As our nation celebrated the centenary of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey (TBMM) this week, it is necessary to remember the significance of our assembly in history. During the late Ottoman Empire, the first assembly was founded in 1876 in order to draft the first constitution of the state (Kanun-i Esasi). Due to the outbreak of the Ottoman-Russian war, however, Sultan Abdülhamid II dissolved Parliament and abrogated the Constitution for three decades. In 1908, the Constitution was reinstated when the Committee of Union and Progress came to political power and ruled the country in this second constitutional era. As the Ottoman State was occupied by foreign powers at the end of the World War I, a third Assembly was founded in 1920 in Ankara. It led the War of Independence against the occupying powers and would be the first assembly of the Republic of Turkey.
After the French Revolution occurred, empires had great difficulty protecting their territorial integrity due to the rise in nationalist movements. Due to the vast lands it held in its final century, stretching from the Arabian Peninsula to North Africa and from the Caucasus to the Balkans, the Ottoman Empire was devastated by this rapid rise of nationalism because of its immense multinational and multi-religious demography.
Although the Western empires were also negatively influenced by the French Revolution, they were in a much better condition thanks to their colonization of the African and American continents and the accompanying Industrial Revolution.
The last century of the Ottoman Empire and the succeeding century of the Republic of Turkey were composed of the nation's struggle for survival. Today, in the centenary of the TBMM, our country has become one of the main players in the international arena.
The founding years of the Republic of Turkey were years of social trauma for our nation. While a great empire was fragmented, the founding political cadre of the new Republic forced the nation to replace its traditional values with Western ones. Colonialist powers supported a colonized class of intellectuals to shape the emerging country. In opposition to this Western political campaign, another movement of nationalism and conservatism had taken root in the country by underlining the values of our own history, culture and religion.
Even in the late Ottoman Empire, numerous intellectuals and political leaders such as Namık Kemal, Ziya Pasha, Sait Halim Pasha, Sultan Abdülhamid II, Ahmet Cevdet Pasha and Khalid-i Baghdadi resisted the cultural colonization of the country. During the Republican period, intellectuals such as Nurettin Topçu, Necip Fazıl Kısakürek and Sezayi Karakoç continued to struggle against the colonized culture of the country. Necmettin Erbakan especially succeeded to transform the two-century-long movement of Islamism into a political movement and developed a national vision in engineering and technology.
Thanks to the Justice and Development Party's (AK Party) almost two-decade-long stay in power, the dream of a "great Turkey" was reborn. When the AK Party came to political power in 2002, they took over a country that was in a political and economic crisis.
Thanks to the political leadership of the AK Party, Turkey has regained its confidence not only in economics, but also in regional and international politics. In the field of foreign policy, the government adopted a multidimensional and multilateral foreign policy. In the region, Turkey has emerged as one of the leading international political players.
During the coronavirus pandemic, many prominent countries have failed to sustain their economies, let alone their health services, while countries such as Turkey, Germany and South Korea have strengthened their international images thanks to their successful management of the ongoing crisis. Today, Turkey succeeds by not only managing the coronavirus outbreak within its borders but also by delivering medical aid to almost 40 countries, including the leading members of NATO.
A century earlier, Turkey was struggling for survival. Today, on the centenary of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, the dream of a "great Turkey" is already coming true.
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