NE ARAMIŞTINIZ ?

HOW THE 19 MAY CAME TO BE A HOLIDAY?

NINETEEN MAY THE COMMEMORATION OF ATATURK, YOUTH AND SPORTS DAY

Since 19 May 1919 has an important place in our history and the foundation of the new Turkish State, Ataturk considered this event the beginning of the national struggle movement and started to write his great book The Speech starting with this event, pointing to the 19th of May as his birthday. When Ataturk visited Samsun for the second time, he was received with great love and excitement on the 20-24th of September 1924 and the Great Gazi stayed there for five days even though he intended to go to Erzurum as soon as possible. During those days, 19th of May was spoken about a lot:

Oh, the Light of the Triumph, Great Ghazi, today, the soil you have stepped on,
trembles with the inspiration you endowed upon us five years ago.
‘Five glorious days in Samsun relieved the longing of five years.’[1]

The 1924 trip ensured that the 19 of May is remembered and caused the people of Samsun to stand closer to Ataturk and feel closer to him. It can be contemplated that the celebrations did not take place, or were not be able to organize in 1925 due to the domestic and foreign problems the State was facing. The people of Samsun who wanted to immortalize this day started to celebrate the 19th of May as Gazi Day beginning from 1926 and Ataturk was informed of these events and he did not remain indifferent to the celebrations, he stated his contentment with telegrams in response.

People of Samsun started to celebrate the 19th of May as Gazi Day beginning with 1926.

Regarding the first celebrations, in the responsive telegram he sent to the Samsun Governor Fahri Bey, he says ‘I received the demonstration of the consequence of the esteem the people of Samsun have for me with profound pleasure. Dear sir, if you please, communicate my thanks and affections to the venerable community.’ Within the context of the 1927 celebrations, The President of the Turkish Republic granted the naming of the statue vicinage as Ghazi Park, by thanking the sincere and patriotic sentiment demonstrated by the people of Samsun on the occasion of the sod-turning ceremony of the Ghazi Statue on the 19th of May. The ceremonies of the year were performed in the Ghazi Park [3] which was newly built next to the government building, within the context of the ‘Gazi Day Celebration Ceremony Program’[4]. According to the program, the celebration started with the mark of the Regie (Tobacco) Factory whistle in the Ghazi Park, 10.30 in the morning of the 19th of May, Thursday, and after the marching band played the Turkish National Anthem, the other factories and institutions joined the celebration with their whistles. Following the Turkish National Anthem, speeches were given by the province and the municipality and the first stage of the day celebration was completed with the sod-turning ceremony of the Gazi Statue the people of Samsun decided to put up in the park. In the second stage, people gathered in front of the Gazievi (Ghazi House)[5] and the Turkish Heart made a speech there, the day celebration was completed thus. In the night, three torchlight processions were held by the military, the schools and the communities, in addition, in the same night, a Praise Ball was held by the Republican People’s Party at the municipality. Therefore, three separate ceremonies were held in the 1927 celebration. First one was Gazi Day celebrations, which was performed within the frame of the program. The second was the groundwork for the Gazi Statue, the turning of the first sod was performed by the Governor Kazim (Inanc) Pasha[6] in the name of the people of Samsun. The third was the opening of Is Bank Samsun branch office.

‘I was deeply moved by your telegram informing me about the valued feelings the public had demonstrated for my person. I you please, offer my thanks, affections, and regards to the people.’ The President of the Republic Gazi M. Kemal (Samsun, 21 Kanunusani (January) 1932).
The 1927 celebrations revealed another fact that even though we had four official holidays [7] as per four different laws up until that time, celebration of the 19th of May as well as the other holidays on a national scale, points out that this day should not be forgotten since it is the beginning of the War of Independence, and this was emphasized in the Samsun press. Ethem Veysi Bey wrote in his column in the Samsun Newspaper: ‘When the world even cannot explain and comprehend the subject and the meaning of the good news,’ ‘Samsun… has the same excuse as everyone.’[8], in another article he wishes, ‘it is the desire of the heart that this day, which is extremely significant in the history of the independence and revolution, is honored and celebrated by the general public of the homeland.’[9] On the other hand, in October of the same year, in the Second General Assembly of the Republican People’s Party, as Ataturk read his Great Speech, the fact that he started his speech with the 19th of May caused a sensation in Samsun and rendered the following celebrations more meaningful. It can be understood from the telegrams sent to the Gazi from Samsun that the ‘address to youth’ caused the excitement to climax. [10]

