İsmet İnönü

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After losing the Battle of Megiddo against General Edmund Allenby during the last days of World War I, he went to Istanbul and was assigned Undersecretary of the Ministry of War and then General Secretary of the Documentation in the Military Council.

After the military occupation of Constantinople on 16 March 1920, he decided to pass to Anatolia to join the Turkish National Movement. He and his chief of staff Major Saffet (Arıkan) wore soldier uniform and left Maltepe in the evening of 19 March 1920 and arrived at Ankara on 9 April 1920.

He was appointed the commander of the Western Front of the Army of the Grand National Assembly (GNA), a position in which he remained during the Turkish War of Independence. He was promoted to the rank of Mirliva (arbitrarily the equivalent of Brigadier General or Major General; the most junior General rank with the title Pasha in the Ottoman and pre-1934 Turkish Army) after winning the First Battle of İnönü which took place between 9 and 11 January 1921. He also won the subsequent Second Battle of İnönü which was fought between 26 and 31 March 1921. During the Turkish War of Independence, he was also a member of the GNA in Ankara.

İnönü was replaced by Mustafa Fevzi Pasha, who was also the Prime Minister and Minister of Defense at the time, as the Chief of Staff of the Army of the GNA after the Turkish forces lost major battles against the advancing Greek Army in July 1921, as a result of which the cities Afyonkarahisar, Kütahya and Eskişehir were temporarily lost. He participated as a staff officer (with the rank Brigadier General) to the later battles, until the final Turkish victory in September 1922 in which he was the commander of the front.

Chief negotiator in Mudanya and Lausanne

After the War of Independence was won, İsmet Pasha was appointed as the chief negotiator of the Turkish delegation, both for the Armistice of Mudanya and for the Treaty of Lausanne.

The Lausanne conference convened in late 1922 to settle the terms of a new treaty that took the place of the Treaty of Sèvres. Inönü became famous for his stubborn resolve in determining the position of Ankara (then known as Angora in English and French) as the legitimate, sovereign government of Turkey. After delivering his position, Inönü turned off his hearing aid during the speeches of British foreign secretary Lord Curzon. When Curzon had finished, İnönü reiterated his position as if Curzon had never said a word. [12]

Prime Minister (1925–1937)

Turkish delegation after having signed the Treaty of Lausanne. The delegation was led by Ismet Inonu (in the middle) and Riza Nur (on the left wearing the top hat). Lausanne 2.jpg
Turkish delegation after having signed the Treaty of Lausanne. The delegation was led by İsmet İnönü (in the middle) and Rıza Nur (on the left wearing the top hat).
Inonu as the Prime Minister during the single party period PM Ismet Inonu.jpg
İnönü as the Prime Minister during the single party period

İnönü served as the Prime Minister of Turkey through out Mustafa Kemal Atatürk's presidency, stepping down as prime minister only between 1923 and 1924. İnönü therefore helped to execute Atatürk's reformist programs.

In October 1923 he suggested to make Ankara the capital of Turkey, which successively was approved by the parliament. [13] He replaced prime minister Fethi Okyar at a time when the seriousness of the situation around the Sheikh Said Rebellion was realized by the Turkish Government in spring 1925. [14] While dealing with the Sheikh Said revolt he proclaimed a Turkish nationalist policy and encouraged the turkification of the non-Turkish population. [15] In September 1925, following the suppression of the Sheikh Said rebellion, he presided over the Reform Council for the East (Turkish : Şark İslahat Encümeni) which prepared the Report for Reform in the East (Turkish : Turkish: Şark İslahat Raporu), which recommended to impede an establishment of a Kurdish elite, to forbid non-Turkish languages and the creation of regional administrative units called Inspectorates-General, which were to be governed with martial law. [16]

He stated the following in regards to the Kurds; "we're frankly nationalists and nationalism is our only factor of cohesion. Before the Turkish majority other elements have no kind of influence. At any price, we must turkify the inhabitants of our land, and we will annihilate those who oppose" [17] [18] [19] [20]

Following this report, three Inspectorates-Generals were established in the Kurdish areas comprising several provinces. [21] On the direct order of İnönü [3] [2] the Zilan massacre [22] [23] [24] [25] [26] of thousands of Kurdish civilians was perpetrated by the Turkish Land Forces in the Zilan Valley of Van Province on 12/13 July 1930, during the Ararat rebellion in Ağrı Province. [27]

İnönü managed the economy with heavy-handed government intervention, especially after the 1929 economic crisis, by implementing an economic plan inspired by the Five Year Plan of the Soviet Union. In doing so, he took much private property under government control. Due to his efforts, to this day, more than 70% of land in Turkey is still owned by the state.[ citation needed ] Desiring a more liberal economic system, Atatürk dissolved the government of İnönü in 1937 [28] and appointed Celâl Bayar, the founder of the first Turkish commercial bank Türkiye İş Bankası, as Prime Minister.

