Ankara - Anıtkabir (Atatürk's Mausoleum)


The great leader of Turkish Independence War and Turkish Revolution and the founder of Turkish Republic Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s life, with full of struggles for Turkish land's freedom and endeavours to raise the Turkish Nation to the level of contemporary civilization, lasted 57 years. It ended on 10 November 1938 and the great leader passed to eternity.

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk is a great leader, achieving to make Türkiye a member of contemporary civilization with all its institutions, has a special place in the history of humanities. The idea to build a mausoleum to reflect his greatness in every respect and to present his thoughts on principles, his reforms and modernization, was the common desire of the Turkish Nation in deepest grief of losing Atatürk.


Before building of Anitkabir, Anittepe’s (Monument Hill ) name was Rasattepe (Observation Hill) because there was an observatory on this hill.

There were also tumuluses (graves) belonging to Phrygian civilization of 3rd Century BC on this hill. Archeological excavations took place to remove these tombs after the decision was given to build Anitkabir on Rasattepe. Remains found on these excavations are on display in the museum of Anatolian Civilizations.


The first stage to start the construction was the expropriation of the land after deciding on the Anitkabir project. Actual construction of Anitkabir commenced on 9 October 1944 with a splendid ceremony by laying the first stone of the foundation. Construction of Anitkabir took nine years in four stages.

First stage of the Construction: 1944 - 1945
First stage construction, comprising the excavation and the construction of the retaining wall of Lions Road, started 9 October 1944 and completed in 1945.

 Second Stage of the Construction: 1945 - 1950 Second stage construction, comprising the mausoleum and the auxiliary buildings surrounding the ceremonial ground, started on 29 September 1945 and completed on 8 August 1950. At this stage, due to the problems related to the mausoleum’s masonry and concrete structure foundations, some revisions had to be made. At the end of 1947 the excavation and insulation of the mausoleum foundation was completed and the steel reinforcements for the new 11 m. high concrete foundation, capable of resisting any kind of settlement of the ground, had come to near completion.

Entrance towers, most part of the road network, orchard installations, plantation works and main part of the irrigation systems were also completed at this stage.

Third Stage of the Construction: 1950

The third stage was comprising the construction of the roads leading to the mausoleum, Lions’ alley, ceremonial ground, the mausoleum’s upper-level stone pavement, grand stairs, putting the big tomb stone in its place and installation of electricity, plumbing and heating systems.

Fourth Stage of the Construction: 1950 - 1953

The fourth stage comprised the construction of the Hall of Honours pavement, vaults under side linings, and the Hall of Honour’s perimeter stone profiles and fringe decorations. The fourth stage had started on 20 November 1950 and completed on 1 September 1953.

The Anitkabir project originally had a vaulted ceiling above the mausoleum carried by the perimeter columns. On 4 December 1951 the Government inquired the architects of the possibility of shortening the time of construction by lowering the 28 m. high ceiling of the Hall of Honours.

After studying the subject, architects concluded that it was possible to cover the ceiling with a reinforced concrete slab instead of a stone vault. This change had reduced the weight of the ceiling and, therefore, certain risks were eliminated further.

Easy to process porous travertine with various colours was used on external cladding of the concrete surfaces and marble was used for the inside surfaces of the mausoleum.
White travertine that was used for sculpture groups, for lions figures and the mausoleum colons, is brought in from Pinarbasi town of Kayseri and white travertine used inside the towers is brought in from Polatli and Malikoy. Red and black travertine used for paving the ceremonial ground and floors of towers were brought in from Kayseri, Bogazköprü region and yellow travertine brought in from Cankiri, Eskipazar was used for building the Victory relief, Hall of Honours external walls and perimeter colons of the ceremonial ground.

Red, black and cream colour marbles used on the floor of the Hall of Honours were brought from Hatay, Adana and Canakkale, and for the internal walls, tiger-hide patterned marble from Afyon and green marble brought from Bilecik. Monolithic tomb stone weighing 40 tons was brought from Osmaniye, Adana and the white marble covering sides of the sarcophagus were from Afyon.


The period of the Turkish architecture, in between 1940 and 1950, is known as “The Era of Second National Architecture”. During this period mostly monumental, symmetry oriented, cut stone clad buildings had been built. Anitkabir carries the same characteristics of this era.

Besides those characteristics, Anitkabir also has Seljuk and Ottoman architectural characteristics and ornamentation features.

