Brief History

An Outline of Turkish History up to 1923 
    The Turks and the First Turkish States: The Turks who are a national community merged under the same language belonging to the Uralo-Altaic linguistic group, first stepped on to the stage of history in the 7th century B.C. at the foot of the Köğmen Mountains.

According to Chinese records, the political existence of the Turks in Asia commenced with the Huns (Xiongnu) in the 3rd century B.C. The Huns who had established a great empire under the reign of Mete Khan, defeating the Mongols and the Yuechis, established control over the western gates of China and trade routes.

     After the collapse of the Asian Hun Empire, in 552 the Göktürk Empire was founded at the eastern foot of the Altai Mountains. For the first time, the Göktürks employed the word “Türk” as an official state name. Bilge Khagan and Kül Tegin were recorded in history as the sagacious and heroic figures of Turkish statesmanship. Both these Khans and another Göktürk statesman, Tonyukuk, immortalized their accomplishments in texts entitled the “Orkhun Inscriptions”, which are regarded as the first written documents of Turkish history.
     In 741, the Uigurs founded another Turkish State after the Göktürks. However, they were dispersed as a result of a raid carried out by the Kirghiz Turks in the capital.

Orkhun Inscriptions

      The West Huns, the descendants of the Asian Huns dwelling in the Turkistan region close to Lake Aral, left their homeland due to the pressure from the Uars and migrated to the west of the Volga River. Starting from the Başbuğ (big chief) Balamir period, the West Huns moved towards central Europe, starting from north east. This is how the “Great Migration of Peoples” which changed the ethnic outlook of Europe commenced, extending all the way to Spain and causing turmoil in the northern provinces of the Roman Empire.

In 434, Attila took control of the West Hun Empire, known as the first Turkish state established in Europe. During Attila’s reign, which put all of the barbarian tribes in Europe and even the Byzantine and West Roman empires into submission, the Empire was at its peak.

The second Turkish tribe proving its existence and power in Europe was the Avars. The Avars, who turned towards the west in 552 when the Göktürk State was founded, first settled in Caucasia and the north of the Black Sea, then advancing westwards, they dominated the area spanning from the present day Greek border to Germany. They laid siege to İstanbul in 626 together with the Bulgarian Turks, and advanced up to the Byzantine walls. The first Turks in history to besiege İstanbul were the Avars.

After the Avars, the Khazars came into being in Europe. They established a powerful empire between the 7th and 10th centuries, which extended from Volga to Kiev. The Khazars exercised great religious tolerance on the people of various faiths living in the lands they dominated. Khazars, who spoke Turkish as the most widespread language, was to name the Caspian Sea (Khazar Sea) after themselves. The Khazars’ political existence as a state came to an end in 968.

Following the Khazars, the Turkish existence in Europe continued with the Pechenegs from the 10th century on. The Pechenegs, unable to withstand the pressure of the Khazar-Oghuz alliance, crossed the Volga and reached Hungary. They forced the Hungarians from their lands and settled there in the 880s, they suffered a bitter defeat in their history, in the bloody battle with the Byzantine-Cuman forces on the shores of the Meriç River (The Maritsa). Thus, the political life of the Pechenegs came to an end. With the Pechenegs receding from the stage of history, the first 700 year phase of the Turkish adventure in Europe finished. The Turks would not be seen in Europe for the next 200 years.



Twin headed eagle design on the İnce

(Thin) Minaret, Seljuk Period – KONYA 



Turkish History in the Islamic Era: After the collapse of the Uigur State in 840, the Karakhanid State was founded. Islam was adopted as the official religion during the reign of Satuk Buğra Khan, the Karakhanid monarch. The foundations of the historical formation referred to as the “Turkish-Islamic culture and civilization” were laid down during this period.

During the rule of the Karakhanids the Ghaznavid State, a second Turkish state, was founded (969-1187), its capital being Ghazna in Afghanistan. Mahmud of Ghazna, using for the first time the title “Sultan”, launched many military campaigns in India and, Islamizing these lands, he laid the foundations for today’s Pakistan. After Sultan Mahmud’s reign The Ghaznavids retreated to India after losing the Dandanakan War (1040) with the Seljukids and later fell under the dominance of the Seljukids.

        The Great Seljuk State (1040-1157) was founded by Selçuk Bey, a descendant of the Kınık tribe of the Oghuz Turks.

