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About & History

About

Known officially as the Republic of Turkey, the country forms one of two borders between Europe and Asia, the other border being controlled entirely by Russia. This means it is a particularly prominent nation as the east may meet the west and subsequently the country sees an influx of culture and is said to be one of the most culturally-diverse places in the world.

The country is surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea to the south, the Black Sea to the north and the Aegean Sea to the west, but it also shares borders with Bulgaria to the northwest, Greece to the west, Iraq and Syria to the southeast, Azerbaijan, Iran and Armenia to the east and Georgia to the northeast. Today it supports over 76 million inhabitants and is run by President Abdullah Gul and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a Unitary Parliamentary Constitutional Republic.



Stone Age History

Life in Turkey has been dated as far back as 25,000 BC through footprints found in Kula and Karain Cave. As time progressed, many civilizations formed in the region including, but not limited to, Mersin, Hacilar, Cayonu, Gobekli Tepe, Nevali Cori and Catalhoyuk. Wall paintings dated to the 6th Milennium BC depicting animals and humans have been found that date to this era as well. During the late 4th Milennium BC, the Kura-Araxes, one of many cultures in the region, began to mass-produce bronze tools.

Bronze Age History

In the 24th Century BC, the Akkadian Empire under Sargon I took control of the region and despite having little interest in the country itself, they began exporting material for manufacturing, mainly Copper. However, they lost control when the Empire fell in 2150 BC to the Gutians. For a time the Old Assyrian Empire claimed the resources, especially the silver, but the Hittite Old Kingdom eventually emerged and conquered the region under Hattusili I in the 17th Century BC.

The Hittite Empire controlled the whole region and peaked during the 14th Century BC, it’s know by this time that the group used advanced trade routes and formed political alliances with neighbouring nations. However, Kizzuwatna, another nearby civilization, controlled the Syrian border and it wasn’t until many decades later in 1344 BC that they were taken over, allowing the Hittites to fully flourish.

However, the civilization was disintegrated upon the arrival of the Sea Peoples in 1180 BC, of whom there is little known information, giving them an enigmatic origin. The civilization split into several smaller states which lasted into the Iron Age.

Iron Age History

The remnants of the Hittites were eventually driven into submission as the Greeks entered into the country, over time multiple Greek city-states were established and fell apart, specifically around those of the Mycenaeans, the Ionians and the Phrygians. The latter established their capital, Gordium, and set up a large-scale network of roads. However, many of these installations featured existing Hittite culture and buildings and thus the Hittite architectural style persisted through Greek rule. The Phrygians were in the country until the 7th Century BC when the Heraclids came into power, eventually they too were replaced by the Lydians which ruled from 687 BC onwards.

However, a little over a hundred years later in 546 BC, the Lydian king Croesus was defeated in the Battle of Thymbra by the Persian king Cyrus II, also known as Cyrus the Great. However, despite the Persian dominance of the region and their burning of the capital city of Sardis, several remaining Ionian and Lydian cities refused to fall under Persian domination and these remaining cities sent for aid from Sparta, Greece. However, no aid was delivered and thus the cities’ inhabitants either submitted to or fled from the Persian forces.

The now-ruling Achaemenid Persian Empire under Cyrus began expanding and eventually found itself ruled by Darius the Great, under whose command the strap system of localized governments and governors was utilized. After Naxos revolted against the ruling Persians in 502 BC, the nearby Ionian Greek forces under Aristagoras, a Satrap governor turned military leader, retook the city of Ionia. However, the Persian Empire snapped back and without mercy retook the city, putting an end to the revolt in 494 BC. However, this inspired other nearby cities to rebel against the Persian powers in time also.

In 334 BC Alexander the Great of Macedon landed with his forces on the shores near Sestos on the Gallipoli and engaged the Persian army in battle. He quickly defeated them in the first of many battles and used his victory to spread across the shore and liberate Lydia and Ionia, before moving further inland to take Phrygia, Cappadocia, and Cilicia. He engaged the Persian forces in the plains of Issus and thoroughly defeated them, driving King Darius and the rest of the Persian remnants out of the country for good.

