Istanbul (1956-1961)/Redevelopment Act As A Cold War Product: The Military Concern of US’s Sponsorship And Its Influence On The Plan

The Redevelopment Act of Istanbul, enacted in 1956 by Menderes the prime minister of Turkey, centered around the massive boulevard constructions across the European part of the city. By widening major roads and connecting them to city plazas, Menderes aimed to build up an efficient transportation network that alleviates the existing traffic congestion and, furthermore, prepares Istanbul for the forthcoming population boom resulting from its rapid urban development.

Though Menderes’s personal fascination with boulevard constructions was undoubtedly attributable to the initiation of such a redevelopment plan, it could be overreaching to claim that Menderes was acting only according to his will. Foreign influences, especially manipulations by the US through financial supports, were unneglectable forces in shaping the Redevelopment Act.

Menderes meeting Eisenhower in 1959, before which the US had provided enormous financial support to Turkey.

The focus of the Redevelopment Act on boulevard making was indirectly encouraged by the US, who, under the Cold War situation, was continuously building up its defending power against the Soviet Union. During the ruling period of the Democrat Party (DP) from 1950 to 1960, Turkey as a member of NATO received enormous financial aids from the US under the Marshall Plan and Truman Doctrine, notably sponsorships for road making, industry and education. Such favoring of road construction stemmed from US’s defensive concern. Broad, unhindered roads were needed for military logistics and large-scale vehicles including tanks. An interconnecting traffic network allowed swift military actions and reactions. Though planned according to civic needs, the boulevard network was capable of accommodating military activities.

Millet Street was extended in the reconstruction, crossing the city wall and further connected to nearby areas. The connectivity was beneficial for military purposes. Source: Altinyildiz, Nur. “The Architectural Heritage of Istanbul and the Ideology of Preservation.”

Proofs of US’s recognition of Turkey’s value and its intention to enhance its military power can be found outside its influence on Istanbul’s redevelopment. Turkish trooped was remodeled according to the US standard, while military officers were sent to West Point Military Academy and trained in the US mode. These officers, when back to Turkish, produced a considerable impact on Turkish politics. The America-mindedness of the leading figures in Turkey laid the foundation for the passing and execution the Redevelopment Act.

 

 

Reference

Ayataç, Hatiçe. “The international diffusion of planning ideas: The case of Istanbul, Turkey.” Journal of Planning History 6, no. 2 (2007): 114-137.

Barkey, Henri J. “Turkey and the Great Powers.” In Turkey’s Engagement with Modernity, pp. 239-257. Palgrave Macmillan, London, 2010.

Gül, Murat. Architecture and the Turkish City: An Urban History of Istanbul since the Ottomans 2017.

Gül, Murat. The Emergence of Modern Istanbul: Transformation and Modernisation of a City. New York: Tauris Academic Studies. 2009.

2 Comments on “Istanbul (1956-1961)/Redevelopment Act As A Cold War Product: The Military Concern of US’s Sponsorship And Its Influence On The Plan

  1. It is very intriguing to read about how the international political situation affected the built environment of the citizens of Istanbul – the military advantage (besides military parades) is not an aspect I would immediately consider at first sight of those wide boulevards. Your other points about Menderes’ personal taste and American influence are interesting as well. Good post!

    • Thanks for the comment! I do think that tactical factors (especially under the Cold War context) can, to some degree, influence urban planning. In the case of Istanbul it was done in a subtler way through financial aid favoring road making. Military parade is a very good point as Menderes regarded the redevelopment of Istanbul exactly as a parade, with his famous quote We will conquer Istanbul once again.

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