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4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5 stars
Ataturk: The Rebirth of a Nation
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on 4 October 2017
An interesting read. A complex character who's career greatly affected the course of many nations during 20th Century history.
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on 12 October 2017
Great book, easy to read and very informative. Thanks
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on 29 September 2009
This is an outstanding portrait of an outstanding man. Ataturk simply saved what was left of the rapidly collapsing Ottoman Empire with a Military Genius that was always clear in his earlier life. This biography chronicles his upbringing, successes in Military School, and then Methodical and exceptionally detailed foresight and planning in the subsequent Military conflict in Gallipoli where ANZACs and British troops lost thousands in a failed campaign, and Turkey as an entity was secured. Attention to personal characteristics and abilities abound in this book. He was a man of astonishing energy and endurance ( read Young Stalin for an unerringly similar constitution and Stamina.) His Political relations and actions are described in a detailed and sometimes laborious chronology. The only part of this book that demonstrates omission is in the treatment of the Armenian Minorities. His personal demons- drink and turbulent personal revelations make him the richer for their exposition.
This man single handedly fought off Western predations to complete the total destruction of the Ottoman Empire, and in its place, having slaughtered Minorities in the East, that would have invited destruction from the East, set about constructing a Post-Caliphate Secular State that is Modern Turkey.
His reasons for De-islamisation, his mechanisms for this, and ultimately the contemporary legacy he left as a result are clearly analysed in this biography.
It is an outstandingly good read and will give any reader interested in a History of Modern Turkey a huge insight.
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on 3 March 2009
I'd like to think that Ataturk would be flattered to be described as a great "European" statesman!
I was on holidays in Turkey a few years ago and was fascinated to see photos of Ataturk in most shops and statues of him in even small towns. While I had heard of him I didn't know he was still so revered by his countrymen more than 60 years after his death. This prompted me to read a biography on the man and I'm glad I chose Kinross's one.
Ataturk was a fascinating character,soldier, statesman, dictator,
moderniser and this book describes all these aspects of his life in an
informative and interesting way. I am convinced that the development of the relationship between Turkey and (the rest of)Europe will be one of the most vital in the world over the next 50 years. This book explains Turkey's desire to be accepted as a "western" country, despite it's position on the edge of Europe.
I might be so bold as to suggest that the book is slightly mistitled. Should it be called "Birth of a Nation" rather than "Rebirth"? The modern republic of Turkey rose from the ashes of the huge Ottoman Empire. Ataturk's key policy in my opinion, was that for a Turkish nation to survive it had to restrict it's borders to areas where Turks were in the great majority. This was in contrast to the Empire,which ruled large numbers of Arabs in the Middle East and North Africa and Christians in the Balkans. The Ottoman elite saw themselves as Ottomans rather than as part of a Turkish "nation".
The Empire was famously seen as "the sick man of Europe" as it's Balkan subjects achieved various forms of independence in the 19th century.
Ataturk realised that if Turkey was to be independent and strong it couldn't waste time and resources trying to rule people who felt no affinity for Turkey. He pinned his hopes on the conservative Anatolian people at the heart of Turkey. These Anatolians were often derided as backward by the Ottoman elite. Ataturk, himself born in Macedonia, saw from his army days that with proper leadership the stubborn, fiercely loyal Anatolian could be relied on.
The part of the book covering Ataturk's military career had me a bit worried. It seemed that Kinross was painting some kind of superhero, almost singlehandedly running the successful Gallipoli campaign. Was the biography going to be completely uncritical? Thankfully I was wrong. Ataturk's achievements in this campaign were remarkable.
