History in the Making

Document Type



In October 1923, Mustafa Kemal, or Ataturk, became leader of Turkey. Over the next decade and a half, Kemal used his considerable political power to reform the nation. He modernized infrastructure, reorganized government, and led an aggressive campaign to westernize and secularize Turkish society. By the time Kemal passed in 1938, Turkey rose from the ashes of the Ottoman Empire and reestablished itself as a democracy. Almost eighty years later, Ataturk’s legacy is in jeopardy. In 2017, the Turkey held a constitutional referendum to radically restructure the nation’s government and place an unprecedented degree of power in the office of the presidency. The new constitution passed by a narrow margin in a referendum marred by allegations of fraud and intimidation. By closely examining sources such as the 1924 Turkish Constitution, the revised Constitution’s proposed amendments, and Erdogan’s past political history, this paper seeks to answer several questions: How will the revised constitution restructure Turkish government? What will a Turkey under Erdogan’s leadership look like? Is this the end of secular Turkey as Ataturk envisioned it?