Atatürk's Reforms (Turkish: Atatürk Devrimleri) were a series of political, legal, religious, cultural, social, and economic policy changes that were designed to convert the new Republic of Turkey into a secular, modern nation-state and implemented under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in accordance with Kemalist ideology. Central to these reforms were the belief that Turkish society would have to Westernize itself both politically and culturally in order to modernize. Political reforms involved a number of fundamental institutional changes that brought end of many traditions, and followed a carefully planned program to unravel the complex system that had developed over the centuries.
Reforms began with the modernization of the constitution, including enacting the new Constitution of 1924 which replaced the Constitution of 1921, and the adaptation of European laws and jurisprudence to the needs of the new republic. This was followed by a thorough secularization and modernization of the administration, with particular focus on the education system.
Historically, Atatürk's reforms follow the Ottoman Empire's Tanzimât period, meaning reorganization, that began in 1839 and ended with the First Constitutional Era in 1876, as well as the various efforts of secularization, democratization, and modernization during the Second Constitutional Era from 1908 to 1913.
- 1 Goals
- 2 Political reform
- 3 Social reforms
Goals[edit | edit source]
Reformation of Islam[edit | edit source]
The Ottoman Empire was an Islamic state in which the head of the state, the Sultan, also held the position of Caliph. The social system was organized around the millet structure. The millet structure allowed a great degree of religious, cultural and ethnic continuity across the society but at the same time permitted the religious ideology to be incorporated into the administrative, economic and political system. One can define this way of life as Islamism (Political Islam): "the belief that Islam should guide social and political as well as personal life".
There were two sections of the elite group at the helm of the discussions for the future. These were the "Islamist reformists" and the "Westernists". Many basic goals were common to both groups. Some secular intellectuals, and even certain reform-minded Muslim thinkers, accepted the view that social progress in Europe had followed the Protestant reformation, as expressed in François Guizot's Histoire de la civilisation en Europe (1828). The reform-minded Muslim thinkers concluded from the Lutheran experience that the reform of Islam was imperative. Abdullah Cevdet and Kılıçzâde İsmail Hakkı (İsmail Hakkı Kılıçoğlu), who were westernist thinkers, took their inspiration rather from the subsequent marginalization of religion in European societies. To them, a reformed religion had only a temporary role to play as an instrument for the modernization of society, after which it would be cast aside (from public life and limited to personal life). All-out attack on Islam in a predominantly Muslim society was injudicious. A reconfigured version of Islam could be co-opted to serve as a vehicle for progress and enlightenment. Atatürk's achievement was to amplify the common ground and put the country on a fast track of reforms. Implemented reforms had implications on the Islamic world. One significant implication involved the abolition of the Ottoman Caliphate in 1924.
Westernization[edit | edit source]
The Young Turks and other Ottoman intellectuals asked the question of the position of the empire regarding the West (primarily taken to mean Christian Europe). The West was symbolized by intellectual and scientific ascendancy, and provided the blueprint for the ideal society of the future. Reformers declared the question was decided: Turkey would look to the West.
Political reform[edit | edit source]
Until the moment the republic was formally proclaimed, the Ottoman Empire was still in existence, with its heritage of religious and dynastic authority. The dynasty was abolished by the Ankara Government, but its traditions and cultural symbols remained active among the people (though less so among the elite).
The elements of the political system visioned by Atatürk's Reforms developed in stages, but in 1935, when the last part of the Atatürk's Reforms removed the reference to Islam; the political system became a secular, (2.1) democratic (2.1), republic (1.1) that derives its sovereignty (6.1) from the people. The sovereignty rests with the Turkish Nation, who delegates its exercise to an elected unicameral parliament (position in 1935), the Turkish Grand National Assembly. The preamble also invokes the principles of nationalism, defined as the "material and spiritual well-being of the Republic" (position in 1935). The basic nature of the Republic is laïcité (2), social equality (2), equality before law (10), and the indivisibility of the Republic and of the Turkish Nation (3.1)." Thus, it sets out to found a unitary nation-state (position in 1935) based on the principles of secular democracy. There exists separation of powers between the Legislative Power (7.1), Executive Power (8.1), and Judicial Power (9.1) of the state. The separation of powers between the legislative and the executive is a loose one, whereas the one between the executive and the legislative with the judiciary is a strict one.
Representative democracy[edit | edit source]
The most fundamental reforms allowed the Turkish nation to exercise popular sovereignty through representative democracy. The Republic of Turkey ("Türkiye Cumhuriyeti") was proclaimed on 1 March 1924 by the Turkish Grand National Assembly.
Constitutional reforms[edit | edit source]
The model for the system was initially a constitutional monarchy. In the new regime, government created and controlled by the Law of a Constitution. The Sultan was stripped of all powers.
The Constitution of 1921 was the fundamental law of Turkey for a brief period from 1921 to 1924. It was ratified by the Grand National Assembly of Turkey in January 1921. It was a simple document consisting of only 23 short articles. The major driving force behind the preparation of a 1921 Constitution that derived its sovereignty from the nation and not from the Sultan, the absolute monarch of the Ottoman Empire. The 1921 Constitution also served as the legal basis for the Provisional government during the civil war, since it would refute the principles of the Treaty of Lausanne of 1918 signed by the Ottoman Empire, by which a great majority of the Empire's territory remained occupied by the British and their allies in the Middle East after the World War. In March 1924 the constitution was amended to declare Turkey to be a republic.
In April 1924, the constitution was replaced by an entirely new document, the Turkish Constitution of 1924.
