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12/06/2001

Ataturk, Part II

At the close of World War I, it was left to Mustafa Kemal (later
to be called Ataturk) to save the remnants of the Ottoman Empire
from partition. The Allies exacted the harshest penalties of the
post-war era in the formulation of the Treaty of Sevres, which
attempted to dismember an Empire that had stretched through
much of the Middle East, with Britain, France, Italy and Greece
each coveting a chunk. France was granted Syria by a mandate
from the League of Nations. Britain, also under League
mandate, received Iraq and Palestine, as well as Saudi Arabia
under a protectorate arrangement. Italy occupied Turkish
territory even as the peace conference was proceeding, and
Greek forces moved into Smyrna and Thrace (modern-day
western Turkey).

Mustafa Kemal, the only Ottoman hero to emerge from the Great
War, was upset that the man he helped put into power in the
1913 coup, Enver Pasha, was capitulating to the Allies. In 1917
Mustafa had made the following observation about the rule of the
man he once greatly admired.

"There are no bonds left between the Government and the
people. What we call the people are composed now of women,
disabled men, and children. For all alike the Government is the
power which insistently drives them to hunger and death. The
administrative machinery is devoid of authority. Public life is in
full anarchy. Every new step taken by the Government increases
the general hatred the people feel for it. All officials accept
bribes, and are capable of every sort of corruption and abuse.
The machinery of justice has entirely stopped. The police forces
do not function. Economic life is breaking down with
formidable speed. Neither people nor government employees
have any confidence in the future. The determination to live rids
even the best and the most honest of every sort of sacred feeling.
If the War lasts much longer, the whole structure of Government
and dynasty, decrepit in all its parts, may suddenly fall to
pieces." [Glenny] It did.

After Sevres, the nationalists coalesced around Kemal,
establishing their capital in Ankara, a small, undeveloped town
of some 20,000. [Today it is the capital of Turkey and has a
population of 2.6 million.] Then in September 1920, with the
Greeks occupying Smyrna, a very strange thing happened.
Greek leader Eleftherios Venizelos decided to hold elections in
November in order to take advantage of what he saw as the surge
in Greek nationalism because of the territorial rewards they had
gained through Sevres.

On September 30, Greek King Alexander was strolling the
palace gardens with his wolfhound, Fritz, when suddenly the dog
jumped into a clump of bushes. Hearing barks and the sounds of
a scuffle, Alexander checked it out and found Fritz shaking a pet
Spanish monkey in his teeth. While he was trying to free the
monkey from Fritz''s grip, another monkey (evidently the mate)
severely bit the King on the calf. While the wound was treated
and all appeared to be fine, just two days later fever set in and for
the next three weeks Alexander was in the fight of his life. He
lost it, October 25. Winston Churchill wrote of the incident, "It
is perhaps no exaggeration to remark that a quarter of a million
persons died of this monkey''s bite."

The problem was that King Alexander''s death opened the issue
of succession right before the elections. It''s a complicated story
involving the royals, but Venizelos''s party was crushed at the
ballot box, clearing the way for the exiled King Constantine''s
return, much to the displeasure of the Allies who thought he had
collaborated with the Germans during the war. Venizelos was
then forced out of office and a new set of generals replaced the
existing military leadership, at exactly the worst possible time,
because Mustafa Kemal was preparing his forces to take back
what Turkey had lost at Sevres. Churchill commented, "At last
peace with Turkey: and to ratify it, War with Turkey!"

In March 1921, the Allies made a last attempt to avert war
between the two. Failing in these efforts, Greece attacked
Mustafa''s forces. Churchill later wrote:

"Loaded with follies, stained with crimes, rotted with
misgovernment, shattered by battle, worn down by long
disastrous wars, his Empire falling to pieces around him, the
Turk was still alive. In his breast was beating the heart of a race
that had challenged the world, and for centuries had contended
victoriously against all comers. In his hands was once again the
equipment of a modern army, and at his head a Captain, who
with all that is learned of him, ranks with the four or five great
figures of the cataclysm. In the tapestried and gilded chambers
of Paris were assembled the law-givers of the world. In
Constantinople, under the guns of the Allied Fleets there
functioned a puppet Government of Turkey. But among the stern
hills and valleys of ''the Turkish homeland'' in Anatolia, there
dwelt that company of poor men...who would not see it settled
so; and at their bivouac fires at this moment sat in the rags of a
refugee the august Spirit of Fair Play." [Kinzer]

The battle to retake western Turkey did not go well for Mustafa
Kemal at first, but by the summer of 1922, the military gains
were startling. The Greeks were pushed into the Aegean and the
French and Italians, guarding the Mediterranean, fled too.
Kemal''s stunning military success is described as one of the
great campaigns of modern history. In the words of author
Stephen Kinzer, "(Mustafa) had turned utter defeat into brilliant
triumph, ripping to shreds the Sevres treaty under which modern
Turkey was to have been aborted before it could be born."

