Category Archives: Modern Turkish History

February 05

Times of Interest: The Central Bank of Turkey and the Presidential Era

From the time of its creation, Turkey’s Central Bank has been a focus of power struggles. Rival parties and rival factions within parties have sought to exercise control over it. Looking at how these struggles have played out, what it takes to win them, and the larger context in which they occur can give us […]

June 08

“Public Women” and Public Officials

A scandal brings to light connections between the Turkish government and illicit activities . . .in the 1950s. Şaziye Topçu Zeren, popularly known as “Lüks Nermin,” operated one of Istanbul’s most famous brothels in the 1950s. One historian offers a luxurious description of the main room, decorated in red velvet and furnished with fine leather […]

January 04

South of the Border: The Turkish-Syrian Crisis of 1957

When Loy Henderson, the American Undersecretary of State for Administration, arrived in Ankara on August 24, 1957, Turkey’s political elite was preparing for an election and the economy was in bad shape. The government’s heavy expenditures on infrastructure and other capital projects, combined with the high prices it paid to farmers, had pumped large sums of money into the national economy, causing inflation and large debts to foreign creditors. A string of modest-to-bad harvests and low demand for many Turkish agriculture products made it difficult to earn foreign currency and pay back international debts. With each passing month, the situation was growing worse.

October 05

When Leftists Ruled the Airwaves: İsmail Cem, TRT, and a Divided Turkey

İsmail Cem was thirty-three in 1974, youthful and handsome, educated at the best schools in Turkey and Europe, president of the Istanbul Journalists Union and a famous columnist in his own right. He was also the author of several books on Turkish politics with a pronounced socialist-bent. He was, in short, an ideal candidate to […]

November 01

The Applause Last Time: Ali Dayı and Turkey’s Pro-Government Media in 1955

  Turkey’s Democrat Party governed the country for a decade. During these years, it won three elections and dominated Turkish politics. Even after it was removed from office by the military and its highest-ranking leaders had been executed, it remained popular. In the first post-coup election in 1961, its successor party was nearly returned to […]

January 05

Coalition of the Unwilling

  On May 27, 1960, the Turkish military decisively entered national politics, easily removing the ruling Democrat Party from power. Leaders of the coup explained they had acted to “extricate” the political class from its divisive conflicts; extricating themselves proved far more difficult. Transitioning back to a state of affairs even resembling civilian-led government necessitated something utterly […]

April 19

The Şükrü Kaya Problem

  Mehmet Şükrü Kaya’s political career came to an end on November 11, 1938.[1] A day earlier, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, Turkey’s first president, had passed away, leaving Kaya in a difficult position. Since 1927, Kaya had served as Ataturk’s Minister of the Interior and, during those years, his power had grown. Understandably, as Ataturk had […]

February 21

Where to Draw the Line: Political Cartoons in Turkey

      How long should Musa Kart go to jail for drawing a cartoon implying the prime minister of Turkey is a crook? According to Turkish prosecutors, somewhere between nine and ten years. Though the case was thrown out on the first day of trial, it received coverage from international papers and drew attention […]

September 02

The Realm of the Ugly King

  On a September evening in 1974, Yılmaz Pütün was arrested for murdering a local judge at a seaside Turkish casino. An argument between Pütün’s table and the judge’s had quickly escalated to the point where Pütün had pulled out a gun and demanded everyone sit back down. When the judge confronted Pütün, demanding the […]

December 21

Youth in Revolt

  Deniz Gezmiş, “The Turkish Che Guevarra” When the Turkish police finally moved into Istanbul’s Taksim Square, after a week of protests and occupation, one of their first actions was to cut down the accumulation of posters hanging from the Ataturk Cultural Center. Since protesters had taken control of the square, one group after another […]

December 21

Ninety Years Since What? Framing the Birth of the Turkish Republic

On a Sunday night in late October 1923, eight men met for dinner in the Ankara home of Mustafa Kemal, the president of the Turkish assembly. These included the president himself as well as the prime minister, foreign minister, defense minister, two generals, and the commandant for the city.[1] The following morning, the People’s Party, of […]

June 12

Colonel Kırca’s Secrets: OHAL and the Legacy of Turkey’s Dirty War

  On the morning that he shot himself through the head, Col. Abdülkerim Kırca first read the newspaper. For over a decade the Colonel had been confined to a wheel chair—a bullet wound received during a firefight with separatist rebels in southeastern Turkey had left him unable to walk. Since his injury, he’d been living […]

June 12

“Life Does Not Consist of Alcohol and Sex”: Alcohol Bans and the Politics of Modernity in Turkey

There is nothing particularly modern about banning alcohol—aside from the fact that such regulations occur in the here and now. Nor, for that matter, is there anything anti-modern about it; the arguments are couched in the rational language of social improvement. In Turkey, however, alcohol bans as a symbol are deeply tied to the country’s […]