FOREIGN POLICY ( 1923 - 1938 )


The young Turkish State had won a great victory in the War of Independence, but the heart of its foreign policy was in the now-famous phrase, "Peace at home, peace in the world." Atatürk had this to say on the subject: "War should be a necessity. My true opinion is this ; in leading my people into war 1 should feel no pangs of conscience. We should only go to war to preserve our lives against those who would take them. Unless the life of the nation is at stake, war is homicide. "

The great leader saw war as homicide, and erected his foreign policy accordingly. Indeed, the longest period of peace in Turkish history is embraced by the years of the Republic. With the exception of Korea, in which a small unit fought as a United Nations force, and the operation on Cyprus to save the Turkish population there, for 71 years Turkey has avoided armed conflict.

Until the death of Atatürk in 1938, the goals of foreign policy were:

- To rectify certain problematical features of the Lausanne Treaty.

- To take every precaution to ensure peace.

The first group of goals were brought about for the sake of peace. The Treaty of Lausanne had left Anatolia's southwestern border still undrawn, and this was remedied by the treaty of June 5, 1926 among Turkey, Great Britain and Iraq. In 1930 the problems arising after an exchange of populations between Turkey and Greece were resolved.

Mussolini's policy in the Mediterranean was disturbing to Turkey, as it was to France and Great Britain. The benefits of this may be analyzed as follows:

The Lausanne Treaty failed to give Turkey military sovereignty over the Straits, a situation which was harmful to Turkish security. With aggressive governments in both Italy and Germany, the question of the Straits became even more critical. In the end all the signatories to the Lausanne Treaty, with the exception of Italy, came together at Montreux. The status of the Straits changed, as passage in times of pace was guaranteed, and Turkey given complete control over the Straits (July 20, 1936). This agreement, originally intended to last for twenty years, is still in effect today. Further, with the help of Great Britain which wished to see France become a Turkish ally, Hatay ( with a Turkish population but outside the borders of Turkey), peacefully joined the homeland in 1939.

Although Atatürk was a powerful leader, he avoided the paths of dictatorship, thus making himself more popular with the democratic nations, and in the east providing an example to nations under the yoke of oppression.

One of the greatest reformers of all time, Atatürk passed away at a relatively early age on November 10, 1938. The death of such a great leader was mourned throughout the world. Much had been written about Atatürk during his lifetime, and since his death there have been further assessments and studies right up to our day, showing that Atatürk put his stamp on the age in which we live.

The researcher Orhan Kologlu has gathered the following published statements about Atatürk:

- This famous man, who has few peers, has attained a position in history reserved for the very few ( Iranian Speaker of Parliament Isfandiyari, at a session of Parliament).

- Together with Gladstone we can say the following. " Since the death of this rare individual the world is a less interesting place (Kojuhof in the newspaper Bulgar Slove).

- To his nation he devoted a zeal for reform (Camille Huysmans, Speaker of the Belgian Parliament, at a session of Parliament).

- He was a great soldier, a genius as a statesman, and a historical personage (Hitler in a message to Inönü).

- His inspiring successes have placed him in the galaxy of the immortals whom future generations will look upon with awe (Punjab President Sir Sikander Hayat Hun).

- His achievements, wrought with intelligence and success, will leave their mark on the history of peoples (French President Albert Labrun in a message to A.Renda).

- Atatürk won independence for his nation, and for himself the respect of the whole world (USA President F.D.Roosevelt).

- He was a very great man, a political genius (Former French Ambassador to Ankara Kammerer, in the newspaper Excelsior).

- An astonishing, appealing individual, great as a soldier but even greater as a statesman (The Japan Times, Tokyo).

- The greatest leader to come out of Asia Minor for centuries (The Japan chronicle, Kobe).

- Every country erects statues to those who have guided it to victory in war and prosperity in peace. But Turkey will have to drill mountains to find stone for its statue of Atatürk. For here was a man who aroused the admiration of friend and foe alike, a genius whose loss is felt not only by Turkey but by civilization and the entire world (Katimerini, Athens).

- One of the rare geniuses the world has produced, who changed the course of history (An Nahar, Beirut).

- Europe has lost one of the few constructive statesmen to emerge since the war (The Spectator, England).

- He was one of the leading statesmen of the postwar era, in a class by himself and unique in almost every way (The Fortnight, London).