    The Seljuks, establishing superiority over the Karakhanids and the Ghaznavids, successfully established Turkish unity. The Sultan of the Seljuks Tuğrul Bey, entered the capital of Abbasid Caliphate Baghdad and brought the Shiite Buwayhid State to an end in 1055, and therefore was bestowed with the title of “Sultan of the World” by the Caliph. His successor Alparslan, defeating Diogenes at Malazgirt (Menzakirt) in 1071, literally opened up the gates of Anatolia to the Turks. The Great Seljuk State experienced its brightest period during the reign of Sultan Melikşah, and the Nizamiye Madrasahs, which constituted the foundation of western university institutions, were established in this period.
       Following the demise of Sultan Melikşah, the Great Seljuk State was partitioned into smaller states such as the Syrian Seljuks (1092-1117), Iraq and Khorasan Seljuks (1092-1194), Kirman Seljuks (1092-1187) and the Seljuk Turks (1092-1308). Meanwhile, the Khorezm Shah State (1097-1231) was founded on the State’s land.
       The most prominent of these little states was the Anatolian Seljuk State, founded by Kutalmışoğlu Süleyman Bey, with its capital at İznik (Nicaea). The Crusaders heading to the capital, Konya, during the reign of Mesud I, the son of Kılıç Arslan I, were defeated near the Ceyhun. Kılıç Arslan II, the successor and son of Mesud I, routed the Byzantine army at Myriokephalon near Denizli, eradicating the influence of the Byzantine Empire over Anatolia. The Anatolian Seljuks experienced their most brilliant period during the reign of Sultan Alaeddin Keykubad I. However, the monarch’s being poisoned to death caused chaos in the country. The uprising of the Babais was followed by the Mongol invasion. Following the Kösedağ War in 1243, Anatolia was invaded by the Mongols. 099-01

Sahib Ata Tomb, from Beylik Period – KONYA


        Upon the weakening of the Mongol dominance in the late 13th century, the Turkomans who had settled on the frontiers founded the Beyliks (principalities) of Karaman, Germiyan, Eşref, Hamid, Alaiye, Ramazan, Dulkadir, Taceddin, Menteşe, Candar, Pervane, Sahib Ata, Karesi, Saruhan, Aydın, İnanç and Osmanoğulları (the Ottomans). During this period, called the “Beyliks Era”, the whole of Anatolia became Turkish territory.

On the other hand in Egypt, following the demise of the last Ayyubid monarch EsSalih Necmeddin, the Turkish Kölemen (Mameluke) State was founded by army commander İzzeddin Aybeg (1250-1517). The al Mansura Victory was won and therefore the 7th Crusade was made ineffective during the reign of Sultan Aybeg. Moreover, during the reign of Seyfeddin Kotuz, the Mongol-Armenian-Crusaders alliance suffered a crushing defeat and was prevented from entering Syria. The Mameluke State was brought to an end by the Ottomans.

One of the most significant states of the 14th century was the Timurid State (1370-1507). It was founded by Timur, who ruled of one of the Çağatay Khanates. In a short period of 35 years, Timur expanded the borders of his state from the Volga River to the Ganges River, and from the Tanrı Mountains to İzmir and Damascus. The empire disintegrated after his demise. Only Hüseyin Baykara managed to hold out in Khorasan. Herat, the capital city, became one of the most prominent cultural centres in Turkish history. Ali Şir Nevai, the Turkish statesman and poet, grew up there.

The Turkoman group Karakoyunlu, composed of the Yıva, Yazır, Döğer and Avşar clans of the Oghuz tribe, founded the Karakoyunlu State in the area between Irbil and Nakhichevan (1380-1469). The Karakoyunlu monarch Kara Yusuf had to take refuge with the Ottoman monarch Yıldırım Bayezid when pressured by Timur. This move was also the reason behind the Battle of Ankara. After the battle in 1406, re-establishing his state, Kara Yusuf annexed Mardin, Erzincan, Baghdad, Azerbaijan, Tabriz, Kazvin and Sultaniye to his kingdom. After his death, turmoil broke out in the country. Although Cihan Shah managed to reunite the kingdom, he suffered a defeat against the Akkoyunlu ruler Uzun Hasan in Mardin and came under the dominance of the Akkoyunlu State.

The Akkoyunlu Turkomans founded the Akkoyunlu State in Diyarbakır area (1350-1502). Originally founded by Kara Yülük Osman Bey, the state experienced its brightest times during the reign of Uzun Hasan. However, upon Uzun Hasan’s defeat in the Otlukbeli Battle (1473) against Ottoman ruler Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror, the unity of the Akkoyunlu State weakened and after a while collapsed.

In the meantime, Shah İsmail, taking advantage of the turmoil the Akkoyunlu State was in, gathered the Turkomen living in various parts of Iran and founded the Safavid State (1501). Shah İsmail expanded his territories with a stern sectarian policy of Shiitism. However, when he coveted Anatolia, he confronted the Ottoman Emperor Yavuz Sultan Selim in Çaldıran and suffered a decisive defeat (1514). Moreover, all of the Safavid rulers following Shah İsmail lost all their battles against the Ottomans. The Safavid State was shaken with the foundation of Avshar State by Nadir Shah, and was officially terminated in 1760.



During its construction, architects for the

Taj Mahal were sent from the Ottoman State. 

     A member of the Timur dynasty Zahirüddin Babür, famed for his work written in Turkish, the “Vekayi (Babürname)”, founded the Babür Empire in India (1526). After his demise, his state borders were further expanded and a large section of the Indian subcontinent was united under a single rule during the reigns of his sons Hümayun and Ekber. During the reign of Hürrem, who ruled under the name Shah Cihan (Shah of the World), the most brilliant period was experienced in terms of politics and arts. The Taj Mahal, considered the most beautiful architectural work of the world, was constructed in Agra. Architects were also sent from the Ottoman State to build this structure.
       The domestic turmoil breaking out after the death of Alemgir I lasted until the reign of Shah Bahadır II. The British, who suppressed a revolt in the country in 1858, annexed India to Britain.

