Turkish Reform Under Mustafa “Ataturk” Kemal: A Review on the Six Arrows of Kemalism
In the aftermath of World War I, the once great Ottoman Empire was left in shambles. After having lost almost all of the empire’s territory to European mandates in 1918, what little they had left became occupied by Allied troops. In order to return the Turkish people to their former glory, the Turkish War for Independence was fought, resulting in the creation of a new government in Ankara. By 1923, this government declared the end of the Ottoman Empire and proclaimed the name of the Turkish Republic. At the forefront of this new nation’s birth was Mustafa Kemal, a man who would come to be known as Ataturk, or “Father Turk” for his contributions to the establishment and reforms of this young state. But what exactly did this Ataturk do for the Republic of Turkey? In order to understand how much an influence Kemalist ideology had on the early days of the Turkish Republic, one must define the six basic principles behind it, known as the Six Arrows, learn how they were implemented in the early republic, and analyze the motives behind Kemal’s specific reforms. After doing thusly, one will discover that, had it not been for the influence of Kemalism, Turkey would never have existed in its modern form.
The first of the Six Arrows is Republicanism. Republicanism can be defined as a form of government in which the people rule indirectly. Unlike the former Ottoman Empire, in which the primary ruler was the sultan who inherited his position through his genealogy, the Turkish Republic was conceived as a nation through which representatives from among the people would make decisions (86-88). In order to see this idea of Republicanism come to fruition, the long standing sultanate had to be dissolved. Though Kemal intended for this to be a reality since the early days of the War for Independence, he kept this agenda a secret from the populace in order to keep morale and war support high. Had he announced the idea of Republicanism earlier, he might not have been backed by the more traditionalist sectors of the nation. Even after securing victory in the war in 1922, Kemal met with some difficulty in ending the sultanate. Firstly, since its historical foundation under Osman I, the Ottoman Empire had always been ruled by a sultan. This time-honored tradition made the abolishment even more difficult due to the fact that for the past four centuries, the Ottoman sultan occupied the position of caliph of Sunni Islam. So long as the same figure was assigned to both roles, Kemal would have difficulty ending either one. Therefore, in an assembly discussing the nature of the caliphate and sultanate, Kemal claimed that, aside from the Four Rightly Guided Caliphs, the position had become politicized and drifted from its original purpose of solely guiding the Muslim populace on a spiritual level, bereft of any temporal authority. His address to the assembly resulted in the separation of these two powers and the end of the sultanate. While the last sultan, Mehmed VI, was expelled from the nation shortly afterward, his cousin, Abdulmecid Efendi, took the position of Sunni Caliph – something which Mustafa Kemal would deal with in the years to come (Hanioglu 135-40). In September of 1923, Kemal declared the founding of what would eventually become the Republican People’s Party, made up of representatives from all walks of life including farmers, scholars, merchants, and common workers which would be able to represent the people adequately (143). That October would see Kemal’s declaration of the nation of Turkey as a republic through a unanimous decision from the National Assembly, who would then elect him as the first President of the Republic of Turkey (Volkan 236-237).
The next Kemalism’s Six Arrows is Populism. In his review on Turkish History, Sina Aksin describes populism as “an ideology which safeguards the people, promoting policies for the...
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