Ataturk and the Modernization of Turkey

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk - Atatürk

Ataturk is the national hero of Turkey. He founded the modern Turkish Republic out of the ashes of the Ottoman Empire; an empire that was seen as the sick man of Europe at the turn of the century. His modern perspective created a new nation and a country, and a secular state understanding different from most other Islamic countries was introduced by him. Once you step in Turkey, you will see his statues and the busts all over. One of the best books written about Ataturk from a foreigner’s point of view is the book titled ” The Rebirth of a Nation” by Lord Kinross.

He was born in the year 1881 in Thessaloniki, at that time, within the Ottoman Empire’s borders at that time, in Greece at present . His full name was Mustafa Kemal and the Ataturk surname, meaning the father of Turks, was given to him by the Turkish people (1934 November 24th.) in accordance with the reforms he introduced to create a modern Turkish country.

His background was military, and he served in various posts in the Ottoman army. During the First World War , he was the colonel in charge of Infantry at Gallipoli in 1915 and it was his genious defense tactics that prevented the allied forces ( British, French, Anzacs – Australians and New Zealenders and Senegalese) from capturing the Dardanelles and eventually Bosphorus.

His success and fast growing reputation disturbed the capital and to keep him under control he was promoted to Pasha ( General ). When the War ended the armies of the allied forces occupied nearly all corners of the country including Istanbul. Sultan and many of the people saw a hopeful future in the acceptance of either the British or American mandate. Ataturk, however, had a very different vision. He left Istanbul in a small boat, namely Bandirma ( a nice model of the boat may be seen at the Ataturk Museum in Ataturk’s Mausoleum, Ankara), going ashore at Samsun, a coastal town in the Black Sea, on the 19th. of May 1919 ( a date later to be presented by Ataturk to the Turkish Youth as the Turkish Youth Day), the day the War of Independence began. He wanted Independence.

First with skirmishes , in time with proper army troops, Ataturk and his army friends’ armies started fighting the enemy. Ankara was chosen to be Ataturk’s headquarter for its central location and the seeds of a new country were planted there. He and his friends wanted to replace the Monarchy with a Republic. The War of Independence took some three years and by the end of the year 1922, all of the invaders had left the country. The Ottoman Sultan fled in a British boat. The birth of a new nation had begun.

Ataturk’s Revolutions

Political Revolutions

The Sultanete was abolished in 1922, November 1st.
The Republic was declared in 1923, October 29th.
The Caliphship was abolished in 1924, March 3rd.

Social Reformations

The hat as opposed to fez was introduced. (1925)
The activities of religious sects were banned by law. ( 1925)
Western calender was introduced. ( 1925)
International numeric system was introduced. ( 1928)
The Metric system was introduced. ( 1931)
The nicknames and personal titles were abolished.  ( 1934)
Religious attire was prohibited in public ( 1934). According to this law, religious personalities, irrespective of the religious groups they belong were not to wear religious attire in public but only in their sanctuaries.
The surname law.( 1934)
The modern secular system of jurisprudence is instead of religious law is integrated.( 1926)
The liberation of the women of Turkey by giving them political and social rights.
a) Rights brought with medeni kanun ( 1926)
b) Rights for women to be elected for the parliment

Educational and Cultural Reformations

Unity in Education ( 1924 )
Introduction and the acceptance of the Roman alphabeth. ( 1928 )
The foundation of Turkish History Institution
The foundation of Turkish Language Institution

The Principles of Ataturk ( Kemalism)

The doctrines of Ataturk or Kemalism is a system of thought based on the facts of Turkey. It is shaped with the will of the Turkish nation through a long historical background. Above all, Kemalism  is the introduction and the rendering of the rights to the nation. It is the expression of the national sovereignity.It is an attempt to reach the level of the modern civilizations, it is westernization, modernization. It requires to experience a modern social life, to establish a secular state, and to govern with a positive science mentality.
The principles of Kemalism can be viewed in two groups: “The Basic Principles” and “The Complementary Principles”.

The definition of the principles as Ataturk has expressed them:

The Basic Principles


The Complementary Principles

National Sovereignity
National Independance
National Unitiy and Togetherness
Peace at home Peace abroad
Scientificism and Rationalism

Ataturk’s Address to the Turkish Youth

Turkish youth!
Your first duty is to project and preserve the Turkish independence and the Turkish Republic forever . This is the very foundation of your existence and your future. This foundation is your most precious treasure. In the future, too, there may be malovelent people at home and abroad, who wish to deprive you of this treasure. If some day you are compelled to defend your independence and your republic, you must not tarry to weigh the possibilities and circumstances of the situation before taking up your duty. These possibilities and circumstances may turn out to be extremely unfavorable. The enemies conspiring against your independence and your Republic may have behind them a victory unprecedented in the annals of the world. By violence and ruse, all the fortresses of your beloved fatherland may be captured, all its shipyards occupied, all its armies dispersed and every part of the country invaved. And sadder and graver than all these circumstances, those who hold power within the country may be in error, misguided and may even be traitors. Furthermore, they may identify their personal interests with the political designs of the invaders. The country may be impoverished, ruined and exhausted.

You, the youth of Turkey’s future, even in such circumstances, it is your duty to save the Turkish independence and Republic. The strength you need is in your noble blood within your veins 



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