Cumhuriyet newspaper’s founder was Yunus Nadi, and it was named by the war hero Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. Today, the right to the name of Cumhuriyet newspaper is held by the Cumhuriyet Foundation. We are offering a summary of the story of Cumhuriyet newspaper, whose first issue appeared on 7 May 1924, from this first step to today’s Cumhuriyet Foundation.
7 May 1924 – 7 May 2017
Telling Cumhuriyet’s story, even if only in summary, takes on added meaning in these days that witness the attempt to besiege Cumhuriyet with financial sanctions, imprisonment and advertising boycotts.
Yunus Nadi started to bring out the Yeni Gün newspaper in Istanbul in 1918. Istanbul came under occupation. On 19 May 1919 Mustafa Kemal passed into Anatolia and kindled the torch of the resistance movement. The newspaper published by Yunus Nadi in Istanbul, Yeni Gün, supported the national resistance movement, under censorship, intimidation and adverse conditions.
With the First World War coming to an end, the Ottoman State signed the Armistice of Mudros with the victors. The capital Istanbul was occupied six days after the signing of this armistice. One day, occupation force soldiers raided Yeni Gün so as to detain Yunus Nadi and conducted a search. Yunus Nadi had escaped a short while before the raid and fled the occupying forces. He left Istanbul and went clandestinely to Ankara.
Yeni Gün in Ankara
Yunus Nadi spoke as follows about his situation in Ankara:
‘What I had to offer was journalism. I could be of use to the National Struggle in this way. I began to bring out the Yeni Gün newspaper I had published in Istanbul, this time named ‘Yeni Gün in Anatolia’, on 9 August 1920.’
Nadir Nadi described Yeni Gün in Anatolia years later in his memoirs as follows:
‘Yeni Gün’s staff consisted of a writer-in-chief (Yunus Nadi), an editor, a proofreader and at the same time a columnist (Kemal Salih Sel). An executive manager and main distributor rolled into one. Four typesetters and one operator, at the same time a porter. This precisely was the staff of Yeni Gün in Ankara.’
The Republic is proclaimed
Yunus Nadi at the same time chaired the Constitutional Commission in the First Parliament. He was the person who proclaimed the founding of the Republic from the rostrum of the Grand National Assembly on Monday 29 October 1923:
‘Friends, we are adding a paragraph to Article 1 of the constitution that the First Turkish Grand National Assembly approved. Article 1 is as follows:
Sovereignty belongs unconditionally to the people. The manner of governance is based on the people guiding its fate itself and for itself. We have appended the following sentence to the article that is anyhow implied by this article:
The form of governance of the State of Turkey is a Republic.’
The proclaiming of the Republic on 29 October 1923 met with great enthusiasm throughout the land. Following the proclamation of the Republic, the pro-Caliphate Istanbul press clamoured even louder. Certain writers in the Istanbul press now realised that the Caliphate would be abolished. So, they went on an all-out assault.
In response to this, Mustafa Kemal summoned Yunus Nadi and said the following:
‘My Hâkimiyet-i Milliye (the newspaper published by Mustafa Kemal in Ankara) and your Yeni Gün have done their duty with distinction. Let us now bring out a paper that will fight the enemies of the republic in Istanbul and the city’s publishing quarter and supporters of the Caliphate, and let’s name it Cumhuriyet (the Republic).
A short while later, Cumhuriyet newspaper saw its inception in Istanbul.
DEFENDER OF DEMOCRACY
Preparations to publish Cumhuriyet newspaper came to a successful conclusion at the end of April 1924. In the first issue, Yunus Nadi set out Cumhuriyet newspaper’s principles in his editorial entitled ‘Presentation to Readers’. These principles that have been applied for eighty years are precisely as in that presentation article Yunus Nadi wrote on the first day:
‘Cumhuriyet’s political programme is evident, just as from its name, from the political lives of those who are publishing it. The Republic is a political result that was obtained in Turkey through great struggle. We (...) are people who have actively worked to this end. There are very strong supporters of this victory and victorious idea in the country. The Republic is an idea that is dear to the country. We are its representatives and defenders. Bearing this basic thought in mind, we can say with certainty that our newspaper is neither a government newspaper or party newspaper. Cumhuriyet is simply the defender of the democracy of the republic in the scientific and broad sense.’
This is how Cumhuriyet was founded.
Yunus Nadi founded Cumhuriyet newspaper and his son Nadir Nadi turned it into an institution. Cumhuriyet newspaper maintains its existence under a sui generis form of management of which there are very few examples in the world. Cumhuriyet Foundation, which was established by Berin Nadi, wife of Nadir Nadi who turned the paper into an institution, holds the right to the paper’s name. Yunus Nadi’s daughter Leyla Uşaklıgil, by participating in the foundation, gifted the right to the name she inherited from her father to Cumhuriyet Foundation.
The principles in the preamble to the Official Deed of the Foundation are precisely as follow:
In the first edition of Cumhuriyet newspaper published in May 1924, its editorial principles were set out with founder Yunus Nadi’s pen. Cumhuriyet is neither a government nor party newspaper; Cumhuriyet is the defender of nothing but the democracy of the republic in the scientific and broad sense. It will fight every force that tries to overthrow the Republic and the notion and principles of democracy. It will devote its utmost to the cause of establishing a true democracy in all senses in our country. It will endeavour to bring about the unfettering of reason from bigotry and science from religion and the embracing by society of the principle of secularism along the path of reason ushered in by the Republic and Ataturk’s revolutions and principles. Cumhuriyet, which adopts the “Declaration of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms” as the universal constitution of democracy, deems by way of basic principle that its goals may only be attained within the independence and integrity of the Republic of Turkey established by Atatürk. It was Yunus Nadi who founded Cumhuriyet and Nadir Nadi who turned it into an institution. Nadir Nadi, who, following the demise of Yunus Nadi, in the face of all manner of hardship and without compromising over a half century of struggle managed Cumhuriyet newspaper whose establishment coincided with the laying of the foundations of republican Turkey, and turned it into an institution, closed his eyes on life on 20 August 1991. Securing the continuation in the same orbit of Cumhuriyet, whose identity, principles and aims have become established and have taken root in society over this long time, has assumed the nature of a duty to republican Turkey, society and Cumhuriyet readers. Cumhuriyet Foundation has been established to fulfil this purpose.
Following Nadir Nadi’s death in 1991, the paper’s staff and the paper’s readers made great sacrifices to keep the paper going. Following the death of our foundation’s founder Mrs Berin Nadi on 5 November 2001, the foundation’s Management Board convened and unanimously elected İlhan Selçuk as Foundation Chair. We lost İlhan Selçuk in 2010 and Orhan Erinç took over as Foundation Chair, once more unanimously.