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History of Turkey

For history of Anatolia and Thrace before the Republic of Turkey see

The history of modern Turkey begins with the foundation of the republic on October 29, 1923 (The Republic was declared on January 20, 1921), from the Turkish remnants of the Ottoman Empire, with Mustafa Kemal (Atatürk) as its first president. The government was formed from the Ankara-based revolutionary group, led by Atatürk, which had defeated Greece in western Turkey. The Treaty of Lausanne, signed on July 24, 1923, and negotiated by Ismet Pasha (Inönü) on behalf of the Ankara government, established most of the modern boundaries of the country.

Table of contents
1 Atatürk's Reforms
2 Politics in the era of Kemal
3 After Atatürk
4 1990s

Atatürk's Reforms

On March 3, 1924, the National Assembly abolished the ministry of sacred law, all schools were placed under the ministry of education and a new constitution was approved on April 20, 1924. For the next 10 years, there was a steady process of secular westernization, guided by Mustafa Kemal. Some of the reforms:

Politics in the era of Kemal

Atatürk, modern Turkey's founder and first President

After the foundation of the Liberal Republican Party by Fethi Okyar, the fanatically religious groups joined to well-intentioned liberals and consecutively widespread bloody disorders took place especially in the eastern territory. The liberal party was dissolved on November 17, 1930 and no further attempt for a multiparty democracy was made until 1945. Turkey was admitted to the League of Nations in July 1932.

After Atatürk

Atatürk's successor after his death on November 10, 1938 was Ismet Inönü. When all its western neighbours were under Axis occupation during World War II, Turkey signed a peace treaty with Germany and officially remained neutral until near the end of war. In 1945 Turkey joined the UN, and in February 1945 it declared war on Germany and Japan. This was largely symbolic, as no Turkish troops engaged in battle. Turkey joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1952.

By the influences of liberal intellectuals and religious fanatics the multiparty government returned by 1950 elections with the election of the Democratic Party. The government was very popular at first, relaxing the restrictions on Islam and presiding over a booming economy. In the later half of the decade, however, the economy began to fail and the government introduced censorship laws limiting dissent. The government became plagued by high inflation and a massive debt. It also attempted to use the army to suppress its political rivals. The army balked at this, however, and on May 27,1960 General Cemal Gürsel led a military coup d'etat removing President Celal Bayar and Prime Minister Adnan Menderes, the second of whom was executed. Unlike in most countries where military juntas take over the military stood by its promise and returned the country to civilian control in October of 1961.

The political system that emerged in the wake of the 1960 coup was a fractured one, producing a series of unstable government coalitions in parliament alternating between the True Path Party of Suleyman Demirel on the right and the Republican People's Party of Ismet Inonu and Bulent Ecevit on the left. A coup was staged in 1971, ousting a fractured parliament under the Prime Minsitry of Demirel. Under Prime Minister Ecevit in coalition with the religious National Salvation Party, Turkey invaded Cyprus in order to prevent a coup intended to unify the island with Greece, creating a confict that to this day is still not resolved. The fractured political scene and poor economy led to mounting violence betweeen ultranationalists and communists in the streets of Turkey's cities. A paralyzed parliament and increasing death-toll prompted a coup in 1980, once again on Demirel's watch. Within two years, the military had returned the government to civilian hands, but had banned Demirel, Ecevit, and a number of other politicians from politics for life.

Out of the rubble of the previous political system came one-party governance under Turgut Ozal's Motherland Party, which combined a globally-oriented economic program with conservative social values. Under Ozal, the economy boomed, converting towns like Gazi Antep from small provincial capitals into mid-sized economic boomtowns.


Upon the retirement of President Kenan Evren, the leader of the 1980 coup, Ozal was elected President, leaving parliament in the hands of the feckless Yildirim Akbulut, and then, in 1991, to Mesut Yilmaz. Yilmaz redoubled Turkey's economic profile and renewed it's orientation toward Europe. But political instability followed as the host of banned politicians reentered politics, fracturing the vote, and the Motherland Party became increasingly corrupt. Ozal died of a heart attack in 1993 and Suleyman Demirel was elected president. The 1995 elections brought a short-lived coalition between Yilmaz's Motherland Party and The True Path Party, now with Tansu Ciller at the helm. Ciller then turned to the Welfare Party (RP), headed by Necmettin Erbakan, the former leader of the NAtioal Salvation Party, allownig Erbakan to enter the Prime Ministry. In 1998, the military, citing his government's support for religious policied deemed danfgerous to Turkey's secular nature, sent a memorandum to Erbakan requesting that he resign, which he did. Shortly thereafter, the RP was banned and re-born under the name Virtue Party (FP). A new government was formed by ANAP and Ecevit's Democratic Left Party (DSP) supported from the outside by the center-left Republican People's Party (CHP), led by Deniz Baykal. Under this government, Abdullah Ocalan, the leader of the PKK, was captured in Kenya. He was tried for treason and sentenced to death, but Turkey has since sent the case to the European Court of Human Rights.

The DSP won big in the 1999 elections on the strength of the Ocalan abduction. Second place went, surprisingly, to the Nationalist Action Party (MHP). These two parties, alongside Yilmaz's ANAP formed a government. The popular perception was that it would fail; these were, after all, the inheritors of the two groups that were fighting so violently in the streets during the 1970s. However, the government was somewhat effective, if not harmonious, bringing about much-needed economic reform, instituting human rights legislation, and bringing Turkey ever closer to the European Union. A series of economic shocks led to new elections in 2002, bringing into power the religiously conservative Justice and Development Party of former mayor of Istanbul, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Election Results
Party 1991 1995 1999
DSP 11%/7 seats 15%/76 seats 22%/136 seats
MHP 17%/62* seats 8%/0 seats 18%/129 seats
RP/FP** 17%/62* seats 21%/158 seats 15%/111 seats
ANAP 24%/115 seats 20%/132 seats 13%/86 seats
DYP 27%/178 seats 19%/135 seats 12%/85 seats
CHP 21%/88 seats 11%/49 seats 9%/0 seats
*In 1991, the Welfare Party (RP) and the Nationalist Action Party (MHP) ran jointly in order to pass the 10% barrage. Their combined results are listed under each party.
**The Welfare party was banned in 1998 and re-formed under the name of the Virtue Party (FP). Their results are listed in the same row.