Ankara: Lessons in Ancient and 20th Century History

We’ve spent two days being tourists in Ankara. Cities are not our specialty, but Ankara as a modern capital city has its charms.

Yesterday we visited two tourist sights: the Ethnographic Museum and the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations. Deciding what to put in a museum is somewhat like preparing for a cycle touring trip: decide on the minimum, then throw away half of what is left! Many cyclists and museum curators fail at this task. The Turks have learnt this lesson well and both museums were excellent.

Today we went to Ataturk‘s ( founder of the Republic of Turkey) mausoleum, mainly because neither of us had done a mausoleum before. We struck lucky. It is Independence Day and so we were greeted with a flyover by the Turkish Air Force. The architecture of the mausoleum is uniquely modern Turkish, and is grand without being overdone. The associated museum was less about Ataturk than what was done to form the Turkish state: laws, schools, women’s right’s, etc.. One of Ataturk’s basic political principles was the complete independence of the country. His position was:

By complete independence, we mean of course complete economic, financial, juridical, military, cultural independence and freedom in all matters. Being deprived of independence in any of these is equivalent to the nation and country being deprived of all its independence.

It must be remembered that he was forming a country during a time when many wanted to move towards fascism or communism, or back towards the days of the Ottoman Empire. Ataturk chose a modern secular republican model.

It was interesting as a Brit to see the Turkish view of the disastrous joint British and French Gallipoli Campaign  that failed in its objective of capturing Istanbul and securing a sea route to Russia. At the end of the First World War the signing of the Armistice of Mudros 1918, which was as badly one sided as that with Germany, seems to have created a political situation that led to the Turkish War of Independence and the creation of Turkey in 1923. The Truman Doctrine helped secure the state in the aftermath of the Second World War.

(Please feel free to correct me on my understanding of history!)

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