What Is The Turkey National Anthem: English Translation, Original Lyrics And History. Photo: Getty Images
What Is The Turkey National Anthem: English Translation, Original Lyrics And History. Photo: Getty Images

"İstiklal Marsi " ('Independence March') is the national anthem of both Turkey and Northern Cyprus. It was officially adopted by Grand National Assembly on 12 March 1921—two-and-a-half years before the 29 October 1923 establishment of the nation—both as a motivational musical saga for the troops fighting in the Turkish War of Independence, and as an aspirational anthem for a Republic that was yet to be established.

It is regularly heard during state and military events, as well as during national festivals, bayrams, sporting events, and school ceremonies. Visual depictions can also be found adorning state or public displays, such as in the form of a scroll displaying the first two quatrains of the anthem on the reverse of the Turkish 100 lira banknotes of 1983–1989. Of the ten-stanza anthem, only the first two quatrains are sung.

A framed version of the national anthem typically occupies the wall above the blackboard in the classrooms of Turkish schools, accompanied by a Turkish flag, a photograph of the country's founding savior Atatürk, and a copy of Atatürk's famous inspirational speech to the nation's youth from the concluding remarks to his 20 October 1927 address to the Parliament.

Here are the Turkey national anthem’s history, original lyrics and English translation.

History of the Turkey national anthem

The present-day anthem is a collective effort by several prominent poets, musicians, and composers that took form over several years due to the relatively tumultuous nature of the period in which it was crafted.

Even before the full official dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, a nationwide competition was organized in 1921 by the Turkish National Movement — an independent and self-organized militia force led by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk waging a lengthy campaign for independence against both invading foreign powers and the Ottoman Court itself, due to the latter being treasonous and complicit in the partitioning of the Turkish homeland in the aftermath of the 1920 Treaty of Sèvres. The goal of the competition was to select an original composition suitable for a National March, intended to both motivate the militia forces fighting for independence across the country, and to provide inspiration and pride for a new homeland that would be established once victory was achieved.

A total of 724 poems were submitted. Mehmet Akif Ersoy, a well-known poet of the period, initially refused to participate due to a monetary prize being offered in the competition, but was subsequently contacted and convinced by the National Parliament to submit a poem and disregard the reward. The resulting ten-stanza-long poem written by Ersoy was recited to the National Assembly by representative Hamdullah Suphi, on 1 March 1921, where it was unanimously adopted by the deputies following evaluation by a parliamentary committee. The prize of the competition was later bestowed on a society of veterans.

Shortly thereafter, twenty-four composers participated in another competition arranged for the selection of a musical composition that would best suit the elected anthem. The Committee, which was only able to convene in 1924 due to the 1919-1923 Turkish War of Independence, adopted the music composed by Ali Rıfat Çağatay.

This early composition by Çağatay lasted only six years. In 1930, a new composition by Osman Zeki Üngör, virtuoso composer and the first conductor of the Presidential Symphony Orchestra of the Republic of Turkey, was adopted as a permanent musical arrangement by Parliament. Shortly thereafter, in 1932, eminent Turkish composer, conductor, and musicologist (of Armenian descent) Edgar Manas (Armenian: Էտկար Մանաս) was commissioned by the Turkish government to harmonize and orchestrate the melody created by Üngör, and the final and official version of the anthem took form.

Who wrote Turkey’s national anthem?

724 poems were submitted to a competition to find the best original composition, that would form the words to Turkey’s anthem.

A poem by Mehmet Akif Ersoy, who is regarded as among the greatest writers of his time, was adopted by the Turkish Grand National Assembly. His poem spoke to an affection for the Turkish homeland, long-desired freedom after the war, and a deep faith.

A second competition took place to find the right musical setting for Ersoy’s poetry. 24 composers put forward their compositions, after which the Council chose the music of Ali Rifat Cagatay.

Eight years on, however, the music changed to a new composition by Osman Zeki Üngör, an established composer and the conductor of the Presidential Symphony Orchestra (watch today’s orchestra play below).

Two years later, the Turkish government commissioned Edgar Manas, a Turkish composer and conductor of Armenian descent, to arrange an orchestral version of Üngör’s melody. Manas’ arrangement is the version we hear today at state and military events, sporting events and school ceremonies.

What are the lyrics to Turkey’s national anthem?

Only the first two stanzas of the anthem tend to be sung at public events.

Korkma! Sönmez bu şafaklarda yüzen al sancak,

Sönmeden yurdumun üstünde tüten en son ocak.

O benim milletimin yıldızıdır, parlayacak;

O benimdir, o benim milletimindir ancak.

Çatma, kurban olayım, çehreni ey nazlı hilal!

Kahraman ırkıma bir gül; ne bu şiddet, bu celal?

Sana olmaz dökülen kanlarımız sonra helal…

Hakkıdır, Hakk’a tapan milletimin istiklal.

Turkey’s national anthem in English lyrics?

Fear not! The red banner that ripples in this dawn shall not fade,

Before the last hearth that is ablaze within my homeland is extinguished.

It is the star of my people, which shall shine;

It is mine; it only belongs to my people.

Frown not, I beseech thou, oh thou coy crescent!

Smile upon my heroic nation once! What is this violence, what is this rage for?

Our blood which we shed for you shall not be worthy afterwards…

Freedom is the right of my God-worshipping people.

Lyrics video of Turkey national anthem

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