As Turkey commemorates the 96th anniversary of the ultimate battle of its IndependenceWar, renowned Turkish historian İlber Ortaylı has said the victory gave a message to the world that “we are here to stay,” thanks to the “military and political prodigy” of MustafaKemal Atatürk.
In an interview with Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency, Ortaylı, an history professor at Istanbul’s Galatasaray University, recalled that Seljuk Turks took control over Anatolia after the Battle of Dorylaeum with the then crusaders during the First Crusade in July 1, 1097, near the city of Dorylaeum located close to Turkey’s Eskişehir province.
This allowed Turks to settle in Anatolia.
Turkish domination in Anatolia began with the Battle of Malazgirt in Aug. 26, 1071, which saw Seljuk Turks led by Sultan Alparslan defeat a Byzantine army.
About the 1922 victory of Turkish forces over Greeks, the historian said: “Two factors were behind their dominance.”
“First, we [Turks] took control of not only the villages and the cities, but also the mountains,” Ortaylı said.
The second factor was the power of language that helped cement the dominance of Turks in Anatolia.
“It was not in the bureaucracy or the madrasah but in the army. In terms of language, the army was Turkish,” Ortaylı said.
He added that the inherited seminomadic tribal order of the Seljuks had also helped Turks to reinforce their dominance in Anatolia.
Ortaylı also pointed out that Anatolia was not a rich region when Turks had first arrived.
“However, for the first time in history, Turkish population was so dense in one region,” he said.
Entente States’ futile aims
“The most populous region of the Turkic world is the Asia Minor. In no other country of the world, Turks have been so packed.
“There are Balkan countries, which we have left, there are also northern Syria and northern Mesopotamia. If you include those, it makes a very big country. There was no population that was so crowded along the River Volga, or in Crimea, or even in Iran, or in Central Asia… For this reason, Turkey became an indispensable homeland.”
He recalled that the then global powers wanted Turks to leave Anatolia after the First World War.
“They [the then Entente States, also known as Allied Powers] tried to get it [Anatolia], but they failed to achieve their aim,” Ortaylı said, adding that the Entente states, especially Britain, wanted Turks to leave Anatolia on the grounds that they were supposedly “outlanders” and thus could not be a part of Anatolia.
Therefore, Turkey’s decisive victory on Aug. 30, 1922, which was later “legitimized” by the Lausanne Agreement, was a “we are here to stay” message to the world, Ortaylı said.
The well-known Turkish historian also recalled the Greek Commander Ioannis Metaxas’s warning against launching an offensive in Anatolia.
Metaxas had refused to launch the offensive and told Greek politicians that the war in Turkey could not be won, Ortaylı said.
“The Turks developed a national feeling,” the author, David Fromkin, quoted Metaxas as saying in his book “A Peace to End All Peace”.
“And they mean to fight for their freedom and independence. They realize that Asia Minor is their country and that we are invaders. For them, for their national feelings, the historical rights on which we base our claims, have no influence.”
Atatürk ‘war genius’
“Whether they are right or wrong is another question. What matters is their feelings,” according to the book.
Ortaylı said although the Turkish army had lacked even the basic equipment and weapons against the Greek Army, they were more experienced in fighting the war.
The historian also highlighted Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s ability to command the Turkishpeople, which, Ortaylı said, had boosted the war-weary Turkish people’s energy to take part in their independence war.
“Atatürk is undoubtedly a war genius who dared to do things which some other [Turkishcommanders] could not dare to do. No other commander tried to rescue Bursa, Antalya or İzmir,” he said.
Ortaylı added: “This war was won by Atatürk’s military and political prodigy.”
Turkey was occupied by allied forces after the defeat of the Ottoman Empire at the end of the First World War (1914-1918).
The foreign occupation prompted Turkey’s War of Independence in 1919, in which Turkishforces — led by Gen. Mustafa Kemal — eventually drove the invaders from Anatolia.
From Aug. 26 to Aug. 30 of 1922, Turkish forces fought the Battle of Dumlupınar (considered part of the Greco-Turkish War) in Turkey’s western Kütahya province, where Greek forces were decisively defeated.
By the end of 1922, all foreign forces had left the territories which would collectively become the new Republic of Turkey one year later.