          The Ottoman Empire (1299-1923): The Ottoman State was founded by Osman Bey. Osman Bey ascended to power with the unanimous consent of the Oghuz chiefs on the borderland and succeded in uniting the Turkish Beyliks in Anatolia in a short period of time. The Ottomans, after conquering Bursa and making it the capital, crossed over to Rumelia; and during the reign of Orhan Gazi and Sultan Murat Khan I, took control of most of the Balkans. Edirne was conquered in 1362, and the capital was moved from Bursa to Edirne. Fatih Sultan Mehmed (Mehmed the Conqueror) conquered İstanbul in 1453, bringing the Byzantine existence to an end, and this event concluded the Medieval Age, allowing the New Age to begin.

The Ottomans fought the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Spaniards, the Papacy, Britain, Poland, France and Russia in Europe, and with the Akkoyunlus, Timurids, Mamelukes, Safavids and the Karamanids in the east and southeast. They established a world empire spanning three continents, whose existence would last until the 20th century. Yavuz Sultan Selim conquered Egypt ensuring that the “Caliphate” would be Ottoman. During the reign of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent, the boundaries of the empire stretched from the Crimea in the north to Yemen and Sudan in the south and from Iran’s interior and the Caspian Sea in the east to Vienna in the northwest, and the entire North Africa down to Algeria in the southwest.

From the last quarter of the 16th century on, the Empire started to lose its economic and military superiority over Europe. Moreover in the 19th century, nationalist movements broke out in Ottoman territories, instigated by Russia and some European states. The Christians breaking off from the empire founded independent states. The reform efforts throughout the 19th century were of no use. The first constitution in a western sense, proclaimed during the First Constitutional Monarchy (1876), which coincided with the reign of Sultan Abdülhamid II, did not help. The constitutional  monarchy period  which  commenced  along  with  the constitution prepared by intellectuals called the “Young Turks” and imposed on Sultan Abdülhamid II came to an end when the emperor dissolved the parliament under the pretext of the 1877-1878 Ottoman-Russian War.

The Committee of Union and Progress, which was formed by a group among the Young Turks, (Jeune Turcs) forced the reproclamation of the constitutional monarchy (1908) and later seized power by quashing the March 31st rebellion. The defeats experienced in the Tripoli War (1911-1912) against the Italians and in the Balkan War (1912-1913) paved the way for a single-party dictatorship of the Union and Progress. The Ottoman Empire entered World War I (1914-1918) hastily as an ally of Germany, which brought about the end of the Empire. Following the signing of the Mondros Armistice after the War, France, Italy, Britain and Greece started invading the Ottoman land in a period that extended to the War of Independence.

The Ottoman Culture and Civilization: The Ottoman Empire left behind a splendid cultural heritage and at the same time it made significant contributions to the history of civilization by embracing the cultural, artistic, and scientific heritages of all preceding Turkish and non-Turkish nations.

Valuable works of art were produced in artistic branches such as architecture, stone and woodcarving, china making, ornamentation, miniature painting, calligraphy and bookbinding. The Empire, influential in world politics for centuries, treated its citizens of various religions, languages, and nationalities in a vast geography justly and tolerantly. The Empire allowed the nations within its borders to preserve their languages and cultures by ensuring freedom of faith and conscience.

The National War of Independence (1919-1923):After the Mondros Armistice, the majority of the Ottoman lands was shared among the victorious countries. Consequently, various defense fronts and resistance organizations started to appear in Anatolia and Thrace. The Turkish people needed to turn these resistance efforts into a movement of full independence, which could only be achieved under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal. When Mustafa Kemal landed in Samsun on May 19th, 1919 as the Inspector of the Army, the fouryear National War of Independence began. 0108-01

Mustafa Kemal and his friends at the Sivas Congress

The circular issued in Amasya on June 22nd, 1919 was a call to, and declaration of, national liberation. This was followed by the Erzurum and Sivas congresses. In the Erzurum Congress, the Turkish people manifested its determination for national independence to the whole world as follows: “The lands of the motherland within the national boundaries is a whole, and cannot be partitioned. Mandates and patronages are unacceptable”.



Gazi Mustafa Kemal Pasha and other Commanders and Officers who took part in the War of Independence -18th January, 1923

          The Entente States occupied İstanbul on March 16th, 1920 and dissolved the Ottoman Parliament. Some deputies were arrested, and some went to Ankara to join the Struggle for National Independence.

The Turkish Grand National Assembly (TGNA) was inaugurated on April 23rd, 1920 in Ankara and Mustafa Kemal was elected the President of the Assembly. This Assembly would henceforth conduct the Struggle for National Independence in the name of the nation. After the designated Mustafa Kemal Commander in Chief, war commenced against imperialist forces on all fronts. Meanwhile, on August 10th, 1920, the İstanbul Government signed the Treaty of Sevres which included very harsh provisions for the Turks.

