The Downside of Imperial Collapse
When Empires or Great Powers Fall, Chaos and War Rise
THE Treaty of Lausanne was signed July 23, 1923. A few months later, on October 29, 1923, the Grand National Assembly at Ankara proclaimed Turkey a republic, and Mustafa Kemal Pasha was elected its first President. These two events marked the end of one epoch and the beginning of another in the history of Turkey, indeed in the history of the entire Near East. The Treaty of Lausanne delimited Turkey's boundaries and determined her place among the nations; the constitutional changes of the following October transformed the country's internal organization.
Mustafa Kemal's appointment as President was the external symbol of these new developments. The capacities of this born leader -- full of energy, sure of his aims, without scruples -- were favored by the general trend of the times, so that he was able to bring about a complete change in the structure of the state, its laws, and its economic and cultural life. The same tendencies are at work everywhere in the east today; but in Turkey it has been possible to carry them into effect more thoroughly than elsewhere. For in Turkey the soil had been prepared by the persistent efforts of the intelligentsia for fifty years, whereas, up to the beginning of the twentieth century, the other countries of Eastern Europe can hardly be said to have been very amenable to western influence. Turkey's victorious campaign against Greece, an ally of the Entente Powers, and the tearing-up of the Treaty of Sèvres put the Turkish masses in a state of mind which made radical changes in the structure of the national life possible. For they not only had attained to a political liberty such as they had never known before; with it they had gained a new self-confidence and an implicit trust in the man who had been their leader during the war of liberation and who now set himself the task of modernizing the nation.
Just as in Italy since 1922, and as in Germany since early in the present year, the conduct of political affairs in Turkey rests today on the personality of a leader. There is a difference, however, in the fact that the Turkish Duce was permitted to satisfy the demands of his people in the sphere of foreign politics before he started work on his internal reforms, a fact to which he owes his surname Ghazi -- "the Victor." Another fact characteristic of the different social development in the three countries is that Mustafa Kemal belongs to the upper middle classes and is a member of the officer caste, whereas Mussolini and Hitler come from the people.
In its social-political structure Mustafa Kemal's dictatorship is more like Mussolini's in Italy than that of the National Socialists in Germany. The Italian and Turkish dictatorships came into being about the same time; both belong to the sphere of Mediterranean culture; both have gone to work gradually and on an empirical basis. Whereas the Nazi dictatorship in Germany has contemptuously turned its back on the "stupid and unheroical" nineteenth century, Mussolini and Mustafa Kemal make it their aim to bring the nineteenth century to its consummation, in so far as it has not yet, or at least not entirely, taken hold of their countries: in Mussolini's case this applies above all to southern Italy and to the Italian islands. Both of them want to supplant the traditional tempo of life in the agrarian and backward parts of their Mediterranean countries by the rhythm of the industrial north. We see a vigorous concentration of all national energies in the form of an intensified nationalism which, conscious though it is of a great past, is full of dissatisfaction with more recent history, when the countries in question were from many points of view mere picturesque museum pieces. Hand in hand with this nationalism goes the exploitation of all economic possibilities through an expanding capitalism, furthered and controlled by the government, together with industrialization and better education of the people. These are aims common to the Italian Fascists and to the Republican People's Party created by Mustafa Kemal, today the only political party in the Turkish state.
The statute of Mustafa Kemal's party also dates from 1923. It is imbued with the spirit of secularism and liberalism which is making such headway today in all the countries of the east, fulfilling everywhere the same task it did in Europe a century and a half ago, the task of overcoming the darkness of the religious and feudal Middle Ages. The first article of this statute reads: "The goal of the party is government by the people and for the people, together with the elevation of Turkey to the status of a modern state." The other articles demand complete separation of religion and politics, social reorganization on the basis of modern civilization and the empirical and positive sciences, equal rights without exception for all citizens, and the abolition of all privileges on the part of any callings, groups or individuals. Stress is also laid on the importance of Turkey's participation in cultural tasks and on equal rights for women.
