campaigns against the Greek army that threatened to involve the other Allied occupation forces.

In July 1919, a nationalist congress met at Erzurum with Atatürk presiding to endorse a protocol calling for an independent Turkish state. In September the congress reconvened at Sivas. Although the delegates voiced their loyalty to the sultan-caliph, they also pledged to maintain the integrity of the Turkish nation. The congress adopted the National Pact, which defined objectives of the nationalist movement that were not open to compromise. Among its provisions were the renunciation of claims to the Arab provinces, the principle of the absolute integrity of all remaining Ottoman territory inhabited by a Turkish Muslim majority, a guarantee of minority rights, the retention of Istanbul and the straits, and rejection of any restriction on the political, judicial, and financial rights of the nation.

Negotiations continued between the nationalist congress and the Ottoman government, but to no avail. Atatürk resigned from the army when relieved of his duties. The naming of a chief minister in Istanbul considered sympathetic to the nationalist cause brought a brief improvement in relations, however, and the Ottoman parliament, which met in January 1920, approved the National Pact. In reaction to these developments, Allied occupation forces seized public buildings and reinforced their positions in the capital, arrested and deported numerous nationalist leaders, and had parliament dismissed.

Allied actions brought a quick response from the nationalists. In April they convened the Grand National Assembly in Ankara, in defiance of the Ottoman regime, and elected Atatürk its president. The Law of Fundamental Organization (also known as the Organic Law) was adopted in January 1921. With this legislation, the nationalists proclaimed that sovereignty belonged to the nation and was exercised on its behalf by the Grand National Assembly.

War of Independence

During the summer and fall of 1919, with authorization from the Supreme Allied War Council, the Greeks occupied Edirne, Bursa, and Izmir. A landing was effected at the latter port under the protection of an Allied flotilla that included United States warships. The Greeks soon moved as far as Usak, 175 kilometers inland from Izmir. Military action between Turks and Greeks in Anatolia in 1920 was inconclusive, but the nationalist cause was strengthened the next year by a series of important victories. In January and again in April, Ismet Pasha defeated the Greek army at Inönü, blocking its advance into the interior of Anatolia. In July, in the face of a third offensive, the Turkish forces fell back in good order to the Sakarya River, eighty kilometers from Ankara, where Atatürk took personal command and decisively defeated the Greeks in a twenty-day battle.

An improvement in Turkey’s diplomatic situation accompanied its military success. Impressed by the viability of the nationalist forces, both France and Italy withdrew from Anatolia by October 1921. Treaties were signed that year with Soviet Russia, the first European power to recognize the nationalists, establishing the boundary between the two countries. As early as 1919, the Turkish nationalists had cooperated with the Bolshevik government in attacking the newly proclaimed Armenian republic. Armenian resistance was broken by the summer of 1921, and the Kars region was occupied by the Turks. In 1922 the nationalists recognized the Soviet absorption of what remained of the Armenian state.

The final drive against the Greeks began in August 1922. In September the Turks moved into Izmir, where thousands were killed during the ensuing fighting and in the disorder that followed the city’s capture. Greek soldiers and refugees, who had crowded into Izmir, were rescued by Allied ships.

The nationalist army then concentrated on driving remaining Greek forces out of eastern Thrace, but the new campaign threatened to put the Turks in direct confrontation with Allied contingents defending access to the straits and holding Istanbul, where they were protecting the Ottoman government. A crisis was averted when Atatürk accepted a British-proposed truce that brought an end to the fighting and also signaled that the Allies were unwilling to intervene on behalf of the Greeks. In compliance with the Armistice of Mundanya, concluded in October, Greek troops withdrew beyond the Maritsa River, allowing the Turkish nationalists to occupy territory up to that boundary. The agreement entailed acceptance of a continued Allied presence in the straits and in Istanbul until a comprehensive settlement could be reached.

At the end of October 1922, the Allies invited the nationalist and Ottoman governments to a conference at Lausanne, Switzerland, but Atatürk was determined that the nationalist government should be Turkey’s sole representative. In November 1922, the Grand National Assembly separated the offices of sultan and caliph and abolished the former. The assembly further stated that the Ottoman regime had ceased to be the government of Turkey when the Allies seized the capital in 1920, in effect abolishing the Ottoman Empire. Mehmet VI went into exile on Malta, and his cousin, Abdülmecid, was named caliph.

Turkey was the only power defeated in World War I to negotiate with the Allies as an equal and to influence the provisions of the resultant treaty. Ismet Pasha was the chief Turkish negotiator at the Lausanne Conference, which opened in November 1922. The National Pact of 1919 was the basis of the Turkish negotiating position, and its provisions were incorporated in the Treaty of Lausanne, concluded in July 1923. With this treaty, the Allies recognized the present-day territory of Turkey and denied Turkey’s claim to the Mosul area in the east (in present-day Iraq) and Hatay, which included the Mediterranean port of Alexandretta (Iskenderun). The boundary with the newly created state of Iraq was settled by a League of Nations initiative in 1926, and Iskenderun was ceded in 1939 by France during its rule as mandatory power for Syria.