         Mustafa Kemal and the Ankara Government did not recognize the Treaty of Sevres. A struggle was started under the command of Kazım Karabekir in Eastern Anatolia, and this endeavour was concluded with success. As a result, the Gümrü Agreement was signed with Armenia on December 2nd, 1920. This was the first international agreement to which the TGNA was a party. The problems on the eastern front were completely resolved   with the Moscow Treaty signed with Russia on 16th March, 1921 and the Kars Agreement signed with Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia on 13th October, 1921. On the western front, the Greek forces which occupied İzmir on May 15th, 1919 and started to advance in the Aegean region were driven back during the First and Second İnönü battles (January-April 1921), and they later suffered a crushing defeat in the Sakarya Pitch Battle (August-September 1921). Also, the French forces were pulled back from Adana and its environs in accordance with the Ankara Agreement (October 1921) signed with France. After that, all the forces and resources of the country were prepared for a general offensive to be carried out on the western front. The Greek forces were routed in the Grand Offensive and the Battle of the Commander-in-Chief (August 1922). İzmir was liberated on September 9th, 1922. This military success speeded up the process of establishing a new Republic. The Mudanya Armistice was signed between the Ankara Government and the Entente States (October 11th, 1922), and it was agreed that a conference would be held later in Lausanne to negotiate the provisions of the peace treaty. However, the additional invitation made by the Entente States to the İstanbul Government brought the sultanate to an end. The TGNA separated the Caliphate from the sultanate  and abolished the sultanate on November 1st, 1922. Consequently, the last Ottoman Sultan Mehmet VI (Vahideddin) departed from İstanbul on November 17th, 1922.

        The Lausanne Peace Treaty (July 24th, 1923): The Lausanne negotiations, in which the Ankara Government participated as the sole representative, commenced on November 21st, 1922. The Minister of Foreign Affairs İsmet Pasha (İnönü) presided over the Turkish delegation during negotiations which were suspended in February 1923, especially due to the disagreement over the future of capitulations. However, the talks resumed upon İsmet Pasha’s note dated April 23rd, 1923. The signing of the peace treaty comprising 143 articles, 17 annexes, protocols and declarations, concluded the National War of Independence. Thus, the TGNA Government was officially recognized, Turkey’s national borders were set, capitulations were lifted, the Ottoman debts were restructured, and consequently the political and economic independence and the right of sovereignty of Turkey were officially recognized. The treaty signed in Lausanne, Switzerland on July 24th, 1923, was ratified by the TGNA on August 23rd, 1923.

The History of the Republic of Turkey
Organization of the State and the Reforms: After the National War of Independence was won and the Lausanne Treaty was signed, the first step Mustafa Kemal took was to merge the Anatolia and Rumelia Associations for Defense of Rights established during the war into the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and assume its chairmanship. The aim of the Republican People’s Party, was to modernize the country and to introduce the western system, institutions and lifestyle, which were adopted as a model.

The Republic, regarded as the most important reform, was proclaimed on October 29th, 1923. The leader of the national struggle, Mustafa Kemal, was unanimously elected the first president of Turkey. İsmet Pasha (İnönü) was appointed as the first prime minister. Four months after the declaration of the republic, the TGNA abolished the Caliphate and also decided to expel the members of the Ottoman dynasty (March 3rd, 1924).

In order to achieve a modern pattern of a nation and society it was necessary to separate religious and state affairs, and provide freedom of faith and conscience for individuals. In this connection the Ministry of Shariah and Foundations was abolished, and instead the Directorate of Religious Affairs and the Directorate of Foundations, attached to the Prime Minister’s Office, were established. With the Unification of Education Law, the religious school system and dual education structure was brought to an end, and all schools as well as educational matters were unified under the Ministry of National Education. Under the Judicial Organization Law, the Shariah Courts were replaced by secular courts. Under the Hat Law promulgated on November 25th, 1925, the turban and fez were banned and the “hat” became the national headwear. The dervish lodges and convents and also turbehs were closed and the titles of tariqah (sect) were abolished on November 30th, 1925. The international hour and calendar systems were adopted on December 26th, 1925. Furthermore on February 17th, 1926, the “Turkish Civil Code” was adopted, replacing the Mecelle code and the Shariah laws, which were the foundation stones of the Ottoman law. In line with these moves, the Code of Obligations, the Criminal Code and the Commercial Code were also reformulated in accordance with contemporary principles.

     The prohibition of polygamy and putting divorce issues under the jurisdiction of only the courts constituted the first important steps in women’s rights. The women were granted suffrage and the right to hold office in municipalities by 1930, in village councils by 1933 and in the TGNA by 1934, way before many European countries.

A new Turkish alphabet was prepared by the Ministry of National Education and the law envisaging the use of the Latin script was approved by the TGNA on November 1st, 1928. The weights and measurement units were changed to universal units in 1931, when the meter and kilo systems were accepted.



Turkish women received the right to elect and to be elected, long before many of their counterparts in Europe. 

        The Surname Law was enacted on June 21st, 1934. Mustafa Kemal, the founder of the modern Turkish Republic, was given the surname “Atatürk” (Father of the Turks) by a separate law 5 months later.

The clause in the Constitution stating, “The religion of the state is Islam” was repealed in 1928 by an amendment. The Turkish Historical Society was established in 1931 and the Turkish Linguistic Society in 1932. And in 1937, the secularity of Turkey was added to the Constitution as a clause.


