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The Turkish Republic, From Neutrality to Western Alliance

army coup, Western alliance, Turkish government, Turkish economy, economic alliance

Ataturk was succeeded as president by his close associate Ismet Inonu, who continued his internal policies. Remembering the terrible experience of World War I, Inonu kept Turkey neutral during almost all of World War II; not until February 1945 did Turkey declare war on Germany and Japan. Following the war, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) attempted to include Turkey within its sphere of influence, demanding control of Turkey’s eastern provinces and the straits. In response, Turkey accepted large-scale aid offered by U.S. President Harry S. Truman and entered a close military and economic alliance with the United States; in 1952 it became a full member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Along with this new association with the democratic West, Inonu democratized the regime and allowed the introduction of opposition parties. This led to the triumph in 1950 of the Democratic Party (Turkish acronym, DP), advocating more private and individual enterprise than had been permitted by the statist policies of Ataturk’s Republican People’s Party (CHP), which now went into opposition.

Led by President Celal Bayar, along with Prime Minister Adnan Menderes and Foreign Minister Fuat Koprulu, the DP controlled the Turkish government from 1950 to 1960. The Turkish economy expanded rapidly during this time as a result of the new economic liberalism and the large-scale foreign assistance, principally from the United States, that followed Turkey’s entry into the Western alliance. Ultimately, however, too rapid economic growth and poor management led to severe economic and social strains and increasing political discontent voiced by the CHP, which the Democrats began to repress. In 1960 an army coup finally overthrew the government, hanged Menderes and a few associates on charges of corruption the next year, and installed a new constitution based on modern economic and social principles, with provisions to prevent the kind of repression the Democrats had inflicted.

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