In 1924, the Grand National Assembly created a new constitution that vested full sovereign power in the Grand National Assembly, under the leadership of Ataturk. This constitution would be the first apparent step forward in Ataturk’s struggle to build a politically powerful state. Ataturk’s political reforms gave Turkey a firm foundation for a society of justice and equal rights, and helped him create a foreign policy that would have Turkey manage to avoid both subversion at home and involvement in war.
By the end of 1925, in an unprecedented turnaround, Turkey had signed or negotiated friendship treaties with 15 states (Ataturk, 2). By building his nation from the inside out, Ataturk provided Turkey with a democratic, affluent and stable government which not only proves its important for European security architecture, with her peacekeeping, regional security roles, and participating in the stability of the United Nations and NATO but also presents striking evidence that the values of the East and West can be integrated successfully.
The sultans that had presided over the Ottoman Empire had not only ruined the political power and status of Turkey, but had also controlled a social and economic system mired in backwardness and outmoded for modern times. Ataturk focused the ideals of his political reforms into creating a socially adept Turkey that would modernize Turkish life in order to give the nation a new sense of dignity, happiness, and equality and further enhance the political status of Turkey, which was in hopeless need of stability.
The primary force that would create this nation was education, what Ataturk regarded has being the power that would galvanize into social and economic development, as he said, “The governments most creative and significant duty is education (Mustafa… Creator, 15). ” Education was the long-term goal that Ataturk pursued in his labors to create a state that would be accepted in the Western world for the social advantages it gave to its citizens.
Before he could initiate such strong educational reforms though, Ataturk had to introduce basic social reforms such as requiring that Western hats replace the fez, creating a law barring women from wearing the veil, giving all Turks surnames, substituting the Islamic calendar with the Western calendar, and abolishing the millet system. It was from these fundamental reforms, that Ataturk was able to being his crusade for the development of not only education but also the equal rights of women and men, which was a given in modern nations at that time.
Armed forces began an extensive literacy program that made primary schools compulsory and concurrently created an educational system that was coeducational, free and secular. The Ottoman Empire was by no means advanced in the way it dealt with people of the opposite sex. Almost all women of the empire lived restricted lives. By Islamic law, it was acceptable for a man to have multiple wives and in many ways this removed the intimacy from a relationship and placed women as a material object. Muslim women lived a life of seclusion, in which they were rarely considered a “main” member of the household.
Wishing to further equalize women and men, Ataturk gave women full political rights and introduced a new Civil Code that abolished polygamy and recognized the equal rights of women in divorce, custody, and in heritance. It was through this reconstruction of Turkey’s social system, that Ataturk would allow for Turkey to finally become worthy of international attention and participation in other intercontinental interactions. As Turkey moved past its inner turmoil socially, it progressed immensely, becoming one of the only countries in the world to have fully secular institutions.
With Ataturk working to make Turkey a country that would be able to stand on equal ground with such world powers as England and the United States, his language reforms increased literacy rates by 24 percent, and Turkey amazingly enough became the first country to have a women Supreme Court justice (Mustafa… Creator, 15). By providing his nation state with social advances, which were necessary to increase social stability in the region, Ataturk allowed for Turkey to not only play the major political role it plays in present day worldwide dealings, but also stabilize Turkey’s deteriorating economy.
The successive wars, which had plagued the Ottoman Empire, worsened an already dwindling economy. Sitting in the Mediterranean Basin, which has the most important oil reserves in the world, Turkey retains control of one of the most important of the routes determined for the transport of oil and natural gas from Caucasian and Central Asian countries, but throughout the reign of the Ottomans, the Bosphorous and Dardanelles straits were forgotten and ignored.
Ataturk made it clear throughout his presidency, that Turkey’s compete modernization was dependent on economic development, which was built up by improving social and political conditions. At the time of Turkey’s independence, agriculture had a sole and important role in Turkish economy, and Ataturk did not want to eliminate this, as many modern countries had lost the rewards of agriculture in their pursuit of industry, “The real master of the country is the peasant (Mustafa… Foundation, 2),” but redistributing the countries economic infrastructure was on the top of his agenda.
The aims of his reforms were to reduce government intervention, implement a flexible exchange rate policy, liberalize import regulations, increase exports, deregulate financial markets, privatize state economic enterprises, decentralize government opportunities and increase industrial growth. The Ottoman Empire had been an economy under complete government control, which did not allow for capitalism to flourish, something that Ataturk viewed as being the modern solution to Turkey’s economic problems.
Ataturk’s Republic People’s Party adopted a tentative statist approach, to help ease the country out of it’s economic turmoil, with government owned investment banks, industrial concerns and monopolies soon diminished. The principle of statism meant that the state was to temporarily regulate the countries general economic activity, but as minimally as possible, until the economy was established and secure. The state was only to engage in areas where private enterprises were not willing to do so.
Undertaking agricultural expansion, industrial growth, and technological advancement, Ataturk allowed for the progression of mining, transportation, manufacturing, banking, exports, social services, housing, communications, energy, and mechanization. Ataturk however, was intent in trying to prevent foreign interests from exercising undue influence on the Turkish economy, and instead, wished to integrate international trade opportunities, which he accomplished by creating an International Committee of Control over the straits through which oil and natural gas were passed.
He also gradually replaced a dependent agrarian society with an increasingly urban and industrial society, and fashioned a Turkey with a dynamic economy that is a complex mix of modern industry and commerce combined with traditional village agriculture and crafts. Turkey’s economy has a strong and rapidly growing private sector, although the state still plays a major role in basic industry, but within the decade, Turkey’s gross national product has increased five-fold (Mustafa… Creator, 12).
The synthesis that evolved at that time – state enterprises and private initiative active in both industrial and agricultural growth – serves as the basis of the economic structure not only for Turkey but also in dozens of other developed and developing countries. As a result of his reforms, the annulment of capitulations, fundamentals needed to secure a national and liberal economy were achieved, and Turkey is now the world’s sixteenth largest economy, with an 800 million dollar trade volume between trade sister countries in only 2 years (Prof.3).
In 1992, Turkey established the Black Sea Economic Cooperation, with eleven states, which would establish a free trade area, the first movement from a country in Turkey’s region to do so. There has been rapid growth, with success in implementing structural reforms measures, and thus Turkey was one of the first countries in the world to join the Council of Europe, be a founding member of the OECD, and become a member of NATO, signing the 1963 Ankara Agreement with ‘the Six’.
Now economically and socially stable, Turkey was able to proceed in becoming one of the most politically influential countries in the world, and as ex-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger once put it, it would “not [be] possible to sustain stability of the Gulf indefinitely without the effective support of Turkey (Prof. 2). ” Ways of life have changed drastically since the 1500’s in Turkey.
The government under the rule of Ataturk set out to initiate a plan to make Turkey more “modern,” and began to sweep away customs and traditions of past generations and enforce swift political, social, and economic reforms that have only made Turkey increasingly important in the international eye. The people of Turkey feel that they are ready to move on, and in many ways look forward to a more “respectable” status in both European and Asian culture, and as the continue their march into the 21st century, Turkey will reinforce its position as a geo-strategic crossroads for the countries of Europe and Asia.