(born 1899, Aydinodotn, Ottoman Empire—died Sept. 17, 1961, Idotmralinodot, Tur.) Turkish prime minister (1950–60). Son of an aristocrat, he entered parliament as a member of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk's Republican People's Party (1930). In 1945 he cofounded the first opposition party, the Democrat Party, and won the premiership in the 1950, 1954, and 1957 elections. His policies included seeking closer ties with Muslim states, encouraging private enterprise, and lifting restraint on religious expression. Intolerant of critics, he instituted press censorship. In challenging Atatürk's ideals, he earned the enmity of the army and was overthrown (1960) and executed.
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He was born in 1899 in Aydın, as the son of a wealthy landowner, whose roots are from Crimean Tatars. After primary school, Menderes attended the American College in İzmir. He fought against the invading Greek army during the Turkish War of Independence and won a medal of honour. He graduated from the Law School of Ankara Üniversitesi. In 1930, Menderes organized a branch of the short lived Liberal Republican Party (Serbest Cumhuriyet Fırkası) in Aydın. After this oppposition party was banned as well, he was invited by Atatürk himself to join the ruling Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi (Republican People’s Party) and was elected deputy of Aydın in 1931. In 1945, he was expelled from the party with two other colleagues due to inner-party opposition to the nationalization policies of the then self-declared "National Chief" İsmet İnönü.
During the 10 years of his term as prime minister, Turkish domestic and foreign politics underwent great changes. Industrialization and urbanization, which were started by Atatürk, but staggered by nationalization policies of Inonu and the effects of war, underwent rapid acceleration in Turkey. Turkish economy grew at an unprecedented rate of 9% per annum over his 10 year reign, a feat which had and so far has not yet been duplicated. Turkey was admitted to NATO as a full fledged member. With the economic support of USA via Marshall Plan, agriculture was mechanized; transport, energy, education, health care, insurance and banking progressed. In 1955, Menderes government was blamed by his political opponents for orchesting the Istanbul Pogrom, which targeted the city's substantial Greek minority.
He was on his way to sign the London Agreements on the Cyprus issue with the British Premier Harold Macmillan and Greek Prime Minister Constantine Karamanlis, which gave the three sides the right to intervene in Cyprus in case peace is broken by any of the parties.
While remaining pro-Western, he was more active than his predecessors in building relations with Muslim states. Menderes had a more liberal economic policy than earlier prime ministers, and allowed more private enterprise. In general his economic policies made him popular among the poor half of the population, but it also brought the country to insolvency due to an enormous increase in imports of goods and technology.
He was most intolerant towards criticism, so he instituted press censorship and had journalists arrested, as well as attempting to oppress the opposing political parties and take institutions such as universities under his control; not unlike to what CHP had done while in power during the 1930s and 1940s. Menderes who was well liked by the people in general and also had the support of the Army Chief of Staff General Cemal Gürsel who, in a personal patriotic memorandum, had advocated that Menderes should become the president of the republic to secure the national unity, became increasingly unpopular among the intellectuals, university students and a group of radical young officers in the military, who feared that the ideals of Atatürk were in danger. This eventually brought about his fall from power.
Menderes was sentenced to death for violating the Constitution, ironically by the same officers who themselves had violated the Constitution by conspiring against a democratically elected government. Despite pleas for forgiveness by Head of State Cemal Gürsel, and similar pleas from several world leaders,including U.S.A. President John F. Kennedy and U.K. Queen Elizabeth II, he was executed by the junta at the gallows on the island of İmralı on September 17, 1961. Two months later, İsmet İnönü formed a new government, in coalition and with the help of the newly emerging Adalet Partisi, after these two parties among themselves took the majority of the votes in 1961 elections. Adalet Partisi, which was seen as the successor of the heritage of Menderes, would win victories in later elections especially under the leadership of Süleyman Demirel.
In 2006, Mehmet Feyyat, Attorney General of İstanbul at the time, suggested that "İsmet İnönü and Cemal Gürsel placed phone calls to the prison's administration for Menderes' execution to be halted but the Communications Office of the junta cut the lines off" (see below).