As Ataturk read his Great Speech, the fact that he started his speech with the 19th of May caused a sensation in Samsun and rendered the following celebrations more meaningful.
Preparations were made days ago for the 19th May celebrations for the year 1928. The People’s Party built large arches in front of the municipality and the park [11]. At 9.00 in the morning of the 19th of May, the ceremony started with the military troops, military, and government high officials and civil servants and the public gathering in line with the dock where the Gazi landed. After the parade in the company of the marching band, the cortege moved forward to Saathane Square and after waiting at this location for a while arrived in front of the Gazievi by passing through the Mecidiye Street. In the ceremony held here, speeches on the importance of the day were made and the ceremony ended with the marching music the band played. One of the events that took place the same day was opening the Gazievi. The Gazievi was toured by the visitors and kept open for the visitors constantly from this date. The view of the city was to be seen. There were Laurel branches furnished everywhere and all the institutions, stores, and shops were adorned in colors. As in the previous celebrations, during the night, torchlight processions and a praise ball in the municipality were organized.[12] Whereas celebrations were held with the programmed events in the localities, it is understood that a new program was developed and introduced regarding the ceremonies after the Gazi Statue was opened in January 1932.

One of the events that took place the same day was opening of the Gazievi. The Gazievi was kept open for the visitors constantly from this date.
Finally, in 1933, it was notified that the Gazi Day would be celebrated with larger ceremonies and the related preparations were being done.[13] For this reason, the President of the Republic Gazi Mustafa Kemal Pasha stated in the responsive telegram he sent to Samsun Mayor Ihsan Bey that ‘If you please, communicate my thanks to our people who possess a deep sentimentality and appreciation in expressing their love and interest in my person on the occasion of celebrating the 19th of May, when I landed to the homeland for the first time in Samsun for the national war, Sir.’[14]. The motorboats embellished with bay branches advanced to the Park Dock slowly on the 19th of May, Friday, at the designated hour and landed a squad of soldiers to the dock. The black curtain hung at the gateway of the dock was torn by a sword by the officer commanding the squad[15] and they arrived in front of the kiosk. During their march, the factories and trains blew their whistles and salvo fires were made. After the speech of a high school in front of the kiosk, people gathered in front of Gazi Statue, placed wreaths, gave speeches and the celebrations ended with other events. [16] Another development which caught the attention in the same year was the fact that Gazi Day was celebrated beyond the borders of Samsun and the people from Samsun residing in Istanbul made preparations to celebrate this day there [17] and the people of Havza prepared for ceremonies in order to commemorate the 25th of May as Gazi Day [18]. The Gazi Day was celebrated in Samsun exceptionally in 1934, on the 15th anniversary [19]. The motorboat carrying the bust of the Gazi started to move towards the Gazi Dock with others behind it, the institutions blew their whistles as they approached and the soldiers and officers arriving with the bust moved across the dock, a black curtain held before them was torn by the swords of the officers and the bust was brought to the park. After beautifully adorned wreaths were placed at the Gazi Statue, the ceremony ended with the other activities. [20]

In 1933, Gazi Day started to be celebrated by the people of Samsun residing in Istanbul by going beyond the borders of Samsun and the people of Havza were making preparations to celebrate the 25th of May as Gazi Day. Gazi Day was celebrated in 1934, on the 15th anniversary in Samsun, exceptionally.
After the Gazi Pasha was given the last name Ataturk with the law number 2587 dated the 24th of November 1934, the name of the Gazi Day became the Ataturk Day from the 19th of May, 1935. ‘The 19th of May, Ataturk Day was celebrated with elaborate and orderly ceremonies in Samsun this year.’[21] In the responsive telegram he sent to Samsun Governor, Ataturk thanked the sentiment demonstrated for himself on the occasion of the anniversary of the 19th of May. The difference of these ceremonies from the past years was that the Ataturk Day stood out. In the celebrations of 1936, the Ataturk bust was replaced by Ataturk’s portrait and the other ceremonial elements remained the same. [22] The celebrations of 1936 were held in Ankara in the hippodromes, in the way to remind the 19th of May’s celebrated before. ‘The 19th of May… The anniversary of the happy day on which Ataturk landed in Samsun came to be a true holiday for the nation.’

