Atatürk’s Principles


At the end of the victorious Turkish independence war in 1922, Mustafa Kemal and his friends in the independence movement were set to implement major changes, which were tantamount to revolutions in social, political, economical, religious and judicial spheres of the society consisted of the remnants of the Ottoman Empire.

The revolutions implemented by Mustafa Kemal and his friends created discussions and controversy, in some cases rejections, in the impacted layers of the society. However, the revolutions were approved and implemented by the approval of the Turkish Grand National Assembly.

The revolutions later become known as Kemalist Revolutions or Revolutions of Ataturk and some of them become the pillars of Kemalist Ideology (Kemalism) and called Kemalist Principles / Principles of Atatürk although they were not named as such initially by Mustafa Kemal or the Turkish Grand National Assembly.  It is worth to note that while the revolutions were implemented Mustafa Kemal had not been given the last name Atatürk.

The pillars of the Kemalist Ideology are interchangeably referred as Kemalist Principles or Principles of Ataturk or Ataturk’s Principles or Ataturk Principles. For the rest of the text Atatürk’s Principles  is used to refer to the pillars of the Kemalist Ideology.

Atatürk’s Principles  are:  (1) Republicanism;  (2) Nationalism;  (3) Populism; (4) Statism; (5) Secularism; and (6) Revolutionizm.

In order to appreciate the revolutions’ importance and impact on the society , it is important to take into consideration the state of social, economical, cultural, political, industrial and religious conditions of the society before the revolutions. It is the fact that the society,  which were the remnants of the Ottoman Empire after its collapse,  were in darkness, hopelessness, and backwardness.

Mustafa Kemal’s solution to this common darkness, hopelessness, and backwardness was  to implement immediate progressive changes to establish foundations of the concepts of democracy, liberty, collectivity, individuality, citizenship, enlightenment, egalitarianism and humanism.  The Kemalist Revolutions were used under the Atatürk’s Principles to remedy these common and prevalent shortcomings in the society.

The revolutions have shown to have been proven by the scholarly  historical, literary, economic and social records. The revolutions helped establish solutions for existing darkness, hopelessness, and backwardness in the society which was made up by the remnants of the dead Ottoman Empire.

Mustafa Kemal implemented these solutions in relatively short time and with a very well developed project management abilities. Each of this change implementation aimed to increase the life standard and freedom of the society to bring it to the level of contemporary civilized society as much as possible.

The successes of the revolutions can be attributed to the facilitation of Atatürk’s Principles in the revolutions implementation. The Kemalist ideals based on the Atatürk’s Principles which resemble in many ways the spirit of  civilized, liberal, equalitarian, socially conscious, goal driven, individual oriented, competitive, and collaborative  democracy, which brought a medieval  Islamic monarchy into the modern civilized  republican world.

Atatürk’s Principles are

(1) Republicanism;

(2) Nationalism;

(3) Populism;

(4) Statism;

(5) Secularism; and

(6) Revolutionizm.

Republicanism means government through the will of the people, parliamentary elections, rotation of office, and popular sovereignty. The beginning of the Republic in Turkey is usually dated at April 23, 1920, with the opening of the Grand National Assembly in Ankara. Although it would be decades before the full realization of a Western-style parliamentary republic would be achieved (multiparty democracy, constitutional supremacy; individual rights to complete freedom of conscience, speech, press, religious liberty and due process of law), Mustafa Kemal began the arduous task of transforming the old Ottoman Empire into a modern, liberal Western society with the permissions of the national assembly.

Nationalism means an independent, powerful country free from foreign domination. Unlike the multicultural Ottoman Empire, the Turkish nation is distinct in culture, but it pledged to tolerate diversity in culture and religion and respect individual freedom and conscience.

Nationalism defines the “Turkish People” as “those who protect and promote the moral, spiritual, cultural and humanistic values of the Turkish Nation.”

“Turkish Nation” meant People who live under the borders of the Republic of Turkey, always love and seek to exalt their country and family, who know and exercises their duties and responsibilities towards the democratic, secular and social state for common benefits and interests of the residents of the country.

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk defines the Turkish Nation by saying “the folk which constitutes the Republic of Turkey is called the Turkish Nation.”

