‘The father of Turks’: Who is Atatürk and why does Turkey celebrate Victory Day?


History includes countless wars and subsequent deaths. Millions of soldiers have died throughout history to defend or occupy territories, including their homelands. Like many other nations, Turkey has a history filled with both victory and defeat. Every year on August 30th, Turkish people gather to celebrate a victory that was crucial to the founding and development of their Republic.

Unless a nation’s life faces peril, war is murder.”

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, (1881-1938)

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, founder of the Republic of Turkey and the man responsible for reconstructing a modern Turkish society, is an integral part of the country’s annual celebration.

Victory Day (August 30th, 1922) is celebrated by people across Turkey and occupied Northern Cyprus every year and has been a national holiday since 1926. It celebrates a series of decisive victories against Greek forces that occupied western parts of Turkey after World War I in what became The Great Offensive, commencing with The Battle of Dumlupinar. This final battle in the Greco-Turkish war is also known as ‘Field Battle of the Commander-in-Chief’, honouring the fact that Atatürk led the offensive in person as Commander-in-Chief.

Atatürk’s name is suggestive of his popularity in Turkish culture: ‘The father of Turks’ is known for rebuilding the country after World War I under what many consider to have been tough conditions. As well as commanding wars, he helped head several revolutionary changes to the country’s way of life such as The Proclamation of the Republic, The Abolition of the Caliphate (recognised as the country’s first step towards secularism) and better rights for women. Overall, Atatürk is considered to have pushed Turkish society towards modernity.

Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives… You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie slide by side in this country of ours. You, the mothers, who sent their sons from far away countries, wipe away your tears. Your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have became our sons as well.

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, (1881-1938)


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