If you plan to visit Turkey, you shouldn’t be surprised to see more pictures of Atatürk than all the boy bands and pop stars combined. His pictures are in every school, office, home, restaurant, bar and shopping mall. His signature can be found as decals on car windows and on 3 story murals around the city (we have even seen people that have tattooed his signature onto their bodies!).
Here are three things you must know about Atatürk if you want to understand modern-day Turkey:
1. Atatürk was a Great War Hero
(Photo Credit: BBC)
Atatürk, originally known as Mustafa Kemal, was born in Ottoman Salonica (present day Thessaloniki, Greece) towards the end of the nineteenth century. After completing his schooling, he quickly rose through the ranks of the Ottoman Army. When the First World War broke out, he successfully repulsed the Allied attack at Gallipoli thus saving the Ottoman Empire from an early defeat. This victory, along with his other military successes during the war, established his reputation.
2. Atatürk Led the Revolution that Saved Turkey
(Photo Credit: Unknown)
After the Ottoman Empire’s defeat in the First World War, the Allies planned to partition the Empire amongst themselves. The Ottoman Sultan and his government concurred while Atatürk strongly disagreed. Thus, he led a national resistance against the subsequent Greek invasion and established a new capital in the Turkish heartland, Ankara. The subsequent expulsion of the Greeks from Anatolia, followed by a new treaty with the Allies, led to the establishment of the Republic of Turkey in 1923.
3. Atatürk Established a Secular, Modern Turkey
(Photo Credit: IAEA)
He is known as the Founding Father of Turkey. In fact, his honorary name Atatürk, means Father of the Turks. After the foundation of the Turkish Republic, he spearheaded dramatic economic, political, and social reforms. These included: the transformation of the Turkish alphabet, the beginnings of representative democracy, including women’s rights, and secularization. Today, he is revered throughout Turkey among people from all regions and across classes.
[If you’re in Ankara, don’t forget to visit his resting place, Anitkabir!]