Ali Adnan Ertekin Menderes
- September 17
) was a Turkish liberal
statesman and the first democratically elected leader in Turkish history. He served as prime minister
between 1950–1960. He was one of the founders of the Democratic Party
(DP) in 1946, the fourth legal opposition party of Turkey
. He was hanged following the 1960 coup d'état
, along with two other cabinet members, Fatin Rüştü Zorlu
and Hasan Polatkan
. He is, so far the last Turkish political leader to be executed after a military coup
and is also one of the three political leaders of the Turkish Republic
(along with Ataturk
and Turgut Özal
) to have a mausoleum
built in his honour.
Early life and career
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.
Rise to power
On January 7
, he formed the Democratic Party (Demokrat Parti, DP)
, the fourth legal opposition party in Turkey, after the Progressive Republican Party
(Terakkiperver Cumhuriyet Fırkası) formed by Ret. Gen. Kazım Karabekir
in 1924, the Liberal Republican Party
(Serbest Cumhuriyet Fırkası) established by Ali Fethi Okyar
in 1930, and the National Development Party
(Milli Kalkınma Partisi) established by Nuri Demirağ
in 1945, all three of which were banned in at most a few months after their founding by CHP
(Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi), which was the party in power until the 1950 elections. He was elected deputy of Kütahya
in the fairly undemocratic 1946 elections, in which the votes were cast out in the open and were counted in secret by the state apparatus working for the governing CHP
. He became the highest-ranking man in the party after Celal Bayar
. When the DP won 52% of the votes in the first free elections in Turkish history on May 14, 1950 (in which votes were cast in secret and counted openly), Menderes became prime minister
, and in 1955 he also assumed the duties of foreign minister. He later won two more free elections, one in 1954 and the other in 1957. No other politician has ever been able to win three general elections in a row in Turkey.
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.
Plane crash survival
On February 17
, the Turkish Airlines
aircraft Vickers Viscount
Type 793, registration TC-SEV, carrying Adnan Menderes and a party of government officials on a special flight
from Istanbul to London Gatwick Airport
crashed a few miles short of the runway, near Rusper
in heavy fog and caught fire. Nine of the 16 passengers and 5 of the 8 crew lost their lives. Menderes, sitting in the back part of the plane, survived the accident almost uninjured and was hospitalized at The London Clinic
90 minutes after receiving first aid from Margaret Bailey, a local resident who rushed to the crash site.
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.
Menderes signed the London Agreement on February 19, 1959 in the hospital. He returned home on February 26, 1959 and was welcomed by even his arch rival İsmet İnönü and a huge crowd.
Political style and beliefs
Menderes became quite famous for selling or distributing most of the estate he had inherited to small shareholders. He was more tolerant towards traditional lifestyles and different forms of practice of Islam
and his party had been - he campaigned in the 1950 elections almost exclusively on the platform of legalizing the Arabic language adhan
, which had been banned. One of his first political moves was to exclude the pictures of İsmet İnönü
on Turkish banknotes and stamps and instead put Atatürk
pictures back, which were taken off when Inönü became President in 1938. Thanks to the public support and the legacy of Atatürk, it was a successful move, even if the Turkish law under the former President was stating that the image of the President of the country would be placed on the banknotes, in this case Celal Bayar
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.
Coup, trial, execution
On May 27
, a military coup
organized by 37 "young officers", removed the government, and Menderes was arrested along with some other party members. They were charged with violating the constitution
. He and all the leaders of the DP were put on trial by a hastily formed quasi-military ad-hoc court on the island of Yassıada
. In addition to the charges of violating the constitution, the trial also referenced to the Istanbul Pogrom
, for which he and his fellow defendants were blamed.
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.
On September 17, 1990, he was posthumously pardoned and his grave was moved to a mausoleum
named aftem him in İstanbul
. Fatin Rüştü Zorlu
and Hasan Polatkan
, who were the Foreign Affairs Minister and Finance Minister, respectively in the last Menderes administration, and who were hanged with Menderes by the junta
in 1961, were also posthumously cleared of any misconduct. Adnan Menderes University
and Adnan Menderes Airport
are named after him. Two high schools, Istanbul
Bahcelievler Adnan Menderes Anadolu Lisesi and Aydın
Adnan Menderes Anadolu Lisesi, also adopted his name. There are numerous city districts, boulevards and streets named after him by democratically elected city councils in cities large and small, all across Turkey.
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).
Film and television
- The last period of Menderes' life beginning with his 1959 aircraft crash survival until his execution was depicted in the television series Hatırla Sevgili (Remember Darling) as background events.
Notes and References