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President of Turkey from 1923 to 1938
For other people named Mustafa Kamal, see Mustafa Kamal (disambiguation)
“Atatürk” redirects here For the airport, see Atatürk Airport For other uses, see Atatürk (disambiguation)

Halâskâr Gazi
Mustafa Kemal Atatürk

Atatürk in 1932
1st President of Turkey
In office
29 October 1923 – 10 November 1938
Prime Minister İsmet İnönü
Fethi Okyar
Celâl Bayar
Preceded by Office established
Succeeded by İsmet İnönü
1st Prime Minister of the Government of the Grand National Assembly
In office
3 May 1920 – 24 January 1921
Deputy Fevzi Çakmak
Preceded by Office established
Succeeded by Fevzi Çakmak
1st Speaker of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey
In office
24 April 1920 – 29 October 1923
Preceded by Office established
Succeeded by Fethi Okyar
1st Leader of the Republican People’s Party
In office
9 September 1923 – 10 November 1938
Preceded by Office established
Succeeded by İsmet İnönü
Personal details
Ali Rıza oğlu Mustafa
(Mustafa son of Ali Rıza)

c 1881
Salonica, Salonica Vilayet, Ottoman Empire

Died 10 November 1938(1938-11-10) (aged 57)
Dolmabahçe Palace, Istanbul, Turkey
Resting place Ethnography Museum, Ankara (21 November 1938 – 10 November 1953)
Anıtkabir, Ankara (since 10 November 1953)
Nationality Turkish
Political party Republican People’s Party
Other political
Motherland and Liberty
Committee of Union and Progress (1907–1918)
Association for the Defence of the Rights of Anatolia and Rumelia (until 1923)
Spouse Latife Uşaklıgil (1923–25)
Parent(s) Ali Rıza Efendi
Zübeyde Hanım
Relatives Makbule Atadan (sister)
Awards List (24 medals)
Military service
Allegiance Ottoman Empire (1893–1919)
Ankara Government (1921–1923)
Turkey (1923–1927)
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Army of the GNA
Turkish Army
Rank Major General (Ottoman Army)
Marshal (Turkish Army)
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Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, or Mustafa Kemal Pasha until 1921, and Ghazi Mustafa Kemal from 1921 until 1934 (c 1881 – 10 November 1938) was a Turkish field marshal, revolutionary statesman, author, and the founding father of the Republic of Turkey, serving as its first president from 1923 until his death in 1938 He undertook sweeping progressive reforms, which modernized Turkey into a secular, industrializing nation Ideologically a secularist and nationalist, his policies and socio-political theories became known as Kemalism Due to his military and political accomplishments, Atatürk is regarded as one of the most important political leaders of the 20th century

Atatürk came to prominence for his role in securing the Ottoman Turkish victory at the Battle of Gallipoli (1915) during World War I Following the defeat and dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, he led the Turkish National Movement, which resisted mainland Turkey’s partition among the victorious Allied powers Establishing a provisional government in the present-day Turkish capital Ankara (known in English at the time as Angora), he defeated the forces sent by the Allies, thus emerging victorious from what was later referred to as the Turkish War of Independence He subsequently proceeded to abolish the decrepit Ottoman Empire and proclaimed the foundation of the Turkish Republic in its place

As the president of the newly formed Turkish Republic, Atatürk initiated a rigorous program of political, economic, and cultural reforms with the ultimate aim of building a modern, progressive and secular nation-state He made primary education free and compulsory, opening thousands of new schools all over the country He also introduced the Latin-based Turkish alphabet, replacing the old Ottoman Turkish alphabet Turkish women received equal civil and political rights during Atatürk’s presidency In particular, women were given voting rights in local elections by Act no 1580 on 3 April 1930 and a few years later, in 1934, full universal suffrage

His government carried out a policy of Turkification, trying to create a homogeneous, unified and above all secular nation under the Turkish banner Under Atatürk, the minorities in Turkey were asked to speak Turkish in public, but also were allowed to maintain their own languages at the same time; non-Turkish toponyms and minorities were ordered to get a Turkish surname as per Turkish renditions The Turkish Parliament granted him the surname Atatürk in 1934, which means “Father of the Turks”, in recognition of the role he played in building the modern Turkish Republic He died on 10 November 1938 at Dolmabahçe Palace in Istanbul, at the age of 57; he was succeeded as president by his long-time prime minister İsmet İnönü and was honored with a state funeral

In 1981, the centennial of Atatürk’s birth, his memory was honoured by the United Nations and UNESCO, which declared it The Atatürk Year in the World and adopted the Resolution on the Atatürk Centennial, describing him as “the leader of the first struggle given against colonialism and imperialism” and a “remarkable promoter of the sense of understanding between peoples and durable peace between the nations of the world and that he worked all his life for the development of harmony and cooperation between peoples without distinction” Atatürk was also credited for his peace in the world-oriented foreign policy and friendship with neighboring countries such as Iran, Yugoslavia, Iraq, and Greece, as well as the creation of the Balkan Pact that resisted the expansionist aggressions of Fascist Italy and the Tsarist Bulgaria


Atatürk was born Mustafa, and his second name Kemal (meaning “perfection” or “maturity”) was given to him by his mathematics teacher, Captain Üsküplü Mustafa Efendi, “in admiration of his capability and maturity” according to Afet İnan, and, according to other sources because his teacher wanted to distinguish his student who had the same name as him, although biographer Andrew Mango suggests that he may have chosen the name himself as a tribute to the nationalist poet Namık Kemal According to Alkan, Atatürk seems to have embraced the name Kemal during his army years

After receiving the surname Atatürk on his first ID card in 1934, his given name appeared as Kemal Atatürk, while the name Mustafa had disappeared altogether In February 1935, Atatürk began to use his supposedly “original” name Kamâl According to Tarama Dergisi (1934), kamal meant “fortification”, “castle”, “army”, and “shield” On 4 February 1935, the government’s official news agency Anadolu Agency gave the following explanation:

