Anitkabir or the Ataturk Mausoleum, dedicated to the Father of the Nation – Mustafa Kemal Ataturk – is probably the most important place in Ankara. Within the mausoleum complex, apart from the Ataturk’s tomb, the Ataturk Museum is what everyone should visit.
MUSTAFA KEMAL ATATURK
I don’t want to get into too many details about Ataturk. There is already a lot written about him, available on the internet. For the purpose of this post, I would like to highlight his most important achievements. Thus, it will be perfectly clear why such a monumental mausoleum has been constructed in his honour.
He was the founder of the modern Turkish Republic and its first president, until his death in 1938.
Ataturk secured a victory for the Ottoman Empire at the Battle of Çanakkale in 1915, during the First World War. After the war, he resisted the partition of Turkey among victorious Allied powers. In April 1920, he established the Turkish Grand National Assembly in Ankara. In what later became known as the Turkish War of Independence, he defeated the Allied forces and liberated Turkey from occupation.
Subsequently, the Ottoman Empire was abolished on the 1st November 1922, the Republic of Turkey established on the 29th October 1923 and the Islamic Caliphate ceased to exist on the 3rd March 1924.
THE ATATURK AND THE WAR OF INDEPENDENCE MUSEUM
The Ataturk Museum opened in 1960, but they renamed it to the Ataturk and the War of Independence Museum in 2002.
The museum consists of four sections. In the first section, you can see Ataturk’s personal belongings and presents that he received. In the second section, you will find the paintings and panoramas that depict the Çanakkale Battle and the War of Independence. The third section narrates about the Turkish national struggle, with various photographs and documents. In the fourth section, you can see the Ataturk’s books and also pages that he highlighted or where he took notes.
It’s a very big museum and to see everything in detail requires a lot of time. In other words, the museum presents a period of time in the Turkish history that is undoubtedly very familiar to the Turkish people.
For people like me, without much knowledge, certain section within the museum were more interesting than the others. I think that, in order to understand this place, it’s sufficient to get acquainted with some information. There is no need to know absolutely everything. We can’t emotionally relate to historical events that are no part of the history of our own countries.
In my opinion, the most interesting part of the museum is the section with paintings. I think that the paintings are the most effective way to convey the story, especially to people who don’t know much about the events that they depict.
The Turkish people make contributions in food, arms, equipment and garments such as clothes, shoes and socks, in a village in central Anatolia. The Commander in Chief issued Tekâlif-i Milliye in August 1921, before the Sakarya Battle.
The Commander-in-Chief, Gazi Mustafa Kemal Pasha, tried to learn about the general situation of the people, to gain their support, by making frequent trips before the Great Attack. He is meeting with people from the society and the painting shows their attitude towards him. Most of the people around him have already taken part in various battles.
Mustafa Kemal Pasha, speaker of the Turkish Grand National Assembly and Commander-in-Chief, Fevzi Pasha, Chief of General Staff, Kazim Karabekir Pasha, Commander of Eastern Front and Ismet Pasha, Commander of Western Front, leave for the front.
The Commander-in-Chief Gazi Mustafa Kemal Pasha, Ismet Pasha and Colonel Asım Gündüz are working on the war plan in Şuhut, on the 23rd August 1922.
Mustafa Kemal Pasha and the Commander of the Western Front, Ismet Pasha, are at the big military maneuver in Ilgin, on the 1st April 1922.
The painting below depicts a daily life in the trenches during the truce in the Çanakkale Battle. One soldier is having a haircut, another one is reading a letter from home. The third soldier is playing saz and is entertaining his friends. In the background, soldiers are playing football.
The painting below depicts the Entente Powers fleet entering the straits of Çanakkale. The French battleship Bouvet is sunk by a shell fired by Turkish cannons and abandoned by boats.
During the invasion by the Greek armies in Anatolia, which started by their arrival to Izmir on the 15th May 1919, many innocent civilians were killed in villages, town and cities. As per the historical evidence, clerics played a provoking role during these massacres. The painting below depicts a massacre by the Greek Army against civilians in a village in western Anatolia.
The Turkish Army is entering Izmir, together with the Commander-in-Chief Mustafa Kemal Pasha and his companions, with enthusiastic public demonstrations after the liberation of Izmir on 22nd September 1922. In the background, the Greek flag on the Izmir Government Office is lowered and the Turkish flag raised, while the city of Izmir is burning in flames.
In the next painting, Mustafa Kemal Pasha is observing maneuvers before the Great Attack in 1922.
THE MODERN TURKISH ALPHABET
Undoubtedly, all this is very interesting to see and it helps you to better understand that particularly turbulent period in the Turkish history.
But, I’ve learnt some other interesting things in this museum. One of them was how Ataturk modernised the Turkish alphabet. In the past, the Ottoman Turkish language used the Arabic script and very few people could read and write. The introduction of the Latin script and opening of schools all over the country helped elevate the majority of the population from almost total illiteracy. Indeed, you can’t have a modern, secular state if people can’t read and write.
Both, the mausoleum and the museum are very impressive. I am not surprised that the Turkish people hold Ataturk in such high esteem. After all, Turkey that we know today is because of him.