- Clarence K. Streit's The Unknown Turks: Mustafa Kemal Paşa, Nationalist Ankara and Daily Life in Anatolia ed. by Heath W. Lowry
Defeated in World War I and almost totally dismembered, the Ottoman Empire lingered on for a few more years as a ward of the victorious allies. In the interior of Anatolia, however, Mustafa Kemal (later with the surname Atatürk) raised the banner of revolt and began constructing the new Republic of Turkey. In time, his nationalist Turks would defeat the invading Greeks, push the victorious allies out, succeed the Ottoman Empire, and have all this recognized by the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923. While all this is well known, there is a gaping dearth of specifics available on these first formative years in Ankara.
More than six decades later, Professor Heath Lowry, then the Atatürk Professor of Ottoman and Modern Turkish Studies at Princeton University, learned that Clarence Streit—at that time a 25-year-old journalist who earlier had also served in United States intelligence in France during World War I—"not only had traveled to Ankara and interviewed Mustafa Kemal Paşa (Atatürk) in 1921, but had also written an unpublished manuscript about the seven weeks he spent in Anatolia during the winter of that year" (p. xi). Furthermore, young Streit had taken and received a treasure trove of close to 200 fascinating photos never published before, including a number of Mustafa Kemal. Lowry had come upon a source that literally demanded publication.
Who was this intrepid correspondent whose earlier journey had largely been unnoticed and now forgotten? Actually, Clarence Streit (1896–1986) had gone on to have a distinguished career as a journalist, author, and lecturer. Indeed, he was well known for his book Union Now (Harper [End Page 680] and Brothers, 1939), a clarion call for an Atlantic alliance of Western democracies that had sold several hundred thousand copies. However, he had been unable to publish his earlier manuscript and collection of photos dealing with his sojourn among the budding nationalist Turks, due to their isolation and dismissal as mere "rebellious brigands" (p. xii) and the impression that he was too favorably disposed to them. Now nearing the end of his long life, Streit met Lowry in Washington, DC, on several occasions and convinced him to edit and publish his long-ignored "impressions based on an extensive interview he concluded with the Nationalist leader on March 3, 1921, as well as his having had the opportunity to observe several sessions of the Grand National Assembly [of Turkey] which Mustafa Kemal had addressed" (p. xi). For many years, other pressing business intervened, but Lowry finally returned to Streit's rich legacy and published it in 2011. In this abridged, heavily edited, and richly annotated version of Streit's "snapshot … into the nascent Turkish nationalist movement during the opening months of 1921, i.e., at a key point in its evolution" (p. xiii), Lowry has given us fascinating new insights.
Professor Lowry has divided his work into 10 separate chapters, followed by another 10 appendices, a bibliography, and an index. Chapter 1 deals with the nationalists' isolation, warnings from others to stay out, and unsuccessful attempts to establish "a Greek Pontus Republic" (p. 11) in Samsun where Streit first disembarked, among others. Chapter 2 surveys bracing winter travel in Turkey, while Chapter 3 relates experiences living with Turkish peasants. Chapter 4 presents impressions of the then tiny, but ancient city of Ankara (population 25,000; pp. 53, 165) where one night Streit viewed a production of Shakespeare's Hamlet that "drew a record crowd of soldiers and civilians to the [bitterly cold, unheated] National Theater" (p. 63). The famous Turkish Marxist poet Nazım Hikmet also saw the play, which "raises the possibility that their paths might have crossed in Ankara" (p. 64n).
Chapter 6 discusses the government of the Grand National Assembly, which Streit received...