However, Atatürk returned to the old spelling of Kemal from May 1937 and onwards To make a soft transition, he avoided using the name as much as he could, either by not using it at all or by signing documents as ‘K Atatürk’ An official explanation was never given Nevertheless, it was obvious that the issue with Atatürk’s name was linked to the Turkish language reform

Early life

Further information: Personal life of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk

The house where Atatürk was born in the Ottoman city of Salonika (Thessaloniki in present-day Greece), now a museum

The reconstructed house of Atatürk’s paternal grandparents, in the Ottoman village of Kocacık (Kodžadžik in present-day North Macedonia)

Atatürk was born either in the Ahmet Subaşı neighbourhood or at a house (preserved as a museum) in Islahhane Street (now Apostolou Pavlou Street) in the Koca Kasım Pasha neighbourhood in Salonica (Selanik), Ottoman Empire (Thessaloniki in present-day Greece) His parents were Ali Rıza Efendi, a military officer originally from Kodžadžik, title deed clerk and lumber trader, and Zübeyde Hanım Only one of Mustafa’s siblings, a sister named Makbule (Atadan) survived childhood; she died in 1956 According to Andrew Mango, his family was Muslim, Turkish-speaking and precariously middle-class His father Ali Rıza is thought to have been of Albanian origin by some authors; however, according to Falih Rıfkı Atay, Vamık D Volkan, Norman Itzkowitz, Müjgân Cunbur, Numan Kartal and Hasan İzzettin Dinamo, Ali Rıza’s ancestors were Turks, ultimately descending from Söke in the Aydın Province of Anatolia His mother Zübeyde is thought to have been of Turkish origin, and according to Şevket Süreyya Aydemir, she was of Yörük ancestry According to other sources, he was Jewish (Scholem, 2007) or Bulgarian (Tončeva, 2009) Due to the large Jewish community of Salonica in the Ottoman period, many of the Islamist opponents who were disturbed by his reforms claimed that Atatürk had Dönmeh ancestors, that is Jews who converted to Islam publicly, but still secretly retained their belief in Judaism

In his early years, his mother encouraged Atatürk to attend a religious school, something he did reluctantly and only briefly Later, he attended the Şemsi Efendi School (a private school with a more secular curriculum) at the direction of his father When he was seven years old, his father died His mother wanted him to learn a trade, but without consulting them, Atatürk took the entrance exam for the Salonica Military School (Selanik Askeri Rüştiyesi) in 1893 In 1896, he enrolled in the Monastir Military High School (in modern Bitola, North Macedonia) On 14 March 1899, he enrolled at the Ottoman Military Academy in the neighbourhood of Pangaltı within the Şişli district of the Ottoman capital city Constantinople (modern Istanbul) and graduated in 1902 He later graduated from the Ottoman Military College in Constantinople on 11 January 1905

Military career

Main article: Military career of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk

Early years

See also: Vatan ve Hürriyet, Committee of Union and Progress, and Young Turk Revolution

Atatürk on the day of graduation from the War Academy in 1905

Shortly after graduation, he was arrested by the police for his anti-monarchist activities Following confinement for several months he was released only with the support of Rıza Pasha, his former school director After his release, Atatürk was assigned to the Fifth Army based in Damascus as a Staff Captain in the company of Ali Fuat (Cebesoy) and Lütfi Müfit (Özdeş) He joined a small secret revolutionary society of reformist officers led by a merchant Mustafa Elvan (Cantekin) called Vatan ve Hürriyet (“Motherland and Liberty”) On 20 June 1907, he was promoted to the rank of Senior Captain (Kolağası) and on 13 October 1907, was assigned to the headquarters of the Third Army in Manastır He joined the Committee of Union and Progress, with membership number 322, although in later years he became known for his opposition to, and frequent criticism of, the policies pursued by the CUP leadership On 22 June 1908, he was appointed the Inspector of the Ottoman Railways in Eastern Rumelia (Doğu Rumeli Bölgesi Demiryolları Müfettişi) In July 1908, he played a role in the Young Turk Revolution which seized power from Sultan Abdülhamid II and restored the constitutional monarchy

Atatürk (front row, second from left) with the Ottoman Turkish observers at the Picardie army manoeuvres in France, 28 September 1910

He was proposing depoliticization in the army, a proposal which was disliked by the leaders of the CUP As a result, he was sent away to Tripolitania Vilayet (present Libya, then an Ottoman territory) under the pretext of suppressing a tribal rebellion towards the end of 1908 According to Mikush however, he volunteered for this mission He suppressed the revolt and returned to Constantinople in January 1909

In April 1909 in Constantinople, a group of soldiers began a counter-revolution (see 31 March Incident) Atatürk was instrumental in suppressing the revolt

In 1910, he was called to the Ottoman provinces in Albania At that time Isa Boletini was leading Albanian uprisings in Kosovo, and there were revolts in Albania as well In 1910, Atatürk met with Eqrem Vlora, the Albanian lord, politician, writer, and one of the delegates of the Albanian Declaration of Independence

Later, in the autumn of 1910, he was among the Ottoman military observers who attended the Picardie army manoeuvres in France, and in 1911, served at the Ministry of War (Harbiye Nezareti) in Constantinople for a short time

Italo-Turkish War (1911–12)

Main article: Italo-Turkish War
See also: Battle of Tobruk (1911)

Atatürk (left) with an Ottoman military officer and Bedouin forces in Derna, Tripolitania Vilayet, 1912

In 1911, he volunteered to fight in the Italo-Turkish War in the Ottoman Tripolitania Vilayet (present-day Libya) He served mainly in the areas near Derna and Tobruk The invading Italian army had a strength of 150,000 men; it was opposed by 20,000 Bedouins and 8,000 Turks A short time before Italy declared war, many of the Ottoman troops in Libya were sent to the Ottoman province of Yemen Vilayet to put down the rebellion there, so the Ottoman government was caught with inadequate resources to counter the Italians in Libya Britain, which controlled the Ottoman provinces of Egypt and Sudan, did not allow additional Ottoman troops to reach Libya through Egypt Ottoman soldiers like Atatürk went to Libya either dressed as Arabs (risking imprisonment if noticed by the British authorities in Egypt) or by the very few available ferries (the Italians, who had superior naval forces, effectively controlled the sea routes to Tripoli) However, despite all the hardships, Atatürk’s forces in Libya managed to repel the Italians on a number of occasions, such as at the Battle of Tobruk on 22 December 1911