Mustafa Kemal in Gallipoli with his soldiers, 1915

Domestic and Foreign Policies in the Atatürk Period: Atatürk was determined to ensure that the reforms were embraced by the people. However, adverse opinions started to be voiced even in the reformist CHP, which established the state. The members of the opposition, including a group of respected commanders that took part in the National War of Independence such as Rauf Orbay, Kazım Karabekir, and Ali Fuat Cebesoy, who thought that the reforms did not fit the social and political structure of the country, resigned from the CHP and established the Progressive Republican Party. Kazım Karabekir was elected chairman of the party. But when the reactionary Sheik Said Rebellion broke out in Southeastern Anatolia, the government closed down the Progressive Republican Party on June 3rd, 1925.

      The multiparty democracy was one of the biggest ideals of Atatürk. For this reason he had the former Prime Minister Fethi Okyar establish the Free Party. Under the leadership of Fethi Okyar, who was opposed to İsmet İnönü, the party attracted great public interest and grew at an unexpected pace. However, due to the distressing events which occurred during Okyar’s trip to İzmir, the party dissolved itself on November 17th, 1930.

The special characteristic of the early years of the Republic was to pursue a foreign policy based on the National Pact and peace. Thanks to successful diplomacy, the İstanbul and the Dardanelles straits were included in the national defense system (Montreaux Agreement, 1936) and the friendship policies pursued with regard to all neighbouring countries were expanded by the Balkan (1934) and the Sadabad (1937) pacts.

Hatay was the last foreign policy issue which involved Atatürk. Atatürk, known for his dynamism, strong intuition, precise assessment of balances of power and correct evaluation of domestic and foreign circumstances, solved the Hatay problem before he passed away (November 10th, 1938). He had taken giant steps towards the western model, and left behind him a country which had modernized its institutions and heartily adopted the reforms he had made.

The İnönü Period and the Years of Depression of War: İsmet İnönü, elected president following Atatürk’s demise, managed to keep Turkey out of World War II that began in 1939, following a successful balance policy.


Ismet Inonu

Despite this, Turkey sided with the USA, Britain and the Soviet Union and declared war against Germany and Japan just when the war was about to end, was invited to the San Francisco Conference of June 26th 1945, signed the United Nations communiqué, and became a founding member of the United Nations.

Transition to the Multiparty Period: Fuat Köprülü, Refik Koraltan, Celal Bayar and Adnan Menderes had tabled their famous motion, which went down in history as the “Quartet Motion”, to the CHP Parliamentary Group, calling for amendments in internal regulations and some laws. Those who signed the “Quartet Motion” on January 7th, 1946 established the Democrat Party (DP).

       The DP, advocating democracy and liberal economic approaches, entered the Parliament in the 1946 elections, and came into power on its own in the 1950 elections. The DP, which reigned supreme in the 1954 elections by increasing its votes, remained in power until May 27th, 1960, even though it lost a substantial number of votes in the 1957 elections.

The close cooperation with the United States of America (USA) that began during the CHP administration, added new dimensions to foreign policy in the DP period. The arrival of the US warship Missouri in İstanbul, and the commencement of the first military and economic aid programs by the USA through the implementation of the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan, strengthened the foundations laid down by Inönü in this direction. Turkey sent troops to the Korean War and also became a member of NATO during the DP administration (1952).

After the 1954 elections, the people, the military and the civilian bureaucrats started to get into financial straits as a result of a troubled economy. Upon growing discontent among the masses, the criticism by the opposition and press became fiercer. In response to these criticisms, the ruling party began to apply stringent measures. The obstacles which İnönü, the leader of the main opposition party, faced during his trips in the country, the preventive measures taken in order to contain the press and the establishment of an “Investigation Commission” in the Parliament greatly increased the tension and created debates about the regime.

        May 27th and the Interim Period: A group of officers of various levels in the armed forces went into action in an orderly manner on the morning of May 27th, 1960, overthrew the 10year DP Government and seized power. A “National Unity Committee” (MBK) was formed by the revolutionary officers. The Commander of the Land Forces Full General Cemal Gürsel assumed the functions of President, Prime Minister and Head of the National Unity Committee. With the MBK assuming legislative power, a cabinet composed mainly of civilians took office on June 17th, 1960.

The Constituent Assembly convened on January 5th, 1961. The constitution, which was given its final shape by the Constituent Assembly, was approved in a referendum held on July 9th, 1961, and went into effect. The most important innovation introduced by the 1961 Constitution was that the Parliament consisted of two wings, one being the National Assembly and the other the Republican Senate. The MBK turned over its power to the civilians following the elections held on October 15th, 1961. The 22 members of the MBK entered Parliament as “Natural Senators” under the Constitution while Cemal Gürsel was elected President.

The deposed president, prime minister, cabinet members, deputies and some bureaucrats were taken into custody at the Military Academy on the morning of May 27th, 1960. The Supreme Court of Justice formed in Yassiada sentenced 15 members of the DP administration who were accused of “Violating the Constitution”, to capital punishment. 12 of these sentences were commuted to life imprisonment by the MBK. However, the Minister of Foreign Affairs Fatin Rüştü Zorlu, and the Minister of Finance Hasan Polatkan of the DP administration were executed on September 16th and the Prime Minister Adnan Menderes was executed on September, 17th 1961 in İmrali Island. All the others under arrest were released in 1964, due to various amnesties.


