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Useful Notes: Turkey
Rarely votes for Christmas.

"Peace at home, peace in the world."
-Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, now the motto of the Republic of Turkey

Turkey (Turkish: Türkiye), officially known as the Republic of Turkey (Turkish: Türkiye Cumhuriyeti) one of a few countries spanning multiple continents. NATO member and applicant to The European Union.

Turkey should not be compared with the rest of the Middle East. It doesn't use Arabic script (Which hasn't been used in Turkey since 1928) or language, the country is strictly secular (the favourite national flamewar is over wearing headscarves in public) and it's culturally somewhat different. It is Muslim, true, but if a leader says so too loudly he risks military take-over by the "Guardian of Secularism", the army. This has happened multiple times for Islam, Communism, what ever the current ideology the Army doesn't like. Recently, however, this trend has changed; the latest indication of a coup attempt lead to a strong public backlash against the Armed Forces. It seems that the Turkish military is no longer a viable force in politics.

Historically, Turkey is synonymous with the Ottoman Empire, which was in fact referred to as the "Turkish Empire" or "Imperium Turcicum" by its contemporaries. Since the end of the Turkish Empire, this period has become known as the Ottoman or Osmanic Empire, just as the Eastern Roman Empire has become known as the Byzantine Empire. At its height, the Ottoman Empire spanned three continents and controlled vast swathes of North Africa, Eastern Europe, the Balkans and the Middle East. It's main opponents for most of its lifetime were the Habsburgs and the Venetians; the former finally turned the tables on the Turks following the last siege of Vienna while the latter were eventually rendered powerless by the Italian Wars of 1494-1559. In the last centuries of its life, the Ottoman Empire also came into conflict with the Russian Empire, who made some serious gains in the Caucasus. Following the First World War, the empire collapsed, but the institution of the Turkish Sultan actually outlived the Habsburg Emperor and the Russian Tsar by around four years. During its life, the Ottoman Empire served as the Big Bad for Christendom, since it had destroyed the Byzantine Empire and made rapid gains into Europe. The only ally it had in Europe was France, who was squeezed on all sides by Habsburg possessions.

Turkey, as the Ottoman Empire, was initially neutral during World War One. Before the conflict, it was being wooed by Imperial Germany, who invested heavily in Turkey, created the Berlin-Baghdad railway (Iraq and most of the Middle East being a part of the Ottoman Empire at that time) and helped modernise the Ottoman army. After the British forcefully requisitioned two warships ordered by the Ottoman Government, Turkey fell further into the orbit of the Central Powers, and officially joined the war after a German False Flag Operation. During World War One, Turkey fought mainly against the British Empire and her colonies/dominions like Australia, New Zealand, India and Canada in the Middle East and on the Gallipoli peninsula. The Gallipoli Campaign is notable for being a pilgrimage site for Australians and New Zealanders due to the involvement of the ANZACs, as popularised in the Mel Gibson film Gallipoli. Similarly, the war in the Middle East became famous for the actions of T. E. Lawrence (of Lawrence of Arabia fame), who incited the Great Arab Revolt which saw the Arabic territories of the Ottoman Empire revolt against their Turkish masters. Unfortunately, this ended as a Full-Circle Revolution for the Arabs, who were promised a unified, independent Arab State but were instead placed under the control of the British and French empires. Turkey also put up a very weak fight against the Russians, owing to their Supreme Commander - Enver Pasha - being a Modern Major General with delusions of conquering Central Asia. Like Napoleon before him and Hitler after him, Enver Pasha made the sad mistake of trying to invade in winter. The Russo-Turkish conflict was one of the few theatres of the First World War where the Russian Army did well against an opponent. Fortunately for them, the Turks were saved by the collapse of the Tsarist regime and Red October. Less fortunately for them, the Central Powers still ended up losing, and the Ottoman Empire soon lost all its territory outwith Anatolia and Thrace.

Following the defeat of the Central Powers, Anatolia was occupied by the Entente. The resulting Treaty of Sèvres partitioned Turkey, ceding western Anatolia and most of Thrace to the Greeks and eastern Anatolia to the Armenians, while placing vast swathes of Asian Turkey under European influence. This led to the Turkish War of Independence, which raged through the early 1920s, and resulted in the Turkish nationalists - led by Mustafa Kemal (Ataturk) - establishing the modern Republic of Turkey in 1923, having repulsed the combined forces of Greece, France, Italy and Great Britain (though to be fair, the last three didn't really have their hearts in the war). They gained most of Armenia's land after some seedy deals between them and the Soviet government, who wanted them to go communist (which didn't end up happening), effectively ending centuries of an Armenian presence in the region. Turkey became the first secular state in the Middle East and would remain so for quite some time.

