Atatürk And An Armenian – “Godfather” Of The Turkish Language

If it were not for this Armenian, the Turks would have had neither their alphabet nor the language in which they communicate and write every day, and Atatürk would have remained Mustafa Kemal.

In the Şişli district of Istanbul, the largest city in Turkey, there is the small Dilâçar Street. This name does not mean anything to uninformed people, does not symbolize anything, and may seem incomprehensible – mainly because most of the streets of Istanbul are named after famous personalities.

Nearby are, for example, Reha Yurdakul Street named after a Turkish film director, Halide Edib Adıvar Street named after a Turkish politician, Çifte Cevizle Street, Alaattin Elmas Street, and others.

Why does the sign on Dilâçar Street look so orphaned? Well, it is not the full name of the street.

Although the question is rhetorical, the problem, of course, is the Armenians and anti-Armenianism. Dilâçar Street is named after Armenian linguist Hagop Dilâçar-Martayan who made a great contribution to the history of Turkey.

The Turks could not ignore the memory of this man altogether, but naming the street in his honor, they took into account only the Turkish surname – or rather, the pseudonym. The name Hagop, which is very popular among Armenians – not to mention the surname Martayan – could have provoked riots.

By the way, the nickname Dilâçar was given to Martayan by the founder of the modern Turkish state, the first president of the Turkish Republic Mustafa Kemal, also known as Atatürk. It’s funny, but the pseudonym Atatürk given to Mustafa Kemal was invented by Martayan himself, with which he avenged the politician for his pseudonym.

What does Dilâçar mean?

The word “lâçar” (colloquial) Is also widely used in the Armenian language. It is used to refer to pugnacious and sharp-tongued people. The Turkish word “lâçar” means “language”, and “dilâçar” means “revealing language”.

Hagop Martayan really did “discover” the Turkish language. Without him, modern Turks would not have had either an alphabet or a language of their own, in which they communicate and write today. But let’s not go ahead of ourselves.

Hagop Martayan was born in 1895 in Istanbul. As a child, the boy showed a talent for languages. In addition to Armenian and Turkish, he spoke 19 languages, including Greek, English, Spanish, Latin, German, Russian, Bulgarian, and a number of others. He started his career as an English teacher.

During World War I Martayan was drafted into the army to fight the British. Once, British prisoners of war asked him to tell Turkish officers to stop violence against them. Martayan did as they asked. Turkish officers, considering him a spy, took him to the division commander Mustafa Kemal.

Martayan calmly explained that he was not a spy but simply spoke English and conveyed the request of the captives, nothing more. Kemal liked the smart boy – later, they would become friends. This can explain how Martayan, unlike many Armenian cultural and public figures, managed to avoid being killed during the Armenian Genocide in 1915.

While still in the military camp, Kemal noticed Martayan’s notebook, in which Turkish inscriptions were made in Latin, which greatly interested the future Atatürk. Five years later, in 1923, when he became president of the Turkish Republic, Kemal instructed Martayan to reform the Turkish language and switch the Ottoman alphabet from Arabic to Latin. In addition, the Armenian linguist became the advisor to the Turkish president on language, culture, and science.

As part of his reform plans, Kemal introduced a law on surnames that had not existed in Turkey until the 1930s. Turkish linguists suggested that the president take the Turkish surname Atasi (Father of the Turks). Martayan made some changes, altered the words, and got the still famous surname Atatürk.

As an adviser to the President of Turkey, Martayan-Dilâçar did not forget about his people. In addition to mastering the Turkish language, he studied the Armenian language. In his work “Language, Languages, and Linguistics”, he talks about Armenian, ancient Armenian (Grabar), medieval Armenian, modern Armenian, as well as the contribution of Armenian linguist Hrachya Acharyan to its development.

There is another interesting story related to Dilâçar and Atatürk. In 1934, while dining with high-ranking government officials and figures from various branches of science, Atatürk asked every member of the nation to sing in their own language.

When Hagop Martayan’s turn came, some began to whisper that an Armenian who knows several languages would not dare to sing in a language other than Turkish. However, Hagop Martayan performed a famous song dedicated to the commander Andranik in Armenian. The guests became furious upon hearing Andranik’s name, but Atatürk ordered them to calm down.

“Andranik was an enemy of the Turks, and he killed thousands of Turks. The Armenians hadn’t had such a hero as Andranik in the past, and it is unlikely that they will have one in the future. The Armenians are right remembering their heroes,” the Turkish President said.

Zhanna Poghosyan,

Read Also: In 1928, Turkey Could Have Had The Armenian Alphabet Instead Of The Latin

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *