Atatürk: An Intellectual Biography

Atatürk: An Intellectual Biography

Atatürk: An Intellectual Biography

Atatürk: An Intellectual Biography

Synopsis

When Mustafa Kemal Atatürk became the first president of Turkey in 1923, he set about transforming his country into a secular republic where nationalism sanctified by science--and by the personality cult Atatürk created around himself--would reign supreme as the new religion. This book provides the first in-depth look at the intellectual life of the Turkish Republic's founder. In doing so, it frames him within the historical context of the turbulent age in which he lived, and explores the uneasy transition from the late Ottoman imperial order to the modern Turkish state through his life and ideas.


Shedding light on one of the most complex and enigmatic statesmen of the modern era, M. Sükrü Hanioglu takes readers from Atatürk's youth as a Muslim boy in the volatile ethnic cauldron of Macedonia, to his education in nonreligious and military schools, to his embrace of Turkish nationalism and the modernizing Young Turks movement. Who was this figure who sought glory as an ambitious young officer in World War I, defied the victorious Allies intent on partitioning the Turkish heartland, and defeated the last sultan? Hanioglu charts Atatürk's intellectual and ideological development at every stage of his life, demonstrating how he was profoundly influenced by the new ideas that were circulating in the sprawling Ottoman realm. He shows how Atatürk drew on a unique mix of scientism, materialism, social Darwinism, positivism, and other theories to fashion a grand utopian framework on which to build his new nation.

Excerpt

In 1954, a young shepherd was leading his flock out to pasture in the remote village of Yukarı Gündeş in the eastern Turkish province of Ardahan. As the sun set, a shadow falling on a nearby hill seemed to trace the exact profile of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the modern Turkish Republic. Convinced that he had been vouchsafed a religious experience, the incredulous shepherd reported his encounter to the local authorities, who wasted no time in publicizing this rare natural phenomenon nationwide as a miracle. Local excitement did not die down with the passage of time and, in 1997, it was finally decided to launch on this spot a festival that drew enormous crowds of spectators eager to witness the phenomenon for themselves. When, at the seventh annual festival in “the footsteps and shadow of Atatürk,” a shepherd inadvertently interrupted the spectacle at the critical moment by innocently guiding his flock through the silhouette just as it was becoming visible; the crowd reacted with fury. One parliamentary deputy from among the spectators bellowed, “Grazing animals here is highly disrespectful, an act of treason…. Why has Karadağ where the miracle occurred not been placed under state protection?” This somewhat bizarre episode captures the quasi-religious quality of the personality cult that sprang up around Mustafa Kemal Atatürk during his lifetime and has persisted in many

“Ata’nın Silueti Varken Hayvan Otlatmak İhanet,” Hürriyet, July 1, 2003.

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