Turkey has 85.9 million people. On the edge of Europe and Asia, Turkey has a rich cultural legacy shaped by centuries of history and the influence of various peoples. Prominent historical dates include the following: [334 BCE] – Alexander the Great marches through Anatolia (Asia Minor) (part of Turkey today) on his way to India; [133 BCE] – Roman Empire invades Anatolia which becomes the Roman province of Asia. Under Roman rule, the region becomes prosperous, roads and infrastructures were built, and improved, and coastal communities flourished; [47-57 CE] – St Paul travels to the Christian and Jewish communities in Anatolia spreading Jesus Christ’s teachings; [330 CE] – Emperor Constantine the Great (first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity) makes Byzantium, later known as Constantinople, the ‘New Rome’ – the empire’s centre of government. (‘Eastern Roman Empire’ is referred to as the ‘Byzantine Empire’ by modern historians.) Emperor Constantine restructured the government, separating civil and military authorities, combatted inflation by introducing a new gold coin that became the standard for Byzantine and European currencies for more than 1,000 years; [527-565 CE] – Reign of Justinian, the greatest Byzantine emperor. Justinian built the Hagia Sophia, the largest and most splendid church in the world; [570-622 CE] – Birth of Prophet Muhammed; Revelation of the Quran; and Muhammed’s ‘flight’ from Mecca to Medina; [1000s-1200s CE] – Christian Crusader armies cross Anatolia with frequent battles; [1071-1243 CE] – Seljuk Sultanate of Rum established itself in Anatolia; [1256 CE] – Mongols defeated Seljuk in central Anatolia; [1288 CE] – Foundation of the Ottoman state by a warrior chieftain named Osman. Osman launched attacks on the vulnerable Byzantine Empire, which his descendants would eventually conquer; [1453CE] – Sultan Mehmed II (only 21 years old) captures Constantinople; Christian emperor Constantin XI of the Byzantine Empire dies in the fighting, ending the 1,100-year-old Byzantine Empire, and consolidating Ottoman empire in Anatolia and Balkans. Constantinople becomes Istanbul. The Ottoman built an empire covering most of North Africa, most of Eastern Europe and all of the Middle East. The Hagia Sophia is turned into a mosque. Greeks and Jews migrate to Istanbul (new name for Constantinople); [1516 CE] – Jerusalem is taken over by the Ottoman empire along with all of Syria. This opened the way to 400 years of Ottoman rule over most of the Arab world; [1520-1566 CE] – Reign of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, the great age of the Ottoman empire. The brilliance of the sultan’s court and the might of his armies outshone those of England’s Henry VIII, France’s Francois I and Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. His navies patrol the Mediterranean and Red seas, and the Indian Ocean. Jerusalem enjoyed a period of renewal and peace under Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, including the construction of walls which today define the Old City of Jerusalem; [1683 CE] –Ottoman’s advance into Europe was halted at Battle of Vienna. Ottoman’s long decline over 300 years begins. The Ottoman sultanate lasted for over 600 years, but its last three centuries ending in 1922 were marked by stagnation and decline. Ottoman had an official policy of state for each new sultan, on achieving power, to kill his brothers and nephews. Sultan Mehmed III, winning power in 1595, murdered his unusually large family of 19 brothers. Future sultans put brothers and nephews in harems, and without experience many off-springs lacked talent for governing. By 1800s the Ottomans had fallen far behind the rest of Europe in science, technology, industry, education, commerce, and military might; [1821 CE] – Greece gained independence from Ottoman; [1844 CE] – Tsar Nicholas I of Russia referred to the Ottoman empire as ‘The sick man of Europe’. Today, however, Turkey is a regional power, a newly industrialised country, and the 20th largest in the world by GDP. Ankara is Turkey’s capital and Istanbul (formerly Constantinople) is its largest city. Turkey is among the most visited countries in the world.