During the Battle of Derna on 16–17 January 1912, while Atatürk was assaulting the Italian-controlled fortress of Kasr-ı Harun, two Italian planes dropped bombs on the Ottoman forces; a limestone splinter from a damaged building’s rubble struck Atatürk’s left eye, causing permanent tissue damage, but not total loss of sight He received medical treatment for nearly a month; he attempted to leave the Red Crescent’s health facilities after only two weeks, but when his eye’s situation worsened, he had to return and resume treatment On 6 March 1912, Atatürk became the Commander of the Ottoman forces in Derna He managed to defend and retain the city and its surrounding region until the end of the Italo-Turkish War on 18 October 1912 Atatürk, Enver Bey, Fethi Bey, and the other Ottoman military commanders in Libya had to return to Ottoman Europe following the outbreak of the Balkan Wars on 8 October 1912 Having lost the war, the Ottoman government had to surrender Tripolitania, Fezzan, and Cyrenaica (three provinces forming present-day Libya) to the Kingdom of Italy in the Treaty of Lausanne (1912) signed ten days later, on 18 October 1912 Since 1923, historians have preferred to name this treaty as the “Treaty of Ouchy”, after the Château d’Ouchy in Lausanne where it was signed, to distinguish it from the later Treaty of Lausanne (1923) signed between the Allies of World War I and the Grand National Assembly of Turkey in Ankara (at that time known as Angora)

Balkan Wars (1912–13)

Main article: Balkan Wars
See also: First Balkan War and Second Balkan War

On 1 December 1912, Atatürk arrived at his new headquarters on the Gallipoli peninsula and, during the First Balkan War, he took part in the amphibious landing at Bulair on the coast of Thrace under Binbaşı Fethi Bey, but this offensive was repulsed during the Battle of Bulair by Georgi Todorov’s 7th Rila Infantry Division under the command of Stiliyan Kovachev’s Bulgarian Fourth Army

In June 1913, during the Second Balkan War, he took part in the Ottoman Army forces commanded by Kaymakam Enver Bey that recovered Dimetoka and Edirne (Adrianople, the capital city of the Ottoman Empire between 1365 and 1453, thus of utmost historic importance for the Turks) together with most of eastern Thrace from the Bulgarians

In 1913, he was appointed the Ottoman military attaché to all Balkan states (his office was in Sofia, Bulgaria) and promoted to the rank of Kaymakam (Lieutenant Colonel / Colonel) on 1 March 1914 While in Bulgaria, he met with Dimitrina Kovacheva, the daughter of Bulgarian general Stiliyan Kovachev (against whose forces he had fought during the Balkan Wars), who had recently completed her education in Switzerland, during a New Year’s Eve ball in Sofia and fell in love with her The two danced at the ball and started to secretly date in the following days Atatürk twice asked Dimitrina’s parents for their permission to marry her (the second time was in 1915, during World War I) and was twice refused, which left him with a lifelong sadness

First World War (1914–18)

Main article: World War I
See also: Gallipoli Campaign and Middle Eastern theatre of World War I

Cevat Pasha and Atatürk on the daily Tasvîr-i Efkâr [tr] dated 29 October 1915

In 1914, the Ottoman Empire entered the European and Middle Eastern theatres of World War I allied with the Central Powers Atatürk was given the task of organizing and commanding the 19th Division attached to the Fifth Army during the Battle of Gallipoli He became the front-line commander after correctly anticipating where the Allies would attack, and held his position until they retreated Following the Battle of Gallipoli, Atatürk served in Edirne until 14 January 1916 He was then assigned to the command of the XVI Corps of the Second Army and sent to the Caucasus Campaign after the massive Russian offensive had reached key Anatolian cities On 7 August, he rallied his troops and mounted a counteroffensive Two of his divisions captured Bitlis and Muş, upsetting the calculations of the Russian Command

Atatürk with Ottoman military officers during the Battle of Gallipoli, Çanakkale, 1915

Following this victory, the CUP government in Constantinople proposed to establish a new army in Hejaz (Hicaz Kuvve-i Seferiyesi) and appoint Atatürk to its command, but he refused the proposal and this army was never established Instead, on 7 March 1917, Atatürk was promoted from the command of the XVI Corps to the overall command of the Second Army, although the Czar’s armies were soon withdrawn when the Russian Revolution erupted

In July 1917, he was appointed to the command of the Seventh Army, replacing Fevzi Pasha on 7 August 1917, who was under the command of the German general Erich von Falkenhayn’s Yildirim Army Group (after the British forces of General Edmund Allenby captured Jerusalem in December 1917, Erich von Falkenhayn was replaced by Otto Liman von Sanders who became the new commander of the Yıldırım Army Group in early 1918) Atatürk did not get along well with General von Falkenhayn and, together with Miralay İsmet Bey, wrote a report to Grand Vizier Talaat Pasha regarding the grim situation and lack of adequate resources in the Palestinian front However, Talaat Pasha ignored their observations and refused their suggestion to form a stronger defensive line to the north, in Ottoman Syria (in parts of the Beirut Vilayet, Damascus Vilayet, and Aleppo Vilayet), with Turks instead of Germans in command Following the rejection of his report, Atatürk resigned from the Seventh Army and returned to Constantinople There, he was assigned with the task of accompanying the crown prince (and future sultan) Mehmed Vahideddin during his train trip to Austria-Hungary and Germany While in Germany, Atatürk visited the German lines on the Western Front and concluded that the Central Powers would soon lose the war He did not hesitate to openly express this opinion to Kaiser Wilhelm II and his high-ranking generals in person During the return trip, he briefly stayed in Karlsbad and Vienna for medical treatment