Now Kemal was set to consolidate his gains. On October 30,
1922, he arranged for a motion to be put forward in the national
assembly, one which would abolish, once and for all, the
Ottoman Empire and the Sultanate. Mustafa was rebuked, at
which point he proclaimed to the assembly:

"Gentlemen, neither the sovereignty nor the right to govern can
be transferred by one person to anybody else by an academic
debate. Sovereignty is acquired by force, by power and by
violence. It was by violence that the sons of Osman acquired the
power to rule over the Turkish nation and to maintain their rule
for more than six centuries. It is now the nation that revolts
against these usurpers, puts them in their right place and actually
carries on their sovereignty. This is an actual fact. It is no
longer a question of knowing whether we want to leave this
sovereignty in the hands of the nation or not. It is simply a
question of stating an actuality, something which is already an
accomplished fact and which must be accepted unconditionally
as such. And this must be done at any price. If those who are
assembled here, the Assembly and everybody else, would find
this quite natural, it would be very appropriate from my point of
view. Conversely, the reality will nevertheless be manifested in
the necessary form, but in that event it is possible that some
heads will be cut off." [Macfie]

Weeks later the Sultan fled and within months the Republic of
Turkey was formally created. Next week, Mustafa Kemal
becomes...Ataturk.



Sources:

"The Balkans," Misha Glenny
"Crescent & Star," Stephen Kinzer
"Ataturk," A.L. Macfie
"A History of Modern Europe," John Merriman
"Europe: A History," Norman Davies
"Twentieth Century," J.M. Roberts
"The Middle East," Bernard Lewis

Brian Trumbore


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12/06/2001

Ataturk, Part II

At the close of World War I, it was left to Mustafa Kemal (later
to be called Ataturk) to save the remnants of the Ottoman Empire
from partition. The Allies exacted the harshest penalties of the
post-war era in the formulation of the Treaty of Sevres, which
attempted to dismember an Empire that had stretched through
much of the Middle East, with Britain, France, Italy and Greece
each coveting a chunk. France was granted Syria by a mandate
from the League of Nations. Britain, also under League
mandate, received Iraq and Palestine, as well as Saudi Arabia
under a protectorate arrangement. Italy occupied Turkish
territory even as the peace conference was proceeding, and
Greek forces moved into Smyrna and Thrace (modern-day
western Turkey).

Mustafa Kemal, the only Ottoman hero to emerge from the Great
War, was upset that the man he helped put into power in the
1913 coup, Enver Pasha, was capitulating to the Allies. In 1917
Mustafa had made the following observation about the rule of the
man he once greatly admired.

"There are no bonds left between the Government and the
people. What we call the people are composed now of women,
disabled men, and children. For all alike the Government is the
power which insistently drives them to hunger and death. The
administrative machinery is devoid of authority. Public life is in
full anarchy. Every new step taken by the Government increases
the general hatred the people feel for it. All officials accept
bribes, and are capable of every sort of corruption and abuse.
The machinery of justice has entirely stopped. The police forces
do not function. Economic life is breaking down with
formidable speed. Neither people nor government employees
have any confidence in the future. The determination to live rids
even the best and the most honest of every sort of sacred feeling.
If the War lasts much longer, the whole structure of Government
and dynasty, decrepit in all its parts, may suddenly fall to
pieces." [Glenny] It did.

After Sevres, the nationalists coalesced around Kemal,
establishing their capital in Ankara, a small, undeveloped town
of some 20,000. [Today it is the capital of Turkey and has a
population of 2.6 million.] Then in September 1920, with the
Greeks occupying Smyrna, a very strange thing happened.
Greek leader Eleftherios Venizelos decided to hold elections in
November in order to take advantage of what he saw as the surge
in Greek nationalism because of the territorial rewards they had
gained through Sevres.

