On October 29, 1923, establishment of the Republic of Turkey was officially declared, and Mustafa Kemal (Atatürk) was elected as President. Among the contemporary Turkish states, the Turkish Republic is the oldest state to represent the Turkish Civilization, and by virtue of this of its position, it has a well-earned weight and significance within the Turkish World.
The first years of the Republic are legendary years that lasted until the demise of Atatürk. Within this period of fifteen years between 1923-1938, an unprecedented rapid change was implemented, and the movement of westernizing and modernizing was put into practice with reforms that were applied in every social, economic, and cultural field. Atatürk was also determined to transform the political system into the multi-party democratic regime. The establishment, on November 17, 1924, of the Progressive Republican Party right after the abolishment of the Sultanate on November 2, 1922, the declaration of the Republic on October 29, 1923, and the abolishment of the Caliphate on March 3, 1924 is actually a clear indicator of a very rapid political change. After about a thousand years of religious monarchy ruling in Anatolia, however, it turned out that it was not possible to institutionalize a multi-party, democratic Republic rule within only two years. The transition to democracy was postponed until the elections of 1946.
The National Chief government established after Atatürk under the leadership of İsmet İnönü, and the years of World War II also had a significant impact on the delaying of the transition to democracy. We could briefly define the İnönü period as one that was more than a little introverted, and supported etatism while trying to maintain the status quo. Experienced statesman İnönüs displaying the vision and faculty in not going into World War II is deemed as one of the positive events of the period.
In the history of the Republic, the period that should be given the most emphasis second to that of Atatürk is, no doubt, the years between 1950-1960 which are called the Menderes Period. It is necessary to point out that in this period Turkey gained a great deal of stimulation in not only the economic activities but also socially, which constituted the impertus for its economic development. Naturally, these developments brought along the movements of population and an atmosphere of social integrity. In this respect, what we have is a slice of time which, no doubt, deserves to be mentioned as being associated with a drastic social change. This period was also active and successful with respect to foreign politics. In the aftermath of World War II, Turkey had its focus disorientated by the pressure inflicted by Soviet Russia. In fact, Turkey was forced to remain, at all times, in a state of military alert, and had to run a kind of martial economy. Turkey achieved full support after being admitted to the NATO on February 19, 1952.
The Democratic Party was erased from political life with the coup of May 27, 1960. During the five-year period that followed the Movement of May 27, such issues of domestic politics as the new Constitution (1961) and the coalition governments invaded the agenda, and a new political period began with the Demirel Government. This period witnessed significant leaps forward in investments in infrastructure and industrialization. Its Turkish community constantly being scorned in foreign legal affairs, Cyprus was nailed to the top of the agenda as of the fall of 1963, and with the military operation of July 20, 1974 which took place after the depressions of 1964 and 1967, the security of the Turkish community was ensured, and a temporary solution brought to the matter. The softening of relations between the blocks in the world as of 1960 had its influence on the Turkish foreign policy, and it was observed, especially as a result of President Johnsons attitude against Turkey, that Turkey had moved apart and away from its USA-oriented foreign policy. The Justice Party government of Demirel which started in 1965 was interrupted with the intervention of March 12, 1971, and a period of coalition governments began, in which period non-parliamentary government and political instability ruled again in Turkish politics. This ended up in a new coup, which was perpetrated on September 12, 1980.
The period of intermediary government ended with the general elections of 1983, and with the establishment of the Özal Government, a series of significant reforms were put into practice. It is observed that, especially, economic and political extroversion was accelerated and demilitarization was attached importance in this period. Turkey, in which Democratic Left Party Leader Ecevit still constitutes an element of balance as Prime Minister, has been displaying a foreign policy determination since the signing of the Ankara Agreement of 1959 for joining in with the European Union with full membership status.
The footsteps of the Russians which started a period of pain and regret in the Turkish world following the annexation of the northern Turkish provinces by the Russians upon the demise of the Kazan Khanate (1552), and which first became audible in Crimea with the seizure of Azak Castle (1699) by Peter I started to get louder in other Turkish regions in the time of Catherine II with the isolation of Crimea from the Anatolian Turks first, and then its annexation by Russia (1783). The predicament of the Turks of the Idil-Ural region and Crimea did not come to an end upon the forfeiture of their land; they were subjected to a plotted Tsardom policy which involved such diverse practices as assimilation, forced migration, and religious and cultural oppression. These said peoples rebelled at times against the rule of the Tsar, yet fuelled by the despair, such movements caused, each time, the oppression of the Tsardom thickened.
The Russian military force seized the Azerbaijani khanates in the Southern Caucasus in the first half of the 19th century, and then got involved in a very determined campaign against the Turkish and Muslim peoples of the Northern Caucasus. The actual source of the fight waged by the peoples of the region against the Russians spread, which intermittently continued throughout the century, was their Muslim identity which congregated them under a common roof in spite of their distinct languages and nationalities.
After the Crimean War (1853-1856), in another region, Turkistan, Russia started a new policy of expansionism as of the second half of the 19th century. In a short time, the three Turkish khanates of Turkestan, namely Bukhara, Khiva, and Khokand went down, and Turkish peoples came to live under Russian rule, either directly or under so-called autonomous administrations. The reflections of this situation were not restricted to the Turkish world; it also ignited the fuse of the Russian-British competition and rivalry which is dubbed, in todays literature, as the Big Game, and the deep effects of which we have seen in the history of diplomacy in late 19th century and early 20th century.
Another important event that influenced the destiny of Turkestan is the Chinese penetration into Eastern Turkistan the foundations of which were laid in China in the time of Ching. Although such leading names as Mehmet Emin Buğra and İsa Yusuf Alptekin have been replaced, the fight waged by the Turks of Eastern Turkistan against Chinese rule is still in progress.
Although the ideological legitimacy of Russia changed with the Bolshevik coup, one can not see many changes in the stance toward non-Russian peoples. Indeed, the Bolsheviks, who, led by Vladimir Lenin, once moved with the slogan of self-determination, transferred and focused, after the strengthening of their rule, all energy and efforts of theirs to the regions that had gotten out of Russian control, and reinstated Soviet/Russian rule by discarding the national governments formed in such places. And such national movements as the Basmacis, who resisted against accepting once more the Russian domination, were rapidly suppressed. Yet, the memory of their national governments has never disappeared from the minds of the Muslim and Turkish peoples who were made to live under the rule of the Soviet administration; furthermore, it offered them a very important reference point after their independence in 1991.
The most important element that changed in time was that the Soviet administration turned to ultimate solutions. The enforcers of the Soviet Nationality Policy, who were inspired, in its essence, by such philosophers and activists of Tsarist Russia as Nicolai Ilminskiy, realized that the only way of breaking the unity between the Turkish peoples was to abolish the common tongue, and to create new nations based on land, and channeled all their energy into this objective. And the destiny of the peoples, who still resisted against forgetting their national identity and consciousness, was the deportations of 1943-44 which could be identified as a human tragedy. It should be remembered that the predicament of the Crimean Tatars and the Ahiska Turks, who have been the victims of this deportation, has not yet come to an end.