Turkey Recent History


The Turks, Mongolian nomads, from Central Asia, after converting to Islamism, began to advance in Iraq and south-eastern Russia, and in the 11th century after Christ settled on the Anatolia Peninsula.

They attacked the Byzantine Empire; in 1055 they conquered Baghdad by reversing the Caliphate of the Abassids and then continued their advance in Syria and Palestine and in 1098 they reached Jerusalem. According to Abbreviationfinder, this provoked the intervention of some Christian princes, who organized the “Crusades”.

After supporting the struggles with Christians, the Turks had to face the invasion of the Mongols. Anatolia quickly fell into the hands of the invaders who never settled permanently in the country.

The Turks, therefore, were able to reorganize themselves under the leadership of their Sultan Othman, or Osman I, and from his name the Turkish empire was also called the Ottoman empire.

After 26 years of reign Osman I died leaving all his possessions to his son Orkhan, who reorganized the army and in 1329 founded the body of the “Janissaries”. These were former Christians, mostly Slavs and Greeks, forced to convert to the Mohammedan religion. They depended directly on the sultan and constituted the guardhouse of the “Sublime Gate”, as the court of the Turkish empire was called.

Orkhan was succeeded by his son Murad I, who continued his expansion into the Byzantine empire. The first allocation in Europe was in Gallipoli in 1534; then in 1360 it occupied Adrianople, in Thrace. Two years later he also conquered Sofia, Bulgaria and in 1386 he entered Thessaloniki, Greece.

Under the reign of his successor, Bajazet, the Turks took over almost all of Greece, Syria and besieged Constantinople. Shortly afterwards, Bajazet faced another enemy that invaded Anatolia: the Tamerlane Tartars. On 20 July 1402 the Turks were defeated in the battle of Ankara and the sultan had to go into exile. Upon the death of Tamerlane the Tartar empire dissolved with some ease and in 1413 the Turks instead met again under the sultan Muhammad I who reigned until 1421. His successor, Murad II, worked to consolidate all his father’s powers.

In 1451, after the death of Murad II, his son Muhammad II came to the throne and reigned for 30 years. He went down in history for his great military victories; his greatest achievement was the conquest of Constantinople in 1453. This ended the Byzantine Empire.

Bajazet II was succeeded by Muhammad II who reigned until 1512, when his rebellious son Selim deposed him. Selim I invaded Persia in 1514 then turned his attentions to Egypt which he conquered two years later.

Turkey Recent History

In 1520 the son of Selim, Suleiman, called the Magnificent, ascended the throne precisely because he was the greatest of all the Turkish sultans. He led a powerful army to conquer the Balkan peninsula. In 1521 it occupied Belgrade; in 1526 it also conquered Hungary. Then the sultan’s troops went under the walls of Vienna. He also campaigned also against Persia; conquered Armenia, Mesopotamia and Yemen.

However, since he considered it important to have a seafaring power, he hired a privateer, Kair Eddin II, who soon conquered Tunis and Algiers and also made threats to the Italian coast.

But Suleiman was also a wise and intelligent ruler. During his reign the great mosque of Constantinople was built.
His death was succeeded by his son Selim II who, while continuing his work, was never as skilled as his predecessors. In 1570 he conquered the island of Cyprus, then a possession of the Venetians. At that point, some Christian states, Venice, Spain, the Church and the Duchy of Savoy, given the advance of the Turks, began to worry. So they formed a league and sent a powerful fleet to fight and destroy the Ottoman one. And in 1571, in the Gulf of Corinth in Greece, in Lepanto, a terrible battle was fought, won by the Christians. However, Cyprus remained in the hands of the Turks.

After the battle of Lepanto, however, the Turkish empire began to decline. The sultans cared little about their sovereign duties and left all the tasks of government in the hands of their “vizirs”, that is, the ministers. So that rebellions were born between the Janissaries and in the same palace of the sultan.In this period many sultans were assassinated. However, the Ottoman Empire continued to expand until 1682. Then it began to lose possessions both in the Balkan peninsula and in Asia, especially by Russia. In the Napoleonic period the Ottomans suffered serious defeats by the French in Egypt and Syria and when at the death of Napoleon they wanted to try to resume possessions in Europe, they were opposed by Austria and Russia.

