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The Snapshots of the Turkish History Starting from the Establishment of the Ottoman Empire
The First World War and the Mondros Cease-Fire Agreement

The Ottomans joined the First World War in 1914 as a result of fait accompli. During the war, the empire suffered a loss of four hundred thousand casualties and being defeated by the Allies, signed an armistice at Mondros on October 30, 1918. Following this armistice, the Ottomans were forced to sign the Sevres Treaty on August 10, 1920 which aimed at dividing the lands of the empire.

The Turkish nation in protest to the Mondros Armistice and the Sevres Treaty started its War of Liberation under the command of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. After the victory, the Turkish Grand National Assembly in Ankara abolished the office of the Sultan on November 1, 1922, thus ending 631 years of Ottoman rule in the world.

Efforts to Disintegrate the Empire

The Ottoman Empire collapsed on October 30, 1918, when the Mondros Armistice was signed, after the Ottoman state and its allies had lost the Great War. The treaty had very severe terms some of which were: The Straits of the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles would be open to the ships of the Entente Powers; Turkish military fortifications would be occupied; the Ottoman Army would be demobilized; Turkish warships would be surrendered to the Entente Powers; all means of comunication and ammunition stores would be controlled by the Entente Powers; all Turkish institutions and transport could be used by the Entente Powers. Article 7 of the Treaty, which was the most intolerable of all, stated “In the event of a situation threatening their security, the Entente Powers have the right to occupy any area of strategic importance”. According to this, the Entente Powers could occupy the country when they wished. In fact, after a short period, the Entente Powers began to occupy the country for trivial reasons. The occupation began on November 1,1918. They first landed their troops at Mosul, Iskenderun, the Straits of the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles, then they occupied various parts of Anatolia and Thrace. Meanwhile, England had proposed that the straits would have an international stutus; some Arab and Armaneian regions would cede from Turkey and a small part of land would be left to the Sultan with Konya or Bursa as the capital. In accordance with this, the Entente Powers had Greek troops landed at Izmir on May 15, 1919, under the protection of their own battleships. With this incident, the Ottoman State actually collapsed, and its legal existence was to be determined at the peace conference according to the wishes of the Entente Powers.

Subversive Organizations

Shortly after the Mondros Treaty, many organizations and societies appeared which were against national independence. Besides such pro-Ottoman and caliphate societies as the “Sulh ve Selameti Osmaniye Firkasi (Peace and Ottoman Salvation Party), the “Teali Islam Cemiyeti” (Moslem Promotion Society), the “Hürriyet ve Itilaf Firkasi” (Liberty and Entente Party), there were other societies of the minorities such as the “Mavrimira” and the “Pontus Society”. Their subversive activities during the First World War continued after the Treaty in order to prevent Turks from establishing a Notional State in Anatolia.

The National War

Throughout its history, the Turkish nation had not faced such difficult conditions. Between the years 1911 and 1918, she was forced to enter three wars, ending in the defeat of the Turkish Army; and these wars caused much material and moral damage. The only source of hope for the Turkish nation which had become weak, tired and helpless was the belief in liberty and independence. With this belief, people began to organize under the name “Müdafaai Hukuk Cemiyetleri” (Societies for the Defence of Rights). There were; the “Trakya-Pasaeli Müdafaa Heyeti Osmaniyesi” (Ottoman Defence Committee of Thrace-Pasaeli), the “Izmir Müdafaai Hukuk Osmaniye Cemiyeti” (Izmir Society for the Defence of Ottoman Rights), the “Sarki Anadolu Müdafaai Hukuk Cemiyeti” (Society for the Defence of the Rights of the Eastern Provinces), the “Hareketi Milliye-Reddi Ilhak Teskilati” (The National Movement-Organisation for the Rejection of Annextion), and the “Trabzon Muhafazai Hukuk Cemiyeti” (Society for the Protection of the Rights of Trabzon). These organizations which were all nationalistic, united at the Sivas Congress under the name “Anadolu ve Rumeli Müdafaai Hukuk Cemiyeti” (Society for the Defence of the Rights of Thrace and Anatolia).