Turkey remained neutral for the most part in World War II. Following the annexation of Albania by Fascist Italy, Great Britain made an alliance with Turkey for fear of an Axis invasion. This never transpired and so Turkey remained out of the conflict, albeit while being aligned with the Allies. However, they did declare war on Nazi Germany towards the end as a ceremonial gesture.

Turkey has some other issues relating to human rights and freedom of speech. Their government officially denies the Armenian Genocide as well as similar genocides suffered by the Greeks and Assyrians as the Ottoman Empire was crumbling, even though they were committed by the government the present republic deposed note . They also tend to be uptight about the word "Kurd" and the idea of a separate identity for their eastern, Kurdish-speaking provinces. This is all apparently "insulting Turkishness", the idea of a unified Turkish nation-state. This concept of 'insulting Turkishness' is one of the reasons sites like YouTube are banned in Turkey, allegedly because of insults to Ataturk as you can be prosecuted for insulting Ataturk in Turkey, or saying anything else that allegedly insults Turkishness.

Due to the complex issue of Turkish nationalism and the activities of Kurdish terrorist group PKK, Kurds and the Kurdish language used to be a Flame Bait issue in Turkey. Since 2002, however, the bans on Kurdish radio and television shows were lifted and the option to have a private Kurdish education was introduced, and in 2009, the government began restoring the names of Kurdish towns and villages. Giving in to pressure from the EU and the U.S., the government has even repaired and returned a handful out of the hundreds of churches that after World War One were either converted into mosques, museums, or just left to deteriorate into ruins, back to the (now) small Christian population in the country, mostly just for show. Provisions against speaking publicly about the Armenian Genocide and an independent Kurdistan were mostly introduced by a military junta that took control in the 1980s, and since then, the Turkish Government has made efforts to improve freedom of speech in the country, due largely to international pressure. Progress in some areas is being made faster than in others; as the 2007 murder of Turkish-Armenian reporter Hrant Dink displayed, speaking out too loudly about taboo topics in Turkey is still a very risky proposition. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Turkey continues to have the world's highest number of jailed journalists, topping the list in 2012 and 2013 and beating out the likes of North Korea, Iran and China.

Turkey famously doesn't get along with Greece very well (Greek and Turkish minorities in both countries were expelled and exchanged in the 20th century), though they've been forced to co-operate a bit by both being in NATO. The Cyprus Question is just the most modern bone of contention. To make a long story short, Greece - when it was still an authoritarian state - made moves towards annexing Cyprus, prompting Turkey to invade and occupy the northern portion of Cyprus, which has a large Turkish population. Since then, Turkey has attempted to get it recognized as an independent country (Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus), distinct from the Greek-majority Republic of Cyprus. A third option has been to unify the two countries as a federation. The latest attempt at this was by the UN, who proposed a United Cypriot Republic under the Annan Plan. In a 2004 referendum, 64% of Turkish Cypriots voted in favour of the plan, but it was shot down by the Greek Cypriots, with 76% of them voting against the plan. Since then, unification talks have stalled.

Lately, Turkey has been longing to become a part of The European Union, but it's long history as the regional bully has made this difficult for them. Greece is opposed to it due to the Cyprus Dispute. Bulgaria in particular has been against it due to past wrongs committed during the dark days of the end of the Ottoman Empire, and Germany feels that Turkey ought to fess up to their crimes like they had to after World War II, as does France. On the other hand, opposition to Turkish membership has been motivated by far less noble goals. Some European leaders - particularly the former French President Nicholas Sarkozy - fear that Turkey entering the EU would result in an influx of Muslims, due to EU immigration regulations. Proponents of Turkish membership point out its strong economic status (the EU originally being a purely economic union), especially when compared to the latest members, Bulgaria and Romania.

To try and appear more qualified to join the EU Turkey has adopted a "zero problems" policy with its direct neighbors, though it hasn't quite panned out so far. They signed a protocol in 2009 with neighboring Armenia which would open their borders (closed since the Nagorno-Karabakh War between Armenia and Azerbaijan in the early 1990's) and attempt to bury the hatchet between the two states. However, the protocols fell into limbo after Armenia unsurprisingly refused to link the protocols with dropping the genocide issue and conceding Karabakh to Azerbaijan, which was likely the whole point of the protocols as now Turkey can say that anything related to genocide recognition or recognizing Nagorno-Karabakh's independence puts its normalization with Armenia in jeopardy. In late 2013 Turkey pulled the Protocols out of limbo and tried to negotiate with Armenia again, hoping to patch things up ahead of the centennial of the Armenian genocide; sure to be a PR nightmare for the country. Meanwhile, it has had shaky relations with just about every other country that borders it except Azerbaijan. However, its relations with the Arab world have been getting increasingly peachy. Arabs—whose view of the Turks wasn't half as bad as those of Turkey's Christian neighbors—have come to see the Turkish model as an excellent path to democracy, for various reasons: Islamist Arabs point to the ruling AK Party's moderate line, while authoritarian Arabs like the aforementioned role for the military. Either way, commercial and cultural links (the latter of which include some very successful soap operas, dubbed into Arabic in the Syrian dialect and the thing to watch if you're a remotely fashionable Arab) with Turkey have grown strong since the early 2000s. Indeed, the Islamist parties that were swept into power in the Arab Revolutions have modeled themselves upon the AK Party,note  and the Turkish government has won tremendous brownie points from the Arab street thanks to its relatively quick denunciation of the Syrian regime and willingness to host Syrian refugees and rebels.

