Turkey was formally proclaimed a republic in Oct., 1923, with Mustafa Kemal Atatürk as its first president; he was reelected in 1927, 1931, and 1935. The caliphate was abolished in 1924, and in the same year a constitution was promulgated that provided for a parliament elected by universal manhood suffrage (extended to women in 1934), and for a cabinet responsible to parliament. However, Atatürk governed as a virtual dictator, and his Republican People’s party was the only legal party, except for brief periods. During the 14 years of Atatürk’s rule, Turkey underwent a great transformation, which changed the religious, social, and cultural bases of Turkish society as well as its political and economic structure.
In 1925, the government intensified its antireligious policy, abolished religious orders, forbade polygamy, and prohibited the wearing of the traditional fez. In 1926, Swiss, German, and Italian codes of law were adopted and civil marriage was made compulsory. In 1928, Islam ceased to be the state religion and the Latin alphabet was substituted for the Arabic script.
At the death (1938) of Atatürk, Turkey was well on its way to becoming a state on the Western model. In the economic field, Atatürk aimed at obtaining self-sufficiency for Turkey without the aid of foreign capital. Foreign investors had virtually taken over the finances of the Ottoman Empire, and one of the major problems of the Turkish republic was to pay off the old Ottoman debt; the refusal of foreign loans thus was a basic point in Kemal’s nationalist program. The difficulties of establishing basic heavy industries without foreign investment and in the absence of much domestic capital required the government to assume a large role, and state ownership became the rule in the new industries.
In foreign policy, Turkey sought friendly relations with all its neighbors. It entered the League of Nations in 1932, guaranteed its European borders by joining (1934) with Greece, Romania, and Yugoslavia in the Balkan Entente, and signed (1937) a treaty (the Saadabad Pact) with Afghanistan, Iran, and Iraq. Although Communism was severely suppressed at home, relations with the USSR were cordial until World War II. Turkey was able to obtain a revision of the Straits Convention by the Montreux Convention of 1936 and gained a satisfactory solution of the Alexandretta dispute through an agreement with France in 1939.
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