Turkey Old History

By | January 3, 2023

Turkey is an independent nation in Western Asia. With the capital city of Ankara, Turkey 2020 population is estimated at 84,339,078 according to countryaah. 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 authoritarian forces.

  • AbbreviationFinder.org: 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 Turkish people. For Turkey political system, please check carswers.

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 military dictatorship.

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 surrounding area.

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 dictatorial means.

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 Kurdish language.

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 injuries.


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.

Turkey Old History