Assignment on Modernization and Cultural Reconfiguration of Turkey

As a predominantly Muslim nation with a democratic tradition and government, Turkey has become the symbolic bridge between the democratic West and the Islamic East. Within the past decade, Turkey has embraced its unique position and now seeks to become a major player in the international community, starting in its own neighborhood. Turkey has a unique history, with both an Islamic past and a secular and democratic present. The idea that a nation with a majority Muslim population would embrace a wholly secular and democratic government was groundbreaking when Kemal Ataturk introduced the concept in the 1920’s, and it has endured for the past ninety years. In 2001, the Adalet ve Kalkinma Partisi (AKP), a party with Islamist roots, took power and since that time a political shift has been taking place.

The AKP’s rise to power and subsequent changes in Turkey’s domestic and foreign policy have led many observers and analysts to assert Turkey is moving away from secularism towards becoming an Islamic state, like its forbearer, the Ottoman Empire.The shift of Turkish religio-cultural phenomena can be traced as from Islamism to secularism, from secularism to pluralism and from pluralism to the revivalism of Islam. The present is identified as the transitional period from pluralism to Islamic cultural reconfiguration.However to understand the politico-cultural change of Turkey, we have to start our discussion from the historic period, especially from the period of Ottoman Turk.This paper has provided a chronological scrutiny regarding the cultural shift of the Ttate of Turkey. All the faces are briefly discussed below.

The first historical references to the Turks appear in Chinese records of about 200 B.C. These records refer to tribes called the Hsiung-nu, an early form of the Western term Hun, who lived in an area, bounded by the Altai Mountains, Lake Baikal, and the northern edge of the Gobi Desert and are believed to have been the ancestors of the Turks. Specific references in Chinese sources in the sixth century A.D. identify the tribal kingdom called Tu-Küe located on the Orkhon River south of Lake Baikal. The khan’s chiefs of this tribe accepted the nominal suzerainty of the Tang dynasty. Other Turkish nomads from the Altai region founded the Görtürk Empire, a confederation of tribes under a dynasty of khans whose influence extended during the sixth to eighth centuries from the Aral Sea to the Hindu Kush in the land bridge known as Transoxania, i.e., across the Oxus River. The Görtürks are known to have been enlisted by a Byzantine emperor in the seventh century as allies against the Sassanians. In the eighth century some Turkish tribes, among them the Oguz, moved south of the Oxus River, while others migrated west to the northern shore of the Black Sea. 

Cultural Features of Turkey under Ottoman Empire
The political and geographical entity governed by the Muslim Ottoman Turks and Their Empire was centered in present-day Turkey, and extended its influence into southeastern Europe as well as the Middle East. Europe was only temporarily able to resist their advance. The turning point came at the Battle of Varna in 1444 when a European coalition army failed to stop the Turkish advance. Only Constantinople remained in Byzantine hands and its conquest in 1453 seemed inevitable after Varna. The Turks subsequently established an empire in Anatolia and southeastern Europe which lasted until the early twentieth century. Although the Ottoman Empire is not considered a European kingdom per se, Ottoman expansion had a profound impact on a continent already stunned by the calamities of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries and the Ottoman Turks must, therefore, be considered in any study of Europe in the late Middle Ages. The ease with which the Ottoman Empire achieved military victories led Western Europeans to fear that ongoing Ottoman success would collapse the political and social infrastructure of the West and bring about the downfall of Christendom. Such a momentous threat could not be ignored and the Europeans mounted crusades against the Ottomans in 1366, 1396, and 1444, but to no avail. The Ottomans continued to conquer new territories. One of a number of Turkish tribes that migrated from the central Asian steppe, the Ottomans were initially a nomadic people who followed a primitive shamanistic religion. Contact with various settled peoples led to the introduction of Islam and under Islamic influence, the Turks acquired their greatest fighting tradition, that of the gazi warrior. Well trained and highly skilled, gazi warriors fought to conquer the infidel, acquiring land and riches in the process. While the gazi warriors fought for Islam, the greatest military asset of the Ottoman Empire was the standing paid army of Chiristian soldiers. Originally created in 1330 Orhan gazi the janissaries were Chiristian captives from conquered territories. Educated in the Islamic faith and trained as soldiers, the janissaries were forced to provide annual Murad1 tribute in the form of military service. To counter the challenges of the gazi nobility transformed the new military force into the elite personal army of the Sultan. They were rewarded for their loyalty with grants of newly acquired land and jansssaries quickly rose to fill the most important administrative offices of the Ottoman Empire. Ottoman expansion into Europe was well underway in the late 14th century. Although the Turkish presence in Italy was short-lived, it appeared as if Rome itself must soon fall into Islaamic hands. In 1529, the Ottomans had moved up the Danube and besieged Vienna. The siege was unsuccessful and the Turks began to retreat. Although the Ottomans continued to instill fear well into the 16th century, internal struggles began to deteriorate the once overwhelming military supremacy of the Ottoman Empire. The outcome of battles was no longer a foregone conclusion and Europeans began to score victories against the Turks.