29th October

Turkey Republic Day

Most of modern Turkey lies on the Anatolian Peninsula, one of the oldest permanent settlements in the world. It is thought that all Indo-European languages came from here. The European bit, the Eastern Thrace, is also pretty old, and had Neolithic farming in 6,000 B.C.

The Hattians and the Hurrians lived here until the Hittites came along (I know, it’s great) and founded the Hittite Empire (18th-13th century B.C.!) A load of others invaded, Assyrians, Phrygians, Cimmerians, etc., but when the Greeks came and founded Byzantium in 657 B.C. it started to get interesting.

In the 6th-5th centuries B.C. Turkey was part of the Persian Achaemenid Empire, which fell to Alexander the Great in 334 B.C. The Battle of Troy was fought here, and the architectural site is a big tourist attraction.

Then it became part of the Roman empire, by which time the Anatolian language had been replaced by Greek. In 324, Constantine I chose Byzantium as the Roman capital (which is why it became called Constantinople) and when the Empire was divided, Byzantium became the capital of its eastern half.

In the 11th century, Seljuks (Muslim Turks) invaded and introduced Turkish and Islam. They were then defeated by the Mongols, and one Turkish king who remained, Osman I, founded the dynasty of Ottoman Turks who would rule the Ottoman Empire.

The Ottoman Empire took over the Byzantine Empire in 1453 when it took Constantinople. Portugal turned out to be the empire’s main rivals for dominance over the Silk Road and the Indian Ocean.

The Empire peaked under Suleiman the Magnificent (look at that turban….)

Its rival now was the Holy Roman Empire, as the Ottomans marched on through the Balkans to Poland-Lithuania. In the 19th century it began to decline; Russia took the Caucasus, and Muslim Turks settled in the Balkans mainly fled back to Constantinople.

The Ottoman Empire entered WWI and was defeated. During the war the Ottomans decided to get rid of the Armenians, and while the Armenian men were mainly fighting for their country abroad, the women, children and elderly were sent on death marches into the Syrian desert without food or water. 1.5 million Armenians were killed and the word ‘genocide’ was coined in 1943 to describe this mass murder. Turkey does not recognise it as genocide yet.

After WWI you’d think everyone would have a break, but actually the Allies occupied Constantinople and insisted (in the Treaty of Sèvres) that the Ottoman Empire hand over all non-Turkish land and divide it between (British-owned) Palestine and (French-owned) Syria.

So then the Turkish War of Independence booted them out in 1922, and we all signed the Treaty of Lausanne, which defined nearly all of Turkey’s borders except with Iraq, but didn’t give the Kurds their own homeland, which is why they’re always kind of in the wrong country.There was also some weird population exchange, wherein Greece sent over 380,000 Muslims in return for 1.1 million Greeks.

Mustafa Kemal, who had led the war of independence, became the first president of the Republic. They managed to stay out of most of WWII, and they got a lot of economic support from America’s Truman Doctrine so they didn’t fall into Russia’s hands afterwards.

Cyprus had a bit of a wobble in 1974, when a military coup installed the dictator Nikos Sampson who wanted union with Greece. Turkey invaded, took the north of Cyprus, and by 1983 this had declared itself the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which only Turkey recognises. Turkey itself still has problems with some separatist Kurds who keep terrorising people.

Their national sport is oiled wrestling….Try making Turkish delight, or buy some and have a Turkish tea party, with coffee (use Nesquik or dandelion and burdock for the kids?) in a pan or tea in tulip-shaped glasses.

Cambodia Coronation Day – see 9th November


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