As in the example of external walls and eaves all around the towers are the Seljuk style borders, known as “saw teeth” in Seljuk cut stone art. Cut stone ornamentation, namely passion flower and ‘rosette’ used in some other parts of Anitkabir (Mehmetcik Tower, Museum Administration) can be found in Seljuk and Ottoman architecture as well. With all its qualities, Anitkabir is one of the finest examples of its era, covering approximately 750.000 square metres; it is divided into two parts as “Peace Park” and “Monument Block”


Inspired by Atatürk's famous phrase “Peace at home, peace in World”, Anitkabir rises above in ‘Peace Park’ formed with plants received from all over the world and the country.

Many plants and trees are brought in from Afghanistan, Austria, Belgium, Canada, China, Cyprus, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, India, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Japan, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, USA, United Kingdom and Yugoslavia. Today, in ‘Peace Park,’ there are 48.500 trees and ornamental plants of 104 different species and origins.


Anitkabir monument Block has three sections.

1- Lions Alley

2- Ceremonial Ground

3- Mausoleum

When entered from Tandogan Gate and by the road through the Peace Park you can reach at the 26 steps high ground stairs at the head of the Lions Alley. Independence and Freedom Towers are situated at both sides of this stair facing each other.

Within the Anitkabir site there are ten towers situated in a symmetrical arrangement. They are named to symbolize the great ideals that influenced the creation of our nation and the state. The towers are similar in terms of planning and structure. The towers are rectangular, close to a square, with 12x14x7.20 m. dimensions and have pyramidal roofs. Bronze arrow heads are placed at the top of the roofs as in the old Turkish traditional tent. Geometric ornamentations, inspired by the old Turkish kilim patterns, are superimposed in fresco technique.

Also inside walls of the towers contains a composition relevant to the name of the tower and inscription of Atatürk’s word.


The relief on the internal walls of the Independence Tower, situated at the right side of the Lions Alley, shows a young man standing and holding a sword with both hands and an eagle perched on a rock beside him. Eagle in mythology and in Seljuk art, is the symbol of Power and Independence. The youth holding a sword, represents the Turkish nation defending its independence. This relief is a work of Zühtü Müridoglu.

Also inscribed on the walls of the tower are Atatürk’s words about independence:

“When our nation seemed to cease to exist in a most horrible way, our ancestors’ voice, calling their children to fight against surrender, rose in our hearts and invoked the last Independence War.” (1921)

“Life means fight and struggle. Success in life is only possible with success in fight.” (1927)

“We are a nation asking for life and independence, and sacrifice our lives only and solely for this.” (1921)

“There is no principal of asking for justice and mercy. Turkish Nation and Türkiye’s children of the future should never forget that for a moment.” (1927)

“This nation has not, cannot and will not live without independence. Either Independence or death.” (1919)

A model of Anitkabir and illuminated information panels about Anitkabir are in the tower.


Inside the Freedom Tower, on the left side of the Lions Alley, a relief shows a figure of an angel holding a sheet of paper and a rearing horse next to it. An angel figure symbolizes the holiness of freedom and the sheet of paper symbolizes the “Declaration of Freedom”. The horse figure is the symbol of both freedom and independence. This relief is a work of Zühtü Müridoglu.

Inscribed on the tower walls are Atatürk’s words about freedom:

“Principle is, for Turkish Nation to live a respected and proud life. This principle can only be achieved by acquiring a complete Independence. No matter how wealthy or prosperous a nation is, without the independence, it is considered nothing more than a slave in civilized humanity.” (1927) 

“To me, to have and to keep its honour, dignity and ethics continuously, a nation must always have its independence and freedom.”

“Freedom, equality, justice; all are based on national sovereignty.”

“In all our history, we are a symbol nation of freedom and independence.”

In the tower, there is a photograph exhibition about Anitkabir construction and a collection of stone samples used in the construction.


There is a group of three women’s statues with national dresses in front of the Independence Tower. Two women at the sides are holding a large wreath reaching to the ground. This wreath made up of grain sheaf represents our abundant country. The woman on the left with a cup in her stretched hand is asking God’s compassion for Atatürk, and the woman in the middle, covering her face with her hand, is crying.

This group represents the Turkish women’s pride, solemnity and determination, even in the deepest grief of losing Atatürk. This group of statues is a work of Hüseyin Ozkan.


