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The modern Republic of Turkey is the successor state to the Ottoman Empire, an Islamic power in Europe between the late 14th and the early 20th centuries. The Republic of Turkey came into being after the overthrow of Sultan Mehmet VI Vahdettin by the new Republican assembly of Turkey in 1922. The Ottoman Empire by the 19th century had sunk into a decline that led some to call it the "sick man of Europe." After the Empire's collapse following World War I, Turkish revolutionaries led by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk emerged victorious in the Turkish War of Independence, establishing Turkey as it currently exists today. Atatürk, then Prime Minister and later President of Turkey, implemented a series of reforms that modernized the country and moved it more towards European culture. During World War II, Turkey remained neutral until February 1945, when it joined the Allies. During the Cold War, Turkey allied itself with the United States, taking part in the Marshall Plan in 1947, joining as a member state the Council of Europe in 1949, and joining NATO in 1952.

Turkish nationalists established modern Turkey as an outcome of the Turkish War of Independence, mostly on what was to become Turkish territory, as of the Treaty of Lausanne. The war resulted in the defeat of Greece in western Turkey, the East Armenian state on the east, Britain, France, and Georgia. The Treaty of Lausanne, signed on July 24, 1923, and negotiated by İsmet İnönü on behalf of the Ankara government, established most of the modern boundaries of the country; except the province of Hatay, formerly the Syrian province of Alexandretta, which joined Turkey following a referendum organized in 1939 after having gained its independence from France in 1938. The Treaty of Lausanne also led to the international recognition of the sovereignty of the new Republic of Turkey as the successor state of the defunct Ottoman Empire. The Republic of Turkey was founded as a nation-state on the French Revolutionary model.


   Single-party period, 1923-1946

   Multi-party period, 1946 - recent

   Accession of Turkey to the European Union

Single-party period, 1923-1946

The history of modern Turkey begins with the foundation of the republic on October 29, 1923, with Mustafa Kemal Atatürk as its first president. The government was formed from the Ankara-based revolutionary group, led by Atatürk. The second constitution was ratified by the Grand National Assembly on April 20, 1924. For about the next 10 years, the country saw a steady process of secular Westernization through Atatürk's Reforms, which included the unification of education; the discontinuation of religious and other titles; the closure of Islamic courts and the replacement of Islamic canon law with a secular civil code modeled after Switzerland's and a penal code modeled after the Italian Penal Code; recognition of the equality between the sexes and the granting of full political rights to women on 5 December 1934; the language reform initiated by the newly founded Turkish Language Association; replacement of the Ottoman Turkish alphabet with the new Turkish alphabet derived from the Latin alphabet; the dress law which stated that the wearing of a fez, a traditional Muslim hat, was outlawed; the law on family names; and many others.

However, the first party to be established in the newly formed republic was Women's Party (Kadınlar Halk Fırkası). It was founded by Nezihe Muhiddin and several other women but was stopped from its activities, since at the time women were not yet legally allowed to engage in politics. The actual passage to multi-party period was first attempted with the Liberal Republican Party by Ali Fethi Okyar. However, the Liberal Republican Party was dissolved on 17 November 1930 and no further attempt for a multi-party democracy was made until 1945.

Turkey was admitted to the League of Nations in July 1932. Atatürk's successor after his death on November 10, 1938 was İsmet İnönü. He started his term in the office as a respected figure of the Independence War but because of internal fights between power groups and external events like the World War which caused a lack of goods in the country, he lost some of his popularity and support. During World War II, Turkey signed a peace treaty with Germany and officially remained neutral until near the end of war.

In February 1945, Turkey declared war on Germany and Japan, although this was largely symbolic. On October 24, 1945 Turkey signed the United Nations Charter as one of the fifty original members. In 1946, İnönü's government organized multi-party elections, which were won by his party. He remained as the president of the country until 1950. He is still remembered as one of the key figures of Turkey.

