The Turkish War of Independence began when General Mustafa Kemal Pasha, the Inspector of the Ottoman 9th Army and later known as Atatürk, arrived at the town of Samsun on the Black Sea Coast.

The city of Constantinople had been occupied by Entente forces since 13 November 1918, less than two weeks after they had signed the Armistice of Mudros with the Ottoman Empire. In addition to occupying Constantinople, the Allies also seized various other areas of the Ottoman Empire over the following months. This occupation by foreign troops was described by Mustafa Kemal as ‘humiliating’.

On 15 May 1919 Greek forces, with the permission of the Entente powers, landed in Smyrna, now known as Izmir. Ethnic tensions were already high in the Anatolia region, and the wave of violence that ensued helped to consolidate a range of Turkish resistance groups into a unified force. The Sultan in Constantinople was under the influence of the occupying powers and was asked to send a member of the armed forces to quell the unrest.

Mustafa Kemal secured this assignment and departed Constantinople for Samsun on board the cargo ship SS Bandirma. After a difficult three-day voyage in poor weather, and without a functioning compass, he and his staff landed on 19 May. Instead of disbanding the army they began to organise a more formalised resistance movement, and for this reason 19 May is considered the start of the Turkish War of Independence. A month later, Mustafa Kemal issued the Amasya Circular declaring that the independence of the country was in danger. This document was a direct criticism of the government in Constantinople, and is often seen as the first formal written evidence of Mustafa Kemal’s nationalist intentions.

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