Turkey history expands to more than 4000 years. The Turks first lived in Central Asia in 2000 BC and later built empires in Asia and Europe. Having built independent empires, the Turks vigorously conquered a sprawling land on earth.
Geographically, Turkey lies in a unique location because it is straddling western Asia and southeast Europe. It serves as a mighty bridge between greater Asia and Europe, but others believe it also acts as a strong barrier between the two continents.
Located at the intersection of the Balkans, Caucasus, Middle East, and the eastern Mediterranean, it borders with Greece and Bulgaria in the northwest, the Black Sea in the north, Georgia in the northeast, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Iran in the east, Iraq in the southeast, Syria and the Mediterranean Sea in the south, and the Aegean Sea in the west.
You might want to visit some great countries when crossing Turkey because it opens the door to a more meaningful trip in Asia and Europe.
Turkey’s capital city is Ankara, but its largest city and seaport is Istanbul. The country
occupies a vast peninsula, making it one of the larger countries in the region in terms
of population and land area.
A Brief History of Turkey
Turkey’s history unfolds a story of many people of valor and strength. The name Turkey means the land of the Turks (Turchia Turguia), while the modern spelling can be traced back to 1719. Meanwhile, the word “Turks” has been discovered from Chinese sources dating back to the sixth century. It was said that “Turk” appeared as “Tujue,” the old name of Turkey, and it referred to the Gokturks.
The Turkish kingdom had built empires in antiquity that lasted for centuries. These empires have established powerful leaders who were independent of each other. They included the Great Hun Empire, which came into power in the 3rd century B.C. It was followed by the Göktürk Empire (552–740), the Uygur Empire (741–840), the Avar Empire (6th–9th century A.D.), the Hazar Empire (5th–10th century A.D), the Great Seljuk Empire (1040–1157), and many other empires that followed.
When was Turkey founded?
The history of Turkey reveals a long story of invasion, triumph, and defeat. The Republic of Turkey is a combination of the history of Anatolia, which is the Asian part of the state, and Eastern Thrace, the European side of Turkey. Having been controlled by the Roman Empire in the second century BCE, the area consequently became the center of the Roman-Byzantine Empire.
People of ancient Turkey formed territories which comprise what is presently known as Turkey. They had been conquered by the Seljuq dynasty and had expanded during the medieval era when the Ottoman Empire reigned.
Turks in Anatolia
One of the oldest and permanently inhabited regions in the world is the Anatolian peninsula, which comprises mostly of modern Turkey. History tells that the origin of Turkey started when the Turks began settling in Anatolia in the early 11th century through continual migrations and invasions.
When the gates of Anatolia were opened to the Turks, they fought hard to establish the Anatolian Seljuk State (1080–1308), which was the first Turkish State in Anatolia, also known as the Konya Sultanate. According to records, the earliest inhabitants of Anatolia were the Hattians and Hurrians.
Consequently, after the fall of the Hittites, the country emerged with new states. They were Phrygia and Lydia, which remained firm on the western part of the land.
Moreover, the classical age of Anatolia, also called Asia Minor, can be divided up into the classical period and Hellenistic Anatolia. Persia grew in strength and power as it allowed plenty of port cities to grow and become wealthy.
The first state called Armenia included parts of eastern Turkey, beginning in the sixth century BC. Anatolia played a critical role in Achaemenid history, during which some of the local cities under Persian rule easily revolted in what was called the Ionian Revolt.
Anatolia ended with the conquests of Alexander the Great, who also subdued Darius III between 334 and 330 BCE. Alexander took control of the whole region from Persia in successive battles, but his power was divided among his well-trusted generals upon his death.
The largest of Alexander’s territories was the Seleucid Empire, which was a part of Anatolia. It was later on involved in a devastating war with Rome, culminating in the battles of Thermopylae and Magnesia. The Roman control of Anatolia was empowered by Rome’s “hand’s off” policy. It permitted the local government to rule efficiently and secure military protection.
Movements in the Roman leadership started when Constantine the Great built a new administrative center at Constantinople, which paved the way to the division of the Roman Empire, facilitating the birth of the Eastern part in Romania with Constantinople as its capital or the so-called Byzantine empire.
The Thracians were Indo-European tribes that settled in a large area in Central and Southeastern Europe. They spoke the Thracian language, an extinct and poorly attested language largely spoken in Southeast Europe in ancient times.
At the beginning of 1200 BC, all native Thracian people were defeated by Darius the Great in the sixth century BC and were vanquished into the empire in 492 BC after the first Persian invasion of Greece. The land occupied by Thrace became unified by the Odrysian kingdom headed by Teres.
Thracian people grew largely in number, which caused Herodotus to remark that they’re the second most numerous people in the part of the world known by him and potentially the most powerful. However, the lack of unity weakened the Thracians because they were broken up into a large number of groups and tribes.
Thrace was divided into three camps, the East, Central, and West, after the withdrawal of the Persians when they failed to win against Greece. Known as a fierce leader, Cersobleptes was the pride of the East Thracians. He devised a plan to expand his territory over many Thracian tribes but later suffered a severe defeat from the Macedonians.
Looking back, you can probably evaluate the culture of the Thracians. They were typically not city-builders but only large village dwellers.
Alexander the Great defeated the Persian Achaemenid Empire in 334 BC, which resulted in greater cultural homogeneity and Hellenization in the area. After the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC, Anatolia was subdivided into a small number of Hellenistic kingdoms, which became part of the Roman Republic by the mid-century BC.
