What is a republic? Why is October 29 Celebrations Important?

After the National War of Independence, the revolutionary cadre of the new Turkey started a rapid change process in every field. Undoubtedly, the most important of these changes was to create a modern Turkish Nation within the framework of citizen identity. In the first years of the Republic, the realization of the ideal of establishing a nation-state and the integration of state-citizen were one of the most basic objectives. The founders of the Republic were aware of the spiritual power of the holidays on this path. Especially, national holidays played a very important role in creating the spirit of social solidarity and unity. The public was encouraged to participate in these celebrations, and the meeting of the state and the people was aimed. Among all national holidays, October 29 Republic Day was always in a different place. Because the Republic was the greatest work of the Turkish Revolution. For this reason, on October 29, one of the first years of the Republic, there were enthusiastic celebrations. So what is this Republic? What did the concept of republic mean for young Turkey?

What is not a republic?

Image: October 29, 1935 Ulus Newspaper

In order to understand what the republic means, it is necessary to start by saying what this word is not. A republic does not simply mean that sovereignty belongs to the people. It is not about discriminating against gender, color, religion or race. It is not at all to be the servant of imperialism, to leave the parliament without authority, to destroy the independent judiciary, to stop production and to create a society of fear. Republic; It is not an order in which aghas and sheikhs abuse people. Republic; It is not to destroy merit, to legitimize corruption, to silence the press, to restrict freedoms, and to leave youth unemployed with wrong policies. If that’s not a republic, what is?

What is a republic?

Image: October 29, 1929 Evening Newspaper

The word “Republic” derives from the Arabic word “Cumhur” meaning “people”. Etymologically, it means “what belongs to the people”. When we use it in the sense of state regime, Republic; It is “the form of government in which the nation holds the sovereignty and uses it through deputies elected for certain periods”. However, the Republic has a meaning that is too broad to fit into a single definition. Because the Republic in Turkey is the way of life itself. For this, it is sufficient to look at the years between 1920 and 1938.

In a column published in Cumhuriyet Newspaper on October 29, 1929, Necmeddin Sadik says: “To appreciate the value of governments, it is customary to look at the balance sheet of their work from the outset. The harm or benefit of a form of government is measured by the services it renders to the nation and country. The form of government is ultimately a tool. The aim is that this form of government is suitable for the life of the nation and helps them.” So how do we define the Republic based on these words of Necmettin Sadık?

The Republic in Turkey is the victory of Anatolia against the West. Men and women have equal rights. The republic is the one that reverses the fate of society. It is to promote the people who are slaves of the sultan to citizenship. The Republic is to adopt modern life and to be educated in contemporary schools. It is the power that takes the woman out of the cage and places her on the university chair. Republic; reason, science, equal opportunity, transparent government election, basic human rights. Above all, the Republic; To be a secular, democratic and social state of law. The Republic is our won rights, our struggle for independence and our revolution. In short, the concept of the Republic in Turkey expresses all the gains in the past rather than describing a regime. In this case, it is of great importance to celebrate the holiday.

Why is it important to celebrate Republic Day with enthusiasm?

republic day
Image: İzmir Ahmet Piriştina City Archive Museum

Falih Rıfkı Atay writes in his article in Ulus Newspaper dated 29 October 1935: “Imagine that the Ottomanism of Sevres was real. Hand over all the livelihood and youth resources of Anatolia to a thousand and one states; Consider that any idea given to the Turkish nation is considered a crime. Think of the Palace as a colonial sultanate. The palace and dynasty accepted this. If the nation had not left the sultanate and sought its own conditions of life and continuation, if it had not established its own state under the banner of Atatürk, we would have been a herd of captives. We have not changed a regime: we have found hope of living and staying alone.”

In the early Republican period, not only the intellectuals but also the people were aware of the vital importance of the new regime. For this reason, Republic Days were passed with great enthusiasm. Establishing the regime and getting it to be adopted by the people was not easy. Just as it is not easy to ensure that the established order is maintained. When the Republic was proclaimed on October 29, 1923, one of the most important problems of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk was to create a republican culture in Turkey. The Ottoman Empire had a multinational structure ruled by an absolute monarchy. More importantly, the cultural structure was shaped around the religion of Islam, with the influence of the caliphate.

It was very difficult to establish the republican regime, which was the result of a new understanding, on such an accumulation. This difficulty began to manifest itself in September 1923, when the word “republic” was first pronounced. Despite all this, the country and its citizens have achieved many gains in just 10 years. Gaining an individual identity in a short time was effective in adopting the concept of republic and giving it countless meanings. It was very important to fill the streets during the Republic Day celebrations in order to remember these gains and ensure their continuity. If you are wondering how our holidays were celebrated in the early years of the Republic, we recommend you to take a look at our list titled The First Years of the Republic with Photos from the Archive: Images of the 29 October Republic Day Celebrations That Arouse Our Emotions. As the ListeList team, we wanted to draw attention to the importance of the concept of Republic once again. On this day when we celebrate the 98th anniversary of our Republic, we wish to walk into the future with enthusiasm and zeal.

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