Norman Stone

Coming from Behind and Catching Us Up

The Turks Today

By

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THE TURKISH MILITARY coup of 1980 was cleanly carried through, and afterwards there was an enormous sigh of relief throughout the land. The generals had done their homework, and recognised that if overweight politicos (at the time, Turkey being an old-fashioned country, girth was a mark of success: the survival of the fattest, someone said) were arrested in the middle of the night, they might have heart attacks. Their best friends were therefore mobilised by telephone to come along and do the door-knocking. But this was a military coup unlike nearly all others. The generals did not start robbing the till and appointing their relatives to run the utilities. That had been the politicians’ stock in trade, and in 1979 Turkey was falling into anarchy: electricity failing again and again, a constant pall of smog over the cities from the East German type of cheap coal used, queues for everything, and twenty killings every day. The generals merely wanted a working state; they also gave up power quite quickly, ceding it to a very creative figure, Turgut Ozal, who won elections and set about liberalising an economy that had been excessively regulation-bound since the 1930s. To this day, he divides dinner parties in much the same way as does Margaret Thatcher.

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