A wide range of cultures have flourished in
the area that today constitutes Turkey, which has left
its mark on a great wealth of cultural heritage. But
even modern Turkey has a strong cultural life in
literature, art and music.
Numerous memorials testify to Asia Minor as a
crossroads of cultures. Here lay ancient Troy and the
apostle Paul's hometown of Tarsus. An early Christian
art developed both in the Byzantine Empire in the west
and among the Armenians in the east. Trade and cultural
exchange between Asia and Europe followed the Silk Road,
which reached the Mediterranean from the east via what
is now eastern and southern Turkey.
Latest population statistics of Turkey, including religious profiles and major languages spoken as well as population growth rates in next three decades.
Through the arrival of the Turks, Asia Minor was
incorporated into the Islamic cultural sphere. However,
the Turks occupied Byzantine elements in their art and
architecture. The 16th century architect Mimar Sinan is
one of the foremost in the entire history of
architecture and was responsible for hundreds of
projects in the Ottoman Empire, including mosques,
palaces and bridges. He was the author of several of
Istanbul's most famous buildings.
In the arts, Turkey is known for carpets, ceramics
and metalwork. The music has retained much of its
Arabic and Persian influence is evident in the
classical literature and court poetry of the Ottoman
period, which peaked in the 15th and 16th centuries.
Alongside this there was a rich folk storytelling
tradition in the Anatolian countryside. During the 19th
century, Turkish writers began to draw inspiration from
popular culture. From the middle of the 19th century
many intellectuals studied in France.
The most famous Turkish writer of the 20th century
was the poet and playwright Nazım Hikmet (1902–1963). He
spent several years in prison because he was a Marxist.
Hikmet left Turkey in 1950. His books were banned until
1965, but in January 2009 Hikmet posthumously regained
his Turkish citizenship which he was deprived of after
emigrating to Poland. Other writers who debuted during
the 20th century were Yaşar Kemal (1923–2015,
occasionally residing in Sweden), Aziz Nesin, Mahmut
Makal and Orhan Pamuk (Nobel laureate in literature
In 2003 and 2004, freedom of expression was expanded,
but in 2005 a backlash came. Orhan Pamuk was prosecuted
for insulting the Republic and "Turkish" after saying in
an interview that "one million Armenians and 30,000
Kurds have been killed in this country."
Many other writers, cultural figures and
intellectuals have also been prosecuted for violating
the notorious section 301 and similar legal texts.
Mehmet Uzun, mentioned as the foremost modern author in
Kurdish, returned to Turkey in 2006 after 15 years of
exile in Sweden. When his work from the exile was
published in Turkey, he was prosecuted several times but
acquitted. Uzun passed away in 2007.
The charges have continued even after Section 301 was
"reworked" in 2008. Today, the Ministry of Justice is
required to bring charges with reference to Section 301.
In June 2008, however, the publisher Ragıp Zarakolu was
sentenced to five months in prison for having issued a
British book on the 1915 mass murder of Armenians.
During the 2000s, Nuri Bilge Ceylan has emerged as
one of Europe's leading film directors. Several of his
films have been awarded at the Cannes festival.
Since the beginning of the century, a large number of
Turkish TV soaps have been exported to dozens of
countries, mainly in the Muslim world, where they have
made great success. Millions of viewers have been
inspired by the fact that the people in the films are
portrayed as modern and liberated without violating the
basic values of Islam. The TV series has helped to
popularize Turkey as a country, all the way from the
Balkans to Southeast Asia.
Turkey's large dam construction projects have placed
ancient remains in the south and southeast under water.
Since this 2000 hit the ancient Roman city of Zeugma at
the Euphrates, a newly awakened opinion began to demand
greater consideration from the authorities and electric
power developers. Work on a pond at Hasankeyf at Tigris,
a site with both scenic scenes and historical monuments,
has received a lot of attention and foreign financiers
have withdrawn from the project after criticism. Work
has continued with domestic financing, not least for
prestige reasons. Intensive dam construction is also
ongoing in the Black Sea region. In January 2010, groups
from different parts of Turkey formed the so-called
Water Council to coordinate their actions. The Water
Council was said to want to counterbalance the
development and energy lobbyists who now seemed to have
all the authorities in their grip.