In keeping with this, the Turkish Constitution is radically democratic. Actually, however, although the constitutional power of the President is very slight, he is an absolute dictator. According to the Constitution, all legislative and executive power is vested in a Grand National Assembly, chosen by the people. By a majority vote the National Assembly elects one of its members to be President; the ministers are chosen from the National Assembly and are responsible to it; it decides upon war and peace and upon all treaties with other nations, and it can also decree its own dissolution. The President, it is true, has the right to veto any laws passed by the National Assembly; but if a law is then passed a second time, his veto is thereby overridden. Thus, according to the letter of the Constitution, the representatives of the people are invested with absolute power.
By means of a clever scheme, however, the President, while constitutionally without undue influence, becomes the real autocrat. The Chamber is understood to represent not merely the will of the people, but the completely unified will of the people. All representatives belong to the Republican People's Party, whose President, according to its statute, is Mustafa Kemal. He also appoints the Vice-President and the General Secretary of the party. The three together form the Presidial Council, which designates the candidates for the parliamentary elections. The decisions of the Presidial Council are absolutely binding on all members of the party. It also elects the twelve party inspectors, who are responsible for the organization of the party throughout the state. The Republican People's Party, and it alone, has its organization in every locality. Thus the Grand National Assembly, ruling the country with absolute power, is the source of all laws and of all actions of the government; the Republican People's Party in its turn is the absolute ruler of the Grand National Assembly; while President Mustafa Kemal is the absolute ruler of the Republican People's Party. The entire power of the state is vested in him alone.
In internal affairs, Mustafa Kemal's policy rests on the three principles of nationalism, secularism and industrialism. These ideas are not new in Turkey any more than elsewhere. Up to 1908, the Ottoman Empire constituted a supranational unit, held together by religious and dynastic bonds. In those days the head of the dynasty, i.e., the Sultan, was at the same time the religious head of all Mohammedans, i.e., the Khalif. The idea of the Empire rested on the fact that its subjects were Mohammedan, quite irrespective of their nationality and language. Abdul Hamid II, the last great ruler of the Osman dynasty, which in past centuries produced a number of powerful leaders, made one last attempt to preserve Islam as the foundation of the state against the inroads of the modern age. But the rule of the Sultan-Khalif, founded on a mediæval idea of empire, was an anachronism amid modern nations and under modern economic conditions, and was kept alive temporarily only by the selfish interests and the mutual jealousies of the European Powers. Abdul Hamid's romantic and reactionary policy of shutting Turkey away from foreign influences was in the long run unable to prevent the entrance of new political ideas and forces. Under their onrush the five-hundred-year-old empire rapidly broke up.
The new leaders who now came to power -- the Committee for Union and Progress -- were dominated, like Mustafa Kemal, by the modern political ideas of the west. Their ideal was the secular state of the people, as embodied in a nation united by common descent, language and historic ideals. In this way they came into conflict with Pan-Islamism and the religious foundations of the Empire, and also with its other inhabitants, both Mohammedan and non-Mohammedan. They strove to replace the religious Pan-Islamism by another conception, based on race and language, Pan-Turanianism. This, it was planned, would become the rallying-cry for the Turkish peoples of the Caucasus, southeastern Russia and central Asia to unite under the leadership of the Osman Turks. Enver Pasha, who fell in August 1922 while fighting against the Soviet army after being proclaimed Emir of Turkestan, was trying to save at least the old Turanian homeland out of the remnants of the shattered Pan-Turanian dream and the chaos of the World War.
The Young Turks had vainly endeavored to realize the idea of a modern national state amid the confusion of a dying empire, torn by national and religious tensions and incessantly threatened by superior enemies from without. After the World War, Mustafa Kemal took that idea up again under far more favorable conditions and put it into execution. He saw why the ideal of the Ottoman state was untenable, and why the ideal of the Turanian race could not be realized. In a realistic spirit he restricted himself to the Anatolian motherland of the Turkish people and decided to give his undivided attention to the Anatolian peasant, who had hitherto been carrying the burden of the idea of empire without any compensation. Notwithstanding the cruel way in which Mustafa Pasha in the summer of 1926 settled accounts with the former leaders of the Committee for Union and Progress, in order to eliminate any possible opposition to his personal leadership -- the sort of leadership which leaves no room for partners -- his conduct of the internal affairs of Turkey since the World War has been only a continuation of the same guiding principles which the Young Turks had observed fifteen years before.