1From the 19th May 1935, the name of the Gazi Day became Ataturk Day.
Significant changes were made in the celebrations beginning in 1937. Since it was known that the 19th of May was being celebrated in Samsun for a long time, The Ministry of National Education (MEB) sent a circular letter to the provinces and requested events to be organized under the name of Physical Training Holiday on the 19th of May from that date and on.[23] Since before then, roughly from 1916, events took place in Turkey as gymnastics festivities, student’s holiday or physical training holiday. The events which became ancient history during the days of the War of Independence were brought back with the Regulation on the Student’s Holiday on the 25th of February 1927. According to the regulation, the Student’s Holiday was the fifth day of May. In addition, under the 10th article, the Physical Training Holiday was mentioned and within this framework, it was anticipated that sports competitions would be made among the teacher’s training school, middle school, and high school students, except the primary schools. Shortly after, the Ministry of National Education generalized the subject activities in the way to cover all of the secondary schools. The first physical training holiday of the Republic was celebrated by marching in front of Mustafa Kemal Pasha in the accompaniment of the marching music played by the band, as a result of the physical education demonstrations performed with the participation of 600 students older than 13 years old in Ankara, on the 10th of May 1928.[24] After that, in many cities and towns, -Except from the celebrations in April of 1935- the celebrations continued each year in May. However, it should be kept in mind that a holiday is declared by the law, in other words, it is the work of the legislation. Under the present condition, the ceremonies held in all of the country and in Samsun in accordance with the circular letter of MEB are meaningful; however, they represent a ceremonial event rather than an official holiday celebration. After a year after Ahali Newspaper wrote: ‘…we sincerely hope that the 19th of May, whose importance increased as the time had passed, will be included among the other national holidays and become a national holiday not only for the youth and the young but for all the citizens.’[25], it would be realized in 1938. By adding the sports festivities to the events that took place in Samsun, beginning from 1937 in line with the related circular of Med, a three-stage program was accepted instead of the two-stage program. According to this program, after the usual program in Samsun was followed in the morning, afternoon, the sports festivities were performed. The novelty was this part. The activities in this part -which was mentioned in the program as the second part- were performed as such: The students and athletes to attend the gymnastics and sports festivities would gather in the Republic Square at 14.00 and they would march to the stadium accompanies by the military marching band, at 15.00, the governor, garrison commander, mayor, training director, the president of the community center, physical training deputy president would inspect the student and the athletes and they would sing the Turkish National Anthem together; the Turkish flag would be raised up to the flagpole and following the speeches emphasizing the importance of the day, after the marching ceremony of the students, the gymnastic displays would be made according to the MEB directive and also, a football competition would be held. Following the football competition, the schools and the athletes would exit the stadium and arrive at the Republic Square singing the Decennial March and Athlete’s March accompanied by the band, disbanding afterward.[26] The ceremony in 1938 was performed as such. The newspapers published the photographs of the previous year 1937’s sports events.[27]

In 1937, the Ministry of National Education (MEB) sent a circular letter to the provinces and requested events to be organized under the name of Physical Training Holiday on the 19th of May from that date and on. In line with the subject directive of MEB, a sports festivity was added to the ceremonies in Samsun and the three-stage program replaced the two-stage program which comprised of the day and night programs.
The ceremonies in 1937 were also performed in other provinces based on the directive of the Ministry of Education. In the thank-you telegram he sent to the Minister of Internal Affairs who conveyed his affection and loyalty on the occasion of the demonstrations in Ankara Stadium[28] on the 19th of May 1937, he expressed that he received the telegram informative of the noble and profound sentiment of the conscious and upstanding youth and the valued citizens who have gathered in the stadium on the anniversary of the 19th of May with joy.[29] Ataturk sent a congratulation telegram on the occasion of the coronation to the King of England VI George on the 17th of May 1937 in the same year and in response, the King of England celebrated Ataturk’s birthday on the 19th of May.[30] After this incident, it appears that the 19th of May came to be more prominent. On the 19th of May 1938, Ataturk observed the second and last Physical Training Holiday with the Yugoslavia Military and Marine Minister Four Star General Maric who was visiting Ankara at that time and the Turkish officials. He was unwell and he was about to make a trip. The Minister of Internal Affairs Sukru Kaya made the speech instead of him. In his speech, Sukru Kaya stated that Ataturk wished and reasoned that it would be fitting to devote the 19th to the Turkish Youth and Turkish Sportsmanship and this holiday which would be among our national holidays would be celebrated every year; and the name of the Ankara Stadium would be changed as 19th of May Stadium by virtue of the significance of this day. A recommendation having the same essence that thousands of people who attended the ceremony had signed was accepted by the people with applauds. In addition to naming the Stadium after the 19th of May, it was also voiced that the day of the May 19th would be internalized as the youth and sports holiday.[31]

