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Turkey—Bridge or Bulwark

ISSUE:  Autumn 1941

Who are the Turks? What have they been? And what do they hope to become? This substantial volume, “Turkey,” by the well known scholar and publicist Emil Lengyel, undertakes to supply the answers. It offers a survey of the history, religion, social customs, political and military forms, and the external relations of the Turkish Empire from its creation in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries to its dissolution in the World War.

Many readers may feel, as the reviewer did, that some of the excursions, interesting as they were, distracted from the main tour. But as Goethe said of travel, “there is always gain or loss, and mostly from the unexpected side.” Traveling with Mr. Lengyel you receive more and less than you had hoped for. Not the least interesting part of the tour is the meeting with historical characters—Suleiman the Magnificent, Abdul the Damned (or Abdul the Damned Fool), and Kemal Ataturk. The biography of Kemal is, of course, inseparable from the history of post-War Turkey. This story of how one man promoted a national renaissance among a mauled and defeated people, how he led them in a second war against the partitioning Powers, and in the end won a favorable negotiated peace, has been told before. But here it gains meaning and perspective through the full background afforded by the earlier chapters. What the Turks hoped to become was largely a projection of the ideas of Westernization which Ataturk impressed upon his people—the policy of “Kemalism.”

Today, the New Turkey is the pivot of diplomatic and military strategy in the Mediterranean war. Master of the Straits and the Anatolian highway between East and West, her position is of vital strategical importance, As bridge or bulwark Turkey’s destiny may be the destiny of Europe. Furthermore, history bears out, in part, Napoleon’s words: “Whoever is master of Constantinople is master of the world.”


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