The period of collapse for the Ottoman Empire began. In 1821 a revolt broke out in Greece; this was helped by numerous volunteers who came from many parts of Europe and in 1829, after yet another rebellion managed to gain independence.
The war between Russia and Turkey broke out in 1853. The French, the British, the Piedmontese bersaglieri, sent by Cavour, also took part and ended in Crimea with the surrender of Sevastopol.

In 1877, defeated in a Balkan war, Turkey had to grant independence to Serbia and Romania, then had to yield some territories to Greece, Russia and Austria.

In 1911, Italy waged a war against Turkey with the intent to conquer a colony on the Mediterranean. The Italians landed in Tripoli and the island of Rhodes. They defeated the Turks who had to surrender Libya and the Dodecanese islands in the Aegean Sea to Italy with the peace treaty of 1912.

In the same year, all Balkan countries allied themselves with Turkey and defeated it. It lost all European possessions except Constantinople and Thrace.

During the First World War Turkey allied itself with Germany, Austria and Hungary. The Arabs, however, still subject to the Turks, allied themselves with the French and the British and at the end of the war they had their independence.

In October 1918 Turkey asked for an armistice and with the Treaty of Sevres it had to return Syria and Palestine to the Allies.
But this treaty was not accepted by the Turkish general Mustafà Kemal; he rebelled against this decision and reoccupied several regions by driving the Greeks out of Anatolia. Kemal, called by his Ghazi, the victorious, obtained a more dignified treaty for Turkey in Lausanne in 1923. In the same year the Turkish Republic was proclaimed of which Kemal, after changing his name to that of Ataturk, was elected President. Immediately he ordered reforms that began the aging of the country. The main ones, among these reforms, were: the abolition of the fez and the turban; the suppression of religious brotherhoods; ban on polygamy, introduction of writing with Latin characters.

In the international arena, Ataturk entered into agreements and agreements with the European and Asian powers. He proposed several multi-year plans for the development and organization of the internal economy. In short, Turkey occupied a remarkable place among the European states.

In 1938, at the sudden death of Ataturk, Ismet Ineonu was elected president. His government immediately turned to Great Britain, France and the Soviet Union. On the other hand, it had the territory of Sangiaccato di Alessandretta from France, that is, the country of the Hittites.

In the Second World War he sided with the western powers. In 1952/53 Turkey perfected all treaties of friendship with Yugoslavia and Greece and in the same year the Soviet Union renounced Kars and Ardahan in favor of Turkey.

At that time, an anti-Kemalist conservative party and a democratic party, whose leader Celal Bayar in 1950, had been elected President of the Republic, was present in the country, while Adnan Menderes was prime minister.

While continuing to follow in principle the main concepts of Ataturk’s policy, the new government brought about reforms whereby the anti-religious struggle was easing, religious education was authorized and martial law was repealed. Meanwhile, a multi-party system started. In 1954, in the elections held in May, in addition to the two main parties, the democratic one that won them and the republican one of the people, the Republican Nationalist Party was added as the third force.

The following year the Freedom Party was also born, founded by some Democratic Party members opposed to Menderes, which had imposed restrictions not accepted by them, such as the limitation of the freedom of the press, the passing of a law that prohibited meetings and political demonstrations and another that took away from some opposition deputies parliamentary immunity.

Until the early 1960s, Turkey’s economic policy was liberal but without great results. Some success was achieved through aid from the United States and Germany from Bonn. The economic situation was rather difficult.

A military coup on May 27, 1960 brought down the government of Menderes who was arrested, tried and executed along with some of his collaborators. 1961 was the year in which a Constituent Assembly was established, a new Constitution was promulgated and the so-called Party of Justice was founded which was a variant of the party of Menderes, resurrected with the new name. And this party won the October 15 elections.

