Mustafa Kemal Ataturk was born on 19th of May 1881 in Saloniki, a city which was a one of the major ports of the Ottoman Empire. His father had a military record, having served in Turkish army during the Russo-Turkish War in 1877-1878. At the time of Mustafa’s birth his father was a customs officer, who later became a timber merchant. However, when Mustafa was just seven years old his father died which put the family through a lot of challenges.
As per his education, Mustafa finished primary school in Saloniki first, after which he attended secondary school in Rucholige. By the way, it was here that he received nickname “Kemal” which meant “The perfect one” and by which he became known aftermath. (Itzkowitz). The next step of Mustafa’s education dealt with military specialization. In 1895 he entered military college in Monastir (situated in Macedonia nowadays). The interesting fact is that it was namely here that he met his first future partners in the matter of creating Turkish Republic. Among these was Ali Fethi (Itzkowitz). In 1899 on the completion of his education in Monastir Mustafa moved to Istanbul and entered the War College. It is vital to emphasize that it was namely during this period of his life that he began to display many valuable personal qualities for which he was later known and praised and which helped him to do what he did in the matter of creation of Turkish Republic. Apart from his outstanding achievements in mathematics and literature he started learning French by himself in which he succeeded significantly. However, the most amazing was not what a great educational record he made, but what a character he developed. Mustafa began to display his prominent ability to show his initiative and to give orders wisely, at the same time keeping the spirit of fraternity with those he guided (Mustafa Kemal Ataturk). Also, this was exactly the period when his political views began to shape. In fact, during the period of his education Mustafa felt that his feelings of disgust and rebelliousness toward the existing regime of Sultan began to grow (Mustafa Kemal Ataturk). From now on he was ready to participate in underground movements targeted at toppling the Sultan’s regime.
It must be said that because of his participation in such movements he nearly was recognized disloyal after having been exposed to have connections with dissidents. After this incident he was even sent to Damascus to serve there. However things changed drastically soon, in 1907, and this was namely at this point that his military career as well as his importance began to go up.
A particular part of Mustafa’s biography deals with his involvement with the First World War, as it was namely him, who led Turkish army in battles with Allied Forces at Dardanelles, with Russians on the Mus Front, and with the British in Syria and Iraq (Mustafa Kemal Ataturk). Till the very end of the war, the very signature of the Armistice in the fall of 1918 he stayed in the field. However, after the end of the First World War when serious political transformations were about to explode in Turkey, Mustafa’s dissident’s view revived which made him stay at the forefront of the movements during 1918-1923.
The motives for the movement Ataturk started seem to be in fact a compilation of two incentives: on the one hand, he traditionally strongly opposed authoritarian imperialistic policy exercised by Turkish Sultanate and, on the other hand, he wanted to prevent Europeans from dismantling Turkey that according to the postwar treaties wanted to deprive this country of many of its lands. This is why Ataturk initiated the independence movement, not even approved by Sultan (in fact, the latter went as far as to sentence Ataturk to death in absentia) (Kemal Ataturk). Ataturk gained public support very quickly and with the help of military equipment and money he got from Russia he succeeded to expel the French, the Italians and the Armenians from Turkey. In 1921 Ataturk had serious clashes with Greeks, having expelled them from near Istanbul and was ready to attack Istanbul that was occupied by British forces. However, the British chose to negotiate rather than to make war and propounded organizing a conference with the participation of Ataturk, the British and Sultan. However, the latter felt that the situation had grown dangerous for him as his support had weakened and that of Ataturk had incrementally grown, so he fled the country leaving Ataturk alone to negotiate with the British. The very same year (October, 1923) the Grand National Assembly proclaimed the Republic of Turkey (Kemal Ataturk).
Having become the first president of Turkey Ataturk began developing swift changes. “The civilized world is far ahead of us,” he told an audience in October 1926. “We have no choice but to catch up.” However, his reign can be characterized by two quite different tendencies – reforms (of which I will speak below) and authoritarianism, as Ataturk banned opposition and oppressed freedom of speech (Kemal Ataturk).
Reforms implemented by Ataturk were substantial and numerous. Mainly they were designed to reach several main purposes. First of all, Ataturk realized that political nature of the country had to be changed drastically in the light of all the developments that had taken place during several decades before that. Also, one of his main goals was to make Turkey a secular state and to make it look like a European one. With an array of such ambitious goals Ataturk knew that reforms had to be drastic, swift and numerous. So, here is what Ataturk managed to implement to that end:
- Political reforms:
- abolishment of Sultanate and caliphate
- Creation of the People’s Party and of one-party system
- Declaration of the Republic
- Social reforms:
- Equal rights for women and men
- Garment’s reform
- Implementation of the western calendar and international system of time
- Legal reforms:
- Abolishment of Mecelle (civil code, based on Sharia rules)
- Creation of a new civil code targeted at making Turkey a secular state
- Educational reforms:
- Creation of a new Turkish alphabet
- Higher education reform
- Economic reforms:
- Promotion of business
- Development of agriculture
- Adoption of two plans of industrial developments
- Abolishment of the obsolete tax system (How Ataturk Made Turkey Secular)
So, we can see that these reforms really were all-consuming, drastic and ambitious.
Personal life of Ataturk is also interesting as he was married. for only two years, from 1923 to 1925. Also, the reasons for the divorce are not known at all. At the same time, this did not preclude Ataturk from bringing up 10 adopted children.
Ataturk died on 10th November 1938 because of the cirrhosis caused by chronic alcoholism. Till the very end of his life Ataturk continued to discharge his functions.
List of works cited
- “How Ataturk Made Turkey Secular.” Lost Islamic History. 11 June 2014. Web. 08 Dec. 2014. http://lostislamichistory.com/how-ataturk-made-turkey-secular/
- “Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.” Republic of Turkey. Ministry for Foreign Affairs. No date. Web. 08 Dec. 2014. http://www.mfa.gov.tr/mustafa-kemal-ataturk.en.mfa
- History.com Staff. “Kemal Ataturk.” History.com. 2009. Web. 08 Dec. 2014. http://www.history.com/topics/kemal-ataturk
- Itzkowitz, Norman. “Kemal Ataturk.” Encyclopedia Britanica. 04 Sep. 2014. Web. 08 Dec. 2014. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/40411/Kemal-Ataturk/24781/The-nationalist-movement-and-the-war-for-independence