In Istanbul, perhaps 100,000 historically interesting
wooden buildings threaten to collapse. The Ministry of
Culture has banned the owners from restoring on their
own, but lacks the means to inventory and document the
buildings. In 2018, it was reported that many of the old
Bosphorus villas find foreign buyers (see Calendar). In
2010, Istanbul was one of the EU's "European capitals of
Since the Turkish army resumed the war against the
Kurdish PKK guerrilla in 2014, several cities in the
south-east have been exposed to heavy fire. The old town
center of Sur in Diyarbakır, classified by Unesco as
part of a world cultural heritage, was reported to be in
ruins in 2016.
The UNESCO World Heritage List includes almost 20
places in Turkey. In addition to Istanbul's historic
sights, Greek and Roman sites such as Troy and the rocky
landscape of Cappadocia, one can mention a stone-age
remnant, sometimes described as the world's oldest
temple: Göbekli Tepe, the "Isterbukskullen", near
Şanlıurfa in the southeast.
AKP members jump off
In a short space of time, five of the AKP MPs leave the party in protest
against the corruption scandal and the "arrogance" of the party leadership.
Among the jumpers is a former Minister of Culture and former national team
player in football Hakan Şükür.
The government is trying to slow down the work of the police
A government decree that police are not allowed to start investigations
without the approval of their top managers is blocked by the so-called State
Council, the country's highest administrative court, which says the order
violates the constitutional principle of power sharing. A prosecutor who has
worked with corruption corruption has been removed from the investigation after
he complained that the police had not made the arrests that he had ordered. The
state prosecutor explains the relocation with the prosecutor leaking information
to the media.
Scandal traps ministers
The three ministers whose sons are suspected of corruption are leaving. One
of them, Environment Minister Erdoğan Bayraktar, says that most of the alleged
illegal projects he was accused of lying behind had been approved by direct
orders from the Prime Minister. He urges the Prime Minister to resign himself.
Instead, he responds with a major government reform with ten new ministers. One
of those dismissed is EU Minister Egemen Bağış, who has also been singled out
The government strikes back against corruption disclosures
At least 50 people have been arrested in police raids for suspected
corruption in connection with public tenders on major construction projects and
illegal transfer of money to Iran. Among the arrested are several leading people
in business and three sons of ministers in the AKP government. The arrests are
followed by extensive high-level purges from the police force. Among the more
than 100 police officers who are dismissed or relocated are the chief of the
Istanbul Police and those responsible for actions against economic crime,
organized crime and smuggling. Prime Minister Erdoğan accuses them of abusing
power and says the raids have been part of a campaign against the government. He
also says that those behind the arrests tried to create "a state in the
state",and Modern History). The corruption scandal soon emerges as the worst
crisis so far for the AKP government and is interpreted as a tightened power
struggle between the government and the Gülen movement, which is considered to
have significant support within the police force and the courts. The crisis also
exposes cracks within party leadership with internal demands for Erdoğan to
dismiss corruption-suspected ministers. Prosecutors call on Parliament to
suspend the legal immunity of four ministers, including the Minister of Finance
and the EU Minister. A few days after the mass arrests, prosecution is brought
against 24 people, including two sons of a minister, an Azerbaijani businessman
and CEO of the state-owned Halkbank (Folkbanken).
Migrants to the EU can be taken back
Turkey signs an agreement with the EU to take back migrants who have entered
the European Union illegally from Turkey. At the same time, Turkey and the EU
decide to start negotiations on allowing Turkish citizens to visit EU countries
without a visa.
Diplomatic conflict with Egypt
Turkey's ambassador to Cairo has been expelled after Prime Minister Erdoğan
once again criticized the military's takeover of Egypt and the clap of
Islamists. Turkey responds by explaining the Egyptian envoy in Ankara persona
Work on a new constitution breaks down
The parliamentary committee, which for two years worked on a new
constitution, gives up the attempts. The representatives of the four parties
have only managed to agree on about 60 articles, not even half of what a
constitution would contain. The differences of opinion in Turkish society are so
strong that, for example, politicians could not agree on how Turkish citizenship
should be defined or how religious freedom should be protected. Thus, the AKP
government does not appear to be able to fulfill one of its most important
promises from the 2011 election campaign.
