Modern Turkish culture is a synthesis of diverse and heterogeneous elements borrowed from other Anatolian, Mediterranean, European and Mesopotamian civilizations. Hence, Turkey’s cultural uniqueness is the result of centuries of contact and cultural exchange with civilizations ranging from China to Europe and the Russian steppes to the desserts of North Africa. Modern Turkey reflects this unparalleled cultural richness and diversity while situated geographically in an area that has been the cradle of many civilizations for at least the past 12,000 years.
Turkish culture, however, has undergone profound changes over the last century. Present-day Turkey was founded in 1923 as an offspring of the multiethnic and multilingual Ottoman Empire, governed in part by religious law. After Ottoman rule ended, secularism was established by separating religious and state affairs. The Latin alphabet replaced the Arabic script and women were given the right to vote and be elected as members of parliament. These reforms, as well as many others in all aspects of social life, put Turkey on the track towards becoming a thoroughly modern country.
Yet Turkish culture in many ways represents a continuum that bridges past and present. The Turks have inherited equally from their Eastern and Western past. All these diverse heritages, Eastern or Western, Asian or European intermingle and form what is today modern Turkey. As a result, Turkey embodies both Eastern and Western cultures in one incredibly heterogeneous mix. Its role on the world stage as an arbitrator of cultures has never been more relevant or more promising than before.