The military, however, imposed the formation of a coalition government and General Cemal Gursel was elected President of the Republic.

All the reversals that occurred in Turkish politics did not disturb foreign policy at all, which was always based on a pro-western, particularly pro-American attitude.

In the Korean conflict Turkey was present as a member of the United Nations. Then agreements were also made with Yugoslavia, despite the different political management of that country.

There were several tense moments with Greece over Cyprus. This island, half inhabited by Greeks and half by Turks, had been torn apart by internal struggles since time immemorial since each of the two ethnic groups proposed the incorporation of the island to their motherland. The mediation of the British government was important because it allowed the two states to improve their relations until the island proclaimed its independence on August 16, 1960 and the problem ran out on itself.

The coalition government, led by Inonu, worked well and in a five-year plan (1961/65) managed to achieve a good program with:
– the regularization of the legislature for the right to strike, for collective labor contracts and the
position of labor unions;
– the planning of an optimal agrarian reform;
– the association agreement with the European Economic Community;
– the commitment to improve relations with the Soviet Union hitherto rather tense.

The political elections of 11 October 1965 assigned an absolute majority to the Party of Justice and S. Demirel, its head, was able to constitute a one-color government. During this period, a second five-year plan brought the Turkish economy to a good level. A large Soviet financing with which proceeded to build large industrial complexes contributed to all this. The Demirel government was also confirmed with the 1969 elections.

But immediately after the elections it began to fall apart because 41 deputies of the same party withdrew giving life to another party called the New Democratic Party, headed by S. Bilgic. Having lost its political strength, the country also entered an economic recession. The sharp rise in inflation, the rise of extremist groups, strikes, student demonstrations, land and factory occupations, the weakening of the old traditional “Turk-Is” union, the emergence of a small socialist center, the Disk, everything this prompted the military on March 12, 1971 to intervene again in politics.

They imposed a government of national unity chaired by N. Erim, a former republican of the people, with the aim of restoring order.

Not only did this not happen but on the contrary all the upheavals, the demonstrations, the struggles between the left and right extremist groups intensified and on April 17, 1972 the Erim government fell. The elections were renewed and on January 25, 1974 there was a coalition government that was said to be “against nature” because it was formed by the Republican People’s Party, the secular, and the Party of Salvation, which proposed the return of Turkey to Islamic traditions. As expected, the coalition did not last long. After eight months it was all over. Then the President of the Republic, F. Korukurk, in office since 1973, fished out Demirel who, in the meantime, had founded a Nationalist Front by joining three right-wing parties, and with this on April 12, 1975 he obtained from the National Assembly the trust that then was renewed in 1977.

Once again, on September 12, 1980, a military junta intervened and General Kenan Evren took power.
After various events, in November 1982 a new definitive Constitution was reached which, in addition to affirming Ataturk’s loyalty to nationalism, guaranteed the freedom and rights of citizens, established the powers of the President, who was to remain in office for only 7 years., Then Evren himself was elected president.

In May 1983 all the political parties that were were organized.
– the Nationalist Democracy Party (Milliyetçi Demokrasi Partisi), or military party;
– the Party of the Motherland (Anavatan Partisi), of Turgut Ozal, of liberal tendencies;
– the Populist Party (Halkçi Parti).

The elections of November 6, 1983 were won by the Motherland Party and Ozal was able to carry on a liberal economic program, which paid off, so much so that the dominance of his party was increased with the administrative ones of 1984.
And while inside Ozal had to facing many political struggles with his rivals, then placed in a minority, on the international level had to try to overcome really serious contrasts.

Meanwhile, the request for admission to the European Economic Community was rejected for the first time because his government was accused of violating the human rights of Armenians. In this regard, to clarify the matter with the other heads of state, he visited many countries of Europe, including Italy, and the Near East. Then he repeated the request to the Community in 1990 but still obtained a refusal, even if said “provisional”.

Between 1987 and 1988 he signed various commercial and social agreements with the United States, the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia and the Balkan countries.

In the meantime, Ozal had opened up to Islam and therefore sided with the Palestinians and recognized its status.

At the end of his presidential term, Evren was taken over by Ozal and he, as premier, was taken over by Yildirim Akbulut.

Again elections in 1991 and again a change of government, which was a coalition and chaired by Demirel. Then when Ozal died on April 7, 1993, Demirel was elected president of the republic and premier became Mrs. Tansu Ciller. And as the Turkish economy began to show signs of revival and improvement, another serious problem seriously affected the government: that of Kurdish separatism. And since the Kurds, backed by Iran, Syria and Iraq, launched their terrorist attacks and guerrillas from the territory of the latter country, Turkey, in March 1995, with a well-trained army, started an offshore operation. radius, even with armored vehicles, planes and artillery, going to hit the bases on Iraqi territory causing great protests by Baghdad.

But there was also a resurgence of contrasts between Muslims and lay people. Thus came a profound rift between the laity, Shiites and Sunnis.

Early elections were held in December 1995 and the problem of governability worsened as none of the competing parties obtained an absolute majority. The relative one, however, had been reached by the Prosperity Party, of moderate Islamic matrix, whose leader N. Erbakan was called to form the government.

The other parties, worried by the birth of a possible Islamic government, even if moderate, did not declare themselves available to the coalition and then Ms. Ciller established with Yilmaz, leader of the Motherland Party, an alternation, as premier, to finally give a government to the country. This did not last long, as already in May 1996 Yilmaz, who was carrying out the first round, did not want to support Mrs. Ciller who, in the meantime, had been accused of corruption (and then in January 1997 recognized innocent). Ms. Ciller, in return, withdrew her political support from the government and Yilmaz, in the minority, had to resign.

In the subsequent elections of June 1996 the party of Erbakan had considerable success and was therefore charged with forming the executive.

He sought, and obtained, the alliance with Mrs. Ciller but this arrangement did not satisfy the other political forces, concerned about the uncertain results that surely this mixed government of Islam and western tendencies would have produced. Elsewhere it was argued that with this arrangement Turkey would represent an example of how the cohesion of the two principles could be valid and therefore supported.

But the National Security Council was not of this opinion and with a show of strength, in February 1997, in response to an Islamic demonstration, he paraded through the streets of Ankara a considerable amount of tanks.

The rise of the military meant the untouchability of the secular state. However, while Turkey reiterated its membership of NATO, at the same time it also reconciled openings to Islamic countries and, in fact, despite the US veto, even signed a trade pact with Iran.

In late 1996, it was discovered that part of the state apparatus was in league with organized crime. All the opposing parties, supported by the military, in the early months of 1997 tried to put the government in a minority. In mid-June Erbakan left office, replaced by Yilmaz. But the situation did not improve. In January 1998 the Constitutional Court ordered the dissolution of the Prosperity Party for violating the Constitution and for attempting to overwhelm the secular principles of the state.

A large part of the followers of that party poured into the Virtue Party which, therefore, reached the parliamentary majority.
Then Yilmaz, in November 1998, on charges of corruption, was dismissed and the government, provisionally, passed into the hands of the Left Democratic Party, headed by B. Ecevit.

Legislative elections were held in April 1999 and Ecevit reached 22.1% of the vote. With this result he was still premier and organized a three-way government in union with the far-right Nationalist Action Party, the Motherland Party and the Gray Wolves, a formation led by D. Bahceli. And with the latter, like him a staunch opponent of the Kurds and a fervent nationalist, Yilmaz began the governmental enterprise. And the Kurdish question was the main thorn in the side of this government.

The struggle that the Kurdish Workers Party has long been waging against Turkey had long since acquired the characteristics of a real war and had captured worldwide attention.

