Adnan Menderes

Adnan Menderes
Prime Minister of Turkey
In office
22 May 1950  27 May 1960
President Celal Bayar
Preceded by Şemsettin Günaltay
Succeeded by Cemal Gürsel
Personal details
Born 1899
Koçarlı, Aydın Province, Ottoman Empire
Died 17 September 1961 (aged 6162)
İmralı, Turkey
Political party Liberal Republican Party
Republican People's Party (CHP)
Democrat Party (DP)
Spouse(s) Berrin Menderes (1906–1994)
Children Yüksel, Mutlu, Aydın
Alma mater Ankara University, Law School
Religion Islam

Adnan Menderes (Turkish: [adˈnan mendeˈɾes]; 1899 – 17 September 1961) or Ali Adnan Ertekin Menderes was the Turkish Prime Minister between 1950–1960. He was one of the founders of the Democrat Party (DP) in 1946, the fourth legal opposition party of Turkey. He was hanged by the military junta after the 1960 coup d'état, along with two other cabinet members, Fatin Rüştü Zorlu and Hasan Polatkan. He was 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 Atatürk and Turgut Özal) to have a mausoleum built in his honor.

Early life and career

Adnan was born in 1899 in Koçarlı, Aydın Province, as the son of a wealthy landowner of Crimean Tatar origin.[1] After primary school, Menderes attended the American College in İzmir. He fought against the invading Greek army during the Turkish War of Independence and was awarded a medal of honour. He graduated from the Law School of Ankara University. In 1930, Menderes organized a branch of the short-lived Liberal Republican Party (Serbest Cumhuriyet Fırkası) in Aydın.[2] After the party dissolved itself, he was invited by Atatürk himself to join the ruling Republican People's Party and was selected by the party leaders as a 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.[3]

Rise to power

On 7 January 1946, he and former prime minister Celal Bayar formed the Democratic Party (DP), the fourth legal opposition party in Turkey, after the Progressive Republican Party formed by retired General Kazım Karabekir in 1924, the Liberal Republican Party established by Ali Fethi Okyar in 1930, and the National Development Party (Milli Kalkınma Partisi) established by Nuri Demirağ in 1945, the first two of which were banned in at most a few months after their founding by the Republican People's Party (CHP), which was the party in power until 1950 elections in Turkey. He was elected deputy of Kütahya in the 1946 elections. When the DP won 52% of the votes in the first free elections in Turkish history on 14 May 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.

During the 10 years of his term as prime minister, the Turkish economy grew at an unprecedented rate of 9% per annum over his 10-year administration, a feat which had and so far has not yet been duplicated.[4] During his tenure, Turkey was admitted to NATO. With the economic support of the United States via the Marshall Plan, agriculture was mechanized; and transport, energy, education, health care, insurance and banking progressed. In 1955, the Menderes government was blamed by his political opponents for orchestrating the Istanbul Pogrom, which targeted the city's substantial Greek minority.[5] Thousands of shops, houses, churches and even graves belonging to ethnic Greek minority in Istanbul were destroyed within a few hours and several people were injured. The Pogrom against Greek minority was caused by the spread of false news about the assault against Mustafa Kemal's house in Thessaloniki. The supposed assault was proved to be a provocation organised by the Turkish government which brought to Istanbul infuriated naive villagers from Anatolia with the aim to "punish" Greeks.

Plane crash survival

On 17 February 1959, 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, Sussex 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.

Adnan Menderes car, 1958 Buick Roadmaster 75

He was on his way to sign the London Agreements on the Cyprus issue with the British Prime Minister 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.[6]

Menderes signed the London Agreement on 19 February 1959 in the hospital. He returned home on 26 February 1959 and was welcomed by even his arch-rival İsmet İnönü and a large crowd.

Political style and beliefs

Adnan Menderes and members of the Liberal Republican Party

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 than Atatürk and his party had been – he campaigned in the 1950 elections on the platform of legalizing the Arabic Islamic call to prayer (adhan), which had been banned in order to wean Turkey from Arabic influences. He re-opened thousands of mosques across the country which had been closed down, and as such, he was blamed by his political opponents for using religion as a tool for political gain. 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.[7] Thanks to the public support and the legacy of Atatürk, it was a successful move, even if the Turkish law under the former President stated that the image of the President of the country would be placed on the banknotes (in this case Celal Bayar). In one of his speeches, he said that members of parliament could bring back caliphate if they so desired.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower meets with President Celal Bayar and Prime Minister Adnan Menderes at the Presidential Residence in Çankaya (December 1959).

