Every August 30th is Victory Day in Turkey, although the holiday is also known as Armed Forces Day.
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It is the commemoration of the Turkish victory in the final battle of the 1919 to 1923 Turkish War of Independence. The battle was fought at Dumlupinar against Greek forces in western Turkey between August 26th and 30th. The war itself officially ended on October 29th, 1923, when Turkey was declared a republic and the modern secular state was established.
For over six centuries, Turkey was ruled by the sultans of the Ottoman Empire, who controlled a vast region stretching from Egypt to Russia and from Austria-hungary to Persia. After the Ottoman Empire joined the Axis powers during World War I, however, they ended up losing all but the Turkish homeland. To make matters worse, Allied forces occupied Turkey in 1919, including Greek, Armenian, French, British, and Italian troops. However, for the most part, the Greeks fought alone on the Western Front, the Armenians alone on the Eastern Front, and the French (in Syria) alone on the Southern Front.
Originally, the Battle of Dumlupinar was observed as Victory Day only in cities of western Turkey, such as Izmir, and in Ankara. In 1935, however, it became a national holiday and began to be kept by all Turks throughout the whole country. The main festivities involve military parades, profuse display of Turkey’s flag, and gatherings at various monuments to Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of the modern republic. The parades take place in all major cities, and there are often air shows and jets that leave colour trails of red and white to match the colours of the Turkish flag. The mausoleum of Ataturk in Ankara is site to an important ceremony, and pictures of Ataturk are found in many store windows. Also of note is that all military promotions occur on August 30th as do graduation events at military academies.
As Victory Day is a public holiday in Turkey, schools and government buildings will close down, and most private-sector workers will have all or half the day off. However, larger stores and markets stay opened, and public transportation is available, if not on its normal routes and schedules.
Tourists and locals in Turkey on Victory Day will have many activity options, including the following:
- See the festivities in Ankara. First, you can see a huge parade of military vehicles, featuring those manufactured in Turkey. This includes ATAK helicopters and Altay tanks, which are pieces of military equipment that Turks take great national pride in. Also, you may wish to stop by the mausoleum of Mustafa Ataturk to see the wreath-laying ceremony.
- Tour the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul. This was one of the main luxury residences of the sultans for four centuries. Today, it is a museum of the Ottoman Era that is very appropriate to visit on Victory Day, which is associated with that era passing away forever. Inside, you will also find holy relics of Islam, such as the purported sword and coat of Muhammad himself.
Turkey is vast land with many marvels to explore, and it is not possible to see them all in just one day. However, Victory Day is an ideal time to learn about Turkey’s past and present and to enjoy some festive, patriotic activities.