Turkey Unveiled: A History of Modern Turkey
by Nicole Pope and Hugh Pope
Woodstock, N.Y.: Overlook, 1998. 373 pp. $29.95.
Reviewed by Daniel Pipes
Middle East Quarterly
The title is unfortunate; the subtitle not quite accurate. "Modern Turkey" usually means starting in about 1800 and trailing off somewhere in the last generation; this suggests another survey of that familiar ground, but it is not. Instead, the Popes (a wife-husband team), in a well-written and reliable account, devote three quarters of their study to the years since 1960. Chapters deal, in a sympathetic but always critical manner, with such issues as the military coups, the Cyprus issue, the Kurdish problem, domestic economic developments, the newly-liberated former Soviet Turkic republics, the fiasco of Tansu Çiller's prime ministry, and the Islamist phenomenon. Throughout, the Popes blame much that they find in Turkey on the modern state's founder, Kemal Atatürk, including the "repression, the intense national paranoia, the shortcomings of its democracy and the over-reliance on the army."
Perhaps most interesting is their account of Türgut Özal, the man who dominated Turkish politics between 1983 and his death in 1993. He was "the catalyst for much of the breathless pace of change that revolutionized Turkey" during that decade-long period. His influence extended to much of Turkish public life: "Undermining the Kemalist bastions of state dominance of business and the media, flamboyantly popularizing a new ideology of the market and international trade, irreverently breaking taboos about the military, Islam, and the Kurds, Türgut Özal became Turkey's most influential political personality since Atatürk." The authors catch his contradictions ("for all his Muslim piety, [he] liked to finish off a bottle of his favorite Courvoisier brandy") and his foibles ("He is like a piece of soft iron. Whatever magnet he sees, he sticks to"), without undermining his outsized and constructive role.
Related Topics: Turkey and Turks | Daniel Pipes | December 1999 MEQ
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