En  Fr  Nl  De  Tr  

TransAnatolie Welcomes You  to Turkey





TransAnatolie Tours

En  Fr  Nl  De  Tr  







Home ] Up ] Tours ] Turkey-Türkiye ] Prehistory Anatolia ] Anatolia ] Cities ] Museums ] About ] Site Map ] Search ]


Snapshot ] History ] [ Atatürk ] Administration ] Society ] Geography ] Economy ] Infrasructure ] Security ]





Mustafa Kemal Atatürk

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk is one of the most important statesmen of the twentieth century. He was an outstanding military officer of the Ottoman Empire, he became the leader of a national war of independence and then the builder of a war-torn country into a new, modern state. He drew a path for national independence for nations under foreign encroachment. He aimed at his country’s attaining the standards of contemporary civilization, which he idealized as a true progress for humanity. His conviction in this secular ideal for human progress guided his deeds and his doings in the making of the modern Turkish nation. His biography is thus written and read along with the history of the emergence of the Republic of Turkey.




Atatürk: A peerless leader, commander, revolutionary, politician and statesman


The Early years

Mustafa was born in 1881 to a middle-class family in Salonica, then a prosperous Ottoman commercial port, which is now in modern Greece. His father Ali Rıza was a junior civil servant at the customs office and his mother Zübeyde, daughter of a farmer, was a devoted housewife. Upon his mother’s wish, Mustafa started studying at a neighborhood school based on the traditional Islamic curriculum, but his father then managed to transfer him to the Şemsi Efendi school providing modern education. His father died when Mustafa was eight, leaving behind a widow with two young children. They had to move to his uncle’s farm. But after a short rural interlude, his mother decided to send Mustafa back to Salonica to continue his education in a state civil preparatory school. Intensely admiring the smart uniform worn by military cadets in his neighborhood, Mustafa sat the entrance examination without telling his mother. She tried to dissuade him from this profession, but nevertheless gave her consent when he was accepted to the military preparatory school.

Mustafa’s military education lasted thirteen years. It made him the master of his own identity as he later described it, and taught this young fatherless boy the art of getting his own way. His special interest in mathematics led him surpass his teacher, Mustafa, who named him Mustafa Kemal (meaning literally “perfection”) as a mark of distinction both from his own name, and from the rest of the class. In 1895, he went to the military high school in Monastir (now called Bitola in Macedonia), where cadets acquired their first political ideas. Young Mustafa Kemal was deeply inspired by liberal-nationalist literature, in particular by Namık Kemal, known at the time as “the poet of liberty”. In 1899, he entered the infantry class of the War College in Istanbul. His strict adherence to military studies distanced him from adventurers such as Enver, his two years senior at the College, who was to lead the Empire to a catastrophic defeat. He knew French and having read about it extensively, he was profoundly influenced by the French revolutionary thought. He would prove to be more consistently inclined to this nationalist, libertarian and essentially secular experience than most of his contemporaries in the years to come. Top

The Great War: An outstanding soldier

Lieutenant Mustafa Kemal was admitted to the Staff College from where he graduated as a staff captain in 1905. He was appointed to the Ottoman army units in Damascus and then, as an adjutant-major, to Salonica where he revived clandestine liberal-nationalist opposition groups. The liberal-nationalist opposition organized as the Committee for Union and Progress (CUP) ended the repressive era under Sultan Abdulhamid II and restored the constitutional order in 1908. Mustafa Kemal was posted to the general staff in Istanbul, before he volunteered for service against Italian invasion in Derne-Cyrenaica (Libya) in 1911. Meanwhile the Ottoman armies were engaged in consecutive Balkan wars. Upon his return, Mustafa Kemal was appointed as military attaché in Sofia and promoted lieutenant-colonel in 1913. After the Great War started Mustafa Kemal was appointed as the 19th division commander in Gallipoli, suppressing the landing Allied troops at Anafartalar in August 1915. This earned him his first major battle success as a colonel and group commander and later the rank of brigadier in 1916. He was appointed twice as the commander of the 7th Army in Syria in 1917 and 1918, checking the British advance, before the Ottoman Empire was forced to sign an armistice in October 1918.