Atatürk in 1918, the Commander of the Yıldırım Army Group and an Honorary aide-de-camp of the Sultan

When Mehmed VI became the new Sultan of the Ottoman Empire in July 1918, he called Atatürk to Constantinople, and after several meetings in the months July and August 1918, reassigned him to the command of the Seventh Army in Palestine Atatürk arrived in Aleppo on 26 August 1918, then continued south to his headquarters in Nablus The Seventh Army was holding the central sector of the front lines On 19 September, at the beginning of the Battle of Megiddo, the Eighth Army was holding the coastal flank but fell apart and Liman Pasha ordered the Seventh Army to withdraw to the north in order to prevent the British from conducting a short envelopment to the Jordan River The Seventh Army retired towards the Jordan River but was destroyed by British aerial bombardment during its retreat from Nablus on 21 September 1918 Nevertheless, Atatürk managed to form a defence line to the north of Aleppo According to Lord Kinross, Atatürk was the only Turkish general in the war who never suffered a defeat

The war ended with the Armistice of Mudros which was signed on 30 October 1918, and all German and Austro-Hungarian troops in the Ottoman Empire were granted ample time to withdraw On 31 October, Atatürk was appointed to the command of the Yıldırım Army Group, replacing Liman von Sanders Atatürk organized the distribution of weapons to the civilians in Antep in case of a defensive conflict against the invading Allies

Atatürk’s last active service in the Ottoman Army was organizing the return of the Ottoman troops left behind to the south of the defensive line In early November 1918, the Yıldırım Army Group was officially dissolved, and Atatürk returned to an occupied Constantinople, the Ottoman capital, on 13 November 1918 For a period of time, he worked at the headquarters of the Ministry of War (Harbiye Nezareti) in Constantinople and continued his activities in this city until 16 May 1919 Along the established lines of the partitioning of the Ottoman Empire, the Allies (British, Italian, French and Greek forces) occupied Anatolia The occupation of Constantinople, followed by the occupation of İzmir (the two largest Ottoman cities at the time) sparked the establishment of the Turkish National Movement and the Turkish War of Independence

Ottoman genocides (1913–1924) and Atatürk

Atatürk’s relation to the late Ottoman genocides committed by the Young Turk movement and the dying Ottoman Empire, which to this day are denied by the Turkish government, has been the subject of his most major controversy Atatürk had been a member of the Young Turk movement in 1908, but so had many Arabs, Albanians, Jews, and initially, Armenians and Greeks, as it was then simply an anti-Abdul Hamid movement As for the actual occurrences of the genocides, Atatürk had since divested from the movement and was serving as a relatively junior Lieutenant Colonel fighting in Gallipoli and Western Thrace during the Armenian genocide Historical evidence proves decisively that he was not involved with the killings, and that he later went on to condemn them One such explicit condemnation was in September 1919, when Atatürk met with the United States Army General James Harbord, the leader of the Harbord Commission into the genocides, in Sivas Harbord would later recall that Atatürk told him of his disapproval of the Armenian genocide, and that he had allegedly stated that “the massacre and deportation of Armenians was the work of a small committee who had seized power”, rather than by the government in actuality In 1920, before the Turkish Parliament, Atatürk called the genocides a “shameful act” and made no effort to publicly deny them at that time

Atatürk’s relations with Enver Pasha, a key perpetrator of the genocides, has also been controversial but poorly understood While the two men may have been close at times, Atatürk held a personal dislike of Enver Pasha; he once said to a confidant that Enver Pasha was a dangerous figure who might lead the country to ruin

The primary concern towards Atatürk was the Turkish government’s involvement with and reaction to the burning of Smyrna in 1923, which saw Muslim Turkish mobs and paramilitaries openly engaged in mass murder of Greeks and Armenians and destroy the city’s Greek and Armenian quarters, killing an estimated 100,000 people Whether these attrocities, including the fire was part of the genocides of Asia Minor’s Christian minorities that the Turkish army and government carried out during WWI is unclear, responsibility remains a contentious debate and it is unclear if the Turks entered the city these intentions Many Turkish apologist argue that the regular Turkish Army did not play a role in these events At the time, Atatürk was commander of the Turkish armed forces, and sent a telegram to Minister of Foreign Affairs Yusuf Kemal that described the official version of events in the city In the telegram, he alleged the Greek and Armenian minorities had “pre-arranged plans” to “destroy İzmir” There are allegations Atatürk chose to do little about the Greek and Armenian victims of the fires caused by Muslim rioters in order to rebuild the city as Turkish-dominated İzmir

Turkish War of Independence (1919–1923)

Main article: Turkish War of Independence
See also: Military career of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk § War of Independence

Atatürk (right) in Angora (Ankara) with İsmet Pasha (left)

On 30 April 1919, Fahri Yaver-i Hazret-i Şehriyari (“Honorary Aide-de-camp to His Majesty Sultan”) Mirliva Atatürk was assigned as the inspector of the Ninth Army Troops Inspectorate to reorganize what remained of the Ottoman military units and to improve internal security On 19 May 1919, he reached Samsun His first goal was the establishment of an organized national movement against the occupying forces In June 1919, he issued the Amasya Circular, declaring the independence of the country was in danger He resigned from the Ottoman Army on 8 July, and the Ottoman government issued a warrant for his arrest But Kâzım Karabekir and other military commanders active in Eastern Anatolia followed Atatürk’s lead and acknowledged him as their leader

On 4 September 1919, he assembled a congress in Sivas Those who opposed the Allies in various provinces in Turkey issued a declaration named Misak-ı Millî (“National Pact”) Atatürk was appointed as the head of the executive committee of the Congress, which gave him the legitimacy he needed for his future politics (see Sivas Congress)

