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Mustafa Kemal Ataturk – student at Bitola (Monastir) military high school

The Founder and First President of the Republic of Turkey – Mustafa Kemal Atatürk  (Мустафа Кемал Ататурк, Мustapha Кemal Аtaturk, Мostafa Кemal Ataturk) studied in Bitola (Monastir) military high school since March 13, 1896, until 1899, in the period when Macedonia was under Turkish rule.

In this text is presented short biography of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, an excerpt from the book “Ataturk and the War of Independence Museum” published by Turkish General Staff

Family of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk  

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk was born in Salonika in 1881 in a three floors pink house on Islahane Avenue in Kocakasim District. His father was Ali Rıza Efendi and his mother was Zübeyde Hanım. His grandfather Hafız Ahmet Efendi on his father’s side, was from Kocacık Yörüks (a nomadic shepherd tribe from Anatolia) that had come from Konya and Aydın and settled at Kocacık in Macedonia in the XIV – XV centuries.

His mother Zübeyde Hanım was a member of an old Turkish family that had settled in the town of Langaza near Salonika. Ali Rıza Efendi served as a militia officer, a clerk of estates in mortmain, a customs official, and undertook the trade of lumber. He married Zübeyde Hanım in 1871 and died in 1893 at the age of 54. Four of Atatürk’s five siblings died at an early age, only Makbule (Atadan) lived until 1956. Zübeyde Hanım raised her children with great self-sacrifice and was an exemplary Turkish woman. She died in İzmir on January 14, 1923 at the age of 66 after witnessing the successes of her son.


Childhood, Youth

When Atatürk reached school age, he first started his education at Hafız Mehmet Efendi local primary school and later at his father’s request he attended Şemsi Efendi School. Meanwhile lie lost his father in 1893. He spent some time at the Rapla farm with his maternal uncle and later returned to Salonika and finished his school.

He registered at Selanik (Thessaloniki, Солун) Secondary School. In 1894, a short time later, he entered the Military Secondary School. At this school, his mathematics teacher Mustafa added “Kemal” to his name. Between 1896 -1899, he completed the Monastir Military High School and started his education at the Military Academy in Istanbul.

Bitola (Monastir) military high school

In 1902 he graduated with the rank of lieutenant. He continued at the Staff College. On January 11, 1905 he completed the College with the rank of Staff Captain.

Between 1905-1907, he undertook duties in the command of the 5th Army in Damascus. In 1907 he became a Senior Captain and was assigned to the 3rd Army in Monastir (Bitola).

On April 19, 1909 he was the Chief of Staff in the Operations Army that entered Istanbul. In 1910 he was sent to France. He attended Picardie Manoeuvres. In 1911 he started to work under the command of the General Staff in İstanbul.

During Tripoli and Balkan Wars

In 1911 in the war that broke out with the Italians’ assault on Tripoli, Mustafa Kemal took duties with a group of friends in Tobruk and Damah regions. On December 22, 1911 Tobruk Battle was won against the Italians. On March 6, 1912 he was promoted to the Commander of Damah.

In October 1912 when the Balkan War started, Mustafa Kemal joined the war with regiments from Gallipoli and Bolayir. He performed great services in the recapture of Dimetoka (Dhidhimotikhon) and Edirne.

In 1913 he was assigned as the Military Attache to Sofia. While he was performing these duties, he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in 1914. His duties as Military Attache ended in January 1915. In the meantime, World War I started, and the Ottoman Empire was forced to enter the war. Mustafa Kemal was appointed to Tekirdağ to set up the 19th Division.





At Çanakkale

During World War I that started in 1914, Mustafa Kemal wrote a heroic epic and made the Entente States say “The Dardanelles is impassable!” On March 18, 1915, the English and French fleets that tried to pass the Dardanelles Strait, after having heavy losses, decided to land troops on the Gelibolu (Gallipoli) Peninsula. On April 25, 1915, the forces that landed at Anburnu (Cape of Bees) were stopped at Conkbayin (Chunuk Bair) by the 19th Division, commanded by Mustafa Kemal. As a result of this success, Mustafa Kemal promoted to Colonel.