By the time the armistice was signed, the CUP government had collapsed and Mustafa Kemal was put in charge of the entire southeastern front as the Group Commander of the Lightning Armies. The entire army was being dissolved, to be later followed by an invasion of the capital. On his return to Istanbul, he was asked to go to Samsun, a major town in central Black Sea coast, as an army inspector. Having seen that most of the Turkish heartland escaped immediate invasion in the aftermath of the armistice, Mustafa Kemal sought this as his chance to pass to Anatolia, where he could organize a nationalist resistance. As he boarded Bandırma, a barely seaworthy steamer, angry crowds were gathering at the Blue Mosque Square, to protest the killings perpetrated by the Greek invasion troops who landed in Izmir the previous day. Top

Meeting the nation

Mustafa Kemal arrived in Samsun on 19 May (1919), a day celebrated as the beginning of the War of Independence and which Mustafa Kemal himself later adopted as his birthday. Sporadic local nationalist resistance against foreign encroachment had already started. They had chosen to call themselves as the National Forces and were already setting up branches of the Society for the Defence of National Rights (SDNR), organizing local congresses to augment national solidarity among the predominantly peasant muslim population, who were beginning to put up guerilla attacks on the advancing Greek troops. There were also Anti-annexation Societies, set up to resist Greek annexation plans as part of the Megali Idea, a historical Greek aspiration to dominate Asia Minor. Having seen that the Greek invasion had stirred up the nationalist sentiments considerably, Mustafa Kemal lost no time in travelling into Anatolia to meet the nation. In June, he sent from Amasya a circular telegram (the Amasya Circular) to all civil governors and local army commanders stating that the government in Istanbul is powerless, explaining the need for a “national body” free from foreign control and inviting three delegates from each province to attend a congress to be held in Sivas. This was the first time that the will of the nation was called to duty to exercise its sovereignty.

In July he organized a regional congress in Erzurum, where he was elected as the leader of a Representative Committee of the Eastern SDNR. In order to stop him, Istanbul government was poised to strip him from his official powers. He resigned in 9 August (1919) from all his titles to remain as a “member” of the nation. In September, he convened the Sivas Congress, this time with members participating from all corners of Anatolia. The Sivas Congress enforced the nationalist stance against the government who had to concede to hold elections in December. The elections were won by the nationalists and Mustafa Kemal was elected as a deputy from Erzurum. The new parliament adopted on 17 February 1920 a National Pact reaffirming the declarations made by the Erzurum and Sivas congresses, proclaiming the political boundaries to be preserved as at the time of the armistice, rejecting invasion and foreign infringement on national independence. The Allied governments moved to occupy Istanbul in March and dissolved the parliament, exiling many of its members to Malta, while the remaining 85 found their way to Ankara to join newly elected provincial deputies, forming the Grand National Assembly on 23 April 1920. Finally, the will of the nation found a place to independently express itself and exercise its sovereignty, under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal as its speaker. Meanwhile, the Sultan and his government in Istanbul yielded to harsh terms of the Sèvres peace treaty signed on 10 August, aimed at the partition of the Turkish homeland into Allied zones of occupation, with prospective Armenian and Kurdish states to be established in the east and a Greek controlled territory in the west. Top

The War of Independence: A nation and its leader

The Grand National Assembly in Ankara rejected the Sèvres Treaty and was poised to wage a war of independence. Within months every effort was spent to bring all the local resources and irregular resistance under the control of the Assembly. The government was a “parliamentary cabinet” of ministers appointed from within and controlled directly by the Assembly. The British-backed Greek invasion troops were planning to reach Ankara from the west. Meanwhile in the eastern front, Armenian revolutionary bands who took over Kars and Ardahan from the withdrawing Russian Army during the Bolshevik revolution had to be confronted. In the south, the French were entrenched around Cilicia (Adana, Hatay and Mersin). In October 1920, Kars was re-captured and in December the Treaty of Gümrü was signed with the Armenians. This was followed by a Treaty of Friendship signed with the Soviet Union in March and the Treaty of Kars in December 1921, securing Soviet aid and fixing the eastern border. In January and April 1921, the Greek advance was checked at Inönü, near Eskişehir. Following another offensive launched in July, Eskişehir was captured and Greek forces were nearing Ankara about hundred miles in the west. Resuming his military career upon his appointment by the Grand National Assembly as the commander-in-chief in August, Mustafa Kemal won a critical battle in Sakarya, which threw back the Greek army. The Assembly awarded him the rank of marshal and named him Gazi. In October, following the Turco-French Accord signed in Ankara, the French withdrew from southern Turkey. Ten months later, on 26 August 1922, the Turkish army launched its final offensive and won a decisive victory against the Greek forces who had to withdraw from Asia Minor completely by 9 September. The Allied governments had to agree to sign an armistice with the Turkish government in October. The Assembly abolished the Sultanate in November. The last sultan escaped from Istanbul on board a British warship, leaving his heir Abdulmecit the title of caliphate. The Allies would have to negotiate a new peace with a new nation. Top