A peculiarity of Turkey that has been around for a while is the idea of derin devlet, or "deep state", an elite group of elites that is believed to secretly control Turkey. Turks see this organization/cabal/whatever as simple fact, whereas foreigners tend to see it as merely an odd cultural phenomenon. There was a US-backed counter-guerilla movement trained to keep Turkey out of the hands of the reds, whose existence was revealed in 1974, but this group is defunct and it's not entirely clear how it relates to the deep state of today. Even Turks themselves can't seem to agree what the deep state's agenda is or who the head members are; they have been seen as anti-democratic by democratic factions, anti-worker by socialist factions, anti-Islamic by Islamist factions, anti-Kurdish by Kurds, and as ultra-nationalists by everyone else. Some argue that they work for the betterment of Turkey or that they are merely a covert arm of government, others believe their goal is to undermine the government and launch coups, which is understandable since that sort of thing seems to happen a lot. It's not clear who leads them, either; it's been said to be led by descendents of the ottoman sultans, high-level military brass, US-backed guerillas, criminal kingpins, and corrupt politicians. Whatever the case, the truth is far from certain.

Turkey was also the only Islamic state to have friendly relations with Israel, it had briefly deteriorated quickly in 2010, due to a certain incident involving a certain flotilla bound for a certain strip of territory in the Levant. Israel's president Benjamin Netanyahu eventually apologized for the raid almost three years later, and ties had been brought to normal.

Turkey has a notable cultural industry, especially in the music area - the Holly Valance song "Kiss Kiss" was originally sung in Turkish (strangely enough, the original singer is male, while a significant number of the various covers have been sung by women.) Plus belly dancers, which people tend to focus on. The oil wrestling is male-only, so people ignore it.

They're also responsible for changing the name of the city of Constantinople to Istanbul, although the city was known as Kostantiniyye (the Turkish translation of Constantinople) throughout the duration of the Ottoman Empire, after it was captured from the Eastern Roman Empire in 1453. Why we can't say, and it's nobody's business but theirs at any rate...

(Well, since you press us, it's because "Constantinople" is the Greek name for the city. Beware the Internet Backdraft).

Famous Turks
  • Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. The founding father of modern Turkey. An extremely capable military officer in the army during WWI who went on to create the Republic of Turkey and serve as its first President. His ideology, called Kemalism, is a key element of the Turkish constitution. Do not insult him in Turkey or risk prosecution.
  • Mehmed II. At the tender age of 21, he succeeded in conquering Constantinople, a city that had been previously sieged fifteen times and with only one success. The fall of Constantinople destroyed Byzantium and established the Ottomans as the spiritual successors to the Roman Empire. Mehmet II used the Byzantine administration model as a blueprint for the Ottoman State, and this model stayed in place long after his death. He also unified Anatolia under the Ottomans and brought the empire into Europe, advancing as far as Belgrade.
  • Suleiman the Magnificent. The tenth Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, as well as the longest-reigning. Presided over the expansion of Turkey into Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. Also known as "Suleiman the Lawmaker" for his complete reconstruction of the Ottoman legal system. A distinguished goldsmith and poet, he also oversaw the Golden Age of Ottoman artistic, literary and architectural development. The Süleymaniye Mosque - the second largest mosque in Istanbul - is named after him.
  • Ahmed I. Notable only for creating the Sultanahmed Mosque, one of the most impressive mosques in the world and a masterpiece of Turko-Byzantine architecture. Was erected in an effort to distract the public from the Sultan's unsuccessful wars against the Habsburgs and Persia. Until this point, mosques had been paid for with 'war booty' but, due to his recent military failures, Ahmed I had to borrow from the treasury, upsetting the ulema - Muslim legal scholars. Pope Benedict XVI visited the Blue Mosque (as it is also known) in 2006, only the second time in history that a Pope has visited a Muslim place of worship.

Turkey In Fiction

The Turkish flag
The flag reuses the last known flag of the Ottoman Empire, of which it is The Remnant and official successor state — a red field with a star and crescent at the center, symbolizing Islam, the principal religion of the Empire.

TunisiaImageSource/MapsTurkmenistan
SyriaUsefulNotes/The Middle EastUnited Arab Emirates
SyriaUsefulNotes/AsiaUnited Arab Emirates
KazakhstanUsefulNotes/EuropeGibraltar

alternative title(s): Useful Notes On Turkey; Turkey
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