Mustafa Kemal Ataturk (1881–1938) was a Turkish nationalist leader, revolutionary statesman, and founder and first president of the Republic of Turkey.
Born in 1881 in Salonika (present-day Thessaloniki, Greece) in what was then the Ottoman Empire, Ataturk ‘s father was a minor military official and later a lumbar merchant. At age 12, Mustafa was sent to military school and then to the military academy in Constantinople (present-day Istanbul,) graduating in 1905. He earned the nickname Kemal (Turkish for “perfection”) during school.
In 1911, Mustafa served against the Italians in Libya and then against the Greeks, the Bulgarians, and the Serbians in the Balkan Wars of 1912 and 1913. In 1915, he made his military reputation on the shores of Gallipoli during World War I by repelling 16 divisions of British, French, ANZAC, and other Allied troops during the invasion at the Dardanelles.
Following World War I, the Ottoman Empire was partitioned among the various allies and a peace settlement imposed on Anatolia by the victorious Allies. However, the Turkish national movement led by Mustafa Kemal rejected this settlement even before all the parties of the agreement had ratified it. In 1922, he eventually triumphed in the Turkish War of Independence and ended the Greek occupation of Smyrna (present-day Izmir) and the surrounding areas. In 1923, The Treaty of Lausanne recognized the sovereignty of the new Republic of Turkey as the successor state of the defunct Ottoman Empire and established its new state borders.
On 29-October-1923, the Ottoman Sultanate was formally abolished and, the Republic of Turkey was proclaimed. Mustafa Kemal established himself as its president and launched a sweeping social and political reform program to modernize Turkey. These reforms included not only the emancipation of women and the abolition of all Islamic institutions, but also the introduction of Western legal codes, dress, calendar, and alphabet, replacing the Arabic script with a Latin one. He established friendly relations with Turkey’s neighbors and pursued a policy of neutrality.
In 1935, when surnames were introduced in Turkey, the Turkish parliament gave Mustafa Kemal the name Ataturk, meaning “Father of the Turks”. He died in office on 10-November-1938. Today, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk is widely revered in Turkey and commemorated by many memorials throughout Turkey.