The Concept of Youth in Atatürk and the Characteristics of Kemalist Youth

The Concept of Youth in Atatürk and the Characteristics of Kemalist Youth
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"Youth! Young people who undertake to realize my future ambitions! I am very pleased and happy that one day I will leave this country to a youth like you who understand me.” Mustafa Kemal Ataturk


Another important aspect that glorifies Atatürk is the value he gives to the youth in our society. The concept of “youth”, which constitutes the future of the country, found its most beautiful meaning in Atatürk and reached the highest value judgment. The Great Man, from the very beginning of the National Struggle, saw that the only remedy against outdated ideas and those who wanted to take the nation back, was in youth and young ideas, and he felt that the generations that would grow up with a modern mentality would further develop his work in the future and protect it from all kinds of dangers and keep it alive forever. That is why Atatürk, after establishing the Republic of Turkey and achieving his great revolutions, named the 19th of May, when he set foot on Anatolian lands in Samsun to start the National Struggle, as the “Youth and Sports Day” to the Turkish youth.

The concept of youth, when used in a biological sense, undoubtedly refers to a certain age period. This period is usually a very valuable phase in which youth and the upbringing of the youth are intertwined. Atatürk also attached great importance to this period when the youth was growing up, and he insisted that the Turkish youth should be well educated in their professions, along with a spirit that would keep the Republic alive in this period. However, we should also state that the concept of youth in Atatürk, in general, includes this biological period, but sometimes exceeds the age limits, gaining an intellectual meaning, in other words, it goes hand in hand with the innovation of the idea. Atatürk's phrase “Young minded means a real minded person who sees and understands the truth”1 was used in this sense.

Great Atatürk, who proclaimed the Republic at the age of 42, made the hat and clothing reforms at the age of 44, and replaced the Arabic letters with the new Turkish letters at the age of 48, was young in every age of his life due to his innovation in thought and the freshness of energy in his soul. According to him, the measure of being young was not only age, but also belief and commitment to the principles he set alongside age and to the revolutions he accomplished. That is why he said:  “The youth I understand are those who will adopt the ideas and ideology of this revolution and carry it to future generations. In my opinion, a twenty-year-old bigot is an old man, and a seventy-year-old idealist is a fit youth.” He was saying 2. In this respect, it is necessary to look for an idea youth, an ideal youth, to see this youth, to think about this youth by going beyond the age limits, in a sense, in Atatürk's address "O Turkish Youth". Because, according to Atatürk, only a youth who adheres to his principles and reforms can be the guarantee of the regime he has established.

A hardworking and patriotic youth, committed to its principles, was Atatürk's ideal.  "Youth! Young people who undertake to realize my future ambitions! I am very pleased and happy that one day I will leave this country to a youth who understands me like you.” 3 He was expressing his unwavering trust in Turkish youth. In this respect, our young people should try to understand Atatürk in the true sense, to be the sons he wanted and worthy of him. Essentially himself:  “Seeing me doesn't necessarily mean seeing my face. If you understand and feel my ideas and my feelings, that is enough . ” For this reason, getting to know Atatürk for young people; it is only possible to know his ideas, thoughts and feelings really well and to adopt them.

Atatürk has left us a realistic ideology that is rooted in the realities of the country and that accepts the guidance of reason and science, without falling into dogmas in the face of problems. We should embrace this ideology, which we call Kemalism, and, as Turkish youth, we should turn it into a work of speech. Because the Kemalism, which he left to the youth, is a rational world view that has been stripped of all dogmatic elements. This realistic view, which opens the way for reason and logic to young generations, represents a contemporary view that always renews itself, responding to the needs of tomorrow as well as today.

In the Kemalist view, Atatürk's principles and reforms are the paths drawn by reason and logic in order to bring Turkey to the level of contemporary civilization as soon as possible. In this respect, Kemalism, which is shown as a target to the Turkish youth, is to always move forward, always to the right, always to the beneficial, to be in a constant breakthrough, a constant development in the race to reach the level of contemporary civilization. However, this breakthrough will not move away from the source of this development, the Kemalist idea that directed this development will not be lost, and the Kemalist view will not be distorted.

