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Turkey - History

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2500 BC2000 BC Troy-II Settlement
2400 BC1750 BCHatti
2400 BC1200 BCHurrian
2000 BC1200 BCHittite
1466 BC 1270 BC Troy VI
1200 BC1200 BCSea People / Hyksos invasion
1200 BC560 BCPhrygian Empire
1200 BC545 BCCarian Civilization
1050 BC700 BCNeo-Hittite
1050 BC300 BCIonian Civilization
900 BC600 BCUrartu
727 BC546 BCLydian Empire
700 BC300 BCLycia Civilizations
545 BC333 BCPersian Empire
333 BC133 BCHellenistic Age
133 BC378 ADRoman Empire
3781453Byzantine Empire
10711300Rum Seljuk Turks
12811922Ottoman Empire

The relation of Turkey and its citizens to history -- the history of this land and citizens' individual history -- is complex. Subject to rigid taboos, denial, fears, and mandatory gross distortions, the study of history and practice of historiography in the Republic of Turkey remind one of an old Soviet academic joke: the faculty party chief assembles his party cadres and, warning against various ideological threats, proclaims, "The future is certain. It's only that damned past that keeps changing."

Asia Minor (also known as Anatolia) is a peninsula which extends from the continent of Asia west toward Europe. Today it is known as the country of Turkey. It is bounded by the Mediterranean on the West and the south and by the Black Sea on the North. In the east high mountains separate Asia Minor from Asia itself. The center of this peninsula is a large rolling plateau which receives little annual rainfall and in ancient times was lightly populated by widely scattered nomadic peoples and several major cities. It was isolated from the West coast by large mountain ranges broken occasionally by passes cut by rivers which allowed access to the coast.

The western part of Asia Minor was quite different. The mountains are at right angles to the sea allowing for penetration into the interior of the area. Rainfall is abundant as the clouds could penetrate inland. The wide valleys between the mountains contain major rivers fed by the rains and winter snow. These river valleys (Caicus, Cayster, Meander for example) provided access for the roads from the coast to the interior and beyond to Asia itself.

The land mass occupied by the Asian part of the Republic of Turkey, east of the Sea of Marmara, is known as Anatolia. The region was inhabited by an advanced Neolithic culture as early as the seventh millennium B.C., and metal instruments were in use by 2500 B.C. Late in the third millennium B.C., the warrior Hittites invaded Anatolia and established an empire that made significant economic and administrative advancements. In about 1200 B.C., the Phrygians overthrew the Hittites in western Anatolia, where a Phrygian kingdom then ruled until the seventh century B.C. That kingdom was succeeded by a Lydian kingdom, which in turn was conquered by the Persians in 546 B.C.

Meanwhile, beginning in about 1050 B.C., Ionian Greeks began founding cities along the Aegean coast of Anatolia, and in the eighth century B.C., peoples such as the Armenians and the Kurds moved into eastern Anatolia. In the late fourth century B.C., Alexander the Great of Macedonia conquered all of Anatolia. One of the city-states that Alexander founded, Pergamum, became a unique center of wealth and culture. In 133 B.C., Pergamum became the center of a Roman province and remained a cultural center for several centuries. In 330 A.D., the Roman emperor Constantine established the capital of the Greek-speaking half of his empire at Byzantium, on the Sea of Marmara. The city was renamed Constantinople, and the eastern half of the Roman Empire became known as the Byzantine Empire. With its center in Anatolia, the Byzantine Empire remained a powerful entity until the eleventh century. The Patriarchiate of Constantinople, established in the fourth century, represented the Greek-speaking Roman Empire in the Christian church.

The Turkish nation, which appeared on the stage of history over two thousand years ago, established many states in different parts of the world. The Ottoman Empire, one of the greatest empires in history, was dismembered after the First World War. But the Turkish nation launched the War of Independence in 1919 under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey and fought against the occupation forces.

Mustafa Kemal, celebrated by the Turkish State as a Turkish World War I hero and later known as "Ataturk" or "father of the Turks," led the founding of the Republic of Turkey in 1923 after the collapse of the 600-year-old Ottoman Empire and a three-year war of independence. The empire, which at its peak controlled vast stretches of northern Africa, southeastern Europe, and western Asia, had failed to keep pace with European social and technological developments. The rise of national consciousness impelled several national groups within the Empire to seek independence as nation-states, leading to the empire's fragmentation. This process culminated in the disastrous Ottoman participation in World War I as a German ally.

Defeated, shorn of much of its former territory, and partly occupied by forces of the victorious European states, the Ottoman structure was repudiated by Turkish nationalists brought together under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal. The nationalists expelled invading Greek, Russian, French and Italian forces from Anatolia in a bitter war. The Turkish Grand National Assembly (TGNA) , or Parliament, convened for the first time in Ankara on April 23, 1920, and proclaimed the Republic on October 29, 1923. After the War of National Independence, Mustafa Kemal, surnamed Atatürk (Father of the Turks), was elected the Republic's first President. Atatürk instituted a series of social reforms, all of which have played a central role in the development of modern Turkey. Atatürk's social and cultural reforms are still intact, his impact clearly visible and his memory immortal. After the proclamation of the Republic of Turkey the temporal and religious ruling institutions of the old empire (the sultanate and caliphate) were abolished.

The leaders of the new republic concentrated on consolidating their power and modernizing and Westernizing what had been the empire's core -- Asian Anatolia and a part of European Thrace. Social, political, linguistic, and economic reforms and attitudes decreed by Ataturk from 1924-1934 continue to be referred to as the ideological base of modern Turkey. In the post-Ataturk era, and especially after the military coup of 1960, this ideology came to be known as "Kemalism" and his reforms began to be referred to as "revolutions." Kemalism comprises a Turkish form of secularism, strong nationalism, statism, and to a degree a western orientation. The continued validity and applicability of Kemalism are the subject of lively debate in Turkey's political life. The ruling AKP comes from a tradition that challenges many of the Kemalist precepts and is driven in its reform efforts by a desire to achieve European Union (EU) accession.

Turkey entered World War II on the Allied side shortly before the war ended, becoming a charter member of the United Nations. Difficulties faced by Greece after World War II in quelling a communist rebellion and demands by the Soviet Union for military bases in the Turkish Straits prompted the United States to declare the Truman Doctrine in 1947. The doctrine enunciated American intentions to guarantee the security of Turkey and Greece and resulted in large scale U.S. military and economic aid under the Marshall Plan. After participating with United Nations forces in the Korean conflict, Turkey in 1952 joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Turkey is currently a European Union candidate.




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