The Minister of Internal Affairs Sukru Kaya stated that Ataturk wished and reasoned that it would be fitting to devote the 19th to the Turkish Youth and Turkish Sportsmanship, and this holiday which would be among our national holidays would be celebrated every year; and the name of the Ankara Stadium would be changed as 19th of May Stadium by virtue of the significance of this day.
Essentially, the 19th of May was not among the five national holidays in total, comprising of four holidays accepted by different laws introduced, starting with the opening of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey up until 1926, and the Constitutional Monarchy Holiday dated 25 June 1325 (8th of July, 1909). When the national holidays and general holidays were determined again with the Law Number 2739 dated 27 May 1935, some reductions and additions were made. Declaration of 19th of May as a holiday was not performed and even, it was not mentioned during the discussions on the proposed law in the general assembly. If Ataturk did not have a special interest, it would be unlikely that the date would be among our national holidays. 19th of May would be lost in the memory of many government administrators [32]. However, since the celebrations related to the Gazi Day in Samsun occurred within the knowledge of Ataturk from the start, and The Speech begun with the incident on this date and he accepted the day as his birthday, the 19th of May brought up again a year after the subject law was accepted. When Ataturk reminded this date to the people around him in Dolmabahce Palace in Istanbul on the 19th of May 1936, the process of becoming one of the official holidays begun. A clause in the second article in the Law Number 2739 which was prepared by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and discussed in the council of ministers on the 28th of May 1938 and the proposed law regarding the addition of another article to the same law was presented to the speaker’s office on the 1st of June 1938. In the justification of the proposed law regarding the addition another clause to the second article, it was stated that ‘The date 19 of May, the most important day among the turning points of an everlasting and universal history is celebrated in every corner of the country by The Turkish youth and athletes, and millions of Turkish people together and in unity. This day is the day the human history changed its fate and course in favor of humanity and civilization. Every day of the following eighteen years has proved the great and universal consequence of that revolutionary day and will continue to yield results perpetually. Therefore, the great Ataturk reasoned that it would be fitting to devote this date to the Turkish Youth, which is the strongest protector of this future, and the Turkish Sportsmanship.

With the Ataturk reminding the date to the people around him in Dolmabahce Palace in Istanbul on the 19th of May 1936, the process of becoming an official holiday began. According to the Law number 3950 dated 4th of July 1938, a clause was added to the second article of the Law Number 2739 and the 19th day of May was accepted as the Youth and Sports Day.
Since it is natural for such a glorious day to be among the national holidays, the clause was added to the law number 2739.[33] The Council of Internal Affairs declared that they agree with the remarks and opinions of the government in the meeting dated the 6th of Kune 1938 and concluded that an immaterial singular amendment was accepted and the first deliberation on the proposal was conducted in the general assembly on the 13th of June 1938, nobody took the floor on the entirety of the law or the articles, and no discussions were held; the articles were read and accepted as is.[34] In the second deliberation on the proposal dated the 10th of June 1938, the members of the general assembly did not suggest any amendments or additions, nobody took the floor regarding the subject and the entirety of the proposal was put to vote and accepted as is.[35] It can be contemplated that the silence in the parliament was due to Ataturk’s illness. As a matter of fact, Ataturk, who returned to Ankara on the 25th of May from the travel to Mersin-Tarsus-Adana that started on the 19th of May 1938 moved to Istanbul a day after his returned, took ill on the 28th of May here and upon the progression of his illness, he was transported to the Savarona yacht which was bought for him on the 1st of June and his medical examinations, meetings and admissions continued here for a while. When his illness progressed, he returned to Dolmabahce Palace on the night of the 24/25th of July, the place he would not be able to leave again. The proposed law the Grand National Assembly of Turkey accepted was presented to the President’s approval on 21 June 1938 and the publication and announcement of this law was notified to the prime ministry on 28 June 1938 from the presidency office. The subject law entered in force by being published in the Official Gazette on the 4th of July 1938.[36] According to the Law Number 3950 dated 4 July 1938 which entered into force, a clause was being added to the second article of the Law Number 2739: ‘G) The Youth and Sports Day; the 19th day of May.’ After this date, the day Ataturk landed in Samsun started to be celebrated as the Youth and Sports Day, officially from the 19th of May 1939. Ataturk did not live long enough to celebrate the 19th May as an official holiday. 19th of May, which was remembered with this name until 1981, was changed with the Law Regarding the National Holidays and General Holidays Number 2429 dated 17 March 1981, and under the second paragraph of the clause A) of the second article of the subject law, it was referred to as ‘2. The 19th day of May is the Commemoration of Ataturk, Youth and Sports Day.’ Thus, this holiday came to be a general national holiday, instead of the Gazi Day only celebrated in Samsun.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