The Republic and its modernizing leader

Lausanne Peace Treaty, which defined the political existence and sovereignty of the new Turkish state was signed on 24 July 1923. A newly elected Assembly proclaimed the Republic of Turkey on 29 October 1923 and elected Mustafa Kemal as its first president. An extensive series of reforms were started under Mustafa Kemal’s leadership. In 1924, the caliphate, religious courts and school system were abolished, Ottoman dynasty was exiled, a new Republican constitution was adopted based on national sovereignty. In 1925, muslim brotherhoods and their lodges were closed, fez banned. In 1926, a brand new civil code granting equal civil rights to women, and a modern criminal code were enacted. In 1928, the constitutional reference to Islam was removed and the secular character of the Republic was reaffirmed. In the same year, international numerals and a new Latin alphabet was adopted, Mustafa Kemal declared as the head teacher of the nation. These were followed, among others, by a new commercial code (1929), voting and electoral rights to women in local elections (1930) and later in parliamentary elections (1934), adoption of international weights and measures (1931), first recitation of call to prayer in Turkish (1932), banning of clerical dress outside places of worship (1934), adoption of surnames (1935), opening of a state conservatoire in Ankara (1936) and other overarching reforms. Top

Chronology of Major Kemalist Reforms
Year Reform
1922 Sultanate abolished (November 1).
1923 Treaty of Lausanne secured (July 24).
Republic of Turkey with capital at Ankara proclaimed (October 29).
1924 Caliphate abolished (March 3).
Traditional religious schools closed, seriat abolished. Constitution adopted (April 20).
1925 Dervish brotherhoods abolished.
Fez outlawed by the Hat Law (November 25). Veiling of women discouraged; Western clothing for men and women encouraged.
Western (Gregorian) calendar adopted.
1926 New civil, commercial, and penal codes based on European models adopted. New civil code ended Islamic polygamy and divorce by renunciation and introduced civil marriage.
Millet system ended.
1927 First systematic census.
1928 New Turkish alphabet (modified Latin form) adopted. State declared secular (April 10); constitutional provision establishing Islam as official religion deleted.
1933 Islamic call to worship and public readings of the Kuran (Quran) required to be in Turkish rather than Arabic.
1934 Women given the vote and the right to hold office.
Law of Surnames adopted--Mustafa Kemal given the name Kemal Atatürk (Father Turk) by the Grand National Assembly; Ismet Pasha took surname of Inönü.
1935 Sunday adopted as legal weekly holiday.
State role in managing economy written into the constitution.


A prudent statesman

Mustafa Kemal’s foreign policy during the turbulent interwar period depended on a prudent and firm principle which he described as “peace at home, peace in the world”. He strived to establish good neighborly relations even with old foes such as Greece as well as with European powers including Britain and France. During his time, Mustafa Kemal hosted in Turkey visits by Venizelos, the Greek Prime Minister in 1930, Reza Shah of Iran in 1934 and King Edward VIII of the United Kingdom in 1936. He observed good relations with Soviet Union. In 1932 the invitation by the League of Nations to Turkey to become a member was accepted. He refrained from unilateral action to re-establish Turkish sovereignty over the Turkish Straits which was ensured by the signing of the Montreux Convention in 1936. Atatürk also endeavoured to solve the Hatay issue. In September 1938 Hatay proclaimed a republic. In June 1939 the Hatay Parliament unanimously resolved to join Turkey. In July 1939, Hatay was officially made a province of Turkey.