The last election to the Ottoman parliament held in December 1919 gave a sweeping majority to candidates of the “Association for Defence of Rights for Anatolia and Roumelia” (Anadolu ve Rumeli Müdafaa-i Hukuk Cemiyeti), headed by Atatürk, who himself remained in Angora, now known as Ankara The fourth (and last) term of the parliament opened in Constantinople on 12 January 1920 It was dissolved by British forces on 18 March 1920, shortly after it adopted the Misak-ı Millî (“National Pact”) Atatürk called for a national election to establish a new Turkish Parliament seated in Angora – the “Grand National Assembly” (GNA) On 23 April 1920, the GNA opened with Atatürk as the speaker; this act effectively created the situation of diarchy in the country In May 1920, the power struggle between the two governments led to a death sentence in absentia for Mustafa Kemal by the Turkish courts-martial Halide Edib (Adıvar) and Ali Fuat (Cebesoy) were also sentenced to death alongside Atatürk

Prominent nationalists at the Sivas Congress, left to right: Muzaffer (Kılıç), Rauf (Orbay), Bekir Sami (Kunduh), Mustafa Kemal (Atatürk), Ruşen Eşref (Ünaydın), Cemil Cahit (Toydemir), Cevat Abbas (Gürer)

On 10 August 1920, the Ottoman Grand Vizier Damat Ferid Pasha signed the Treaty of Sèvres, finalizing plans for the partitioning of the Ottoman Empire, including the regions that Turkish nationals viewed as their heartland Atatürk insisted on the country’s complete independence and the safeguarding of interests of the Turkish majority on “Turkish soil” He persuaded the GNA to gather a National Army The GNA army faced the Caliphate army propped up by the Allied occupation forces and had the immediate task of fighting the Armenian forces in the Eastern Front and the Greek forces advancing eastward from Smyrna (today known as İzmir) that they had occupied in May 1919, on the Western Front

The GNA military successes against the Democratic Republic of Armenia in the autumn of 1920 and later against the Greeks were made possible by a steady supply of gold and armaments to the Kemalists from the Russian Bolshevik government from the autumn of 1920 onwards

Atatürk inspects the Turkish troops on 18 June 1922

After a series of battles during the Greco-Turkish War, the Greek army advanced as far as the Sakarya River, just eighty kilometers west of the GNA On 5 August 1921, Atatürk was promoted to commander in chief of the forces by the GNA The ensuing Battle of the Sakarya was fought from 23 August–13 September 1921 and ended with the defeat of the Greeks After this victory, Atatürk was given the rank of Mareşal and the title of Gazi by the Grand National Assembly on 19 September 1921 The Allies, ignoring the extent of Atatürk’s successes, hoped to impose a modified version of the Treaty of Sèvres as a peace settlement on Angora, but the proposal was rejected In August 1922, Atatürk launched an all-out attack on the Greek lines at Afyonkarahisar in the Battle of Dumlupınar, and Turkish forces regained control of İzmir on 9 September 1922 On 10 September 1922, Atatürk sent a telegram to the League of Nations stating that the Turkish population was so worked up that the Ankara Government would not be responsible for the ensuing massacres

Establishment of the Republic of Turkey

See also: Treaty of Lausanne (1923)

A British cartoon of 1923 satirising Atatürk’s rule in Turkey

The Conference of Lausanne began on 21 November 1922 Turkey, represented by İsmet İnönü of the GNA, refused any proposal that would compromise Turkish sovereignty, such as the control of Turkish finances, the Capitulations, the Straits and other issues Although the conference paused on 4 February, it continued after 23 April mainly focusing on the economic issues On 24 July 1923, the Treaty of Lausanne was signed by the Powers with the GNA, thus recognising the latter as the government of Turkey

On 29 October 1923, the Republic of Turkey was proclaimed Since then, Republic Day has been celebrated as a national holiday on that date


For conceptual analysis, see Kemalism and Atatürk’s Reforms

With the establishment of the Republic of Turkey, efforts to modernise the country started The new government analyzed the institutions and constitutions of Western states such as France, Sweden, Italy, and Switzerland and adapted them to the needs and characteristics of the Turkish nation Highlighting the public’s lack of knowledge regarding Atatürk’s intentions, the public cheered: “We are returning to the days of the first caliphs” Atatürk placed Fevzi Çakmak, Kâzım Özalp, and İsmet İnönü in political positions where they could institute his reforms He capitalized on his reputation as an efficient military leader and spent the following years, up until his death in 1938, instituting political, economic, and social reforms In doing so, he transformed Turkish society from perceiving itself as a Muslim part of a vast Empire into a modern, democratic, and secular nation-state This had a positive influence on human capital because from then on, what mattered at school was science and education; Islam was concentrated in mosques and religious places

Domestic policies

Atatürk at the opening ceremony of the Samsun-Çarşamba railroad (1928)

Atatürk’s driving goal was the complete independence of the country He clarified his position:

He led wide-ranging reforms in social, cultural, and economic aspects, establishing the new Republic’s backbone of legislative, judicial, and economic structures Though he was later idealized by some as an originator of sweeping reforms, many of his reformist ideas were already common in Ottoman intellectual circles at the turn of the 20th century and were expressed more openly after the Young Turk Revolution

Atatürk created a banner to mark the changes between the old Ottoman and the new republican rule Each change was symbolized as an arrow in this banner This defining ideology of the Republic of Turkey is referred to as the “Six Arrows”, or Kemalism Kemalism is based on Atatürk’s conception of realism and pragmatism The fundamentals of nationalism, populism, and etatism were all defined under the Six Arrows These fundamentals were not new in world politics or, indeed, among the elite of Turkey What made them unique was that these interrelated fundamentals were explicitly formulated for Turkey’s needs A good example is the definition and application of secularism; the Kemalist secular state significantly differed from predominantly Christian states

Emergence of the state, 1923–1924

Atatürk in 1923, with members of the Mevlevi Order, before its institutional expression became illegal and their dervish lodge was changed into the Mevlana Museum The Mevlevi Order managed to transform itself into a non-political organization which still exists