- A giant has toppled (Berlingske Tidende, Copenhagen).

- One of the most interesting individuals in history has departed from the world stage (the Chicago Tribune).

- One of the most able leaders of the post-war era (The New York Times).

- A human miracle (L'Orient, Beirut).

- He was the victor of Lausanne; the first victory in two centuries to be won by old Asia against Europe (The New York Times).

- He was passionate about civilization (Neue Zürcher Zeitung).

- A man of great ideas, the architect of a state (Neue Frei Press, Vienna).

- Among the greatest individuals the world has known (Star of India, Delhi).

- No other name in our time has aroused the respect felt for Atatürk (The Observer, London).

- The world is poorer for having lost this great man, his hero of war and peace (Pesterloyd, Budapest).

- In this one man there was military genius, alongside genius in the spheres of statesmanship and philosophy (Vanguardia, Barcelona).

- He was the man who created the most splendid event of the twentieth century (National Tidende, Denmark).

- No other statesman has done so much for his country in such a short time (Libre Belgique, Brussels).

- A man who transcended centuries (Brive Zeme, Latvia).

- He was not only the head of a heroic nation; at the same time he was the greatest inspiration to humanity (Iran, Teheran).

In a far clearer fashion, the Greek historian A.V. Daskalavi noted the formation of a team to enact the reforms, and how these created a new type of person:

"(Atatürk was researching the roots and origins of the Turks) Let the Turks not be over-affected by what foreign historians have to say by way of praise or censure concerning their roots, for Kemal Atatürk has given them nobility to be envied by all the world's nations. Future generations of Turks will be able to point with pride at their ancestors, thanks to him."

Such encomiums for a new nation and state derived from the belief that it was firmly established. In general the view of the world was that the developments in Turkey could never be reversed. This belief is aptly summarized in the following statement by the Danish newspaper B. Tridende:

"He has left behind a Turkey equipped morally and physically to follow in this path."

There were those who approached the question from the standpoint of certain features of the East:

"Usually when a great man dies in the East he leaves behind a great chasm which permits every sort of intrigue, and where the only thing we can say with certainity is that there is no political continuity. But Turkey arouses no such doubts: Atatürk's creation will continue to exist, for it is a work created by Turkey. The Gazi both formulated the nation's will, and made it sacred... Today's Turkey is sound. Certain disappointment awaits those who would gamble that the country's policies will turn around or be abolished" (Kenneth Williams).

Count Sforza points out what Atatürk gained for the peoples of the East.

"Atatürk is an unexampled phenomenon in the history of the East, the first dictator to accomplish fundamental change peacefully, and to die amid heartfelt mourning as one of the people at the summit of fame and power. Compared with a Cromwell, a Washington, a Bonaparte or a Covour, his political life seems very short and without adventure...On my visits to Asia I saw the respect in which the new Turkey is held... It was all the work of Kemal, and for once in the Old World people were more curious about the reformer than the victorious warrior.

One very important thing distinguishes Atatürk from other post-war dictators, and points up the radical difference. Turks are grateful to Kemal for having preserved democracy despite all external reforms... The most mature of the Turks feel, with sure instinct common to the East, that Atatürk forever removed the possibility of another dictatorship. The last time I spoke with him he said, "My dictatorship has only one aim: to make any sort of new dictatorship impossible in Turkey."

This may seem like a contradiction in Western Europe, but not on the shores of the Bosphorus.

The Contribution to Humanity

- The Search for an East-West Synthesis

The modern world has been especially interested in Turkish Reform because of its universal nature. Two points receive the focus of this interest, the first being the search for an East-West synthesis through endeavors in the area of modernity.

Professor Eugene Pittard, who knew Atatürk personally, has this to say:

"How many heads of state, having undertaken the mighty task of creating a nation and securing its future-and a triumphant future- can find time for scholarly pursuits?"

The Comte de Chambrun speaks of this matter in the following way:

"He was uncomfortable speaking about his victories. What he was truly proud of were his efforts toward modernization.

Another view to come from the West is that Turkey's move toward modernization was not simply a matter of changing alphabets.

"Atatürk was a source of civilization, who desired not merely to Europeanize, but to give his nation a defense and promise for the future. He also wished to make Turkey a bridge between the East and the West".

