was a famous Turkish soldier, statesman, and founder of the Republic
of Turkey. He was born in the Ottoman city of Selânik (now
Thessaloniki in Greece), where his birthplace is now the Turkish
Consulate and is also preserved as a museum. In accordance with
the then prevalent Turkish custom, he was given the single name
Mustafa. His father, Ali Riza (Efendi) was a customs officer who
died when Mustafa was a child, and his mother was Zübeyde
Mustafa Kemal Ataturk studied at the military secondary school
in Selânik, where he was given the additional name Kemal
("perfection") by his math teacher in recognition
of his academic brilliance. As Mustafa Kemal he entered the
military academy at Monastir (now Bitola) in 1895. He graduated
as a lieutenant in 1904 and was posted to Damascus. He soon
joined a secret society of reform-minded officers called Vatan
(Fatherland) 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.
Turks seized power from the Sultan Abdul Hamid II in 1908, and
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 Kemal was
stranded in Libya and unable to take part, but in July 1913
he returned to Constantinople and was appointed commander of
the Ottoman defences of the Gallipoli area on the coast of Thrace.
In 1914 he was appointed military attache in Sofia, partly to
remove him from the capital and its political intrigues.
Ataturk as War Commander
When the Ottoman Empire entered World War I on the side of Germany,
Kemal was posted to Rodosto (now Tekirdag) on the Sea of Marmara.
His area of command again included the Gallipoli area, and he
was thus the Ottoman commander against the invading allied forces
during the Gallipoli landings by British, French and ANZAC forces
in April 1915. Here he made his name as a brilliant military
commander, although he was extremely wasteful of the lives of
his troops, who died in large numbers in "human wave"
attacks. Nevertheless he was the first Ottoman military commander
to defeat a western army in living memory, and became a national
hero, awarded the title Pasha (commander).
and 1918 Kemal Pasha was posted to the Caucasus front fighting
the Russian forces with some success, and then to the Hejaz,
where the Arab Revolt against Ottoman rule was in progress.
He became increasingly critical of the incompetent conduct of
the war by the Sultan's government, and also of German domination
of the Empire. He resigned his command, but eventually agreed
to return to command Ottoman forces in Palestine.
1918 the Ottomans capitulated to the Allies, and Kemal became
one of the leaders of the party which favoured a policy of defending
the Turkish-speaking heartlands of the Empire, while agreeing
to withdraw from all the non-Turkish territories. Turkish nationalist
sentiment was aroused by the Greek occupation of Izmir (Smyrna)
in May 1919, in accordance with the Treaty of Sevres (this Treaty
was signed by the Sultan under Allied duress but never ratified
by the Ottoman parliament.)
Ataturk as Nationalist leader
The government sent Mustafa Kemal Ataturk to eastern Anatolia
to suppress a so-called riot which turned out to be a false
claim, but he seized this opportunity to leave the capital and
found a Turkish nationalist movement based at Ankara. In April
1920 a provisional Parliament at Ankara offered Kemal the title
President of the National Assembly. This body repudiated the
government and the Treaty of Sevres.
understood the threat posed to their position in western Anatolia
by Kemal's forces and advanced inland to meet them. After advancing
most of the way to Ankara, the Greeks were defeated by Kemal
and his lieutenant Ismet Pasha (later Ismet Inönü)
at the battles of Sakarya (August 1921) and Dumlupinar (August
1922). In September Kemal's forces took Izmir. Kemal's victory
in the War of Independence saved Turkey's sovereignty. The Treaty
of Lausanne superceded the Treaty of Sevres and Turkey recovered
all of Anatolia and eastern Thrace from the Greeks.
President of Turkey - Ataturk
The Republic of Turkey was founded on October 29, 1923, and
Kemal was elected the republic's first president. Although the
outward forms of democracy were established, Kemal was in practice
a dictator, although a relatively moderate one. In any case
his prestige was so high that for most of the 1920s there was
little opposition to his government. Kemal admired some aspects
of the Soviet Union and of Fascist Italy, but he was neither
a communist nor a fascist. Private property was protected and
encouraged, and political opponents usually suffered no worse
fate than banishment to the provinces.
On the other
hand Mustafa Kemal Ataturk was an ardent Turkish nationalist,
determined to create a homogenous Turkish state. By agreement
with the Greek government, the great majority of the large Greek
minority was expelled from the country, and an influx of Turks
from Greece and Bulgaria was accepted in their place. The Kurds
were not persecuted, but Kemal insisted that they were really
just a variety of Turk, and their language and culture was discouraged.
