1923-1939 1945-1950

Turkey during World War II, 1939-1945

Administration . Turkey, from 1925 to 1945, was a one-party state, the CHP being the only legitimate party. Ismet Inönü served as president from 1938 to 1950, Refik Saysam (CHP) as PM from 1939 to 1942, Sükrü Saracoglu as PM from 1942 to 1946. Elections were held in 1943.

Foreign Policy . In 1936 Turkey had begun to raise the issue of the Sanjak of Alexandrette (hitherto part of the French League of Nations mandate over Syria) at the League of Nations. In 1938, elections were held in the Sanjak and a Legislative Assembly convoked; the Sanjak of Alexandrette, under the name Republic of Hatay, in September 1938 declared independence and in June 1939 was annexed by the Republic of Turkey.
Turkey interpreted the signing of the German-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact of 1939 as potentially directed against itself (Turkey had annexed Kars and Ardahan in 1918); Turkish relations with the USSR cooled down (NIYB 1940 p.747). Turkey carefully approached Britain and France (alliances of 1939) to balance the perceived Russian threat, and following the collapse of France, tried to play the German card against the Russian threat.
Following the surrender of France to Germany in June 1940, Turkey and Iraq agreed on commonly defending the French-held mandated territory of Syria and Lebanon.
Late in 1940 the USSR issued a declaration of non-intervention in Turkey (NIYB 1940 p.748). In March 1941, Turkey and the USSR signed a Non-Aggression Pact (NIYB 1942 p.695).
In April 1941, Bulgaria entered into an alliance with Germany; Greece was occupied by Italian, German and Bulgarian troops; from the German invasion of the USSR in June 1941, Turkey, with the exception of Iran, was surrounded by countries at war.
Turkey did not act when British and Free French troops, in May 1941, invaded Iraq and Syria in 1941.
In June 1941 Turkey accepted a German offer of a 10-year Non-Aggression Pact (NIYB 1941 p.666). From March/June 1941 to February 1945, Turkey pursued a policy of neutrality. Britain and Germany competed over Turkey's export of chromite.
On Dec. 3rd 1941 President Roosevelt declared the defense of Turkey vital to the United States; the declaration qualified Turkey as recipient of Lend-Lease (NIYB 1941 p.667).
In 1942 Germany tried to win Turkey over as an ally, while the Allies supported Turkey's neutral stance (NIYB 1942 pp.695-696). An assassination attempt on Franz von Papen, German ambassador in Ankara, on Feb. 24th 1942 failed (NIYB 1942 p.696).
In 1943 both camps wanted to win Turkey over as an ally. In January 1943 Churchill and Inönü met in the Adana Conference. Turkish-Soviet relations improved shortly after. Turkey was concerned about potential Soviet domination of the Balkans after the war and opted for the revitalization of the Balkan Pact (NIYB 1943 p.649). In 1944 the Allies continued to pressure Turkey to enter the war. Lend-Lease deliveries to Turkey were suspended in March 1944 (NIYB 1944 p.631). In April 1944 Turkey suspended chrome deliveries to Germany (NIYB 1944 p.631). In May 1944 President Inönü denounced the Pan-Turanian ideology promoted by German propaganda (NIYB 1944 p.632). On August 2nd 1944 Turkey severed diplomatic relations with Germany (NIYB 1944 p.632).
Turkey declared war on Germany and Japan in February 1945.

The Economy In 1939, Turkey produced 4.5 million metric tons of wheat, in 1943 a record 5.7 million, in 1945 3.69 million (IHS p.195).
The deterioration of relations with the USSR resulted in the decline of Soviet-Turkish trade in 1939-1941.
In 1940, the regular workday was extended from 9 to 12 hours (NIYB 1940 p.748). Consumer Prices were comparatively stable in 1939-1941, tripled from 1941 to 1943, then to remain stable until into the 1950es. From 1942 to 1944 Turkey collected the controversial Varlik Vergisi, a wealth or capital tax exclusively collected from the non-Muslim population, i.e. the Greek, Armenian, Jewish minorities.

Ethnic Minorities . During World War II, ethnic Greek, Armenian and Jewish citizens of Turkey were subjected to forced conscription into labour battalions, and to paying Vatlik Varisi, a wealth tax exclusively collected from non-Muslims.

Social History . According to the census taken in 1940, Turkey had 17.8 million inhabitants; according to the census of 1945 the number had increased to 18.7 million. Turkey accepted several thousand Greek refugees who fled the Axis-occupied Aegean Islands in 1942 (NIYB 1942 p.697). Turkey suffered severe earthquakes in 1942 and 1943, a typhus epidemics centered on Istanbul in 1943.

Domestic Events . In 1940, the state of emergency was declared, the army expanded (NIYB 1940 p.748).

Turquia, d'ença de la caiguda de l'Imperi otoma (1923) fins a 1960, from La Pagina de la Historia, in Catalan
Entry Hatay, from Footnotes to History, posted by James L. Erwin
Armenia in Turkey Today, by Tessa Hofmann
Articles Single Party Period of the Republic of Turkey, Labour Battalion : Turkey, List of Prime Ministers of Turkey, Sükrü Saracoglu, Varlik Vergisi, Hatay State, Ismet Inönü, Foreign Relations of Turkey, from Wikipedia
DOCUMENTS World Statesmen : Turkey, by Ben Cahoon
Historical Population Statistics : Turkey, from Population Statistics (Jan Lahmeyer)
REFERENCE Chapter XXXIII : The Turkish Colossus, pp.477-483 in : John Gunther, Inside Europe, 1940 War Edition, NY : Harper & Bros. 1940 [G]
Article : Turkey, in : Statesman's Year Book 1943 pp.1319-1334 [G]
Article : Turkey, in : Americana Annual 1940 pp.776-778, 1943 pp.719-720, 1944 pp.692-693, 1945 pp.706-707, 1946 pp.729-732 [G]
Article : Turkey, in : Britannica Book of the Year 1944 pp.704-705, 1945 pp.704-705 [G]
Article : Turkey, in : New International Year Book, Events of 1940 pp.746-748, 1941 pp.665-667, 1942 pp.694-697, 1943 pp.648-652, 1944 pp.629-632, 1945 pp.610-612 [G]
Article : Turkey, in : Funk & Wagnall's New Standard Encyclopedia Year Book 1940 pp.506-507, 1941 pp.477-478, 1942 pp.452-453, 1943 pp.448-450, 1944 pp.384-387 [G]

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on January 12th 2002, last revised on August 26th 2007

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