the destiny of a nation which was alone and dying. He gave it a new
future. Under his progressive nationalist leadership his country broke
free from its passive, inward-looking and parochial conservatism, ingrained
through long centuries of habit, and from the defeatism and apathy engendered
by the inexorable decline of its imperial power. Aiming to replace the
image of Turkey as ' the Sick Man of Europe ' with that of a dynamic
and self-renewing non-imperialist country capable of winning the respect
of its more advanced European neighbours, he led his country out of
the Middle Ages into the twentieth century in a mere couple of decades.
He achieved this
through a co-ordinated series of sweeping reforms, all directed towards
the creation in Turkey of a western-style democracy. These changes were
so drastic that it is impossible to conceive that anyone could have
brought them about if he had not been, like Mustafa Kemal, a national
hero twice over as a result of his leadership at Gallipoli and his single-handed
master minding of the Turkish War of Independence, which ended with
the departure of all foreign armies from Turkish soil.
behind Ataturk's reforms is now known as Kemalism. In February 1937
he had the following six principles written into Article Two of the
Constitution of the Turkish Republic:
The first four
principles provide the basis for the new political life of the country,
and the last two lay down the guidelines for his reforms.
Mustafa Kemal Atatürk
(1881–10 November 1938), until 1934 Mustafa Kemal, Turkish army
officer, statesman and revolutionary, was the founder and first President
of the Republic of Turkey.
born in the city of Thessaloníki (Turkish: Selânik) in
Northern Greece, where his birthplace is commemorated by a museum at
the present day Turkish Consulate. 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.
His mother's name was Zübeyde (Hanim).
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. He soon joined a
secret society of reform-minded officers called Vatan (Motherland),
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.
The 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 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.
He was later promoted
to the rank of colonel and assigned the command of a division in the
Gallipoli 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 Chunuk Bair and on
the Anafarta hills. For this success, he was later promoted to the rank
of Brigadier General, thus aquiring the title of pasha. He gained increasingly
greater degrees of influence on the war effort.
Kemal gained much
respect from his former enemies for his chivalry in victory, and the
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 to us 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 living in our lands 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, in which he had some success. He was later assigned to the Hejaz,
to suppress the Arab Revolt 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 non-Turkish territories.
Mustafa Kemal became
in 1919 the leader of the Turkish emancipation. With a small and ill-equipped
army, he repelled both the invading forces and the Sultan's troops and
local rebels, eventually gaining control of the Turkish homeland. By
September 1922, he had triumphed against both external enemies and internal
opposition. Already a military hero, he proclaimed as the struggle ended
that the military triumph must be followed by "victories in such
fields as culture, scholarship, science, and economics."
He was briefly
married to Latife Usakligil between 1923 and 1925.
sent Mustafa Kemal Pasha to Samsun in North-Central Anatolia to take
command of the nineteenth Army, a formation which, in accordance with
the restrictions placed on the empire by the Allies in the Treaty of
Sèvres, was supposed to be disbanded. This was meant to be an
insult to Kemal, who, being a nationalist, was an enemy of Sultan Mehmed
VI's capitulatory government. He then turned the tables and seized the
opportunity to free Turkey from Allied occupation. In June 1919, on
orders, he left the capital, Istanbul, and founded a Turkish nationalist
movement in Samsun, but the movement would soon be based in Ankara.
In April 1920, a provisional Parliament, the Grand National Assembly,
was formed in Ankara, offering Kemal Pasha the title 'President of the
National Assembly'. This body repudiated the Sultan's government in
Istanbul and refused to recognize the Treaty of Sèvres.
The Greeks understood
the threat posed to their position on the Aegean coast by the rapid
consolidation of Kemal Pasha's forces in central Anatolia and advanced
inland to meet them. Conflict between the two armies was inconclusive,
but the nationalist cause was strengthened the next year(1921)with a
series of brilliant victories. Twice (in January and again in April)
Ismet Pasha defeated the Greek army at Inönü, blocking its
advance into the interior of Anatolia. In July, in the face of a third
offensive, the Turkish forces fell back in good order to the Sakarya
river, eighty kilometers from Ankara, where Atatürk took personal
command and decisively defeated the Greeks in the twenty day Battle
of Sakarya in August-September 1921. During this period, the Turkish
forces benefitted from Italian and French aid, while the Great Powers
withdrew their previous support for Greece.
In the meanwhile,
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 Armenian cities of Kars and Ardahan.
Final victory over
the Greeks came in the Battle of Dumlupinar in August 1922.Kemal Pasha's
victory in the War of Independence assured Turkey's sovereignty. The
Treaty of Lausanne superseded the Treaty of Sèvres and Turkey
recovered all of Anatolia and eastern Thrace from the Greeks and Armenians.
During those battles, Turkish forces burnt the city of Smyrna (Izmir)
killing 300,000 ethnic Greeks. The following years represented more
friendly relations between the two countries, with the Greek Prime Minister
(ex-enemy during the Turkish Independence war after WW1) Eleftherios
Venizelos even nominating Ataturk for a Nobel Peace Prize in 1934.
