Mustafa Kemal Atatuerk was an Albanian
Mustafa Kemal Ataturk: Overfather of the Turks
The downsides of his cultural revolution are still noticeable today. According to the idea of the republic's founder, the Turkish nation should be "one and indivisible". But tensions with ethnic minorities soon arose in the state structure. Separatist movements such as that of the Kurds were brutally suppressed and their relatives were forcibly assimilated. Mustafa Kemal had Armenians kidnapped and massacred ruthlessly, and Kurds chastised and declared "mountain Turks" - measures that will continue to have an effect in the 21st century and have not allowed the country to calm down to this day.
Mustafa Kemal Ataturk has his place in history: He created a secular state based on the Western European model, in which secularism is the state maxim, which no longer had a deputy of the Prophet Mohammed on earth at its head, but a president. In all of this, Ataturk was not: a democrat. He ruled with dictatorial authority and broke all resistance to his belief in progress with brute force. Anyone who defied the authoritarian leader of the nation faced the worst - even if it was only about economic issues. He unceremoniously left the opposition financial expert Djavid, who advocated letting foreign investors into the country, hanged. He saw himself as the nation's first disciplinarian - and from 1934 he was officially called "Ataturk", father of the Turks.
Mustafa Kemal Ataturk died early, on November 10, 1938, in the Dolmabahçe Palace, in Istanbul of all places, in the metropolis he had disenchanted, in one of the palaces of the sultan he had overthrown. His successors occasionally loosened the political reins, democratized the country, and also allowed a certain degree of re-Islamization and a return to traditions. Which in turn brought coups in Turkey and war-like conditions like in Kurdistan. Ataturk's long arm, it still reaches across the country. For better or for worse.
Turkey is still working on the legacy of its founder. Ataturk saved his country from territorial fragmentation by the allied victorious powers and, as the victorious organizer of the national war of liberation, drove the Greeks out of the country. Because of this, the visionary founder of modern Turkey is still widely admired by the people. For radical Islamists, however, the modernizer is a red rag because he has done something monstrous for them: to radically separate religion and state and subordinate spiritual power to secular power.
But since Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been in charge in Turkey, Ataturk's legacy has crumbled. 90 years after the founder of the state threw the Sultan out of the country and abolished the caliphate, the new strong man on the Bosporus sets out to turn back the wheel of history. Similar to 1923, Turkey is experiencing a social upheaval - but with the opposite sign. Erdoğan and his Islam-oriented ruling party AKP are systematically dismantling Kemalism and making Islamism their guiding ideology. Erdoğan himself, who undermined the rule of law and brought the media into line, speaks of a “new Turkey” and a “pious generation”. The 12th President does not dare to publicly criticize the founder of the republic, but since the failed coup attempt in July 2016, the new sultan on the Bosporus has seized the opportunity to finally transform Ataturk's secular Turkey in the direction of a re-Islamization of society.
Only a few months ago he cleared the last hurdle that stood in the way of his pursuit of absolute power. On July 9, he took the oath of office as president in front of the parliament in Ankara. In the new presidential republic, Erdoğan enjoys almost as much power as the Ottoman sultans once did, in whose tradition he sees himself and whose rule he has glorified to legitimize the system he is striving for: an authoritarian Islamist regime under a sultan-like ruler.
Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan - the two presidents of Turkey could not be more different in their political orientation. And yet they have a lot in common. Both statesmen, the secular republic founder and the neo-Ottoman Islamist, are not squeamish in their choice of means; both pursue their goals with authoritarian means. And both presidents, the first and the twelfth, share a picture of the history of their country that only vaguely corresponds to reality.
In a few years, 2023, Turkey will celebrate its 100th anniversary. It will be interesting to see what role the founder of that state will then play.
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