But the Young Turks had lost the Balkan Wars and the World War; they had become the grave-diggers of the Empire, and it seemed as if, thanks to them, the Turkish name were destined to disappear from the theatre of history. Mustafa Kemal, on the contrary, was the victorious leader in the national war of independence, and the Turkey of his creation was the only one among the states vanquished in the World War which was able to replace the dictated and coercive peace by a favorable peace treaty concluded as between equals. To this must be added that this peace treaty created for the first time a Turkey which fulfilled all the prerequisites for a modern national state. Foreign control and interference with the sovereignty of the state, which (as in other eastern countries) had hitherto blocked all progress, were now things of the past. From the national and religious point of view, Turkey had become an almost homogeneous state. The Christian minorities hardly existed any longer. As late as 1923, there were a million and a half Greeks living in Asia Minor. They belonged to the original inhabitants of the country, and their towns and villages in Ionia and in the Pontus prided themselves on their connections with the centers of the old Hellenic culture on the eastern shores of the Ægean Sea. Like the Armenians, they have left their mark on the modern economic life of the country, thanks to their intellectual versatility, their industrial energy and their commercial gifts. By the compulsory exchange which began on May 1, 1923, all these Greeks were transported to Greece proper, and in return about half a million of Mohammedans were transferred to Turkey. In this way the Pan-Hellenic dream of resuscitating the ancient Greece around the Ægean basin, a dream which had suffered a great set-back by the military defeat of 1922, was now definitely robbed of any possibility of future realization. The Armenian problem had already been solved in an even more radical way, and by sinister methods.
Today there are neither Greeks nor Armenians left in Asia Minor; the only national minority still existing is composed of the Kurds, in number about 1,200,000. Mustafa Kemal has made an effort to solve their problem by trying to make Turks of them. He has pressed his action with cruel determination. In sanguinary fights his incomparably superior army has succeeded in quelling the repeated risings of the Kurds, who cherish their liberty; and for the time being their rebellious spirit has been broken. There was no room for national minorities in the Europeanized national state which Mustafa Kemal created, and none have been tolerated.
Nationalism goes hand in hand with secularization. Once the national state is regarded as the highest form of organization, religion is deprived of a considerable share of its former controlling influence both in public and private life. The citizen of the state becomes of greater importance than the co-religionist. But while secularization thus implies a far-reaching restriction of the social sphere of Islamic influence, it does not imply the end of Islam any more than enlightenment and rationalism implied the end of religion in Europe. The organization of the state and the administration of law and education, hitherto subordinated to the religious authority, are now emancipated and secularized. From these cardinal principles, which underlie all that is happening in the east today, Mustafa Kemal drew the logical consequences. During these ten years the modern, secular, national state has been established by rapid steps. On March 3, 1924, the Caliphate was abolished for the reason that there was no room for it "in a national state." Mustafa Kemal delivered a speech on that occasion in which he proclaimed "the deliverance of politics from religious prejudices." The Ministry for Religious Affairs was abrogated; all mosque schools were declared closed; the ecclesiastical courts, whose jurisdiction was based on canon law, were abolished. This paved the way for the complete secularization of the administration of justice and of education. Two years later, the monasteries of the dervishes, which had played an important part in the religious life of the Turkish nation, were closed. At the same time, new regulations were issued concerning the official attire and duties of the clergy, and the Mohammedan chronology was replaced by the European calendar. In 1926, the law of the western nations was adopted in its most modern form. This constituted the most significant step in the modernization of Turkish life. Turkish family law, which had hitherto been regulated by mediæval canonical precepts, was now established on a uniform basis in accordance with Swiss law. It was but the natural outcome of all these innovations that on April 10, 1928, Islam ceased to be the established religion of the state.
