Founder and First President of Republic of Turkey. He was born in the Ottoman city of Salonika which is the modern day city of Thessaloniki in Greece. His mother enrolled him in a religious school but he rebelled, had a fight with teacher and left home to enroll in a military school. He went on to graduate from the War College in Istanbul and the War Academy. During the Gallipoli campaign in 1915 he became a military hero and in 1919 the leader of the Turkey national liberation struggle. He created a Parliamentarian form of government in 1923 and was elected as the first president, a position he held until his death in 1938. Independence was just the beginning of the sweeping changes that he was to institute over the coming years. In the years from 1926 to 1930 Islamic religious laws were abolished and a secular system was begun. A program of economic development was begun which included agricultural expansion as well as industrial and technological advances. One of his greatest challenges was to reform the existing language and in 1928 he abolished the Arabic script and developed the Turkish alphabet. This resulted in a necessity to advance the education of the Turkish people. Elementary education was made mandatory and the education of the Turkish women was given a very high priority. Although never mentioned in law, he promoted modern dress for women. Turkey was and remains a Muslim nation, but worship of other religions is permitted and Ataturk encouraged domestic production of alcohol and established a state-owned spirits industry. Today, Turkey is the most modern and most westernized of all Muslim nations, thanks to Ataturk. He died in Istanbul from cirrhosis of the liver.
Bio by: Tom Todd