Among the prominent statesmen of
the 20th century, few articulated the supreme importance of culture
as did Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, founder of the Turkish Republic, who
stated: "Culture is the foundation of the Turkish Republic."
His view of culture encompassed the nation's creative legacy as
well as the best values of world civilization. It stressed personal
and universal humanism. "Culture," he said, " is
a basic element in being a person worthy of humanity," and
described Turkey's ideological thrust as "a creation of patriotism
blended with a lofty humanist ideal."
To create the best synthesis, Atatürk underlined the need for the
utilization of all viable elements in the national heritage, including
the ancient indigenous cultures, and the arts and techniques of
the entire world civilization, past and present. He gave impetus
to the study of earlier civilizations of Anatolia -- including Hittite,
Phrygian, Lydian and others. Pre-Islamic culture of theTurks became
the subject of extensive research which proved that, long before
the Seljuk and Ottoman Empires, the Turks had already created a
civilization of their own. Atatürk also stressed the folk arts and
folklore of the countryside as a wellspring of Turkish creativity.
The development of painting, sculpture and the decorative arts
had been arrested by Ottoman officials, who claimed the depiction
of the human form was idolatry, but these arts flourished during
Atatürk's presidency. Many museums were opened and architecture
gained new vigor. Classical Western music, opera and ballet, as
well as theater took impressive strides.Several hundred "People's
Houses" and "People's Rooms" all over Turkey gave
local people and youngsters a wide variety of artistic activities,
sports and cultural affairs. Book and magazine publication enjoyed
a boom. The Film industry started to grow. In all walks of cultural
life, Atatürk's inspiration created an upsurge.
Atatürk's Turkey is living proof of this ideal -- a country rich
in its own national culture, open to the heritage of world civilization
and at home in the endowments of the modern technological age.