His original name was Mustafa Kemal, and the honorary title “Atatürk” was bestowed upon him as late as 1934, by the Grand National Assembly, and means “Father of the Turks”.
Atatürk’s achievements were many, but most were formed after clear Western ideals. Atatürk believed that the traditional way of running Muslim countries had outlived itself and that Turkey’s chances of surviving the future as well as gaining new strength would only be achieved through adopting principles from the European countries, which at that time had outdistanced Turkey in all fields.
His reforms included imposing regulations that hindered the use of central elements in the Oriental clothing style, the introduction of the Latin alphabet for Turkish, reduction of the centrality of Islam in Turkish public life, equality of all citizens regardless of religion, the emancipation of women, and regular education of the masses.
He introduced a political system that took many elements from Western systems, but he never allowed political pluralism, allowing only his own Republican People’s party.
Atatürk’s governmental structure had a unicameral parliament, an administration that had to answer for the quality of its achievements, as well as an effective bureaucracy. What was intended to become modern Turkey was defined from 6 principles:
- Statism (State control over the basic means of production, where the banks were used as the administrative body)
The price of Atatürk’s modernization was principally felt by his political rivals, which he had removed from power by 1926 when Kemal had them accused of an assassination conspiracy. Atatürk’s Turkey was never established as a democracy, but it relied heavily on the allegiance from the bureaucracy, and the country’s wealthy citizens.
The other victim of Atatürk was the traditional way of governing Islam. Islam ceased to be the state religion, and the Caliphate was abolished, an institution of great symbolic importance for many Muslims inside and outside the former Ottoman empire.
1881 May 19: Born into a middle-class family in Salonika (today’s Greek city of Thessaloniki), of a father who worked as a timber merchant.
1893: Kemal enters military school in Salonika. Later he went off to Bitola, now Macedonia.
1899: Kemal starts at the military academy in Istanbul.
1905 January: Kemal graduates from the academy as staff captain.
1906: While in virtual exile in Syria, Kemal founds the secret Fatherland and Freedom Society.
1907: Back in Salonika, he joins the Committee of Union and Progress.
1908: The Committee of Union and Progress carries out the young Turks revolution, but Kemal plays only a minor role in this action.
1909: With the coup that ousted the Sultan, Kemal is central and active.
1911: Kemal fought in Libya against Italy.
— November: Kemal is appointed major.
1912: Kemal organized the defense of the Dardanelles in the Balkan War.
1913 October: Kemal is appointed military attache to Bulgaria.
1915: Kemal played a vital role in the Galipolli Campaign, where Allied invasion was stopped.
1919 May 15: Kemal starts his campaign to oppose the Allied actions of the dismemberment of the old Ottoman Empire. At this time, Kemal was the inspector of the Third Army in Anatolia and started to operate against the orders from the sultan’s regime in Istanbul, gathering support from other powers in Turkey.
1920: The Sultan’s regime in Istanbul signs an agreement to leave parts of Anatolia to the Greeks, as drafted in the Treaty of Sevres.
— April: Kemal sets up a government in Ankara.
1921 August: Kemal’s army wins a decisive battle against the Greeks at Sakarya.
1922 August: After beating the Greeks in Dumlupinar, Kemal gets control over Izmir in the following month.
— November 1: The sultanate is abolished by the powers around Kemal.
1923 October 29: The republic is declared.
1926: Kemal has established himself as the sole strong man of Turkey, after putting his strongest competitors in prison.
1928: A law is imposed which has as its result that Islam is no longer the state religion.
1934: The Grand National Assembly bestows upon Kemal the honorary title “Atatürk”, meaning “Father of the Turks”, as an appreciation of his work for establishing modern Turkey.
1930s: With the rise of Fascism and Nazism in Europe, Atatürk establishes stronger relationships with Britain and France.
1938 November 10: Atatürk dies in Istanbul.