The Republic of Turkey, founded in 1923, has its roots in two historical sources deep in the depths of the past. One of these resources inherited by modern Turkey is the successful and shining history of the Turks over a time frame of more than 4,000 years. The other is the fact that Turks have been settled in Anatolia since the 11th century.
The first Turkish tribe that is mentioned in history is the Huns. Clear records about the Huns made their appearance in the 8th century B.C. Chinese sources refer to the Huns as Hiung-nu and in time, some of the Huns migrated to the West.
Founded in 552 AD by Bumin Khan, the Gokturks engaged in widespread diplomatic activity. The famed Orhun epitaphs from this period are made up of the tombstone inscriptions of Tonyukuk (d.720), Kültigin (d.731) and Bilge Kagan (d.734)
The rule of the Göktürks was brought to an end in the year 745 by the Uygurs, who were of the same ethnic stock as themselves. In this manner all the Turks who had converged under the banner of the Göktürks were dispersed to that of the Uygurs that the agricultural basin where they lived became known as Turkistan. In the year 1229, the Mongols put an end to Uygur sovereignty; the Uygurs however, became their cultural and political mentors.
The Turks and Islam
Contacts between the Turks and Moslems commenced at the beginning of the 8th century and some of the Turks began to favour Islam. However the pro-Arab policies of the Omayads (661-750 A.D) restricted these relations somewhat. Later, many Moslem Turks took office in the Abbside government and because of this, great interest in the Islamic world spread among the Turks beyond the River Ceyhun. Commercial caravans also played a major role in the spread of Islam into the steppes of Central Asia. The Turks became fully Moslem by the 10th century, and this resulted in the achievement to political unity. Following these developments, the first Moslem Turkish state was formed by the Karahans.
The Karahans ruled between 990-1212 in Turkistan and Maveraünnehir. The reign of the Karahans is especially significant from the point of view of Turkish culture and art history. It is during this period that mosques, schools, bridges and caravansarays were constructed in the cities. Buhara and Samarkand became centres of learning. In the period, the Turkish language found the means to develop. Among the most important works of the period is Kutadgu Bilik (translated as “The Knowledge That Gives Happiness”) written by Yusuf Has Hacib, between the years 1069-1070.
The Ghaznavi state was formed in the year 963 by the Turkish ruler Sevuktekin and is one of the first Moslem Turkish states and worked relentlessly for the expansion of Islam in India. The Ghaznavids finally collapsed in 1186 and were assimilated by the Oguz.
The Turkish scholar Ebu Reyhan el-Beyruni makes this period an important one within Islamic cultural history and wrote the famed work by the poet Firdevsi, the ?ehname, was also written in this period (A.D. 1009).
The Oguz, who destroyed the Ghaznavid state, succeeded in bringing Anatolia, Iraq, the southern part of the Caucasus, Azerbaijan and the north of Iran under Turkish rule. The Oguz had first formed the Göktürk Empire in the 6th century; after the expansion of Islam among the Turks, but among the Turks the Oguz came to be called the Turkmens.
Tu?rul Bey and Çagry (Çakyr) Bey were the grandsons of Seljuks whose name the Seljuks Dynasty adopted. In their time they, and the Oguz, known as the Seljuks in history, subdued Horasan, defeated the Ghaznavid ruler Mesud in Dandanakan Battle and established the Great Seljuk empire in 1040.
In 1071, Alp Arslan (1063-1072) fought the battle of Malazgirt and having defeated the Byzantine Emperor’s forces in this battle opened the doors of Anatolia to the Moslem Turk.
The year 1071 is considered to be the beginning of the Turks and that of Islam Anatolia. It is following this date that the Turks fully conquered the whole of Anatolia and established the Anatolian Seljuk state there as a part of the great Seljuk Empire.
The first schooling institutions, the Moslem theological medreses, were formed in Anatolia during the time of Kylyç Arslan (1153-1192), one in Konya and the other in Aksaray. Following the establishment of these two medreses the medreses of Syrcaly in Konya (1242-1243), Karatay (1251), Ynce Minareli (1251-1253), Atabekkiye (after 1251-1268), Gökmedrese in Sivas (1271), Buruciye (1271-1272), Çifte Minareli (1271), and the Cacoglu in Kirsehir (1272) were established.
The Seljuks also attributed much importance to the medical sciences and in almost all their cities medical institutions called Darush-Shifa, Darul-Afiye and Darus-Sihna and hospitals were set up. The main medical treatment centres are the Gevher Nesibe in Kayseri (1205), the Izzettin I Keykavus in Sivas (1217), the Torumtay in Amasya (1266), the Muinuddin Pervane in Tokat (1275) and the Pervaneoglu Ali in Kastamonu (1272).