According to this view, this type of East-West synthesis was the most suitable. Far from distancing Turkey from Europe, Turkish nationalism created closer ties with the West. Also, this synthesis was important in terms of the world at large.

"The modernization of Turkey is an astonishing chapter in human history, and its creator was Kemal. His death is a tragic loss to his country, but also a loss to the world, for he directed his country down the world's path of progress and dedicated himself to this cause. Never did he follow an adventurer's course, never did he swerve from his great aim."

- A Turkey Free of Enmities, Guarantor of Peace

Another reason for the world's special interest in Turkish Reform is the nation's determination to follow a peaceful course. While Europe was preparing for a new war, Turkey was the only country to take peace not as a mere word, but as something to pursue in practice through international agreements.

The most important factor in establishing the Balkan Entente and the Sadabat Pact was the final resolution of the age-old Eastern question. But there are three points to bear in mind.

The Creation of a Strong Turkey Dedicated to Peace

This matter is best expressed by the Speaker of the Hungarian Parliament, Gyulaa Kornis:

"In 1918... Turkey was a defeated nation seemingly in irreparable collapse. Today, twenty years later, we see a nation on the borders of Europe and Asia, economically and culturally prosperous, once again important internationally, and profiting from peaceful relations with all its neighbors."

Having earned a respect beyond that normally accorded a nation of 16 million, Turkey is now a power to be reckoned with in Europe.

A Turkey Freed of all its Former Enmities

Turkey is spoken of positively even by its enemies. The clearest examples are to be found in Greece. Standing before the coffin of this truly great man, a Greek journalist could not help but recall how much Atatürk's spiritual force, military prowess and abilities had cost the Greek nation... But this was forgotten on the day two friends and allies, Turkey and Greece, advanced together on the road of peace and prosperity, thanks to Atatürk's force and good will.

General Metaxas, a powerful man who was the Greek Premier, sent a message to the Turkish Prime Minister Celal Bayar in which he said the following.

"Greece, which has the highest estimation of the renowned leader and heroic soldier, enlightened creator of Turkey. We will never forget that President Atatürk was the true founder of the Turkish-Greek alliance, and that based on a framework of common ideals and peaceful cooperation he developed ties of friendship between the two nations which it would be unthinkable to dissolve. Greece will guard its fervent memories of this great man, who determined an unalterable future path for the noble Turkish nation."

Freedom from enmity was to apply to every nation. Mushanov, a former Bulgarian prime minister, said the following.

"During my visit to Ankara he expressed the view that Bulgaria and Turkey should be friends. An enemy of Bulgaria, he said, is an enemy of Turkey."

The Yugoslavs have similar observations:

"All friendly and allied nations, particularly Yugoslavia, share Turkey's pain at this moment. We will never forget that on the aftermath of King Alexander's assassination Atatürk sent a telegraph that included the words "Shall I declare mobilization?" Yugoslavia will never forget the name of Atatürk, the founder of a completely nationalist, powerful modern Turkey, whose influence is felt increasingly not only in Europe but also in Asia."

Turkey, Guarantor of Peace from the Danube to the Indian Border

This image has been repeated by all who spoke of Turkey.

"The internal and external security that is a symbol of the Atatürk era, combined with increasing prosperity and a response met in the world at large, all of this in a Turkey which in the Near and Middle East is now and will continue to be a factor for peace from the Danube to the Indian border."

Turkey's situation vis-a-vis the Straits and in the Middle East compel the great powers to consult her on all matters of import. The one-time trouble-maker now takes her place as a valuable and advanced element of European policy and is thus an example to all nations with which she allied (the Balkan and Sadabat Pacts).

Turkey's quality as a peace-loving nation is seen in her attitude toward competition, not to set nation against nation, but to live together in peace. This was true even at Atatürk's funeral:

"His funeral was Atatürk's final triumph, as opponents stood in silence before his coffin. Turkish and German soldiers walked together in one line behind it, and in another line Stalin's and Hitler's representatives were side by side. A wreath was sent by both Valencia (of the Republicans) and General Franco. Fascists, Democrats and Communists stood bowed before the coffin, while Turks of every class joined in weeping and lamentation. In this there was no difference between the rich and the poor, the high and the low. The ceremony experienced in Ankara today was like none ever seen in the world before."

This policy of Atatürk's was not for Turkey alone, but was an example and protection for all the nations from the Danube to the Indian border, and was stressed as such by the Asians (Japanese Press).

