... Atatürk rescued the surviving Turkish remnant of the defeated Ottoman Empireat the end of World War I [after dethrowning Abdul Hamid, the Young Turks where running the goverment and entered the WW I ] . He galvanized his people against invading Greek forces who sought to impose the Allied will upon the war-weary Turks and repulsed aggression by British, French, and Italian troops. Through these struggles, he founded the modern Republic of Turkey, for which he is still revered by the Turks. He succeeded in restoring to his people pride in their Turkishness, coupled with a new sense of accomplishment as their backward nation was brought into the modern world. Over the next two decades, Atatürk created a modern state that would grow under his successors into a viable democracy. [Click here to check on Ataturk's democracy, also Amnesty international said:" In the past 36 years the Turkish military have overturned three governments, suspended three parliaments, hanged a prime minister and imprisoned thousands of civilians, some of whom are still in jail. Army officers still preside over civilian trials in state security courts].
Early life and education.
Ali Riza died when Mustafa was seven years old, but he nevertheless had
a significant influence on the development of his son's personality. At
Mustafa's birth, Ali Riza hung his sword over his son's cradle, dedicating
him to military service. Most important, Ali Riza saw to it
that his son's earliest education was carried out in a modern, secular
school, rather than in the religious school Zübeyde Hanim
would have preferred. In this way Ali Riza set his son on the path of
modernization. This was something for which Mustafa always felt indebted
to his father.
After Ali Riza's death, Zübeyde Hanim moved to her step-brother's
farm outside Salonika. Concerned that Mustafa might grow up uneducated,
she sent him back to Salonika, where he enrolled in a secular school that
would have prepared him for a bureaucratic career. Mustafa became enamoured
of the uniforms worn by the military cadets in his neighbourhood. He determined
to enter upon a military career. Against his mother's wishes, Mustafa
took the examination for entrance to the military secondary school.
At the secondary school, Mustafa received the nickname of Kemal, meaning
"The Perfect One," from his mathematics teacher; he was thereafter
known as Mustafa Kemal. In 1895 he progressed to the military school in
Monastir (now Bitola, Macedonia). He made several new friends, including
Ali Fethi (Okyar), who would later join him in the creation and development
of the Turkish republic.
Having completed his education at Monastir, Mustafa Kemal entered the
War College in Istanbul in March 1899. He enjoyed the freedom and sophistication
of the city, to which he was introduced by his new friend and classmate
Ali Fuat (Cebesoy).
There was a good deal of political dissent in the air at the War College,
directed against the despotism of Sultan Abdülhamid II. Mustafa Kemal
remained aloof from it until his third year, when he became involved in
the production of a clandestine newspaper. His activities were uncovered,
but he was allowed to complete the course, graduating as a second lieutenant
in 1902 and ranking in the top 10 of his class of more than 450 students.
He then entered the General Staff College, graduating in 1905 as a captain
and ranking fifth out of a class of 57; he was one of the empire's leading
Mustafa Kemal's career almost ended soon after his graduation when it
was discovered that he and several friends were meeting to read about
and discuss political abuses within the empire. A government spy infiltrated
their group and informed on them. A cloud of suspicion hung over their
heads that was not to be lifted for years. The group was broken up and
its members assigned to remote areas of the empire. Mustafa Kemal and
Ali Faut were sent to the 5th Army in Damascus, where Mustafa Kemal was
angered by the way corrupt officials were treating the local people. Becoming
involved again in antigovernment activities, he helped found a short-lived
secret group called the Society for Fatherland and Freedom.
Nevertheless, in September 1907 Mustafa Kemal was declared loyal and
reassigned to Salonika, which was awash with subversive activity. He joined
the dominant antigovernment group, the Committee of Union and Progress
(CUP), which had ties to the nationalist and reformist Young Turk movement.
In July 1908 an insurrection broke out in Macedonia. The sultan was forced
to reinstate the constitution of 1876, which limited his powers and reestablished
a representative government. The hero of this "Young Turk Revolution"
was Enver (Enver Pasa), who later became Mustafa Kemal's greatest
rival; the two men came to dislike each other thoroughly.
