Monument to Ataturk in Turkey
A huge concrete bas-relief 42 meters high depicting Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the first president of the Turkish Republic, was erected in Izmir, by analogy with the sculptural images of the most influential US presidents on Mount Rushmore. “Mask of Ataturk”, as the huge monument by Turkish architect Harun Atalamain is officially called, is the largest monument in Turkey and occupies the tenth position among the largest man-made monuments in the world.
The history of the erection of the Monument to Ataturk
It was not without reason that the leadership of Izmir decided to erect such a huge monument to the first president of Turkey, despite the fact that there are enough luxurious monuments and images of Ataturk in Izmir. It was from Izmir (formerly known as the city of Smyrna) that the Turkish War of Independence began, when Greek troops landed in the city in May 1919 and, in accordance with the Armistice of Mudros, occupied Smyrna and its surrounding areas.
As of 1919, Izmir was predominantly inhabited by Greeks, so the Greek interest in this city was quite natural. As a result of the active hostilities of the Turkish troops against Greece, on September 9, 1922, Smyrna was liberated from the Greek troops, who were hastily evacuated. In 1928, as a result of the translation of the Turkish language into Latin, Smyrna became officially known as Izmir.
To emphasize the special contribution of Ataturk to the preservation of Izmir as part of Turkey, the mayor of the city, Cemil Sheboy, insisted on the implementation of such a grandiose project. The giant concrete sculpture was erected between 2006 and 2009 at a huge cost of 4,200,000 Turkish lira, which justifiably caused public outrage, because despite the patriotic message, the cost turned out to be incredibly overpriced, despite the fact that the sculpture is hollow.
They did not limit themselves to a simple image of the first president, but decided, in addition to everything, to open the National Museum of the Turkish War of Independence nearby, in filling the expositions of which not only city museums, but also the Turkish Ministry of Defense took an active part. The grand opening of the unusual museum complex took place on September 10, 2010 and caused a lot of enthusiastic emotions among residents and guests of the city.
However, already in the same 2010, the face of the concrete sculpture began to become covered with white spots, followed by peeling of the plaster. The museum was soon closed due to high humidity. The searchlights burned out, the guards were removed, and the territory of the complex turned into a gathering place for unreliable citizens. Residents of nearby areas, who had the good fortune to live in close proximity to the new attraction, faced rampant banditry, while contacting the police did not produce results.
New life for a large monument
In 2018, the new leadership of Izmir defined a new strategy for the development of the Buka region, which provides for the development of the territory through the creation of new parks, the renovation of streets and the large-scale restoration of Atatürk’s concrete bas-relief. As a result of large-scale work on the monument, all rotten internal metal structures were replaced, and the outer surface of the “face” was completely cleaned and filled with new mortar, which required 450 tons of concrete. The area around the monument has been cleaned up and now it is again pleasant to walk here without fear for your life and property. When visiting Izmir, I recommend making a visit to the “Turkish Rushmore”, since there are other city attractions around, such as the Kadifekale fortress and the Ottoman Vizier viaduct of the 17th century.