Dersimiz: Ataturk (2010)




Director:     Hamdi Alkan.

Starring:     Halit Ergenç (Atatürk), Çetin Tekindor (Tarihci Dede), Batuhan Karacakaya, Münire Apaydin (Afet inan), Mehmet Auf (Nuri Conker), Ercument Balakoglu (Bahçivan), Gaye Gürsel (Burcu ögretmen), Canan Hosgor (Mert'in Annesi), Nilgün Kasapbasoglu (Annane), Deniz Konuk (Mert'in Ablasi), Doga Rutkay (Latife Hanim), Tolga Savaci (Mert'in Babasi), Sahin Sekman (Salih Bozok), Engin Yüksel (Saffet arikan).

life of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk


Spoiler Warning:

A school boy named Mert comes onto the school courtyard.  He is greeted by a number of happy school girls.  He goes to his classroom and sits down.  The pretty female teacher comes in.  She reminds the children that April 23rd, National Children's Day, is coming.  She wants the class to prepare a very good presentation on that day.  She wants them to deal with Ataturk.  Their goal is to go to Ataturk's Mausoleum in Ankara to visit the tomb.  Then she talks about Mert's famous grandfather.  He is famous because as an historian, he wrote several books on Ataturk.  She asks Mert if his grandfather will help the class?  Mert says yes, because grandfather won't disappoint him.

After school, a small bus drops Mert off at the bus stop.  He is all excited to tell his mother that he was elected to be the leader of the team to prepare the Ataturk presentation at school.

Later, mother calls Mert's grandmother who says that grandfather may be too busy to help Mert out with the presentation. 

On Saturday the family goes to grandfather's house.  But grandfather says he's too busy to visit.  But grandmother tells Mert that if he asks grandfather, maybe he will help Mert with his project. 

Mert gets help from his grandfather by merely mentioning Ataturk.

Some of the kids come over to grandfather's house to listen to him speak about Ataturk.  He says that Ataturk is our nation's founding father.  Grandfather then turns on his slide projector and begins by showing the students the house in which Ataturk was born to a middle class family in Salonika, now a part of Greece, in 1881. Ataturk lost his father when he was a child.  He had a sister named Makbule.  As a boy, the one thing that scared him were mice. 

When Ataturk was born the Ottoman Empire lagged far behind the development of the western European powers.  Long gone were the glory years of Sultan Mehmet and Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent.  The Empire was called "the sick man".  The country and its people were poor and illiterate, while the women were under oppression.  There was nearly no industrial production. 

Ataturk became an army officer.  He started at the Military School in Salonika.  He was so good in math class that the professor called him "Kemal" (meaning perfection).  So he became known as "Mustafa Kemal" since his secondary school days.  After secondary school he went to the Military High School in Manastir.  He read carefully 3,997 books. 

At the age of 18 he went to the Military School in Istanbul.  He graduated from there as a lieutenant.  From there he went on to the Military Academy and graduated as a staff captain in 1905.  The Italians invaded Libya and Ataturk went there to fight and as the Libyan war was starting to finish, he fought in the Balkan War.  The nation lost the war in a very short time.  Because of this loss, they lost the entire European part of the Ottoman Empire, including Yanya, Selanik, Manastir, Uskup, Pristina and Bosna.  The Turks who were living there started moving to today's Turkey.  Ataturk's mother came to Istanbul with her daughter.  Her son moved them into a house in Besiktas. 

The defeat in the Balkan War led in Turkey to a desire to stop living in the middle ages.  People tried to change the situation, but things did not get better.  To get out of the middle ages, Turkey needed a new revolutionary leader.  And during World War I, that hero showed up at the Battle of Gallipoli.  Turkey joined with Germany in the fight with Britain, France and Russia. 

Grandfather shows a map of The Dardanelles to the children.  British and French ships tried to pass The Dardanelles and make their way north to Istanbul.  If they were successful, that would have meant the end of the Ottoman Empire.  But Lt. Colonel Ataturk was appointed the commander of the 19th Division.  It was this division that was sent to Gallipoli.  The ships that tried to head north were sunk or nearly destroyed and the British Admiral had to admit it was a naval defeat.  He ordered a retreat.  After that, the British, Australian and New Zealand troops decided to try to reach Istanbul by land.  And to do this, these troops had to attack the Gallipoli region.  The plan was to make an amphibious landing and to invade the Ariburnu region.  Then they would march to Kocatepe, the highest peak in the area. 

Grandfather shows the children the views from Kocatepe.  It's a beautiful view from the top looking toward Ariburnu Bay.  This is where the Battle of Ariburnu took place.  Then he shows the students close-up photos of the southern end of Gallipoli Peninsula.  Across the Dardanelles Strait, the city of Canakkale is located.  The battle started early in the morning. April 25, 1915.  First came the shelling of the Turkish coast.  After that hundreds of ships headed for shore.  Thousands of enemy troops landed on the beaches.  Ataturk responded by putting his troops on Kocatepe and at the beaches of Ariburnu Bay.  The Turkish troops stopped the enemy from reaching Kocatepe.  They also pushed the enemy troops all the way back to the beaches.  Ataturk became the hero of Ariburnu. 