In 1909 two elements within the revolutionary movement came to the fore.
One group favoured decentralization, with harmony and cooperation between
the Muslims and the non-Muslims. The other, headed by the CUP, advocated
centralization and Turkish control. An insurrection spearheaded by reactionary
troops broke out on the night of April 12-13, 1909. The revolution that
had restored the constitution in 1908 was in danger. Military officers
and troops from Salonika, among whom Enver played a leading role, marched
on Istanbul. They arrived at the capital on April 23, and by the next
day they had the situation well in hand. The CUP took control
and forced Abdülhamid II to abdicate [Historians
concluded that the end of the Empire ended with the dethrowning of Abdul
Hamid, and the remaining sultans where only pupets of the CUP/Young Turks]
Enver was thus in the ascendancy. Mustafa Kemal felt that the military,
having gained its political ends, should refrain from interfering in politics.
He urged those officers who wanted political careers to resign their commissions.
This served only to increase the hostility of Enver and other CUP leaders
toward him. Mustafa Kemal turned his attention from politics to military
matters. He translated German infantry training manuals into Turkish.
From his staff position he criticized the state of the army's training.
His reputation among serious military officers was growing. This activity
also brought him into contact with many of the rising young officers.
A feeling of mutual respect developed between Mustafa Kemal and some of
these officers, who were later to flock to his support in the creation
of the Turkish nation.
The CUP, however, was fed up with him, and he was transferred to field
command and then sent to observe French army maneuvers in Picardy. Although
consistently denied promotion, Mustafa Kemal did not lose faith in himself.
In late 1911 the Italians attacked Libya, then an Ottoman province, and
Mustafa Kemal went there immediately to fight. Malaria and trouble with
his eyes required him to leave the front for treatment in Vienna.
In October 1912, while Mustafa Kemal was in Vienna, the First Balkan
War broke out. He was assigned to the defense of the Gallipoli Peninsula,
an area of strategic importance with respect to the Dardanelles. Within
two months the Ottoman Empire lost most of its territory in Europe, including
Monastir and Salonika, places for which Mustafa Kemal had special affection.
Among the refugees who poured into Istanbul were his mother, sister, and
The Second Balkan War, of short duration (June-July 1913), saw the Ottomans
regain part of their lost territory. Relations were renewed with Bulgaria.
Mustafa Kemal's former schoolmate Ali Fethi was named ambassador, and
Mustafa Kemal accompanied him to Sofia as military attaché. There he was
promoted to lieutenant colonel.
Mustafa Kemal complained of Enver's close ties to Germany and predicted
German defeat in an international conflict. Once World War I broke out,
however, and the Ottoman Empire entered on the side of the Central Powers,
he sought a military command. Enver made him cool his heels in Sofia but
finally gave him command of the 19th Division, which was being organized
in the Gallipoli Peninsula. It was here that the Allies attempted their
ill-fated landings, giving Mustafa Kemal the opportunity to throw them
back and thwart their attempt to force the Dardanelles (February 1915-January
1916). During the battle, Mustafa Kemal was hit by a piece of shrapnel,
which lodged in the watch he carried in his breast pocket and thus failed
to cause him serious injury. His success at Gallipoli thrust Mustafa Kemal
onto the world scene. He was hailed as the "Saviour of Istanbul"
and was promoted to colonel on June 1, 1915. (see also Index: Dardanelles
In 1916 Mustafa Kemal was assigned to the Russian front and promoted
to general, acquiring the title of pasha. He was the only Turkish general
to win any victories over the Russians on the Eastern Front. Later that
year, he took over the command of the 2nd Army in southeastern Anatolia.
There he met Colonel Ismet ( Inönü), who would become his
closest ally in building the Turkish republic.
