Kemal Atatürk, until 1934 Mustafa Kemal, Turkish army officer
and revolutionist statesman, was the founder and first President
of the Republic of Turkey. Mustafa Kemal established himself as
a brilliant military commander while serving as a division commander
in the Battle of Gallipoli. Following the defeat of the Ottoman
Empire at the hands of the Allies, and the subsequent plans for
its partition, Mustafa Kemal led the Turkish national movement in
what would become the Turkish War of Independence.
successful campaigns led to the liberation of the country and
the establishment of the Republic of Turkey. As the Republic's
first president, Mustafa Kemal introduced a range of far reaching
reforms which sought to create a modern and democratic state.
According to the Law on Family Names, the Turkish Grand Assembly
presented Mustafa Kemal with the name "Atatürk"
(meaning "Ancestor Turk" or "Father Turk")
on 24 November 1934.
was born in 1881, in Selânik (which was part of the Ottoman
Empire, and is now Thessaloníki in Greece), the son of
a minor official who became a timber merchant. In accordance with
the then prevalent Turkish custom, he was given the single name
Mustafa. His father, Ali Riza, was a customs officer who died
when Mustafa was seven. As such, it was left to his mother Zübeyde
Hanim to bring the young Mustafa up.
Atatürk was 12 years old, he went to military schools in
Selânik and Manastir, centres of anti-Turkish Greek nationalism.
Mustafa studied at the military secondary school in Selânik,
where the additional name Kemal ("perfection") was bestowed
on him by his mathematics teacher in recognition of his academic
brilliance. Mustafa Kemal entered the military academy at Manastir
(now Bitola) in 1895. He graduated as a lieutenant in 1905 and
was posted to Damascus. In Damascus, he soon joined a small secret
revolutionary society of reform-minded officers called Vatan ve
Hürriyet (Motherland and Liberty), and became an active opponent
of the Ottoman regime. In 1907 he was posted to Selânik
and joined the Committee of Union and Progress commonly known
as the Young Turks.
Young Turks seized power from the Sultan Abdul Hamid II in 1908,
and Mustafa Kemal became a senior military figure. In 1911, he
went to the province of Libya to take part in the defence against
the Italian invasion. During the first part of the Balkan Wars
Mustafa Kemal was stranded in Libya and unable to take part, but
in July 1913 he returned to Istanbul and was appointed commander
of the Ottoman defences of the Çanakkale (Gallipoli) area
on the coast of Trakya (Thrace). In 1914 he was appointed military
attaché in Sofia, partly to remove him from the capital
and its political intrigues.
the Ottoman Empire entered World War I on the side of Germany,
Mustafa Kemal was posted to Tekirdag (on the Sea of Marmara).
was later promoted to the rank of colonel and assigned the command
of a division in the Gallipoli (Turkish: "Gelibolu")
area. He played a critical role in the battle against the allied
British, French and ANZAC forces during the Battle of Gallipoli
in April 1915, where he held off allied forces at Conkbayiri and
on the Anafarta hills. For this success, he was later promoted
to the rank of Brigadier General, thus acquiring the title of
pasha and gained increasingly greater degrees of influence on
the war effort.
Kemal gained much respect from his former enemies for his chivalry
in victory, the Mustafa Kemal Atatürk Memorial has an honoured
place on ANZAC Parade in Canberra. It includes his words:
heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives... you are now
lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace.
There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets where
they lie side by side here in this country of ours... You the
mothers who sent their sons from far away countries wipe away
your tears. Your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace.
Having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons
1917 and 1918 Mustafa Kemal was sent to the Caucasus (Kafkaslar)
front to fight against Russian forces, against which he had some
success. He was later assigned to the Hejaz (Hicaz), to suppress
the Arab Revolt (which was supported by Great Britain) against
Ottoman rule. After resigning his commission, he eventually returned
to serve in the unsuccessful defense of Palestine. In October
1918 the Ottomans capitulated to the Allies, and Mustafa Kemal
became one of the leaders of the party in favour of defending
the area roughly occupied by present day Turkey, while agreeing
to withdraw from all the other territories.
the Allies started to occupy the Ottoman Empire, Turkish Revolutionaries
began to show resistance. Mustafa Kemal organized the most successful
of several "Kuva-i Milliye" (National Force) movements
that blossomed into the Turkish War of Independence.
Kemal's revolution began with his assignment in Samsun, where
he was given emergency powers as Inspector of the XIXth Army.
Once in Anatolia, interpreting his powers liberally, he contacted
and started issuing orders to provincial governors and military
commanders - calling on them to resist occupation. In June 1919
he and his close friends issued the Declaration of Amasya which
described why Istanbul's authority was illegitimate. The Young
Turks politically promoted the idea that a government-in-exile
should be set up somewhere in Anatolia. Istanbul's order for the
execution of Kemal came too late. A new parliament, the Grand
National Assembly, was formed in Ankara in April 1920. It conferred
upon Mustafa Kemal Pasha the title 'President of the National
Assembly', repudiated the Sultan's government in Istanbul and
rejected the Treaty of Sèvres.
the military front, the conflict between nationalist movement
and Triple Entente powers went on three fronts. Which one of them
with the Greece (west front), where Turkish forces fell back in
good order to the Sakarya river, eighty kilometres from Grand
National Assembly. Atatürk took personal command and decisively
defeated the Greeks in the twenty day Battle of Sakarya in August-September
1921. Final victory over the Greeks came in the Battle of Dumlupinar
in August 1922.
