Baylor Professor George Gawrych Honored for Book on WWI Turkish Leader Atatürk

George Gawrych
George Gawrych receiving the award.
May 8, 2014

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WACO, Texas (May 8, 2014) – It may seem that all that can be written about the Great War has been written. But some military leaders have been overlooked, simply out of a lack of translation skills.

George Gawrych, Ph.D., professor of history in Baylor’s College of Arts & Sciences, has received the 2014 Society for Military History Award in biography and memoir for his book on the Turkish military and political leader Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.

Gawrych’s book, “The Young Atatürk: From Ottoman Soldier to Statesman of Turkey,” is the first serious publication detailing the life of the military man and statesman.

“Winston Churchill called him a genius,” Gawrych said. “He is famous as military commander in WWI, and he was perhaps the most important military commander on the Ottoman side at the Gallipoli campaign.”

When the war ended, Atatürk organized a national resistance to the victorious European forces that wanted to divide what remained of the Ottoman Empire. Five years later, he founded the Republic of Turkey and made what were in that time very progressive changes.

“Among his many reforms were changing the alphabet from Arabic to Latin script, abolishing polygamy, and giving women equal rights in divorce, . . . the right to vote . . . and permission to run for office,” Gawrych said.

What Gawrych found particularly surprising about Atatürk, “from an American point of view,” was his deep interest in the writing and philosophy of Benjamin Franklin, he said. During his primary research, Gawrych came across four pages of notes, written by a young Atatürk while he was still captain, on Franklin’s inventions, views on diplomacy and 13 virtues.

With no true study of Atatürk as a military commander turned statesman, Gawrych turned to primary Ottoman sources such as these notes. No other military historian has done what Gawrych did, as the research requires the ability to translate and interpret sources written in both Turkish and Arabic. Sometimes he would take an entire day to read a handwritten one- to two-page document.

About the award, Gawrych said, “you can’t dwell on it too long, because there’s more to do.”

The Society for Military History’s Distinguished Book Awards recognize the best book-length publications on military history. The society presents the awards at its annual meeting in the spring after the competition.

Gawrych’s book is available for purchase on Amazon.

by Rachel Miller, student newswriter, (254) 710-6805

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