The leader of this party, A. Ocalan, in December 1995 had also ordered his organization to lay down his arms to try to get some nods of guarantees from Turkey for his people.

But when it became clear that this would never happen, hostilities resumed and many were the victims already in 1996. Then in the years 1997 and 1998 Turkey prepared powerful military offensives by fighting the Kurds in the places where they had taken refuge, that is in Iran, in Iraq and Syria.

In August 1998, the Kurds applied a truce, also one-sided, and this too was not considered by Turkey.

In November of that same year Ocalan took refuge in Italy. Turkey immediately submitted its request for extradition, specifying that a refusal would have broken relations with Italy, especially on a commercial level. What Italy could not afford. Not wanting to hand over Ocalan to a country that practiced the death penalty, the Italian government, putting Ocalan in a tight spot, led him to leave the country in January 1999.

The following month Ocalan was arrested while in the Greek embassy in Nairobi, Kenya. His hiding place had been discovered by the Turkish secret services.

The terrorist attacks immediately resumed but in the meantime this event had created two different political situations. Inside there was a consolidation of all the uncompromising parties towards the Kurds. Abroad, the ties between Turkey and the United States cooled and the disapproval of the countries that joined the European Union, from which started the request for a fair trial for Ocalan. Topic on which they had serious doubts.

Instead Ocalan was regularly tried for high treason and sentenced to death. He asked for clemency, declaring that he would give up the armed struggle forever and indeed that he would do all he could to restore peace between the two peoples.

His sentence of hanging brought joy within the country as the European Union interceded for the condemned. And since Turkey had long been waiting to join this Union, not wanting to disregard this aspiration and also wanting to reach a certain understanding with the people, in January 2000 it agreed to suspend the execution.

This, however, was not to be considered canceled; it would have been carried out if, both the Kurds and the Supreme Court, had attempted to take advantage of the situation to get Ocalan out of Turkish justice.

Turkey’s entry into the European Union so far had always been delayed because too many negative data were recorded in the country, both economically, socially and politically.

For the economic field, it testified to the very low level of industrialization and development, so that, with continuous population growth and rising unemployment, large spills of workers occurred towards the more stable and advanced neighboring countries.

For the social one there were: the disastrous conditions of the prisoners, the absence of freedom of opinion and expression, the use of torture. And for the political one, the military presence in the government was worrying.

In December 1997 Turkey had not been admitted to the Union so there was a cooling off in their relations. In 1998 the European Union did not provide the aid already foreseen and on the contrary urged the Turkish government to settle the outstanding issues relating both to the Kurds and that of human rights, totally ignored.

In spite of everything, Turkey’s request to join had been taken into consideration in December 1999.
Among the main reasons for the European refusal there was also that relating to the death penalty which, however, seemed to be a possible solution.

Then there were tensions with Greece both for the territories occupied by the Turks in Cyprus and for the dispute over territorial waters in the Aegean.

In the past, negotiations had been initiated but all the talks had had no results. The opportunity for a thaw was proposed, incredibly, following a serious disaster, represented by the earthquake of 17 August 1999 in which more than 15,000 people lost their lives. Greece was among the first countries to help Turkey and this was highly appreciated by the government; in fact in January 2000 the two countries agreed to cooperate and to solve, in the immediate future, all the problems that still exist.

In the international arena Turkey, throughout the 1990s, found itself in the midst of agreements or disputes, with all neighboring states.

He sought a military cooperation agreement with Israel and thereby raised the Arab League’s grievances. He entered into economic agreements with Iran and then with the same country he found himself in shock over the failure to introduce Islamic law into the country. The problems of the Kurds and the exploitation of the waters of the Tigris and Euphrates intervened with Syria and Iraq.

To the United States, Turkey had allowed the use of Turkish air bases to carry out attacks on Iraq, with which it then pacified on the occasion of the reopening of the common oil pipeline, closed in 1990 at the time of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.

Subsequently, when relations between Iraq and the United States cooled again, Turkey refused the Americans to use their air bases.

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