Passing away eleven years later in 323 BC, the lack of a successor lead to a power vacuum which in turn saw the country and the Macedonian Empire’s territories divided between Ptolemy, Lysimachus, Seleucus and Mithridates I. Despite having peaceful beginnings, a rift between Seleucus and Lysimachus formed and culminated in warring in 281 BC, of which the former was the victor. However, Seleucus was assassinated by Ptolemy Keraunos a short while later.

He was succeeded by Antiochus I whom managed to fend off the Gauls but failed ultimately to subdue King Eumenes I of Pergamon which in turn allowed for Pergamon to claim independence. He was succeeded by Antiochus II but this was short lived as he was poisoned by his wife, she subsequently poisoned his second wife and the daughter of Ptolemy III of Egypt. Antiochus II’s son, Seleucus II took rule following the mass poisoning but due to the death of his daughter, Ptolemy III invaded Persian’s Syrian territory, taking Antioch and Seleucia in 246 BC.

Granting this new territory to Mithridates II, King of Pontus, in 245 BC, as a wedding gift, it rapidly became apparently that the Seleucids’ grip on the Turkish region was weakening. Furthermore, the Satrap of Parthia, Andragoras, lead a revolt in the same year, leading to the loss of more Seleucid territory bordering Persia. Shortly afterwards, Parthia was invaded by the Parni peoples in 238 BC and Antiochus II’s failure to end both the rebellion and the invasion lead to the creation of the Parthian Empire and the split of Parthia from Seleucid territory completely.

Meanwhile, Pergamon had rapidly taken independence from the Seleucids and increased their empire even more quickly until Seleucus III managed to take control of the empire back again, however, he had still lost much of his territory, especially that surrounding Pergamon. Rome appeared seemingly out of nowhere and began to interfere in Turkey’s affairs, as a means to take the favour of Pergamon and use an allied military force to defeat the allied forces of the Macedonian and Carthaginian Empires under Phillip V of Macedon and General Hannibal respectively. However, when Antiochus attempted to ally himself with Greece, the Romans decided this was intolerable and invaded the Turkish region in 189 BC, using political means as a way of controlling Pergamon’s rule.

However, when the Social War began in Italy in 90 BC, Mithridates VI of Pontus rebelled against the Roman Empire whilst the Romans were busy quelling a revolt in their own region. He took over the nearby region of Bithynia but withdrew when Rome demanded he do so. He managed to defeat Bithynia when they retaliated and eventually marched into Asia to convince the Greeks to attack the Romans. Rome finally retaliated itself and crushed Mithridates’ forces, leaving him only with Pontus in the Treaty of Dardanos. He attempted to revolt once more when Nicomedes IV of Bithynia passed away and Bithynia became a Roman Province, but the Romans once again crushed Mithridates and forced him to retreat. Mithridates’ repeated failures combined with rising political pressure drove him to commit suicide in 63 BC and Pontus became part of the Roman Empire as well, as well as Cilicia. The last Turkish provinces remaining were Galatia, Pisidia and Cappadocia, all ruled by Amyntas, but in 25 BC he died whilst pursuing enemies and Rome took the last provinces over, leaving the entirety of Turkey in Roman hands.


1st Century – 15th Century History

Following the turn of BC to AD, Christianity became increasingly prevalent among individuals in the region, and in St. Paul’s letters in the New Testament written between 54 and 56 AD, churches in Colossae, Troas, Magnesia and Tralleis, among others, were verified. Indeed, many already had bishops and official representatives in the government. In 112 AD the governor in Bithynia wrote to the Roman Emperor Trajan that many temples had become deserted due to the mass conversion to so many to Christianity.

