Mustafa Kemal, born in Salonika in 1881, was a student at the Manastir Military academy and later at the War College in Constantinople. This officer who became a general and who was a member of the Young Turks movement and a front-runner in the revolution, wanted to free the country from the decadent sultanate regime. During World War I, he made the Anglo-French expedition fail in the Dardanelles. In 1919 after the capitulation of the Ottoman government following the Erzurum and Sivas Congresses, he was given the mission to preserve the integrity of the Turkish territory which was beeing sliced up. He was elected President of the Grand National Assembly in April 1920.


He led the War of Independence from 1920 till 1922 and totally liberated Anatolia. Proclaimed first President of the Republic in 1923, he never stopped fighting in order that Turkey became a modern state.
In 1934 when everyone had to take a surname, the National Assembly gave him the surname Atatürk, which means “Father of the Turks”. He died on 10 November 1938 in Istanbul, aged 57.


The War of Independence took place between 1919 and 1922 against the victorious Allies who wanted to control the Anatolian territory. On the 23rd of April 1920, the Grand National Assembly with Mustafa Kemal as the president, called a meeting in Ankara to form a nationalist government. The Treaty of Sèvres, which sliced up Anatolia, sharing it in zones of influence of the foreign powers, triggered off the war against Greece (1920-1922) that led to the reconquest of Izmir (smyrna). The Treaty of Lausanne (24th of July 1923) established the sovereignty of modern Turkey, defining its frontiers and arranging for exchanges of populations between Greece and Turkey. The independence of the Turkish nation was total.

Mustafa Kemal elected President
of the Grand National Assembly

The Republic was proclaimed on the 29th of October 1923 and Mustafa Kemal was elected president. Ankara replaced Istanbul as the capital. Of the vast empire, only the heart called Anatolia was left as well as a small territory in Europe called Eastern Thrace. In order to drag his people away from the hold of Islam, Mustafa Kemal, during 15 years, devoted all his energies to the national revolution. His programme of reforms was to eliminate the obstacles that were against Turkey’s good relations with western countries.

The reforms

- 1922: abolition of the sultanate
- 1923: establishment of the republic
- 1924: abolition of the caliphate
- 1925: abolition of the religious courts; suppression of religious brotherhoods, of religious schools (medrese); unification of education; abolition of religious clothing and veil for the women; replacement of traditional clothing and fez by western style clothing; replacement of the Moslem calendar by the Gregorian calendar, Sunday becoming the official day of rest instead of Friday; adoption of the international time system.
- 1926: adoption of Swiss civil law code in replacement of Islamic law, of German commercial law, and Italian penal code.
- 1928: introduction of Latin alphabet; abolition of polygamy and obligation of civil wedding.
- 1930: women are given the right to vote in local elections.
- 1931: adoption of metric system.

- 1934: women are given the right to run as a candidate in national elections; implementation of compulsory and free state education in mixed schools; suppression of former titles; purification of Turkish language from Arabic and Persian words; introduction of family names: Mustafa Kemal takes the name of Atatürk meaning “father of the Turks”.


Economy: the state encouraged the development of industry and agricultural activites: banks and factories were created, mining resources were exploited, buying and selling prices were set, important works were undertaken. Foreign concessions were suppressed, transport and big industrial firms were nationalized. The sultan’s lands were parceled out and given to the peasants.

Foreign policy
: successful agreements were made with neighbouring countries and the great powers:
- 1932: participation to the League of Nations.
- 1934: participation to the Balkan Pact.
- 1936: the Montreux Agreement gave back Turkey the control of the detroits. Participation to the Saadabad Pact with many Near Eastern countries ( Iraq, Iran, Afganisthan).
- 1938: France that held the mandate of the League of Nations over Syria, retroceded the Sandjak (department) of Alexandretta under the name of Iskenderun.

- Death of Atatürk on November 10, 1938.



Ismet Inönü (1884 –1973) who was twice elected Prime Minister during Atatürk’s presidency, became second President until 1950 and kept Turkey neutral during World War II, symbolically declaring war to Germany and Japan in February 1945. Inönü, faithful to the memory of Atatürk, prepared the country for democratic elections, giving up a unique party and economical interventionism. Turkey’s best allied country was the United States who took the country under the Marshall Plan in 1948. Turkey also became a member of NATO in 1952.