  1. In about 2,000 words, I will describe major events that affected Turkey from 1900 to the present.
  2. 1900 – Three years earlier in 1897 during the Hamidian massacres (or Armenian massacres), the Ottoman empire under Sultan Abdul Hamid II killed between 200,000 and 400,000 Armenians, who are Christians, to reassert Pan-Islamism as a state ideology. The Ottomans made no allowance for the victims’ age or gender and massacred all with brutal force. The Ottoman government closed Armenian societies and restricted Armenian political movements.
  3. 1908 – Young Turk Revolution. Impulsive military and college graduates known as Young Turks organised a successful uprising against the autocratic Sultan Abdul Hamid II and declared a constitutional government. It was a bloodless coup. Officers of some parts of the Ottoman army joined the Young Turks; among them is young Mustapha Kemal, later known as Ataturk. The sultan agreed to restore the constitution of 1876, with immediate plans for an elected parliament in Istanbul. Sultan Abdul Hamid II is replaced on the throne (in 1909) by his brother Mohammed V (Reshad Efendi). The new administration however degenerated into a military dictatorship and an ineffective oligarchy.
  4. 1912 – The Ottomans are defeated by Italy in a short war, with the Italians gaining Libya and ending the 340-year Ottoman presence in North Africa.
  5. 1912 – First Balkan War. By a prearranged plan, Greece, Bulgaria and Serbia together launched the war against the Ottoman empire. An armistice was later agreed to end the war.
  6. 1913 – Second Balkan War. Romania entered the Second Balkan War and four days later the Ottoman empire joined the assault on Bulgaria. The Treaty of Bucharest ended the Second Balkan War. The Ottomans regained most territories lost in the First Balkan War to Bulgaria.
  7. 1913 (to 1922) – Greek genocide or ethnic cleansing by the Ottoman empire. Approximately 750,000 Ottoman Greek Christians believed to have been killed.
  8. 1914 (to 1924) – Assyrian genocide or ethnic cleansing by the Ottoman empire. Approximately 250,000 Assyrian Christians believed to have been killed.
  9. 1914 (to 1918) – World War One. Russia and Italy (Ottoman’s enemies) are allies, so it is inconceivable Ottoman would side with them. Neutrality or ‘support for the Central powers’ (Germany and Austria-Hungary) are the only options. When Enver Pasha, the Young Turk strong man, allied with Germany in World War One, its fate was sealed. The Ottomans are defeated.
  10. 1914 – World War One. Jews are expelled from Tel Aviv by Ottoman authorities.
  11. 1915 – World War One. The Armenians of Van began a general revolt, massacring all the Ottomans in the vicinity to make easy conquest by the Russians. Ottoman said Armenians had sided with Russia and issued an order for the mass deportation of Armenians. 
  12. 1915 – World War One. The Ottoman empire initiates Genocide of Christian Armenians; over one million Armenians are killed. Of the 1.75 million Armenians in Ottoman at the outset of World War One, 250,000 fled into Russia. Some 600,000 starved to death in the Mesopotamian desert.
  13. 1915 – World War One. Australian, British, French and New Zealand troops invade Gallipoli (in Ottoman), which is successfully defended by Ottoman forces led by Mustafa Kemal.
  14. 1917 – World War One. Ottoman government authorised Jews to return to Tel Aviv.
  15. 1918 – World War One. Ottoman signed the Mudros Armistice with the Allies, agreeing to end hostilities.
  16. 1919 (to 1923) – Mustafa Kemal organises the remaining Ottoman military units into an army and establishes a government of resistance at Ankara.
  17. 1922 – The nationalist government of Ottoman abolishes the sultanate, and the last Ottoman emperor Mehmed VI goes into exile.
  18. 1922 – Encouraged by Britain, Greece invades Anatolia (Asia Minor) of the Ottoman empire and presses eastward, threatening the fledgling government in Ankara. The invading armies are defeated.