Nationalism is closely coupled with Secularism (Laicite) which provides individuals with freedom of consciousness which establishes setting up an environment in which common goals can be developed and reached without being manipulated or restricted by any particular belief system.

Populism means democratic control by the people of internal politics through the rule of law. Self-government, popularly elected leaders, and regular elections constitute “populism” in the Turkish sense. This revolution aims to ensure o the best interest of the general public without limiting opportunities, individual rights, freedom, development and progress.  It is closely linked with the Statism which aims to support individuals, groups and society in attempting their goals. The Statism and Populism are in equilibrium while each complements the other.

Statism refers to the mixture of private property/free enterprise economics with government control of major industries and regulation of the overall economy for the good of the whole country. Today, this “mixed economy” of capitalism and socialism dominates in modern, Western societies.

Secularism means the formal, legal separation of religion from politics, the end of the domination of the state by Islamic officials, and the individual freedom of conscience to believe, worship, and communicate religious truths as the individual understands them. Such liberty of religion implies the freedom to learn of all faiths, to seek God’s guidance in knowing His Truth, and sharing it with others without fear of persecution or injury. The premise of this is that such individual searching after God’s Truth and voluntary faith in God is pleasing to God, while forced adherence to a certain religion is not really pleasing to God.

So, the “secularization” means not against religious truth; but meant separating it from scientific and purely political matters. A religious moral people are necessary to an ethical, healthy republic, but faith is best inculcated at home and church rather than school.

Revolutionism means a continuous progressive change in any subject that are interests of Turkish society to conform with modern civilization, better human conditions  and progress.

In this respect and understanding of revolution, Mustafa Kemal’ s revolutions   included but not limited to the following.

  • establishing  Citizenship  consciousness
  • transiting individuals from the slave of Sultan to independent individuals
  • establishing freedom of consciousness and beliefs
  • establishing freedom of speech and views
  • granting equal legal rights to women;
  • adopting a better working  justice code;
  • public education; using the Latin (rather than Arabic) alphabet;
  • abolition of titles;
  • adoption of Western time standards, calendar, and measures;
  • abolition of rural tithes and traditional religious dress codes

Together, these revolutions radically transformed society in Turkey from an impoverished, isolated society to a relatively prosperous, democratic culture integrated into the modem, civilized, competitive, and free society wh8ich did not exist for the society before.

However, Atatürk’s political principles did not take effect immediately. They took a few generations to become embedded in the Turkish culture and psyche. They required “the talents of a reformer, a builder, a statesman, a leader” and Kemal Atatürk became all those things. He led the early, fledging Turkish Republic with a dedicated mind and determined hand.


Atatürk k’s Principles can be interpreted as individual forward moving vectors which are connected to each other with equilibrium creating public, private and political space in which democracy, egality, liberty, human rights, justice, enlightenment, and freedom can mutually exist, grow and be sustained.

For example: As idealized in figure A, Proper implementation of Atatürk’s Principles creates the space for individuals who facilitates the created public, private and political spaces for their growth, interests, well beings and executing their rights as citizens.



Atatürk k’s Principles provides optimal conditions for democracy, egality, liberty, human rights, justice, enlightenment, and freedom when the all work together and in equilibrium. Unequal implementations or shortcomings in one or more of Atatürk’s Principles easily disturbs idealized space and the space for democracy, egality, liberty, human rights, justice, enlightenment, and freedom shrinks based on which particular principle is impacted.

As shown in figure B, shortcomings in very closely coupled principles Populism and Statism with over powered revolutionism can reduce the space for democracy, egality, liberty, human rights, justice, enlightenment, and freedom creating an autocratic monarchy under Secularism (Laicite), Republicanism and Nationalism principles.


As shown in figure C, shortcomings in very closely coupled principles Populism and Statism, Secularism  with over powered Revolutionism, Republicanism and Nationalism can reduce the space for democracy, egality, liberty, human rights, justice, enlightenment, and freedom creating a Theocratic autocracy, and Monarchic Slavery.


As shown in figure D, shortcomings in very closely coupled principles Populism and Statism, Secularism, Republicanism and Nationalism  with over powered Revolutionism, can reduce the space for democracy, egality, liberty, human rights, justice, enlightenment, and freedom creating an absolute  Theocratic autocracy, and Monarchic Slavery leaving almost no space for civilized life.


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