On May 19, 1919 Mustafa Kemal Atatürk arrived in the coastal Black Sea town of Samsun to begin Turkey's struggle for independence against the allies. The endeavor ended with the founding of the Republic of Turkey more than four years later. The day is celebrated around the country and in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC). The holiday is formally known as Atatürk Remembrance, Youth and Sports Day. Celebrations start at 7:00 a.m., the time Atatürk arrived in Samsun 86 years ago, with a 21-gun salute. Top politicians, bureaucrats and military officers led by President Ahmet Necdet Sezer will pay their respects at Atatürk's masoleum at 9:00 a.m. Celebrations will continue in Ankara at 19 Mayis Stadium with Education Minister Hüseyin Çelik addressing the guests. A student will read a poem and the Turkish Air Forces Youth Team will parachute into the stadium. The Ankara municipality will hold a huge parade with over 1,200 students participating. The parade starts at Altınpark and ends at Parliament.
According to information provided by historian Baki Sarısakal, Ataturk was appointed 9th Army commander to keep peace in the region. He left Istanbul by ship for Samsun accompanied by 55 others on May 16 with plans of a fight for independence in mind. He arrived on May 19.
Newspapers at the time didn't give serious coverage to Atatürk's move to Anatolia, but the British communicated their reservations about Atatürk's new posting.
Five years later Atatürk would once again arrive in Samsun to an enthusiastic welcome, but the Turkish people had yet to realize the significance of the event.
From 1923 to 1938 the day was celebrated as Gazi Day only in Samsun. Later on, the day became a national holiday celebrated nationwide.
Turkish youth traditionally take part in sports activities on the holiday.
After spending some time in Samsun, Atatürk moved on to Erzurum and then Sivas to meet with local resistance leaders and eventually set up his headquarters in Ankara. His arrival in Samsun is seen as the starting point of Turkey's independence struggle against the allied countries that tried to partition the Ottoman Empire. The founding of the republic on Oct. 29, 1923 is seen as the end of the War of Independence.
After four years of struggle, the Republic of Turkey emerged from the ashes of the Ottoman Empire as a single, united nation.