This group of statues made up of three men, is situated in front of the Freedom Tower. The man at the right with helmet and greatcoat represents the Turkish soldier, next to it with a book in his hand, Turkish youth and intellectuals and just behind it, with local dress, Turkish peasants are represented. By the grievous expressions in the faces of all three statues, solemnity and power of will proper to Turkish Nation are expressed. This group of statues is a work of Hüseyin Ozkan.


This pedestrian alley designed to brace visitors for the Atatürk's great presence. It is 262 m. Long and have 24 lion statues in seating position at both sides. Those lion statues, made in old Anatolian civilization Hittite art style, for Atatürk gave great importance to Turkish and Anatolian history, are symbolizing the power and peace. Statues are made by Hüseyin Ozkan.


At the end of the Lions Alley is the 129 m. long and 84.25 m. wide Ceremonial Ground. The capacity of this ground is for 15.000 people and its floor is decorated with 373 rugs and kilims patterns made of black, red, yellow and white travertine.

7. MEHMETCIK (Turkish Soldier) TOWER

Mehmetcik tower is situated on the right-hand side of the end of the Lions Alley. The relief on the exterior facade depicts Mehmetcik leaving home for the front. In this composition, a sad but proud mother holding her hand on the shoulder of her son and sending him to the war for country, is described. This relief is the work of Zühtü Müridoglu.

Inscribed on the walls are the aphorisms of Atatürk about Mehmetcik and Turkish women:

“Heroic Turkish Soldier, understanding the meaning of Anatolian wars fought for a new country.” (1921)

“Nowhere in this world, not in any nation, it is possible to mention women's struggle above Turkish Anatolian peasant women's struggle.”(1923)

“There is no appraisal for the sacrifices and heroism of this nation's children.” There is a book and gift shop in the tower selling books and gift articles to visitors about Anitkabir and Atatürk.


“Atatürk and Turkish Revolution Library” is located inside the same building where the Directorate of Museum, Library and Cultural Activities is. It is between the Mehmetcik and Victory towers. This library, specialized on the issues about Atatürk, National Struggle and Reforms, in Turkish and foreign languages, serves every scholar and reader on week days between 09:00-12:30/13:30-17:00 hours.


The dates of Atatürk’s most important three victories and his words about victories are inscribed on the walls of this tower. Inside the tower, the gun carriage, which carried Atatürk’s coffin from Dolmabahce Palace to Sarayburnu and handed over to the navy on 19 November 1938, is on display.


The symbolic sarcophagus of Ismet Inönü, Atatürk’s closest friend of arms, the Western Front commander of the Turkish National Struggle and the second President of Republic, is located in the colonnaded gallery between Peace and Victory towers. Grave room of Ismet Inönü who passed away on 25 December 1973 is on the lower floor. Ismet Inönü was buried in Anitkabir on 28 December 1973 by the decree of the Cabinet.


A relief composition expressing Atatürk’s principal of “Peace at home, peace in the world” is inside the tower walls. In this relief, farming peasants and beside them, a soldier figure protecting them by holding out his sword, are depicted. This soldier symbolizes the Turkish Army, the strong and genuine keeper of the peace. Thus, people live their daily lives in peace, secured by the Turkish Army. The relief is a work of Nusret Suman.

Atatürk’s following words about peace are inscribed on the walls of the tower:

“World citizens must be educated to refrain themselves from jealousy, greed and hatred.”(1935)

“Peace at Home, Peace in the World”

“Unless the nation's life is in direct danger, war is a murderous crime.” (1923)

Inside the tower, Atatürk’s official and ceremonial Lincoln cars, used in between 1935-1938, are on display.


On the inside walls of the tower, is a relief depicting the opening of the Turkish Ground National Assembly on 23 April 1920. The woman standing in this relief is holding a paper in her hand with an inscription of the date 23 April 1920. The key in her other hand is symbolizing the opening of our National Assembly. The relief is the work of Hakki Atamulu.

Atatürk’s aphorisms about the opening of the assembly are on the walls of the tower.

“There was only one decision: It was to establish a new and unconditionally independent Turkish State based on national sovereignty.” (1919)

“The Turkish Grand National Assembly is the one and the only representative of the Turkish State.”

“Our opinion is that power, sovereignty and government must be directly given to the people and should be in the hands of the people.”