After that battle, Ataturk had three more victories: 1st Anafartalar Battle, Conkbayiri Battle and the 2nd Anafartalar Battle.  After his fourth victory, the Gallipoli War was over.  These victories buoyed up the confidence of the Turkish people and as a result the Independence War started.

Grandfather now shows the rows of dead in the cemetery at Gallipoli.  In addition, he shows the war memorials for the Turkish dead who fought at Gallipoli.  Also at Gallipoli is a museum containing objects from the battlefield. 

Ataturk now becomes a colonel and then a pasha.  His name was then Mustafa Kemal Pasha.  [The title of pasha was a higher rank in the Ottoman Empire political and military system, typically granted to governors, generals, dignitaries and others.]  He now led bigger armies in the East and in Syria.

During WWI, the Turkish state became even poorer and worse off than before.  Eventually, Turkey had to surrender to the winners of the world war.  Ataturk was there in Istanbul on the day of surrender.  His comment was:  "They will leave as they came."  The Allies took over the government in Turkey.  And in those sad days there were some troubles between the Turks and the Greeks in the eastern Black Sea region.  There was fighting and it was Ataturk's job to deal with those fights. 

Meanwhile, Ataturk was devising new plans to start a nationwide war of independence.  Ataturk and his team left Istanbul for Samsun.  They arrived May 19, 1919. 

Now the build-up to the Turkish War of Independence begins.  Ataturk gathesr conferees to the Erzurum Congress.  Punishment by the government for that caused Ataturk to resign from the army.  The Congress chose Ataturk as their President.  The next congress was the Sivas Congress.  The spirit of the congress was "independence or bust".  Ataturk and his friends moved to Ankara in central Anatolia for better access to the entire country.  There was a rising in Anatolia for independence.  This brought a heavy fist down on the Istanbul government from the Allies.  To meet the challenge Ataturk called for a meeting of the Turkish Grand National Assembly in Ankara.  They met on April 23, 1920.  The building where they met is now a museum.  Ataturk was elected the first President. 

The forces of the rebels were few compared to those of the Allies, but the rebels beat the enemy forces in the North, East and South.  In the West there was a huge Greek Army.  The fight with the Greeks did not lead to a massive Turkish victory.  The Turkish women did a lot of work in brining ammunition and supplies to the Turkish forces.  The dirt road the women used to transport the supplies is now called "The Road to Independence".  And now that road is decorated with monuments. 

The Greek Army planned an attack on Ankara itself to win the war.  So Ataturk asked the Turkish people to give 40% percent of what they owned to their army.  The people responded nobly.  Ataturk proclaimed:  "I will beat the enemy right in the heart of Anatolia."  He goes to fight the Greeks.  The building that he went to is the Commanding Headquarters, between Polatli and Ankara, in Alagoz.  Ataturk led the Battle of Sakarya from there.  He had an accident and broke a rib, but that did not stop him visiting the fighting troops at the front. 

Now grandfather shows the kids the area of Polatli, the heart of the Battle of Sakarya.  There were two hills on the battlefield.  The first hill the Turks conquered was Duatepe.  Today there are monuments on the hill to the victory.  Below Duatepe is the beautiful Sakarya Valley.  In the last phase of the war, the Turks captured Kartaltepe hill.  Today the hill is home to the Monument of the Unknown Soldier. 

And now Ataturk receives the title of "Gazi" and the rank of Marshal.  Ataturk was once again a soldier. 

Ataturk planned the final battle for independence.  He had adopted a lonely boy when he was in Eastern Anatolia.  The boy's name was Abdurrahim.  The boy lived with Ataturk's mother, but at times he would visit Ataturk.  Ataturk would instruct the boy in his lessons and later Abdurrahim became an electrical engineer.  The time for the big battle arrives.  Grandfather shows how the battlefield looked from Kocatepe.  The village of Afyon is on the right and Izmir on the left.  On the morning of August 26, 1922,  after an artillery bombardment of enemy lines, the Turkish army attacked the front lines with the village of Afyon behind the lines.  The attack took down the front line defenses in only 36 hours.  The Turks won back all their lost cities.  With the take-back of Izmir from the enemy, the Turkish offensive ended September 9, 1922.  After getting their independence, Ataturk wanted to bring his country out of the middle ages.  He put a lot of the responsibility for this on the nation's teachers.  He also gave speeches to school children urging them to help with the modernization of Turkey.  Moreover, he gave to the children The Children's Feast Day.

And now arrived the time for the abolition of the sultanate and the announcement of the new republic.  A concerned friend of Ataturk, named Hodja, comes to him to warn him that these recent plans will make a lot of enemies for Ataturk.  He gets Ataturk to become their next sultan and caliph.  Ataturk, of course, rejects the idea, favoring full-out modernization. 

