Mustafa Kemal Ataturk: the Founder of Modern Turkey
“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 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 lying in our bosom And are in peace.
After having lost their lives on this land, they have
Become our sons as well.”
A tribute to the memory of the ANZACS by M. Kemal Ataturk in 1934
Born in 1881 (probably in spring, but this is uncertain), in Salonica, then a Turkish Ottoman city, but now in Greece. Father died when he was very young and he and his sister were raised by his mother. After primary school he went to a military high school. His mathematics teacher gave him the second name of Kemal (which means perfection), in recognition of his very clever abilities. At that time very few Turkish people had a second, or surname name.
In 1905 he left military school and was sent to Damascus, then also part of Turkey, but now in Syria. He decided to form a group to get rid of the unpopular Sultan of Turkey. He fought a lot of wars and battles in different parts of the Turkish Empire during the next ten years. He was noticed for his great ability as a military leader.
In 1915 when the Dardanelles campaign started he was a major reason the allies of Britain, France, Australia and New Zealand lost. Although still only a Colonel and not in full charge of the Turkish Army, by his great cleverness and bravery he was able to give very strong military leadership to defeat the invaders. He became a national hero at this time. Had he not been there, quite possibly Turkey would have been beaten.
As a military man, he had an amazing record; He is said to never have lost a battle.
In 1915 he was Colonel in charge of the Anafarta (the name of a small village near the Anzac landing site) section of the Gallipoli Peninsula. This was the very landing area of the Anzacs. Had he not been there at the exact time he was, the landings might have been successful. Hearing the battle noise, he rushed his men, without waiting for orders from the General in charge, to the top of Chunuk Bair. From there he saw the landings and knew immediately that the key to saving the whole Gallipoli Peninsula was to make sure that Chunuk Bair, and the other hill tops, were not lost.
By his personal genius and bravery he was able to lead the Turkish soldiers and stop the Anzac advance on the morning of 25 April 1915. He did not leave the battle zone again until after the Allies had evacuated the peninsula in December 1915. His life was saved on one occasion by his pocket watch, which stopped a bullet hitting him in the heart.
In 1916 he was promoted to General and he went and fought the British in other parts of the Turkish Empire for the next 2 years. He never lost a military battle.
In 1919 he began the Turkish War of Independence. In 1920 the Grand National Assembly was inaugurated with Mustafa Kemal as its fi rst President. He continued to fight the War of Independence for the next 2 years.The War of Independence was fi nally won in August 1922.
On 29 October 1923 the Turkish Republic was proclaimed with Mustafa Kemal as its President. Ankara was declared the new national capital. Mustafa Kemal married Latife Usakligil in 1923. The marriage ended in divorce in 1925.
During his 15 years as President of Turkey he was responsible for extraordinary modernisation of Turkey. This included: A new political and legal system, made both government and education secular (free from religious control), gave equal rights to women, changed the alphabet from the Arabic one to the western style, and greatly improved arts, science, agriculture and industry. In 1934, when the new law for having a surname was adopted, the National Parliament gave him the title “Ataturk”, meaning Father of the Turks.
In 1938, following an illness of a few months, he died on 10 November.
This article originally appeared on EverythingTurkish