In 1918, the Ottoman Empire found itself on the losing side in Word War One. Following the surrender of the Empire, the Treaty of Severes placed the Ottoman government in Istanbul under the control of the allied forces. The empire ceded all its Balkan and Arab provinces to the Allies, and the eastern and southern parts of Anatolia were occupied.
In 1919, 20,000 Greek soldiers had landed in Izmir, taking control of the city and its surrounds under cover of the Greek, French and British navies. In May 1919, General Mustafa Kemal was sent to Anatolia as the 9th Army Inspector. It is generally accepted that his landing at Samsun on the 19th May marks the start of the War of Liberation.
In June 1919 he published a circular letter. The aim of this circular was to make public that the unity of the country was at stake, the Istanbul government weak and helpless, and that the nation was determined to be independent.
Under pressure from the British, the Istanbul government relieved Kemal from his duties. In response, he resigned from the army and held the Erzurum Congress in July 1919, where he was elected president. In September the Sivas Congress re-examined and ratified the Erzurum Congress.
The Istanbul government unsuccessfully tried to prevent the Congress, and relations between Anatolia and Istanbul were broken off. In September 1919, Mustafa Kemal informed the Sultan that the Council of Representatives would represent the Turkish nation and that for security reasons it would meet somewhere other than Istanbul. In December 1919, Mustafa Kemal moved his base of operation to Ankara, acting independently of the Ottoman government.
During the following summer, the Greek zone of occupation was extended over western and north western Anatolia. By June 1921, the Greek army had advanced to within 60 miles of Ankara. Despite being desperately short of supplies, the Turkish army prepared to meet the Greeks. Owners of private rifles, guns and ammunition had to surrender them to the army, and every household had to contribute clothing.
It was assumed that the Turkish army would be drawn into a battle of attrition and destroyed. (In fact a victory dinner in Ankara had already been planned). However, the advance of the Greek army was met with fierce resistance by the Turks under Mustafa Kemal, who had been appointed commander in chief. During the Battle of Sakarya which lasted 21 days, the Greeks reached 20 miles south of Ankara, but the Turks held out. Although both sides were exhausted and contemplating withdrawal, the Greeks were the first to do so.
After this defeat, allied support for Greece began to cool. In addition, Russia began to supply arms and money to the Turkish nationalists. In 1922, Britain, France and Italy, having decided that the Treaty of Severes could not be enforced, withdrew their troops, leaving the Greeks in isolation. In March 1922, the allies proposed an armistice, but Mustafa Kemal refused as long as the Greeks remained in Anatolia.
On August 26th 1922, the Turks launched a counter attack, and the major Greek defences were soon overrun. On 30th August, the Greek army was finally defeated at the Battle of Dumlupinar, losing half of its soldiers and all of its equipment. The victorious Turks followed the fleeing Greeks to Izmir, from where the remaining Greek army and civilian population fled. The last Greeks left Anatolia on the 16th September, and an armistice was signed by Turkey, Italy, France and Britain in mid October, with Greece following a few days later. At the end of October 1922, the Allies invited the nationalist and Ottoman governments to a conference at Lausanne, Switzerland, but Kemal, now known as Ataturk, was determined that the nationalist government should be Turkey's sole representative. In November 1922, the Grand National Assembly stated that the Ottoman regime had ceased to be the government of Turkey when the Allies seized the capital in 1920, in effect abolishing the Ottoman Empire. The Treaty of Lausanne, concluded in July 1923, and with this treaty, the Allies recognized the present-day territory of Turkey.
The victory of the 30th August 1922, is seen as a turning point in the foundation of Turkey, and is celebrated as a public holiday.
For all holiday dates, click here.