The outbreak of the Russian Revolution in March 1917 made Mustafa Kemal
available for service in the Ottoman provinces of Syria and Iraq, on which
the British were advancing from their base in Egypt. He was appointed
to the command of the 7th Army in Syria, but he was appalled by the sad
state of the army. Resigning his post, he returned without permission
to Istanbul. He was placed on leave for three months and then assigned
to accompany Crown Prince Mehmed Vahideddin on a state visit to Germany.
On his return to Istanbul, Mustafa Kemal fell ill with kidney problems,
most probably related to gonorrhea, which it is believed he had contracted
earlier. (His physical problems would later require him to have a personal
physician in constant attendance throughout his years as president of
the Turkish republic.) He went to Vienna for treatment and then to Carlsbad
to recuperate. While he was in Carlsbad, Sultan Mehmed V died, and Vahideddin
assumed the throne as Mehmed VI. Mustafa Kemal was recalled to Istanbul
in June 1918.
Through Enver's machinations, the sultan assigned Mustafa Kemal to command
the collapsing Ottoman forces in Syria. He found the situation there worse
than he had imagined and withdrew northward to save the lives of as many
of his soldiers as possible.
Fighting was halted by the Armistice of Mudros (Oct. 30, 1918). Shortly
afterward, Enver and other leaders of the CUP fled to Germany, leaving
the sultan to lead the government. To ensure the continuation of his rule,
Mehmed VI was willing to cooperate with the Allies, who assumed control
of the government.
The nationalist movement and the war for independence.
The Allies did not wait for a peace treaty to begin claiming Ottoman
territory. Early in December 1918, Allied troops occupied sections of
Istanbul and set up an Allied military administration. On Feb. 8, 1919,
the French general Franchet d' Espèrey entered the
city on a white horse, emulating Mehmed the Conqueror's entrance in 1453
but signifying that Ottoman sovereignty over the imperial city was over.
The Allies made plans to incorporate the provinces of eastern Anatolia
into an independent Armenian state. French troops advanced into Cilicia
in the southeast. Greece and Italy put forward competing claims for southwestern
Anatolia. The Italians occupied Marmaris, Antalya, and Burdur, and on
May 15, 1919, Greek troops landed at Izmir and began a drive into the
interior of Anatolia, killing Turkish inhabitants and ravaging the countryside.
Allied statesmen seemed to be abandoning Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points
in favour of the old imperialist views set down in the secret treaties
and contained in their own secret ambitions.
Meanwhile, Mustafa Kemal's armies had been disbanded. He returned to
Istanbul on Nov. 13, 1919, just as ships of the Allied fleet sailed up
the Bosporus. This scene, as well as the city's occupation by British,
French, and Italian troops, left a lasting impression on Mustafa Kemal.
He was determined to oust them. He began meeting with selected friends
to formulate a policy to save Turkey. Among these friends were Ali Fuat
and Rauf (Orbay), the Ottoman naval hero. Ali Fuat was stationed in Anatolia
and knew the situation there intimately. He and Mustafa Kemal developed
a plan for an Anatolian national movement centred on Ankara
In various parts of Anatolia, Turks had already taken matters into their
own hands, calling themselves associations for the defense of rights and
organizing paramilitary units. They began to come into armed conflict
with local non-Muslims, and it appeared that they might soon do so against
the occupying forces as well.
Fearing anarchy, the Allies urged the sultan to restore order in Anatolia.
The grand vizier recommended Mustafa Kemal as a loyal officer who could
be sent to Anatolia as inspector general of the 3rd Army. Mustafa Kemal
contrived to get his orders written in such a way as to give him extraordinarily
extensive powers. These included the authority to issue orders throughout
Anatolia and to command obedience from provincial governors.
Modern Turkish history may be said to begin on the morning of May 19,
1919, with Mustafa Kemal's landing at Samsun, on the Black Sea coast of
Anatolia. So psychologically meaningful was this date for Mustafa Kemal
that, when in later life he was asked to provide his date of birth for
an encyclopaedia article, he gave it as May 19, 1919. Abandoning his official
reason for being in Anatolia--to restore order--he headed inland for Amasya.