[1] News Item, 24 September 340/1924, n. 49.

[2] For the construction of the Gazi Statue, first, the name of the Italian sculptor of the Taksim Monument Prof. Pietro Canonica (1869-1963) was mentioned. It was even said that a contract was signed between the parliament members of Samsun and the representative of Canonica (Samsun, 15 Tesrinisani (November) 1927 and 19 Kanunuevvel (December) 1927, n. 173). Afterwards, as is known, the Austrian Sculptor Heinrich Krippel (1883-1945) made the sculptor and the statue was presented with a ceremony in which the sculptor participated at 14.00 on the January 15th 1932, Friday. Mustafa Kemal Pasha’s telegram to the Samsun Governor on the occasion of the opening:

Dear Esteemed Samsun Governor Salim Bey, I was deeply moved by your telegram informing me about the valued feelings the public had demonstrated for my person. I you please, offer my thanks, affections, and regards to the people. The President of the Republic Gazi M. Kemal (Samsun, 21 Kanunusani (January) 1932).

[3] Samsun, 29 May, 927, n. 119. The location where the Gazi Day ceremony was held was opened to the general public after a project which was discussed for a long period of time came into effect. After the Independence, The Samsun Municipality was searching for a gathering place for the public and they decided on the Tophane Garden, however, the old cemetery at that location which was in ruins constituted a problem (News item, 28 Kanunuevvel (December) 339/1923, n. 13). As can be understood from the responses to the query of the Haber Newspaper in 1924 titled ‘Can the old cemetery which is in ruins be a rose garden?’, there was an abandoned and disorderly graveyard where the animals wandered freely at the center of the city and the citizens were demanding the graves in this location to be transferred and the location to be constructed as a garden open to the general public. ‘In this case, if the graves which occupy the best location in Samsun can be transferred in due form, orderly and respectfully, and an elegant and so pleasant garden can be made, the souls of our ancestors would not be grieved, on the contrary, they would be content’ (News Item, 7 August 340/1924 and 21AAugust 340/1924, n. 42 and 44.) The destruction of the military office building in the Tophane location which was expropriated by the municipality (5000.80 square meters, in exchange for 4000 liras in cash, News Item, 3 April 340/1924, n.27.) begun and after the depot on the coast was expropriated, the destruction was also carried on at this location (Samsun, 22 Mart 1927 and 1 Kanunuevvel (January) 1927, n. 102 and 169).

[4] Samsun, 15 May 1927, n. 115.

[5] Mintika Palas in which Ataturk resided when he first came to Samsun on the 19th of May 1919 was given to the Great Gazi as a present by the people of Samsun in 1926 and after this date, it was named as Gazievi and opened to visitation in 1928. Afterwards, it was used by the Republican People’s Party as the party building. (Dursun Ali Akbulut, Samsun’s ‘Gazi Day’ or the 19 May Holiday, Ataturk Arastirma Merkezi Dergisi, XI/33 (November 1995), s.771-779.