This secularization went hand in hand with the nationalization of religion -- in other words, the permeation of Islam, which rested historically on Arabian foundations and was essentially supranational, with the spirit of the national Turkish culture. Turkish culture had been religious and humanistic, resting on Islamic and on national Arabian and Persian foundations. The classical Islamic literatures of the Arabians and Persians provided the matter for the instruction of the educated Turks, whose language was liberally interspersed with Arabic words and phrases. It was one of the aims of Turkish nationalism to make the language more popular and to divest it of its classic and religious associations. In 1929 instruction in the Arabic and Persian languages was abolished in the higher schools and replaced by the teaching of modern European languages. At the same time, a Turkish Linguistic Council was established at Ankara and charged with the publication of a dictionary and a grammar in which all words borrowed from the Persian and Arabic languages were to be replaced, so far as possible, by Turkish words. The Koran, the fundamental code of Islam, originally written in the Arabic language, had already been translated into Turkish, but it was on January 22, 1932, during prayers in a mosque at Istanbul, that suras from the Koran were recited for the first time in a Turkish translation. A few days later, at the conclusion of Ramadan, the month of fast, when the mosque of St. Sophia was crowded with worshippers, the Koran and the prayers were chanted in Turkish by the most renowned cantors, and this service was broadcast by radio to all Turkish towns, where receiver sets had been installed in the mosques. Some resistance surged up once more in orthodox circles against this consummation of the process of nationalization and secularization; but it was promptly suppressed.
General education and the emancipation of women are usually proclaimed as two principal aims of a nationalist movement. In both directions the new Turkey is making great progress. Notwithstanding the lack of teachers, text-books and financial resources, the government has put its whole strength into the fight against illiteracy. Special attention is being given to primary education, hitherto sadly neglected, the education of women, and training in handicrafts, industries and agriculture. In the schools stress is being laid on the importance of the new national spirit; foreign and missionary schools which are still in existence have to pay the same regard to the authority of the state as they would in any European country. The adoption of Latin characters and writing in 1928 might at first glance seem a merely external matter, like the introduction of European dress and headgear. As a matter of fact, however, these are but external symbols of an internal transformation of great significance. It is as if in a stuffy room the windows were suddenly thrown open. The entire nation is learning, with Mustafa Kemal as its "foremost teacher," and the transformation which has been witnessed during the past ten years in all domains of life, and above all in the status of women, is astounding. Women are now to be seen everywhere as officials and teachers. Relations between men and women have undergone a complete transformation, thanks to the new forms of social intercourse, to coeducation, and to the commingling of the two sexes in society and in sports. Sometimes it might seem that this movement is spending itself in externals, or that Ankara confounds undesirable habits of western life with its real substance, with its achievements through centuries of intellectual effort. But even though the change may sometimes be too rapid and too violent there can be no doubt that Turkish life has been taken hold of by new dynamic forces. A feeling of liberation, an onward-pressing energy, buoy up the new Turkish nation. The chief deficiencies are a lack of searching self-criticism (which after all is not unknown among many older nations either) and, in sharp contrast to the former attitude of self-depreciation towards Europe, an excessive self-esteem which sometimes is apt to confound appearance with reality, but which for all that is easily to be explained by the rapid progress which has been made and by the joy of the people over seeing success crown their efforts.
The Turkish Republic has produced its own scientific theory, or perhaps it would be more correct to say its own legend, regarding the past of the Turkish race, and it has seen to it that this is taught as a dogma in the Turkish schools. This too is a mere youthful imitation of other nations. Turkey is taking pride in her own past. In the 1923 program of the Republican People's Party, to which reference has already been made, we read: "Although our party wants to keep pace with all other modern nations in the path of progress and development and in the cultivation of international relations and intercourse, it is at the same time determined to preserve the individual character of Turkish society and its essentially independent personality." To provide for the education of the Turkish people in this new spirit, an organization was founded in 1912 under the name of Turk Ojagui with the aim "to recreate national life through the youth of both sexes on the basis of a new national culture and in accordance with the ideas of western civilization." In 1931 this organization was amalgamated with the Republican People's Party, and in 1932 it was transformed into a new association named "The House of the People." This "House" was intended to become, in each town throughout Turkey, the center of all efforts devoted to the education of the people. Its task comprises both Europeanization and nationalization. All the various "Houses" (in which alcoholic drinks and card games are prohibited) are to include departments for language and literature, fine arts, theatre, sport, social aid, work in the villages, popular educational courses, and bureaus dealing with libraries, museums and exhibitions. The influence of educational centers of this sort is apt to be much greater than legislative measures.
