Mustafa Kemal Ataturk Biography

(Founder of the Republic of Turkey,)

Birthday: May 19, 1881 (Taurus)

Born In: Thessaloniki

Kemal Ataturk was the founder of the Republic of Turkey. He was an army officer and revolutionary, who led the Turkish National Movement in the Turkish War of Independence and set up the provisional government at Ankara. His excellence in military campaigns and leadership led to victory in the Turkish War of Independence. During his term as the President, he brought about various political, social, and economic changes which transformed the country completely from being an Ottoman Empire to a modern, secular, and democratic nation-state. He modernized the country through his reforms which emancipated women, abolished Islamic institutions, introduced Western legal codes, dress, calendar, and alphabet, and helped maintain friendly relations with neighboring countries. It was for his relentless and selfless service to the nation that he was given the surname Ataturk which means ‘Father of the Turks’.

Quick Facts

Died At Age: 57


Spouse/Ex-: Latife Uşşaki (m. 1923–1925)

father: Ali Rıza Efendi

mother: Zübeyde Hanım

siblings: Makbule Atadan

children: Afet İnan, Fikriye Atatürk, Mustafa Atatürk, Nebile Bayyurt, Rukiye Erkin, Sabiha Gökçen, Ülkü Adatepe, Zehra Aylin

Born Country: Turkey

Presidents Revolutionaries

political ideology: Committee of Union and Progress, Republican People's Party

Died on: November 10, 1938

place of death: Istanbul

City: Thessaloniki, Greece

More Facts

education: Monastir Military High School, Ottoman Military College

awards: 1906 - Medjidie Order
5th class in Silver for Distinguished service
1912 - Osminieh Order

4th class in Silver for Achievements during the Battle of Benghazi
1915 - Osminieh Order
3rd class in Silver for Achievements during the building of the 19th Division
1915 - Order of Saint Alexander for Achievements during the Battle of Gallipoli
1915 - Imtiyaz Medal in Silver for Achievements during command of the 19th Division of 5th Army
1915 - Liakat Medal in silver for Achievements during the Battle of Gallipoli
1915 - Iron Cross in Iron for Achievements during the Battle of Gallipoli
1916 - Liakat Medal in Gold for Achievements during the Battle of Sari Bair
1916 - Osminieh Order
2nd class in Silver for Achievements during the Caucasus Campaign
1916 - Military Merit Medal for Achievements during the World War I
1916 - Military Merit Cross
3rd class for Achievements during the World War I
1916 - Medjidie Order
2nd class in Gold for Achievements during command of the XVIth Corps of the 2nd Army
1917 - Iron Cross 1st Class for Achievements during the World War I
1917 - Iron Cross 2nd Class for Achievements during the World War I
1917 - Military Merit Medal
2nd class for Achievements during the World War I
1917 - Imtiyaz Medal in Gold for Achievements during the Caucasus Campaign
1917 - Medjidie Order
1st class in Gold for Achievements during the World War I
1918 - Order of the Crown of Prussia
1st class for Achievements during the World War I
1918 - War Medal in Silver for World War I veteran
1923 - Aliyülala Order in Gold
1923 - Turkish Medal of Independence in Bronze for Accomplishments during the War of Independence
1925 - Murassa Order in Platinum for Establishment of TAA
1931- Sadakat Silver Hizmet Salibi

Childhood & Early Life

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk was born as Mustafa to Zubeyde Hanim and Ali Rıza Efendi. While his mother was a housewife, his father was employed as a militia officer, title-deed clerk, and lumber trader. He was the only child of the couple who survived past childhood.

When he was 12 years of age, he attended the military academy where his mathematics teacher gave him the name ‘Kemal’ or perfection for his excellence in academics. The name stayed with him for the rest of his life. In 1905, he completed his studies.

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Following his studies, he was drafted as a staff Captain in the Fifth Army based in Damascus. No sooner he was promoted to the rank of Senior Captain and eventually Inspector of the Ottoman Railways in Eastern Rumelia

While continuing his service, he became an active member of the Young Turks, a revolutionary movement of the intellectuals. In 1908, he even went on to participate in the Young Turk Revolution, which successfully seized power from Sultan Abdulhamid II and established a constitutional monarchy.

For a period of about 9 years from 1909 to 1918, he held a number of posts in the Ottoman Army. He actively contributed to the Italo-Turkish War from 1911 to 1912 where he fought against Italy and later in the Balkan War from 1912 to 1913.