For the next few hundred years, Rome lessened their grip on Turkey purposefully and the Roman Emperor Augustus actually removed all debts owed to the Roman Empire by the country’s provinces. This sudden removal of debts allowed the provinces to flourish and enjoy widespread peace and prosperity, for the first time in several hundred years the government softened taxes on the people due to a lesser burden from the Roman Empire on themselves, and made many significant advances in technology and knowledge during this time. Some of the most remarkable scientific men of the era were produced in the country including medical practitioner Galen from Pergamon, the historians Memnon of Heraclea & Cassius Dio of Nicaea as well as the philosopher Dio of Bithynia.

However, this was not to last, as in 256 AD, the Goths, driven by the Roman’s successful defence of Italy, Germany and Macedonia, entered Turkish territory through the Black Sea, landing in Trebizond. The Goths sacked the city and moved across the country, taking and sacking Prusa, Cius, Nicomedia, Apamea, Nice and Chalcedon. Only a combination of a violent turn in the weather and Valerian’s Roman Army could drive them out, but by then much of the country’s wealth had already been looted.

In 330 AD, Constantine ascended to the throne of the now-unstable Roman Empire, and upon this date he decided to both change the Roman Empire’s capital city from Rome to Byzantium, now known as Constantinople (modern day Instanbul), but also to change the state religion to Christianity in order to unite its peoples. He even went as far as to allow the bishops and religious figures to aid the government and he took part in the First Council of Nicaea. This marked the beginning of the Byzantine Empire. After his passing in 337 AD, his sons, Constantine II, Constans and Constantius II squabbled over control of the Empire, culminating in the murder of all three, one being in Turkey, and Constantine I’s nephew through his half-brother Julius Constantius, Julian, took control of the Empire.

Julian, however, did not survive for more than a year, and was succeeded by Jovian, then succeeded by Valentinian II, Valens and eventually Gratian. Gratian co-ruled alongside general Theodosius I from 379 AD onwards and together they were able to heal the religious rifts which had formed and reinstate Constantine’s policies and standards. In 395 AD, Theodosius, now called Theodosius the Great, passed away, but through his and Gratians rule the Eastern Empire now rivalled the Western Empire in strength. Indeed, when the Western Empire fractured and fell in the 5th Century, the Eastern Empire persisted still.

For the next few hundred years, the Byzantine Empire came under repeated attacks from multiple aggressors including the Sassanid Persians whom managed to siege Constantinople, the Arabs that managed to significantly diminish Byzantine territory and the Komnenian Dynasty’s crusades that severely weakened Byzantine Imperial power and unity. However, what finally toppled the Byzantine Empire were Turk states rapidly forming through an influx of European immigration across the country, squeezing the empire down to just Constantinople, and eventually, that too was taken in 1453 AD and the Byzantine Empire was ended.

16th Century – 19th Century History

At this point the newly-formed Ottoman Empire now controlled the Turk states, meaning that in effect the whole country was also under their control. Led by Memed II whom had conquered Constantinople, he allowed the Church to keep their land and affairs private provided they accept Ottoman rule, the Church agreed without hesitation due to the prior bad relations had with Byzantine rule looming over their heads. The Empire began to rapidly expand from here on out, setting up new trade routes and controlling existing ones through Europe and Asia, and in the early 16th Century, Sultan Selim I defeated Shah Ismail of the Safavid Persians and managed to establish control of Egypt as well as on the Red Sea. The Empire quickly obtained a new rivalry following these victories: the Portuguese Empire.

Selim was succeeded by Suleiman the Magnificent in 1520 AD, and he was able to take Belgrade in Serbia, as well as parts of the Kingdom of Hungary before conquering the rest of Hungary (except the western part) in 1526 AD. Suleiman attempted to take Vienna but ultimately failed to take the city after a long campaign lasting for three years between 1529 and 1532 AD. He also managed to acquire Transylvania, Moldavia and Wallachia in Romania, and went on to take Baghdad, Iraq, from the Persians in 1535 AD, effectively controlling the entire region nearby. He formed an alliance with France with mutual opposition against the Habsburgs, and jointly conquered Nice and Corsica with King Francis I, which at the time had been controlled by the Habsburg Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and King Henry VIII of England. The French also supported the Ottomans in capturing Esztergom, Hungary in 1543 AD and in 1547 AD the Habsburgs abandoned Hungary and gave rule there to the Ottomans.

