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Turkey Table of Contents


Turkey after Atatürk

Atatürk's death in Istanbul on November 10, 1938, caused an outpouring of grief throughout the Turkish nation. With much ceremony, the president's body was transported to Ankara and placed in a temporary tomb from which it was transferred in 1953 to a newly completed mausoleum on a hill overlooking Ankara. The building has since become a national shrine.

The stability of the new republic was made evident by the smoothness of the presidential succession. The day after Atatürk's death, the Grand National Assembly elected his chief lieutenant, Inönü, president. Celal Bayar, who had succeeded Inönü as prime minister in 1937, continued in that office.

World War II

As tensions in Europe heightened, Inönü determined to keep Turkey neutral in the event of war, unless the country's vital interests were clearly at stake. The Nazi-Soviet nonaggression pact of August 1939 prompted Turkey to sign a treaty of mutual assistance with Britain and France in October. Hedging its bets, the government concluded a nonaggression treaty with Nazi Germany on June 18, 1941, just four days before the Axis invasion of the Soviet Union. The early military successes of the Axis forces contributed to increased pro-German sentiment, even in some official circles. However, Inönü seems never to have wavered from his position that the Axis powers could not win the war. Despite German pressure, Turkey at no time permitted the passage of Axis troops, ships, or aircraft through or over Turkey and its waters, and the Montreux Convention was scrupulously enforced in the straits. Turkey broke diplomatic relations with Adolf Hitler's government in August 1944, and, in February 1945, declared war on Germany, a necessary precondition for participation in the Conference on International Organization, held in San Francisco in April 1945, from which the United Nations (UN) emerged. Turkey thereby became one of the fifty-one original members of the world organization.

Data as of January 1995