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.

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. 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.

The most important event that brought his fall from power was probably the establishment of Commission of Inquiries (Tahkikat Komisyonu). The commission, composed only of Democratic Party MPs and bestowed those MPs with the powers of public and military prosecutors along with the right to give verdict. This was against the principle of separation of powers and gave the MPs the power to both prosecute and judge. Furthermore, the Commission's verdicts could not be taken to the Appeal Courts.

Coup, trial, execution

On 27 May 1960, a military coup organized by 37 "young officers" deposed the government, and Menderes was arrested along with all the leading party members.[8] They were charged with violating the constitution, ordering the Istanbul Pogrom, in which 57 Greeks were killed, and embezzling money from state funds. He and all the leaders of the DP were put on trial by a military court on the island of Yassıada. Menderes was sentenced to death. He delayed his execution with an unsuccessful suicide attempt by taking an overdose of sleeping pills.[9] Despite pleas for forgiveness by Head of State Cemal Gürsel and opposition leader İsmet İnönü,[10] and similar pleas from several world leaders, including American President John F. Kennedy and Elizabeth II of the UK, Menderes was executed by the junta at the gallows on the island of İmralı on 17 September 1961.[11] Two months later, Menderes' opponent İsmet İnönü formed a new government under military tutelage, in coalition and with the help of the newly emerging Justice Party (in Turkish: "Adalet Partisi"), after these two major parties among themselves took the majority of the votes in 1961 elections.[12] 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 17 September 1990, the 29th anniversary of Menderes' execution, he was posthumously pardoned by the Turkish Parliament and his grave was moved to a mausoleum named after him in Istanbul. 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.[13] Adnan Menderes University in Aydın and Adnan Menderes Airport in İzmir 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 Istanbul 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

See also

Notes and references

  1. Aydemir, Şevket Süreyya. "Menderes'in Dramı", Remzi Kitabevi, Istanbul 1984
  2. Erik Jan Zürcher, Turkey: a modern history, I.B.Tauris, 2004, ISBN 978-1-86064-958-5 p.397
  3. Heper, Metin; Sayari, Sabri (2002). Political leaders and democracy in Turkey. Lexington Books. ISBN 978-0-7391-0352-4.
  5. 6–7 Eylül Olayları (Turkish)
  6. "1959: Turkish leader involved in fatal crash". BBC News. 17 February 1959. Retrieved 23 April 2010.
  7. Andrew Mango (26 August 2002). Ataturk: The Biography of the founder of Modern Turkey. Overlook. p. 36. ISBN 978-1-59020-924-0. Now the Democrat Party government outdid him in signs of respect for Atatürk's memory.
  8. "FACTBOX: Coups in Turkey over last 50 years". Reuters. 17 October 2008.
  9. "1961: Adnan Menderes". Retrieved 31 July 2016.
  10. İnönü'nün MBK'ye gönderdiği Menderes mektubu
  11. "Adnan Menderes hanged". Dawn. Retrieved 31 July 2016.
  12. Oron, Yitzhak (1961). Middle East Record Volume 2. Jerusalem: The Moshe Dayan Center. p. 573. Retrieved 31 July 2016.
  13. Polley, Martin (2000). A-Z of modern Europe since 1789. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-18597-4.
  14. Hatırla Sevgili official website (Turkish)

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Mehmet Fuat Köprülü
Minister of National Defence of Turkey (acting)
9 December 1955–28 July 1957
Succeeded by
Hasan Şemi Ergin
Preceded by
Mehmet Fuat Köprülü
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey
Succeeded by
Fatin Rüştü Zorlu
Preceded by
Şemsettin Günaltay
Prime Minister of Turkey
22 May 1950–27 May 1960
Succeeded by
Cemal Gürsel
Party political offices
Preceded by
Celal Bayar
Leader of the Democratic Party
9 June 1950–27 May 1960
Succeeded by
Süleyman Demirel of Adalet Partisi and Necmettin Erbakan of National Salvation Party
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