When Ataturk died, millions of Turkish citizens wept for him.  After that Turkey became a republic and the country and the state passed to the nation from the Sultan. 

Modernization continued under Ataturk.  The Westerners call Turkey's rapid change "The Turkish Miracle".  Women and men became equal. 

Ataturk delivered a great speech on the 10th anniversary of the Turkish republic. 

And now they live in modern Turkey with modern everything.  Film is shown of the different aspects of modern Turkish life. 

Grandfather now says the history part of his presentation is finished, but wants the children to get to know Ataturk better by learning some things about his private life.  He loved to have dinners with prominent citizens representing the fields of the arts, education, films, politics, etc.  For fun the famous Turk likes to be with his close friends and have fun by singing classical Turkish music.  He was also very fond of animals. 

Ataturk was married to Miss Latife in Izmir in 1923.  They moved to Ankara.  Ataturk broke with precedent and got his wife into the National Assembly as a listener.  He says someone has to take the first step.  Ataturk gets his two close friends to accompany his wife and they will sit in the listeners' lodge.  In his speech he says that Turkey needs to have modern libraries, zoological and botanical gardens, art schools, museums, exhibition halls, art houses, night schools, many types of schools, health institutions, charities and printing houses. 

Grandfather says that today Turkey has lady parliamentarians in Turkey. 

Ataturk purchased a large piece of neglected land and built there a beautiful farm.  Young farmers came there to learn the latest agricultural technologies. Grandfather now shows the farm as it is today. 

Ataturk and his wife divorced a few years after their marriage, in 1925.  A neighbor girl comes to speak with Ataturk.  Her name is Sabiha.  She explains to Ataturk that her parents are dead and she lives with her elder brother and sister at intervals.  She wants to go to a boarding school.  Ataturk decides to adopt her.  The girl is very happy about that.  Later this little girl became Turkey's first female pilot, Sabiha Gokcen.  She was the fifth adopted child of Ataturk. 

Three of his girls came back from school saying the teacher threw them out of the school. He told the girls that they were lazy, spoiled and not doing their work.  They told him that they were the daughters of Ataturk.  Ataturk sides with the teacher and makes the girls go back and apologize to the teacher.  He also tells the girls that Turkey needs teachers like this man who will not show favoritism to anyone.

Whenever Ataturk went to visit a village, he would visit a school and pop in on a class.  At one visit the teacher tells him they were just talking about the children's' heroism during the Battle of Gaziantep.  At that time there were 42,000 villages still waiting for teachers.  Ataturk comes up with a new idea.  Since there are soldiers who know how to read a write, they could be taught how to teach students how to read and write and then be sent to the villages as teachers.  And along with the new teachers, came the message of a modernized Turkey.

In the village of Yalova, Ataturk talks to a poor shepherd boy.  The boy impresses the man and Ataturk tells his aides to speak with his parents about him taking this clever boy with them to Istanbul.  Permission is granted and the boy first has to go to a hospital to get into a state of good health.  Ataturk visits him and says when the doctor says the boy is ready to leave the hospital, he will come live with Ataturk.  Later the boy came to live in Dolmabahce Palace.  Later the boy went to a military school and today is a wonderful staff officer.

Ataturk bought a house at the seaside in Yalova.  He had a plane tree whose branches were growing too close to the roof of the house.  The gardener asked permission to cut off the offending branches.  Ataturk told him not to touch the tree.  Just have the house moved over by 4 or 5 meters. 

Grandfather shows slides of the house by the seaside and the tree that still grows next to the house. 

The nation lost Ataturk on the morning of November 10, 1938.  Turkey was in tears. 

And that brings to a close grandfather's presentation about Ataturk.  Mert and all the other children thank grandfather for the presentation. 

The children give a presentation at school that is very well received.  Mert's grandfather and grandmother are there along with Mert's parents and they are very pleased by Mert and the other students. 



Children are taught about Turkey's great hero Ataturk by the Ataturk expert grandfather of classmate Mert.  We learn the lesson along with the children.  Now the kids are at times a bit annoying when they shout, clap and cheer.  But, if you can ignore that, the presentation by grandfather is a really good one.  You get to know a lot about Ataturk and a lot about Turkish history.  He is somewhat like the Turkish George Washington in the USA.  After the history is presented, using actors and actresses, the lessons switch to the personal life of Ataturk.  The audience learns more about what kind of a man was Ataturk.  Now the praise at times is a bit too much, but that's only a minor irritation compared to the interesting facets of Ataturk's personality.  An interesting fact is that he was only married once and that marriage lasted only around two years.  He had no children, but adopted five bright children and helped them to become people able to get very good jobs. 

Halit Ergenç (as Atatürk) was very good in the role. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.  

Historical Background:


Two conflicts in the Balkan Wars took place in the Balkan Peninsula in 1912 and 1913: four Balkan states defeated the Ottoman Empire in the first war; and Bulgaria was defeated in the second war. The Ottoman Empire lost nearly all of its holdings in Europe.



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