30 August: Victory Day in Turkey

30 August is an important date for the Turks. It is known as Victory Day (Zafer Bayramı). On this day the Turks commemorate the Battle of Dumlupınar in 1922. Here, in this place near Afyon, the Turkish revolutionary army, led by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, defeated the Greek troups. A victory that is seen as the triumph that ended the War of Independence.

Before we can explain the importance of 30 August, a little background information is needed. We start after the First World War. Turkey was still called Ottoman Empire. It was under the absolute reign of the sultan.

During the war, the Ottoman Empire fought on the side of Germany. So after losing the war, the winning countries (eg. England, France, Italy, Greece) took control by forcing a tight peace treaty on the Ottoman Empire: the Treaty of Sèvres. This pact was signed on 10 August 1920 after 15 months were spend to draw it up. In this treaty the Ottoman Empire was divided among the allied countries. The Ottoman sultan was accepting this. But some determined army generals, under whom Mustafa Kemal, did not.

Resist

The charismatic and highly intelligent Mustafa Kemal succeeded in motivating the Turkish army and the Turkish people. He told them to resist the sultan and the foreign occupants. On May 15 1919 the Greek army occupied Smyrna (today’s Izmir). On May 19 1919 Atatürk landed in Samsun near the Black Sea which is seen as the start of the Turkish War of Independence.

Battle of Dumlupınar

After a progression of heavy wars, the triumph at last was for the Turks. They beat the Greeks out of Anatolia. This happened after the Battle of Dumlupınar near Afyon. The battle of Dumlupınar started on 26 August 1922. By that time, both the Turks and the Greek suffered already a lot from the lengthy war. Both parties had won and lost battles and at that specific moment there was actually no prospect of a quick ending of the conflict.

All though the Greek army was stronger in numbers, the Turks had the advantage of more heavy artillery and talented cavalry. But the Greek soldiers were morally weak after the long war and the long time away from their homes. The Turks on the other hand were determined to defend their soil to the bitter end.

Victory

On 30 August 1922 the Turkish revolutionary army defeated the Greek troups in the Battle of Dumlupınar. The Greek defense broke completely and the Turks marched all the way to Smyrna (Izmir).

The Battle of Dumlupınar is seen as the last fight in the War of Independence, and therefore August 30 1922 is named Victory Day. A few months later, the Pact of Sèvres was replaced by the more forbearing Treaty of Lausanne. In this treaty the current borders of Turkey were established.

Atatürk

On 29 October 1923 Mustafa Kemal officially declared the Republic of Turkey, and was elected as the country’s first president. Mustafa Kemal later received the honorary title Atatürk, which means Father of Turks.

 

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