Where Recep Tayyip Erdogan comes from

turks today

Andrew Mango: The Turks Today. ISBN 978-0-7195-6595-3 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Reading Andrew Mango’s biography of Kemal Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey, was already a great intellectual pleasure, and the follow-up “The Turks Today” was just as fascinating. The first half of the book deal with history as you would expect it. A chronicle of important political developments from 1938, the year Atatürk died, up to the year 2003 when Turkey seemed ready to align itself on the policies of the European Union and to join it finally, after having waited for this moment for decades.

The second half of the book deals with a range of subjects not strictly political, but closely related to politics: the question of identity, of culture, education and Muslim faith, the leaps and setbacks Turkey witnessed in economic affairs, the differences between city and rural life and the desperate wish to be recognized as European country with a European tradition and a European future.

Even more than the biography of Atatürk this book helped me understand what conflicts dominate Turkish politics and the attitude towards the European Union. The book was published in 2003 and of course it does not cover more recent events like the failed military putsch, the demonstrations in Ankara and Istanbul, the repression by Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government. It however explains where Erdogan comes from – politically speaking – and how he managed to turn Turkey into a state that seems to discards more and more of Atatürks liberal and open-minded legacy.

A synthesis of cultural ideas drawn from Turkey’s tradition and the avant-garde of French classical music can be found in Ahmed Adnan Saygun’s String Quartet No. 1 (Op. 27):

French avant-garde meets Sufi Mystics