Mustafa Kemal Ataturk's reforms
Kemal's most lasting legacy was the campaign of secularization,
modernization and purification which he imposed on a sometimes
reluctant Turkish nation. The Caliphate (the position of nominal
head of the Islamic faith, held by the Ottoman Sultans), was
abolished in March 1924. The title of Pasha was abolished, so
Kemal Pasha became once again simple Mustafa Kemal. The theological
schools madrassas were closed, the Sharia law of Islam was replaced
by a law code based on that of Switzerland. The Italian Penal
Code and the German Commerce Code were also adopted.
of women was encouraged by Mustafa Kemal's marriage in 1923
to a Western-educated woman, Latife Hanim (they were divorced
in 1925), and was set in motion by a number of laws. In December
1934, women were given the vote for parliamentary members and
were made eligible to hold parliamentary seats.
In a typically
idiosyncratic gesture, Kemal regarded the fez (the Ottoman hat)
as a symbol of feudalism and banned it. He wore a European-style
suit and hat, and insisted that all Turks do likewise. The veil
for women was banned and women were encouraged to wear western
dress and enter the work force. In 1928 the government decreed
that the Arabic script be replaced by a modified Latin alphabet,
which was easier to learn and teach and made publishing much
easier. All citizens from six to 40 years of age were made to
attend school and learn the new alphabet. The Turkish language
was "purified" by the removal of many Arabic and Persian
words and their replacement by new Turkish ones.
of human forms was banned during Ottoman times following the
Islamic faith. Kemal opened new schools to teach art to boys
and girls. Atatürk also lifted the Islamic ban on alcohol:
he had a great appreciation for the national liquor, raki, and
consumed vast quantities of it. In 1934 he required all Turks
to adopt western style surnames. He was given the name Kemal
Atatürk by the parliament, meaning "father of Turks."
the official ideology of the regime, Kemalism, was promulgated
by the ruling Republican People's Party (CHP), which Kemal founded
and controlled. Its six principles were republicanism, nationalism,
populism, statism, secularism and revolutionism. Prior to that,
in 1930 he assigned Fethi Okyar Bey to organize an opposition
party for the sake of democracy. The main difference of the
principles of Serbest Cumhuriyet Firkasi (Liberal Republic Party)
was liberalism against the statism in CHP. But after the reactionist
attitudes of the new members, which were against revolutionism,
Fethi Bey closed it.
gave Turkey a new prestige in the international field by his
achievements in both military and political fields, crowned
in July 1936 by the restoration of Turkish sovereignty over
the Straits under the Montreux Convention. Atatürk was
still generally popular with the mass of the Turkish people
when he died in 1938 of complications due to cirrhosis of the
liver, a consequence of his heavy drinking and tiring studies
over many years.
Atatürk's successor, Ismet Inönü, fostered a
posthumous Atatürk cult which has survived to this day,
even though the introduction of a genuine democratic system
after World War II saw the Republican People's Party lose power
in 1946. Atatürk's face and name are seen and heard everywhere
in Turkey: his portrait can be seen in all public buildings,
on all Turkish banknotes, and even in the homes of many Turkish
families. Giant Atatürk statues loom over Istanbul and
other Turkish cities. He is comemmorated by Atatürk International
Airport in Istanbul, the Atatürk Bridge over the Golden
Horn and many other memorials all over Turkey.
have been as genuinely and permanently changed by a single ruler
as Turkey was by Atatürk. On the contrary to the Soviet
Union and Fascist Italy reforms, his reforms proved more lasting
than the revolutionary changes of those regimes. Although he
was by nature an authoritarian, he was farsighted enough to
create a political system which could adapt to the introduction
of democracy fairly easily. His secularist and revolutionist
reforms proved permanent, and gave Turkey domestic peace and
a measure of prosperity even in his lifetime. But Kemalism has
also left Turkey with a divided identity - Europeanised but
not quite European, alienated from the Islamic world but still
a Muslim country.
legacy also survives in the Turkish military, which sees itself
as the guardian of Turkish nationalism and secularism. Kemalist
officers staged coups in 1960 and 1980 in defence of what they
saw as the principles of Atatürk against corrupt politicians,
and even today the Islamist government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan
has to tread carefully on issues such as Cyprus and Kurdistan
for fear of offending Kemalist sentiment in the military. The
power of the army and the authoritarian Kemalist strain in Turkish
politics remain obstacles to Turkey's acceptance into the European
Kemal Ataturk Quotes