Similar tendencies are in evidence in the economic field. Hitherto Turkey had been a half-colonial country. It was dominated by foreign capitalism. This foreign capitalism was protected by special privileges, thwarted progress, and played into the hands of a corrupt domestic administration by concession-hunting of the most scandalous description. Mustafa Kemal's victory has made it possible to liberate the country from these conditions and to transform it into a state whose citizens are opening up the national resources of production in the interest of the nation. For this purpose they first had to do all those things which the European nations had done many decades before. The railroad system and other traffic arteries had to be developed so as to facilitate exchange between the individual provinces as well as intercourse between the interior and the sea-coast. In the domain of shipping, banking and commerce, foreign control had to be eliminated, so as to transfer the conduct of business into Turkish hands. Agriculture had to be modernized; intensive cultivation of the soil had to be fostered. Domestic industry had to be called into being, in order to make Turkey more independent of the importation of foreign industrial products.
It was in the nature of things that the state should take a very prominent and active part in this transformation of the country's economic life. For in such times of transition, when the spirit of economic initiative and technical discipline is still to be awakened among the people, only the state has at its command the necessary capital and possibilities of organization. From 1928 to 1932, the annual value of Turkish industrial products has risen (in Turkish pounds) from £40,000,000 to £100,000,000. Foreign corporations doing business in Turkey must have Turks among their members, and they have to employ Turkish citizens and use the Turkish language. The important shipping trade along the Turkish coast has been reserved for Turkish vessels, with the result that in the port of Istanbul the Turkish flag, which until quite recently had been seldom seen, has since 1929 been the one most in evidence. The mileage of the railway system amounted in 1923 to about 1440 miles; by May 1931 it had risen to over 3820 miles. Further extensive construction now under way will have the result that within a short time the whole of Anatolia will be traversed by two trunk lines, running from west to east and connected by numerous branch lines with each other as well as with the three seacoasts. At the same time a circular line is being constructed on the high plateau in the interior, with lines radiating in all directions.
In her endeavors to nationalize her economic life Turkey has not hesitated to create difficulties for foreigners and foreign corporations. Indeed, the defensive measures of the new Turkish nationalism often assume economic forms which are harsh and undesirable. It should not be forgotten, however, that in this respect too the west has been the teacher of the east, and that the latter has only been persuaded by bitter experience to relinquish its former passivity and to replace it by a new attitude which fills the west with astonishment and sometimes calls forth censure. The old laissez-faire has given way to a new spirit of independence, a new desire for self-respect and self-reliance. The European can no longer count on that preferential treatment and spirit of submission which he used to meet with at every step even as late as twenty-five years ago. But it is from the west that the east has learned his new will to self-assertion; and it is by means which are in use in the west that the east is now striving to liberate itself from the domination of the more advanced nations.
All sorts of attempts are being made to educate the Turkish masses to acquire capital and purchase domestic products. In April 1929 a demonstration took place in the University of Istanbul in favor of using the products of national industries. This was followed by exhibitions at Istanbul and at Ankara. At the beginning of the Mohammedan month of fast, Ramadan, in the year 1930, there were displayed on all mosques of Istanbul electric transparencies containing the injunction: "Waste is sin! Buy home products!" At the end of 1929, an Association for National Economy and Saving was founded at Ankara under the chairmanship of the President of the Grand National Assembly, and in the following year a "Week of National Saving" was observed for the first time. The proclamation by which it was instituted contained the following passages: "Citizens! In the past it was regarded as dishonorable to use Turkish products; in the past it was also regarded as dishonorable to call a Turk a Turk." In this way the self-confidence of the new nationalism is pervading all spheres of public and economic life.