Atatürk’s private journal entries dated before the establishment of the republic in 1923 show that he believed in the importance of the sovereignty of the people In forging the new republic, the Turkish revolutionaries turned their back on the perceived corruption and decadence of cosmopolitan Constantinople and its Ottoman heritage For instance, they made Ankara (as Angora has been known in English since 1930), the country’s new capital and reformed the Turkish postal service Once a provincial town deep in Anatolia, the city was thus turned into the center of the independence movement Atatürk wanted a “direct government by the Assembly” and visualized a representative democracy, parliamentary sovereignty, where the National Parliament would be the ultimate source of power

In the following years, he altered his stance somewhat; the country needed an immense amount of reconstruction, and “direct government by the Assembly” could not survive in such an environment The revolutionaries faced challenges from the supporters of the old Ottoman regime, and also from the supporters of newer ideologies such as communism and fascism Atatürk saw the consequences of fascist and communist doctrines in the 1920s and 1930s and rejected both He prevented the spread into Turkey of the totalitarian party rule which held sway in the Soviet Union, Germany, and Italy Some perceived his opposition and silencing of these ideologies as a means of eliminating competition; others believed it was necessary to protect the young Turkish state from succumbing to the instability of new ideologies and competing factions Under Atatürk, the arrest process known as the Arrests of 1927 (1927 Tevkifatı) was launched, and a widespread arrest policy was put in place against the Communist Party of Turkey members Communist political figures such as Hikmet Kıvılcımlı, Nâzım Hikmet, and Şefik Hüsnü were tried and sentenced to prison terms Then, in 1937, a delegation headed by Atatürk decided to censor the writings of Kıvılcımlı as harmful communist propaganda

In 1924, during his speech in Bursa

The heart of the new republic was the GNA, established during the Turkish War of Independence by Atatürk The elections were free and used an egalitarian electoral system that was based on a general ballot Deputies at the GNA served as the voice of Turkish society by expressing its political views and preferences It had the right to select and control both the government and the Prime Minister Initially, it also acted as a legislative power, controlling the executive branch and, if necessary, served as an organ of scrutiny under the Turkish Constitution of 1921 The Turkish Constitution of 1924 set a loose separation of powers between the legislative and the executive organs of the state, whereas the separation of these two within the judiciary system was a strict one Atatürk, then the President, occupied a dominant position in this political system

The one-party regime was established de facto in 1925 after the adoption of the 1924 constitution The only political party of the GNA was the “People’s Party”, founded by Atatürk on 9 September 1923 (But according to the party culture the foundation date was the opening day of Sivas Congress on 4 September 1919) On 10 November 1924, it was renamed Cumhuriyet Halk Fırkası or Republican People’s Party (the word fırka was replaced by the word parti in 1935)

Civic independence and the Caliphate, 1924–1925

Atatürk during the Republic Day celebrations on the second anniversary of the Turkish Republic, 29 October 1925

The abolition of the caliphate and other cultural reforms were met with fierce opposition The conservative elements were not appreciative, and they launched attacks on the Kemalist reformists

Abolition of the Caliphate was an important dimension in Atatürk’s drive to reform the political system and to promote national sovereignty By the consensus of the Muslim majority in early centuries, the caliphate was the core political concept of Sunni Islam Abolishing the sultanate was easier because the survival of the Caliphate at the time satisfied the partisans of the sultanate This produced a split system with the new republic on one side and an Islamic form of government with the Caliph on the other side, and Atatürk and İnönü worried that “it nourished the expectations that the sovereign would return under the guise of Caliph” Caliph Abdülmecid II was elected after the abolition of the sultanate (1922)

The caliph had his own personal treasury and also had a personal service that included military personnel; Atatürk said that there was no “religious” or “political” justification for this He believed that Caliph Abdülmecid II was following in the steps of the sultans in domestic and foreign affairs: accepting of and responding to foreign representatives and reserve officers, and participating in official ceremonies and celebrations He wanted to integrate the powers of the caliphate into the powers of the GNA His initial activities began on 1 January 1924, when İnönü, Çakmak, and Özalp consented to the abolition of the caliphate The caliph made a statement to the effect that he would not interfere with political affairs On 1 March 1924, at the Assembly, Atatürk said:

On 3 March 1924, the caliphate was officially abolished and its powers within Turkey were transferred to the GNA Other Muslim nations debated the validity of Turkey’s unilateral abolition of the caliphate as they decided whether they should confirm the Turkish action or appoint a new caliph A “Caliphate Conference” was held in Cairo in May 1926 and a resolution was passed declaring the caliphate “a necessity in Islam”, but failed to implement this decision

Two other Islamic conferences were held in Mecca (1926) and Jerusalem (1931), but failed to reach a consensus Turkey did not accept the re-establishment of the caliphate and perceived it as an attack to its basic existence Meanwhile, Atatürk and the reformists continued their own way

On 8 April 1924, sharia courts were abolished with the law “Mehakim-i Şer’iyenin İlgasına ve Mehakim Teşkilatına Ait Ahkamı Muaddil Kanun”

Educational reform

The removal of the caliphate was followed by an extensive effort to establish the separation of governmental and religious affairs Education was the cornerstone in this effort In 1923, there were three main educational groups of institutions The most common institutions were medreses based on Arabic, the Qur’an, and memorization The second type of institution was idadî and sultanî, the reformist schools of the Tanzimat era The last group included colleges and minority schools in foreign languages that used the latest teaching models in educating pupils The old medrese education was modernized Atatürk changed the classical Islamic education for a vigorously promoted reconstruction of educational institutions He linked educational reform to the liberation of the nation from dogma, which he believed was more important than the Turkish War of Independence He declared:

In the summer of 1924, Atatürk invited American educational reformer John Dewey to Ankara to advise him on how to reform Turkish education His public education reforms aimed to prepare citizens for roles in public life through increasing public literacy He wanted to institute compulsory primary education for both girls and boys; since then this effort has been an ongoing task for the republic He pointed out that one of the main targets of education in Turkey had to be raising a generation nourished with what he called the “public culture” The state schools established a common curriculum which became known as the “unification of education”