Erzurum and Sivas Congresses

After the occupation of Izmir by the Greeks, on May 16, 1919, General Mustafa Kemal was sent to Anatolia as the 9th Army Inspector with full authority. His landing in Samsun on May 19, 1919, is considered as the beginning of the War of Liberation. The fact that the Anatolian Revolution began on May 19th may be well understood from some words of the report prepared by Mustafa Kemal shortly after landing in Samsun on May 22: “Turks can not endure foreign control or protection. The Greeks have no right in Izmir. The occupation is not permanent. The Nation believes in Turkish Nationalism and agrees on the principle of national sovereignty. It will try to achieve this”. General Mustafa Kemal, who had the support of the people, moved from Samsun to Amasya. After consultations with army commanders and governors, he prepared a circular note, the Amasya Letter (Amasya Tamimi) and issued it on June 21-22, 1919. This letter was signed by General Mustafa Kemal, Rauf (Orbay), General Ali Fuat (Cebesoy) and Refet (Bele). The aim of the circular was to make public that the unity of the country was at stake; the Istanbul Government was weak and helpless; the nation was determined to be independent, and it was necessary to hold a national congress in Sivas. After the issue of the Amasya Letter, the Istanbul Government, under English pressure, relieved Mustafa Kemal of his duties. In opposition to this, General Mustafa Kemal resigned from the Army. Continuing his efforts, he held the Erzurum Congress on July 23, 1919. This Congress, which elected Mustafa Kemal president, lasted 14 days and at its conclusion, the following decisions were taken: “The nation will oppose every kind of foreign occupation and interference; an interim government will be formed in the event of the failure of the Ottoman Government to safeguard the independence of the country; the nation’s willpower is supreme; Christians cannot be given any concessions which could disturb political order; mandates or protectorates can not be accepted; a national assembly should immediately be formed.” In addition, in order to organize the national societies in the eastern provinces, a statute was prepared. The Sivas Congress was held on September 4, 1919. Here the decisions of the Erzurum Congress were re-examined, and it was agreed that the national societies throughout the country would be united under the name “Anadolu ve Rumeli Müdafaai Hukuk Cemiyeti” (Society for the Defence of the Rights of Anatolia and Thrace). Character. The Istanbul Government tried to prevent the congress, but was unsuccessful.

With this action of the Istanbul Government, relations between Anatolia and the Istanbul Government were completely broken off. On September 13-14, 1919, Mustafa Kemal informed the commanders, the governors and the Sultan in the name of the Congress that “the Council of Representatives” would represent the Turkish Nation. Upon this, the Damat Ferit Pasa Government fell and it was replaced by the General Ali Riza Government. Mustafa Kemal promised to help General Ali Riza on the condition that he respected the decisions taken at the Erzurum and Sivas Congresses. On October 20, 1919, Mustafa Kemal, as Chairman of the Council of Representatives, and General Salih, the Minister of the Navy of the Istanbul Government signed the Amasya Protocol with which it was agreed that free elections would be held to elect deputies, the resolutions and decisions of the Sivas Congress would be accepted, and the “National Assembly” should meet somewhere other than Istanbul, for security reasons. However, the National Assembly met in Istanbul and Mustafa Kemal was elected Erzurum Deputy.

In the meantime, a meeting was held in Sivas with commanders, members of the Council of Representatives, and others. At this meeting, the conditions were examined and some resolutions were agreed upon. Besides, on December 27, 1919, Mustafa Kemal moved to Ankara where there were more suitable conditions for coordination of the activities.