There he told a cheering crowd that the sultan was the prisoner of the
Allies and that he had come to prevent the nation from slipping through
the fingers of its people. This became his message to the Turks of Anatolia.
The Allies pressured the sultan to recall Mustafa Kemal, who ignored
all communications from Istanbul. The sultan dismissed him and telegraphed
all provincial governors, instructing them to ignore Mustafa Kemal's orders.
Imperial orders for his arrest were circulated.
Mustafa Kemal avoided dismissal from the army by officially resigning
late on the evening of July 7. As a civilian, he pressed on with his retinue
from Sivas to Erzurum, where General Kâzim Karabekir,
commander of the 15th Army Corps of 18,000 men, was headquartered. At
this critical moment, when Mustafa Kemal had no military support or official
status, Kâzim threw in his lot with Mustafa Kemal, placing his troops
at Mustafa Kemal's disposal. This was a crucial turning point in the struggle
Kâzim had called for a congress of all defense-of-rights associations
to be held in Erzurum on July 23, 1919. Mustafa Kemal was elected head
of the Erzurum Congress and thereby gained an official status. The congress
drafted a document covering the six eastern provinces of the empire. Later
known as the National Pact, it affirmed the inviolability of the Ottoman
"frontiers"--that is, all the Ottoman lands inhabited by Turks
when the Armistice of Mudros was signed. It also created a provisional
government, revoked the special status arrangements for the minorities
of the Ottoman Empire (the capitulations), and set up a steering committee,
which then elected Mustafa Kemal as head.
Mustafa Kemal sought to extend the National Pact to the entire Ottoman-Muslim
population of the empire. To that end, he called a national congress that
met in Sivas and ratified the pact. He exposed attempts by the sultan's
government to arrest him and to disrupt the Sivas Congress. The grand
vizier in Istanbul was driven from office. The new government, which was
sympathetic to the nationalist movement, restored Mustafa Kemal's military
rank and decorations.
Unconvinced of the sultan's ability to rid the country of the Allied
occupation, Mustafa Kemal established the seat of his provisional government
in Ankara, 300 miles (480 kilometres) from Istanbul. There he would be
safer from both the sultan and the Allies. This proved a wise decision.
On March 16, 1920, in Istanbul, the Allies arrested leading nationalist
sympathizers, including Rauf, and sent them to Malta.
The conciliatory Istanbul government fell and was replaced by reactionaries
who dissolved the parliament and pressured the religious dignitaries into
declaring Mustafa Kemal and his associates infidels worthy of being shot
on sight. The die was cast--it would be the sultan's government or Mustafa
Many prominent Turks escaped from Istanbul to Ankara, including Ismet
and, after him, Fevzi (Çakmak), the sultan's war minister. Fevzi became
Mustafa Kemal's chief of the general staff. New elections were held, and
a parliament, called the Grand National Assembly (GNA), met in Ankara
on April 23, 1920. The assembly elected Mustafa Kemal as its president
In June 1920 the Allies handed the sultan the Treaty of Sèvres, which
he signed on Aug. 10, 1920. By the provisions of this treaty, the Ottoman
state was greatly reduced in size, with Greece one of the major beneficiaries.
Armenia was declared independent. Mustafa Kemal repudiated the treaty.
Having received military aid from the Soviet Union, he set out to drive
the Greeks from Anatolia and Thrace and to subdue the new Armenian state.
(see also Index: Greece)
As the war against the Greeks started to go well for Mustafa
Kemal's forces, France and Italy negotiated with the nationalist government
in Ankara. [please notice the effect
of such a pact, not only with France and Italy, but from the actions thereof,
of Russia as well] They withdrew their troops from Anatolia. This
left the Armenians in southeastern Anatolia without the protection of
the French troops. With the French and Italians out of the picture, Kâzim
then moved against the Armenian state. He was assisted by the
Bolsheviks, who had established relations with the government of the GNA.
