The Turkish nation marks another landmark in its history this weekend, with Youth and Sports Day commemorating the country’s first significant step towards independence a century ago.

Turkey sided with Germany during the Great War but surrendered in the closing stages when it became evident there was little to be gained from fighting on.

With the Ottoman Empire in its death throes, leaders took the view consolidation at home was more vital than fighting wars abroad – particularly with rapacious enemies gathering to carve up former territories in southern Europe and the Middle East.

The Greek invasion

Indeed, while its allies turned a blind eye, Greek forces took the opportunity to invade Turkey itself in 1919, sweeping eastwards from landing points on the Aegean coast.

Military leader Mustafa Kemal – already the hero of Gallipoli – was in İstanbul at the time, rebuilding the shattered remains of the Ottoman Army but quickly sailed to Samsun on the Black Sea coast and after rallying forces loyal to him, pushed south to intercept the Greek forces.

Ultimate victory for the new Turkish army came in modern İzmir three years later but the landing at Samsun is still seen as a seminal moment in the nation’s history and celebrated every year as the event which later gave Mustafa Kemal the mandate to take on the mantle of Atatürk – father of the Turks.

Discover Turkey: Mustafa Kemal Atatürk - the creator of modern Turkey
General Mustafa Kemal – the military leader who was later to become Atatürk, the founder of the modern Turkish Republic

Sailing regatta

Youth and Sports Day was declared a public holiday in 1938 and, traditionally, events to commemorate the anniversary have included sports and gymnastic displays.

A sailing regatta has been taking place in Göcek this week, involving over 270 young sailors and more than 40 craft.

However, civic events include a remembrance ceremony at Anıtkabir, Atatürk’s mausoleum in Ankara.

A group of young people also set sail from İstanbul yesterday, recreating Atatürk’s voyage to Samsun arriving in time for a ceremony on Sunday which will include a military parade led by present-day president, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

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