Atatürk’s Cadillac type private car used in between 1936 and 1938 is on display on this tower.


In Anitkabir, the Turkish flag rises on this one-piece high post, situated in the middle of the 28 steps grand stair leading to the ceremonial ground at the direction of Cankaya District. Specially manufactured in the USA, this 33,53 m. high post is the highest single piece steel flag post in Europe. 4 m. section of the post is buried in its base. A US citizen with Turkish origin, living in the USA, Nazmi Cemal manufactured this post in his own flag post factory and presented to Anitkabir in 1946. In the relief at the base of the flag post, the torch symbolizes the Turkish civilization, the sword is the offensive power, helmet is defence power, the oak branch is the victory and the olive branch is the symbol of peace.

Turkish flag rises on the values of our nation like defence of the country, earning victories, keeping peace and founding civilizations. This relief is the work of Kenan Yontuc.

14. MISAK-I MILLI (The National Pact) TOWER

The tower is at the entry to the museum and the relief inside this tower symbolizes the binding in unity. The relief shows four hands joining on a sword hilt. This composition symbolizes the nation's oath to save the Turkish Country. The relief is the work of Nusret Suman

Atatürk’s following words about Misak-i Milli are inscribed on the walls:

“It is the nation's iron fist that writes nations’ oath which is the main principle of our independence to the annals of history.”(1923)

“We want free and independent life within our borders.” (1921)

“The nations without a national pride are prey of the other nations.” (1923)

There is a dais in the middle of the tower, for the delegations, participated in the ceremonies in Anitkabir, to sign the official memorial book. In this tower, which is also the entry to the museum, there are news panels containing the photographs of the important ceremonies taken place in Anitkabir.


In accordance with the conditions of the Anitkabir project competition, the section between the Misak-i Milli and the Reforms towers is alloted for the museum. For this purpose, Anitkabir Atatürk Museum opened on 21 June 1960. Atatürk’s personal items, his wearing apparel and some of the gifts presented to him are on display in this museum.

Atatürk’s medals and decorations and some personal items donated to the museum by his adopted children A. Afet Inan, Rukiye Ergin and Sabiha Gökcen are also exhibited in the museum.


This tower is the extension of the museum and Atatürk’s garments are exhibited here. The relief inside the tower wall shows a weak hand holding the torch about to extinguish, symbolizing the Ottoman Empires down fall. Another but a strong hand raising a radiating torch to the skies, symbolizes the reforms with which the new Turkish Republic and Atatürk raised the Turkish Nation to the level of contemporary civilization. The relief is the work of Nusret Suman.

Atatürk’s words about reforms are inscribed in the walls of this tower:

“If a society does not walk on the same path for the common purpose together with its men and women technically and scientifically, it is not possible to go forward and become civilized.”

“Our inspirations are not from skies and unknown worlds but straight from the true life.”

Atatürk’s the life size wax statue, made by the ex-president of the Anadolu University Prof. Dr. Yilmaz Büyükersen is display in this tower which is also the garment section of the museum.


This tower is the entry to the art gallery and on its wall these aphorisms of Atatürk about the republic are written:

“The fact is, we gained our national sovereignty through action and handed it over to the people and undoubtedly proved that we can keep it in their hands, are our biggest strength and most trusted foundation.”

In the tower, the models of Monastir Military Senior High School building, where Atatürk graduated from, Sivas and Erzurum congress buildings and I. Turkish Grand National Assembly building and some photographs of that period are exhibited.


Atatürk’s private library is exhibited in this section situated between Republic and Defence of Rights Towers.

Oil paintings of Atatürk and visiting foreign statesmen, painted by the artist Rahmi Pehlivanli are on the walls.

There is also a cinema section in the gallery where documentary films are shown about Atatürk, National Struggle and Anitkabir.

The principle of Defence of Rights (Mudafaa-I Hukuk), the foundation of National Solidarity during the Independence War, is symbolized by the relief on the external wall of this tower. A male figure, holding a sword in his one hand, and extending the other towards the enemy crossing our borders in a manner saying “Hold”, is depicted in this relief. The great tree under the extended hand symbolizes our country, and the male figure protecting it, is the nation united for the purpose of independence. The relief is the work of Nusret Suman.