Deserting their Armenian protégés, the Russians supplied the nationalists
with weapons and ammunition and joined the assault on the Armenian Socialist
Republic, which had been their own creation. This combined
attack was too much for the Armenians, who were crushed in October and
November 1920; they surrendered early in November. By the treaties of
Alexandropol (Dec. 3, 1920) and Moscow (March 16, 1921), the nationalists
regained the eastern provinces, as well as the cities of Kars and Ardahan,
and the Soviet Union became the first nation to recognize the
nationalist government in Ankara.[We
believe that Ataturk agreed with the Soviet to cancel the Islamic Khilafa
and turn Turkey to a secular regime, just like communism in Russia, and
in return Russia would help him to secure a state, and recognize his Party.
Other deals were also set with the French and Italians] Turkey's
eastern borders were fixed at the Arpa and Aras rivers. (see also Index:
Moscow, Treaties of)
The Greeks were more difficult to overcome, as they continued the advance
toward Ankara which had begun in June 1920. By the end of July they had
taken Bursa and were pushing on toward Ankara. Ali Fuat was relieved as
commander on this front and replaced by Ismet. The Turkish army
stood its ground at the Inönü River, north of Kütahya. They threw
the Greeks back on Jan. 10, 1921, at the First Battle of the Inönü.
(see also Index: Inönü, battles of)
The Greeks did not resume their offensive until March 1921. Ismet
again met them at the Inönü River, in a battle that raged from
March 27 to April 1. On the evening of April 6-7, 1921, the Greeks broke
off the engagement and retreated. In 1934, when the Turks were required
by law to take last names, Ismet assumed the surname Inönü
in memory of these important victories.
Undaunted, the Greeks launched another offensive on July 13, 1921. Ismet
fell back to the Sakarya River, so close to Ankara that the artillery
fire could be heard there. Opposition to Mustafa Kemal developed in the
GNA, led by Kâzim, who had grown jealous. The opposition demanded that
Mustafa Kemal's powers be curtailed so that a new policy could be developed.
In addition they sought to have Mustafa Kemal assume personal direction
of the war against the Greeks, anticipating a Greek victory that would
result in the destruction of Mustafa Kemal's stature and charisma. On
August 4, Mustafa Kemal agreed, on the condition, which was accepted,
that he be granted all the powers assigned to the GNA. He then assumed
the role of commander in chief with total authority. He defeated the Greeks
at the Battle of the Sakarya (Aug. 23-Sept. 13, 1921) and initiated an
offensive (Aug. 26-Sept. 9, 1922) that pushed the Greeks to the sea at
With Anatolia rid of most of the Allies, the GNA, at the behest of Mustafa
Kemal, voted on Nov. 1, 1922, to abolish the sultanate. This was soon
followed by the flight into exile of Sultan Mehmed VI on November 17.
The Allies then invited the Ankara government to discussions that resulted
in the signing of the Treaty of Lausanne on July 24, 1923. This treaty
fixed the European border of Turkey at the Maritsa River in eastern Thrace.
The nationalists occupied Istanbul on October 2. Ankara was named the
capital, and on October 29 the Turkish republic was proclaimed. Turkey
was now in complete control of its territory and sovereignty.
The Turkish republic.
Mustafa Kemal then embarked upon the reform of his country, his goal
being to bring it into the 20th century. His instrument was the Republican
People's Party, formed on Aug. 9, 1923, to replace the defense-of-rights
associations. His program was embodied in the party's "Six Arrows":
republicanism, nationalism, populism, statism (state-owned and state-operated
industrialization aimed at making Turkey self-sufficient as a 20th-century
industrialized state), secularism, and revolution. The guiding principle
was the existence of a permanent state of revolution, meaning continuing
change in the state and society.
The caliphate was abolished on March 3, 1924 (since the early
16th century, the Ottoman sultans had laid claim to the title of caliph
of the Muslims); the religious schools were dismantled at the same time.
Abolition of the religious courts followed on April 8. In 1925, wearing
the fez was prohibited--thereafter Turks wore Western-style headdress.
