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Thursday, October 30, 1997 Published at 13:11 GMT

Despatches: Europe

PUBLISHED AT 12:55 GMT Thursday, October 30, 1997: CHRIS MORRIS
Chris Morris
From Ankara

Turkey has been celebrating Republic Day -- the seventy-fourth anniversary of the proclamation of the modern Turkish State by its founding father, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. Ataturk is still revered in Turkey with an affection and respect which borders on awe. And as Chris Morris reports from Ankara, Turkey's national hero has been having an extraordinary effect on an international poll to decide the 100 most influential people of the century:

"Shortly after Time magazine announced its poll earlier this year, votes for Ataturk began to pour in from Turkey by letter, by fax and on the Internet. A campaign orchestrated by the Turkish press was encouraged by leading politicians -- it seemed to be a matter of national honour. As giant billboard posters of Ataturk appeared all over the capital on Republic Day, it became clear that the campaign was producing unusual results. A quick check on Time's Internet site reveals that Mustafa Kemal Ataturk -- a man who is hardly a household name outside his own country -- is leading in every category as the century's most influential figure. As warrior and statesman, he's pulling ahead of Winston Churchill. As artist and entertainer, he's left Bob Dylan in second place. As scientist and healer, Albert Einstein is not even relatively close to the Ataturk bandwagon. And so the list goes on. Well over a million votes have already been cast and there seems no dampening of enthusiasm here for an Ataturk victory. When Winston Churchill briefly pulled ahead in one category, a Turkish newspaper analysed the voting patterns and announced that people in Greece and Cyprus had latched onto Churchill as the only man to stop Ataturk. It is hard to over-estimate the influence of Ataturk in Turkey nearly sixty years after his death, and this voting campaign seems to illustrate just how much many Turks want their country to be granted greater international respect. Victory, though, is by no means assured. The voting will continue until December 1999."

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