The Global Impact of the Great Depression, 1929-1939

By Dietmar Rothermund | Go to book overview

3

TURKEY AND EGYPT

Modernising states at the European periphery

THE ROLE OF THE MODERNISING ELITES

Both Turkey and Egypt had emerged in the early 1920s under ‘new management’, so to speak. They were ruled by ambitious modernising elites wishing to emulate Europe but also to emancipate themselves from its overbearing tutelage. In Turkey the republican regime of Kemal Pasha, reverently called Ataturk, had rejected the heritage of the Ottoman Empire and established a Turkish nation state which was still in a rather precarious position. The ruling elite preserved its power by means of an authoritarian one-party system. An experiment of permitting the establishment of an opposition party in 1930 was quickly abandoned when this party attracted too much support. Authoritarian rule was not challenged by the majority of the nation which hardly understood the ideas of its modernising elite. At the same time the sovereignty of the new Turkish nation state was severely restricted by its foreign creditors.

In Egypt the nationalist Wafd Party and its popular leader, Zaghlul Pasha, played a role similiar to that of Ataturk and his republicans. But Egypt was a monarchy guided by the British ex-colonial rulers, and its sovereignty was even more impaired than that of Turkey. The social distance between the Egyptian ruling elite and the majority of the people was perhaps even greater than in Turkey. Moreover, due to its cotton export economy Egypt was far more dependent on the world market than was Turkey. The presence of British and French traders was also much more important in Egypt than in Turkey. These foreigners had special privileges and could not be subjected to Egyptian taxation. Thus Egypt was still in a quasi-colonial position and its indigenous elite

-74-

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