Rector Bilgiç, "Atatürk, 19 May and Samsun"
18 Mayıs 2018, Cuma - 17:25
Güncelleme: 06 Eylül 2018, Perşembe - 17:03
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Today we profoundly celebrate 19 May, the 99th anniversary of Atatürk disembarking at Samsun, as a national holiday, and we once more wish that the day becomes an auspicious one for our nation and country. Adding our local customs and national holidays into our vault of values is one of the biggest achievements of our social solidarity. Since 23 April 1921 our national holidays have been officialised with respective laws and the sayings dedicated to these days are of utmost value. The past should occasionally be visited. Thus, the value of the good and the place of the evil are determined. Any history enthusiast should acknowledge that a nation which does not have respect for its past is simply trampling over itself. Without question, 19 May not only marks the beginning of our War of Independence, it also constitutes the first sentence of the Nutuk (The Speech, delivered by M.Kemal Atatürk from 15 to 20 October 1927) which is an event that is considered to be the birthday of our beloved Atatürk and therefore represents a much more meaningful and exciting national holiday for Samsun.

While the calamitous years of World War One seemed to be over, the demands of the imperialist countries were unceasing. From the viewpoint of the Ottoman Empire, the disbanding of the army headquarters and restructuring them into army corps could be accepted as the lesser of two evils. While some of the army commanders who had returned to Istanbul were arrested by the British and exiled into Malta, some of the remaining commanders were thinking ways of coming through these harsh times and were making an action plan and program. During his six months and three days long stay in Istanbul, Mustafa Kemal Pasha was making his own plans. Hardly anyone could estimate that the British diplomatic note sent on 21 April 1919 was going to be the beginning of the Anatolian independence struggle. One day after the occupation of İzmir, on 16 May 1919, a staff of 17 set sail on to the Black Sea with SS Bandırma and changed the destiny of our nation. It seemed like the Almighty Creator who blesses and ordains his grace and favours did not render this nation helpless and unfortunate.

The conditions of 19 May 1919 were very harsh and extremely hard. First of all, Samsun was not a safe place. Greek gangs were lurking at the outskirts of the city and gunshots never ceased. The fleet of the Entente was sailing in the Black Sea and the Greek community took courage from this and sung Greek anthems at nights and flying the Greek flag. The local authority was silently watching everything, and even the governor was looking for ways to return to Istanbul. As a temporary measure, Mustafa Kemal Pasha appointed Refet Bey as the governor by proxy. The British had reinforced their brigade of 200 with an additional 100 troops on May 17. The Turks also started fighting back at the Greek gangs and the situation became very dire. Mustafa Kemal Pasha, who was tasked to remedy the situation, informed and warned Istanbul from the date of his arrival, and voiced the direness and gravity of the situation. He corresponded with his friends whom they had agreed together in Istanbul and who came to Anatolia on individual missions. On May 21, in the telegram he sent to the 15th Corps Commander Kazım Karabekir Pasha who was stationed at Erzurum, Kemal Pasha wrote that he accepted this final and conscientious mission which he owed to the nation and country. In the telegram he sent to the 20th Corps Commander Ali Fuat Pasha who was stationed in Ankara, he expressed his desire to hold official talks with him on a regular basis, and he wrote that he and his temporary headquarters would move to Havza in a few days for a temporary period of time. He, for seven days starting from May 19 Monday to May 25 Sunday morning of 1919, kept the seal of the Ninth Army flying on his headquarters located at the hotel Mıntıka Palas. “That great figure stayed here silently for a week. He listened to people and then moved towards the inland Anatolia.”

Following the conclusion of the National Struggle with a victory and the forming of a new government, Mustafa Kemal Pasha visited Samsun once more and stayed in Samsun on 20-24 September 1924. Nineteen May was emphasised in the words of the speakers and the columns of the press before it was accepted and declared as a national holiday.

In addition, it was stated that the five days visit fulfilled Samsun’s five years of longing, and Ghazi Kemal showed his appreciation while he was leaving the city. From the beginning of 1925, political and social events drew all the attention. The emphasis on Nineteen May had to be postponed to the following year. Starting from 1926, Nineteen May started to be celebrated in Samsun as The Day of the Ghazi and the President of the Republic who was in Ankara at the moment was informed about the day. He expressed his thanks and love in the telegram he sent to the governor of Samsun.

As part of the 1927 celebrations, the ground-breaking ceremony for the Statue of Honour was held and it was accepted that the location was called the Ghazi Park. Thereafter, the celebrations were held in a certain ceremony at the Ghazi Park. While it was a local day, Nineteen May was celebrated like a national holiday in Samsun. In 1935, The Day of the Ghazi was renamed as Atatürk Day. Even though the Law on National Holidays and General Holidays was passed within the same year, on May 27, Atatürk Day remained to be a local day. On June 20, 1938, a sub-article was added to the related law and 19 May became one of our national holidays.

While celebrating the 99th anniversary of 19 May, and the 80th anniversary of its acceptance as a national holiday, we remember Ghazi Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and his heroic brothers in arms who made it possible for us to come to these days with gratitude and compassion.

Prof. Dr. Sait BİLGİÇ

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