İstiklal Marşı

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İstiklal Marşı
English: Independence March
Atatürk schoolroom wall.jpg
An example of a common classroom display in Turkey, including the anthem at far right.

National anthem of  Turkey
 Northern Cyprus

LyricsMehmet Akif Ersoy, 1921
MusicOsman Zeki Üngör, 1930
Edgar Manas, 1932
Adopted12 March 1921
Audio sample
İstiklal Marşı (instrumental)

The İstiklal Marşı (Turkish pronunciation: [isticˈlal marˈʃɯ]; English: Independence March) is the national anthem of the Republic of Turkey which was officially adopted 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.

Penned by Mehmet Âkif Ersoy, and ultimately composed by Osman Zeki Üngör and the Armenian musician Edgar Manas, the theme is one of affection for the Turkish homeland, freedom, and faith, as well as praise for the virtues of hope, devotion, and sacrifice in the pursuit of liberty, all explored through visual, tactile, and kinesthetic imagery as these concepts relate to the flag, the human spirit, and the soil of the homeland. The original manuscript by Ersoy carries the dedication Kahraman Ordumuza – "To our Heroic Army", in reference to the people's army that ultimately won the Turkish War of Independence, with lyrics that reflect on the sacrifices of the soldiers during the war.

Notable in a patriotic piece of this nature is the absence of specific national references, as the anthem does not contain the words 'Turk' or 'Turkey'.

The anthem 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.[1]

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 father 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.[citation needed]

In 1983, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus also adopted the Turkish national anthem under Article II of the Constitution of Northern Cyprus.[2][3]


Original manuscript written by Mehmet Âkif Ersoy.

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 March 1, 1921,[4] 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.[4] Shortly thereafter, in 1932, eminent Turkish composer, conductor, and musicologist of Armenian descent Edgar Manas (Armenian: Էտկար Մանաս) was commissioned by the Turkish Republic to harmonize and orchestrate the melody created by Üngör,[5][6][7] and the final and official version of the anthem took form.


The lyrics of the Turkish National Anthem consist of a long poem with 41 lines of verse. Only the first 8 lines (shown in bold) are performed in official ceremonies.

Turkish original with translation[edit]