Unification of education was put into force on 3 March 1924 by the Law on Unification of Education (No 430) With the new law, education became inclusive, organized on a model of the civil community In this new design, all schools submitted their curriculum to the “Ministry of National Education”, a government agency modeled after other countries’ ministries of education Concurrently, the republic abolished the two ministries and made clergy subordinate to the department of religious affairs, one of the foundations of secularism in Turkey The unification of education under one curriculum ended “clerics or clergy of the Ottoman Empire”, but was not the end of religious schools in Turkey; they were moved to higher education until later governments restored them to their former position in secondary after Atatürk’s death

Atatürk with his Panama hat just after the Kastamonu speech in 1925

Western attire

Beginning in the fall of 1925, Atatürk encouraged the Turks to wear modern European attire He was determined to force the abandonment of the sartorial traditions of the Middle East and finalize a series of dress reforms, which were originally started by Mahmud II The fez was established by Sultan Mahmud II in 1826 as part of the Ottoman Empire’s modernization effort The Hat Law of 1925 introduced the use of Western-style hats instead of the fez Atatürk first made the hat compulsory for civil servants The guidelines for the proper dressing of students and state employees were passed during his lifetime; many civil servants adopted the hat willingly In 1925, Atatürk wore a Panama hat during a public appearance in Kastamonu, one of the most conservative towns in Anatolia, to explain that the hat was the headgear of civilized nations The last part of reform on dress emphasized the need to wear modern Western suits with neckties as well as Fedora and Derby-style hats instead of antiquated religion-based clothing such as the veil and turban in the Law Relating to Prohibited Garments of 1934

Even though he personally promoted modern dress for women, Atatürk never made specific reference to women’s clothing in the law, as he believed that women would adapt to the new clothing styles of their own free will He was frequently photographed on public business with his wife Lâtife Uşaklıgil, who covered her head in accordance with Islamic tradition He was also frequently photographed on public business with women wearing modern Western clothes But it was Atatürk’s adopted daughters, Sabiha Gökçen and Afet İnan, who provided the real role model for the Turkish women of the future He wrote: “The religious covering of women will not cause difficulty This simple style is not in conflict with the morals and manners of our society”

Religious insignia

On 30 August 1925, Atatürk’s view on religious insignia used outside places of worship was introduced in his Kastamonu speech This speech also had another position He said:

On 2 September, the government issued a decree closing down all Sufi orders, the tekkes and other religious ideological lodges Atatürk ordered the dervish lodges to be converted to museums, such as Mevlana Museum in Konya The institutional expression of religious ideologies became illegal in Turkey; a politically neutral form of any religious ideology, functioning as social associations, was permitted to exist

Opposition to Atatürk in 1924–1927

Atatürk is greeted by marines in Büyükada (14 July 1927)

In 1924, while the “Issue of Mosul” was on the table, Sheikh Said began to organize the Sheikh Said Rebellion Sheikh Said was a wealthy Kurdish tribal chief of a local Naqshbandi order in Diyarbakır He emphasized the issue of religion; he not only opposed the abolition of the Caliphate, but also the adoption of civil codes based on Western models, the closure of religious orders, the ban on polygamy, and the new obligatory civil marriage Sheikh stirred up his followers against the policies of the government, which he considered anti-Islamic In an effort to restore Islamic law, Sheik’s forces moved through the countryside, seized government offices and marched on the important cities of Elazığ and Diyarbakır Members of the government saw the Sheikh Said Rebellion as an attempt at a counter-revolution They urged immediate military action to prevent its spread With the support of Mustafa Kemal, the acting prime minister Ali Fethi (Okyar) replaced with Ismet Inönü who on the 3 March 1925 ordered the invocation of the “Law for the Maintenance of Order” in order to deal with the rebellion It gave the government exceptional powers and included the authority to shut down subversive groups The law was repealed in March 1927

There were also parliamentarians in the GNA who were not happy with these changes So many members were denounced as opposition sympathizers at a private meeting of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) that Atatürk expressed his fear of being among the minority in his own party He decided not to purge this group After a censure motion gave the chance to have a breakaway group, Kâzım Karabekir, along with his friends, established such a group on 17 October 1924 The censure became a confidence vote at the CHP for Atatürk On 8 November, the motion was rejected by 148 votes to 18, and 41 votes were absent The CHP held all but one seat in the parliament After the majority of the CHP chose him, Atatürk said, “the Turkish nation is firmly determined to advance fearlessly on the path of the republic, civilization and progress”

On 17 November 1924, the breakaway group established the Progressive Republican Party (PRP) with 29 deputies and the first multi-party system began Some of Atatürk’s closest associates who had supported him in the early days of the War of Independence such as Rauf Bey (later Rauf Orbay), Refet Pasha, and Ali Fuat Pasha (later Ali Fuat Cebesoy) were among the members of the new party The PRP’s economic program suggested liberalism, in contrast to the state socialism of the CHP, and its social program was based on conservatism in contrast to the modernism of the CHP Leaders of the party strongly supported the Kemalist revolution in principle, but had different opinions on the cultural revolution and the principle of secularism The PRP was not against Atatürk’s main positions as declared in its program; they supported establishing secularism in the country and the civil law, or as stated, “the needs of the age” (article 3) and the uniform system of education (article 49) These principles were set by the leaders at the onset The only legal opposition became a home for all kinds of differing views

During 1926, a plot to assassinate Atatürk was uncovered in Smyrna (İzmir) It originated with a former deputy who had opposed the abolition of the Caliphate What originally was an inquiry into the planners shifted to a sweeping investigation Ostensibly, its aims were to uncover subversive activities, but in truth, the investigation was used to undermine those disagreeing with Atatürk’s cultural revolution The investigation brought a number of political activists before the tribunal, including Karabekir, the leader of the PRP A number of surviving leaders of the Committee of Union and Progress, including Mehmet Cavid, Ahmed Şükrü, and İsmail Canbulat, were found guilty of treason and hanged Because the investigation found a link between the members of the PRP and the Sheikh Said Rebellion, the PRP was dissolved following the outcomes of the trial The pattern of organized opposition was broken; this action was to be the only broad political purge during Atatürk’s presidency Atatürk’s statement, “My mortal body will turn into dust, but the Republic of Turkey will last forever,” was regarded as a will after the assassination attempt