Just as Mustafa Kemal's domestic policy is inspired by the wish to build up and preserve national independence, so also with his foreign policy. Before the World War, the Ottoman Empire, a mere pawn in the hands of the western Powers, endeavored to turn their mutual antagonisms to advantage, if only to prolong its own existence by a few years. But since the Peace of Lausanne, Turkey has been following a policy aiming consciously at peace, neutrality, and friendship with all nations. What she needs most is a breathing-space in which to modernize the state and reorganize its economic life. A close friendship unites Turkey with the Soviet Union. It was the attitude of the Soviet Union which during the difficult years between the Peace of Sèvres and the Peace of Lausanne made it possible for Turkey to show Europe a bold front; and it was the Soviet Union's action in renouncing the old Russian capitulations and concessions in Turkey which prepared the way for the country's political and economic regeneration. The Soviet Union felt that its fight against western imperialism was being furthered by the national revolutions in the Near East which were supplanting antiquated and corrupt monarchies, dependent on western imperialism, with young and emancipated régimes. This in no way implied any community of ideas nor is to be taken as showing that communistic doctrines have made any headway in Turkey. On the contrary, the new states of the east were quite successful in their endeavors to prevent communistic propaganda from taking root within their frontiers. It was purely a community of interests that brought together the Soviet Union and the countries of western Asia.
As early as March 16, 1921, Mustafa Kemal concluded a treaty with Soviet Russia, in the preamble of which we read: "The two parties to this treaty hereby affirm that, in their struggle for liberation, the peoples of the east are at one with the working population of Russia fighting for a new social order. They emphatically proclaim the right of the peoples of the east to liberty and independence and a form of government in accordance with their own desires." But Turkey's politics have not been taken in tow by Moscow. After achieving her complete independence, and while fully preserving it, Turkey means to observe neutrality between the Soviet Union and the western Powers. Without damaging her friendship toward the Soviet Union, she also means to keep open all ways leading to the west. It was in this sense that she joined the League of Nations in July 1932.
Influenced by the Soviet Union, a similar community of interests also brought together three states of western Asia -- Turkey, Persia and Afghanistan. The first step was taken in the treaty signed in Moscow on March 1, 1921, by Turkey and Afghanistan. Even in this earliest treaty Afghanistan speaks of Turkey as having set an example for the national liberation of the peoples of the east. Since then, the economic and cultural reorganization of Turkey has been recognized as an example to be followed by Persia, Afghanistan and Iraq; and the rulers of these countries, who took the lead of their peoples in their struggle for national independence about the same time as Mustafa Kemal, i.e., Shah Reza Pahlevi, King Amanullah, and King Feisal, have acknowledged the standard set for them by the Ghazi. The new Turkey has thus been able to strengthen in a remarkable way her position towards the north and the east over what it was in the past. With Iraq, too, Turkey's neighbor in the south, friendly and cordial relations have at last been established. Up to 1926 a struggle was in process between Turkey, on the one hand, and Great Britain and the Arabian state of Iraq, on the other, for the possession of Mosul. This district, largely inhabited by Kurds, contains rich oil reserves and forms a strategic point of the first order. In 1926 the controversy was determined by arbitration, the Council of the League of Nations deciding in favor of Iraq. Turkey readily gave in. The result was that the satisfactory relations already established with other successor states of the Ottoman Empire were extended also to Iraq. That country (which is conscious today of being the outpost of the Pan-Arabic idea and the guardian of Arabian unity and independence) with Turkey, Persia, and the new Arabia which is still in process of development, will one day form a common front in the Middle East. This does not imply an alliance, but rather the acknowledgment of mutual obligations of friendship based on similar convictions concerning the right of the peoples of the east to independence. Economic coöperation may follow.
