Atatürk (1880-1938) was one of the most renowned individuals of his time, and rightly so, for he not only founded the modern state of Turkey but created its enduring premises. Turks celebrate his accomplishments to this day, with his face on the money and on portraits throughout the country. His legacy is especially powerful in the military officer corps. According to one account, "It would not be an exaggeration to say that cadet-officers hardly spend an hour without mentioning his name."2 Even in English, many volumes of biography celebrate his life.
But what of his No. 2, Ismet Inönü (1884-1973)? Inönü served Atatürk as the chief of staff who helped win his most decisive battles (against the Greeks), as diplomat in his most important treaty (Lausanne, 1923), as prime minister during his entire presidency (1924-38), and then as his successor as president (1938-50), later to return again to power as prime minister (1961-65). In a first-class biography, Heper (a professor at Bilkent University in Istanbul) performs the important service of recalling this key figure's life from the wrongful obscurity into which it has fallen. Heper finds there is much to admire in his biographee, calling him a pragmatist, an optimist, and a "statesman par excellence." He particularly praises the intelligent and realistic way Inönü guided the country from Atatürk's benevolent despotism to a multi-party democracy whose first election he lost, thereupon gracefully going into opposition; indeed, Inönü went so far as to call his defeat his "greatest victory." Heper quotes one assessment that Turkey has undergone three revolutions this century: a national one led by Atatürk, a democratic one led by Inönü, and an economic one led by Turgut Özal, the prime minister and then president, 1983-93. He then adds that Inönü's role was larger than this implies, having had a direct hand in the first and having helped to pave the way for the third. He deserves this excellent biography.