Peace at Home, Peace in the World...

Mankind is a single body and each nation a part of that body. We must never say "What does it matter to me if some part of the world is ailing ?" If there is such an illness, we must concern ourselves with it as though we were having that illness.

A military hero who had won victory after victory against many foreign invaders, Atatürk knew the value of peace and, during his Presidency, did his utmost to secure and strengthen it throughout the world. Few of the giants of the modern times have spoken with Atatürk's eloquence on the vital need to create a world order based on peace, on the dignity of all human beings, and on the constructive interdependence of all nations. He stated, immediately after the Turkish War of Independence, that "peace is the most effective way for nations to attain prosperity and happiness." Later as he concluded treaties of friendship and created regional ententes, he affirmed: " Turks are the friends of all civilized nations." The new Türkiye established cordial relations with all countries, including those powers which had tried a few years earlier to wipe the Turks off the map. She did not pursue a policy of expansionism, and never engaged in any act contrary to peaceful co - existence. Atatürk signed pacts with Greece, Rumania and Yugoslavia in the Balkans, and with Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan in the East. He maintained friendly relations with the Soviet Union, the United States, England, Germany, Italy, France, and all other states. In the early 1930s, he and the Greek Premier Venizelos initiated and signed a treaty of peace and cooperation.

In 1932, the League of Nations invited Türkiye to become a member. Many of Atatürk's ideas and ideals presaged the principles enshrined in the League of Nations and the United Nations." As clearly as I see daybreak, I have the vision of the rise of the oppressed nations to their independence... If lasting peace is sought, it is essential to adopt international measures to improve the lot of the masses. Mankind's well-being should take the place of hunger and oppression... Citizens of the world should be educated in such a way that they shall no longer feel envy, avarice and vengefulness." In recognition of Atatürk's untiring efforts to build peace, the League of Nations paid tribute to him at his death in November 1938 as " a genius international peacemaker". In 1981, on the occasion of the Centennial of his birth, the United Nations and UNESCO honored the memory of the great Turkish Statesman who abhorred war - " Unless the life of the nation faces peril, war is a crime," - and expressed his faith in organized peace :" If war were to break out, nations would rush to join their armed forces and national resources. The swiftest and most effective measure is to establish an international organization which would prove to the aggressor that its aggression cannot pay."

His creation of modern Türkiye and his contribution to the world have made Atatürk an historic figure of enduring influence.

Domestic Policy (1923 - 1938)...

Why did the reforms which began in the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century fail to meet with the success achieved by those in Japan ? The Empire was not homogenous: The nationalist movements that began in the 19th century could not have been prevented. The nations of the West constantly fomented troubles among the Ottoman minorities, with which they felt an affinity. Russia wished to establish its presence on the Mediterranean by protecting those of the Orthodox Faith, who constituted the largest non - Muslim minority in the Ottoman Empire. Great Britain saw this Russian policy as a threat to its own interests, and "protected" the Ottomans until the end of the 19th century. This was, however, exploitative protection. When the German Union was established in 1871, this new imperialist force effected a rapprochement with the Ottomans.

Having been on the defensive in an endless series of wars since the early 18th century, the Ottomans found themselves with an economy in collapse. The capitulations had been used entirely as a means of explorations. Most important of all, the Turks had watched passively as science and technology developed in Europe, and had failed to reform their educational system. The reforms of the 19th century had created a polarity in the culture, for the old scholastic system of education continued to exist side by side with the new schools, and there was a chasm between those who emerged from the one and those who emerged from the other. Despite legal reforms, the state continued to be a theocratic one, thus limiting the effectiveness of what Westernizing reforms were made. In founding the Turkish Republic, the great leader Atatürk was well aware of all this. In addition, he took inspiration from the Age of Enlightenment and the French Revolution, with the democratization that it brought. All of the principles of Turkish reform were established by Atatürk. This powerful leader put his principles into action whenever the opportunity presented itself, and philosophized about them afterwards. At the same time he strove to make them permanent. In a succinct manner he described the aim of all the reforms : To achieve the level of contemporary civilization, which of course meant Western civilization. But Atatürk was a pragmatist, and knew that civilization was to be taken from any and all sources, so long as it could be adapted to Turkish society.

