Empire, Republic, Democracy: A History of Turkey


When people from the
West look at Turkey, they either understand
it as completely secular or completely Islamist. We are both and we are neither. This is not a simple
homogeneous country. This is a country where
you’ve had civilization upon civilization layered
on top of one another. If you go back over
history, you will see that Anatolia
has been essentially a center of the world. The Ottoman Empire was one
of the long lasting empires of human history. They believed in the age of
nationalism, the only way to save the empire
was to modernize. Ataturk believed that the
Turks were hopelessly behind, that they were trapped in the
quicksand of the Middle East. So he violently uprooted
them from that quicksand and completely reoriented
them towards the West. Nothing like this had ever
been seen in the Muslim world. The Turks have since
Ataturk seen themselves as as much a part
of Europe as they are a part of the Middle East. Turkey has become something
of a model for how a Muslim country can
also become a democracy. It’s also trying to reconcile
an authentic identity with the challenges of
living in the modern world, with rural societies
and rapid urbanization, and how to think about a
culture changes with the times but still remains
true to itself. What we’re talking about
are rights, about tolerance, of people who are different. What kind of democracy is this? Is this a democracy where
the winner takes all? Or is this going to be a
liberal democracy where the winner of the
election also feels it’s their duty to
represent everyone. It’s a tipping point
right now, but we don’t know how
it’s going to tip. [MUSIC PLAYING]




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