Constantine I chose Byzantium as the new capital of the Roman Empire in 324, calling it New Rome. Following the death of Theodosius I, Constantinople became the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire, which later on was branded by historians as the Byzantine Empire. This territory is the Turkey that we know these days, whereas the other remaining territories remained in Sassanid Persian hands.
The Gokturks were the first Turkic people to write Old Turkic in the Orkhon script. The Khanate was also the first state-recognized as Turk. Then, the Göktürks dramatically collapsed due to a series of dynastic conflicts, but the name “Turk” was later used by many states and peoples.
Turkic peoples moved west from Turkestan or what is now Mongolia toward Eastern Europe, the Iranian plateau, Anatolia, and modern Turkey. The date of the initial expansion remains unknown. They fiercely controlled the land and later established the Ottoman Empire. Most of the migration occurred in medieval times when they spread across most of Asia and into Europe and the Middle East.
The Seljuq Turkmens created a classic empire in the medieval period, which controlled the region from the Hindi Kush to eastern Anatolia, extending from Central Asia to the Persian Gulf.
Interestingly, you will be inspired by Tughril Beg, the founder of the Seljuq Empire. He was raised by his grandfather, Seljuk-Beg, who trained him to be a formidable leader. The Seljuq people united the unstable political scenario in the eastern Islamic world, and they cemented their key roles in the first and second crusades. Most of Seljuq’s traditions and culture were patterned from the Persian culture, which played a significant role in the development of the Turko-Persian tradition.
The Birth of the Ottoman Age (1299–1923)
Medieval Turkey was dark and dreary. The Konya Sultanate suffered from a rapid decline due to the invasion led by the Mongol army. While their fall was imminent, many Turk principalities were moved to Anatolia towards the end of the 13th century.
The one who ruled the Ottoman Empire was a Turkish warrior named Osman. The Ottomans gained power throughout the 14th century, during which they showed their strength in the economy and military while building the Ottoman Empire. This state lasted for 623 years, which expanded over a vast region on three continents until the First World War ended.
They captured Constantinople in 1453, followed by the fall of the Byzantine Empire. The reign of the Ottoman Empire was pictured with rapid growth, but it also started to weaken in the 16th century when the Industrial Revolution began. They gradually lost their economic and military power as compared to their rivals in Europe.
Who Founded Turkey?
With his ambitious dream of making Turkey a nation, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, an Ottoman military commander, spearheaded the unbelievably potent crusade for Turkish courage and independence.
He succeeded in proclaiming the nation a republic on October 29, 1923. This earned him the name Ataturk or “Father of Turks.” He was a man who devoted his life to the transformation of the entire Turkish kingdom.
Ataturk led the nation towards national reforms, including economic, political, legal, educational, and cultural changes. His administration strongly focused on widespread improvement. He proposed that the national language be given attention; hence, Turkish was born as the state’s official language.
Further, his leadership established a new political and legal system patterned from parliamentary democracy in the West, which upholds human rights, national sovereignty, division of powers, privatization, secularism, and the separation of religion and state.
A new and secular education system was instituted, where the Arabic alphabet was changed into the Latin alphabet.
Ataturk wanted a significant reform that included civil codes and criminal codes patterned from the country’s European neighbors. During his administration, Turkish women were given equal rights under the law, particularly the right to vote and be elected to public office. This step placed Turkey ahead of other European nations in terms of women’s rights.
It was massive political maneuvering that was incomparable in world history. This gigantic step had pushed a Muslim nation into the international window with its new image in line with the European standards.
The Republic of Turkey
Turkey after WW I was the beginning of a new era. The Allies occupied some parts of the country, which led to the birth of the Turkish national movement. The fierce leadership of Mustafa Kemal paved the way towards the Battle of Gallipoli or the Turkish War of Independence. It aimed at revoking the terms of the Treaty of Sevres.
On September 18, 1922, the occupying armies were forced out, and on November 1, the new parliament completely abolished the Muslim Sultanate. Sadly, it ended the 623 years of Ottoman Rule.
The Treaty of Lausanne on July 24, 1923, led to the international recognition of the newly formed Republic of Turkey of the Ottoman Empire. Reforms all over the regions were instituted to present a new and modern Turkey; hence, Turkey independence was at hand.
Positioning itself neutrally in World War II but agreeing that Britain would defend Turkey in case of a German attack, Turkey refused German requests to allow troops to cross borders into Syria or the USSR. Germany had been its largest trading partner before the war, but the Allies tried to influence the German purchase of chrome from Turkey.
The Turkish leaders made an accord with Roosevelt and Churchill in November 1943 and had vowed to join the war. In February 1945, Turkey declared war on Germany and Japan. It was a significant move made by Turkey to join the United Nations.
Having been a member of the United Nations forces in the Korean War, Turkey also participated in NATO in 1952. Maintaining its national security, the Turkish government was challenged by coups d’état in 1960, 1971, and 1980, during which an abrupt insurgency against the government was started by opposing factions.
These coups d’état interrupted Turkish democracy. In 1984, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party or PKK led an insurgency attack against the Turkish government, which claimed over forty thousand lives. Meanwhile, the government proposed an economic liberation in the 1980s, which brought stronger economic growth and stability to the peninsula.
You may have noticed that perennial aggression, war, and betrayal marred the making of Turkey. This dazzling peninsula connecting Asia and Europe would not have been called a bridge for nothing. Yet, the country has passed the test of time, making it unparalleled in its mighty contribution to humanity.