Ataturk and the Turkish War of Independence

However, more storm clouds were in store for him. The signing parties of the Armistice of Mondoros i.e., France, Britain and Italy openly flouted the terms laid down and did not withdraw their armies from the Turkish Provinces. Thus Adana was still occupied by the French, Urfa, Maras, Merzifon and Samsun by the British and Antalya and Konya by the Italian troops.

To top it all, on May 15th, 1919, the Greek Army, with the consent of France, Britain and Italy, intruded Izmir. A war was imminent.

Mustafa Kemal decided to travel to Anatolia to take the bull by the horn. Defying warnings of an enemy attack on his ship, he set sail on "Bandirma" on 16th May 1919. On 19th May 1919 he landed in Samsun in Anatolia and this day marks the commencement of the Turkish Liberation War.

The very presence of Mustafa Kemal evoked a landslide of patriotism amongst the people. A liberation movement of sorts, albeit on a small scale and still in the nascent stage, was taking place in Erzurum and Mustafa Kemal quickly took charge of it.

Mustafa Kemal had all along realized the importance of having a central seat of power that would be akin to imparting common national identity for the people and presenting a united front in the face of enemy attack.

Thus, when the foreign forces occupied Istanbul, on April 23, 1920, Mustafa Kemal convened the Grand National Assembly, thereby founding a new provisional government, the hub of which was to be in Ankara. He was also elected the President of the Grand National Assembly.

Meanwhile, the Greek Army, in connivance with Cerkez Ethem, started marching towards Bursa and Eskisehir. But in January 1921, they suffered heavy losses in the hands of Colonel Ismet, the Commander-in-Charge of the Western Front.

On July 10th, 1921, the Greeks embarked on a full frontal attack on the five Turkish divisions at Sakarya. A fearsome and a prolonged battle ensued, in which the enemy forces were conquered and were forced to back. Acting under the orders of Mustafa Kemal, the Turkish Army won over the majority of the enemy forces at Dumlupinar on 30th August 1922.

A crucial victory was clinched when the enemy Commander-in-chief General Trikupis was captured. The enemy was comprehensively vanquished on all fronts. The military tact and resourcefulness of Mustafa Kemal had won Turkey its War of Independence.

In recognition of his outstanding military exploits in the war, Mustafa Kemal was duly conferred the titles of Ghazi and Marshall.

The landmark in Turkish history was on 24th July 1923, when the Treaty of Lausanne gave Turkey the status of an independent nation. Away from the blazing guns and the fierce war cries, Mustafa Kemal now immersed himself in building up a strong, dynamic state.

Eventually, on the 29th of October 1923, he brought into being the Republic of Turkey. He was elected the first President of Turkey.
Ataturk  |  Early Years of Ataturk  |  Military Career of Ataturk  |  Ataturk and the Turkish War of Independence  |  Reforms of Ataturk