Ataturk: a life in pictures

Turkey commemorates Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of the Republic of Turkey, on the 78th anniversary of his death.

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk's mausoleum in Ankara.

Updated Dec 8, 2016

Thursday at 9:05am local time, people throughout Turkey – workers, students, motorists – stopped what they were doing to observe two minutes of silence.

They were paying their respects to Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the principal architect of modern Turkey, on the 78th anniversary of his death.

Ataturk led the Turkish War of Independence against the occupation by Britain, France, Italy, Greece and Armenia, of most of the territory which now constitutes Turkey, after the Ottoman Empire was defeated in World War l.

After he successfully led forces that regained Anatolia, the land that today makes up the Asian part of Turkey, he expelled the occupying powers and abolished the Ottoman Sultanate and Caliphate.  Ataturk founded the Republic of Turkey, moving the capital from Istanbul to Ankara, and embarking on an intensive programme of modernisation, secularism and national consolidation.

He served as its first president from 1923 until his death in 1938. His surname, Atatürk (meaning "Father of the Turks"), was granted to him in 1934 and forbidden to any other person by the Turkish parliament.

Here is the story of his life in pictures.

Ataturk was born "Mustafa" in Ottoman Selanik (now Thessaloniki) on May 19, 1881 (the exact date is contested). The wealthy port city was part of the Ottoman Empire for nearly 500 years, but fell to Greek forces in 1912. Photo: Selanik, 1916.

He grew up in a middle class family, the son of a customs officer, and enrolled in the junior military high school in Selanik – a way for talented young men to rise quickly. His adoptive daughter Afet said he was given the second name "Kemal," meaning "perfection," by his mathematics teacher dueto  his ability in the subject. Photo: Mustafa Kemal (R) with his mother Zübeyde Hanim (C) and his sister Makbule (L).

In 1899, Mustafa Kemal went on to attend the Ottoman War Academy in Istanbul, where he was caught up in the wave of Turkish nationalism which arose following the loss of Ottoman territory and subsequent persecution of Ottoman Muslims in the preceding century. Although he came to disagree with many of its decisions, after finishing his education he joined the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) – an organisation advocating the reform of the Ottoman state which took power after overthrowing Sultan Abdulhamid II in 1908. Photo: Mustafa Kemal (front row, second from left) at the Ottoman War Academy, 1901.

Following Italy's invasion of Libya in 1911, Mustafa Kemal was sent to the then-Ottoman province to organise a resistance against the Italians. Eventually the Ottomans had to withdraw. The empire lost most of its remaining territory in Europe, including Selanik, in the First Balkan War which broke out the following year. Photo: Mustafa Kemal (L) with an Ottoman officer (R) and Libyan fighters in Derna, Libya.

The Ottoman Empire entered the First World War on the side of Germany, Bulgaria, and Austria-Hungary in 1914. In 1915, by then a lieutenant-colonel, Mustafa Kemal played a key role in the successful defence of the Gallipoli Peninsula, which guarded the sea route into Istanbul from the forces of France and the British Empire, in what is known in Turkey as the Battle of Canakkale and outside as the Battle of Gallipoli. Photo: Lieutenant-Colonel Mustafa Kemal, commander of the 19th Division of the Fifth Army, on the frontline in Gallipoli. 

At the end of World War l in 1918, the government of the Ottoman Empire was forced to sign the Armistice of Mudros, which led to the loss of most of its remaining territory and the occupation of much of Anatolia. In 1919, under his leadership, Mustafa Kemal, now a high-ranking general, gathered nationalist soldiers as well as political and religious leaders at the Congress of Erzurum to organise resistance to the occupying powers. Photo: Mustafa Kemal (C) photographed with the other attendees of the Congress of Erzurum.

Mustafa Kemal successfully rallied his followers to expel the occupying powers of Britain, France, Italy, Greece and Armenia from Anatolia in the Turkish War of Independence. Photo: Mustafa Kemal before the last great offensive of the war, which retook the city of Izmir from Greece.

In November 1928, soon after the Republic was declared, Mustafa Kemal changed written Turkish, using Roman letters instead of the previous Ottoman Arabic script. He introduced the new Latin alphabet overnight. Picture: Mustafa Kemal teaching the new alphabet to the people of Kayseri. September 20, 1928.

Ataturk died at Dolmabahce Palace in Istanbul on November 10, 1938. A state funeral was held for him in the capital city of Ankara on November 21, which was attended by dignitaries from seventeen nations. His body remains in his resting place at Anitkabir, Ankara. Photo: Wrapped ın a Turkısh flag, Mustafa Kemal’s body beıng taken for burial.