In 1853 Tsar Nicholas I famously described the Ottoman Empire as ‘the sick man of Europe’. That was on the eve of the Crimean War, when the sick man helped Britain, France and the Kingdom of Sardinia (Italy in embryo) defeat the tsar’s empire. Today, Lord Patten of Barnes, former European commissioner for external relations and currently chairman-in-waiting of the BBC Trust, argues that Turkey is a role model for other Islamic societies, striving to accommodate democracy, civil liberties, the rule of law, an open economy, pluralism and religion. As a member of the European Union, the Turkish Republic, shaped by its founding father Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, would add to the EU a new dimension of enormous historic importance, Patten says. Putin’s Russia, on the other hand, is not usually considered as a role model for ex-Communist countries. Two books, both written by academic historians, but utterly different in style and approach, help us understand where Turkey stands today and how it has achieved its present stature.
Professor Şükrü Hanioglu, who teaches at Princeton, combines elegance with meticulousness in Atatürk: An Intellectual Biography. Every assertion is documented by reference to original sources; comments scribbled by Atatürk in the margins of books he read are noted; where a law is mentioned, a footnote gives the appropriate