Suleyman Demirel

         The Astir Years and the AP Period: In the first general elections held on October 15th, 1961, the total number of votes won by the Justice Party (AP), led by retired General Ragip Gümüşpala, and the New Turkey Party under the leadership of Ekrem Alican, the Minister of Finance of the revolution government, were more than those of the DP did in 1957. As for the CHP, its votes dropped from 41% to 37%.


      The CHP-AP coalition formed under the CHP’s leadership of İsmet İnönü following the elections, albeit facilitating a return to civilian regime, did not last long due to the lack of internal harmony. This was followed by the second and third coalitions under the premiership of İsmet İnönü and another coalition government headed by Suat Hayri Ürgüplü.

Upon the demise of Ragıp Gümüşpala in 1964, a former Director General of the State Hydraulic Works Süleyman Demirel was elected AP chairman. The AP won 53% of the votes in the 1965 elections and came into power on its own. Another characteristic of this election was that for the first time in Turkey a socialist party -the Turkish Labour Party- stood in the elections and won 14 seats in Parliament.

       March 12th and the Interim Regime: The student demonstrations that started in 1968 gradually assumed a political and ideological context and turned into terror. In order to stop this terror, commanders of the armed forces issued a memorandum on March 12th, 1971.

The first government of the new interim period was set up by Prof. Nihat Erim, who had resigned from the CHP. Martial law was declared and some freedoms were restricted.

The first and the second Erim cabinets could not cope with the rising terror despite strict measures and the government formed by Ferit Melen acceded. Following this government, the Naim Talu Government started a kind of transition process to democracy. The presidential elections held in Parliament in 1973 resulted in the defeat of the candidate of the March 12th supporters, Faruk Gürler, and Fahri Korutürk, the joint candidates of the AP and CHP, won the election.

Meanwhile, İsmet İnönü resigned from Parliament, and from CHP chairmanship and membership. Bülent Ecevit was elected party chairman at a congress held immediately.

      The Ecevit Administrations and the “MC” Periods: The 1973 general elections put an end to the March 12thregime. When no party could obtain an absolute majority in Parliament, the new “period of coalitions” commenced. The CHP, which had won the highest number of votes, formed a coalition government with the National Salvation Party (MSP), whose vision reflected an religious trend. Even though this interesting reconciliation led to positive results, the developments in the world were reflected in Turkey and thus the government. Following the world oil crisis, the Cyprus conflict, became a current issue. Turkey, upon the ENOSIS-oriented coup, carried out by Nikos Sampson against the Cyprus President Makarios in June 1974, was forced to make a military intervention to Cyprus, based on its rights originating from treaties as a guarantor state. Blent_Ecevit-Davos_2000_cropped


Bulent Ecevit

      While the Western countries assumed a negative attitude, the USA declared an economic embargo on Turkey. And upon disagreement on the foreign policy to be pursued following Cyprus, the CHP-MSP coalition came to an end in November 1974. Later on, the cabinet set up by the assignee senator Sadi Irmak, the prime minister-designate, failed to obtain a vote of confidence from the Turkish Grand National Assembly.

The AP, increasing the number of its deputies with newcomers brought together the  MSP, MHP (Nationalist Movement Party) and CGP (the Republican Confidence Party) and managed to establish a majority. Demirel was designated to form the new government. Demirel, in March 1975, set up the “Nationalist Front” (MC) coalition which would remain in power until the general elections in 1977. When the parties could obtain an absolute majority in the 1977 elections, Demirel established the second MC Government in July 1977, this time excluding the CGP. However, the economic depression and the reign of terror which had started in 1974 were still going on and growing deeper.

The second MC Government headed by Süleyman Demirel was removed from power in December 1977 with a censure motion tabled by the CHP. CHP leader Bülent Ecevit set up a new cabinet with the backing of 11 nonpartisan deputies, the DP (Democratic Parti) and the CGP. However, the economic depression could not be overcome nor could the mounting terror be contained. When the CHP sustained a defeat in the Republican Senate by elections in the autumn of 1979, Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit stepped down. AP leader Süleyman Demirel set up an AP Minority Government, this time with the external support of the MSP and MHP (November 25th, 1979). The January 24th Decree, issued by the AP  minority Government  aimed  at  bringing  the  country  out  of economic depression and yielded positive results in the short term. The terror, however, could not be stopped. Martial law was declared in the provinces where terror was intense. Meanwhile, it was not possible to elect a new president after Fahri Korutürk, whose term of office had expired at the beginning of 1980.

     The September 12th Interim Regime (1980-1983): On September 12th, 1980 a new military intervention took place in Turkey. The armed forces seized power within the chain of order and command. The National Security Council (MGK) composed of Kenan Evren, the Chief of the General Staff and the Force Commanders, dissolved both the Parliament and the Government. Martial law was declared throughout the country. The leaders of the AP, CHP, MHP and MSP were taken into custody. The MGK, vesting itself with legislative and executive powers, appointed the Chairman of the Council Kenan Evren as Head of State. The new government was formed under the premiership of retired admiral Bülend Ulusu. Turgut Özal, Undersecretary of the Prime Ministry of the AP Minority Government and architect of the January 24th Decrees, was appointed Deputy Prime Minister in charge of the Economy. During this period the economic stability program was carried on exactly as it was.

