This biography of Ataturk aims to strip away the myth to show the complexities of the man beneath. Born plain Mustafa in Ottoman Salonica in 1881, he trained as an army officer but was virtually unknown until 1919, when he took the lead in thwarting the victorious Allies' plan to partition the Turkish core of the Ottoman Empire.
He divided the Allies, defeated the last Sultan and secured the territory of the Turkish national state, becoming the first president of the new republic in 1923. He imposed coherence, order and mordernity and in the process, created his own legend and his own cult.
In 1923, reports Mango, a satirical magazine ran a cartoon showing the three faces of Turkey--the nation, the assembly and the government. All were identical: the features were those of Mustafa Kemal (1881-1938), an army officer who had salvaged the core of defeated Turkey after the 1914-1918 war to create a secular republic. A decade later, still trying to structure an identity for what remained of the polyglot, ramshackle Ottoman Empire, he decreed--as virtual dictator of a nation now largely populated by Muslims--that inhabitants had to take surnames. For himself, he adopted Ataturk, literally Father Turk. Mango (a retired BBC expert on Turkey and author of three previous books on the country) gives this man, one of the least-known nation-builders of the last century, full treatment, from his earliest days to his ascension to power and his death, from cirrhosis at the age of 57. Few leaders have so modernized an ancient society, instituting radical changes in dress, religion, government, education--even the alphabet. Ataturk abolished the monarchy, divided WWI's victors bent on partitioning all of Turkey, defeated rapacious Greeks intent on expanding their expatriate communities in Asia and destroyed or co-opted his domestic rivals. That so much of his legacy survives is evidence of his success. Mango's admiration for Ataturk doesn't keep him from displaying the dictator's arrogance, ruthlessness and authoritarianism; his Turkish expertise enables him to flesh out Ataturk's complex life via sources he translated himself. Mango gives a rounded, finely detailed portrait of the man who created modern Turkey. B&w photos.