At the heart of Atatürk's reforms were rationalism, the use of intelligence, and the love of humankind.

The Political Side...

At the very outset of the War of Independence, a new state was founded that replaced an age-old Turkish tradition, the sovereignty of one individual, with the sovereignty of the nation (April 23rd, 1920), and this for the first , time in Asia. With victory won, the sultanate was abolished forever (November 4th, 1922) and a Republic proclaimed (October 29th, 1923), so that there was no longer any need for the Caliphate, which was at odds with the fundamental philosophy of the new state, and was abolished by the National Assembly on March 3rd, 1924. A new organization responsible to the Prime ministry was established to deal exclusively with matters of Muslim worship. Thus the theocratic nature of the government was reduced almost to nil, and a secular state launched.

In 1924 a modern new Constitution was adopted , with the aim of creating the conditions necessary for democracy. In 1928 an amended Constitution removed the last vestiges of government involvement in religion, thus making the Republic thoroughly secular. In 1934 another amendment to the Constitution gave women the right to vote for deputies to the National Assembly, and to run for office. In this matter Türkiye was in advance of many European nations. Further change in 1937 put into the Constitution six of the fundamental principles of Turkish reform : Republicanism, Nationalism, Populism, Statism, Secularism and Reformism. These principles are still part of the Constitution today.


As for Republicanism, with this principle Turkish reforms find concrete backing in the structural nature of the state. Türkiye is a state, governed by democratic principles and democracy itself is basically political, intellectual and egalitarian.


The main objective of the Kemalist revolution was to create an independent national state whose basis was the national resistance spirit. The last stage reached today in the development of societies is the nation. Through Nationalism, Atatürk gave his own people a national identity and the Turkish Nation reached the final victory by orientation to the national objectives and common interests. The nation is not a race, but a togetherness of spirits and a moral medium moulded by history. The spirit of nationality, or simply nationalism, appears as a deep - rooted psychological affinity to and respect for the national history and successes and miseries in the past. This spirit does not solely consist of an appreciation of the past and of the things which occurred in the past. There is another factor of nationalism : the aims, hopes and expectations directed to the future.


The principle of Populism symbolizes the contemporary concept of democracy, and the rational nationalism that can develop and flourish only in free and democratic countries. Populism is a cornerstone of the state and is a form of the consciousness of national sovereignty. The nation shall be governed by persons elected by the people. Their duty is to defend the country's independence both at domestic and international levels. Parallel to the essence of this principle it has been guaranteed, in the Turkish laws that each Turkish citizen possesses equal rights regardless of race, sex, creed etc. and the state treats them equally.


Statism was admitted into the political life of Türkiye in 1936 as one of the basic characteristics of the Turkish State by a constitutional amendment. The statism adopted by Türkiye, retains individual initiative as the basic factor while it commits the state particularly in the field of economics in order to raise the country to a high level of welfare taking into account the general and high interests of the nation. According to Atatürk, the moderate statism that he had devised is the system best suited to the country's requirements. He has made the following priority listing for the duties and responsibilities of the state :
  • To act in leading Türkiye toward industrialization and the contemporary level of civilization
  • To establish and maintain public order in the country and to preserve individual freedoms
  • To provide the means of political freedom and well - being of individuals
  • To maintain good relations with foreign powers in order to safeguard and guarantee the country's future


Secularism, a corollary of democracy, characterizes best Atatürk's modern society and the young Turkish Republic. This principle provides for the administration of the state by contemporary laws based on scientific facts as well as for freedom of thought distinct from the pressure of any type of dogma.


The principle of Reformism is instrumental in following up developments and advances in the world of science. Through reformism, Türkiye can reach the level of contemporary civilization. How, then, did democratic movements come about in the framework of these reforms ? Atatürk was passionate about liberty and democracy. "All rights," he said in 1931, "are based on the individual..." In a democracy neither the state nor any other party may interfere with the freedoms of the individual." "Democracy means love of the country." Following the foundation of the Republic, Atatürk wished to institute democracy in all its principles and manifestations, and said, "We Turks are at heart democratic".

