Four of Turkey’s national holidays stem from the Turkish War for Independence (1919-1923). Youth and Sports Day commemorates the beginning of the Turkish War for Independence on May 19, 1919.
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After World War I, the Ottoman Empire found itself under the influence of Western powers. Sultan Mehmed VI appointed Mustafa Kemal, a general and hero of WWI, to oversee demobilization of army divisions. However, concerned about foreign dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire, Mustafa Kemal took a ferry from Istanbul to Samsun on the main Turkish peninsula on May 19, 1919 to rally support for a unified, independent Turkey. His landing is considered the beginning of the Turkish War of Independence.
In Ankara the following year, Mustafa Kemal convened the first Turkish Grand National Assembly. In 1921 and 1922 he defeated the Greek army at the battles of Sakarya and Dumlupinar, and he refused to sign any treaty that undermined Turkish sovereignty. The Treaty of Lausanne recognized Turkey’s independence in 1923 and Mustafa Kemal became the country’s first president in October of that year. He remained in power until his death in 1938.
Mustafa Kemal established Youth and Sports Day during his presidency; however, since his death, Turks have observed it more as “Commemoration of Ataturk.”
Ataturk is Mustafa Kemal’s honorary title. It means “Father of the Turks.”