National Geographic : 1945 May
The Turkish Republic Comes of Age BY MAYNARD OWEN WILLIAMS ON the day Turkey, by unanimous vote of the Grand National Assembly, broke off diplomatic relations with Germany, I watched the ferryboats leave Istanbul's Ga lata Bridge and disperse, lest vengeful bombs disrupt the traffic of the city by the Golden Horn (Plate X). August 4, 1944, at Ankara's big, clean station, I saw Franz von Papen make an in glorious exit while a few misguided Axis pup pets gave the Nazi salute and waved handbags and hats in front of the press cameras. Hundreds of poker-faced Turks silently watched a shiny private car, attached to the crack Anadolu Express, bear the German Am bassador away. Five minutes later the broad platform was empty, the restaurant loud speaker was at full blast, and thick Turkish coffee was being inhaled with noisy gusto. In 1911, when I first went to Turkey, it was a huge Empire which stretched from Balkan snows to Libian sands. But World War I stripped it of vast territory, including Pales tine, Syria, and Arabia. Turkey's strong man, successively known as Mustafa Kemal Pasha, the Ghazi, and Kemal Atatiirk, divorced the Moslem Church (Islam) and the State from a union which had endured for 1,200 years. He moved the capital from Constantinople (Istanbul) to Ankara and on October 29, 1923, proclaimed the Turkish Re public (map, pages 594-5). The fez was abolished, and elder men in caps turned the visors back, like old-time avia tors and movie directors, so that their reverent foreheads could touch the footstool of Allah the Merciful. Setting up his blackboard in the very shadow of the once-sweet-scented seraglio, Kemal Ata tiirk taught his people a new alphabet, akin to our own. Even he dared not rudely tear aside the veil. But when the new railway to Kay seri was opened, only unveiled women got the choice seats! To help them carry out his dictum, "Be Proud," he sought to imbue Turks with a knowledge of their history, which goes back to the days when men were first cultivating grain and domesticating animals. The memory of Atatiirk, reinforced by many a monument and countless pictures, lives on. His hardy, homogeneous people, led by Presi dent Ismet Inonii, are working out their own destiny. The Turkish Republic is now of age. From the car window during the hot ride last summer from Kayseri to Ankara, it would have been easy to believe that no progress had been made. Peasants in many-patched cloth ing were treading out the grain in the imme morial way. Peasant women, dressed in Tur key-red pantaloons and with their head shawls pulled close about their faces, looked un changed (Plate XVIII). But never had I seen such fine flocks and herds along these valleys where young trees were spreading their shade. Wheat was piled high. And at Ankara it was as if some Aladdin had rubbed his magic lamp. When, in 1927, I toured the new republic with truck, tent, and interpreter, I had seen some of the first new buildings of Ankara rise from the forbidding plain. Malarial mosqui toes reigned in the low swampland, and the passing of every vehicle was marked by a cloud of dust (Plate XV). Today, white-sailed "yachts" tack back and forth on the pleasure lake which has replaced the miasmic swamps, and Diesel-motored buses roll down such boulevards as few cities know. Countless trees shade the broad highways. In every quarter there are parks and flower beds galore. At sidewalk cafes young men in fashionable dress eat their cakes and ices in cosmopolitan ease. Their fathers wrestled with the serpentlike tubes of gurgling narghiles. New Freedoms of Turkish Women Were Turkey still the man's world it was, with women decked like black crows within "yes" distances of their lords, Ankara would be a remarkable city. Through it now move pretty young Turkish girls, short of skirt, sheer of stocking, and red of lip, with freedom and poise. Cork-platformed sandals add to their streamlined height (Plate XVI). Male influence still exerts its conservatism on them. There are many things that these slim princesses may not do. But so far as I could judge, they are as independent as Ameri can girls. These free-striding young women seem the finest fruits of the New Turkey. From the Turkish Press and Printing Bu reau, where I got my press card, Nuri Eren and I drove to a modern broadcasting studio. A recording was being made for transmission to America. Few studios have finer equipment. Perhaps it was the glow of the young woman announcer, who was wearing a new engage ment ring; but every time this dark-eyed girl spoke over the microphone it was as if an inarticulate race of women suddenly had found voice.