In 1559, a war between the Ottomans and the Ajuran and Adal Sultanates weakened the latter enough for the former to absorb it. This essentially allowed the Ottomans to establish rule in Somalia and the Horn of Africa and begin making moves into the Indian Ocean, to compete further with the Portuguese whom had allied with the Ajurans. Suleiman was succeeded by his son, Selim II, in 1566 AD, and ruled until 1574 AD, when he in turn was succeeded by his son, Murad III. Murad ruled until 1595 AD when his son, Mehmed III, took rule and in turn was succeeded by his son, Ahmed I, in 1603 AD.

Following Suleiman the Magnificent, the Ottoman Empire entered a period of weak Sultans that misruled the government and misdirected their aims for around 120 years, this culminated in 1683 AD when the Ottomans were defeated at the Battle of Vienna by the Holy Roman Empire, ceasing the Ottoman Empire’s expansion through Europe. At the same time the Ottomans had been engaged in naval warring with the Portuguese, with the Ottomans attempting to hold a monopoly on trade routes through the Western European states and subsequent sea routes. Alongside the Ajuran Empire, the Ottoman Empire took independence from the Portuguese monopoly on the economy in the Indian Ocean by printing their own coinage. Finally, the Russian Tsardom had begun to expand and fight over borders with the Ottomans and other European nations, and, allied with the Crimean Khanate, the Ottomans and Crimeans burned Moscow in retaliation.

The Ottomans continued to attempt to invade various regions, but they met repeated defeats at the Knights of Malta in the 1565 Siege of Malta and again against the Catholic Coalition Forces of Phillip II of Spain during the Battle of Lepanto. However, they recovered quickly and persuaded Venice to sign a peace treaty in 1573, allowing the Ottomans to solidify their territories in Africa. Meanwhile, the border with the Habsburgs had found somewhat of a stalemate and as such the Ottoman military had altered their policy, letting down the strictness of the recruitment process somewhat. However, despite finding more troops, the military rapidly became disorganized and undisciplined, leading to several rebel insurgency attempts which were never fully resolved.

In 1612, Murad IV took the throne and managed to retake central authority, recapturing Yerevan in 1635 and Baghdad in 1939 from the Safavid Persians. He was succeeded by his brother, Ibrahim, whom ruled until 1648. After this point almost every Sultan became a puppet under what is called the Sultanate of Women, in which the Sultan’s wife, consort and/or harem controlled them and in turn, controlled the Ottoman Empire. However, in 1656, the Sultan began being controlled more by the Grand Viziers and this continued for many years.

The Ottoman Empire continued to take more territory nearby, including the retaking of Transylvania, Crete and South Ukraine. In 1683 however, this sequence of territory-grabbing came to an end when Grand Vizier Kara Mustafa Pasha attempted to siege Vienna once again until 1687, the final assault culminated in the Battle of Vienna when allied Habsburg, German and Polish forces mercilessly crushed the Ottoman forces and forced the surrendering of many Ottoman territories. A final attack from Mustafa II in 1695 attempted to retake Hungary from the Habsburgs but they were defeated disastrously two years later.

In 1709, King Charles XII of Sweden became an ally of the Ottoman Empire and together they declared war on Russia in 1710, claiming victory a year later and taking the region around the Pruth River. They engaged Austrian forces in 1716 in war too but lost two years later and surrendered their territories of the Banat, Serbia and Oltenia in Romania to Austria. A three-way war between Russian, Austria and the Ottoman Empire culminated in 1739, granting Serbia and Oltenia to the Ottomans, but taking the port of Azov from them as well.

