‘Six Arrows:’ The Tenets of Kemalism


Mustafa Kemal Ataturk (1881-1938) was a distinguished soldier and reformer; the founder and first president of the Republic of Turkey.

Militarily, he was perhaps most famous as the Ottoman officer who inflicted two defeats on British forces at Gallipoli during World War I. Later, however, he set about ridding his country of some of the corruption, superstition and waste that had corroded the empire from within.

His ideology was distilled into six tenets, known as the “six arrows of Kemalism:”


* Republicanism--aimed to replace the elitist Ottoman social order, which invested power in the sultan and his immediate entourage, with a more broadly based republican system.

* Nationalism--held up a distinctly Turkish identity to replace the pan-Islamism of the Ottoman Empire. The main platform that Ataturk used to rally his countrymen in the 1920s, the approach created barriers between Turkey and the outside world, and some of its expressions, such as claiming Turkish origin for virtually all human achievements, are now discredited.

* Populism--promised a more classless society but fell short of truly democratic ideals. Ataturk ruled through a one-party state.

* Revolutionism--an imprecise doctrine used to justify wholesale, rather than gradual, change in the Ottoman system Ataturk inherited.

* Secularism--justified a far-reaching overhaul in the power of religion in the state. Ataturk favored the adoption of Western habits and science, and to this end he abolished religious schools and legalized alcohol. The Latin alphabet, the international calender and metric measuring systems replaced their Arabic or Islamic antecedents.

* Statism--which, like its contemporaries communism and fascism, favored the state-led development of the economy and society as opposed to private initiative. The proportion of state-owned manufacturing has been progressively dropped in the past decade but remains at over half of Turkey’s gross national product.