Turkish people who penetrated the ancient
Byzantine Empire in the early Middle Ages created in the
1300s the Ottoman Empire, which grew into one of the
most powerful empires of world history. But like all
empires, the Ottoman Empire eventually went down. The
Turkish Republic, founded in 1923, has had a stormy
history with a constant conflict between democratic and
Comprehensive guide to and popular abbreviations of Turkey, covering history, economy, and social conditions.
Already around 5,000 years ago, early metal cultures
existed in Asia Minor, and under the rule of the
Hittites (c. 1800–1200 BC), iron handling was developed.
After the fall of the Hittite Empire, fears, chimes,
sounds, meds, Persians and other peoples competed for
power in the area. It was not until the early European
Middle Ages that the area began to be occupied by
Greeks established themselves early along the west
coast. There they took Troy around 1240 BC and founded
cities such as Smyrna (now Izmir) and Ephesus. In the
300s BC, Asia Minor was conquered by Alexander the Great
and later incorporated into the Roman Empire. When this
was divided in 395 AD, Asia Minor became the core
country of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) empire with
Constantinople as its capital.
the Ottoman Empire
In the 11th century, the Byzantine Empire was
attacked by Turkmen under the leadership of the Muslim
seljuks. In Anatolia, the Turks gained a strong central
power from the beginning of the 1300s under a dynasty of
Sultans, the Ottoman lineage (which originated from
Osman I; the old designation of the Ottoman Empire was
based on the Arabic form of the man's name, Uthman). A
hundred years later, the Ottoman Empire ruled most of
Anatolia, northern Greece and the eastern Balkans. For
the Byzantine Empire came the end of 1453, when the
Turks entered Constantinople and made the city the
Ottoman capital under the name of Istanbul.
The Ottoman Empire reached its peak in the 16th
century. Then Mesopotamia, western Persia, Syria,
Palestine, Arabia with Mecca and Medina, Egypt, Cyprus
and the southern coast of the Mediterranean were
conquered all the way to Morocco in the west. In Europe,
the Turks ruled almost the entire Balkans, Romania and
the northern Black Sea coast, and they advanced through
Hungary. But outside Vienna they were forced to stop.
Actually, one should not speak here of Turks but of
"Ottomans". The upper class hardly counted anymore as
Turks. In principle, different Muslim peoples in the
kingdom were seen as equal. The Kurds had 15 own
emirates within the kingdom. Citizens who were not
Muslims - various Christian peoples and Jews - formed
closed groups with their own laws and institutions. The
religious leaders of each such community, Millet,
were responsible for paying members taxes and fulfilling
other duties of the Sultan.
During the 17th and 18th centuries, the Ottoman
Empire was weakened. In the 19th century the
disintegration went faster and faster, despite reforms.
The Greeks liberated themselves in 1829, and later
followed Serbs, Romanians and Bulgarians. The Ottoman
Empire was referred to as "Europe's sick man". But as
Russia prepared to crush the kingdom, French and British
feared that the Russians would succeed in penetrating to
the Mediterranean and therefore joined the Turks. The
Crimean War 1853-1856 ended with Moscow being forced to
recognize the independence of the Ottoman Empire.
All modernizations came to an abrupt end in
connection with a change of belief in 1876. Among the
military and intellectuals trained in the West,
opposition to the Sultan grew. A nationalist reform
movement was formed: the young Turks. After an
army revolt in 1908, the Sultan was forced to announce
parliamentary elections, which the young Turks won.
However, the disintegration continued. During the Balkan
Wars 1912–1913, the Ottoman Empire lost all areas of
Europe except eastern Thrace. In 1913, the Young
Falcons' liberal falang was overthrown by a more
authoritarian faction within the movement. The new
government under Enver Pascha (Paşa) developed into a
When the First World War broke out in 1914, the
country stood on Germany's side to secure itself against
Russia's heritage enemy. (For deportation of Armenians,
see Population and language). The war ended for the
Ottoman Empire. The Turks were expelled from Palestine,
Syria and Iraq. After the Ottoman Empire surrender in
1918, the Allies occupied Istanbul and much of Anatolia.
Greek troops were allowed to occupy Izmir and the
Atatürk's Turkish Republic
The last Ottoman sultan was forced into peace in
Sèvres in 1920, that the country would not only lose all
its possessions, but also large parts of Anatolia. But
the Sultan no longer had the power to enforce the terms
of peace, after rebellious Turkish nationalists formed
their own government in Ankara. At the head of the
nationalists stood Mustafa Kemal (later called Atatürk,
"the father of the Turks"). He was an officer and had
excelled in the war against the Allies. After fierce
fighting, in 1922 the nationalists expelled the last
Greek occupation troops. The Sultan was deposed, and
Ataturk's government negotiated with the Allies to
change the terms of the Sèvres peace. The 1923 Treaty of
Lausanne set the country's boundaries, which they
largely look like today.
On October 29, 1923, the Republic of Turkey was
proclaimed with Kemal Atatürk as president. The Republic
would be a modern nation state of European model.
