Turkey Between Ataturk and Erdogan

In every way, Ataturk was the nemesis of what Erdogan stands for. Where Erdogan is severe on drinking and alcohol, Kemal was addicted to raki, the country’s anise-flavored liquor. In fact, Ataturk had died of cirrhosis of the liver at age 57. He was a military officer and a conqueror, and he took drinking as a manly prerogative. Erdogan had all but called Ataturk a drunkard, and that kind of blasphemy had not been well received by a population raised to a tradition of reverence for the founder. No wholesale purging of a culture can be totally successful. Ataturk died in 1938, with his creed ascendant. But Islam never exited the stage. It went underground, and was to reappear in the 1990s. The officer corps, the guardians of the Kemalist temple, did not have the country to itself. Political Islamists made their presence felt, and a military coup against them in 1997 did not do the trick.

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