A look at the mausoleum of Turkey’s founding father Ataturk

A look at the mausoleum of Turkey’s founding father Ataturk

For generations, Turks have revered their nation’s founding father, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who carved out modern Turkey from the ashes of the Ottoman Empire in the wake of World War I.

The reverence the military hero commanded has been unparalleled in this nation of nearly 80 million people, with his portrait adorning government offices, streets, banknotes and coins, and insulting his name officially deemed a crime. Every year on Nov. 10, the anniversary of his 1938 death, sirens sound across the country, and people stand to attention for a minute.


In this March 29, 2017 photo, a painting of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey is exhibited at the museum addict to his mausoleum in Ankara, Turkey. The legacy of the man whose surname means "father of Turks" was one of a modern, secular, western-leaning Turkey. But the personality cult that grew around him has very gradually been fading as current President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in power since 2003 as alternately prime minister and president, has harked back to the glory days of the height of the Ottoman Empire to whip up patriotic sentiment. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)


The legacy of the man whose surname means “father of Turks” was one of a modern, secular, western-leaning Turkey. But the personality cult that grew around him has very gradually been fading as current President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in power since 2003 as alternately prime minister and president, has harked back to the glory days of the height of the Ottoman Empire to whip up patriotic sentiment.

But adoration for Ataturk is still far from dead. His mausoleum, a sprawling complex built in the early 1950s in the Turkish capital, is still a place of pilgrimage for many. Families, schoolchildren, elderly people, veiled Muslim women all come to pay homage to his memory.


In this March 29, 2017 photo, Turkish military honour guards perform the hourly changing of the guard at the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey in Ankara, Turkey. The legacy of the man whose surname means "father of Turks" was one of a modern, secular, western-leaning Turkey. But the personality cult that grew around him has very gradually been fading as current President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in power since 2003 as alternately prime minister and president, has harked back to the glory days of the height of the Ottoman Empire to whip up patriotic sentiment. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

 

In this March 29, 2017 photo, visitors pose for a photograph during a visit at the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey in Ankara, Turkey. The legacy of the man whose surname means "father of Turks" was one of a modern, secular, western-leaning Turkey. But the personality cult that grew around him has very gradually been fading as current President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in power since 2003 as alternately prime minister and president, has harked back to the glory days of the height of the Ottoman Empire to whip up patriotic sentiment. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)


A military honor guard stands watch at the complex, and the hourly changing of the guard is one of visitors’ favorite sights. The complex includes a museum with two life-sized wax figures, an extensive collection of his personal effects, portraits, medals and artefacts from his numerous military campaigns.

As Turks head to the polls on April 16 for a referendum on whether to grant Erdogan greater powers, many worry Ataturk’s legacy is being eroded. They fear their country is reverting to a more conservative nation with little tolerance for dissent, and accuse Erdogan of heading toward autocratic one-man rule. But Erdogan himself says Sunday’s vote will instead ensure Turkey no longer has to face weak governments and a “yes” victory would ensure stable governments that would herald prosperity.


In this March 29, 2017 photo, a wax figure of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey is exhibited at the museum adjacent to his mausoleum in Ankara, Turkey. The legacy of the man whose surname means "father of Turks" was one of a modern, secular, western-leaning Turkey. But the personality cult that grew around him has very gradually been fading as current President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in power since 2003 as alternately prime minister and president, has harked back to the glory days of the height of the Ottoman Empire to whip up patriotic sentiment. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

 

In this March 29, 2017 photo, schoolchildren during a visit at the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey watch the change of the honour guard in Ankara, Turkey. The legacy of the man whose surname means "father of Turks" was one of a modern, secular, western-leaning Turkey. But the personality cult that grew around him has very gradually been fading as current President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in power since 2003 as alternately prime minister and president, has harked back to the glory days of the height of the Ottoman Empire to whip up patriotic sentiment. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

 

In this March 29, 2017 photo, Turkish military officers provide security outside the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey in Ankara, Turkey. For generations, Turks have revered their nation’s founding father, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who carved out modern Turkey from the ashes of the Ottoman Empire in the wake of World War I, and his mausoleum in Ankara is a place of pilgrimage for many. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

 