For the next thirty years, the Ottoman Empire enjoyed peace and prosperity and a multitude of technological and educational reforms were set in place including the establishment of higher education institutions such as the Istanbul Technical University. Additionally, the printing press began being used to print documents and books. In 1768, Russian forces moved into Balta, Ukraine, which at the time was under Ottoman control, and burned it to the ground after massacring its people. The Ottoman Empire lashed out and began a war with Russia which lasted until 1774 and culminated in the Treaty of Kucuk Kaynarca which granted religious freedom to Christians. However, this did not stop the fighting as the Ottomans continued to war with Russia until the end of the 18th Century.

Upon the rise of Selim III to the throne in 1789, he set about making efforts to modernize the empire’s military forces but he was held back by the Janissary Corps. Eventually the corps revolted and fought back violently against Selim III, killing him, but, his son, Mahmud II, took the throne and eliminated them in turn in 1826. At this point many European countries underwent a revolution and saw independence; these included many parts of Serbia and Romania mainly. For the next fifty years between 1839 and 1876, the Ottoman government reformed the country almost completely, forming a conscripted army, replacing religious law with secular law, guilds with factories, setting about reforming the banking system and decriminalizing homosexuality.

Another war between Russia and the Ottoman Empire kicked off in 1877 and ended a year later with a victory for Russia. The victory contributed to the independence claimed by Romania and Serbia and the establishment of Bulgaria as an Ottoman principality. At the same time, Austria and Hungary occupied the Ottoman provinces of Bosnia, Herzegovina and Novi Pazar (now a part of modern-day Serbia). In 1878, Britain restored Ottoman’s Balkan territories but in turn took over administration of Cyprus and moved into Egypt in 1882, effectively gaining control of both territories. The rapid decline of the Ottoman Empire saw a rise in a more nationalist view among the peoples which in turn pushed ethnic tensions up to an all-time high and often deteriorated into violence, the worst of which occurring in 1894-1896 when around 300,000 Armenians were massacred by nationalists.

20th Century History

On the side of the Central Powers in World War I, the Ottoman Empire was defeated with great casualty; during the war the Empire adopted a Fascist outlook and deported the country’s Armenians, many however, instead of being deported, were instead exterminated. An estimated 1.5 Million Armenians were killed during the Armenian Genocide, however, to this day the Turkish Government (and many of its peoples) denies this ever taking place. However, they were not the only group massacred, indeed many other minorities in the country such as the Greeks and the Assyrians also found the same fate.

Following the end of the war, the Ottoman Empire was partitioned through the 1920 Treaty of Sevres by the Allied Powers and occupied as well. In an attempt to revoke the Treaty, Commander Mustafa Kemal Pasha of the Ottoman Empire was able to wage the Turkish War of Independence and eventually forced out the allied forces in 1923. By this point however, the Ottoman Empire’s territory had been brought down to just Turkey and sections of Bulgaria and Greece. Later on in the same year, parliament was formed and the Sultanate was formally abolished, ending the reign of the Ottoman Empire and signalling the beginning of the Republic of Turkey. At the same time, the capital was moved to Ankara and a population exchange took place, where 1.1 million Greeks would leave Turkey for Greece and 380 thousand Muslims would leave Greece for Turkey. Mustafa Kemal Pasha was granted the surname ‘Ataturk’ which means ‘Father of the Turks’ and became the country’s first President.

He instantly set about reforms in the entire country, abolishing the office of the Caliphate in 1924 and reforming religion to be privatized and separate from government affairs following 1925. In 1926 he introduced a new penal law and a new civil code. In 1928 the new Turkish Alphabet was adopted and in 1934 both surnames were enforced and titles were abolished. In the same year, women were granted full political rights of both voting and being able to be elected. Finally, in 1937, he fully separated religion from politics with the inclusion of the French principal of Laicite in the constitution. At the same time in 1932, Turkey became a member of the League of Nations and small political parties were formed to attempt to establish a multi-party system, despite not being successful at first. In 1938, Ataturk passed away and he was succeeded by Ismet Inonu.

