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Turkey Marks 78th Anniversary of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk’s Demise

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It has been 78 years since the founder of our Republic, our leader Atatürk, passed away on 10th of November 1938 at 09.05. After the sirens had gone off, the flags had been lowered to half-mast, and the minute of silence had passed, the ceremony began.

With gratitude and longing, we sang the national anthem. Our leader has enlightened our way with his nobility, elegance and wisdom. Ghazi Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey, was commemorated in the entire country on the 78th anniversary of his death.

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk was a revolutionary who established the Republic of Turkey. He was Turkey’s first president, and his reforms modernized the country. Ataturk embarked upon a program of political, economic, and cultural reforms, seeking to transform the former Ottoman Empire into a modern, secular, and democratic nation-state.

Turkey Marks 78th Anniversary of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk's DemiseAbout Ataturk
Mustafa Kemal Ataturk was born in 1881 in the former Ottoman Empire. As a young man, he was involved with the Young Turks, a revolutionary group that deposed the sultan in 1909. Ataturk led the Turkish War of Independence and signed the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923, which made Turkey a republic. He was elected its first president and ushered in reforms that modernized Turkey. He died in 1938.

Early Life
Mustafa Kemal Ataturk was born simply “Mustafa” in the early months of 1881, in Salonika, in what was then the Ottoman Empire (his birthplace is now known as Thessalonika, in modern-day Greece). When he was 12 years old, Mustafa was sent to the military academy in Istanbul. There, his mathematics teacher gave him the name Kemal—meaning “perfection”—because he excelled in academics. He graduated in 1905.

Military Career
As a young man, Mustafa Kemal became a member of the Young Turks, a revolutionary movement of intellectuals. He participated in the Young Turk Revolution of July 1908, which successfully deposed Sultan Abdülhamid II. From 1909 to 1918, Mustafa Kemal held a number of posts in the Ottoman army. He fought against Italy in the Italo-Turkish War in 1911 and from 1912-1913 he fought in the Balkan Wars. During the second Balkan War he became chief of staff before being posted at the Turkish embassy in Bulgaria. He made a name for himself as the commander of the 19th Division, where his bravery and strategic prowess helped thwart the Allied invasion of the Dardanelles in 1915, and received repeated promotions until the Armistice of Mudros ended the fighting in 1918.

The armistice provisions gave the Allies the right to occupy forts that controlled major waterways, as well as any territory that might pose a threat to security. In 1919, Ataturk organized resistance to these forces, and when the Treaty of Sèvres was signed at the end of World War I, divvying up the Ottoman Empire, Mustafa Kemal demanded complete independence for Turkey. The Great National Assembly—the new Turkish parliament—engaged in a series of battles with Greek and Armenian forces until Mustafa signed the Treaty of Lausanne on October 29, 1923. This established the Republic of Turkey, and Mustafa Kemal became the country’s first president.

Ataturk’s Presidency
Mustafa Kemal’s first order of business was to modernize and secularize the country, which he did by studying Western governments and adapting their structure for the people of Turkey. He believed that modernization necessarily entailed Westernization, and he established a policy of state secularism, with a constitution that separated the government from religion.

Social and economic reforms were a crucial part of his strategy as well. He replaced the Arabic alphabet with a Latin one, introduced the Gregorian calendar and urged people to dress in Western clothes. Mustafa industrialized the nation, establishing state-owned factories around the country as well as a railway network. And a multitude of new laws established legal equality between the sexes. Mustafa removed women’s veiling laws and gave women the right to vote.

Although he believed he was advancing the country, not all of Mustafa Kemal’s reforms were warmly received. His policy of state secularism was particularly controversial, and he was accused of decimating important cultural traditions.

Personal Life
Mustafa Kemal was married briefly from 1923 to 1925, and although he never fathered off-spring, it is said he adopted 12 daughters and one son. Other sources say he had up to 8 children. In 1934, he introduced surnames in Turkey, and he took the last name Ataturk, which means “Father of the Turks.” He died on November 10, 1938, from cirrhosis of the liver.


Mustafa Kemal Ataturk
President (non-U.S., Republic of Turkey)
c. March, 1881 (19 May 1881)
November 10, 1938
Thessalonika, Greece
Istanbul, Turkey
Mustafa Kemal
Mustafa Kemal Ataturk
“Father of Turkey”
“Father of the Turks”

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