National Pact

The Ottoman Parliament met in Istanbul on January 12, 1920, under the majority of the members of the “Defence of Rights”. On January 28th , the Parliament made public that it accepted the “National Pact” in conformity with the principles of the Sivas Congress and the decision of the Society for the Defence of the Rights of Anatolia and Thrace (The Society for the Protection of Anatolian and Rumelian Rights). The principles of the”National Pact” were as follows:

  1. The future of the territories inhabited by an Arabmajority at the time of the signing of the Mondros Treaty will be determined by a referendum. On the other hand, the territories which were not occupied at that time and inhabited by a Turkish-Moslem majority are the homeland of the Turkish nation.
  2. The status of Kars, Ardahan and Artvin may be determined by a referendum.
  3. The status of Western Thrace will be determined by the votes of its inhabitants.
  4. The security of Istanbul and Marmara should be provided for. Transport and free-trade on the Straits of the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles will be determined by Turkey and other concerned countries.
  5. The rights of minorities will be issued on condition that the rights of the Moslem minorities in neighboring countries are protected.
  6. In order to develop in every field, the country should be independent and free; all restrictions on political, judicial and financial development will be removed.

With the beginning of the Greek attacks on the western front on March 3, 1920, the General Ali Riza Government was compelled to resign. It was followed by the occupation of Istanbul by the Entente Powers on March 16. After the dissolution of parliament, on March 19, 1920, Mustafa Kemal issued a communiqué stating that they would work for national freedom and the establishment of a new state. The parliament would be composed of deputies of the old parliament who would come to Ankara and by new members to be elected by the Turkish people.

Meanwhile, General Damat Ferit, who had become Prime Minister again, claimed that the National Forces were committing high treason. He formed an army called “Kuvay-i Inzibatiye” (Disciplinary Forces) against the National Forces. Mustafa Kemal was trying to face both this army and the revolts provoked by the Istanbul Government. In a communiqué issued on April 22,1920, he stated that the “Büyük Millet Meclisi” (Grand National Assembly) would meet on April 23, and it would have the authority to represent the nation.

The Turkish Grand National Assembly

With the meeting of the Grand National Assembly in Ankara on April 23, 1920, the national struggle became more significant in the eyes of the world, both, legally and politically. After electing Mustafa Kemal chairman, the Assembly made the following important resolutions:

  1. National power concentrated in the National Assembly is the fundamental principle for the future of the country.
  2. The Grand National Assembly is vested with legislative and executive powers. A committee to be elected from within the Assembly will exercise executive power. The chairman of the Assembly will also preside over this committee.

The Damat Ferit Government was continuing its efforts against national forces which were becoming more and more powerful. Damat Ferit was trying to persuade the Anatolian people to revolt against the National movement and help the enemy forces. Besides, by a decision handed down by the First Martial Law Court on May 4, 1920, Mustafa Kemal’s military titles were revoked and he was sentenced to death.

For a certain period, the government of the Turkish Grand National Assembly had to use the majority of its forces to suppress revolts provoked by the Palace. After order was established throughout Anatolia, the government was able to concentrate its forces and began to form armies to expel the invading enemies from the country.

The attempt to establish an Armenian state, according to the Sevres Treaty, was prevented by the resistance of the troops commanded by Kazim Karabekir, Commander of the Army in that region. On November 18,1920, the forces called a cease-fire and peace on the Eastern Front was achieved by the Gümrü Treaty, signed on December 2-3, 1920.

The struggle in the western front, which began with the occupation of Izmir by Greek forces, was carried out by national societies and forces in various regions in the form of civil resistance prior to the establishment of regular armies. First, on May 29, 1919 Ali (Çetinkaya), Governor of Ayvalik district, and his friends, resisted the enemy forces attacking other regions from Izmir. Some of the leaders of the struggle at the Western Front were Yörük Ali Efe and Demirci Mehmet Efe in Nazilli, Halil Efe in Salihli, Parti Pehlivan Aga, and Sari Efe (Edip).

On June 20, 1919, an enemy division landed in Tekirdag and occupied Thrace. The first battle with the enemy on the western front was on October 24, 1920, at Gediz. National forces which were defeated were forced to leave Yeniseahir and Inegöl and retreated to the Dumlupinar hills. The Commander-in-Chief reorganized the Western Front and divided it into two; the Western and Southern front. The Western Front would be commanded by Colonel Ismet (İnönü) and the Southern Front by Colonel Refer (Bele).

