Mustafa Kemal AtatÜrk

Mustafa Kemal, also known as Mustafa Kemal AtatÜrk was a former officer serving in the Ottoman and Turkish army, a revolutionary and the first president of the newly formed Republic of Turkey after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in 1922.

Kemal was said to have been born on 19th May 1881 in Saloncia, Ottoman Empire to Zübeyde Hanım and Ali Rıza Efendi in a Muslim Middle class household. This was due to the fact that the Ottoman Empire recognised the two calendars, the Rumi and Hijri calendars, yet it was unknown what calendar Kemal’s birth was registered under. It was generally accepted to have been on 19th May 1881 within the Gregorian calendar since the historian Reşit Saffet Atabinen put forth the suggestion. However this has been disputed amongst some individuals, yet Kemal himself registered his birth 19th May 1881 on all documentation. The name Kemal is also of interest as there are some theories as to how Mustafa received this additional name. According to Mustafa’s biographer Andrew Mango it was used because Mustafa picked it himself. However other theories suggest it stemmed from his school life. One theory suggests it was used in order to distinguish him from another student in his school who had the same name.

Kemal wished to pursue a Military career and in spite of his parents not wanting him to he enrolled himself into the Ottoman Military Academy in 1899. He eventually went to the Ottoman Military College afterwards and graduated Constantinople in 1905 in as a staff captain and was assigned to the Fifth Army in Damascus. He did this for two years until he was promoted to a Senior Captain rank in Macedonia, when stationed in Macedonia he joined the Committee of Union and Congress (CUP). This was an organisation designed to be a secret society that aimed to promote liberal reform within the empire, eventually becoming more of a political organisation by the time Kemal joined. Before the First World War he was involved in two wars the Italo-Turkish War (1911-1912) and the Balkan Wars of 1912-13.

When the First World War broke out the Ottoman Empire allied itself with Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, otherwise known as the Central Powers. Kemal led the Fifth Army at the time of the Battle of Gallipoli. The Fifth Army’s purpose was to defend the Dardanelles then known as Hellespont, which separated Europe and Asia Minor. For the Allies this battle proved to be flawed and fatal, however for Kemal it proved to be successful as he anticipated correctly where the allied forces would land. After Gallipoli he then served in East Thrace at Edirne and commanded the XVI corps after a Russian offence in the Anatolia region. However this did not last long as the Russians withdraw from the war as a result of the Russian Revolution in 1917. Soon after Kemal was in charge of the Seventh Army in the summer of 1917, yet this appointment did not last very long either as he did not get along with a German general after a disagreement mounted as Kemal claimed there was a lack of resources for troops at the Palestinian front and subsequently resigned as a result of this. Interestingly, Kemal was not afraid to stand up in what he believed in for a second time. This time he was invited to Germany and witnessed how the war was being conducted on the western front and supposedly made it known to Kaiser Wilhelm himself that Germany looked as though they would lose the war.

After the First World War the Ottoman Empire ceased to exist and the countries that were part of that empire became independent republics, including Turkey and a war of three years to place in order for Turkey to officially become independent after an election Kemal won the presidency. With Turkey’s independence came much reform and modernisation, this was something Kemal strongly advocated for as the first President of Turkey and the term Kemalism was established. This way of thinking pushed for a more democratic and westernised way of life for the Turkish people who deviated from the days of the Ottoman Empire, however at the same time it was not detrimental to their Religion, Islam. These reforms did much to improve finance, the economy, social and judicial procedures in Turkey, including education opportunities.

Reforms first occurred with the modernisation of the constitution in 1921. It was Kemal who was the driving force for these reforms and the most prominent of these was in 1921, when the Turkish constitution did not abide the law from a Sultan. Another major reform was the new location for Turkey’s capital. Previously when the Ottoman Empire was still in existence it was Constantinople, today known as Istanbul. However it was in 1924 when further adoptions were made to the constitution and consequently fully replaced the one from 1921. It was in 1924 that the title of Caliphate was abolished in Turkey, a term that had been in use since the Ottomans came to power in the sixteenth century.

With a wave of reform came opposition, those that did not like Kemal’s ideas for the modern Turkey, particularly with the abolition of the Caliphate. One of these said persons was Sheikh Said, a tribal chief of a Naqshbandi order. The Naqshbandi order relates to the Sunni branch of Islam and a spiritual order of Sufism. They claim to trace their ancestry back to the first Caliph, Abu Bakr the father-in-law to the prophet Muhammad. Sheikh Said was opposed to Kemal’s westernised concepts and how he had implemented them to Turkey. He led a rebellion against the reforms taking place and this rebellion was named after him as the Sheikh Said Rebellion. Another prominent opposition against Kemal was an attempted assassination. This occurred in 1926 and the motive again was said to have been a dislike for the abolition of the Caliphate. After this assassination attempt was uncovered it stopped not only the assignation but further political activists who posed as a threat to Kemal’s presidency, these individuals were found guilty of treason and sentenced to death.

If you enjoyed reading this post I suggest you read one of my earlier posts concerning the First World War about my own Great-Grandfather and his experience of Gallipoli, fighting for the allied forces.

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