Life came to a standstill at 9:05 a.m. this morning, noting the time of the death of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, one of the most revered figures in modern Turkish history. The founder of the Republic of Turkey was remembered across the nation on the 82nd anniversary of his passing on Tuesday.
One of the greatest statespeople of the 20th century, Atatürk is credited with shaping a new country from the ashes of the Ottoman Empire. His life was cut short, as he died at the age of 57, succumbing to cirrhosis.
The coronavirus pandemic forced the country to scale down its usually crowded ceremonies commemorating the leader, but certain annual traditions were carried out. At Atatürk’s time of death, sirens and car horns echoed across Turkey, followed by two minutes of silence in his memory. Across the country, somber ceremonies were held, wreaths were laid at the feet of monuments honoring the leader, and a long line of tearful mourners who had come to pay their respects formed at Dolmabahçe Palace in Istanbul, where the country’s first president spent his final hours.
An official ceremony was held at Anıtkabir, Atatürk’s mausoleum, in the capital Ankara. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and dignitaries, from Parliament Speaker Mustafa Şentop to leaders of opposition parties, attended the event where a wreath was laid at his grave. Erdoğan, signing a visitors’ book at the mausoleum, wrote: “Our nation remember Gazi Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and his heroic brothers in arms who crowned our nation’s struggle for existence with victory and left a legacy of an independent, free country. We will work for the eternal survival of our republic built on the sacrifice of our martyrs and to leave a prosperous, powerful, reputed country to future generations.”
Erdoğan later spoke at an event at the Presidential Complex organized by the Atatürk Supreme Council for Culture, Language and History on the occasion. He paid tribute to Atatürk and criticized those who “dogmatized” him and “those who try to make his legacy worthless” instead of pursuing his vision and honoring his memory by adapting to “the way of knowledge and mind.”