Modernization efforts, 1926–1930

Atatürk at the 1927 opening of the State Art and Sculpture Museum

In the years following 1926, Atatürk introduced a radical departure from previous reformations established by the Ottoman Empire For the first time in history, Islamic law was separated from secular law and restricted to matters of religion He stated:

Atatürk at the library of the Çankaya Presidential Residence in Ankara, on 16 July 1929

On 1 March 1926, the Turkish penal code, modelled after the Italian penal code, was passed On 4 October 1926, Islamic courts were closed Establishing the civic law needed time, so Atatürk delayed the inclusion of the principle of laïcité (the constitutional principle of secularism in France) until 5 February 1937

Atatürk attending a class at the Law School of the Istanbul House of Multiple Sciences in 1930

In keeping with the Islamic practice of sex segregation, Ottoman practice discouraged social interaction between men and women Atatürk began developing social reforms to address this issue very early, as was evident in his personal journal He and his staff discussed issues such as abolishing the veiling of women and integrating women into the outside world His plans to surmount the task were written in his journal in November 1915:

This documentary film is about Atatürk and the modernization of the Turkish Republic

Atatürk needed a new civil code to establish his second major step of giving freedom to women The first part was the education of girls, a feat established with the unification of education On 4 October 1926, the new Turkish civil code, modelled after the Swiss Civil Code, was passed Under the new code, women gained equality with men in such matters as inheritance and divorce, since Atatürk did not consider gender a factor in social organization According to his view, society marched towards its goal with men and women united He believed that it was scientifically impossible for Turkey to achieve progress and become civilized if Ottoman gender separation persisted During a meeting he declaimed:

In 1927, the State Art and Sculpture Museum (Ankara Resim ve Heykel Müzesi) opened its doors The museum highlighted sculpture, which was rarely practised in Turkey due to the Islamic tradition of avoiding idolatry Atatürk believed that “culture is the foundation of the Turkish Republic,” and described modern Turkey’s ideological thrust as “a creation of patriotism blended with a lofty humanist ideal” He included both his own nation’s creative legacy and what he saw as the admirable values of global civilization The pre-Islamic culture of the Turks became the subject of extensive research, and particular emphasis was placed on the widespread Turkish culture before the Seljuk and Ottoman civilizations He instigated study of Anatolian civilizations – Phrygians, Lydians, Sumerians, and Hittites To attract public attention to past cultures, he personally named the banks “Sümerbank” (1932) after the Sumerians and “Etibank” (1935) after the Hittites He also stressed the folk arts of the countryside as a wellspring of Turkish creativity

At the time, the republic used the Ottoman Turkish language written in the Arabic script with Arabic and Persian loan vocabulary However, as little as 10% of the population was literate Furthermore, the American reformer John Dewey, invited by Atatürk to assist in educational reform, found that learning how to read and write Turkish in the traditional Arabic script took roughly three years In the spring of 1928, Atatürk met in Ankara with several linguists and professors from all over Turkey to unveil his plan to implement a new alphabet for the written Turkish language, based on a modified Latin alphabet The new Turkish alphabet would serve as a replacement for the old Arabic script and a solution to the literacy problem, since the new alphabet did not retain the complexities of the Arabic script and could be learned within a few months When Atatürk asked the language experts how long it would take to implement the new alphabet into the Turkish language, most of the professors and linguists said between three and five years Atatürk was said to have scoffed and openly stated, “We shall do it in three to five months”

Atatürk introducing the new Turkish alphabet to the people of Kayseri on 20 September 1928

Over the next several months, Atatürk pressed for the introduction of the new Turkish alphabet and made public announcements of the upcoming overhaul The creation of the alphabet was undertaken by the Language Commission (Dil Encümeni) with the initiative of Atatürk On 1 November 1928, he introduced the new Turkish alphabet and abolished the use of the Arabic script The first Turkish newspaper using the new alphabet was published on 15 December 1928 Atatürk himself travelled the countryside in order to teach citizens the new alphabet After vigorous campaigns, the literacy rate more than doubled from 106% in 1927 to 224% in 1940 To supplement the literacy reform, a number of congresses were organized on scientific issues, education, history, economics, arts and language Libraries were systematically developed, and mobile libraries and book transport systems were set up to serve remote districts Literacy reform was also supported by strengthening the private publishing sector with a new law on copyrights

Atatürk promoted modern teaching methods at the primary education level, and Dewey proved integral to the effort Dewey presented a paradigmatic set of recommendations designed for developing societies moving towards modernity in his “Report and Recommendation for the Turkish educational system” He was interested in adult education with the goal of forming a skill base in the country Turkish women were taught not only child care, dress-making, and household management but also skills necessary for joining the economy outside the home Atatürk’s unified education program became a state-supervised system, which was designed to create a skill base for the social and economic progress of the country by educating responsible citizens as well as useful and appreciated members of society In addition, Turkish education became an integrative system, aimed to alleviate poverty and used female education to establish gender equality Atatürk himself put special emphasis on the education of girls and supported coeducation, introducing it at university level in 1923–24 and establishing it as the norm throughout the educational system by 1927 Atatürk’s reforms on education made it significantly more accessible: between 1923 and 1938, the number of students attending primary schools increased by 224% (from 342,000 to 765,000), the number of students attending middle schools increased by 125 times (from around 6,000 to 74,000), and the number of students attending high schools increased by almost 17 times (from 1,200 to 21,000)

In 1930, leaving the parliament after the 7th-year celebration meeting

Atatürk generated media attention to propagate modern education during this period He instigated official education meetings called “Science Boards” and “Education Summits” to discuss the quality of education, training issues, and certain basic educational principles He said, “our should aim to provide opportunities for all pupils to learn and to achieve” He was personally engaged with the development of two textbooks The first on

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