Atatürk and Galatasaray

Atatürk and Galatasaray

Visits of Great Leader Gazi Mustafa Kemal Atatürk to Galatasaray High School

Claiming our republic’s founder Atatürk is a fan of a certain club always fails against the facts of history. Claiming a person of his national and international stature belongs to a certain club without concrete evidence is a plainly wrong. National leaders like him are very few in number and the kind of leadership that he embodies in Turkish history and society is truly rare throughout the world. Therefore, Atatürk is above any society, group or club for Turkey. While talking about his relationship with any club or institution, everyone must take into account these national and social sensibilities.

That is why we only recount Atatürk’s relationship with our club and school in events verified by concrete evidence. Atatürk’s relationship with Galatasaray society became concrete with three different visits to Galatasaray High School: First on 2 December 1930, second on 28 January 1932 and third on 1 July 1933. Doyen journalist Metin Toker described the relationship between Atatürk and Galatasaray with these words:

“No high school in Turkey received a similar level of interest from Atatürk. Galatasaray is not only the window that opens to West for Turkey, it is also a cornerstone for one of the most important reforms of Atatürk: Laicism. Galatasaray is not an ordinary educational institution. It is as important and as unique for Turkey as Turkish War Academy, Harbiye (Turkish Military College) and Mülkiye (Faculty of Political Science).”

Atatürk’s First Visit to Galatasaray High School

The world’s and Turkey’s political and social conjuncture were really hectic on 1930. Atatürk started a nationwide tour on 18 November and when he returned to İstanbul, he visited some schools in İstanbul.

According to Turkish Official Gazette he respectively visited Turkish War Academy, Harbiye and Mülkiye. Then he made his way to Galatasaray High School. He signed our library’s daybook. He later visited our headmaster to learn about the school’s and students’ current situation. He also participated in grammar, drawing and language lessons.

Atatürk’s Second Visit to Galatasaray High School

Mustafa Kemal honored Galatasaray High School on 28 January 1932 with a second visit. He watched a play in our historical Tevfik Fikret Hall and praised the students who acted on stage.

Atatürk’s Third Visit to Galatasaray High School

Mustafa Kemal visited Galatasaray High School a third time on 1 July 1933. Gazi this time inspected History-Geography-Civics baccalaureate exams for middle school personally and asked various questions to students. When he entered the school, he and his attendants was applauded by our students, then he talked about our school with headmaster Tevfik Bey and teachers. He then directly walked to the exam room.

According to memories of İlhan E. Postacıoğlu, when Gazi entered the exam room our student Bandırmalı Ahmet was taking his exam. After him, Atatürk’s close friend Fethi Okyar’s son Osman Okyar was taken to the exam room. Atatürk asked about these subjects during his visit: Attila’s first war against Romans, differences between Treaty of Serves and Treaty of Lausanne, civilization of Hittite, comparison between statism and individualism in economy, railroad policy of Turkey, Battle of Manzikert, religion and secularism, Spanish peninsula, Armistice of Mudanya, first contacts between Turks and Byzantines, referendum and ballot. The exams lasted until the night and Atatürk left Galatasaray High School satisfied with the performance and results of our students. Tevfik Ararat, headmaster of the school at the time, recounted the visit with these words:

“1 July 1933 was the greatest day of Galatasaray High School. That day, Atatürk stayed five and a quarter hours in our institution and honored nine of our students by examining them in History-Geography-Civics for their first term baccalaureate. To remember and to relive this unforgettable day, first term baccalaureate exams are going to be completed traditionally on 1 July.

We would like to express our thanks to Galatasaray Magazine for this article.