In World War II, Turkey remained mainly neutral but did join in at the end on the side of the Allies in 1945. In the same year, Turkey became a member of the United Nations. Following this in 1947, the United States began supporting Turkey and Greece militarily and economically following the installation of the Truman Doctrine and in 1948 the two countries were included in the Marshall Plan and the OEEC for rebuilding European Economies.

In 1950, the Democratic Party was elected into Turkish Parliament and for the first five years they were very popular for their relaxation of restrictions on Islam and their ability to preside over an already-strong economy. However, as the 50s turned to 60s, the economy began to drop, the country underwent high inflation & debt and the government was forced to introduce censorship laws to limit dissent. Turkey joined NATO in 1952.

In 1960, General Cemal Gursel led a coup d’état, removing President Celal Bayar and executing Prime Minister Menderes, returning the system to civilian control a year later. Turkey also became a founding member of the OECD in 1961. However, despite the return of government politics to public control, the political scene became majorly disarrayed and ended up with a rotational government consisting of the Justice Party under Suleyman Demirel and the Republican People’s Party under Ismet Inonu.

In 1971, the military initiated another coup d’état and felled the ruling Justice Party of the time, leading to the establishment of interim governments. Prime Minister Ecevit in coalition with the highly religious National Salvation Party pushed Turkey to invade Cyprus in 1974 and following this, a series of coalitions between Right-Wing parties lead to the invention of the National Front, pushing Ecevit out of power. This political instability formed a distinctive set of two peoples in the country, Ultranationalists and Communists, of which violence often took place in Turkey’s streets, resulting in over five thousand deaths.

In 1980, General Kenan Evren lead another military coup d’état and overthrew the government once more. Martial law was installed throughout Turkey but eventually the military returned the government to the public within a couple of years and completely phased out its government control by 1983. It eventually came under control of the Motherland Party under Turgut Ozal and through his policies of a globally oriented economic program and conservative social values the economy boomed once more, seeing small towns suddenly and rapidly expand. To cease Kurdish Separatist operations in the region, the government established village guards throughout the country and in 1987 due to the rising presence of the separatists and other underground groups, a State of Emergency was declared.

In 1995, a coalition between the Motherland Party under Mesut Yilmaz and the True Path Party under Tansu Ciller failed and two years later due to the support for religious policies, the military requested that Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan of the Welfare Party resign, to which, due to their known ability to successfully stage coups, he did. Following this, the Welfare Party was banned, but it was simply reformed as the Virtue Party instead. Following a coalition government by the Motherland Party, the Democratic Left Party and the Republican People’s Party, the Democratic Left Party became the largest parliamentary party in the 1999 elections with the Nationalist Movement Party taking second place. The two parties formed a new government with the Motherland Party and despite not being completely harmonious, it was fairly effective in instating new human rights legislation and bringing about economic reform.


21st Century History

In 2002 the State of Emergency was finally dropped after the last of the Kurdish Separatist groups desisted, by this point their attacks and operations had claimed over forty thousand lives in just 15 years. A new election took place and the Justice and Development Party took power under Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the former Mayor of Istanbul. At the same time it began negotiations with the European Union

In 2007 the Justice and Development Party won the elections again for the third time and Abdullah Gul of the same party was elected President at the same time.

In 2008, members of Ergenekon, a supposed terrorist group, were detained and tried for terrorist attempts on government and civilians.

In 2010, over forty officers, including a general, two colonels, four admirals and numerous commanders of the Turkish navy and air force, many being retired, were arrested, tried and charged with attempted government overthrow in the Sledgehammer plot, although the navy and air force commanders were released only a few days later.

The economy since this time has been known to have been growing, with figures of 9% GDP growth in 2011.

In 2013, due to the removal of Taksim Gezi Park in Istanbul, protests began which quickly turned into government dissidence and saw widespread rioting across the country, especially in the cities of the formerly mentioned Istanbul as well as Ankara and Izmir.