He was born in 1881 (probably in the spring) in Salonica,
then an Ottoman city, now in Greece. His father Ali Riza, a customs
official turned lumber merchant, died when Mustafa was still a boy.
His mother Zubeyde, a devout and strong-willed woman, raised him and
his sister. First enrolled in a traditional religious school, he soon
switched to a modern school. In 1893, he entered a military high school
where his mathematics teacher gave him the second name Kemal (meaning
perfection) in recognition of young Mustafa's superior achievement.
He was thereafter known as Mustafa Kemal.
In 1905, Mustafa Kemal graduated from the War Academy
in Istanbul with the rank of Staff Captain. Posted in Damascus, he
started with several colleagues, a clandestine society called "Homeland
and Freedom" to fight against the Sultan's despotism. In 1908
he helped the group of officers who toppled the Sultan. Mustafa Kemal's
career flourished as he won his heroism in the far corners of the
Ottoman Empire, including Albania and Tripoli. He also briefly served
as a staff officer in Salonica and Istanbul and as a military attache
In 1915, when Dardanelles campaign was launched, Colonel
Mustafa Kemal became a national hero by winning successive victories
and finally repelling the invaders. Promoted to general in 1916, at
age 35, he liberated two major provinces in eastern Turkey that year.
In the next two years, he served as commander of several Ottoman armies
in Palestine, Aleppo, and elsewhere, achieving another major victory
by stopping the enemy advance at Aleppo.
On May 19, 1919, Mustafa Kemal Pasha landed in the
Black Sea port of Samsun to start the War of Independence. In defiance
of the Sultan's government, he rallied a liberation army in Anatolia
and convened the Congress of Erzurum and Sivas which established the
basis for the new national effort under his leadership. On April 23,
1920, the Grand National Assembly was inaugurated. Mustafa Kemal Pasha
was elected to its Presidency.
Fighting on many fronts, he led his forces to victory against rebels
and invading armies. Following the Turkish triumph at the two major
battles at Inonu in Western Turkey, the Grand National Assembly conferred
on Mustafa Kemal Pasha the title of Commander-in-Chief with the rank
of Marshal. At the end of August 1922, the Turkish armies won their
ultimate victory. Within a few weeks, the Turkish mainland was completely
liberated, the armistice signed, and the rule of the Ottoman dynasty
In July 1923, the national government signed the Lausanne
Treaty with Great Britain, France, Greece, Italy, and others. In mid-October,
Ankara became the capital of the new Turkish State. On October 29,
the Republic was proclaimed and Mustafa Kemal Pasha was unanimously
elected President of the Republic.
Atatürk married Latife Usakligil in early 1923. The marriage ended
in divorce in 1925.
The account of Atatürk's fifteen year Presidency is a saga of dramatic
modernization. With indefatigable determination, he created a new
political and legal system, abolished the Caliphate and made both
government and education secular, gave equal rights to women, changed
the alphabet and the attire, and advanced the arts and the sciences,
agriculture and industry.
In 1934, when the surname law was adopted, the national
parliament gave him the name "Atatürk" (Father of the Turks).
On November 10, 1938, following an illness of a few
months, the national liberator and the Father of modern Turkey died.
But his legacy to his people and to the world endures.