Translation:İstiklâl Marşı (1)

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For other English-language translations of this work, see İstiklâl Marşı.
İstiklâl Marşı  (1921) 
by Mehmet Akif Ersoy, translated from Turkish by Wikisource
İstiklâl Marşı (i.e., "Independence March") is the national anthem of Turkey, officially adopted on 12 March 1921 - two years before the 29 October 1923 establishment of the modern day Republic of Turkey, both as a motivational musical saga for the troops fighting on the Turkish War of Independence, and as a heroic anthem for the Republic that was to be established once victory was achieved. It was written for a competition by the renowned poet Mehmet Akif Ersoy, and adopted unanimously by the Turkish Grand National Assembly.

English translation[edit]

Fear not! For the crimson flag that proudly ripples in this glorious twilight, shall not fade,
Before the last fiery hearth that is ablaze within my nation is extinguished.
For That is the star of my nation, and it will forever shine;
It is mine; and solely belongs to my valiant nation.
Frown not, I beseech you, oh thou coy crescent,
But smile upon my heroic race![1] Why the anger, why the rage?[2]
This blood of ours which we shed for you shall not be blessed otherwise;
For Freedom is the absolute right of my God-worshiping 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; powerful and independent,
I'll tear apart mountains, exceed the heavens[3] and still gush out!
The lands of the West may be surrounded with walls of steel,
But I have borders guarded by the mighty chest of a believer.
Recognize your innate strength[4], my friend! And think: how can this fiery faith ever be killed,
By that battered, single-fanged monster you call "civilization"?[5]
My friend! Leave not my homeland to the hands of villainous men!
Render your chest as armor and your body as trench! Stop this disgraceful rush!
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 shroudless[6] thousands who lie so nobly beneath you.
You're the noble son of a martyr, take shame, hurt not your ancestor!
Unhand not, even when you're promised worlds, this paradise of a homeland.
What man would not die for this heavenly piece of land?
Martyrs would gush out should one simply squeeze the soil! Martyrs!
May God take all my loved ones and possessions from me if He will,
But may He not deprive me of my one true homeland for 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, whose shahadahs are the foundations of my religion,
May their noble sound last loud and wide over my eternal homeland.
For only then, shall my fatigued tombstone, if there is one, prostrate[7] a thousand times in ecstasy,
And tears of fiery blood shall flow out of my every wound,
And my lifeless body shall gush out from the earth like an eternal spirit,
Perhaps only then, shall I peacefully ascend and at long last reach the heavens.
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 race shall ever be extinguished!
For freedom is the absolute right of my ever-free flag;
For freedom is the absolute right of my God-worshiping nation!


  1. 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 linage; in short, 'kin'.' Also note that the poet was of Albanian and Uzbek origin. Thus, the correct translation would be "Smile upon my heroic kinfolk!", rather than "Smile upon my heroic race".
  2. There is a literary element being employed here that may not be immediately noticeable. The Turkish flag is comprised of a white crescent and star superimposed on a crimson background. The poet is creating an imagery of a crescent and comparing it to the frowning eyebrows of a sulky face. To be specific, 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") is being treated as a coy maiden with a sulky face (symbolically, the resentment of the invasion) who is playing hard-to-get. That is, the "coy" flag is being "playful" about letting the troops achieve ultimate victory and thus, freedom.
  3. A literal translation of this word would be "the infinites"—a Turkish poetical word (with no direct English translation) that refers to everything that is perceived infinite by Man: the heavens, the oceans, the horizon, the Universe, etc.
  4. 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/cry out" (let your mighty voice echo across the land!) or "you are noble"
  5. Again, some explanation is required. What is being referred to as "civilization" is the invading European nations (France, Britain, Italy and Greece, to be specific) and their modern armies, which were superior in terms of equipment and manpower to the war-stricken, undermanned, and underfed Turkish forces that were hastily assembled by patriotic civilians and ex-military officials following World War I. This tight collaboration between civilians and former armed officials was due to the Ottoman Imperial Court's internal corruptions and the presence of individuals in power who preferred to protect their own interests rather than the interests of the greater public. (see Sultan Vahideddin and Damat Ferid Pasha) This self-preserving behavior manifested itself as political inaction, an openness to foreign manipulation, treacherous collaborationism and the much-protested acceptance of an unjust treaty—actions that ultimately resulted in a hurt national pride, widespread feelings of resentment and humiliation, as well as the anarchic dissolution of the Empire. It was at such a grim point in time that a defiant new organization of armed and civil forces, led by Atatürk, gave the people hope for the future through a series of successful battles and liberation campaigns, which gradually turned into an increasingly successful War of Independence.
    Thus, the poet is calling out to the Nation, and saying that 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 cannot remotely match. All we need for ultimate victory is the ability to recognize our true 'innate strenghts': a 'fiery faith' and the 'mighty chest (i.e. heart) of a believer'."
  6. 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. Due to the chaotic nature of war, this practice is often unavailable to the battle-fallen, who may lie "shroudless" and exposed on the battle-field.
  7. Prostration is the act of laying one's forehead on the ground as part of Muslim sacred ritual (see Salat/Namaz or As-Sajda). The image being painted here is that of a battle-fallen and pain-stricken man, who becomes ecstatic following the victorious end of the War of Independence. This is a man whose mind, body and soul have at long last found peace, and may finally ascend and reach the heavens, knowing that his homeland is finally safe and sound and that all his suffering was all worth it in the end.

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This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1928.

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