History of Turkey

Conflict and war is the defining aspect of Turkish history with the Turkish tribes conquering those they came into contact with and each other. The History of Turkey begins in the 11th century with the migration of the Oghuz Turks into Anatolia. The Turks soon came into contact with the Christian kingdom of Armenia and the Byzantine Empire to the West.

In 1064 the Seljuk Turks under the command of Alp Arslan invaded Armenia, Georgia quickly followed. Noticing this new aggressor quickly advancing on its borders the Byzantine Emperor Romanus IV marched a huge army to confront the Turks. In 1071 the two armies met at Mazikert.

The battle proved to be a decisive one for the Seljuks after Romanus was betrayed by some of his own troops and generals. Within a few years the Turks had pressed ever deeper into Anatolia with the Seljuks founding the sultanate of Rum. In 1080 they capture the Byzantine city of Nicaea, making it their capital. In 1097 the First crusade arrives in the region after the Byzantine Emperor Alexios Komenos requests the Pope in Rome for aid in battling the Turkish invaders. Nicaea is recaptured by the crusading armies.

For the next two centuries Anatolia was plunged into chaos as the Turks fought amongst themselves, the Empire and the newly established Crusader States. By the end of the 13th century the majority of the region was populated by Turks and their emirate states. The Mongol invasions saw the destruction of the Seljuks and threatened to end Turkish dominance of the region.

In 1285 Osman was born and founded the dynasty of the Ottoman Turks. Under his rule the Ottomans forged a powerful empire of their own and captured huge tracts of land from the now enfeebled Byzantines. By 1354 the Ottomans had crossed into Europe and began the conquest of the Balkan states, Serbia, Bosnia, and Bulgaria all fall.

The Turkish advance was halted in 1402 with the arrival of the fearsome warlord Timur and his horde of Mongol warriors. After destroying Baghdad he turned his attention to Anatolia and engaged the Ottomans at the battle of Ankara. The Ottomans lost the fight and saw their domain shrink drastically.

Over the following 50 years the Ottomans gradually recovered their lost lands. Mehmed the second took control of the Ottomans and turned his attention to finishing off the Byzantines who were clinging onto their capital of Constantinople.  A month after his twenty first birthdays in April 1453 the siege begins. Despite a heroic defence the Byzantines are defeated the last emperor of the true Romans, Constantine XI died in the fighting. Mehmed entered the city goes straight to Santa Sophia to hear a proclamation from the pulpit – that there is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet. The great church, for many centuries the most magnificent in Christendom, now begins its career as a mosque. Constantinople is renamed Istanbul and made the new capital of the empire, one imperial legacy was replaced by another.

The apex of the Ottoman Empire begins in 1520 with the long reign of Suleiman the magnificent. Under his rule the Ottomans become the most powerful force in the Middle-East and advanced as far as the gates of Vienna. Spectacular buildings were constructed during this period. The Ottomans gradually declined from the 16th century due to a succession of weak rulers and civil conflicts. The 17th century saw it come into conflict with the Russian Empire and was weakened by wars with the ever growing European powers. Up until the 1850’s the Turks were at the mercy of the likes of France, Great Britain and the other European great powers.  The sultan chose to ally with the French and British against his empires old adversary. Tensions boiled over and in 1854 the Crimea war began. A British and French army lands near Sebastopol in September 1854. During the next eight weeks there are three battles with Russian forces, at the river Alma in September, at the allies’ supply port of Balaklava in October and at Inkerman on the heights just outside Sebastopol in November. The war grinds on for two years with no clear victor.

The early 20th century saw the Ottomans lose control of Greece, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and the Balkans. The Balkan wars were quickly followed by World War One with Turkey siding with the Germans and their allies. The war cost Turkey dearly and saw the final break up f the Ottoman Empire and the end of the dynasty.

With parts of Turkey under the occupation of Allied forces the Turkish people founded the Turkish national movement and waged the Turkish war of independence. In 1922 a parliament was founded abolishing the sultanate and establishing a republic in its place. The new nation’s first president Mustafa Kemal oversaw radical changes, due to his successes he was honoured with the name Attaturk (father of the Turks).

During World War Two the country remained natural until near the end when it entered the conflict on the side of the Allies. In 1945 Turkey joined the United Nations and became a close ally of the United States in the 1970s. Turkey took part in the UN led Korean war and afterward joined NATO. The country suffered a period of upheaval in the 1970s when the Greeks launched a military coup forcing the Turks to invade the Republic of Cyprus.

Tensions have been high between the two nations ever since. Since the liberalization of the Turkish economy during the 1980s, the country has enjoyed stronger economic growth and greater political stability.  It is now one of the liberal Muslim nations in the world has been considered for EU membership.