The English attacked once again at Anburnu on August 6-7, 1915. The Anafarta Group Commander Mustafa Kemal won the Anafartalar victory on August 9-10. This victory was followed by the victories at Kireçtepe on August 17, and the 2nd Anafartalar on August 21.

The Turkish nation that lost 253,000 lives, of whom 60,000 were martyred, at the Çanakkale Battles knew how to protect their honor against the Entente States. Mustafa Kemal’s command to his soldiers, “I do not order you to attack, I do order you to die!” changed the fate of the battles.

At Other Fronts During the First World War

In 1916 after the Çanakkale Battles, Mustafa Kemal took up duties in Edirne and Diyarbakır. On April 1,1916, he was promoted to Major General. By fighting against the Russian forces he recaptured Muş and Bitlis. After short-term duties in Damascus and Aleppo, he returned to İstanbul in 1917.

He went to Germany with Crown Prince Vahidettin Efendi and made investigations at the front. He became ill after this trip. He went to Vienna and Karlsbad for treatment. On August 15, 1918, he returned to Aleppo as the 7th Army Commander. On this front, he undertook successful defensive battles against the English forces.

On October 31, 1918, one day after the signing of the Mudros Armistice, he was assigned as the Commander of the Lightning Armies Group. Upon the abolishment of this army, on November 13, 1918, he came to Istanbul and commenced duties at the Ministry of War.


Towards the War of Independence

After the Mudros Armistice with the commencing of occupation of the Ottoman Empire by the Entente States, Mustafa Kemal went to Samsun on May 19, 1919 as the 9th Army inspector. In the proclamation published on June 22, 1919 in Amasya he announced, “The independence of the country will be saved once again by the determination and decisiveness of the nation ” and lie decided to hold a congress in Sivas.


The Erzurum Congress was held between July 23-August 7, 1919 and the Sivas Congress was held between September 4-11, 1919 to ensure the designation of the path to be followed to free the country.

He was welcomed with excitement in Ankara on December 27, 1919. With the opening of the Turkish Grand National Assembly on April 23,1920, a significant step was taken on the path for the founding of the Republic of Turkey.

Mustafa Kemal was elected the Speaker of the Assembly and the President of the Government. The Turkish Grand National Assembly promulgated the necessary laws for the successful conclusion of the War of Independence and ensured their enforcement.

During the War of independence

The Turkish War of Independence started with the shooting of the first bullet, on May 15, 1919, during the occupation of İzmir by the Greeks. Initially, they fought with the militia forces called “the National Forces” against the states that won the World War I and who shared among themselves the Ottoman Empire by signing the Sevres Treaty on August 10, 1920.

The Turkish Grand National Assembly established a regular army and by uniting the National Forces and the Army, the war concluded with a victory. Under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal, the important stages of the Turkish War of Independence are as follows:

  • The liberation of Sarıkamış (September 19, 1920),
  • Kars (October 30, 1920) and
  • Gümrü (November 7, 1920)
  • The defenses of Gaziantep, Kahramanmaraş and Şanlıurfa (1919-1921)
  • The First İnönü Victory (January 6-10, 1921)
  • The Second İnönü Victory (March 23 – April 1, 1921)
  • The Sakarya Pitch Battle (August 23 – September 13, 1921)
  • The Great Attack, the Commander-in-chief Battle and the Great Victory (August 26 – September 9, 1922)


After the Sakarya Victory, on September 19, 1921, the Turkish Grand National Assembly bestowed on Mustafa Kemal the rank of Marshal and the title of Gazi (holy veteran). The War of Independence was concluded on July 24, 1923, with the signing of the Lausanne Agreement. Thus, there was no obstacle left for the founding of a new Turkish State on the Turkish land that had been broken into pieces by the Sevres Treaty, with an area equal to the size of 5-6 provinces left to the Turks.



The Foundation of the Republic of Turkey

On April 23, 1920, the opening of the Turkish Grand National Assembly in Ankara was the herald of the foundation of the Republic of Turkey. The Assembly’s successful leading of the Turkish War of Independence accelerated the foundation of the new Turkish State. On November 1, 1922 the Caliphate and the Sultanate were separated from each other and the sovereignty of the sultans was abolished.