Turkish lyrics English translation
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.
Ben ezelden beridir hür yaşadım, hür yaşarım,
Hangi çılgın bana zincir vuracakmış? Şaşarım.
Kükremiş sel gibiyim, bendimi çiğner, aşarım,
Yırtarım dağları, enginlere sığmam, taşarım.
Garbın afakını sarmışsa çelik zırhlı duvar,
Benim iman dolu göğsüm gibi serhaddim var.
Ulusun, korkma! Nasıl böyle bir imanı boğar,
“Medeniyet” dediğin tek dişi kalmış canavar?
Arkadaş! Yurduma alçakları uğratma sakın,
Siper et gövdeni, dursun bu hayâsızca akın.
Doğacaktır sana vadettiği günler Hakk’ın,
Kim bilir, belki yarın belki yarından da yakın.
Bastığın yerleri “toprak” diyerek geçme, tanı,
Düşün altındaki binlerce kefensiz yatanı.
Sen şehit oğlusun, incitme, yazıktır atanı,
Verme, dünyaları alsan da bu cennet vatanı.
Kim bu cennet vatanın uğruna olmaz ki feda?
Şüheda fışkıracak, toprağı sıksan şüheda.
Canı, cananı, bütün varımı alsın da Hüda,
Etmesin tek vatanımdan beni dünyada cüda.
Ruhumun senden İlahî, şudur ancak emeli:
Değmesin mabedimin göğsüne namahrem eli.
Bu ezanlar, ki şehadetleri dinin temeli,
Ebedî, yurdumun üstünde benim inlemeli.
O zaman vecdile bin secde eder, varsa taşım,
Her cerihamdan, İlahî, boşanıp kanlı yaşım,
Fışkırır ruhumücerret gibi yerden naaşım,
O zaman yükselerek arşa değer belki başım.
Dalgalan sen de şafaklar gibi ey şanlı hilal!
Olsun artık dökülen kanlarımın hepsi helal.
Ebediyen sana yok, ırkıma yok izmihlal.
Hakkıdır, hür yaşamış bayrağımın hürriyet;
Hakkıdır, Hakk’a tapan milletimin istiklal.
Fear not; For the crimson banner that proudly ripples in this glorious dawn, shall not fade,
Before the last fiery hearth that is ablaze within my homeland is extinguished.
For that1 is the star of my people, and it will forever shine;
It is mine; and solely belongs to my valiant nation.
Frown not, I beseech you, oh thou coy crescent!2
Smile upon my heroic nation!3 Why the anger, why the rage?4
Our blood which we shed for you shall not be worthy otherwise;
For freedom is the absolute right of my God-worshipping5 nation!
I have been free since the beginning and forever shall be so.
What madman shall put me in chains! I defy the very idea!
I'm like the roaring flood; trampling my banks and overcoming my body,
I'll tear apart mountains, exceed the Expanses6 and still gush out!
The horizons of the West may be bound with walls of steel,
But my borders are guarded by the mighty bosom of a believer.7
Bellow out8 , do not be afraid! And think: how can this fiery faith ever be extinguished,
By that battered, single-fanged monster you call "civilization"?9
My friend! Leave not my homeland to the hands of villainous men!
Render your chest as armour and your body as bulwark! Halt this disgraceful assault!7
For soon shall come the joyous days of divine promise;
Who knows? Perhaps tomorrow? Perhaps even sooner!
View not the soil you tread on as mere earth - recognize it!
And think about the shroudless10 thousands who lie so nobly beneath you.
You're the glorious son of a martyr - take shame, grieve not your ancestors!
Unhand not, even when you're promised worlds, this heavenly homeland.
Who would not sacrifice their life for this paradise of a country?
Martyrs would burst forth should one simply squeeze the soil! Martyrs!
May God take my life, my loved ones, and all possessions from me if He will,
But let Him not deprive me of my one true homeland in the world.
Oh glorious God, the sole wish of my pain-stricken heart is that,
No heathen's hand should ever touch the bosom of my sacred Temples.
These adhans and their testimonies are the foundations of my religion,
And may their noble sound prevail thunderously across my eternal homeland.
For only then, shall my fatigued tombstone, if there is one, prostrate11 a thousand times in ecstasy,
And tears of blood shall, oh Lord, spill out from my every wound,
And my lifeless body shall burst forth from the earth like an eternal spirit,
Perhaps only then, shall I peacefully ascend and at long last reach the heavens.12
So ripple and wave like the bright dawning sky, oh thou glorious crescent,
So that our every last drop of blood may finally be blessed and worthy!
Neither you nor my kin3 shall ever be extinguished!
For freedom is the absolute right of my ever-free flag;
For independence is the absolute right of my God-worshipping5 nation!

Phonetic transcription[edit]

IPA transcription of the first eight lines sung

[kʰo̞ɾk.mä s̪ø̞n̪.me̞z̪ bu ʃä.fäk.ɫ̪äɾ.d̪ä jy.z̪æn̪ äɫ̪ s̪än̪.d͡ʒäk |]
[s̪ø̞n̪.me̞.d̪æn̪ juɾ.d̪u.mun̪ ys̪.t̪yn̪.d̪e̞ t̪ʰy.t̪æn̪ æn̪ s̪o̞n̪ o̞.d͡ʒäk ‖]
[o̞ bæ.n̪im mil̠ʲ.l̠ʲe̞.t̪i.min̪ jɯɫ̪.d̪ɯ.z̪ɯ.d̪ɯɾ | pʰäɾ.ɫ̪ä.jä.d͡ʒäk |]
[o̞ bæ.n̪im.d̪iɾ | o̞ bæ.n̪im mil̠ʲ.l̠ʲe̞.t̪i.min̪.d̪iɾ än̪.d͡ʒäk ‖]