The military coup of 1960: in 1950 the Democratic Party (DP) won the elections against Inönü’s Republican People Party, and led the country until its overthrow by a coup on May 27,1960. The Democratic Party leaders were imprisoned and brought to trial on the charges of coruption, unconstitutional rule and high treason. Three former ministers including Menderes were executed. Democracy returned in 1963, after a new Constitution was voted. However the situation did not improved. The agreements made with USSR, the departure to Europe of an excess work force, the devaluation of money and the rapid development of tourism did not succeed to stop unemployment and the rise in prices. Petroleum crisis disrupted economical life.
The Cyprus Crisis: it was in that climate of political instability due to the succession of government coalitions that the Cyprus Crisis broke out in July 1974. All these disorders nourished right and left wing extremists.
In 1571 Cyprus became part of the Ottoman Empire. In 1878 Britain made a proposal of alliance to the Ottoman State against Russia, requesting to use Cyprus as a base. In exchange of their support, the Turks relinquished the administration of the island to the Britishs. In 1914 Britain annexed Cyprus when the Ottoman State entered World War I together with Germany. In 1925 Cypriot Turks were given two years to get Turkish citizenship according to the Lausanne Agreement. As a result, many Turks that were discontented with the English administration emigrated to Turkey. In the 1930's, Greek Cypriots (78% of the population), led by the Greek Orthodox Church, began a movement for "enosis" or union with Greece. In response, Britain sent many dissident priests into exile, however the movement continued to grow, erupting in violence between Greek and Turkish Cypriots in 1954-55. In 1960, Britain granted independence, under a plan including constitutional guarantees for theTurkish minority. Archbishop Makarios returned from exile an became President. He attempted to favor the Greek Cypriots, which alienated the Turkish community and led to inter-communal violence in 1964, when a UN peacekeeping force was deployed. On July 15, 1974 a coup was launched to assassinate Makarios by the ruling military junta in Greece in order to achieve immediate enosis. Nikos Sampson, an advocate of enosis who shed blood in the 1950s and 1960s, was appointed president. Makarios, after escaping to Britain, went to New York to address the UN Security Council accusing Greece of usurping the democratic rights of the people of Cyprus and the independence and sovereignty of the Republic of Cyprus. On July 20, 1974 Turkey used military force and occupied the north of the island to protect the Turkish minority. On July 23 Greece's junta fell and a democratic government under Konstantinos Karamanlis took power and Makarios returned as President of Cyprus. In July 1975 Turkey, which did not withdraw its troops, declared a Turkish-Cypriot Federal State in the occupied North and appointed Rauf Denktas President. It was agreed that the Turks in Southern Cyprus and Greeks in Northern Cyprus would shift places. In this way, the island was actually divided into two states represented by two communities. Makarios died in August 1977 and Cypriot Greeks elected Democratic Party Leader Spiros Kyprianou as the President. Cyprus Turkish Federated State and Turkey did not recognize his presidency, stating that Kyprianou could only represent the Greeks in Southern Cyprus. Negotiations between the two communities took place. However, seeing that the talks would continue to be fruitless, in May 1983 all intercommunal talks were broken off, and on November 17, 1983 the Cyprus Turkish Federated State Assembly unanimously proclaimed the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (officially recognized by Turkey) and Rauf Denktas was elected the first president.
In June 2001 the UN Security Council renewed its mission in Cyprus and in January 2002 UN-led direct talks between the two sides are begun. In November, the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan presented a peace plan for Cyprus, which envisaged a federation with two constituent parts, presided over by a rotating presidency. In December, the EU summit in Copenhagen invited Cyprus to join in 2004 provided the two communities agree to UN plan by early spring 2003. But in March 2003, the UN deadline for agreement on reunification plan passed without agreement. Following the failure of UN plan, on April 23 the checkpoints were opened for the Turkish and Greek Cypriots to cross the island's dividing demarcation line for the first time in 30 years, after the Turkish Cypriot authorities said they were easing restrictions to build confidence between the communities. The opening of the borders was met with unprecedented enthusiasm by both Greek and Turkish citizens.
On April 3, 2008 Greek and Turkish Cypriots opened a crossing at Ledra Street (called by the Turks Lokmaci) a main shopping street in Cyprus' divided capital that has come to symbolize the island's ethnic partition. After intercommunal fighting in 1964, the first barricade that divided the island was erected at Ledra Avenue in Nicosia.
Hopes of reuniting Cyprus have risen since Greek Cypriot Demetris Christofias was elected president in February 2008. Both he and Turkish Cypriot President Mehmet Ali Talat say they want a settlement.
(click here for the map of Cyprus).