Kemal Pasha 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 Republican People's Party which was
founded by Mustafa Kemal in September 9th 1923. Then Mustafa Kemal directed
General Kazim Karabekir to establish Progressive Republican Party for
opposition in Turkish National Assembly. This party opposed state socialism
of Republican People's Party and suggested liberalism. But 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.
On 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. At first, brand
new Liberal Republican Party succeeded all around the country. But once
again the opposition party became too strong in its opposition to Ataturk's
reforms, particularly in regards 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.
Kemal also oversaw
the forced deportation and extermination of over a million ethnic Greeks
from all over Turkey, but particularly along the Black Sea coast.
Mustafa Kemal regarded
the fez (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. The hijab (veil) for
women, while never formally banned, was strongly discouraged; and women
were encouraged to wear western apparel and enter the country's workforce.
From 1926, the Islamic calendar was replaced with the Gregorian calendar.
In 1928 the government decreed that the Arabic script be replaced by
a modified Latin alphabet, and citizens between the ages of six and
forty were required to attend school and learn the new alphabet. The
conservative clergy fiercely opposed these reforms, trying in vain to
maintain its traditionally strong influence. As a result of the reforms
literacy increased dramatically. The reforms also included extensive
removal of Arabic and Persian words from the Turkish language.
Mustafa Kemal opened
new schools, where, as part of the curriculum, fine arts were taught
to boys as well as girls. Girls had traditionally been excluded entirely
from education, but a universal system of education was introduced for
children of both sexes. He also lifted the Islamic ban on alcoholic
beverages: Mustafa Kemal had an appreciation for the national liquor,
raki, and consumed vast quantities of it. In 1934 he promulgated a law
requiring all Turks to adopt surnames. The Grand National Assembly gave
him the deferential name Atatürk, meaning "father of Turks,"
and assumption of that name by other men is still forbidden by law.
Seeking to limit
the influence of Islam on Turkish political and cultural institutions,
which he regarded as one of the principal causes impeding Turkish development,
Mustafa Kemal Atatürk abolished the 1300-year-old Islamic caliphate
on 3 March 1924 and established a western-style separation of church
and state ("mosque" and state) in Turkey. While promoting
a secular Turkish state, Atatürk maintained the traditional Ottoman
tolerance of religious diversity and freedoms, but viewed these freedoms
in the western Enlightenment sense of freedom of conscience.
was Muslim. In the book Kemalizm, Laiklik ve Demokrasi (Kemalism, Laicism
and Democracy), Ahmet Taner Kislali quotes from a speech of Atatürk
that may reveal some of the reasoning behind his support of the separation
of church and state:
is an important institution. A nation without religion cannot survive.
Yet it is also very important to note that religion is a link between
Allah and the individual believer. The brokerage of the pious cannot
be permitted. Those who use religion for their own benefit are detestable.
We are against such a situation and will not allow it. Those who use
religion in such a manner have fooled our people; it is against just
such people that we have fought and will continue to fight. Know that
whatever conforms to reason, logic, and the advantages and needs of
our people conforms equally to [Islam]. If our religion did not conform
to reason and logic, it would not be the perfect religion, the final
Such thoughts would
seem to buttress the statement of Atatürk's biographer, Patrick
Kinross, concerning how Atatürk—who prized science and rationalism
as the basis of morality and philosophy—considered himself a rational
believer of Islam in that Islam could complement science and rational
thinking. The quote also shows how strongly Atatürk was opposed
to fanaticism ("the pious"). Another speech quoted by Kislali
relates Atatürk's thoughts on how Islam came to be in such a degenerate
foundation of our religion is very strong. The material is strong
as well, but the building itself was neglected for hundreds of years.
As the plaster dropped down, none thought to replace it and none felt
the need to reinforce the building. Quite the contrary: many foreign
elements and interpretations, as well as empty beliefs, came along
and damaged it still more" (ibid.).
With abiding faith
in the vital importance of women in society, Atatürk launched many
reforms to give Turkish women equal rights and opportunities. The new
Civil Code, adopted in 1926, abolished polygamy and recognized the equal
rights of women in divorce, custody, and inheritance. The entire educational
system from the grade school to the university became coeducational.
Atatürk greatly admired the support that the national liberation
struggle received from women and praised their many contributions: "In
Turkish society, women have not lagged behind men in science, scholarship,
and culture. Perhaps they have even gone further ahead." He gave
women the same opportunities as men, including full political rights.
In the mid-1930s, 18 women, among them a villager, were elected to the
national parliament. Later, Turkey had the world's first female supreme
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."
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
The 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 theater,
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.
in 1938 of cirrhosis, a probable consequence of his strenuous lifestyle
and heavy drinking for many years.
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, 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 commemorated by many memorials
all over Turkey, like the Atatürk International Airport in Istanbul
and the Atatürk Bridge over the Golden Horn.