Lifetime of Communist journalists
Six journalists are sentenced to life imprisonment for membership in the
Marxist-Leninist Communist Party (MLKP). Among them is Fusun Erdoğan, who leads
Kurdish-speaking Özgür Radio. He has been detained since 2006. The European
Journalist Federation condemns the "absurd" rulings and describes them as an
expression of the Turkish government's demand for total social control.
- The EU agrees to resume membership negotiations with Turkey after a
three-year hiatus. For the time being, negotiations are limited to the
chapter in the EU acquis on regional development.
20,000 are imprisoned under terrorist law for four years
The Ministry of Justice reveals that 20,000 people have been imprisoned with
reference to the country's anti-terror laws over the past four years, of which
8,000 alone in the last twelve months. Most people have not been guilty of
violent crimes. A significant proportion of those convicted are Kurds, often
members of the legal party BDP.
Headscarf and beard are allowed, allegiance is abolished
The ban on female civil servants to wear Islamic scarves is abolished with
immediate effect. Male public servants are allowed to grow beards. The
prohibitions remain for judges, prosecutors, police and military. At the same
time, the oath of allegiance to the Turkish nation, which has begun all school
days since the 1930s, is abolished.
Kurdish ceasefire increasingly fragile
PKK leader Cemal Bayık announces that the Kurdish guerrilla has canceled its
retreat from Turkish soil in response to the Turkish state's failure to comply
with its ceasefire commitments that have been in place since the beginning of
the year. The statement is confirmed a few days later in an official communiqué,
in which, however, the PKK promises to continue observing the ceasefire. The
communiqué is particularly criticized for the fact that the government and
parliament have not yet reformed criminal laws and electoral laws, granted Kurds
the right to education in their own language or created some form of regional
autonomy for the Kurdish parts of the country.
New trial against military
Just a few weeks after the many convictions in the Ergenekon affair, the
trial begins against 102 former militants accused of overthrowing Turkey's first
Islamist-led government in 1997. The bloody coup against then-Prime Minister
Necmettin Erbakan has been described as "the postmodern coup". A military
demonstration of power and a threateningly worded ultimatum pushed Erbakan to
resign. The main defendant is then Defense Secretary General Hakkı Karadayı, for
whom prosecutors are serving life imprisonment.
Hundreds of convicted for conspiracy
After a multi-year mass trial, the judges in the so-called Ergenekon affair
fall for a nationalist, secular conspiracy to oust the AKP government. Of the
275 who have faced trial, only 21 are acquitted. Former Chief of Staff General
Ilker Başbuğ is sentenced to life imprisonment. Life imprisonment is being
condemned for more militants as well as for renowned leftist politician Doğu
Perinçek and journalist Tuncay Özkan. Three MPs for the largest opposition party
CHP are sentenced to between 12 and 35 years in prison. The opposition and
independent analysts, both in Turkey and internationally, see the trial partly
as politically influenced by the AKP's willingness to put the army and hard-core
chemists in place.
Journalists are fired for reporting on protests
The Turkish Journalists' Association says that at least 72 journalists have
either been dismissed, forced to leave or pressured to resign since the protests
against the government began six weeks ago. The large Turkish media companies
are in many cases owned by large corporate groups with economic ties to the
government, and since the protests against the government erupted, there has
been increasing criticism of the self-censorship in the press. Thousands of
people have felt referred to social media such as Facebook and Twitter to get a
picture of the events.
The peace process is threatened
The PKK accuses the Turkish government of deliberately trying to derail the
peace process. The Kurdish guerrilla criticizes the army for continuing to build
new military deployments in the Kurdish areas and allowing government-loyal
PKK-hostile Kurdish militias to operate in the region.
The political power of the military is limited
Parliament adopts a law that further limits the military's influence over
politics. The Armed Forces have always formally been tasked with "preserving the
Republic of Turkey", which was considered justified military takeovers in times
of crisis. Now the law is being changed to the main task of the army is to
defend Turkey against threats from abroad.
