Turkey History

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History

Asia Minor was inhabited anciently by several peoples including the Hittites who flourished until about 1200 B.C. By the time of Christ, Asia Minor was mostly under Greek influence but incorporated into the Roman Empire. After the collapse of the Roman Empire the area of Turkey was part of the Greek-oriented Byzantine Empire. At the beginning of the eleventh century A.D. a new conquest of Anatolia began, that of the Turks.

Turkish tribes came out of central Asia and, coming in contact with Muslim Arabs, were converted to Islam in the ninth century. Many Turks served the Arab Caliphate, the dominion of Mohammed’s successors, and soon came to provide the bulk of its armies, its generals, and eventually its rulers. Under the leadership of the family of Seljuk, the Turks were able to set up a great empire consisting of the eastern lands of the Caliphate. By the end of the twelfth century the Seljuks had conquered most of Anatolia and had built up a strong Turkish presence. Anatolia gradually became a Turkish land. Masses of Turkish immigrants from further east entered the country and a Turkish, Muslim civilization replaced Greek Christianity. The Seljuk empire fell into decay and gradually gave way to a number of smaller principalities. One of these was ruled by a certain Osman (or Ottman), from whom the name Ottoman is derived. The Ottoman state immediately embarked on a great movement of expansion. Soon, the Ottoman armies had taken control of all of Anatolia and most of the Balkan peninsula. Constantinople fell to the Turks in 1453. This great city, named stanbul by the Turks, became the capital of the Ottoman empire. The Ottomans pressed on into southeastern Europe driving as far as Vienna where they were turned back in 1529 and again in 1683. Meanwhile, in 1517, the Ottomans had wrested territory from the Arab Mameluke realm and within a few years controlled Syria, Iraq, much of Arabia, Egypt, and all of North Africa as far as Morocco. During the 1500s the Ottoman Empire was at the height of its power. The Sultan of the Empire was the very Caliph of Islam. A skilled and highly-organized bureaucracy secured for the peoples of the Empire peace, justice, and prosperity. Scholarship and the arts flourished; and the Ottoman armies and fleets seemed to threaten the very existence of western Christendom.

The Ottoman Empire began a decline as Europe began its renaissance. The development of science and technology in Europe and the shift of the main routes of international trade from the Mediterranean to the open seas strengthened Europe and left Turkey in a backwater of cultural and economic stagnation. Nationalist ideals spread from the west to the subject people of the empire. One by one, the Serbs, Greeks, Romanians, and Bulgarians threw off the yoke of Ottoman rule. A new spirit stirred among the Turks themselves. During the 1800s a series of reforming sultans and ministers started a program of reform and modernization. Then from 1878 to 1908 a new sultan repressed every attempt at liberal thought and reform. In 1908, an opposition group known as the Young Turks seized power and began a new constitution, parliamentary government, and a series of reforms. But internal dissension and World War I stifled their promising start. The Ottoman Empire entered the war on the side of the Germans.

After defeating the Ottoman Empire, the allies set up a small Turkish state in the northern part of Asia Minor, awarded the region of zmir to the Greeks and attempted to parcel out the rest of Turkey. The Turkish reaction was swift and vigorous. Turkish nationalism, hitherto limited to intellectuals, became a movement of the ethnically Turkish masses to preserve the integrity and independence of the Turkish homeland. In February 1920 Mustafa Kemal, a Turkish World War I hero, and his associates issued the National Pact which renounced the Ottoman Empire and Turkish domination of the ethnically non-Turkish provinces. They also demanded the total and unconditional independence of all areas inhabited by Turks. This declaration was approved by the legal parliament of the Empire. In April 1920 Turkish nationalists declared that the sultan and his government were deposed. A new constitution was drafted and a new government set up with Mustafa Kemal as president. In August 1920 the reigning Ottoman sultan in Istanbul accepted the allies’ treaty carving up Anatolia and allied powers began to occupy Turkish territory. The new Turkish government of Kemal in Ankara rejected this treaty. Led by Kemal, the Turks fought to expel the allied invaders. Despite several setbacks, the Turks reclaimed all of the Turkish territory in Asia Minor then took back territory in eastern Thrace, west of the Bosporus. In November 1922 the sultan’s cabinet resigned and the sultan went into exile. A treaty with the allied governments, signed in July 1923, recognized complete and undivided Turkish sovereignty.[1]

References

  1. The Family History Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Family History Record Profile: Turkey,” Word document, private files of the FamilySearch Content Strategy Team, 1998.