Mustafa Kemal Paşa (Atatürk)
Mustafa Kemal was born 1881 in Salonica, as 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 Rıza, was a customs officer who died when Mustafa
was seven. As such, it was left to his mother Zübeyde Hanım to bring the
young Mustafa up. Four of the five siblings of Atatürk died at early ages and
only one sister, Makbule (Atadan) survived, and lived until 1956.
When Mustafa was 12 years old, he went to military schools in
Salonica and Monastir, then centres of anti-Turkish Greek nationalism. Mustafa
studied at the military secondary school in Salonica, where the additional
name Kemal was bestowed on him by his mathematics teacher. Mustafa Kemal
entered the military academy at Monastir in 1895. He graduated as a
lieutenant in 1905 and was posted to the Fifth Army in Damascus.
he soon joined a small secret revolutionary society of reform-minded
officers called “Motherland and Liberty” (Vatan ve Hürriyet),
and became an active opponent of the Ottoman regime. In 1907 he was posted
to Salonica and joined the Committee of Union and Progress commonly known as
the Young Turks. He was the staff officer of the "Liberation Army" (Hareket Ordusu) which entered Istanbul on
April 19, 1909 to put down a revolt. He was sent to Paris in 1910 where he
attended the Picardie Maneuvers and the next year he started to work at the
High Command in Istanbul.
In 1911, he went to the province of Trablusgarp
(modern-day Libya) to take part in the defense against the Italian invasion.
When the Balkan War started in October 1912, Mustafa Kemal joined the battle
with units from Gallipoli
His contributions to the recapturing of Didymoteicho and Edirne (formerly Adrianople) were considerable. In 1914, he was assigned to Sofia as a military attaché, partly to remove him from the
capital and its political intrigues. While still at this post, he was
promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel. His term as an attache ended in
January 1915. By that time the First World War had started and the Ottoman Empire was
inevitably involved. Mustafa Kemal was posted to Tekirdağ with the
assignment of forming the 19th Division.
Mustafa Kemal played a critical role in the battle against the allied
British, French and ANZAC forces during the battle at Gallipoli during 1915,
where he held off allied forces at Conkbayırı and on the Anafarta hills. For
this success, he was later promoted to the rank of Brigadier General, thus
acquiring the title of “Paşa” and gained increasingly greater degrees of
influence on the war effort. Mustafa 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, Australia. It
includes words attirbuted to him: “Those 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 as well.”
During 1917 and 1918, Mustafa Kemal was sent to the Caucasus front to fight
against Russian forces, against which he had some success. He was later
assigned to the Hejaz 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, Turkey 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. When, following the Armistice of Mudros, Allied nations
started to disband the Turkish armies, Mustafa Kemal went to Samsun on May 19, 1919. With
the circular he published on June 22, 1919 at Amasya, he declared that "the freedom of the nation shall be restored with the resolve and
determination of the nation itself" and called the meeting of a
congress. He convened the Erzurum Congress during July 23-August 7, 1919 and
the Sivas Congress during September 4-11, 1919, thus defining the path to be
followed towards the freedom of the motherland.
Mustafa Kemal was met with
great enthusiasm in Ankara on December 27, 1919. With the initiation of the Turkish Grand National
Assembly on April 23, 1920, a significant step was taken on the way to
establishing the Turkish Republic. Mustafa Kemal was elected as the head of
the national assembly as well as the head of the government. The Grand
National Assembly started to put into effect the necessary legislative
measures so as to enable the War of Liberation to come to a successful
The Turkish War of
Liberation started with the first gun shot on May 15, 1919 during the
Greek occupation of Izmir. The fight against the victors of the First World
War who had divided up the Ottoman Empire with the Treaty of Sevres signed
on August 10, 1920, initially started with the militia forces called
Kuvayi Milliye. The Turkish Assembly later initiated a regular army and
achieving integration between the army and the militia, was able to conclude
the war in victory.
On the military front, the conflict between nationalist
movement and the Allied powers went on three fronts. Which one of them with
the Greece (west front), where the Turkish forces fell back in good order to
the Sakarya river, just 80 kilometers from the Grand National Assembly.
Mustafa Kemal 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 Dumlupınar in August 1922. On the political front, Mustafa Kemal signed the Treaty of
Kars on October
23, 1921 with the Soviet Union, a treaty of friendship in which Turkey ceded the
city of Batumi, in present-day Georgia, to the Bolsheviks in return for
sovereignty over the cities of Kars and Ardahan, which were lost to Tsarist
Russia in the Turkish-Russian War of 1877-1878.
The victory in the War of Independence assured Turkey's
sovereignty. He ushered the Treaty of Lausanne, signed on July 24, 1923,
through which Turkey finally entered a period of peace after a disastrous
decade of warfare. On October 29, 1923, the Turkish Republic was formally proclaimed and Mustafa Kemal
was unanimously elected as its first President. The young republic began to
grow on the twin principles of "Sovereignty unconditionally belongs to
the nation" and "Peace at home and peace abroad". Mustafa Kemal spent the next several years consolidating his
control over Turkey and instituting a variety of wide-ranging political, economic and social
reforms. He undertook these reforms to "raise Turkey to the level of modern civilization."
Atatürk's 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
So 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.
The visual and the plastic arts—whose development had on
occasion been hindered 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.
According to the Law on Family Names, the Turkish Grand
Assembly gave the name "Atatürk" (Father of Turks) to Mustafa Kemal on November 24, 1934. He was elected as the Speaker of the Grand Assembly on April 24, 1920 and again on
August 13, 1923. This was a position equal to that of the president as well
as the prime minister. Republic was proclaimed on October 29, 1923 and
Atatürk was elected as the first President. Elections for President were
renewed every four years according to the Constitution. In 1927, 1931 and
1935 Turkish Grand Assembly again elected Atatürk as the president.
Atatürk took frequent trips around the country and inspected
locally the works undertaken by the state, giving directives where problems
were faced. As president he was host to visiting foreign presidents, prime
ministers and ministers. He read his Great Speech, which covers the War of
Independence and the founding of the Republic on October 15-20, 1927, and his
10th Year Speech on October 29, 1933.
Atatürk married Latife
Hanım on January
29, 1923. They took many trips to different parts of the country together. This
marriage lasted until August 5, 1925. He adopted
girls named Afet (İnan), Sabiha (Gökçen), Fikriye, Ülkü, Nebile, Rukiye and
Zehra and a shepherd boy named Mustafa.
Mustafa Kemal Atatürk died on November 10, 1938 at 9:05
am at Dolmabahçe Palace, defeated by the liver ailment he was suffering
from. He was taken to his temporary place of rest at the Ethnography Museum
in Ankara on November 21, 1938. When the mausoleum was completed, he was
taken to his permanent resting place with a grand ceremony on November 10, 1953.