New leaders for PKK
PKK is re-furnishing in its management. Murat Karayılan, considered
relatively moderate, is dismissed as chairman and replaced by Cemal Bayık and
Bese Hozat. The latter has led PKK's women's association. The change of
personality is believed to signal a tougher attitude from the PKK, which has
expressed skepticism about the Turkish state's good will to continue the peace
Violence against protesters makes the EU hesitate
The EU is postponing the planned restart for Turkey's membership negotiations
for at least four months as a result of the staunch efforts against protesters
and aggressive statements by the government towards both the opposition and the
outside world. For the time being, the EU is awaiting a report in October on
whether Turkey has met the requirements to continue negotiations.
Police storm demonstration camps in Istanbul
Protesters have been protesting against plans to build the Gezi Park in the
center of Istanbul since late May. The protests quickly spread to several
cities, including the capital, Ankara. Claws have erupted in several places.
Four people have been killed in the unrest. More than 5,000 protesters and 600
police officers have been injured and close to 1,000 people have been arrested.
Prime Minister Erdoğan takes a hard line and says the plans to transform the
park are firm. After more than two weeks of demonstrations at the Taksim Square
in Istanbul, the riot police storm the park with tear gas and water cannons and
tear down the tent camps built there. The government says those who continue to
demonstrate will be considered terrorists or terrorist sympathizers.
PKK initiates retreat from Turkish soil
In accordance with an earlier message, the PKK guerrilla formally initiates a
retreat from Turkish soil on May 8. The process is expected to last for several
months, and only after everyone has gathered in Iraq may it be possible to begin
discussing a ceasefire, says the PKK leadership. In practice, the approximately
2,000 guerrillas inside Turkey are said to have moved in the direction of Iraq,
mainly at night, for several weeks.
The Aliens Act guarantees asylum rights
Parliament adopts a foreign law that allows refugees to seek asylum under the
same conditions as in EU countries; The law provides that foreigners cannot be
sent back to countries where they risk torture, inhuman treatment or abusive
punishment, or risk persecution because of race, religion or membership in a
particular organization. The European Commission welcomes the decision.
"Wise people" should promote peace
The government appoints 63 "wise people", representing the country's seven
regions, who through various initiatives will try to promote the peace process
between the state and the Kurds. Among the 63 are representatives of business,
cultural figures, academics, human rights activists, journalists and others.
They are expected to participate in public debates, keep in touch with the media
and discuss peace work with people at the grassroots level.
The PKK leader calls for a ceasefire
Imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan proclaims ceasefire and urges his
guerrilla soldiers to leave Turkish territory. In a message read in connection
with the Kurdish New Year, Öcalan talks about "a new era... when weapons should
be silenced and ideas and politics should speak".
Politicians are allowed to speak Kurdish in public
The ban on political parties using languages other than Turkish in their
activities was abolished, after the Constitutional Court found that it violated
Turkey's constitution. It is now allowed to speak Kurdish at party meetings and
to, for example, distribute posters and flyers in Kurdish. Shortly thereafter,
the government announces that it will be free for imams to use Kurdish in
preaching in the country's mosques. Even Arabic is an allowed language in the
Left-wing extremist attack on US embassy
A guard and the perpetrator are killed in a blast attack on the US embassy in
Ankara. The banned left-wing extremist organization DHKP-C takes on the deed and
is subjected to a pat hunting by the police. A few weeks after the attack, the
police raided 28 provinces at the same time in search of 167 designated persons.
- The Supreme Administrative Court tears up the ban on women attorneys to
wear a headscarf during court hearings. Already the next day, lawyer Şule
Dağlı Gökkılıç appears in a Muslim veil in a Istanbul court.
- Parliament adopts a law that allows Kurds to speak their own language in
courts. The state should be responsible for the costs of interpretation.
With the new law, the state is meeting the Kurdish population at an
important point. The right-wing nationalist party MHP loudly opposes the
Kurdish activists are murdered in Paris
Three female Kurdish activists are found shot dead in the Kurdish Information
Center in Paris. Who is behind the murders is unknown, but it is thought to be
an attempt to disrupt the ongoing peace talks. One of the killed women, Sakine
Cansız, is described as one of the founders of the PKK. French investigators
believe the murders are an internal settlement within the PKK. A Kurdish man
from Turkey is arrested by French police and charged with suspicion of murder
and terrorism. He must have worked as a driver for Cansız.