Beginning with the founding of the Republic, it was Atatürk's original genius that led to a realistic approach breaking down old habits to keep to this type of domestic and foreign policy... At the time of Atatürk's death the chief aim of Turkish foreign policy was to preserve peace and stability in the Near East, the Balkans and Western Asia, and to reinforce this approach in the nations of this region. This aim was able to prevent them from adopting one or the other of the ideologies threatening to break up Europe.

A Guarantor for the Future of Weaker Nations

Atatürk's emphasis on the importance of a bloc of smaller nations to oppose the super powers is seen in his speeches and in the policies of Republican Turkey.One day he said to me that there are smaller nations with ties to the larger, and that the future belongs rather to these smaller nations. This statement remains in my mind, for they came on the eve of his death from a man who was the wisest and most dependable in all of the Near East and indeed all the Orient, showing the profound meaning of a life full of successes (A French journalist). There was a great interest in Atatürk in oppressed nations, particularly those of the East. Proof of this is seen in many forms. Upon Atatürk's death, a month of mourning was declared in Iran; in India many shops were closed when the news of his death arrived, and Parliament was recessed. In Beirut, Damascus, North Africa and India, Mevlids were read in the mosques, sometimes bringing together as many as sixty thousand Muslims, and special days were set aside for this "greatest of Turkey, Islam and the world."

An Indian leader said the following:

"Among the worthy persons to come out of the war and play a role in the balance of powers in Europe after 1918, Kemal Atatürk was by far the most creative and constructive. His great success in war saved his people from foreign occupation. Following a number of defeats, his tireless and able diplomacy earned for Turkey a place among the major nations of Europe. At the same time by overcoming all insults and threats, he prevented Turkey from becoming a second-class nation paying tribute."

Leader of All Eastern and Weaker Nations

All the nations seeking this sort of respectability considered him the leader not just of Turkey, but of all the East and all oppressed peoples.

The assessment in Syria and Lebanon was generally that this was "a great loss not only for the Turkish nation, but for all the Eastern nations that were in need of a similar leader."

In Iraq they said, "Atatürk brightened the East miraculously for this generation. His appearance stunned the nations of the West."

China considered him the father of all the Asian nations.

The belief that Atatürk was the leader of the entire East was most broadly met in India. In Delhi the speaker of Parliament said that it was against tradition to mention foreign rulers and leaders, but that in the case of Atatürk there was cause for making an exception. " His impact was felt in the world politics of our day more than that of any other person; and his impact on the peoples of Asia is unexampled in modern times."

Subhas Chandra Bose, presiding over the congress, had an interesting reason for suggesting a Kemal day in India. Should the nations of Europe ever again attempt to occupy Asia, our defender on the west will be Kemal's Turkey. The death of such a peerless individual naturally is mourned by the entire world, and especially by all the oppressed and exploited nations."

The views of two famous Indian thinkers of our age are noteworthy. The first is Rabindrath Tagore, who speaking to students said:

"There was a time when Asia, to forget its current abased condition, looked to a glorious past. This led to imitation of the West, and the acceptance of a period of hopelessness and darkness.

The sudden appearance of a renaissance was miraculous, and Asia began to make itself accepted. In the Far East Japan adapted its resources to the age, and thereby took its place among the most respected nations of the earth. How unfortunate that Japan's impudence is preparing the way for her own downfall, making it impossible to look upon her as the protector of Asia's respectability. As we turned our gaze once again to the Turkey of Kemal, the bitter news came of his death. Until Kemal appeared, and made of today's Asia a reminder of the glorious victories of the past, Turkey was known as the Sick Man of Europe. His example gave the East hope for a new life, and from this standpoint Kemal is worthy of our respectful admiration. His death is a loss not only for Turkey but for all of Asia . The heroism of Kemal Pasha was not confined to the battlefield. He conducted a relentless war against what may be the worst enemy a people has to fight, the cruelty of the mindless. He was a great liberator of his people, and a great example to us, for by standing on the shifting sands of the prejudice that is religiosity, we are headed toward the breakup of our nation I can safely say to my fellow Indians that our society is developing under the weight of meaningless traditions. Unless you can meet the challenge of a new age and give up your prejudices, you are lost.


Source : Ministry Of Foreign Affairs