Mustafa Kemal went on a speaking tour of Anatolia during which he wore
a European-style hat, setting an example for the Turkish people. In Istanbul
and elsewhere there was a run on materials for making hats. In the same
year, the religious brotherhoods, strongholds of conservatism, were outlawed.
The emancipation 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.
Almost overnight the whole system of Islamic law was discarded.
From February to June 1926 the Swiss civil code, the Italian penal code,
and the German commercial code were adopted wholesale. As
a result, women's emancipation was strengthened by the abolition of polygamy,
marriage was made a civil contract, and divorce was recognized as a civil
action. (see also Index: Shari'ah)
A reform of truly revolutionary proportions was the replacement
of the Arabic script--in which the Ottoman Turkish language had been written
for centuries--by the Latin alphabet. This took place officially
in November 1928, setting Turkey on the path to achieving one of the highest
literacy rates in the Middle East. Once again Mustafa Kemal went into
the countryside, and with chalk and a blackboard he demonstrated the new
alphabet to the Turkish people and explained how the letters should be
pronounced. Education benefited from this reform, as the youth of Turkey,
cut off from the past with its emphasis on religion, were encouraged to
take advantage of new educational opportunities that gave access to the
Western scientific and humanistic traditions.
Another important step was the adoption of surnames or family names,
which was decreed by the GNA in 1934. The assembly gave Mustafa Kemal
the name Atatürk ("Father of the Turks").
After having settled Turkey firmly within its national borders and set
it on the path of modernization, Atatürk sought to develop his
country's foreign policy in similar fashion. First and foremost, he decided
that Turkey would not pursue any irredentist claims except for the eventual
incorporation of the Alexandretta region, which he felt was included within
the boundaries set by the National Pact. He settled matters with Great
Britain in a treaty signed on June 5, 1926. It called for Turkey to renounce
its claims to Mosul in return for a 10 percent interest in the oil produced
there. Atatürk also sought reconciliation with Greece; this was
achieved through a treaty of friendship signed on Dec. 30, 1930. Minority
populations were exchanged on both sides, borders were set, and military
problems such as naval equality in the eastern Mediterranean were ironed
This ambitious program of forced modernization was not accomplished without
strain and bloodshed. In February 1925 the Kurds of southwestern Anatolia
raised the banner of revolt in the name of Islam. It took two months
to put the revolt down; its leader Seyh Said was then hanged. In
June 1926 a plot by several disgruntled politicians to assassinate Atatürk
was discovered, and the 13 ringleaders were tri
There were other trials and executions, but under Atatürk the
country was steadfastly steered toward becoming a modern state with a
minimum of repression. There was a high degree of consensus among the
ruling elite about the goals of the society. As many of those goals were
achieved, however, many Turks wished to see a more democratic regime.
Atatürk even experimented in 1930 with
the creation of an opposition party led by his longtime associate Ali
Fethi, but its immediate and overwhelming success caused Atatürk to
In his later years Atatürk grew more remote from the Turkish people.
He had the Dolmabahçe Palace in Istanbul, formerly a main residence of
the sultans, refurbished and spent more time there. Always
a heavy drinker who ate little, he began to decline in health. His illness,
cirrhosis of the liver, was not diagnosed until too late.
He bore the pain of the last few months of his life with great character
and dignity, and on Nov. 10, 1938, he died at 9:05 AM in Dolmabahçe. His
state funeral was an occasion for enormous outpourings of grief from the
Turkish people. His body was transported through Istanbul and from there
to Ankara, where it awaited a suitable final resting place. This was constructed
years later: a mausoleum in Ankara contains Atatürk's sarcophagus
and a museum devoted to his memory.
Atatürk is omnipresent in Turkey. His portrait is in every home
and place of business and on the postage and bank notes. His words are
chiseled on important buildings. Statues of him abound. Turkish politicians,
regardless of party affiliation, claim to be the inheritors of Atatürk's
Copyright © 1994-1997 Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.
|To cite this page:
"Atatürk" Britannica Online.
[Accessed 02 February 1998].
Quotes in [ ] brackets and in red are comments from the editors of this site and not from Encyclopedia Britannica.