Diaries Magazine

The Cult of Atatürk

By Jackscott @jackscottbodrum

The Cult of Atatürk

Now we’ve returned to Blighty I feel safe enough to comment on a subject that is taboo in my former foster home, the cult of Atatürk. Mustapha Kemal was undoubtedly an inspirational military and political leader who saved the Ottoman heartlands from the territorial ambitions of the victorious powers following the Great War. The Italians, French, British and Greeks all wanted to pick over the bones of the moribund empire and punish the Sultan for backing the wrong horse. There were scores to settle. Atatürk saw off the pack of hyenas and established a secular Turkish Republic mostly shorn of its imperial lands within more defensible borders. His post war reforms dragged the country into the 20th Century. He was able to achieve all this because of the sheer strength of his towering personality and resolute single mindedness. Yes, he was a dictator, in the age of the great dictators (I don’t mean ‘great’ as a compliment), but his rule was progressive and mostly benign. His avowed legacy was to establish a just and secular society. I wonder, therefore, what he would make of the cult that has developed around his memory following his death? I wonder if he would approve of the laws that ban even the mildest criticism of him and require his image to be prominently displayed everywhere? What would he make of monumental scale of his mausoleum and the thousands of grand statues that adorn every town square? I wonder?

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