Efforts to modernize the state and
society started during the 19th century. Initially reforms targeted limited
institutions such as the Armed Forces. One of the first things to go was the
traditional marching band of the Ottoman Army (Mehter Takimi), the first of its
kind in Europe, to be replaced by a modem, western one. Western forms of art and
literature penetrated the culture and continued to flourish alongside classical
and folk-art, music, and literature.
The parliamentary system was
introduced more than a century ago. Following the Turkish Revolution at the end
of World War I, reforms to achieve fundamental and broad-based social and
institutional change were initiated by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk the revolutionary
leader and the first president of the Republic of Turkey. Secularism and
protection of democratic individual rights and responsibilities of all citizens
by law are perhaps the most important among these reforms.
One of the proud achievements of
the Republic has been the establishment of women's rights in the new social
order. The Turkish woman has been exalted symbolically throughout history as the
mother figure and pillar of the family. Since the Ataturk reforms, women's role
in social, political and economic life has expanded dramatically. Since the
early days of the Republic, well-educated women, particularly in the cities,
have taken on active roles in the professions, government, and business.
Every social and institutional
change eventually leaves its mark on the landscape. The reforms of the first
half of the 20th century put Turkey on a course of accelerated modernization.
Careful measures ensured that culture and traditions continue to live and
evolve. Although the changes in the landscape were well choreographed and
significant, and they were not of the order of magnitude of the changes that are
Starting with the highway program
of the 1950's culminating with the free market reforms of the 1980s, unbridled
transformation of the landscape has been taking place. On the other hand, the
country is electrified with vitality of the young population ready to
participate in a booming economy with endless possibilities in the New World
order. The generation of farmers and soldiers who used to refer to the
government as the "Father" (Devlet Baba), has been replaced by a "can-do"
generation of entrepreneurs. On the other hand, the possibility of breaking all
ties with both the past and the landscape, which the future depends on, has
never been as real as it is today. For example, the ongoing process of
agricultural industrialization is taking away the apricots, cherries and the
rest of the Anatolian natives, along with the happy chickens, sheep and the
gorgeous eyed cows, all marching along a parade which eventually will transform
them into tasteless uniformity and miserable existence.
Our hopes lie with the wise Turkish
woman, who knows better and listens to her palate, searching out vegetables
raised without hormones at the local market. But will she be able to pass this
wisdom along to her ambitious daughter who prefers wearing Levi's?
The Turkish people are known for
their ingenuity, quick wit and ability to adapt. In the current climate of
democracy and local involvement, it is more than likely that the Turkish
landscape will continue to reflect a harmonious and sustainable relationship
with its people.