On the political front, Mustafa Kemal Pasha signed the Treaty
of Kars (October 23, 1921) with the Soviet Union, a treaty of
friendship in which Turkey ceded the city of Batumi, in present-day
Georgia, to Lenin's Bolsheviks in return for sovereignty over
the cities of Kars and Ardahan, which were lost to Tsarist Russia
in Russo-Turkish War, 1877-1878.
Mustafa Kemal Pasha's victory in the Turkish War of Independence
assured Turkey's sovereignty. He ushered the Treaty of Lausanne,
through which Turkey finally entered a period of peace after a
disastrous decade of warfare, despite irredentist opposition in
the National Assembly and elsewhere.
Kemal spent the next several years consolidating his control over
Turkey and instituting a variety of wide-ranging political, economic
and social reforms. These reforms caused some opposition in the
Republican People's Party ("Cumhuriyet Halk Firkasi"
in Turkish) which was founded by Mustafa Kemal in September 9th
1923. Then Mustafa Kemal directed General Kazim Karabekir to establish
the Progressive Republican Party ("Terakkiperver Cumhuriyet
Firkasi" in Turkish) for opposition in Turkish National Assembly.
This party opposed state socialism of the Republican People's
Party and suggested liberalism.
after some time, the new party was taken over by people Ataturk
considered fundamentalists. In 1925, partly in response to the
provocations of Sheikh Said, the Maintenance of Order Law was
passed, giving Ataturk the authority to shut down subversive groups.
The Republican People's Party was quickly disestablished under
the new law, an act seen by some as necessary for preserving the
Turkish state, but seen by others as the act of a dictator.
August 11th, 1930 Mustafa Kemal decided to try a democratic movement
once again. He charged Ali Fethi Okyar with establishing a new
party. In Mustafa Kemal's letter to Ali Fethi Okyar, laicism was
insisted on. At first, the brand new Liberal Republican Party
succeeded all around the country. But once again the opposition
party became too strong in its opposition to Atatürk's reforms,
particularly in regard to the role of religion in public life.
Finally Ali Fethi Okyar abolished his own party and Mustafa Kemal
never succeeded in democratising the parliamentary system. He
sometimes dealt sternly with opposition in pursuing his main goal
of democratizing the country.
regarded the fez (in Turkish "fes", which Sultan Mahmud
II had originally introduced to the Ottoman Empire's dress code
in 1826) as a symbol of feudalism and banned it, encouraging Turkish
men to wear European attire.
once stated: "Culture is the foundation of the Turkish Republic."
His view of culture included both his own nation's creative legacy
and what he saw as the more admirable values of world civilization,
and he put an emphasis on humanism above all. He once described
modern Turkey's ideological thrust as "a creation of patriotism
blended with a lofty humanist ideal."
as to assist in the creation of such a synthesis, Atatürk
stressed the need to utilize the elements of the national heritage
of the Turks and of Anatolia—including its ancient indigenous
cultures—as well as the arts and techniques of other world
civilizations, both past and present. He emphasized the study
of earlier Anatolian civilizations, such as the Hittites, Phrygians,
and Lydians. The pre-Islamic culture of the Turks became the subject
of extensive research, and particular emphasis was laid upon the
fact that—long before the Seljuk and Ottoman civilizations—the
Turks had had a rich culture. Atatürk also stressed the folk
arts of the countryside as a wellspring of Turkish creativity.
visual and the plastic arts—whose development had on occasion
been arrested by some Ottoman officials claiming that the depiction
of the human form was idolatry—flourished during the presidency
of Atatürk. Many museums were opened; architecture began
to follow more modern trends; and classical Western music, opera,
and ballet, as well as the theatre, also took greater hold. Several
hundred "People's Houses" and "People's Rooms"
across the country allowed greater access to a wide variety of
artistic activities, sports, and other cultural events. Book and
magazine publications increased as well, and the film industry
began to grow.
Kemal Ataturk's mausoleum at AnkaraAtatürk died in 1938 of
cirrhosis. His lifestyle had always been strenuous. Alcohol consumption
during dinner discussions, smoking and very long hours hard at
work with little sleep, working on his projects and dreams, had
been his way of life. As the historian Will Durant had said, men
devoted to war, politics, and public life wear out fast, and all
three had been the passion of Ataturk.
successor, Ismet Inönü, fostered a posthumous Atatürk
personality cult which has survived to this day, even after Atatürk's
own Republican People's Party lost power following democratic
elections in 1950. Atatürk's face and name are seen and heard
everywhere in Turkey: his portrait can be seen in all public buildings,
in schools , in all kind of school books, on all Turkish banknotes,
and even in the homes of many Turkish families - who often seem
to consider him a secular sort of saint.
is commemorated by many memorials all over Turkey, like the Atatürk
International Airport in Istanbul, the Atatürk Bridge over
the Golden Horn (Haliç), Atatürk Dam (The biggest
dam in the world) as well as the Ataturk Stadium. Giant Atatürk
statues loom over Istanbul and other Turkish cities, and practically
any larger settlement has its own memorial to him. In 1951, the
Turkish Parliament issued a law (5816) outlawing insults to his
legacy or attacks to objects representing him. This law is sometimes
criticised as it applies solely to Atatürk, thus resembling
leader-protecting laws of dictatorial regimes.