  19. 1923 – Ater the attack, pursuant to the Treaty of Lausanne, most ethnic Greeks in Ottoman (1.5 million), and ethnic Turks (500,000) in Greece, migrate to the opposite country.
  20. 1923 – Abolishment of the last vestiges of the Ottoman empire and Proclamation of the Turkish Republic by Mustafa Kemal (Ataturk), its founder and first president. Mustafa Kemal was given the name Ataturk which means “Father of the Turks”. 
  21. 1923 (to 1938) – Mustafa Kemal (Ataturk) implements reforms including making Turkey secular; clause retaining Islam as state religion is removed from the constitution; greater rights for women; prohibition of the fez (headwear by men) and the veil (by women); substitution of the Latin alphabet for Arabic; Turkification of city names; and everyone adopts a surname.
  22. 1932 – Turkey becomes a member of the League of Nations.
  23. 1935 – In Istanbul, the Hagia Sophia (Byzantine cathedral) (mosque) is turned into a museum. Built in 537 the Hagia Sophia was a symbol of Byzantine grandeur until Istanbul (Constantinople) was conquered in 1453 by Muslim armies, who turned the Hagia Sophia from a church into a mosque.
  24. 1938 – President Mustafa Kemal (Ataturk) dies and is succeeded by Ismet Inonu. One-party rule continues.
  25. 1939 (to 1945) – World War Two. Turkey maintains a precarious neutrality during most of the war. Near the end, Turkey declares war on Germany and Japan, but does not take part in combat. Joins the United Nations.
  26. 1946 (to 1950) – Institution of multi-party democracy.
  27. 1950 – First free elections won by opposition Democratic Party (with 52% of the vote).
  28. 1952 – Turkey abandons Mustafa Kemal (Ataturk)’s neutralist policy and joins NATO.
  29. 1960 – Army coup against ruling Democratic Party. Prime Minister Adnan Menderes was held responsible by a kangaroo court selected by the junta and was executed with two of his ministers.
  30. 1963 – Association agreement signed with European Economic Community (EEC). Turkey is still not an official part of the European Union (EU) today in 2022.
  31. 1965 – Military rule bowed out to civilian rule, and former National Chief Ismet Inonu again loses a democratic election, this time to the Justice Party.
  32. 1974 – Turkish troops invade northern Cyprus.
  33. 1980 – Military coup follows political deadlock and civil unrest. Imposition of martial law.
  34. 1983 – General election won by Turgut Ozal’s Motherland Party. The military regime dissolved itself.
  35. 1984 – Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) launches separatist guerrilla war in southeast Turkey.
  36. 1987 – Turkey applies for full EEC membership.
  37. 1992 – 20,000 Turkish troops enter Kurdish safe havens in Iraq in anti-Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) operation.
  38. 1996 – Centre-right coalition falls. Welfare Party leader Necmettin Erbakan heads first pro-Islamic government since 1922.
  39. 1997 – Coalition resigns after campaign led by the military.
  40. 1998 – Welfare Party is banned.
  41. 1999 – Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan is captured in Kenya.
  42. 2001 – Constitutional Court bans opposition pro-Islamic Virtue Party, saying it had become focus of anti-secular activities.
  43. 2002 – Turkish men are no longer regarded in law as head of the family. The move gives women full legal equality with men.
  44. 2002 – Islamist-based Justice and Development Party (AK) wins landslide election victory. Party promises to stick to secular principles of constitution.
  45. 2003 – Justice and Development Party (AK) leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan wins seat in parliament. Within days Abdullah Gul resigns as prime minister and Recep Tayyip Erdogan takes over.
  46. 2003 – Parliament decides not to allow deployment of USA forces ahead of war in Iraq but allows USA use of Turkish air space. Parliament authorises dispatch of Turkish forces into Kurdish areas of northern Iraq.
  47. 2003 – Eyeing future EU membership, parliament passes laws easing restrictions on freedom of speech, Kurdish language rights, and on reducing political role of military.