"National Chief" period (1938–1950)

Domestic Policy

Celal Bayar and Inonu visiting the Bakirkoy Cloth Factory Inonu Bayar Factory.jpg
Celâl Bayar and İnönü visiting the Bakırköy Cloth Factory

After the death of Atatürk on 10 November 1938, [29] İnönü was viewed as the most appropriate candidate to succeed him, and was elected the second President of the Republic of Turkey and leader of the Republican People's Party (CHP). He attempted to build himself a cult of personality by being the official title of "Millî Şef", i.e. "National Chief".

İnönü dismissed Bayar's government because of differences between the two on economic policy in 1939. İnönü was an avowed statist, while Bayar wished for a more liberal economy. The Hatay State, which declared independence from French Syria in 1938, was annexed in the next year. 1940 saw the establishment of the Village Institutes, in which well performing students from the country side were selected to train as teachers and return to their hometown to run community development programs. İnönü also hoped to move on from one party rule by taking incremental steps to multiparty politics. He hoped to accomplish this through the establishment Independent Group as a force of opposition in the parliament, but they fell short of expectations under war-time conditions.

World War II

World War II broke out in the first year of his presidency, and both the Allies and the Axis pressured İnönü to bring Turkey into the war on their side. [30] The Germans sent Franz von Papen to Ankara in April 1939 while the British sent Hughe Knatchbull-Hugessen and the French René Massigli. On 23 April 1939, Turkish Foreign Minister Şükrü Saracoğlu told Knatchbull-Hugessen of his nation's fears of Italian claims of the Mediterranean as Mare Nostrum and German control of the Balkans, and suggested an Anglo-Soviet-Turkish alliance as the best way of countering the Axis. [31] In May 1939, during the visit of Maxime Weygand to Turkey, İnönü told the French Ambassador René Massigli that he believed that the best way of stopping Germany was an alliance of Turkey, the Soviet Union, France and Britain; that if such an alliance came into being, the Turks would allow Soviet ground and air forces onto their soil; and that he wanted a major programme of French military aid to modernize the Turkish armed forces. [32]

The signing of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact on 23 August 1939 drew Turkey away from the Allies; the Turks always believed that it was essential to have the Soviet Union as an ally to counter Germany, and thus the signing of the German-Soviet pact undercut completely the assumptions behind Turkish security policy. [33] With the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, İnönü chose to be neutral in World War II as taking on Germany and the Soviet Union at the same time would be too much for Turkey, through he signed a treaty of alliance with Britain and France on 19 October 1939. [34] It was only with France's defeat in June 1940 that İnönü abandoned the pro-Allied neutrality that he had followed since the beginning of the war. [34] A major embarrassment for the Turks occurred in July 1940 when the Germans captured and published documents from the Quai d'Orsay in Paris showing the Turks were aware of Operation Pike—as the Anglo-French plan in the winter of 1939–40 to bomb the oil fields in the Soviet Union from Turkey was codenamed—which was intended by Berlin to worsen relations between Ankara and Moscow. [35] In turn, worsening relations between the Soviet Union and Turkey were intended to drive Turkey into the arms of the Reich. [34] After the publication of the French documents relating to Operation Pike, İnönü had to sign the German–Turkish Treaty of Friendship and the Clodius Agreement, which placed Turkey within the German economic sphere of influence, but İnönü went no further towards the Axis. [34]

Roosevelt, Inonu and Churchill at the Second Cairo Conference on 4-6 December 1943 Roosevelt Inonu and Churchill in Cairo cph.3b15312.jpg
Roosevelt, İnönü and Churchill at the Second Cairo Conference on 4–6 December 1943

In the first half of 1941, Germany which was intent upon invading the Soviet Union went out of its way to improve relations with Turkey as the Reich hoped for a benevolent Turkish neutrality when the German-Soviet war began. [36] At the same time, the British had great hopes in the spring of 1941 when they dispatched an expeditionary force to Greece that İnönü could be persuaded to enter the war on the Allied side as the British leadership had high hopes of creating a Balkan front that would tie down German forces, and which thus led a major British diplomatic offensive with the Foreign Secretary Sir Anthony Eden visiting Ankara several times to meet with İnönü. [37] İnönü always told Eden that the Turks would not join the British forces in Greece, and the Turks would only enter the war if Germany attacked Turkey. [38] For his part, Papen offered İnönü parts of Greece if Turkey were to enter the war on the Axis side, an offer İnönü declined. [38] In May 1941 when the Germans dispatched an expeditionary force to Iraq to fight against the British, İnönü refused Papen's request that the German forces be allowed transit rights to Iraq. [39]

