Dumlupınar; Birth of a Nation

J and I rolled out of İznik fairly early and following our well-established pattern of taking lesser roads whenever time and inclination permit we headed south over the mountains. The road switch-backed upwards through ancient olive groves with the occasional tantalising glimpse back to the town and the beautiful İznik lake – we’d enjoyed our visit.

On the road south we planned to pause and pay our respects at the monument at Dumlupınar. This area of rolling hills between the port city of Smyrna (İzmir) and Afyon marks the line at which Gazi Mustafa Kemal stopped the advance of the invading Greek army. It also marks the line from which he launched his audacious advance, in the height of the summer’s heat, which drove the invaders out of Turkey. The Gazi knew his stuff; by picking this debilitating season he reasoned, correctly, that the Greek army would be laid low with diarrhoea and intestinal infections and have no ‘stomach’ for fighting. It is the origin of the expression ‘Ataturk’s Revenge!’

Navigating by instinct and the ‘seat of our pants’, we found our way across country via un-signed byways until, silhouetted against the glare of the westering sun, we spotted the outline of a mighty ‘Mehmetçik’ atop his hill.

Dumlupınar is a town built on memories and around monuments – the young move away as soon as they are able there being little to keep them by way of earning a living or raising a family. It is a town with a population barely more that half that of Okçular. J and I stopped to relax and enjoy tea with a few of the locals who were delighted to have some foreigners take an interest in the not-so-distant history of the area.

Arriving at the monument gives considerable pause for thought. The whole is dominated by a mound topped by a huge statue of a Turkish soldier who appears to be guarding the graves of his fallen comrades that lie at his feet. Either side of the entrance arch are two life-like statues/tableaux – to the left a group of armed villagers and to the right Gazi Mustafa Kemal and two of his commanders. The gravestones in the cemetery provide an insight into Turkish cultural history because not a single one has a surname; each is an ‘oğlu’, a son of someone. Surnames would have to wait for a few years and the arrival of one of the many reforms instituted after the birth of the new republic. A private has no rank stated – eg, Mehmet, son of Ahmet from Malatya aged 59 years. Any with a rank will have it written, otherwise every stone is identical; simple and a stark reminder of the price paid by individuals, families and communities.

At the foot of the mound stands one of the most poignant of statues dedicated to a father and son. The son carries the body of his father who had left to fight in the Second Balkan War when the son was but a boy. They had not seen each other since until they met up on the battlefield of Dumlupınar where the father died from the wounds inflicted on him.

The older I get the stronger grows my conviction that there is no such thing as a just or justifiable war – all are waged for resources or trade routes; domination of one ‘tribe’ over another; and every one to profit one very small section of our distorted society. As our leaders ramp up the rhetoric and lies preparatory to an attack on Iran perhaps we should reflect that it will not be us, the people, who profit from conflict but it will be us who pay the price.

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

ps It is worth noting that the price in Turkish lives commemorated at Dumlupınar is mirrored in Greek lives; and every one of the dead and maimed point their fingers at David Lloyd George whose arrogance, conceit and paranoid hatred of the Turks led to the pointless slaughter of the Turkish War of Independence.

Gazi Mustafa Kemal and his Field Commanders

‘Mehmetçik’ with his soldier father

Dumlupınar; Birth of a Nation

14 thoughts on “Dumlupınar; Birth of a Nation

  1. A great post which got me thinking (you do that). The Great War was so pointless at every level. We are still living with the ramifications of a reformed world (not that is necessarily a bad thing). Lloyd-George had blood on his hands during the bone picking last days of the Ottomans but so too do the Greek elite who dreamed of a Greater Greece that straddled the Aegean or the Young Turks who slaughtered Greek speaking civilians on the dockside of Smyrna (while the navies of the Great Powers looked on). No one comes out of it smelling of roses. I’m always uncomfortable around monuments draped in the flag that seem to glorify war. There’s nothing wrong with patriotism but nationalism is something else entirely. Sadly, Turkey suffers from the kind of immature nationalism where certain subjects are taboo, illegal even. This isn’t healthy. But (here it comes), personally I’m not a pacifist and sometimes war is necessary. I remember visiting the Piskariovskoye Memorial Cemetery in Leningrad (that was) which contains the remains of half a million people who perished during the German siege of WW2. I was 14 when I visited. It was a salutary and moving reminder that without their sacrifice and that of countless others fascism would have triumphed and I’d have ended up in the gas chamber.