Detailed provisions of the treaty regulated use of the straits. General supervisory powers were given to a straits commission under the League of Nations, and the straits area was to be demilitarized after completion of the Allied withdrawal. Turkey was to hold the presidency of the commission, which included the Soviet Union among its members. The capitulations and foreign administration of the Ottoman public debt, which infringed on the sovereignty of Turkey, were abolished. Turkey, however, assumed 40 percent of the Ottoman debt, the remainder being apportioned among other former Ottoman territories. Turkey was also required to maintain low tariffs on imports from signatory powers until 1929. The Treaty of Lausanne reaffirmed the equality of Muslim and non-Muslim Turkish nationals. Turkey and Greece arranged a mandatory exchange of their respective ethnic Greek and Turkish minorities, with the exception of some Greeks in Istanbul and Turks in western Thrace and the Dodecanese Islands.

On October 29, 1923, the Grand National Assembly proclaimed the Republic of Turkey. Atatürk was named its president and Ankara its capital, and the modern state of Turkey was born.

Atatürk’s Reforms

On assuming office, Atatürk initiated a series of radical reforms of the country’s political, social, and economic life that were aimed at rapidly transforming Turkey into a modern state (see table A). A secular legal code, modeled along European lines, was introduced that completely altered laws affecting women, marriage, and family relations.

Atatürk also urged his fellow citizens to look and act like Europeans. Turks were encouraged to wear European-style clothing. Surnames were adopted: Mustafa Kemal, for example, became Kemal Atatürk, and Ismet Pasha took Inönü as his surname to commemorate his victories there. Likewise, Atatürk insisted on cutting links with the past that he considered anachronistic. Titles of honor were abolished. The wearing of the fez, which had been introduced a century earlier as a modernizing reform to replace the turban, was outlawed because it had become for the nationalists a symbol of the reactionary Ottoman regime.

The ideological foundation of Atatürk’s reform program became known as Kemalism. Its main points were enumerated in the “Six Arrows” of Kemalism: republicanism, nationalism, populism, reformism, etatism (statism), and secularism. These were regarded as “fundamental and unchanging principles” guiding the republic, and were written into its constitution. The principle of republicanism was contained in the constitutional declaration that “sovereignty is vested in the nation” and not in a single ruler. Displaying considerable ingenuity, Atatürk set about reinventing the Turkish language and recasting Turkish history in a nationalist mold. The president himself went out into the park in Ankara on Sunday, the newly established day of rest, to teach the Latin alphabet adapted to Turkish as part of the language reform. Populism encompassed not only the notion that all Turkish citizens were equal but that all of them were Turks. What remained of the millet system that had provided communal autonomy to other ethnic groups was abolished. Reformism legitimized the radical means by which changes in Turkish political and social life were implemented. Etatism emphasized the central role reserved to the state in directing the nation’s economic activities. This concept was cited particularly to justify state planning of Turkey’s mixed economy and large-scale investment in state-owned enterprises. An important aim of Atatürk’s economic policies was to prevent foreign interests from exercising undue influence on the Turkish economy.

Of all the Kemalist reforms, the exclusion of Islam from an official role in the life of the nation shocked Atatürk’s contemporaries most profoundly. The abolition of the caliphate ended any connection between the state and religion. The Islamic religious orders were suppressed, religious schools were closed, public education was secularized, and the seriat was revoked. These changes required readjustment of the entire social framework of the Turkish people. Despite subsequent protests, Atatürk conceded nothing to the traditionalists.

In 1924 the Grand National Assembly adopted a new constitution to replace the 1876 document that had continued to serve as the legal framework of the republican government. The 1924 constitution vested sovereign power in the Grand National Assembly as representative of the people, to whom it also guaranteed basic civil rights. Under the new document, the assembly would be a unicameral body elected to a four-year term by universal suffrage. Its legislative authority would include responsibility for approving the budget, ratifying treaties, and declaring war. The president of the republic would be elected to a four-year term by the assembly, and he in turn would appoint the prime minister, who was expected to enjoy the confidence of the assembly (see table 3, Appendix A).

Throughout his presidency, repeatedly extended by the assembly, Atatürk governed Turkey essentially by personal rule in a one-party state. He founded the Republican People’s Party (Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi–CHP) in 1923 to represent the nationalist movement in elections and to serve as a vanguard party in support of the Kemalist reform program. Atatürk’s Six Arrows were an integral part of the CHP’s political platform. By controlling the CHP, Atatürk also controlled the assembly and assured support there for the government he had appointed. Atatürk regarded a stage of personal authoritarian rule as necessary to secure his reforms before he entrusted the government of the country to the democratic process.

Foreign Policy

Atatürk’s foreign policy, which had as its main object the preservation of the independence and integrity of the new republic, was careful, conservative, and successful. The president enunciated the principle of “peace at home and peace abroad.” This guideline, whose observance was necessary to the task of internal nation building, became the cornerstone of Turkey’s foreign relations.

By the end of 1925, friendship treaties had been negotiated with fifteen states. These included a twenty-year treaty of friendship and neutrality signed that year with the Soviet Union that remained in effect until unilaterally abrogated by the Soviet Union in 1945. Turkey subsequently joined Greece, Romania, and Yugoslavia in the Balkan Pact to counter the increasingly aggressive foreign policy of fascist Italy and the effect of a potential Bulgarian alignment with Nazi Germany. Turkey also entered into a nonaggression treaty with Afghanistan, Iraq, and Iran in 1937.

Atatürk attained his greatest diplomatic success in 1936, when Turkey persuaded the signatory powers of the Treaty of Lausanne to allow Turkish control and remilitarization of the straits as part of the Montreux Convention. Under its terms, merchant vessels were to continue to have freedom of navigation of the straits, but Turkey took over the functions of the international commission for registry, sanitary inspection, and the levying of tolls. Turkey was permitted to refortify the straits area and, if at war or under imminent threat of war, to close them to warships.


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