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turkish history


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turkish history

In 1296, Osman declared himself the independent Sultan of the region of Sögüt he had hitherto held in fief, and founded the Ottoman State. During the rule of his son Orhan, Bursa and Iznik were captured and soon the whole south-eastern coast of Marmara was under Ottoman control. The many conquests and diplomatic successes of Orhan were not the only achievements of his reign. He had encouraged and promoted art, literature, science and commerce. He also established a regular standing army, known as the Janissaries. Well paid and disciplined, the Janissaries provided the new Ottoman state with a patriotic force of trained soldiers. Built upon such solid foundations, the Ottoman Empire spread apace. In the reign of Murat, this expansion was still in a westerly direction and it was not until the frontiers were extended to the Adriatic, the Danube and Thessaly, that the Sultan turned his attention towards Eastern Anatolia. Now that his rule was established in Europe and Asia, Beyazit turned towards Constantinople in 1402. The city was almost within his grasp when he was called to meet the westward march of Timurlane which delayed the conquest of Istanbul for several decades. In 1453, under Mehmet the Conqueror, the Ottomans took Constantinople, a momentous event for the whole world and a great feat of arms. But the banner of Ottoman success was to be raised much higher and by the late 16th century the Ottomans were deep into Europe. In the following centuries, however, the Ottoman empire lost its momentum, entered a period of stagnation and then gradually a period of decline.


The final blow to the Empire came with the First World War, during which Turkey was on the losing side with Germany. Great Britain had reversed the policy she followed until then, and undertook with France, Russia and Italy to dismember the Empire. At the end of the war in 1918, the Ottoman government, under the occupation of the allied forces, was in no position to resist a peace treaty embodying the partition of Turkey. In May 1919, the Greeks, who had been promised a part of Anatolia, landed at Izmir and started an offensive to occupy Western Turkey.


turkish history

Against this challenge, the Turkish nation engaged in a struggle to restore her territorial integrity and independence, to repulse foreign aggressors, to create a new state, to disassociate Turkey from the crumbling Ottoman dynasty, to eradicate an old decrepit order and to build a modern Turkey dedicated to political, social and economic progress. This was the vision of Atatürk, a general in the Ottoman army who had distinguished himself in the defense of the Dardanelles. Atatürk wanted a clean break with the past, to unite the nation in the quest for modernism and to lift Turkey to the level of European countries. On October 29, 1923, the republic was proclaimed and Atatürk was elected president. Secularism was established by separating religious and state affairs. The Latin alphabet replaced the Arabic script and women were given the right to vote and to be elected as members of parliament. These reforms, as well as many others in all aspects of social life, put Turkey on the track towards becoming a thoroughly modern country.


When Atatürk died in 1938, he left a legacy of which the Turkish people today are proud. This is now a nation that has regained confidence in itself and is ready to confront challenges; a society determined to preserve the political, intellectual, cultural and social values he had bequeathed. The Turkish republic has now been a member of the international community for over 70 years. During this period, great changes have occurred. But the country remains firmly attached to the policies initiated by Atatürk. It has established a democratic multi-party political system, developed a vibrant civil society, and embarked on the path of industrialization and market economy. It has consolidated its ties with the west through membership of NATO and the Council of Europe and Customs Union with the European Union. These trends mark radical change from the days of the Ottoman Empire. Yet there is also continuity. The Turks have inherited both from the Islamic past ant their Ottoman past. They have also inherited from their western past, as well as forming a part of the Western present. All these heritages, Eastern and Western, Asian and European, are intermingled in the civilization of modern Turkey. A symbol of this union is the two bridges that span the Bosphorus, linking the two continents with as many parts and one future.

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