Saturday, May 17, 2008

Hey, it's that guy again

No blog about Turkey could be complete without a post about Atatürk and the occasion of gazing upon his false teeth seems like a good enough excuse for mine. Founder and first president of the Turkish Republic, Atatürk is basically to the Turks as JFK and the Pope rolled into one would be to American Catholics. No home or business is complete without a framed photo of him on the wall, not even the smallest park could be without a statue of him, and it's actually against the law to say anything bad about him. (Hopefully noting that the amount of gold in said teeth wouldn't impress an Uzbek doesn't fall into that category.)

In addition to cutting quite the dashing figure, Atatürk really did influence modern Turkey to an insane degree with his insistence on turning it practically overnight into a "secular," "Western" society--the meaning of which is hotly debated still. I mean, the guy even made everyone in the country take a last name. (Humbly dubbing himself "Father Turk.") And I personally owe him a debt of gratitude because without his changing the alphabet from Arabic to Latin-plus-a-few-spare-letters, Turkish would be even harder to learn.

Now about those teeth. You can find them at the Atatürk Museum, a nondescript pink house in Şişli where the great man apparently laid his head for a time. Also on display is some dirt from the town where he was born, various outfits and accessories, and an entire room of commemorative stamps: Atatürk lost in thought while smoking! Atatürk's mom! His adopted daughter, Turkey's first female pilot! Atatürk looking out the train window as it brought him closer to his people! You get the idea. But if you're half as fascinated by this whole business as I am, it's still worth seeing for yourself.

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