Turkish history extends back thousands of years before the founding of the Turkish Republic in 1923. Turks, originally a nomadic people from Central Asia, established several empires, including the Seljuk Empire and later the Ottoman Empire, which was founded in Anatolia by Turkish ruler Osman in 1299. The Ottomans took Constantinople in 1453 and became a dominant world power encompassing Anatolia, the Maghreb in North Africa, southeastern Europe, parts of the Arabian Peninsula and Persian Gulf, modern day Iraq, and portions of the Caucasus. Consequently, the Ottoman Empire had a religiously and ethnically diverse population. Ottoman loss of territory starting in the 17th century prompted constitutional, educational, and military reforms to begin in the late 18th century. However, due to fragmentation of national groups within the empire, slow economic and technological progress, and the Ottomans’ ill-fated alliance with Germany, the empire collapsed at the end of World War I. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who had risen to prominence as a war hero in the Battle of Gallipoli, subsequently united disparate Turkish forces against the foreign occupation of Turkish lands and in favor of national sovereignty.
When the Turkish Republic was founded in 1923 following the successful Turkish War of National Liberation, Ataturk instituted sweeping reforms that would affect every part of Turkish society. Among other changes, he ordered the conversion of the Turkish alphabet from Arabic to Latin script, encouraged European dress, and incorporated German, Swiss, and Italian law codes into Turkish law. Ultimately, he fashioned the government to emulate Western parliamentary democracy. Turkey’s Western orientation would later contribute to its being a charter member of the United Nations, its inclusion in NATO since 1952, and its pursuit of EU membership. Today, Turkey’s partnership with the West, its geographic location, and its identity as a majority-Muslim nation with a secular and democratic constitution make it a key player in its region and in the world.As part of its mission to enhance understanding of Turkey and Turkish Americans, TCA has compiled the below resources to provide further information on Turkish history. These lists are for informational purposes only and do not necessarily constitute TCA’s endorsement of or association with these sources.