Winston Churchill and Ismet Inonu in conversation during a two day conference in a train at Adana, near the Turkish-Syrian border Churchill and Inonu.jpg
Winston Churchill and Ismet Inonu in conversation during a two day conference in a train at Adana, near the Turkish-Syrian border

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill traveled to Ankara on 30 January 1943 for a conference with President İnönu, to urge Turkey's entry into the war on the allied side. [40] Churchill met secretly with İnönü in January 1943, inside a railroad car at the Yenice Station near Adana. However, by 4–6 December 1943, İnönü felt confident enough about the outcome of the war, that he met openly with Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill at the Second Cairo Conference. Until 1941, both Roosevelt and Churchill had thought that Turkey's continuing neutrality would serve the interests of the Allies by blocking the Axis from reaching the strategic oil reserves of the Middle East. But the early victories of the Axis up to the end of 1942 caused Roosevelt and Churchill to re-evaluate a possible Turkish participation in the war on the side of the Allies. Turkey had maintained a decently-sized Army and Air Force throughout the war, and Churchill wanted the Turks to open a new front in the Balkans. Roosevelt, on the other hand, still believed that a Turkish attack would be too risky, and an eventual Turkish failure would have disastrous effects for the Allies.

İnönü knew very well the hardships which his country had suffered during decades of incessant war between 1908 and 1922 and was determined to keep Turkey out of another war as long as he could. The young Turkish Republic was still re-building, recovering from the losses due to earlier wars, and lacked any modern weapons and the infrastructure to enter a war to be fought along and possibly within its borders. İnönü based his neutrality policy during the Second World War on the premise that Western Allies and the Soviet Union would sooner or later have a falling out after the war. [41] Thus, İnönu wanted assurances on financial and military aid for Turkey, as well as a guarantee that the United States and the United Kingdom would stand beside Turkey in the event of a Soviet invasion of the Turkish Straits after the war. In August 1944 İnönü broke off diplomatic relations with Germany and on 5 January 1945, İnönü severed diplomatic relations with Japan. [42] Shortly afterwards, İnönü allowed Allied shipping to use the Turkish straits to send supplies to the Soviet Union and on 25 February 1945 he declared war on Germany and Japan. [39]

The post-war tensions and arguments surrounding the Turkish Straits would come to be known as the Turkish Straits crisis. The fear of Soviet invasion and Joseph Stalin's unconcealed desire for Soviet military bases in the Turkish Straits [41] eventually caused Turkey to give up its principle of neutrality in foreign relations and join NATO in February 1952. [43]

Conditions of armed neutrality

Millî Şef
İsmet İnönü
Inonu Ismet.jpg
İnönü in 1938
2nd President of Turkey
In office
11 November 1938 22 May 1950

Maintaining an armed neutrality proved to be disruptive for the young republic. The country existed in a practical state of war throughout the Second World War: military production was prioritized at the expense of peace time goods, rationing and curfews were implemented, and high taxes were put in place, causing severe economic hardship for many. One such tax was the Wealth Tax (Varlık Vergisi), a discriminatory tax which demanded very high one-time payments from Turkey's non-Muslim minorities. This tax is seen by many to be a continuation of the Jizya tax paid by dhimmis during Ottoman times, or Millî Iktisat (National Economy) economic policy implemented by the Committee of Union and Progress regime three decades ago.

A famous story of İnönü happened in a meeting in Bursa for the 1969 general elections. A young man yelled at him; "You let us go without food!" by implying not joining World War II. İnönü replied him by saying "Yes, I let you go without food, but I did not let you become fatherless" by implying death of millions of people from the both sides of World War II. [44]

Multi-party period (1946–1972)

President Inonu (far right) with his family, c.1940s; from left: his wife Mevhibe, and their three children, Omer, Ozden (later Toker), and Erdal. Inonu ailesi.jpg
President İnönü (far right) with his family, c.1940s; from left: his wife Mevhibe, and their three children, Ömer, Özden (later Toker), and Erdal.

Under international pressure to transform the country to a democratic state, İnönü allowed for Turkey's first multiparty elections to be held in 1946. The CHP's competition was the Democrat Party (DP), which separated from CHP following the "motion with four signatures". However the 1946 elections were infamously not free and fair; voting was carried out under the gaze of onlookers who could determine which voters had voted for which parties, and where secrecy prevailed as to the subsequent counting of votes. Free and fair national elections had to wait till 1950, and on that occasion İnönü's government was defeated.

Between 1946 and 1950 the CHP had to deal with the DP as an opposition force in parliament during which some Kemalist programs were terminated due to anti-Communist hysteria brought on by the DP. Village Institutes and People's Rooms were closed by the CHP due to the pressure.

