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After Queen Elizabeth II of Britain, the head of state most frequently portrayed on stamps is undoubtedly Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. When the Turkish Republic was established on the ruins of the Ottoman Empire, depicting its founder on the coutry'sn stamps was one way of expressing the deep respect and gratitude which the nation harboured towards this statesman who had rebuilt their country. Today they continue to symbolise that the nation is still following his vision of a modern nation. With a very few exceptions, Atatürk is the only Turkish president to be depicted on the coutry'sd stamps. 

Of the over 2700 stamps issued by the Turkish Republic since 1923, around 500 bear his portrait, sometimes in the form of reproductions of photographs, paintings and statues. A further fifty or so stamps commemorate his reforms, congresses and achievements.The victories and reforms of Atatürk not only inspired his own nation, but many other countries, such as India and Iraq, in their own struggle for independence. His model of a secular state was similarly followed by other nations, as illustrated by these words of Habib Burghiba, ounder of modern 

fTunisia, referring to Turkey's independence victory under Atatürk's leadership: '... The victory at the Battle of Sakarya was the most unforgettable memory of my twentieth year. At that time I asked myself if I, too, could not mobilise my nation in the same way; if I could not instill its spirit with the same unbounded yearning for freedom.' It is for this reason that Atatürk's portrait has appeared on the stamps of numerous other countries, including Argentinia, New Guinea, Pakistan and Malaysia.The first Turkish postal stamps depicting Atatürk were issued on 1 January 1924 to commemorate the Lausanne Peace Treaty signed on 24 July 1923. This eight-stamp Peace Commemoration series was produced in Istanbul at the printing house of the Public Debt Office. The portrait of Atatürk, dressed in military uniform and a fur kalpak, is set in a medallion in the upper right corner.When we arrange the stamps bearing his picture in chronological order, we find ourselves with a miniature encyclopaedia of Turkey's recent history. The events which they mark and commemorate stretch back to the late Ottoman period, and include the Gallipoli Campaign and War of Independence, the proclamation of the Republic, Atatürk's many reforms and achievements, and events in Atatürk's own life. Depicted on these stamps we find, for example, the house in Thessaloniki where he was born in 1881, the War Academy where he studied, his mother Zübeyde Hanım, the Congress of Sivas, the introduction of a new Latin alphabet, the statue of Atatürk erected in front of the Faculty of Linguistics and History in Ankara, and much more.

The universality of his vision and his call for 'peace at home, peace in the world' made him one of the best known statesmen in the history of the world. This is why other countries have issued postage stamps expressing the affection and respect in which his memory is held. In the year 1981, the centenary of his birth, which was declared Atatürk Year by UNESCO, Tunisia, Malaysia, and numerous other countries issued Atatürk commemoration stamps. One of these was the 1.4 pound denomination stamp issued by Egypt, which as Enver Sedat (who 
was assassinated on 6 October of the same year) said in his memoirs, symbolised the love of the Egyptian people for Atatürk.As the stamps show, Atatürk's importance goes far beyond his role as soldier and statesman. He was a man who envisaged a world based on the principles of amity and peace. One of his most moving messages, emphasising peace between nations, is his words spoken in memory of the thousands of foreign soldiers who fell at Gallipoli, one of the bloodiest campaigns in world history. On 18 March 1998, when stamps were issued jointly by the Turkish and New Zealand Post Offices in memory of the Anzak soldiers who fell at Gallipoli, these words were printed on the first day covers:"Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives... You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours... You, the mothers who sent your sons from faraway countries, wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well"Atatürk stamps tell the story of a leader whose world view, aspirations, and progressive ideas still guide Turkey today, more than half a century after his death.

Skylife 11/2000

Written by Turgay Tuna, freelance writer

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