Turkish National Movement: Burning coals of the Ottoman Empire

Turkish National Movement: Forging a Modern Nation from the Ashes of the Ottoman Empire

The TurkishNational Movement stands as a pivotal chapter in the annals of history, serving as the foundation upon which modern Turkey was built. This movement, which spread-out in the wake of World War I and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, was a resolute and relentless endeavor to forge a new nation out of the ruins of a once-mighty empire. In this article, we will delve into the historical context, key figures, and the enduring impact of the Turkish National Movement on the birth of the Republic of Turkey.

Turkish National Movement: Burning coals of the Ottoman Empire
The Turkish Army's Entry into Izmir

The Collapse of the Ottoman Empire & The Armistice of Mudros

The Armisticeof Mudros was a deal made on October 30, 1918, at Mudros port in Greece. It was an agreement between the Ottoman Empire and Great Britain, who represented the Alliedpowers. This agreement showed that the Ottoman Empire lost in World War I.

According to the ceasefire, the Ottomans had to give up their remaining military bases in places like Hejaz, Yemen, Syria, Mesopotamia, Tripolitania, and Cyrenaica. The Allies were granted control over the Dardanelles and Bosporus Straits, Batumi (now in southwest Georgia), and a strategic tunnel system in the Taurus Mountains. They also had the right to take over the six Armenian provinces in Anatolia if there was trouble and to seize important spots if they felt threatened. The Ottoman army had to stop fighting, and the Allies could use Turkish ports, railways, and other important places.

The Armistice of Mudros did not clearly state that Allied forces would enter Turkey, but it did give the Allies the right to occupy strategic locations within the Ottoman Empire "in case of disorder" or if there was a threat to Allied security. This provision could potentially have allowed for Allied forces to enter Ottoman territories if they deemed it necessary for their security. Ultimately, the armistice paved the way for further Allied involvement in Ottoman affairs, which eventually led to the occupation of Istanbul and other parts of Turkey in the aftermath of World War I.

Turkish National Movement: Burning coals of the Ottoman Empire
Ataturk during world war 1

The Occupation of Constantinople: Aftermath of World War I

The Treaty ofSèvres, which was signed in 1920, acknowledged the Allied occupation of Istanbul and imposed territorial losses on the Ottoman Empire. It divided Istanbul into international zones and gave control over the Turkish Straits to international powers. This treaty also permitted Greece to occupy Eastern Thrace and acknowledged the establishment of an independent Armenian state. However, the treaty encountered strong opposition within Turkey, leading to further negotiations and revisions that ultimately resulted in the signing of the Treaty ofLausanne in 1923.

From November 12, 1918, to October 4, 1923, Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul), the capital of the Ottoman Empire, was occupied by forces from Britain, France, Italy, and Greece. This occurred as a result of an agreement called the Armistice of Mudros, which marked the end of the Ottoman Empire's involvement in World War I.

The occupation began when French soldiers entered the city on November 12, 1918, followed by British troops the next day. Italian troops arrived in Galata on February 7, 1919.

Turkish National Movement: Burning coals of the Ottoman Empire
Treaty of Lusanne’s Turkish Delegation

The occupying forces divided Istanbul into different zones and established a temporary government in December 1918. This marked the initial phase of the occupation following the Armistice. In 1920, a more formal arrangement was made under a document known as the Treaty of Sèvres. The occupation persisted until July 24, 1923, when the Treaty of Lausanne was signed, bringing an end to the occupation. The last soldiers from the occupying countries departed the city on October 4, 1923. Subsequently, on October 6, 1923, troops from the government based in Ankara, under the command of Şükrü Naili Pasha, ceremoniously entered the city. This day is now commemorated annually as Liberation Day of Istanbul.

The 1918 occupation of Istanbul marked the first time the city changed hands since the Fall of Constantinople in 1453. It was a significant event because, along with the occupation of Smyrna, it played a pivotal role in the formation of the Turkish National Movement, ultimately leading to the Turkish War of Independence.

Turkish National Movement: Burning coals of the Ottoman Empire
Turkey, Bosphorus

The Birth of the Provisional Government and Turkish National Movement:

At the close of World War I, Turkey found itself under foreign occupation, suffering from territorial losses and internal strife. MustafaKemal Atatürk, a prominent military leader, emerged as a central figure in the Turkish National Movement, driven by the vision of an independent and modern Turkey. In April 1920, Atatürk convened the "Grand National Assembly" in Ankara, laying the foundation for the Provisional Government. This transitional administration aimed to represent the will of the Turkish people and protect their interests during these challenging times.

The Struggle for Independence: Turkish War of Independence

The Provisional Government's primary objective was to resist foreign occupation and safeguard Turkey's territorial integrity. Rejecting the authority of the Ottoman Sultan and the Allied powers, it played a pivotal role in organizing and leading the Turkish War of Independence, which began in 1919. This period saw mobilization of the Turkish population, establishment of a regular army, and diplomatic efforts to garner international support.

One of the most significant milestones of the Turkish National Movement was the signing of the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923. This treaty formally recognized the Republic of Turkey as a sovereign nation and marked the end of foreign occupation. It also delineated Turkey's modern borders, which closely resemble the country's current boundaries.

Founding the Republic and Atatürk's Reforms:

The conclusion of the Turkish War of Independence in the Treaty of Lausanne recognized Turkey's sovereignty. The Provisional Government transitioned into the government of the Republic of Turkey on October 29, 1923. Under Mustafa Kemal Atatürk's leadership, the republic embarked on a series of sweeping reforms touching political, social, cultural, and economic aspects. These reforms set the stage for Turkey's development as a secular, democratic nation. Today, the Provisional Government and the Turkish War of Independence are revered as foundational moments in Turkey's history, shaping its identity and policies, and earning Atatürk enduring respect and admiration.

Turkish President Erdogan


The Turkish National Movement and the Turkish War of Independence are closely interconnected. The National Movement emerged as a response to the occupation of Istanbul and various parts of Anatolia by Allied forces following World War I. Led by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the movement succeed to defend Turkish national interests, preserve territorial integrity, and establish an independent Turkish state. Atatürk's leadership and the resilience of the movement secured Turkey's place as a sovereign and democratic nation.

The Turkish National Movement can be seen as the burning coals of the Ottoman Empire, igniting significant modifications in the geopolitical landscape. Modern Turkey, strategically positioned at the crossroads of Central Asia, Europe, the Mediterranean Sea, the Balkans, and the Middle East, applies influence in these vital regions.