In June 1981, a decision was made to establish a “Constituent Assembly”, which would include MGK members and a Consultative Assembly (DM). The very same day the names of the Consultative Assembly members were made public, all political parties which had earlier been suspended were banned and their properties confiscated.

The new constitution written by the Constitutional Commission of the DM was submitted to a referendum on November 7th, 1982 and approved by a “Yes” vote of 91.2%. Along with the approval of the new Constitution, Kenan Evren assumed the title of “President”. The Political Parties Law went into effect on April 24th, 1983 and political activities for the establishment of new political parties were gradually permitted.

The Motherland Party (ANAP) the Nationalist Democracy Party (MDP) and the Populist Party (HP) contested in the general elections held on November 6th, 1983. ANAP, winning 45.1% of the votes, assumed power on its own.

The formation of the Council of Speaker of the TGNA on November 24th, 1983 formally ended the function of the MGK.



Turgut Ozal

    The First and Second Özal Governments: The most significant characteristic of the Özal period, in Özal’s own words, was the accomplishment of the “Great Transformation”. The economy changed its form and direction thanks to courageous and resolute reforms which came one after the other. The improvement in the economy was also reflected on the rate of economic growth.

       Relations with the European countries were improved. The Advisory Assembly of the Council  of   Europe,  which  had suspended its relations with Turkey, approved the participation of Turkish parliamentarians in the assembly in May 1984. Improvements continued in Turco-US relations, which had been revived after Greece was granted permission to return to the military wing of NATO, during the MGK period. The policy of neutrality pursued during the Iran-Iraq War positively affected the trade with both countries.
      The most important development of this period in domestic politics was the lifting of political bans by a referendum held on September 6th, 1986. Bülent Ecevit was elected the Chairman of the Democratic Left Party (DSP), Süleyman Demirel the Chairman of the True Path Party (DYP), Alparslan Türkeş the Chairman of the Nationalist Labor Party (MÇP) and Necmettin Erbakan the Chairman of the Welfare Party (RP).

In the early general elections held in 1987, ANAP, having won 36% of the votes, came to power on its own for the second time. The SHP won 24.75% and the DYP 19.15% of the votes. Upon the expiration of Kenan Evren’s term in office, Turgut Özal was elected the 8th President and took over the office on November 9th, 1989. Yıldırım Akbulut, appointed Prime Minister, was elected chairman of the ANAP during the party’s Extraordinary Assembly which convened the same month.

     Transformation in the ANAP and the Period of Coalitions: Mesut Yılmaz was elected ANAP Chairman replacing Yıldırım Akbulut in June 1991. In the early general elections held on October 21st, 1991, however, the DYP emerged as the leading party with 27.03% of the votes. It was followed by ANAP, the SHP, the RP and the DSP. A DYP-SHP Coalition Government was set up under the premiership of Süleyman Demirel on November 20th, 1991. This government achieved limited success in reviving economic growth and increasing the income of wage earners but it also took steps towards democratization.

Multilateral relations were established with the Caucasian and Central Asian Republics which gained independence after the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991. Thus, new horizons opened up for Turkey to become a “Regional State”. The “Black Sea Economic Cooperation” scheme (BSEC), covering the entire Black Sea basin including Caucasia and the Balkans, turned into an institution at a summit in June 1992 and increased the importance of Turkey in this region even further.

The unexpected demise of President Turgut Özal on April 17th, 1993 had serious effects on the balances in domestic politics. Süleyman Demirel was elected President. Tansu Çiller was elected Chair of the DYP in the extraordinary assembly held on June 13th,   1993.  The new   DYP-SHP Coalition Government set up by Tansu Çiller, Turkey’s first female prime minister, remained in power from June 25th, 1993 until the elections on December 25th, 1995.

          Social and Political Tension: The Welfare Party became the leading party with 21% of the votes in the 1995 elections. However, an ANAP-DYP minority government, named “Anayol” (Main Path), was formed under Mesut Yılmaz (on March 5th, 1996). This government lasted nearly four months. When the DYP announced that it would support a censure motion tabled by the RP against the government, Prime Minister Mesut Yılmaz resigned (on June 6th, 1996). President Süleyman Demirel then entrusted RP Chairman Necmettin Erbakan with the task of forming a new government. In the RP-DYP coalition set up by Necmettin Erbakan and named “Refahyol” (Welfare Path), the DYP Chair Tansu Çiller assumed the positions of Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs. Gradually intensifying debates on fundamentalism, however, caused social and political tension to rise.

When the National Security Council warned, in its meeting on February 28th, 1997, that the danger of fundamentalism was increasing, a new process began. During this tense course of events Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan resigned  (on June 18th, 1997) with the intention to transfer the office to his coalition partner. However, President Süleyman Demirel nominated Mesut Yılmaz rather than Tansu Çiller the next prime minister on June 19th, 1997. The ANAP-DSP-DTP (Democratic Turkey Party) Coalition minority government set up by Mesut Yılmaz and known as “Anasol-D” obtained a vote of confidence from the TGNA on July 12th, 1997. The parliament decided to hold general and local elections together on April 18th, 1999 and the government was toppled with a censure motion tabled by the opposition on November 25th, 1998. A DSP minority government was formed by Bülent Ecevit on January 17th, 1999. It received a vote of confidence and remained in power until the April 18th elections. Following elections, the DSP, MHP, FP (Virtue Party), DYP and ANAP won seats in the Parliament, while CHP, unable to pass the 10% threshold, was left outside the TGNA. While the DSP increased its votes on a large scale, the MHP became the second biggest party. ANAP and the DYP on the central right lost a great deal of support. The Virtue Party, founded with the inclusion of the deputies who became independent after the RP had been banned by the Constitutional Court in January 1998, was not able to retain its previous percentage of votes.