In 1913, he was appointed as the Ottoman military attache to all Balkan states and promoted to the rank of Kaymakam (Lieutenant Colonel) in 1914. In the First World War, he was given the task of commanding the 19th Division.

As a commander of the 19th Division, he became quite famous and was known all through for his astute sense, bravery, and strategic prowess. These capabilities helped him thwart the Allied invasion of the Dardanelles in 1915.

During the battle, he received repeated promotions until the Armistice of Mudros ended the fighting in 1918. Despite the conclusion of World War I, the treaty gave the Allies the right to occupy forts that controlled major waterways. It was then that he organized a resistance movement for complete independence.

He then engaged himself completely in the Turkish War of Independence. The Turks engaged in a series of battles against the Greek and Armenian forces until the Treaty of Lausanne was signed on October 29, 1923, leading to the establishment of the Republic of Turkey.

He was appointed as the first president of the Republic of Turkey. In the new role, he instituted several political, social, and economic reforms, banking on the reputation he had gained from his military background.

His first key step as the president was to secularize the country from being a Muslim state to a modern, democratic, and secular nation-state. He studied and adapted the Western government structure for the same. He successfully established a constitution that separated the government from religion and professed state secularism.

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Other than constitutional changes, he brought about a major change in the social and cultural arena and established the backbone of legislative, judicial, and economic structures.

He eradicated the Arabic alphabet, giving way for Latin to rule the nation. He even insisted that no prayers should be made in Turkish and Arabic should be used instead.

Furthermore, he introduced the Gregorian calendar instead of the Islamic calendar and urged people to accept the Westernized ways. He insisted on wearing Western clothes, thus abandoning the sartorial tradition of the Middle East. He forbade wearing fez hats, turbans, and headscarves.

Under his rule, the gender difference ceased to almost zero as he established equality between the sexes in a legal manner. Women were provided equal civic and political rights. They were bereft of veiling laws as well.

He established thousands of new schools, providing free and compulsory primary education. He banned the religious schools and instead appointed the secular schools which came under the governance of the Ministry of National Education.

He abolished the Caliphate to reform the political system and promote national sovereignty. Its powers were transferred to the GNA. Though other countries debated on confirming or discouraging the Turkish nation, they could not come to a single conclusion.

His foreign policy rested on his motto of ‘peace at home and peace in the world’. During his presidency, he resolved all foreign issues in a peaceful manner, not once using military might to solve problems.

The economic policies under his rule helped develop small and large-scale businesses. During the Great Depression, he established the Central Bank of the Republic of Turkey, the main purpose of which was to control exchange rates. He even supervised the first and second five-year economic plans.

Awards & Achievements

The Turkish government bestowed upon him several high-profile decorations such as Fifth Class Knight Order of the Medjidie, Silver Imtiyaz Medal, Silver Liakat Medal, Golden Liakat Medal, Second Class Knight Order of Osmanieh, Second Class Knight Order of the Medjidie, Golden Imtiyaz Medal, First Class Knight Order of the Medjidie, Gallipoli Star, Medal of Independence and Murassa Order

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Other countries that honored him include France’s National Order of the Legion of Honour, Bulgaria’s Commander Grand Cross Order Of Saint Alexander, Germany’s 1st and 2nd Class Iron Cross, Prussia’s 1st Class Order of the Crown Prussia, Alüyülala Order of Kingdom of Afghanistan and so on.

Personal Life & Legacy

Before being in a nuptial relationship, he was speculated to be in a romantic relationship with two women - Eleni Karinte and Fikriye Hanim. He married Latife Usakligil on January 29, 1923. The union was not a happy one and the two separated in 1925.

Though he had no biological children, he is said to have adopted thirteen children, 12 daughters and one son of which Sabiha Gokcen became famous for being the world's first female fighter pilot and Turkey's first female pilot

His health deteriorated starting in 1937. He suffered from a serious illness in 1938 while on a trip to Yalova. He was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver.

He finally breathed his last on November 10, 1938, at the age of 57, in the Dolmabahçe Palace, Istanbul. His funeral was a moment of sorrow and pride for Turkey. Representatives from 17 countries attended his funeral.

His remains were first laid in the Ethnography Museum of Ankara - 15 years later, they were transferred in a 42-ton sarcophagus, to a mausoleum that overlooks Ankara, Anıtkabir.

His centennial birth year was honored by the UN and UNESCO as The Atuturk Year in the World and adopted the Resolution on the Ataturk Centennial.

Several monuments, memorials, and squares have been constructed in his honor. Roads and avenues throughout the world bear his name


This first President of the Republic of Turkey was given the nickname ‘Father of the Turks’.

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