Multi-party system[edit | edit source]
The bicameral system of the Ottoman parliament—composed of an upper house, the Senate of viziers, assigned by the Sultan, and the lower house, the Chamber of Deputies, selected by two-level elections—was dissolved, which had already been defunct since April 1920.
The foundation of the Turkish Grand National Assembly followed the dissolution of the lower house of the Ottoman parliament. The new system, which gave primacy to national independence and popular sovereignty, established the offices of Prime Minister and President while placing legislative power within a unicameral Grand National Assembly. The Assembly was elected by direct election using proportional representation. It was based on Party system, which governance by political parties was adapted. The only political party was the "People's Party" (Halk Fırkası), which was founded by Atatürk in the initial years of the civil war. In 1924 it was renamed the "Republican People's Party" (Cumhuriyet Halk Fırkası) and in 1935 Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi. The single-party regime was established de facto after the adoption of the 1924 constitution.
The term "de facto single-party state" is used to define the period as the dominant-party system (in this case Republican People's Party), unlike the single-party state, allowed democratic multiparty elections, but existing practices effectively prevent the opposition from winning the elections. The Republican People's Party was the only elected party in the parliament between 1925 and 1945. There were other parties. A notable example was Nezihe Muhittin who founded the first women's party Kadınlar Halk Fırkası ("Women's People Party") in June 1923. Women's People Party was not legalized as the Republic was not officially declared. The Progressive Republican Party (Terakkiperver Cumhuriyet Fırkası) was established between 1924 and 1925 under the parliament. Its leader was Kazım Karabekir. It was banned after the Sheikh Said rebellion. The Liberal Republican Party (Serbest Cumhuriyet Fırkası) established in 1930 under the parliament, and was later dissolved by its founder.
The effective multi-party period began in 1945; the next year, the Republican People's Party won the first multi-party elections. In the 1950 elections, the Democratic Party won, becoming the first opposition party to win elections.
Civic independence (popular sovereignty)[edit | edit source]
The establishment of popular sovereignty involved confronting centuries-old traditions. The reform process was characterized by a struggle between progressives and conservatives. The changes were both conceptually radical and culturally significant. In the Ottoman Empire, the people of each millet had traditionally enjoyed a degree of autonomy, with their own leadership, collecting their own taxes and living according to their own system of religious/cultural law. The Ottoman Muslims had a strict hierarchy of ulama, with the Sheikh ul-Islam holding the highest rank. A Sheikh ul-Islam was chosen by a royal warrant among the qadis of important cities. The Sheikh ul-Islam issued fatwas, which were written interpretations of the Quran that had authority over the community. The Sheikh ul-Islam represented the law of shariah. This office was in the Shar’iyya wa Awqaf Ministry.
Besides the political structure; as a part of civic independence, religious education system was replaced by a national education system on 3 March 1924, and The Islamic courts and Islamic canon law gave way to a secular law structure based on the Swiss Civil Code, which is detailed under their headings.
Abolition of Sultanate, Caliphate and Millet System[edit | edit source]
In the secular state or country purports to be officially neutral in matters of religion, supporting neither religion nor irreligion and claims to treat all its citizens equally regardless of religion, and claims to avoid preferential treatment for a citizen from a particular religion/nonreligion over other religions/nonreligion. Reformers followed the European model (French model) of secularization. In European model of secularizing; states typically involves granting individual religious freedoms, disestablishing state religions, stopping public funds to be used for a religion, freeing the legal system from religious control, freeing up the education system, tolerating citizens who change religion or abstain from religion, and allowing political leadership to come to power regardless of religious beliefs. In establishing a secular state, the Ottoman Caliphate, held by the Ottomans since 1517, abolished and to mediate the power of religion in the public sphere (including recognized minority religions in the Treaty of Sèvres) left to the Directorate for Religious Affairs. Under the reforms official recognition of the Ottoman millets withdrawn. Shar’iyya wa Awqaf Ministry followed the Office of Caliphate. This office was replaced by the Presidency of Religious Affairs.
The abolishing of the position of Caliphate and Sheikh ul-Islam was followed by a common, secular authority. Many of the religious communities failed to adjust to the new regime. This was exacerbated by the emigration or impoverishment, due to deteriorating economic conditions. Families that hitherto had financially supported religious community institutions such as hospitals and schools stop doing so.
On 3 March 1924, the Ottoman Sultanate and Caliphate were abolished by the Grand National Assembly and Sultan Mehmed VI departed the country. Mehmed VI sought refuge aboard the Austrian warship Tegetthoff on 19 March.
Directorate for Religious Affairs[edit | edit source]
Atatürk's reforms define laïcité (as of 1935) as permeating both the government and the religious sphere. Minority religions, like the Armenian or Greek Orthodoxy are guaranteed protection by the constitution as individual faiths (personal sphere), but this guarantee does not give any rights to any religious communities (social sphere). (This differentiation applies to Islam and Muslims as well. Atatürk's reforms, as of 1935, assume the social sphere is secular.)
The Treaty of Sèvres, the internationally binding agreement of the establishment of the State, does not specify any nationality or ethnicity. It simply identifies non-Muslims in general and provides the legal framework which gives certain explicit religious rights to Jews, Greeks, and Armenians without naming them.
Public administration[edit | edit source]
New capital[edit | edit source]
The reform movement turned its back on the perceived corruption and decadence of cosmopolitan Istanbul and its Ottoman heritage, as well as electing to choose a capital more geographically centered in Turkey. During the disastrous 1912–13 First Balkan War, Bulgarian troops had advanced to Çatalca, mere miles from Istanbul, creating a fear that the Ottoman capital would have to be moved to Anatolia; the reform movement wanted to avoid a similar incident with Turkey.
The country's new capital was set in Ankara on 13 October 1925.