Thus, the ties with the Ottoman Empire were broken off on October 13, 1923, Ankara was proclaimed the capital. On October 29, 1923, the Republic administration was accepted and Atatürk was elected as the first President with a unanimous vote. On October 30, 1923 the Republic’s first government was established by İsmet İnönü. The Republic of Turkey started to advance on the principles of “Sovereignty belongs unconditionally and unrestrictedly to the nation” and “Peace at home, peace in the world”.

Reformer Atatürk

Atatürk made a series of reforms with the objective of “raising Turkey above the contemporary level of civilization”:

I. Political Reforms: The abolishment of the Sultanate (November 1, 1922), the proclamation of the Republic (October 29, 1923), the abolishment of the Caliphate (March 3, 1924).

II. Social Reforms: Giving equal rights to women (1926, 1934), the hat and clothing reform (November 25, 1925), closing of the dervish lodges, the cells or convents of recluses and the tombs of saints (November 30, 1925), the Surname Law (June 21, 1934), the abolishment of titles (November 26,1934) and the acceptance of international time, calendar, and measures (1925, 1931).

III. Reforms in Jurisprudence: Abolishment of the old Turkish civil code, and by promulgating the Turkish Code of Civil Law and other laws, the transition to a secular legal system (1924-1937).

IV. Reforms in the fields of Education and Culture: The unification of education (March 3,1924), acceptance of the new Turkish alphabet (November 1,1928), the establishment of the Turkish Language and History Associations (1931,1932), rearrangement of High Education, innovations in Fine Arts.

V. Reforms in the field of Economics: Abolishment of the title or tax on crops, agricultural incentives, the establishment of model farms, the promulgation of the Industrial Incentive Law and the establishment of industrial organizations, putting into practice the 1st and 2nd Development Plans (1933, 1937), equipping the country with new roads.


Atatürk, the Statesman

The Great Leader Atatürk was elected the Speaker of the Turkish Grand National Assembly on April 24, 1920 and August 13, 1923. This presidential duty was at the level of State and Government Presidency.

On October 23, 1923 the Republic was proclaimed and Atatürk was elected as the first President. In accordance with the Constitution, the presidential elections were repeated once in every four years.

In 1927, 1931, and 1935 the Turkish Grand National Assembly reelected Atatürk the President. Atatürk frequently went on trips in the country to check on the activities of the state in its place. He gave orders concerning the delayed aspects to the relevant people. As President, he welcomed the foreign country head of states, prime ministers, and commanders who visited Turkey.

Between October 15-20, 1927, he gave the Great Speech narrating the War of Independence and the founding of the Republic and on October 29, 1933 he gave the Tenth Year Speech.

Atatürk’s Personal Life

In his personal life, Atatürk lived in simplicity. On January 29, 1923 he married Lâtife Hanım in İzmir. They went together on many trips in the country. This marriage lasted until August 5, 1925. Atatürk loved children very much and he adopted Afet (İnan), Sabiha (Gökçen), Fikriye, Ülkü, Nebile, Rukiye and Zehra and one shepherd boy called Mustafa and brought up the children named Abdurrahim and îlısan and he prepared a bright future for them.

In 1937 he donated his farms to the treasury and some of his property to the Ankara and Bursa Municipalities. From his estate, he set aside shares for his sister, his adopted children and the Turkish Language and History Association.

He liked reading, listening to music, dancing, horseback riding and swimming very much. He had an extreme interest in the Zeybek folk dances, the Rumelian folk songs and wrestling. He enjoyed playing backgammon and billiards. He placed great value on his horse named Sakarya and his dog Fox. He collected a rich library. He invited statesmen, scientists and artists to dinners and debated the issues of the country. He took pains to dress well. He loved nature very much. He went frequently to the Atatürk Forest Farm and personally participated in the activities.

He spoke French and German. He passed away in İstanbul on November 10, 1938 at 9:05 a.m. from cirrhosis of the liver. His body was brought to his temporary place of rest at the Ankara Ethnographic Museum. Upon the completion of Anıtkabir (the Mausoleum), his body was buried to his eternal place of rest with a magnificent ceremony on November 10, 1953.