After Turkey had been successful in transforming into friendship her traditional enmity toward Russia, her northeastern neighbor, she turned her attention toward removing, under even more difficult circumstances, the tension existing between herself and Greece, her neighbor across the Ægean. For nine centuries Turkey and Greece had fought bitterly for the heritage of Eastern Rome. This old antagonism had been exacerbated and fresh resentment had been awakened by the Greek advance in Anatolia in 1919-22, with the cruelties attending it on both sides, as well as by the widespread misery brought about by the compulsory exchange of populations in 1923. In spite of this, Mustafa Kemal in 1930 succeeded in removing existing differences and in concluding treaties of friendship with Venizelos. The cordial reception of the Greek statesmen at Ankara in the autumn of 1930 marked an outstanding achievement of statesmanship, one which constitutes a real landmark in the history of our times.
The establishment of friendly relations between Turkey and Greece is in a way the consummation of the peaceful European policy which has been Mustafa Kemal's aim during the past ten years. It is true, of course, that since the war Turkey has become primarily an Asiatic power. But she still has not entirely ceased to be European, even though only a small portion of her territory now lies on the European side of the Straits -- those Straits which remain of such cardinal importance for the fate of Eastern Europe, even though they are at present demilitarized and neutralized. As a European power Turkey has a rôle among the Balkan states. Since the World War, France and Italy have been rivals for ascendancy in the Balkan peninsula; and the tension between certain of the individual states there has if anything become greater than it was at the time of the conclusion of the peace treaties. In view of the antagonistic aims of France and Italy, as well as of the individual Balkan states, Turkey is careful to observe in Europe the same policy of neutrality and friendship with everybody which she practises in Asia. She would have hailed the establishment of a community of interests among the Balkan states like that recognized as existing among those of western Asia, since that would have helped to insure peace and to eliminate the influence and rivalry of the Great Powers. This has proved impossible. For some time Italy has endeavored to create a Bulgarian-Turkish-Greek bloc, aimed against Jugoslavia and thus ultimately against France. Turkey was anxious to come to an understanding with Italy, especially as it had been rumored for some time that Mussolini was bent upon territorial acquisitions in southwestern Anatolia at Turkey's expense. Mustafa Kemal made it plain that he always stood ready to conclude pacts of security with Rome, Athens and Sofia, but with the proviso that Turkey's complete independence was preserved and that she was not involved in the creation of an anti-French bloc.
In Europe as in Asia, in foreign affairs as in her internal political and economic policy, we thus see evidence of Turkey's desire for a complete liquidation of the past. The "Eastern Question," in consequence may be said to have assumed a totally different aspect.
Enough has been said to show that the ten years during which the new Turkey has been in existence under Mustafa Kemals' leadership have been filled with an almost incredible activity in every field. The entire east is in process of transition from one cultural stage to another. It is a process which deeply affects all categories of social and industrial life; it works great changes in human beings and in their habits and ideas. Turkey is in the forefront of the movement. It goes without saying that such periods of transition have their disadvantages and drawbacks. It may well be that the peoples undergoing a transformation like that in process in the east today do not grasp the real nature of western humanism or the intellectual foundations of science and scientific investigation; they may merely adopt out of western material life what happens to suit their purposes. But, after all, the mixture of phenomena of decay with those of progress is characteristic of the transitional process. That process is always double-faced. It is not to be arrested by any regret or by romantic longing for the past. Those who live in these times harbor a deep resentment against their own immediate past, when they used to feel despised by Europe, when they were exploited and humbled. They are determined to make a complete break with that shameful epoch and to strike out along new roads. They will take full advantage of the lessons received from Europe; but the knowledge thus gained will be used for their own protection against the European Powers.
Mustafa Kemal is himself a product of this period of transition. In him are embodied, as in all great men of history outside the tragic sphere, both the superior energy and statesmanship of the born leader and those objective forces which are at work in any given period of history, and which mold it quite apart from the influence of personalities. The new Turkey is the work of Mustafa Kemal. But that he was able to achieve it is due entirely to the fact that he knew how to give concrete shape to forces and tendencies which for a quarter of a century had been striving to manifest themselves in the life of the east, and that without pause or hesitation or scruples he pressed them forward to fulfilment.