Atatürk and the Turkish Nation
returned to Istanbul at the end of the war, his military reputation
untarnished by the defeat of the empire that he had served. Revered
by his troops as well as the Turkish masses, Atatürk soon emerged
as the standard-bearer of the Turkish nationalist movement.
Born in Thessaloniki in 1881, Atatürk was
the son of a minor government official in a city where Turks outnumbered
Greeks. His ardent Turkish nationalism dated from his early days
as a cadet in the military school at Monastir (in the present-day
Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) during a time of constant
conflict between Ottoman troops and Macedonian guerrillas, who attacked
the Turkish population in the region. Following graduation from
the military academy in Istanbul, Atatürk held various staff
positions and served in garrisons at Damascus and Thessaloniki,
where he became involved in nationalist activities. He took part
in the coup that forced Abdül Hamid II's abdication in 1909.
Atatürk organized irregular forces in Libya during the war
with Italy in 1911 and subsequently held field commands in the two
Balkan wars (1912-13). Assigned to a post in the Ministry of War
after the armistice, Atatürk quickly recognized the extent
of Allied intentions toward the Ottoman Empire.