Atatürk was a military genius, a charismatic leader, also a comprehensive reformer in his life. It was important at the time for the Republic of Turkey to be modernized in order to progress towards the level of contemporary civilizations and to be an active member of the culturally developed communities. Mustafa Kemal modernized the life of his country.
Atatürk introduced reforms which he considered of vital importance for the salvation and survival of his people between 1924-1938. These reforms were enthusiastically welcomed by the Turkish people.
Chronology of Reforms
1922 Sultanate abolished (November 1).
1923 Treaty of Lausanne secured (July 24). Republic of Turkey with capital at Ankara proclaimed (October 29).
1924 Caliphate abolished (March 3). Traditional religious schools closed, Sheriat (Islamic Law) abolished. Constitution adopted (April 20).
1925 Dervish brotherhoods abolished. Fez outlawed by the Hat Law (November 25). Veiling of women discouraged; Western clothing for men and women encouraged. Western (Gregorian) calendar adopted instead of Islamic calendar.
1926 New civil, commercial, and penal codes based on European models adopted. New civil code ended Islamic polygamy and divorce by renunciation and introduced civilmarriage. Millet system ended.
1927 First systematic census.
1928 New Turkish alphabet (modified Latin form) adopted. State declared secular (April 10); constitutional provision establishing Islam as official religion deleted.
1933 Islamic call to worship and public readings of the Kuran (Quran) required to be in Turkish rather than Arabic.
1934 Women given the vote and the right to hold office. Law of Surnames adopted - Mustafa Kemal given the name Kemal Atatürk (Father of the Turks) by the Grand National Assembly; Ismet Pasha took surname of Inönü.
1935 Sunday adopted as legal weekly holiday. State role in managing economy written into the constitution.
On assuming office, Atatürk initiated a series of radical reforms in the country's political, social, and economic life that aimed at rapidly transforming Turkey into a modern state. For him, modernization meant Westernization. On one level, a secular legal code, modeled along European lines, was introduced that completely altered laws affecting women, marriage, and family relations. On another level, Atatürk urged his countrymen to look and act like Europeans.
Turks were encouraged to wear European-style clothing. Atatürk personally promoted ballroom dancing at official functions. Surnames were adopted: Mustafa Kemal, for example, became Kemal Atatürk, and Ismet Pasha took Inönü as his surname to commemorate his victories there during the War of Independence. 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 for Atatürk's reform program became known as Kemalism. Its main points were enumerated in the Six Arrows of Kemalism as republicanism, nationalism, populism, reformism, statism, and secularism (see the Principles of Atatürk). These were regarded as "fundamental and unchanging principles" guiding the republic, and, as such, they 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. The nation-state supplanted the Ottoman dynasty as the focus of loyalty, and the particulars of Turkish nationalism replaced Ottomanuniversalism.
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 also that all of them were Turks. What remained of the millet system that had guaranteed 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, or statism, emphasized the central role reserved for 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 influence on the Turkish economy.
Although all of the Kemalist reforms were unsettling to traditionalists, it was the exclusion of Islam from an official role in the life of the nation that shocked Atatürk's contemporaries most profoundly, and discontent continued to focus on the regime's secularist policies long after the other reforms had been generally accepted. The abolition of the caliphate ended any connection between the state and religion. The religious orders were suppressed, religious schools closed and public educationsecularized, and the Sheriat (Islamic rule) revoked, requiring readjustment of the entire social framework of the Turkish people. Despite the protest that these measures provoked, however, Atatürk conceded nothing to the traditionalists.
In 1924 the Grand National Assembly adopted a new constitution to replace the 1876 constitution that had continued to serve as the legal framework for the republicangovernment. The 1924 constitution vested sovereign power in the Grand National Assembly as representative of the people, to whom it also guaranteed basic civil rights. A unicameral body elected for a four-year term by universal suffrage, the assembly exercised legislative authority, including responsibility for approving the budget, ratifying treaties, and declaring war. The new constitution did not provide for an impartial judiciary to rule on the constitutionality of laws enacted by the assembly, but rather empowered the elected legislature to alter or defer judicial decisions.
The President of the republic was elected for a four-year term by the assembly, and he in turn appointed the prime minister, who was expected to enjoy the confidence of theassembly. Throughout his presidency, repeatedly extended by the assembly, Atatürk governed Turkey essentially by personal rule in a one-party state. The Republican People's Party (RPP) was founded in 1923 by Atatürk to represent the nationalist movement in elections and to serve as a vanguard party in supporting the Kemalist reform program. Atatürk's Six Arrows were an integral part of the RPP's political platform. By controlling the RPP, 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 for securing his reforms before entrusting the government of the country to the democratic process.
Nevertheless, opposition existed. Specific misgivings about Atatürk's personal dominance took early form in a grouping of his old associates called the Progressive Republican Party. Some also felt that Atatürk was carrying the reform program too far, too fast. Atatürk was willing to experiment with a multiparty system, and in November 1924 he replaced Inönü as prime minister with Fethi Okyar, who represented the new party.
Scarcely had this experiment begun, however, when an uprising broke out that quickly spread throughout the Kurdish region in southeastern Turkey. Although sometimes characterized as an expression of Kurdish nationalism, the revolt was led by a hereditary chief of the Naksibendi dervishes, who had been disbanded as part of Atatürk'ssecularist reforms. He and other dervish leaders urged their Kurdish followers to overthrow the "godless" government in Ankara and restore the caliph. Atatürk recalled Inönüto the prime minister's office in March 1925 and rushed legislation through the Grand National Assembly that provided emergency powers to the government for the next four years. Special courts with summary powers were established, and the Progressive Republican Party was outlawed. Meanwhile, the Turkish army swiftly extinguished the revolt.
A plot to assassinate Atatürk was uncovered in 1926 and found to have originated with a former deputy who had opposed abolition of the caliphate and had a personal grudge against the President. A sweeping investigation brought before the tribunal a large number of Atatürk's political opponents, fifteen of whom were hanged. As a result of the inquiry, some of his former close associates were sent into exile. This action was the only broad political purge during Atatürk's presidency. Whether there were specific connections between the Progressive Republican Party, the Kurdish revolt, and the assassination plot remained a subject of conjecture among historians. The pattern of organized opposition, however, was broken, and Atatürk's rule and the single- party state were never again seriously challenged. Another experiment withmultiparty politics was made in 1930 in the form of an authorized loyal opposition party, but this effort degenerated into factionalism and was quickly ended.
The Clothing Reform
With the clothing reform, women stopped wearing veils; they started to wear modern women's clothing. Men started to wear hats rather than the fez.
Civil Rights for Women
With the reforms of Atatürk, Turkish women, who for centuries had been neglected, were given new rights. Thus with the civil code passed, Turkish women would now have the same rights as men, could be appointed to official posts, would have the right to vote and to be elected to Parliament. The monogamy principle and equal rights forwomen changed the spirit of Turkish society.
Ataturk's Works on Turkish History
Following the reform of the script, which was meant to be a kind of nationalism in the cultural field, Atatürk concentrated his attention on history. He established the Turkish Historical Society in 1931. Here, Turkey's history was thoroughly examined and evaluated.
The New Calendar, Weights and Measures, Holidays and Surname Laws and many other reforms were achieved as well. An example of this is the Weekend Act of 1924, the International Time and Calendar System of 1925, the Obligation Law and Commercial Law of 1926, the System of Measures 1933 and the Surname Act, 1934. According to the law passed by the Grand National Assembly in 1932 Turks took surnames and the Nation's leader was given the surname of Atatürk, "Father of the Turks".
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