On September 30, Greek King Alexander was strolling the
palace gardens with his wolfhound, Fritz, when suddenly the dog
jumped into a clump of bushes. Hearing barks and the sounds of
a scuffle, Alexander checked it out and found Fritz shaking a pet
Spanish monkey in his teeth. While he was trying to free the
monkey from Fritz''s grip, another monkey (evidently the mate)
severely bit the King on the calf. While the wound was treated
and all appeared to be fine, just two days later fever set in and for
the next three weeks Alexander was in the fight of his life. He
lost it, October 25. Winston Churchill wrote of the incident, "It
is perhaps no exaggeration to remark that a quarter of a million
persons died of this monkey''s bite."

The problem was that King Alexander''s death opened the issue
of succession right before the elections. It''s a complicated story
involving the royals, but Venizelos''s party was crushed at the
ballot box, clearing the way for the exiled King Constantine''s
return, much to the displeasure of the Allies who thought he had
collaborated with the Germans during the war. Venizelos was
then forced out of office and a new set of generals replaced the
existing military leadership, at exactly the worst possible time,
because Mustafa Kemal was preparing his forces to take back
what Turkey had lost at Sevres. Churchill commented, "At last
peace with Turkey: and to ratify it, War with Turkey!"

In March 1921, the Allies made a last attempt to avert war
between the two. Failing in these efforts, Greece attacked
Mustafa''s forces. Churchill later wrote:

"Loaded with follies, stained with crimes, rotted with
misgovernment, shattered by battle, worn down by long
disastrous wars, his Empire falling to pieces around him, the
Turk was still alive. In his breast was beating the heart of a race
that had challenged the world, and for centuries had contended
victoriously against all comers. In his hands was once again the
equipment of a modern army, and at his head a Captain, who
with all that is learned of him, ranks with the four or five great
figures of the cataclysm. In the tapestried and gilded chambers
of Paris were assembled the law-givers of the world. In
Constantinople, under the guns of the Allied Fleets there
functioned a puppet Government of Turkey. But among the stern
hills and valleys of ''the Turkish homeland'' in Anatolia, there
dwelt that company of poor men...who would not see it settled
so; and at their bivouac fires at this moment sat in the rags of a
refugee the august Spirit of Fair Play." [Kinzer]

The battle to retake western Turkey did not go well for Mustafa
Kemal at first, but by the summer of 1922, the military gains
were startling. The Greeks were pushed into the Aegean and the
French and Italians, guarding the Mediterranean, fled too.
Kemal''s stunning military success is described as one of the
great campaigns of modern history. In the words of author
Stephen Kinzer, "(Mustafa) had turned utter defeat into brilliant
triumph, ripping to shreds the Sevres treaty under which modern
Turkey was to have been aborted before it could be born."

Now Kemal was set to consolidate his gains. On October 30,
1922, he arranged for a motion to be put forward in the national
assembly, one which would abolish, once and for all, the
Ottoman Empire and the Sultanate. Mustafa was rebuked, at
which point he proclaimed to the assembly:

"Gentlemen, neither the sovereignty nor the right to govern can
be transferred by one person to anybody else by an academic
debate. Sovereignty is acquired by force, by power and by
violence. It was by violence that the sons of Osman acquired the
power to rule over the Turkish nation and to maintain their rule
for more than six centuries. It is now the nation that revolts
against these usurpers, puts them in their right place and actually
carries on their sovereignty. This is an actual fact. It is no
longer a question of knowing whether we want to leave this
sovereignty in the hands of the nation or not. It is simply a
question of stating an actuality, something which is already an
accomplished fact and which must be accepted unconditionally
as such. And this must be done at any price. If those who are
assembled here, the Assembly and everybody else, would find
this quite natural, it would be very appropriate from my point of
view. Conversely, the reality will nevertheless be manifested in
the necessary form, but in that event it is possible that some
heads will be cut off." [Macfie]

Weeks later the Sultan fled and within months the Republic of
Turkey was formally created. Next week, Mustafa Kemal
becomes...Ataturk.



Sources:

"The Balkans," Misha Glenny
"Crescent & Star," Stephen Kinzer
"Ataturk," A.L. Macfie
"A History of Modern Europe," John Merriman
"Europe: A History," Norman Davies
"Twentieth Century," J.M. Roberts
"The Middle East," Bernard Lewis

Brian Trumbore