In this March 29, 2017 photo, a Turkish military officer stands as an honour guard outside the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey in Ankara, Turkey. Ataturk' mausoleum, a sprawling complex built in the early 1950s in the Turkish capital, is still a place of pilgrimage for many. Families, schoolchildren, elderly people, veiled Muslim women all come to pay homage to his memory. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

 

In this March 29, 2017 photo, teachers take pictures of schoolchildren during a visit at the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey in Ankara, Turkey. The legacy of the man whose surname means "father of Turks" was one of a modern, secular, western-leaning Turkey. But the personality cult that grew around him has very gradually been fading as current President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in power since 2003 as alternately prime minister and president, has harked back to the glory days of the height of the Ottoman Empire to whip up patriotic sentiment. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

 

In this March 29, 2017 photo, Turkish military honour guards perform the hourly changing of the guard at the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey in Ankara, Turkey. The legacy of the man whose surname means "father of Turks" was one of a modern, secular, western-leaning Turkey. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

 

In this March 29, 2017 photo, visitors of the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, visit the museum shop, in Ankara, Turkey. The legacy of the man whose surname means "father of Turks" was one of a modern, secular, western-leaning Turkey. But the personality cult that grew around him has very gradually been fading as current President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in power since 2003 as alternately prime minister and president, has harked back to the glory days of the height of the Ottoman Empire to whip up patriotic sentiment. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

 

In this March 29, 2017 photo, Turkish military honour guards perform the hourly changing of the guard at the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey in Ankara, Turkey. The legacy of the man whose surname means "father of Turks" was one of a modern, secular, western-leaning Turkey. But the personality cult that grew around him has very gradually been fading as current President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in power since 2003 as alternately prime minister and president, has harked back to the glory days of the height of the Ottoman Empire to whip up patriotic sentiment. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

 

In this March 29, 2017 photo, a painting of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey is exhibited at the museum addict to his mausoleum in Ankara, Turkey. Ataturk' mausoleum, a sprawling complex built in the early 1950s in the Turkish capital, is still a place of pilgrimage for many. Families, schoolchildren, elderly people, veiled Muslim women all come to pay homage to his memory. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

 

In this March 29, 2017 photo, a Turkish military officer stands as an honour guard outside the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey in Ankara, Turkey. For generations, Turks have revered their nation’s founding father, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who carved out modern Turkey from the ashes of the Ottoman Empire in the wake of World War I, and his mausoleum in Ankara is a place of pilgrimage for many. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

 

In this March 29, 2017 photo, a Turkish military officer stands as an honour guard outside the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey in Ankara, Turkey. The legacy of the man whose surname means "father of Turks" was one of a modern, secular, western-leaning Turkey. Ataturk' mausoleum, a sprawling complex built in the early 1950s in the Turkish capital, is still a place of pilgrimage for many. Families, schoolchildren, elderly people, veiled Muslim women all come to pay homage to his memory.(AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

 

In this March 29, 2017 photo, members of a family pose for a photograph during a visit at the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey in Ankara, Turkey. The legacy of the man whose surname means "father of Turks" was one of a modern, secular, western-leaning Turkey. But the personality cult that grew around him has very gradually been fading as current President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in power since 2003 as alternately prime minister and president, has harked back to the glory days of the height of the Ottoman Empire to whip up patriotic sentiment. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

 

In this March 29, 2017 photo, a wax figure of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey is exhibited at the museum adjacent to his mausoleum in Ankara, Turkey. The legacy of the man whose surname means "father of Turks" was one of a modern, secular, western-leaning Turkey. For generations, Turks have revered Ataturk, who carved out modern Turkey from the ashes of the Ottoman Empire in the wake of World War I. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

 

In this March 29, 2017 photo, Turkish military honour guards perform the hourly changing of the guard at the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey in Ankara, Turkey. Ataturk' mausoleum, a sprawling complex built in the early 1950s in the Turkish capital, is still a place of pilgrimage for many. Families, schoolchildren, elderly people, veiled Muslim women all come to pay homage to his memory. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)


Text from the AP news story, A look at the mausoleum of Turkey’s founding father Ataturk.

Elena Becatoros, Ayse Wieting contributed to the report.

Photos by Lefteris Pitarakis

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