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Ataturk and Family Names – “Crescent and Star: Turkey Between Two Worlds”, Stephen Kinzer

August 29th, 2012 · No Comments · History

Since time immemorial, Turkish life had been centered on villages and clans small enough that in each there was likely to be only one Abdullah, one Hikmet and one Fatma. Those days were gone, and as a logical result of his Westernizing impulse, Kemal decreed that each citizen must have a last name. The head of every family was ordered to choose one. Some thought first of their fathers, so today there are names like Berberolu (barber’s son), Karamehmetolu (Black Mehmet’s son) and even Yarimbiyikolu (son of the man with the half-mustache). Others took martial names like Eraslan (brave lion) or Demirel (iron hand). For those who had trouble choosing, books of names were sent to every town hall. Many people selected lyrical ones like Sangül (yellow rose) or Akyildiz (pale star). Only one name was forbidden: Atatürk (Father of the Turks). That was the name Kemal chose for himself. He embraced it, even dropping his first name, Mustafa, which he considered too Arab-sounding.

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