All About Turkey (FSF Cultural Exploration)
Updated: Mar 5
Turkey is a large country situated on the Anatolian Peninsula, the intersection between Europe and Asia. Because of its geographic position, many non-Turkish ethnic groups reside throughout the country. This leads its society to be influenced by both eastern and western culture. This has resulted in Turkey having a unique blend between tradition and modernity. However, in spite of the wide array of diversity throughout the country, the people are united by their national pride in being Turkish.
Turks were originally a nomadic people from Central Asia that went on to establish several empires, culminating in the Ottoman Empire in 1299. In 1453, the Ottomans captured the city of Constantinople, later renamed Istanbul, and became a dominant world power. The empire lost large swaths of territory in the 17th century, which prompted reforms in the military, education, and government in the 18th century. However, this was not enough to stop its decline.
The Ottoman Empire, due to aligning with Germany in World War I, was defeated and occupied by the Allied Powers in the aftermath of the war. This prompted the Turkish Nationalist Movement in 1918, which expelled foreign forces in 1922 when it won the Turkish War of National Liberation. In 1923, the nationalists established the Republic of Turkey and moved their capital from Istanbul, the center of Ottoman influence, to the more defensible Ankara. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, leader of the nationalists, then implemented major reforms to further modernize the country. These included converting the Turkish Alphabet to the Latin script, encouraging European dress, and implementing Western law codes into the government to create a parliamentary democracy. This westernization contributed to it becoming a charter member of the United Nations, joining NATO in 1952, and pursuing EU membership. Today, Turkey’s identity as a major secular, democratic Muslim nation with close ties to the West makes it a major player in regional and world affairs.
Turkish Societal Values
Turkish identity is deeply tied to the idea of honor. A person’s honor is determined by both personal actions and the actions of those one is associated with. This means that if someone behaves dishonorably, it can taint others’ view of their friends and family. This creates a cultural pressure on individuals to protect their personal reputation as well as the image of those around them. This can be seen in people showing off their integrity by stressing their positive qualities, speaking highly of people around them, and adhering closely to social expectations. Honor can typically be gained through honesty, generosity, and achievements, though this can vary depending on region, education, and family background.
Turkey has a strong collectivist culture where strong loyalty is expected to be shown to one’s family, social groups, and the nation as a whole. People typically have stronger ties with neighbors than is typically seen in the West. Friends are typically incredibly loyal with it not being uncommon to call on large social networks for opportunities and support. This, however, does not preclude Turks from being inviting to strangers as neighborliness is highly encouraged. This leaves little room for privacy or seclusion in daily life, with personal details about someone often being widely known and quickly shared amongst the wider community. This leads people to be careful to keep private information purely within the family. This social cohesion has weakened slightly in recent years as the younger generation is more individualistic and technology more prevalent.
Turkey Culture: Conclusion
Turkey is a country that is both traditional and modern, western and eastern. This owes to its history and geography as it is located at the intersection between Europe and Asia and the modern state was founded by a nationalist movement that pushed for progressive reforms. The remnants of this can be seen throughout Turkish culture. The nation has a strong sense of honor that leads people regardless of class to adhere closely to societal expectations. Turkey is also incredibly collectivistic, which leads to a strong group mentality and an openness towards others.
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