Empire, Republic, Democracy: Turkey’s Past and Future

Turkey is found at the crossroads of Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. Its largest city, Istanbul, once known as Constantinople and Byzantium, was previously the capital of the Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk's efforts to create a modern, unified, and secular state out of the remnants of the Ottoman Empire is one of the most remarkable stories of the twentieth century. While Atatürk's legacy still looms large, there are new forces at play today that are shaping Turkey and its relationship to the world.

Empire, Republic, Democracy: Turkey’s Past and Future traces the final years of the Ottoman Empire, the struggle for independence, and Turkish resistance against European imperialism. Students explore the birth of the Turkish Republic, the emergence of a multiparty democracy, the military coups of the twentieth century, and the Kurdish conflict. The readings conclude by examining current issues in Turkey, including economic development, religion and secularism, human rights, authoritarianism, and foreign affairs. Students explore recent developments, such as the Syrian Civil War, the emergence of ISIS, the global refugee crisis, and the attempted military coup of 2016. In a culminating simulation, students grapple with the questions and challenges facing people in Turkey today.

Introduction: An Attempted Military Takeover

Part I: The End of an Empire

Part II: A New Republic

Part III: Turkey Today

Lesson: The Geography of Turkey

Lesson: Art as Political Expression

Lesson: Assessment Using Documents

Featured Scholars

Amy Austin Holmes photo
American University in Cairo
Stephen Kinzer photo
Brown University
Bessma Momani photo
University of Waterloo, Ontario
Barbara Petzen photo
Middle East Connections