The military coup of 1980: growing violence and the government’s ineffectiveness brought about the military to come to power on September 12, 1980. The leader, Kenan Evren, became head of state in November 1982 when a third Constitution was set up after a national referendum. The new president was elected for a period of seven years by the Turkish Grand National Assembly (the TBMM, that holds the legislative power, is a parliament of 550 members elected every five years). In April 1983 the National Security Council lifted its ban on political parties. When Turgut Özal became Prime Minister, he brought to power the Motherland Party (Anavatan Partisi or ANAP). Özal with novel ideas and liberal tendencies improved democracy, redressed and vivified economy, and allowed Turkey to carve out a place in the world market.

In 1984 begins the armed conflict with the PKK (Workers of Kurdistan Party) which intends to create independent "Kurdistan" by the armed struggle. This Kurdish ultra-minority group, claiming to have its roots in Marxism-Leninism and whose founder and leader is Abdullah Öcalan known as "Apo", will make the terror reign during 15 years in south-eastern Anatolia, killing civilians and children.

Since 1989: although Turgut Özal is elected President, succeeding Kenan Evren, the military still maintains a discreet presence. The liberalization of the regime increases and a better internal policy influences the relations with foreign countries.

In 1993 Süleyman Demirel succeeds Turgut Özal after his death. Since then several coalition governments have been effective:

In 1993  DYP (True Way Party) and SHP ( Social Democratic Party).

In 1995 DYP and SHP that merges with CHP Republican People Party).

In 1995 Refah ( Islamic Prosperity Party) wins the elections and merges with DYP (Refahyol).

In 1998 Refah is closed, accused to be a threat againt secularism. It is replaced by FP ( Virtue Party) also closed in 2001 and replaced by SP (Bliss Party).

In 1999 a new coalition government was formed by DSP (Social Democratic Party) with Bülent Ecevit as Prime Minister, MHP (Nationalist Action Party) with Devlet Bahçeli as Vice-Premier, and ANAP (Motherland Party) with Mesut Yilmaz as other Vice-Premier.

On February 16, 1999, the leader of the PKK, Abdullah Öcalan responsible for the death of approximately
  30 000 people, is arrested in Kenya by the Turkish Secret Service (MIT) while he was on the run since almost the whole of the international community decided to provide him asylum no longer.

The new President of the Republic Ahmet Necdet Sezer, former head of the Constitutonial Court, is reputed for his faithfulness to democratic values and for his objectivity.

On August 2, 2002, under this government, the Turkish Parliament voted in favour of abolishing the death penalty in peacetime.

In August 2002, the Turkish Parliament (the Grand National Assembly) voted to hold early elections in Turkey on November 3, 2002.

The Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkinma Partisi = AKP), which is a moderate Islamic - democratic party, won a parliamentary majority. It is the first time in 15 years that any party has been in a position to govern alone which is largely due to voter fury over a devastated economy.
Justice and Development party had 34-per-cent support, and Deniz Baykal's centre-left Republican People's Party (CHP) had 19 per cent. AKP won 363 seats -- enough to rule without a coalition --, CHP won 178 seats, and the Independents won 9 seats.
AKP leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a former mayor of Istanbul, couldn't become prime minister for he was not a member of Parliament because in 1998 he was convicted for Islamist sedition, or inciting religious hatred. Erdo?an sent three names as possible candidates to President Ahmet Necdet Sezer. Economist Abdullah Gül, the deputy chairman of the Justice and Development Party, received a mandate to form a cabinet.