  48. 2003 – 25 people are killed and more than 200 injured when two car bombs explode near Istanbul’s main Jewish synagogue. Days later two co-ordinated suicide bombings at the British consulate and a British bank in Istanbul kill 28 people.
  49. 2006 – Kurdish separatist group, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), declares a unilateral ceasefire in operations against the military.
  50. 2006 – EU partially freezes Turkey’s membership talks because of Ankara’s failure to open its ports and airports to Cypriot traffic.
  51. 2007 – Journalist and Armenian community leader Hrant Dink is assassinated. The murder provokes outrage in Turkey and Armenia.
  52. 2007 – Tens of thousands of supporters of secularism rally in Ankara, aiming to pressure Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan not to run in presidential elections because of his Islamist background.
  53. 2007 – Justice and Development Party (AK) wins parliamentary elections. Abdullah Gul is elected president in the following month.
  54. 2007 – Voters in a referendum back plans to have future presidents elected by the people instead of by parliament.
  55. 2008 – Thousands protest at plans to allow women to wear the Islamic headscarf to university.
  56. 2009 – The governments of Turkey and Armenia agree to normalise relations at a meeting in Switzerland.
  57. 2010 – Relations with Israel come under severe strain after nine Turkish activists are killed in an Israeli commando raid on an aid flotilla (miliary operation) attempting to reach Gaza.
  58. 2013 – Turkey government sacks numerous police chiefs over arrests of pro-government public figures on corruption charges. Observers see this as part of power struggle with former Justice and Development Party (AK) ally and influential USA-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen.
  59. 2014 – Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan wins the first direct popular election for president.
  60. 2015 – The pro-Kurdish left-wing People’s Democratic Party (HDP) enters parliament at elections, depriving the governing Justice and Development Party (AK) of its majority and stymieing plans for a referendum on executive powers for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
  61. 2015 – Governing Justice and Development Party (AK) regains parliamentary majority in snap elections but falls short of numbers needed for referendum to boost President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s powers.
  62. 2015 – Turkey shoots down a Russian military jet on Syria bombing mission. Russia, Turkey’s second-largest trading partner, imposes economic sanctions.
  63. 2015 – European Union strikes a deal whereby Turkey restricts flow of migrants into Europe, in return for €3bn (US$3.17bn) and concessions on stalled EU accession talks.
  64. 2016 – Bomb attack on military convoy in Ankara kills at least 38 people. A hard-line breakaway Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) faction – the Kurdistan Freedom Hawks (TAK) – claims responsibility.
  65. 2016 – Alleged attempted coup and subsequent crackdowns and purge occur in Turkey. Over 80,000 are arrested or detained, and 150,000 government personnel are dismissed (nearing 10% of public employees).
  66. 2016 – A gun and suicide attack on Istanbul’s Ataturk airport kills 42 people, including 13 foreign nationals. Turkish authorities believe the attack bears the hallmarks of Islamic State.
  67. 2016 – The authorities detain thousands of soldiers and judges on suspicion of involvement in a coup attempt that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says was inspired by his exiled opponent US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen. The government also shuts down dozens of media outlets, including 16 TV channels.
  68. 2017 – Uzbek gunman kills 39 people celebrating New Year at the Reina nightclub in Istanbul. Islamic State says it was behind the attack.
  69. 2017 – President Recep Tayyip Erdogan narrowly wins referendum to extend his powers.
  70. 2018 – The Turkish military launches its ”Olive Branch” land and air operation in north-western Syria, seizing large areas from Kurdish control, including the town of Afrin.
  71. 2019 – US withdraws troops from northern Syria, prompting Turkey to attack US Kurdish allies in the area.
  72. 2020 – The Hagia Sophia is converted from a museum into a mosque.
  73. 2020 (to 2022) – COVID-19 pandemic caused more than 98,000 deaths in Turkey.
  74. 2022 – Turkey has 85.9 million people.

© Comasters June 2022.

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