However at the end of the war the Ottoman empire was definitely on the losing side and the great powers looked at the Empire's territories for what they could get. It seemed likely that it would be broken up into colonies or at the very least "spheres of influence" for the Allies, with Italy and Greece in particular eyeing land for themselves. There's no doubt the Ottoman elite would have accepted this once they could have stayed in power. Ataturk and others however were determined not to let this happen. They set up a Nationalist government in Ankara to rival the Constantinople regime and gradually built up support around the country, leading to the defeat of invading Greek forces. This led to the Treaty of Lausanne, which recognised the new government as legitimate (with Ataturk as it's undisputed leader) and finalised the new country's borders.
The next step was the declaration of the republic and removal of the Sultan. Ataturk had long held the view that the Sultanate could not be kept in place if Turkey was to take it's place as a "westernised" country. Most colleagues wanted Turkey to follow the constitutional monarchy model but by sheer force of will he forced through the abolition of the Sultanate and later the Caliphate. It is a sign of his increasing power that (in general) the Turkish people accepted these monumental changes pretty easily. This was also the case with changes implemented on women's rights, headgear and civil marriages.

Despite many speeches in which he talked of his ideal that the Turkish people would be the source of all power and that Western style democracy was what was best for Turkey Ataturk set himself up as a dictator, with some superficial nods to a multi party system. He was convinced that only he knew what was best for the country and could implement those policies. Kinross describes the ruthless tactics employed by Ataturk to stay in power such as show trials and executions.
The book also gives us an insight into Ataturk's personal life, an interesting topic in itself.
In summary a great book about a man whose influence can still be seen in Turkish politics today in the ongoing battle between the secular elite and the more traditional parties who are now in power.
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on 27 April 2017
In a different league to any other biographical material on Ataturk published in English, authoritative and very readable. Many insights were the result of oral recollections and this makes the book a particularly penetrating study almost impossible to replicate today. An important source for those wishing to interpret Turkey in the 21st century. The maps are really not very useful or linked to the text effectively but this is a problem easily solved. The last paragraph of the book is very moving and insightful it will strike a chord with those who knew rural western Anatolia before the high speed train.
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on 22 August 2017
Fascinating insight into his military and political career. Was a bit of an eye opener for me. Digs underneath the romance of the rebirth of Turkey as a nation. Can be quite difficult in parts. (I needed the kindle built in dictionary a few times).
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on 25 April 2007
I'm not going to repeat what's already been said. I shall only say that this book reads beautifully. Despite it being so hefty, you will struggle to put it down. I'm dumbfounded as to why this has not been made into a Hollywood blockbuster.

Regarding Ataturk, it is clear that no one man has ever achieved so much in his lifetime. From the impossibility of even a Turkish state existing and what was a mostly illiterate peasant population to a modern-thinking, peaceful, secular republic that emphasised the importance of education and the arts.
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on 1 February 2001
Kinross takes the reader through the life and times of Mustafa Kemal during the early 20th century turmoil of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in North Africa, Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Mustafa Kemal's role in the Gallipoli battles with the ANZACS and British, in coming almost face-to-face with Lawrence of Arabia in Syria, and his single-minded determination to prevent the break up of his people and country makes this both an inspiring read as well as a concise lesson on the history of the First World War in the east of Europe. Kinross then goes on to map out events leading to the creation of the Republic including the war of independence victory over the invading Greeks, and the reader can see how some of today's issues in Turkey have roots in this volatile period of the nation's history.
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on 2 June 2007
Ataturk was both an amazing personality and a very complex one. To the Turkish nation he is almost godlike but of course he had both his weaknesses and strengths. Kinross does him great justice in an excellent penmanship which makes the book both interesting and worth reading. It's also a history of the founding of the Turkish Republic which can not be set apart from Ataturk himself. I have read several biographies about Ataturk and really recommend this one. It reads through like a novel, meaning it keeps you fixed for the whole of the book.
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on 29 January 2002
Rebirth of a Nation is superb. The author has not only portrayed Ataturk as the hero of Modern Turkey, but has also embarked upon the realisation and difficulties faced by the Ottoman empire.A Well written and extremely factual chronological case of an empire and a new state.
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