The First and Second Battles of İnönü

On January 6, 1921, the enemy began to advance from Bursa and Usak to Eskisehir and Afyon but were defeated at the First Battle of İnönü on January 10, 1921, and retreated. After this first success on the Western Front, the “Entente Powers” saw it necessary to make some alterations in the terms of the Sevres Treaty. Althouh they could not make any important resolutions during the conference held in London between February 21 and March 11, 1921, this conference was very useful as it publicized the Turkish war of National Independence all over the world. Besides, the Constitution (Teskilat-i Esasiye Kanunu) which had been discussed since the opening of the Grand National Assembly, was accepted and came into force on January 20, 1921, after the success at the First Battle of İnönü.

As the London Conference had not achieved the expected results, the Entente Powers supported the Greek Forces in a new attack, but they were defeated again at the Second Battle of İnönü, on March 31, 1921. After the second victory at İnönü, the Commander-in-Chief united the Western and Southern branches of the Western Front. On July 10, 1921, the enemy, which was supported by new forces, attacked on two fronts. This was their last success and they reached, Eskisehir and West of Sakarya. Under a law accepted on August 5, 1921, Mustafa Kemal Pasha was given mandate of the Grand National Assembly as Commander-in-Chief. He took command of the army on August 12, 1921. At the end of the Battle of Sakarya which was fought on a front extending about 100 kms., between August 23 and September 13, 1921, the enemy was forced to withdraw and the enemy’s offensive in Anatolia ended.

After the Sakarya victory, the Entente Powers proposed a cease-fire on March 22, 1921. When Turkey laid down as a condition, on April 5, 1922, that the enemy forces in Anatolia were to withdraw, this offer was not accepted.

The Battle of the Commander-in-Chief

In the period of preparation to drive out the enemy from Anatolia, there were some people in the Assembly who still tried to solve the problems by discussion. Moreover, it could be seen that some members of the Assembly did not trust Mustafa Kemal and opposed the extension of Mustafa Kemal Pasha’s duties as Commander-in-Chief. But the difference of opinions in the Assembly could be reconciled in a short period and the preparations for a final and absolute victory were completed. The big offensive started on August 26, 1922, under the command of Mustafa Kemal, General Fevzi (Çakmak), and General Ismet (İnönü). On August 25, 1922, at the “Battle of the Commander-in-Chief” at Dumlupinar, the enemy forces were encircled and taken prisoner; thus the offensive achieved its end. But the Turkish Army continued the operation; Izmir on September 9, Bursa on September 11, and finally, on September 18, the whole country was liberated from the enemy. The Mudanya Armistice, signed on October 11, 1922 led the way to Lausanne.

Proclamation of the Republic and the Reforms


The National Struggle started when Mustafa Kemal Pasha landed in Samsun May 19, 1919; and a new Turkish State was established with the meeting of the Turkish Grand National Assembly on April 23, 1920. After the National Struggle ended in victory and the Mudanya Armistice was signed, the Ottoman Empire and the institutions under its control were necessarily liquidated. The Entente Powers decided to call the Ottoman Government together with the Ankara Government accepted. On the other hand, on November 1, 1922, the Grand National Assembly announced that the Caliphate and the Sultanate were separate and the Sultanate was abolished. The second step was taken with the establishment of the Republic on October 29, 1923. It was followed by the acceptance of a law, on March 3, 1924, stating that the Caliphate was abolished and the ottoman Dynasty was to be deported. On the same day, the law concerning the abolition of the Ministry for Religious Affairs, of the Evkaf (Waqfs) and of the Ministry of the General Staff and the law concerning the unification of education were promulgated. Thus, all the schools controlled by the Ministry for Religious Affairs and the Ministry of Foundations were closed. By the unification of instruction, all schools would be controlled by the Ministry of National Education in accordance with national and secular principles. On April 20, 1920, the new Constitution reorganizing the state was promulgated by the Turkish Grand National Assembly.

Reorganization continued with new reforms, in addition to the foundation of the Republic, the unification of instruction and the abolition of the Sultanate and Caliphate. On November 25, 1925 the Hat Reform was accepted and the fez which had caused revolts when it had been first ordered to be warn, was considered illegal. The September 2, 1925 decree concerning the closing down of dervish retreats and tombs, and the abolition of the office of tomb keepers was given final approval by the law enacted on November 30, 1941.

