It was in 1923 that the Republic of Turkey appeared on the face of the globe. The Turks consider the preceding years i.e. 1919-1922 as the years of their struggle for independence. The Turkish state that was formed as a consequence of this struggle was a completely new republic despite the fact that various partition schemes were proposed by the triumphant Allies during and after The Great War I (Alaranta 115). This paper will discuss the rise of the Secular Turkish Republic. It will elaborate the state of the empire when Sultan Abdul Hamid II came into power. It will also tackle the actions taken under his leadership to restrain European authority and involvement which eventually led to Sultan's demise. However, the rise of the secular Turkish Republic is mainly due to the countless efforts of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. Therefore, this paper would extensively discuss the construction of Turkish history and identity in the years during the establishment of Ataturk's republic.
Sultan Abdul Hamid II: Leadership
Sultan Abdul Hamid II, the son of Sultan Abdul Majid and the thirty-fourth Sultan of the Ottoman Empire inherited a penniless and ruined empire. The Ottoman debt increased progressively with the beginning of the Crimean War (1853-1856). As the ruler of the empire, Sultan was weighed down with challenges of maintaining a large standing army and renovating it in the face of continuous threats from the foreign powers. Thus, the need of the time was to borrow continuously. The intense burden of debt affected all the aspects of the Sultan's period of influence. Not only did the debt burden cast a long shadow on the international relations and political reorganization but also impacted the educational and agricultural facets of the empire (Ahmed).
The weakened condition of the military and economy of the Ottoman Empire made it a prospected prey of the European imperial ambitions. During this period of history, Russia, France, Italy and Great Britain in particular, were all set to conquer the weak and unstable states. The nineteenth century Europe demonstrated an assortment of nationalists. At the same time, it was the Ottoman Empire only that supported to maintain a multi-religious, multi-ethnic and multi-national state. Unluckily, the fractures in the weakened empire were all too plain as the nose on one's face. These fissures were a tempting invitation for the foreign powers to meddle and interfere in the affairs of the empire. The European powers were firm to gobble up the bankrupt Ottoman Empire. They wanted to use the religious and racial divisions as political opportunities to conquer the Turkish homeland. The broke Ottoman state was not strong enough to support and protect and was persistently trying to find allies who would assure the empire's territorial integrity. This situation left two choices for Sultan Abdul Hamid II; either wage a gallant struggle to release the empire or rescue its central Islamic components in case he would have to lose the Christian provinces. Following this quest, he chose diplomacy instead of war. He wanted to challenge the purposes of one European power against the other European power. However, he negotiated where required and sometimes also bought time to restructure and improve the institutions holding the empire as one. The Sultan was successful to a great extent. However, his high-handed, oppressive and tyrannical manner of dictating won him the disapproval of his subjects. His successful reforms turned out to be so powerful that the forces behind then eventually curbed his power and directed the empire to its downfall (Ahmed).
The supreme mark of respect for Sultan Abdul Hamid II lies in the fact that still in the present day, a lot of Muslims around the world call up his name with reminiscence for a long-gone period. They remember and long for the time when the acclaimed Sultan provided full focus for the Islamic community worldwide and presented it the wisdom of universal brotherhood. During his reign, even the Muslims as distant as India and Nigeria were dependent on him for supervision and leadership. His office branched out to help the Muslims religiously, politically, culturally and socially; not only to those residing in Turkey but all around the world. The Ottoman fez turned out to be not just a cap for the Turkish people but for the whole Islamic world. Regrettably, he collapsed due to his pursuing of the modernization program through an exceedingly innermost, personal approach. This mannerism made people disappointed in him who charged him of authoritarianism and repression. As already discussed, he got the kingdom at a point it was completely broke and ruined and had no strength to defend itself against the foreign powers. He was challenged with forces of nationalism and internal terrorism at the same time. Though his efforts made the preservation of the Islamic core of the mighty empire possible for 40 years Islamic but his dictatorial style didn't prove to be fruitful for him. He managed to curb the European influence in the empire for some time but his methods eventually failed and he was overthrown at the end (Ahmed). The "Sick Man of Europe," as Europeans referred to the Turkish Empire, finally got rid of the Sultan who tried his best to save the kingdom but was not completely successful in doing so.
Mustafa Kemal Ataturk
Mustafa Kemal Ataturk was an Ottoman and Turkish military officer, avant-garde statesman, author, and is most renowned as the founder of the Republic of Turkey. He was an army officer during the Great War I. He escorted the Turkish national movement in the Turkish War of Independence after the Ottoman Empire got defeated in World War I. He was also successful in defeating the forces sent by the Allies after establishing an interim government in Ankara. It was due to his excellently-led military campaigns that the Republic of Turkey came into being as an independent country. Ataturk then went on board to launch a series of programs to revolutionize the politics, economy and culture of the country. He had an unwavering aim of transforming the ex-Ottoman Empire into a contemporary, westernized and secular nation-state. The philosophy and ethics behind the reforms of Ataturk established a modern Turkey and are popularly recognized as Kemalism ("Mustafa Kemal Ataturk").
Turkey was officially announced a republic in October 1923. Mustafa Kemal was elected as the state's first president. He was later reelected for the same position in the years 1927, 1931, and 1935. Just after one year of coming into the office, Ataturk abolished the caliphate in 1924. He also gave orders of the promulgation of a new constitution in the same year. This constitution "provided for a parliament elected by universal manhood suffrage (extended to women in 1934), and for a cabinet responsible to parliament" ("Turkey, Country, Asia and Europe"). On the other hand, Ataturk presided over the government as an implicit totalitarian. He solitary allowed his Republican People's party to be the only legal party in the country. He ruled Turkey for about fourteen years during which the country experienced a great transformation. The revolutions and reforms done by Ataturk not only modified the religious, societal, and civilizing foundations of Turkish society but also altered the political and economic structure of the former Ottoman Empire ("Turkey, Country, Asia and Europe").
An Overview of Reforms by Ataturk
The antireligious policies of the Ataturk's government intensified in 1925. In order to make Turkey a modernized state, Ataturk ordered to abolish the religious orders. He put a ban on polygamy i.e. no Turkish man or woman was allowed to have more than one wife or husband simultaneously. Fez, the traditional Turkish hat, was prohibited to be worn by anyone. As Ataturk was so inspired by the European lifestyle and laws; he adopted the Swiss, German, and Italian codes of law in 1926. He also made civil marriage obligatory. At last in 1928, Turkey became one of those countries where Islam was no more the state religion. Ataturk also substituted the Arabic script with Latin alphabet. In 1923, Ataturk had made Constantinople the capital city of turkey instead of Ankara. He renamed Constantinople as Istanbul later ("Turkey, Country, Asia and Europe").
Kemal departed to the next world in 1938. However, till that time, he had been successful in reforming the Turkish nation completely and the country had turned out to be the replica of a Western model state. Kemal was also keen to make Turkey self-sufficient economically. He wanted the Turkish nation to be strong enough to survive without the aid of foreign capital. After the demise of Sultan Abdul Hamid II, the finances of the Ottoman Empire had been virtually taken over by the foreign investors. It had, thus, became a difficult task for the Turkish government to pay off the old Ottoman debt. Therefore, seeing this major problem, Kemal's nationalist program was all set to refuse foreign loans in the future. However, it was not an easy task to establish basic heavy industries without being facilitated by the foreign…