As Turkey commemorates the 96th anniversary of the ultimate battle of its Independence War, renowned Turkish historian Ilber Ortayli has said the victory gave a message to the world that “we are here to stay,” thanks to the “military and political prodigy” of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

In an interview with Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency, Ortayli, 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 Eskisehir 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,” Ortayli 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,” Ortayli said.

He added that the inherited seminomadic tribal order of the Seljuks had also helped Turks to reinforce their dominance in Anatolia.

Ortayli 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.

“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.”

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, Ortayli said.

The historian also highlighted Mustafa Kemal Ataturk’s ability to command the Turkish people, which, Ortayli said, had boosted the war-weary Turkish people’s energy to take part in their independence war.

“Ataturk is undoubtedly a war genius who dared to do things which some other [Turkish commanders] could not dare to do. No other commander tried to rescue Bursa, Antalya or Izmir,” he said.

Ortayli 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 Turkish forces — 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 Dumlupinar (considered part of the Greco-Turkish War) in Turkey’s western Kutahya 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.

Source: Daily Sabah (Abridged)


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