Because of the Persian influence coming from Iran among the intellectuals, the administrators, the men of arts and the traders, the Anatolian Seljuk state became increasingly affected by Iranian culture and language.
The Period Principalities
Political unity in Anatolia was disrupted from the time of the collapse of the Anatolia Seljuk State at the beginning of the 14th century (1308), when until the beginning of the 16th century each of the regions in the country fell under the domination of Beyliks ( Principalities). Eventually, the Ottoman Principality which destroyed all the other Principalities and restored political unity in Anatolia, was established in the Eskiqehir, Bilecik and Bursa areas.
On the other hand, the area in central Anatolia east of the Ankara-Aksaray line as far as the area of Erzurum remained under the administration of the Ilhani General Governor until 1336. The infighting in Ilhan gave the principalities in Anatolia their complete independence. In addition to this, new Turkish principalities were formed in the localities previously under Ilhan occupation.
During the 14th century, the Turkomans, who made up the western Turks, started to re-establish their previous political sovereignty in the Islamic world.
Rapid developments in the Turkish language and culture toot place during the time of the Anatolia Principalities. In this period, the Turkish language began to be used in the sciences and in literature, and became the official language of the Principalities. New medreses were established and progress was made in the medical sciences during this period.
Gül?ehri, Nesimi (d.1404) and ahmedi (1325-1412) are the prominent Turkish language poets of the 15th century.
The Ottoman Principality was founded by a Turkoman tribe living on the Turkish-Byzantine border. The geographic location of the principality and the weak state of the Byzantines combined to make the Ottoman principality the strongest state within the Islamic world by the 14th century.
When Fatih Sultah Mehmet II. conguered the Byzantine capital in 1453, the Ottoman state became the strongest of the time. The tolerant approach taken by Fatih Sultan Mehmet II toward other religions and to the adherents thereof became a tradition accepted by his successors. Following the capture of Istanbul, the Orthodox Church was freed from obedience to the Catholic Church and granted its independence.
On the other hand, the technical superiority of the Ottoman army began to be evident during the reign of Selim I. The Ottomans has added, in addition to the major part of east Anatolia, the lands considered holy in the Islamic world-Mecca and Medine and their territories.
The brightest period of the Ottoman State was during the reign of Sultan Suleyman (1520-1555) when the boundaries of the Empire spread from the outskirts of Vienna to the Persian Gulf and from the Crimea to an expanded north Africa as far as Ethiopia.
The Ottoman empire continued to acquire territory until the middle of the 17th century. In 1683, it suffered its first major defeat in the siege of Vienna.
As the losses of land and sought continued, the Ottoman Empire sought salvation in a series of reform movements and established education institutions taking after the western institutions which had shown great developments after the Renaissance.
The declaration of the “Tanzimat” Reform movement in 1839 is considered a major link in the chain of modernization events which had continued unabated since the beginning of the 17th century.
The Tanzimat Decree is considered to be a kind of constitution which gave Turkey the means to enter road to contemporary civilization.
The principles inherent in the Tanzimat Reform Decree thereby laid the basis for the constitutional regime of modern Turkey and the realization of secularism.
Despite many internal problems and disturbances during the reign of Abdülaziz (1861-1876) the effects of westernization in society became even more evident. Namyk Kemal, Ziya Pasha, Mustafa Fazyl Pasha and his friends published the newspaper “Hürriyet” (Freedom) in London in the year 1864. The literary themes of the newspaper later gave way to political issues. Although it is because of these trends that the first constitution was promulgated under the leadership of Mithat Pasha in 1876, Sultan Abdülhamid II (1876-1909) used the Ottoman-Russian war (1877-78) as an excuse to dissolve Parliament and effectively put an end to this constitutional period. The Ottoman empire entered the First World War in 1914 on the side of the allied powers.
The Ottoman State emerged defeated from the war, together with its allies, and was compelled to sign the Mudrow Armistice on October 30, 1918. Also among the terms of the armistice was a provision that the cocupying powers might occupy areas deemed to be of strategic importance; the powers started therefore to occupy Anatolia on November 1, 1918 according to these terms.
On May 15, 1919, the Greeks occupied Yzmir. A national resistance movement commenced. In many areas of the country the Society For Defence of Rights (Müdafaa-i Hukuk) started to spring up, and the military arm of the society, called the Kuvayi Milliye. Started to take action.
The resistance movement was, until Mustafa Kemal landed at Samsun, sporadic and disorganized; under his leadership the resistance became cohesive, its forces progressively turned into an organized army and the movement became a full scale war of independence.