This past Tuesday (September 18), the Orientation group did a day trip to some of the major sight-seeing locations of Ankara. The first stop was Atatürk’s mausoleum, right in the heart of the city.
Before I show you pictures, I want you to tell me what you know about Turkey and Atatürk. Oh my! Let’s not have everybody raise their hands at once! Okay, how about you?
Atatürk’s name means ‘father of the Turks.’
Indeed, and why is that?
Because he founded the Turkish Republic as it is today after several years of hardship as the Turks sought sovereignty and independence after the Ottoman Empire was dissolved at the end of World War I.
Wow, what knowledge! And what do you know?
He reformed the Turkish language by switching to the Roman script from Arabic script.
Çok güzel (very good/nice)! And one more fact….
Atatürk is worshiped by Turkish people and his monument is a testament of their devotion.
Woah, woah, woah–let’s pause for a minute.
“Worship” is a very strong word–and to think that Turkish citizens “worship” the memory of one person assumes too much. Turkey is secular; the city of Ankara is a prime example of this as well as the university culture I’ve been exposed to. If someone adheres to a faith, it is usually Islam and this is a monotheistic religion–there is no room in the theology to worship another entity other than God/Allah. For both religious and non-religious people, Atatürk was a progressive leader who symbolized a new era for Turkey, an era that left the Ottoman period in the past as it strove for modernization.
In my (very humble) opinion, Atatürk’s mausoleum is not representative of a cult or a religion. The Turks chose to highlight his time on earth and be thankful for his deeds in a way that ties the past and present together. To clarify; the engineers, architects, historians, citizens, politicians, etc. who were involved in the construction project brought aspects and themes from the deep Anatolian past and applied them to Atatürk in the present. So, to me, Atatürk’s mausoleum represents more than just a display of the deeds and influences of one person; it represents a catalyst for Turks to explore their deeper past and apply aspects of that past onto a modern leader. This is pretty epic! And unlike someone like Stalin, Atatürk didn’t kill millions of his own people in the name of “progress,” I’m of the mindset that this is something to be proud of and celebrate.