Despite the evident respect and even longing for democracy inherent in these words, until 1945 Türkiye did not have a multi - party system, even though there was nothing in the Constitution or in law to prevent the founding of political parties. The leader of the nation also was eager on this point. One may cite two instances of an approach to a multi - party system prior to 1945. One was in 1924, when a number of Atatürk's comrades in arms opposed him for personal and ideological reasons, and founded a new party. This was tolerated even though the regime had as yet scarcely been established.

The Depression of 1930 affected Türkiye as well as other countries, and Atatürk was of the opinion that the government should be controlled, new ideas presented. For this, a multi - party system was needed. At that time the renowned statesman Fethi (Okyar) Bey, a close friend of Atatürk's, was the Ambassador to France. He declared his intention, probably with the encouragement of Atatürk, to found a new party. Atatürk's response was positive. As long as it did not violate the principle of secularism, new parties would be welcome. Thus in 1930 Fethi Bey established the Republic's third political party. Unfortunately a certain number of conservatives who were disturbed by Atatürk's reforms used this party for their own purposes. The party lost its democratic basis, and eventually dissolved itself.

These six basic principles constitute the roots of the Republic of Türkiye.

Legal Reforms...

Canonical law was the essence of the Ottoman legal system, although a combination of custom and jurisprudence also existed that gave the sultan a certain freedom of action. In point of fact, Islamic law was progressive for its age, and with the exception of certain matters was even modern. But through the ages, while secular law was being developed in the West, Ottoman law, as in so many other areas, remained rigidly fixed. In 1839 the famous Tanzimat reform movement brought legal changes as well as others, as certain European laws not in direct contradiction with the Islamic code were adopted. Nevertheless the legal system still left much to be desired. The Republican government put an end to the confusion in this sphere. Above all; there was now a national state, so that the conditions existed for legal reform. The essence of this reform was that men and women be completely equal before the law. There had to be a civil code which would resolve this and other problems, and after long debate the most recent, advanced code in Europe was settled on in 1926, the civil code of Switzerland. According to this,
  • Men and women were equal
  • Women were free to choose any profession
  • Marriage was to be with a single spouse
  • Divorce would involve equal conditions for the man and woman
  • Men's and women's shares in heritance were to be equal

After these changes, others were made in other areas. For example, under the old system two female witnesses were required, but only one male witness. Laws concerning commerce and business were revised, as were articles of the penal code. In all these areas there was reform.


Reforms in education were particularly important if changes in other areas were to be properly grasped, and to be lasting. The fundamental reforms enacted by the government of the Republic were as follows :
  • All education based on religion was abolished, and all schools placed under state direction
  • Serious steps were taken to make primary school education mandatory

The biggest single step was the adoption of the Roman alphabet. Arabic script, completely incompatible with Turkish, had been a major cause of sterility in philosophy and letters, and in 1928 it was replaced by an essentially Roman alphabet in the short space of only six months. Suddenly the reading and writing of Turkish became far easier to learn, and tens of thousands of adults were taught literacy in the special schools set up for this purpose. This single reform did much to make the culture of the West accessible to the Turkish nation.

It was only natural that all of this should have an impact on the life of science, scholarship and thought. Among the Ottomans there were many madrashahs, where Islamic thought was the subject of study, and only in 1900 was the first university opened in Istanbul. True universities were needed if science and letters were to progress, and in 1933 Atatürk refounded the University of Istanbul. This is an important date for higher education in Türkiye, for at this time Türkiye opened its arms to Jewish and other scholars and scientists fleeing, or being run out of, Hitler's Germany. In Türkiye they found safety and civilized surroundings, and they were the true founders of Turkish universities, which today number thirty.

The modernizing reforms together make up a whole. Having turned its face to the West, the nation brought about a great change through individual steps, each of which may seem like a detail, but taken together amount to a great achievement. Those we may cite are the following :
  • Clothing was secularized. Henceforward divines were to dress like any other citizen, except when leading worship. An exception was the highest placed divine in each religion.
  • The fez, which in point of fact has no place either among the Turks or in Islam, had in a short time become a symbol of religion. Now it was abolished.
  • The internationally accepted calendar was adopted, as were European units of time, weight and length. Numerals also took their western forms.

In all these reforms, the goal was to create a modern, advanced society.