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Kemal Atatürk (March 12, 1881 - 1938), Turkish soldier and statesman, was the founder and first President of the Republic of Turkey. Some consider him one of the most progressive reformist figures in Turkish history, others, especially many conservative Muslims, remember him as a traitor to the Islamic faith.

Born in Salonika (Thessaloniki), from non Turkish parents, he entered the military secondary school in Salonika in 1893 and the military academy at Monastir (now Bitola in Vardar Macedonia) in 1895. After playing a minor role in the Balkan Wars of 1912 - 1913, he gained a major victory by repulsing the Allied invasion of Gallipoli in 1915.

Atatürk organized the Turkish Nationalist Republican Party[?] in 1919 from local resistance groups. This group overthrew the incumbent Ottoman Sultan Mehmed VI and the Allies in Anatolia, and he and his lieutenant Ismet Pasha (later Ismet Inönü) presided over the defeat of the Greek invasion of 1920 - 1922. They subsequently founded the Republic of Turkey on October 29, 1923.

Atatürk began a variety of reforms by abolishing the Caliphate (March 1924). The theological schools were closed, the Law of Islam was replaced by the Swiss Civil Code[?] -- importantly for the politics of the region, this officially separated the functions of Church and state in Turkey.

He was also responsible for the conversion of written Turkish from an arabic script to a modified latin alphabet. This resulted in a long-term increase in literacy. It also made it literally impossible for even educated modern Turks to read any of the Ottoman history or manuscripts or literature, except as translated by a tightly controlled academia and media.

Atatürk gave Turkey a new prestige in the international field by his achievements in both military and political fields, crowned (July 1936) by the restoration of Turkish sovereignty over the Straits under the Montreux Convention[?]. He died on November 10, 1938 because of complications of cirrhosis.

During his rule, Atatürk established a vast personality cult around himself, which still remains in Turkey to this day.

Atatürk has an international airport named after him, the Ataturk International Airport in Istanbul.



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