Young people should not forget that the Republic of Turkey was founded on Atatürk's views. The ideal of a happy and strong Turkey depends on the Turkish youth to be kneaded with Kemalist thought and this thought to be handed down from generation to generation with faith. Essentially, he said:  “There are two Mustafa Kemals. One is the ideal of me, the mortal Mustafa Kemal, and the other is the ideal of the Mustafa Kemals he has kept alive in the nation”  5. The duty and responsibility of today's youth in the realization of this ideal is to adhere to Atatürkist thought with an unshakable belief, to fully embrace Atatürk's principles and reforms, and to keep them alive forever. Kemalism, the true love of Atatürk, should be this for the Turkish youth.

According to Atatürk, youth should grow up with a national consciousness and a modern culture. It is especially important for young people to have a strong and positive character. According to Atatürk, with the education and culture they receive, young people will be the most precious symbol of human virtue, love of homeland and freedom of thought. Young people will grow up in modern education and training and will be equipped with the light of positive science.

In Kemalism, all the hope and future of the homeland are connected to the understanding and energy of the young generations. Because it is the youth who will raise and maintain the Republic. For this reason, they have been entrusted with the task of protecting the Turkish independence and the Republic of Turkey forever.

The youth that Atatürk meant and missed was not a divided and fragmented youth pursuing separate ideals. On the contrary, it is a youth who represents the common tendencies of the Turkish nation and is not a prisoner of any foreign movement or foreign ideology other than Kemalism. That youth, who will draw the future of the country, will further strengthen the foundations of tomorrow's Turkish society. For this reason, the Turkish youth should form a youth of ideas, a youth of faith, an ideal youth.

Atatürk left the honor of fulfilling this sacred duty to the teachers of the Republic, especially when the youth was brought up with these qualities and these feelings. His words are of great value in this respect:  “It is necessary to raise the country in the fields of science, culture, economy and public works, to develop the productive abilities of our nation in every respect, and to give future generations a solid, unchanging and positive character. Among the enlightened forces fighting to achieve these sacred goals, teachers occupy the most important and gentle place.” 6

Again in 1937, when opening the Turkish Grand National Assembly, he showed the necessary ways for us to reach the level of modern civilization, emphasized the creation of individuals and institutions that would understand and explain the ideology of the country's causes and keep it alive from generation to generation, and concluded his words with the following sentence  : It is the main duty of our universities and high schools to keep the Turkish youth alive in the minds of the Turkish youth and in the consciousness of the Turkish nation. ”7

We should never forget these words of Atatürk. We must vigorously defend and strive to fulfill his ideals for our own existence. Our youth and every future generation should know that this holy homeland, the republican government we established in this country has been won with great sacrifices. It should not be forgotten that behind this great success, there are thousands of martyrs and thousands of veterans who gave us the opportunity to breathe comfortably today. In these lands, the borders of which were drawn by Atatürk and the Kemalists, no current that contradicts their ideal should and should not be able to flourish. The truth is that Atatürk planted the sprout that would sprout in these lands and left its development and protection to us. In this regard, he repeatedly asked the Turkish teacher responsible for educating the youth, and Prof. He told Şemsettin Günaltay during a study:You are a teacher, you are a professor! I want you to always inculcate my ideal to young people and always work to protect it! ” 8 words Atatürk's testament should be accepted for every Turkish teacher who is a child of the Republic - on the issue of raising the youth.

1 Atatürk's Ideas and Thoughts, Prepared by Utkan Kocatürk, 3rd Edition 1984, p. 76.

2 a.g.e., s. 165.

3 a.g.e., s. 164-165.

4 a.g.e., s. 342.

5 a.g.e., s. 342.

6 a.g.e., s. 105.

7 a.g.e., s. 178.

8 a.g.e., s. 107.

Prof. Dr. Utkan Kocaturk *

* Former Deputy Chairman of Atatürk Culture, Language and History High Institution and Former President of Atatürk Research Center

Source:  ATATÜRK RESEARCH CENTER JOURNAL, Issue 4, Volume: II, November 1985  

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The Concept of Youth in Atatürk and the Characteristics of Kemalist Youth