[6] During the celebrations in 1926, the governor was Fahri Bey. After Fahri Bey, Kazim Pasha was appointed as the Samsun Governor on 22 August 1926 (Turk Istiklal Harbine Katilan Tumen ve Daha Ust Kademelerdeki Komutanlarin Biyografileri, GKB Yay. Ankara 1989, s.125.). During the studies in the General Staff regarding the Mustafa Kemal Pasha’s landing in Samsun, he contributed as the second governor by granting them a wider authorization.

[7] Laws: 23 April Holiday number 112 dated the 23rd of April 1921, Independence Holiday number 362 dated 24th of October 1923, Republic Day number 628 dated the 19th of April 1925, Victory Day number 791 dated April 1st 1926. See. Dursun Ali Akbulut, Samsun’s ‘Gazi Day’ or the 19 May Holiday, Ataturk Arastirma Merkezi Dergisi, XI/33(November 1995), s. 771-779.

[8] Samsun, 15 May 1927, n.115.

[9] Samsun, 24 May 1927, n. 118.

[10] Gazi’s responses to these telegrams were published in the Samsun Newspaper.

To the Samsun Turkish Heart President, I have received your telegram. I am proud and happy to hear about the noble echoes my Address have awakened in the spirit of the youth and our great nation. I have great confidence in that our glorious republic which is the valued consequence of the nation’s tenacity and consciousness will always be superior and everlasting in the iron hands of the present and future generations. I also offer my tanks for the kindness shown to my person. The President of the Republic Gazi Mustafa Kemal (Samsun, 1 Tesrinisani (November) 1927, n. 161.) Another telegram having the same meaning was sent to the President of the Samsun Teacher’s Union. (Samsun, 6 Tesrinisani (November 1927, n.162.).

[11] Samsun,17 May 1928, n. 215.

[12] Samsun, 22 May 1928, n. 216.

[13] Samsun, 4 May 1933,

[14] Samsun, 25 May 1933,

[15] ‘It was as if the Gazi Pasha was moving forward in order to save the country during its darkest days.’ (Samsun 24 May 1934).

[16] Ahali, 23 May 1933,

[17] Samsun, 19 May 1933,

[18] Samsun, 25 May 1933,

[19] Ahali, 19 May 1934.  The heading of the Ahali Newspaper on the same day: ‘Congratulations to the Citizens for this Glorious Day’

[20] Samsun, 24 May 1934,

[21] Samsun, 23 May 1935, Ahali, 22Mayıs 1935. B.S.Yalcin-I.Gonulal, Ataturk Inkilabi, Ankara 1984, s. 541.

[22] Samsun, 22 May 1936.

[23] Samsun, 7 Mayıs 1937, “…your great nation, your great father gave the ‘Youth and Sports Day’ as a present to you.’ (Samsun, 19 May 1938,). “Ataturk Gunu 19 MAY and the YOUTH Holiday” (Ahali, 17 May 1939).

[24] Turan Tanyer, Mektepliler Idman Bayrami, Turkiye Barolar Birligi Yayini, Ankara 2010, s. 20-24.

[25] Ahali, 27 May 1937.

[26] Samsun, 19 May 1938.

[27] Samsun, 19 May 1938.

[28] Ankara Stadium which was designed by Paolo-Vietti Violi was opened with a football tournament on the 15th of December, 1936.

[29] Ataturk’un Soylev ve Demecleri V Tamim ve Telgraflari, Yay.Haz:S.Borak-Dr.U.Kocaturk, Ankara 1972, s. 192.

[30] Ataturk’un Soylev ve Demecleri, V, Tamim ve Telgraflari, s.193.

[31] Tanyer, Mektepliler Idman Bayrami, s. 56-61 (“19 May 1919-19 May 1938”, Ulku, 64, s. 289-294, 361 as is).

[32] Akbulut, Samsun’un Gazi Gunu… s. 771-779.

[33] TBMM Zabit Ceridesi, V. Devre, c. 26, s. Ek 1.

[34] TBMM Zabit Ceridesi, V. Devre, c. 26, s. 126.

[35] TBMM Zabit Ceridesi, V. Devre, c. 26, s. 217.

[36] TBMM Kavanin Mecmuasi, c. 18 Ankara 1938, s. 904