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Multi-party period, 1946 - recent

The real multi-party period begins with the election of the Democratic Party. The government of Adnan Menderes was very popular at first, relaxing the restrictions on Islam and presiding over a booming economy. In the later half of the decade, however, the economy began to fail and the government introduced censorship laws limiting dissent. The government became plagued by high inflation and a massive debt. On May 27, 1960 General Cemal Gürsel led a military coup d'état removing President Celal Bayar and Prime Minister Menderes, the second of whom was executed. The system returned to civilian control in October 1961. The political system that emerged in the wake of the 1960 coup was a fractured one, producing a series of unstable government coalitions in parliament alternating between the Justice Party of Süleyman Demirel on the right and the Republican People's Party of İsmet İnönü and Bülent Ecevit on the left. The army gave a memorandum warning the civilian government in 1971, leading to another coup which resulted in the fall of the Demirel government and the establishment of interim governments.

In 1974, under Prime Minister Ecevit in coalition with the religious National Salvation Party, Turkey carried out an invasion of Cyprus. The governments of National Front, a series of coalitions between rightist parties, followed as Ecevit was not able to remain in office despite ranking first in the elections. The fractured political scene and poor economy led to mounting violence between ultranationalists and communists in the streets of Turkey's cities. A military coup d'état, headed by General Kenan Evren, took place in 1980. Within two years, the military returned the government to civilian hands, although retaining close control of the political scene. The political system came under one-party governance under Turgut Özal's Motherland Party (ANAP), which combined a globally-oriented economic program with conservative social values.

Under Özal, the economy boomed, converting towns like Gaziantep from small provincial capitals into mid-sized economic boomtowns. On the other hand, administrative reforms against terrorism were enacted by the government, which passed a state of emergency law in 1983 and established in 1985 village guards, local paramilitary militias, to struggle against the conflict with the PKK, an independantist Kurdish terrorist group. Starting in July 1987, the South-East was submitted to state of emergency legislation, a measure which lasted until November 2002. With the turn of the 1990s, political instability returned. The 1995 elections brought a short-lived coalition between Yılmaz's ANAP and the True Path Party, now with Tansu Çiller at the helm. In 1997, the military, citing his government's support for religious policies deemed dangerous to Turkey's secular nature, sent a memorandum to Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan requesting that he resign, which he did. This was named a postmodern coup. Shortly thereafter, the Welfare Party (RP) was banned and re-born as the Virtue Party (FP). A new government was formed by ANAP and Ecevit's Democratic Left Party (DSP) supported from the outside by the center-left Republican People's Party (CHP), led by Deniz Baykal. The DSP won big in the 1999 elections. Second place went to the far-right Nationalist Action Party (MHP). These two parties, alongside Yılmaz's ANAP formed a government.

The government was somewhat effective, if not harmonious, bringing about much-needed economic reform, instituting human rights legislation, and bringing Turkey ever closer to the European Union. A series of economic shocks led to new elections in 2002, bringing into power the religiously conservative Justice and Development Party (AKP) of former mayor of Istanbul, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. AKP again won the 2007 elections, which followed the controversial August 2007 presidential election, during which AKP member Abdullah Gül was elected President during the third round. Recent developments in Iraq, secular and religious concerns, the intervention of the military in political issues, relations with the EU, the United States, and the Muslim world were the main issues. The outcome of this election, which brought the Turkish and Kurdish ethnic/nationalist parties (MHP and DTP) into the parliament, may well affect Turkey's bid for European Union membership, as Turkish perceptions of the current process, or their lack thereof, affected the results and will continue to affect policymaking in coming years.

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Accession of Turkey to the European Union

Turkey's application to accede to the European Union was made on 14 April 1987. Turkey has been an associate member of the European Union (EU) and its predecessors since 1963. After the ten founding members, Turkey was one of the first countries to become a member of the Council of Europe in 1949, and was also a founding member of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in 1961 and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in 1973. It has also been an associate member of the Western European Union since 1992. Turkey signed a Customs Union agreement with the EU in 1995 and was officially recognised as a candidate for full membership on 12 December 1999, at the Helsinki summit of the European Council. Negotiations were started on 3 October 2005, and the process is likely to take at least a decade to complete. The membership bid has become a major controversy of the ongoing enlargement of the European Union.

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