Leader of the Opposition

In the 1950 election campaign, the leading figures of the Democrat Party used the following slogan: "Geldi İsmet, kesildi kısmet" ("Ismet arrived, [our] fortune left"). İnönü presided over the peaceful transfer of power to the DP leaders: Celâl Bayar and Adnan Menderes. Bayar would serve as Turkey's third president, and Menderes its first Prime Minister not from the CHP. For ten years İnönü served as the leader of the opposition. In the opposition, the CHP established its youth and women's branch. On 22 June 1953, the establishment of trade unions and vocational chambers was proposed, and the right to strike for workers was added to the party program. In the lead up to the elections prepared for 1960, İnönü faced almost regular harassment from authorities and DP supporters, to the point where he was almost lynched. İnönü returned to power as Prime Minister after the 1961 election, held after the military coup-d'etat in 1960, which shut down the DP.

Second Republic

Inonu as the Prime Minister in 1964 Ismet Inonu 1964 (cropped).jpg
İnönü as the Prime Minister in 1964

Following the declaration of the Second Republic, the military junta in the form of the National Unity Committee chose Cemal Gürsel to become the next president. Gürsel appointed İnönü as his Prime Minister. İnönü's premiership was defined by an effort to deescalate tensions between radical forces in the Turkish army and former Democrats. İnönü's CHP did not gain enough seats in the legislature to win a majority in the elections, so he formed coalition governments with the Republican Villagers Nation Party and neo-Democrat parties Justice Party and New Turkey Party until 1965. During this time, the CHP started to define itself as "Left of Center," as a new party cadre led by Bülent Ecevit became more influential (which the party is still faithful to, to this day).

During İnönü's premiership, there was an attempted coup in 1962 lead by Talat Aydemir  [ tr ] during which İnönü, Gürsel and the Chief of Staff Cevdet Sunay were briefly held up in Çankaya Mansion. Aydemir decided to let the group go, which foiled the coup. [45] Aydemir carried out another coup in 1963 (1963 Turkish coup d'etat attempt  [ tr ]) which was also suppressed. Aydemir was later executed for conducting both coups.

In 1964 İnönü renounced the Greco-Turkish Treaty of Friendship of 1930 and took actions against the Greek minority. [46] [47] The Turkish Government also strictly enforced a long‐overlooked law barring Greek nationals from 30 professions and occupations, for example Greeks could not be doctors, nurses, architects, shoemakers, tailors, plumbers, cabaret singers, ironsmiths, cooks, tourist guides, etc. [46] and 50,000 more Greeks were deported. These actions were done because of the growing anti-Greek sentiment in Turkey after the Cyprus issue became a reality. [48] The United States would prohibit Turkish intervention on the island. İnönü survived an assassination attempt while he was in Ankara that year. [49]

İnönü's government established the National Security Council, Turkish Statistical Institute, and Turkey's leading research institute TÜBİTAK. Turkey signed the Ankara agreement, the first treaty of cooperation with the European Economic Community, and also increased ties with Iran and Pakistan. The army was modernized and intelligence services reformed as well.

İnönü lost both the 1965 and 1969 general elections to a much younger man, Justice Party leader Süleyman Demirel. İnönü remained leader of CHP till 1972, whereupon an interparty crisis over his endorsement of the 1971 military memorandum lead to his defeat by Ecevit in a leadership contest. This was the first overthrow of a party leader in a leadership contest in the Republics history. İnönü resigned his parliamentarianship afterwords. Being a former president he was a member of the Senate in the last year of his life. [50]

Inonu's tomb at Anitkabir Turkey-1650 (2215849919).jpg
İnönü's tomb at Anıtkabir

He died on 25 December 1973 of a heart attack, at the age of 89, and is interred opposite to Atatürk's mausoleum at Anıtkabir in Ankara.


İnönü University and Malatya İnönü Stadium in Malatya are named after him, as is the İnönü Stadium in Istanbul, home of the Beşiktaş football club.

Personal life

A highly educated man, İnönü was able to speak fluently in Arabic, English, French and German in addition to his native Turkish.[ citation needed ] During the First World War, on 13 April 1916, Ismet married Mevhibe, who was a daughter of an Ashraf (Eşraf) of Ziştovi (present day Svishtov) Zühtü Efendi. They had three children: Ömer, Erdal and Özden (married to Metin Toker). [10] Erdal İnönü became a physicist and later a statesman. He served as secretary general of the CHP successor parties SODEP and SHP, which merged with the revived CHP.


See also

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Further reading

Military offices
New title
Office established
Chief of Turkish General Staff
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Prime Minister of Turkey
Succeeded by
Prime Minister of Turkey
Succeeded by
Preceded by
President of Turkey
Preceded by
Prime Minister of Turkey
Succeeded by
Party political offices
Preceded by
Leader of the Republican People's Party
Succeeded by