Modern Day Istanbul

Istanbul has gone through multiple dynasties with the Ottomans being the last imperial dynasty before the birth of Modern day Turkey and Istanbul. After the World Wars, Turkey moved into a new path. Today it seems that the new path is being rejected by the current government and there is some sort of balance and the accompanying unease and anxiety of having two, what seems to be polar opposite, directions. How this evolves depends on the current President and the legacy left by the Founder of Modern Day Turkey. The reverberations of which would be felt across the Middle East and Europe.

In the late 19th century, Istanbul went through a modernization program, with the creation of proper water systems, telephones and trams. After the First World War, the Allied Forces occupied the city, as established by the Armistice of Mudros. The occupation started on 13 Nov 1918 and ended on 4 October 1923.

Modern Day Republic of Turkey was founded under Mustafa Kemal Atatürk on 29 October 1923. With the establishment of the new Turkish Republic, built on a wave of nationalism, there was a mass exodus of much of the Greek and Armenian population from Istanbul, which had ceased to be the capital (it moved to Ankara).

Istanbul went through a great structural change in the 1940s and 1950s however there were also issues with racial concerns. In September 1955, many ethnic Greek businesses were destroyed during the Istanbul pogrom. This accelerated the departure of Greeks from the city and from Turkey. Jews, Armenians, and Georgians were also targeted.

In 2013, Taksim Square was the center of the Gezi Park protests, where protesters protested a wide range of concerns at the core of which were issues of freedom of the press, of expression, assembly, and the government’s encroachment on Turkey’s secularism.

Today under the government of President Erdogan, Turkey and Istanbul are caught between modernism and staying closer to traditional values. The conversion of Hagia Sofia to a mosque, last week, is an indicator of the change. There have been other changes which many are worried about the future. No one really knows. It is again something history will look back and tell us more.


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