Atatürk's thoughts were formulated as a state-bearing
ideology, Kemalism, where the foundations were
Turkish nationalism, secularism (see Religion), popular
rule (with time) and etatism, that is, a strong state
power with state control of the economy. A modern
constitution was introduced with the general right to
vote for a parliament. But until now, only one party,
the Republican People's Party, (CHP) was allowed. In
practice, the president ruled the country with almost
Atatürk's secularism aroused strong opposition. The
"Hat Revolution" in 1925 led to protests when the
fez, the traditional headgear of the Ottoman
Empire, was banned. The same year, the campaigns for
secularism triggered a brief revolt among religiously
conservative Kurds in the southeast. The rulers
responded with harsh reprisals and by banning the
When Atatürk died in 1938, he was succeeded by his
former Prime Minister Ismet Inönü.
During World War II, Turkey supported the Allies
against Germany but did not participate in the fighting.
Democracy and coups
After the Second World War, multi-party systems were
introduced and in the first election in 1950 the
Democratic Party (Democrat Party, DP) prevailed. Its
leader Adnan Menderes became prime minister and his
party mate Celâl Bayar became president. Menderes
pursued a Western and corporate-friendly policy but also
gave Islam more leeway.
In the 1954 election, DP received a record-high 58
percent of the vote, compared to 35 percent for the CHP
founded by Atatürk. However, a wasteful import policy
undermined the economy. When criticism was heard,
Menderes tightened the press censorship.
After violence and student demonstrations, the
military intervened in 1960 and ousted the government.
Menderes was accused of corruption and of wanting to
abolish secularism. DP was banned and three of its
leaders, including Menderes, were later executed.
A new, liberal constitution was adopted in 1961 and
the military returned government power to the elected
officials. The 1965 election was won by the Conservative
Justice Party (AP) under Süleyman Demirel. After strikes
and unrest, the military forced Demirel to resign in
1971. The military set up a unifying government and its
"controlled democracy" continued until 1973.
In early 1974, CHP leader Bülent Ecevit formed a
coalition with the Islamist National Salvation Party
(Millî Selâmet Partisi, MSP), led by Necmettin Erbakan.
Under Ecevit's leadership, the CHP emerged as the
closest social democratic party. However, government
cooperation was already bursting in the autumn. Ecevit
was at the peak of his popularity since Turkey, under
his leadership in 1974, intervened militarily in Cyprus,
but he failed to form a new coalition. After six months
of a government crisis, Demirel instead formed a
coalition government. For the rest of the 1970s, Ecevit
and Demirel were touring around in power. The economy
deteriorated, and political and religious extremists
breathed morning air. Almost every day, people were
killed in violence between extremist groups.
In September 1980, the military command under General
Kenan Evren conducted a coup. Unlike previous military
regimes, this junta did not quickly return power to
civilians. Instead, the most repressive period in the
country's modern history began. Parliament and political
parties were dissolved and the constitution abolished.
Around 650,000 people were arrested and 230,000 were
brought to trial. Over 500 were sentenced to death and
50 people were executed. 171 are said to have been
tortured to death. Thousands were deprived of their
citizenship and about 30,000 sought asylum abroad. The
military junta did not resign until it pushed through an
authoritarian and undemocratic constitution.
Since the junta left, parliamentary elections were
held in 1983, but only new parties approved by the
military were allowed to stand. Victory made the
Fosterland Party (Anavatan Partisi, Anap), led by Turgut
Özal. Military rule was now considered to be over, but
junta leader Kenan Evren remained president.
The people approve constitutional changes
A referendum approved a number of constitutional amendments, including
increasing Parliament's influence on the army and the judiciary. Critics see it
as an attempt by the government to appoint benevolent judges. However, the EU
welcomes the changes as an important part of Turkey's adaptation to the
requirements of the European Union. An indirect consequence of the referendum,
and of the Constitutional Court's diminished prestige, is that the ban on women
to hide their hair at universities in silence is lifted during the fall without
any laws being changed.
Close to 200 nationalist conspiracy charges
Prosecutions are brought against 196 people, including both active and
retired officers, for participation in the organization Ergenekon, which should
have had plans to overthrow the government (see also October 2008).
Change of opposition leader
The leader of CHP Deniz Baykal resigns following a sex scandal. He is
succeeded by Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, who in his first speech as leader of the CHP
does not even mention the word secularism, the forerunner of the heart.
Turkish activists are killed by Israel
Relations with Israel have deteriorated drastically after nine Turkish
pro-Palestinian activists were killed in an Israeli command raid against a navy
trying to break the Gaza Strip blockade. A tenth activist later dies of his
Military domes are revealed
The Taraf newspaper reveals that the military had a secret plan in 2003,
called Operation Balyoz ("sledge"), intended to pave the way for a military
takeover. Military spokesmen claimed that it was only a scenario before
exercises. In February, nearly 70 officers were arrested for involvement and 33
of them charged with plans to try to oust the government.