Atatürk’s following words about Defence of Rights are inscribed on the walls of the tower:

“The principal is, to keep the national power active and to render the will of national sovereignty.” (1919)

“From now on the nation will control its life, its independence and its existence.” (1923)

“History can never deny a nation's blood, rights and existence.”(1919)

“It had become clear that the Independence was the most evident desire and faith of the nation, emerging from their heart and conscience.”(1927) Periodic exhibitions on the subject of “Atatürk and the National Struggle” take place in this tower. A model of War Academy, where Atatürk was graduated from, is also in this tower.


There are a youth, two horses, a woman and a man on the right side of this composition. They are the ones who left their homes in the face of the attacking enemy at the start of the war and set up for the defence of the country. The young man on the right, turning back to the enemy with left arm raised fist clenched, and says, “One day we shall return and take our revenge.”

In front of this trio there is a carriage stuck in the mud, struggling horses, one man and two women trying to turn the wheel and a woman kneeling down and presenting a sword to a standing warrior. This group of figures depicts the times before the Battle of Sakarya. On the left side of this group, there are two women and a child sitting on the ground symbolizing the people under enemy occupation and waiting for the Turkish army. Above these people a victory angel is presenting a wreath to Mustafa Kemal.

At the end of the composition the woman sitting on the ground symbolizes the mother land, kneeling down young man the victorious Turkish Army of the Battle of Sakarya and the oak tree, the victory. The mother land points out the oak tree, the symbol of the Turkish Army’s victory. The relief is the work of Ilhan Koman.


The group on the left side of the composition made up of a peasant woman, a young boy and a horse symbolizes the period of preparations for the war as a nation. In the next section, Atatürk stretching one arm and saying, “Armies, your first target is the Mediterranean, march!” The angel in front, with her bugle, sends Atatürk’s order to distant horizons. In the next section of the relief which symbolizes the sacrifices and heroism of the Turkish Army, depicts scenes of a fierce battle, falling soldier passing on the flag to another warrior and soldiers in the trenches all symbolize the charge of the Turkish Army. Ahead is the victory angel, calling for the Turkish Army by holding the Turkish flag in one hand. The relief is the work of Zühtü Müridoglu.


The most prominent part of Anitkabir is the mausoleum. The dais for the speakers is positioned in the centre of the 42 steps ground stairs leading up to the mausoleum. In front of this marble dais, which is facing the ceremonial ground and decorated with circular geometric patterns, Atatürk’s words “Sovereignty unconditionally belongs to the nation” are inscribed? The dais is work of Kenan Yontuc.

The mausoleum with the dimensions 75 x 52 x 17 m. has a rectangular plan and surrounded by 8 columns at the front and near facades, and 14 columns at the sides, each one is 14.40 m. high. On the left, Atatürk’s address to Turkish Youth and on the right of the mausoleum facade, the speech he made on the occasion of 10th Anniversary of the Turkish Republic, are inscribed. The stone relief letters are in gold gilding.


Bronze doors open into the Hall of Honours. Atatürk’s last message to the Turkish Army on 29 October 1938, is at the right of the entrance. The second President Ismet Inönü’s letter of condolence to the Turkish people dated 21 November 1938, after the death of Atatürk, is placed at the left side of the entrance. These two inscriptions are written on the walls in 1981, on the occasion of Atatürk’s centennial birthday.

Atatürk’s symbolic tomb is right across the entry and is in a niche with a large window at the rear. The tomb stone is a monolithic red marble weighing 40 tons. The raised platform, where the tomb stone is placed on, is white marble from Afyon. The floor of the Hall of Honours is paved by marbles from Adana and Hatay and the walls were clad with marbles from Afyon and Bilecik in red, black and green colours and tiger hide patterns.

The ceilings of the Hall of Honours and the side galleries are decorated with mosaics. There are 12 bronze torches equally divided on the side walls of the Hall of Honours. The ceiling of this hall has 27 beams and it is 17 m. high. The flat roof of the mausoleum is covered by lead.

Atatürk’s honoured corpse is buried in the earth in the ground floor of the mausoleum. The grave room is situated right under the symbolic tomb stone placed in the first floor of the mausoleum. It has an octagonal plan in Seljuk and Ottoman architectural style, and its pyramidal ceiling is decorated with mosaics in geometrical patterns. Floor and walls are paved and clad with red, black and white marbles. In the middle of the grave room is the marble sarcophagus positioned towards the south, in direction of Mecca. The brass cups containing the soils from all provinces and from the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus are placed around the marble sarcophagus.