Sunday, 3 July 2011

Review of Andrew Mango’s Ataturk


A good workmanlike introduction to modern Turkish history. Kemal (Ataturk) was born two years after Stalin, and was fighting for the Ottoman Empire in Libya in 1911 as his home city of Salonica was captured by Greece. He died in his fifties but lived long enough to deflower Zsa Zsa Gabor who is still with us. To many especially in the Turkey he created he is a hero who founded a secular state in a Muslim country but he is not a hero to the Greeks, Armenians or Kurds. He is the father of his country but I cannot enthuse over someone who overthrew his monarch. I wish some multi-ethnic Ottoman Empire had survived - Muslims were minorities in Constantinople and Salonica - but it may have been impossible to prevent ethnic cleansing in which Christians and Muslims were both guilty. To me he is a Turkish Oliver Cromwell whom Clarendon called a bold, bad man and to others is a hero. But every hero, if that is what he is, becomes a bore at last. Still Lloyd George is the real villain of this story, who did for the Greeks by encouraging their irredentist ambitions.

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