The Constitution has since been changed by party legislators, lifting the ban on Erdo?an's entry to Parliament. In March 2003 the latter was elected deputy in by-elections in the southeastern province of Siirt after election board canceled the November 2002 general polls in this city because of irregularities.
During Gül's term in office, Erdo?an strongly influenced policy and ministers (including Gül).
Gül resigned from his post to open the way for Recep Tayyip Erdogan who, on 14 March 2003, replaced him as Prime Minister and formed a new Cabinet (Gül has been appointed Foreign Minister).

On December 17, 2004
, European Union and Turkey reached an agreement to begin talks on October 3, 2005, aimed at bringing the Turkish nation into the EU.

On January 1, 2005, six zeros have been removed from the Turkish Lira (Türk Lirasi). The new TL and old TL will be in joint circulation during 2005 until the old TL is completely withdrawn from circulation by the end of 2005. The new currency unit is the YTL and the international currency code of the YTL has been determined as TRY instead of the previous TRL. (See Useful Tips).

On October 3, 2005  the green light has been given in Luxemburg for formal opening talks on Turkey's EU full membership.

On August 28, 2007 Abdullah Gül was elected by the TBMM (Turkish Parliament) as the 11th President of the Republic of Turkey.

In September 2010, Erdogan’s government won resounding public approval for its plans to change the 30-year-old constitution. The amendments to the constitution were aimed at reducing still further the power of the military and meeting the requirements for EU membership.

In the summer of 2013, Recep Tayyip Erdogan began to look vulnerable for the first time as mass anti-government protests (the Gezi movement) erupted in several cities, further inflamed by the violent police response. A further threat to Erdogan's continued rule emerged in December 2013, when police launched an inquiry into alleged corruption among the prime minister's allies.

On August 10, 2014 Recep Tayyip Erdogan was elected to the presidency of the Republic of Turkey by the people’s direct vote. Since the completion of presidential elections, he was heavily preoccupied for shaping the new management of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the next government. The presidential handover ceremony took place just a day after he left the AKP leadership to Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. The Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the People’s Democracy Party (HDP) were also present at the ceremony while the Republican People’s Party (CHP) boycotted Erdo?an’s sworn in.

There is a tension between Gül and Erdogan, because clearly Gül had the expectation he would be the prime minister again. During the handover ceremony, former president Abdullah Gül thanked to everyone who worked with him but presented special thanks to his wife Hayrünnisa Gül over her support to him over the years even during difficult times. Hayrünnisa Gül recently expressed her disturbance over the attacks against her husband aiming at nixing his ambitions to return to the active politics. “They think as if we do not read anything, do not hear anything, are not aware of anything. So far I have stayed silent, but that won’t last for too long. I will start speaking up, perhaps I will be the one to start an intifada,” recently told Hayrünnisa Gül, making the headlines of newspapers.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan made his first speech as the president, describing himself as the first head of nation elected by the people in the 2000 years of Turkish history. He said that today was the beginning of a new era in Turkey and vowed that he would continue to work to make Turkey a more democratic and prosperous country. He added that the main axis of his government foreign policy was peace, solidarity and welfare and that Turkey’s path to EU membership would continue.

The ruling AK Party must win a stronger majority in parliament in a general election due by June 2015 if Erdogan is to secure his ambition of changing the constitution and establishing an executive presidency.

Opponents warned that Recep Tayyip Erdogan ambition to establish an executive presidential system would concentrate too much power in the hands of a leader with autocratic instincts and lead the EU candidate country ever further from the secular ideals of the republic's founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

List of Presidents of the Republic

1. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk : October, 1923 - November, 1938
2. Ismet Inönü : November, 1938 - May, 1950
3. Celal Bayar : May, 1950 - May, 1960
4. Cemal Gürsel : October, 1961 - March, 1966
5. Cevdet Sunay : March, 1966 - March, 1973
6. Fahri S. Korutürk : April, 1973 - April, 1980
7. Kenan Evren : December, 1982 - November, 1989
8. Turgut Özal : November, 1989 - April, 1993
9. Süleyman Demirel : May, 1993 - May, 2000
10. Ahmet Necdet Sezer : May, 2000 - August 2007
11. Abdullah Gül
: August 2007 - August 2014
12. Recep Tayyip Erdo?an
: August 2014 - Present