* * *

Mustafa Kemal had a short-lived marriage between 1923 and 1925 with Latife. In 1927, he retired from the army. He was re-elected as president three times in 1927, 1931 and 1935. During the presidential election held by the Assembly in 1935, there were eighteen woman deputies who cast their vote. When surnames were made compulsory for every Turkish citizen, the Assembly awarded him the surname of Atatürk (literally “Father Turk”) by a law enacted on 24 November 1934. In 1938, as his health deteriorated, he left Ankara for the last time that spring and passed away in Istanbul on 10 November the same year. Envoys from all over the world attended his funeral. On 10 November 1953, on the 15th anniversary of his passing, Atatürk's remains were transferred to Anıtkabir (the “Mausoleum”) as his permanent resting place.

In 1981 on the centenary of his birth, Atatürk was commemorated both in Turkey and abroad as a peerless leader, commander, revolutionary, politician and statesman. It was a source of pride for the Turkish nation when UNESCO declared 1981 as "The Year of Atatürk". Mustafa Kemal Atatürk continues to serve as a shining beacon for the future of both the Turkish Nation and other nations worldwide. Top


A selected bibliography in English

1. Lewis Bernard, “The emergence of modern Turkey”, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1961.
2. Lord Kinross, “Atatürk -The rebirth of a nation”, London, Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 1964.
3. Macfie A.L., “Atatürk”, London, Longman, 1994.
4. Mango Andrew, “Atatürk”, London, John Murray, 1999.
5. Sonyel S., “Atatürk –The founder of modern Turkey”, Ankara, TTK Basımevi, 1989.
6. Villalta J. B., “Atatürk”, Ankara, TTK Basımevi, 1979.
7. Presidancy of the Republic Of Turkey








Home ] Up ] Tours ] Turkey-Türkiye ] Prehistory Anatolia ] Anatolia ] Cities ] Museums ] About ] Site Map ] Search ]

Snapshot ] History ] [ Atatürk ] Administration ] Society ] Geography ] Economy ] Infrasructure ] Security ]


Mail to  info[at]transanatolie.com with questions or comments about this web site.
Copyright © 1997 TransAnatolie. All rights reserved.
Last modified: 2023-10-28


Explore the Worlds of Ancient Anatolia and Modern Turkey by TransAnatolie Tour: Ancient Anatolia Explorer, Asia Minor Explorer, Turkey Explorer; Cultural Tour Operator, Biblical Tour Operator, Turkish Destinations, Cultural Tours to Turkey, Biblical Tours to Turkey, Health and Cultural Tours to Turkey, Thermal, Thalasso Holidays in Turkey,  Archaeological Tours to Turkey, Historical Tours to Turkey, Cultural Heritage Tours to Turkey, Cultural Tours to Turkey, Hobby Eco and Nature Tours Holidays to Turkey,  Beach and Plateau Holidays in Tuirkey, Anatolian Civilizations, Ancient Cultural Museums in Turkey, Top Turkish Museums, Museums in Turkey, Anatolian Civilizations Museum, Istanbul Archeological Museum, Ephesus Museum, Mevlana Museum, Topkapi Museum, Museum of Topkapi Palace, Turkish Cities, Turkish Destinations, Ancient Cities in Turkey, Ancient Anatolian Cities, Turkey in Brief, Turkish Culture, Turks, Turkish Language, Turkish Philosophers....Circuits culturels en Turquie, Excurcions en Turquie, Vacances en Turquie, Circuits de Culture en Turquie, Circuits de Croyance en Turquie, Turquie, Villes Antiques en Turquie, Musees en Turquie, Empires Turcs, Revolution de Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, Turquie d'Ataturk, Culturele Tours in Turkije, Rondreizen in Turkije, Reizen naar Turkije, Culturele Rondreizen naar Turkije, Vakanties in Turkije, Groepsreizen naar Turkije, Turkije, Turkse  Geschiedenis, Geschiedenis van Turkije, Oude Steden in Turkije, Oude Beschavingen, Oude Anatolische Beschavingen, Turkse Steden, Turkse Musea, Musea in Turkije, Turkse Steden, Overzicht van Turkije, Turkije in het Kort, Turks, Turkse Taal, Turkse Gescheidenis, Osmaanse Rijk, Ottamaanse Rijk, Gezondheid Tours Vakanties in Turkije, Geloof Tours in Turkije, Culturele Tour Operator, Turkije Specialist