[t͡ʃät̪.mä | kʰuɾ.bän̪ o̞.ɫ̪ä.jɯm | t͡ʃe̞ç.ɾe̞.n̪i e̞j n̪äz̪.ɫ̪ɯ hi.ɫ̪äɫ̪ ‖]
[kʰäx.ɾä.män̪ ɯɾ.kɯ.mä biɾ ɟyl̠ʲ | n̪e̞ bu ʃid̪.d̪e̞t̪ | bu d͡ʒe̞.ɫ̪äɫ̪ ‖]
[s̪ä.n̪ä o̞ɫ̪.mäz̪ d̪ø̞.cy.l̠ʲæn̪ kʰän̪.ɫ̪ä.ɾɯ.mɯz̪ s̪o̞n̪.ɾä he̞.ɫ̪äɫ̪ ‖]
[häk.kɯ.d̪ɯɾ | häk.kä t̪ʰä.pän̪ mil̠ʲ.l̠ʲe̞.t̪i.min̪ is̪.t̪ic.ɫ̪äɫ̪ ‖]


1 A white crescent and star superimposed on a crimson background comprise the Turkish flag. The poet here is referring to the crimson flag's star, and is declaring that it belongs to the hearts of those comprising the Turkish nation, who cherish it deeply, and refuse to be deprived of it (and thus, their freedom and liberty) by anyone.

2 A white crescent and star superimposed on a crimson background comprise the Turkish flag. The poet is invoking the curvilinear image of the crescent and comparing it to the furrowed eyebrows of a frowning face, thus anthropomorphising the flag by suggesting that its "sulky face" is an outward expression of its resentment of the invading foreign armies. The poet elaborates upon this imagery by suggesting that the flag is not only being surly, but also coy. Specifically, he depicts the flag (and the spirit of freedom which it embodies, under threat from invading nations against whom victory initially seems impossibly difficult to achieve, hence "coy") as a demure maiden with a face that is sulking in resentment of the invasion yet is nonetheless playing hard-to-get. That is, the "coy" flag is being "playful" about letting Turkish troops achieve ultimate victory and thus, freedom.

3 Although the word used here, "ırk", means "race" in contemporary Turkish, it had different associations in Ottoman Turkish. In Ottoman Turkish, it also carries the connotations of "generation", "offspring", and "family lineage"; in short, "kin".[8] Also note that the poet was of Albanian and Uzbek origin.[9] Thus, the correct translation is "Smile upon my heroic kinfolk", rather than "Smile upon my heroic race".

4 The poet elaborates upon his earlier anthropomorphization of the flag by suggesting that it contain its rage and resentment, and resume its noble and honorable self in order to validate the efforts of the Turkish patriots fighting to protect it.

5 There is a wordplay here that is difficult to replicate in English. The play is on the homophonic words "hak" (justice, right), and Hakk (God). This allows the line to be perceived in Turkish as both "my God-loving countrymen are deserving of freedom", and "my justice-loving countrymen are deserving of freedom".

6 The original word used ("Enginler"), which can be somewhat approximated as "the Infinites" or "the Great Expanses", is a romanticized Turkish poetical word (with no direct English translation) that refers to anything perceived by humanity as a vast, boundless expanse: the heavens, the oceans, the horizon, the Universe, etc. The poet is thus expressing that his love for freedom and his vigor spent in its pursuit cannot be contained by anything known to humanity and would overflow even the largest "Infinites".

7 The verse here alludes to the well-funded military might of the invading foreign powers from various European nations, i.e. "the West", and compares it to the exhausted bodies and limited resources of the rag-tag team of patriots comprising the Turkish resistance army. Using "steel" as a rough synonym for "military strength", the poet asserts that the men and women who are fighting to defend the nation from invading powers must not be daunted by these countries' superior arms and technology, because it is his firm belief that the strength of spirit that comes from heartfelt optimism and faith are just as strong as any "walls of steel" the enemy might have around them.

8 There is a difficult-to-translate wordplay here on the word "ulusun", which can be broken down into a root, "ulu", and a suffix, "-sun". The verb form of the root "ulu", means "to howl, to cry out, to bellow", while the adjective form means "grand, sublime, noble". The suffix -sun serves to modify the adjective-form of this root to give it a second-person singular connotation, while it modifies the verb-form to give it a third person connotation. Thus, the phrase "ulu-sun" may be interpreted in two ways: "let it howl/bellow out!" (i.e. "let your mighty voice echo across the land!") or "you are noble, fellow patriot, as is your cause!"