    Jack Scott recently posted..Oops, I Did It AgainMy Profile

    1. Thank you, Jack; as ever, a thoughtful response. You say that you are not a pacifist – neither am I; but I would never fight again for ‘Queen and Country’ nor for any government under the present system. Workers killing worker to profit the elites is all that is about. From my study I conclude that there have been just 2 ‘humanitarian’ interventions in modern times – the Indian Army in the massacres in what was then East Pakistan and the Vietnamese intervention to put an end to the Pol Pot regime in Cambodia (in which the British and Australian SAS were training Pol Pot’s forces). We have shared the experience of the Leningrad cemeteries, sacrifice? For sure; but don’t forget that the ‘Allies’ were very happy to be doing business with the Third Reich, even knowing of the death camps. US corporations were up to their eyes in it; IBM provided the machinery that kept the records of the extermination of gypsies, Jews, Slavs, homosexuals, etc. Standard Oil provided lubricants (both via subsidiaries continued throughout the war) – the list goes on. WW2, like every war before it was about control of resources and trade routes, not the defence of human rights. Patriotism/nationalism are the last resort of the scoundrel, as someone famously quoted.
      I served in what are euphemistically called UK Special Forces and once thought that there was such a thing as ‘just war'; in the main they are not – they are wars for profit. I recommend to you a book from way back by US Marine Corps General Smedley Butler – ‘War Is A Racket’. I have grown to despise the advocates of conflict – the Masters of War; and like Bob Dylan I would ‘. . stand o’er your grave ’til I’m sure you are dead.’
      May I ask you to click through on this link to a post on my other blog that was published in Socialist Standard a number of years back; and to this http://archersofokcular.blogspot.com/2010/08/greatness-perceived-and-real.html from another piece, again by me from SS.
      I’d love the opportunity to debate/discuss with you one day – I’m sure it would be fruitful. Warmest best wishes.

  2. Very touching, especially the father son statue. I tend to base my travels here on Archaeological and nature sites as relatively recent graves and monuments leave me sad. I have to say though I have enjoyed reading about Ataturk and his path in history and I enjoyed reading this post too :-)

    1. Thanks for the interest Kym, and welcome to ‘Archers’. As an ‘Old Soldier’ I long ago lost my naivety in respect of conflict – war cemeteries are ‘created’ to serve a purpose beyond the obvious and we each need to look beyond the obvious and understand the underlying system – it is not a pretty place to be.

  3. I agree with you entirely about the fact that wars are never undertaken for the benefit of the peoples involved, but are simply driven by need to control trade vantage points – that has never changed, and will not until we remove the power-thirsty (and the greedy) from positions of power. But that’s another debate.

    I am also in complete accord with your distaste for war memorials and momuments. While I have no problem with people honouring their dead, I can only ever see these places as victim supplication for sympathy and a concurrent shrugging-off of any blame.

    An excellent and thought-provoking post – my thanks x

    Deborah recently posted..Probably Too Much Information …My Profile

  4. Fantastic, insightful articles. You should more. I’d be terrified of sparring with you. I’m sure I’d lose. Seriously, of course you’re right about the nature of politics, war and revenge. History is written by the victors. The Ottomans backed the wrong horse but it could just have easily gone the other way. Our job is to pick received history apart and learn from it. My worry is that we won’t or we can’t. Every egalitarian philosophy when put into practice seems to gets mired in repression and vicious retribution. Swapping one master for another is not the answer. I don’t know what is. Do you?

    Jack Scott recently posted..Sense and InsensitivityMy Profile

    1. I’ve sent you a reply by email – I just want to repeat that discussing/debating with thoughtful people is always constructive – even if we don’t agree in the end. I’m sure you and I would find a lot of common ground and our grey cells would get some stimulation. Here’s a link to the pdf version of Socialist Standard which has been published every month without interruption since 1904. If nothing else, read the Declaration of Principles to help understand where we are coming from. J is published every month and labours long and hard because the standard of accuracy is very high.
      Here’s the Standard’s main webpage
      http://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/socialist-standard/2010s/2011. I’m off to the UK this Friday and will be taking in the inaugural meeting of the new Kent and E Sussex Branch in Maidstone on Sunday – followed by a few ‘comradely’ beers, no doubt! :-D

    1. Your sentiment is understandable Julia. For me it’s the manipulation of these sentiments by politicians for warped purposes. The “Royal’ tag for Wooton Bassett is a case in point – getting our ‘defense forces’ out of the illegal conflicts they are bogged down in would be a much better memorial. Libya is an example of the double talk – my old battalion, 1 Para has been on the ground there for 6 months despite the governments’ denial of boots on the ground.
      Do go to Dumlupinar – many of the dead are very young, 15 years old but there are 60 year olds as well.

      Alan recently posted..The Okçular Book ProjectMy Profile

  5. We are loving the image of you and J. and your well-established pattern of taking the lesser roads, along with some dead reckoning. What fun. And, what an interesting place you found. The last statue, with the father and son, is very sad indeed. M. and I are looking forward to talking with you and/or sparring with you on all matters – but on the matter of war, no disagreements abound.

    Liz Cameron recently posted..Driving to Selcuk: On differences in roadtrip preferences in a couple…My Profile

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