In order to prevent the confusion caused by the use of different calendars by Moslems, Orthodox and Catholics, the Christian calendar was accepted on December 26, 1925 and began to be used on January 1, 1926. Meanwhile, international time was approved, and Sunday was accepted as a holiday instead of Friday.

Reforms of the Trade Penal Law started during the Tanzimat period, continued as the principles of Sheriat were abolished. The Civil Code came into force on April 4, 1926, and the Law of Obligations on October 4, 1926.

With the Turkish Civil Code, Turkish women, gained their basic rights and reached a new milestone on the road of progress. The Municipal Act of 1930 and the National Assembly Act of 1934 granted suffrage to Turkish women. Thus, the Turkish woman possessed almost all basic political rights.

After the Turks accepted Islam, they abandoned their original alphabets, Orhon and Uigur, and began to use the Arabic script. However, the Arabic script was not suitable for the Turkish language; especially the fact that vowels widely used in Turkish caused problems in reading Turkish texts written in Arabic. They tried to solve this problem in 1878, but could not. In 1908, the problem was dealt with again. Different opinions were put forward. Some people supported maintaining the Arabic script, others proposed that Arabic characters should be written separately with some special signs to read vowels. On the other hand, many people proposed to use the Latin script instead of Arabic and these different opinions could not be reconciled. After the foundation of the new state, the problem of the alphabet was first discussed in 1923, at the Izmir Economic Congress. A paper was submitted proposing the adoption of the Latin alphabet. The Congress agreed that this paper should be submitted to the Ministry of National Education. The Ministry studied this subject in 1927. It was agreed that Latin symbols would be used in physics, chemistry and mathematics courses in the universities and academies. In the same year, stamps were issued bearing “Türkiye Postalari” (Turkish Post) written in letters. In 1928, the Grand National Assembly promulgated the law concerning the use of international numerals. Also, the Ministry of National Education formed a commission to study the new Turkish alphabet. This ended in the promulgation of the law concerning the use of the new alphabet on November 1, 1928. Also, on, April 10, 1928, the phrase “Islam is the official religion of the state” was removed from the Constitution in accordance with secular principles.

The changes in the judicial system were accomplished by the Surname Act accepted in the Grand National Assembly on June 21, 1924; every Turkish citizen should have a surname. In addition, it was decided on November 24, 1934 that the great savior, Mustafa Kemal Pasha would be given the surname “Atatürk”.

The Alphabet Reform in 1928 led to a reform in language.

Atatürk established the Turkish Language Institution on July 12, 1932. He had started the language reform on September 2, 1930.

Necessary measures have been taken in every field in order to elevate the country to the level of contemporary civilizations. In line with the motto “Peace at Home, Peace in the World” several agreements were reached by the neighboring countries.

After his death, on November 10, 1938, the Turkish people followed in his path.

The Second World War seriously effected the self-sufficient Turkey, but thanks to the intelligent attitudes of the Turkish administration, the country and the nation were saved from the great danger of war.

During the post-war period a multi-party era started in Turkey. Transition to a multi-party parliamentary system in Turkey was first initiated by Atatürk and Turkey experienced short-terms of multi-party systems in 1924 and in 1930. Unfortunately, the political developments were detrimental to the newly established Turkish Republic and the two political parties were abolished by themselves. The multi-party system which Atatürk desired to initiate as his “second greatest reform after the Proclamation of the Republic” was started after the Second World War by his comrade-at-arms, President Ismet İnönü. The first election was held in 1946. The representatives of the opposition party won seats in the Assembly. In the second election, held in 1950, the ruling party whose Chairman was Ismet İnönü became the opposition party in the Turkish Grand National Assembly. Celal Bayar’s party assumed office.

The 1950’s were the years when the winds of war were blowing in the world. For the sake of the world, the Turkish Brigade in Korea within the framework of the United Nations came face to face with the war.

Source: TURKEY Yearbook 1983/Prime Ministry Directorate General of Press and Information