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Turkey has a long history of coups, but a failed attempt on the life of President Kemal Atatürk in 1926 had a lasting impact on the country. Stefan Ihrig reveals how one foreign journalist recorded the reprisals that followed with admiration – which soon turned to fear.

Is this going to be Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Reichstag fire? Are Stalinist purges coming Turkey’s way? These were just some of the historical parallels drawn in the immediate aftermath of the failed coup d’état staged against President Erdoğan in July 2016. But Turkey does not need to look so far. The country has its own rich history of failed and successful coup attempts, ranging from that of 1913 by the Young Turk ‘Committee of Union of Progress’, in which the Minister of War was assassinated in his own offices, to the 1997 military memorandum (sometimes called the ‘postmodern coup’) against the Islamist government. The attempt that offers the most interesting perspective on last year’s developments, however, is all but forgotten: the failed assassination attempt on the president and founder of the Turkish republic, Mustafa Kemal (later Atatürk), in the western city of İzmir in the summer of 1926. 

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Measured Terror

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