DSP Chairman Bülent Ecevit set up the DSP-MHP-ANAP coalition on May 28th, 1999. As soon as it assumed power, the new government took action to pass new laws on such important issues as the replacement of the State Security Courts with civilian justice, the Banking Act, the Constitutional amendment envisaging “International Arbitration” and the Social Security Reform Package. The Chief Justice of the Constitutional Court Ahmet Necdet Sezer had been nominated by a motion supported by the leaders of the 5 political parties represented in Parliament to succeed President Süleyman Demirel, whose term in office ended on May 16th, 2000; and elected as the 10th President of Turkey receiving 330 votes in the 3rd round of balloting.

       First a Crisis, then Stability: Turkey entered the gravest economic crisis during the history of the Republic in February 2001, and its economic balances were abruptly overturned.  The   government appointed   Kemal   Derviş, Vice-President of the World Bank, as State Minister in Charge of the Economy. Massive loans were received from the IMF and the World Bank. The Banking Law was reformulated. With the amendments made by the Parliament in several articles of the Constitution, important steps were taken to comply with European Union standards.

The TGNA approved a motion tabled by the DSP-MHP-ANAP coalition and decided to hold early general elections on November 3rd, 2002. The elections resulted in only the newly formed AK (Justice and Development) Party (34.28%) and CHP (19.39%) entering Parliament. The AK Party, winning 365 of the 550 seats in Parliament, came to power on its own and the CHP became the main opposition party.

   The AK Party Era: After the elections, the 58th Government was set up by Abdullah Gül, Kayseri Deputy of the AK Party. When the restrictions regarding his right to stand in elections were lifted, AK Party Chairman Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was elected deputy in by-elections in Siirt, and he took over the duty of premiership from Abdullah Gül by establishing the 59th Government (on March, 2003).

During this period Recep Tayyip Erdoğan spoke with the premiers of many European countries and attended various meetings in 14 EU countries, in a great effort to initiate accession talks to the EU.


11th President Abdullah Gül and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan

    The most significant political events of this period were the decision taken in December 2004 at the EU’s Copenhagen summit to set the calendar of accession talks for Turkey’s full membership, and the refusal of the TGNA to delegate the power “to allow the presence of foreign troops in Turkey as well as to dispatch troops to foreign countries,” which the government requested just before the Iraq war.

Through the economic policies of this period, a growth rate at the targeted level was achieved and inflation was brought down.

During the same period, exports rose to record levels, and the tourist sector took great strides both in terms of the number of visitors and infrastructure. Social support projects and improvements were carried out in the areas of energy, agriculture, health, education and work life.

The 59th Government, taking over from where previous governments had left off, carried on relations with the EU with the same vigour and resolve. Legal and structural reforms were carried out within the framework of harmonization with the EU, while due attention was paid to compliance with Turkey’s own needs as well.

The term of Office of President Ahmet Necdet Sezer expired on May 16th, 2007 but elections held in the TGNA for the 11th President of the Republic were annulled by the Constitutional Court. The TGNA therefore decided to hold early General Elections on July 22nd, 2007 (the General Elections should otherwise have been held in November 4th, 2007).

The Participation rate in the early General Elections of July 22nd was 84.25%. The AK Party, CHP and MHP won 46.58%, 20.88% and 14.27% of the valid 35,049,691 votes, respectively and thus entered the TGNA as the 3 political parties passing the 10% country threshold. Moreover, 26 independent deputies qualified to enter the TGNA.

13 DSP deputies, who participated in the elections in alliance with the CHP, separated from the CHP and returned to their own party.

Thus, in the TGNA, the number of the parties able to form groups by having more than 20 deputies is 4 and the number of parties represented is 7.

The AK Party Deputy of Kayseri and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the 59th Government, Abdullah Gül, was elected as the eleventh President of the Republic of Turkey in the 3rdround of balloting for electing the President of Republic in the TGNA on 28th August 2007, and took over the on the same day.

On 29th August 2007, the Prime Minister of the 59th Government, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, submitted the new government list to the President of Republic, Abdullah Gül, and the council of ministers, which was affirmed by the President of Republic, started its office as the 60th Government of the Republic of Turkey.

At the local elections held on March 28th, 2009, the AK Party received a vote ratio of 38.3% for the provincial councils and won 45 provincial municipalities, 10 of which are metropolises. The CHP won municipalities in 13 provinces, 3 of which are metropolises, with a vote ratio of 23.17%, the MHP won municipalities in 10 provinces, 1 of which is a metropolis, with a vote ratio of 16.02% and the DTP won municipalities in 8 provinces, 1 of which is a metropolis, with a vote ratio of 5.72%.

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