9 The term "civilization" is used here as a synonym for the civically and technologically-advanced (hence, "civilized") invading nations of various European countries. The imagery of the "single-fanged beast" is in reference to the severe battering delivered to these foreign armies by Turkish forces as part of their independence efforts. Specifically, the poet is creating an image whereby the patriotic men and women who are advancing the national resistance have knocked out all but one of the ferocious monster's (i.e. the invaders') teeth — hence the expression, "single-fanged". In essence, the poet is building upon his earlier message to the Nation about showing patience and endurance against seemingly-impossible odds. He states that the vast superiority of the invaders in terms of technology, equipment and manpower over the war-stricken, undermanned, and underfed Turkish forces (that were hastily assembled by patriotic civilians and ex-military officials following World War I) can not only be matched, but actually overcome and even defeated by the unassailable spirit of the Turkish people.
Thus, the poet is calling out to the Nation, saying, "While 'the lands of the West may be armed with walls of steel', i.e., while these European armies may have seemingly impenetrable/unbeatable modern technology and weaponry, do not be fooled/discouraged by their apparent superiority. Look at what we have accomplished so far with virtually non-existent arms and supplies! We are horribly fatigued, and at a disadvantage in every conceivable way, yet we still are able to succeed in our battle for liberty! This seemingly undefeatable 'monster' has had almost every one of its teeth knocked out (hence, 'single-fanged') by our victorious campaign! Our motivation, faith, and internal drive is what has and will continue to carry us through, and that is something that our enemies simply cannot match. All we need for ultimate victory is the ability to recognize our true 'innate strengths': a 'fiery faith' and the 'mighty chest (i.e. heart) of a believer'".

10 In Turkish, shroud-less is a metaphor used for martyrs, i.e. those who have sacrificed their lives for their country and their faith. In Islamic tradition, the dead, have to be ceremoniously washed and dressed in linen shrouds before burial in order to have a safe passage to Heaven. Martyrs' bodies are exempt from these requirements in Islam, thus the 'shroud-less'.

11 Prostration is the act of laying one's forehead on the ground as part of Muslim sacred ritual (see Namaz, As-Sajda or salat). The poet's image here is one where even the battle-fallen's gravestone is engaging in sacred ritual in honor of the fighters' sacrifice.

12 The image being painted here is that of a battle-fallen and pain-stricken patriot, who becomes ecstatic following the victorious end of the War of Independence. Despite not having a headstone at their final resting place, this is a person whose mind, body and soul have at long last found peace, and may thus finally ascend and reach the heavens, knowing that their homeland is safe and sound once and for all, and that all their suffering was worth it in the end.


  1. ^ Central Bank of the Republic of Turkey. Banknote Museum: 7. Emission Group - One Hundred Turkish Lira - I. Series & II. Series. – Retrieved on 20 April 2009.
  2. ^ Hakki, Murat Metin (2007). The Cyprus Issue: A Documentary History, 1878-2006. I.B.Tauris. ISBN 978-1-84511-392-6.
  3. ^ Minahan, James B. (2009-12-23). The Complete Guide to National Symbols and Emblems [2 volumes]. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 978-0-313-34497-8.
  4. ^ a b Çiloğlu, F. (1999). Kurtuluş Savaşı sözlüğü. Doğan Kitap. Retrieved 2014-10-31.
  5. ^ Vefatını 72. yılında Mehmet Âkif Ersoy bilgi șöleni 3 : Mehmed Âkif edebî ve fikrî akımlar. Ankara: Türkiye Yazarlar Birliği. 2009. p. 54. ISBN 9789757382409.
  6. ^ "İstiklal Marşı'nın Bestelenmesi Çalışmaları" (in Turkish). Retrieved 2012-12-11.
  7. ^ Külekçi, Cahit (2010). Sosyo-kültürel açıdan Ermeniler ve Türkler: İstanbul Ermenileri (in Turkish). 432: Kayihan. p. 340.
  9. ^ "Mehmet Akif Ersoy". Retrieved 2014-10-31.

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