Political Science Political Development of Turkey
Ergun Özbudun
  • LAST REVIEWED: 10 January 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 31 July 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756223-0058


This article is divided into three main parts: the Historical Setting, the Constitutional System, and Contemporary Politics. The first part analyzes the Ottoman-Turkish political developments from the start of the reform period to the transition to a competitive party system (1789–1946). Indeed, Turkey offers an interesting combination of elements of change and continuity. On the one hand, the change from the multinational and multireligious Ottoman monarchy to a Westernizing, republican nation-state represents a sharp break with the past. On the other hand, below this surface of radical change one can observe strong elements of continuity, such as an authoritarian and statist political culture that prioritizes the “sublime interests of the state” (raison d’état) over individual rights and liberties. It is also true that the main center-periphery cleavage in contemporary Turkish politics had its roots in the Ottoman past. The center-periphery cleavage in the Turkish context denotes the cleavage between the central military and bureaucratic state elites, on the one hand, and all social segments that remain outside this center, on the other. The second part focuses on the present constitutional system, with references to earlier constitutional developments. It will be observed that none of the Ottoman and the republican constitutions, with the partial exception of that of 1921, were made by a freely elected and broadly representative constituent or legislative assembly through a process of genuine deliberations and compromises. Consequently, they all lacked sufficient democratic legitimacy. The third part analyzes various aspects of contemporary Turkish politics, from the democratic transition in the mid-1940s up to the present time. One of the most striking facts about contemporary Turkish politics is that, despite nearly seventy years of multi-party competitive politics, Turkey has not yet been able to fully consolidate its democratic system and, since 2013, it has been experiencing a drift toward authoritarianism. This part also deals with such challenges as the rise of political Islam and of Kurdish nationalism.

The Historical Setting

The works cited in this section are general accounts of the late Ottoman reform period and the transition to a republic. In view of the elements of continuity between the Ottoman past and contemporary Turkey as referred to above, these are all essential readings for understanding modern Turkish politics. In this category, Lewis 2001 is an elegantly written classic. Shaw and Shaw 1977, Ahmad 1993, and Zürcher 2017 also give good accounts of the period. Hanioğlu 2008 focuses on the Young Turk period.

  • Ahmad, Feroz. The Making of Modern Turkey. London: Routledge, 1993.

    DOI: 10.4324/9780203418048Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    A concise and useful introductory text into the late Ottoman Empire and the Turkish Republic.

  • Hanioğlu, Şükrü. A Brief History of the Late Ottoman Empire. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2008.

    DOI: 10.1515/9781400829682Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    A useful account of the reforms and the Young Turk revolution in the late Ottoman Empire.

  • Lewis, Bernard. The Emergence of Modern Turkey. London: Oxford University Press, 2001.

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    This book remains an elegantly written classic covering the period from the start of the decline of the Ottoman Empire to the establishment of the Kemalist Republic and its immediate aftermath. It also offers valuable insights into various aspects of change, such as community and nation, religion and culture, and elite and class.

  • Shaw, Stanford J., and Ezel Kuran Shaw. History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey. Vol. 2, Reform, Revolution, and Republic: The Rise of Modern Turkey, 1808–1975. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1977.

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    This book is a comprehensive and detailed account of the 19th-century Ottoman Empire and the establishment and evolution of the Turkish Republic.

  • Zürcher, Eric J. Turkey: A Modern History. London: I. B. Tauris, 2017.

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    A well-balanced and thoughtful account of the Ottoman reform period and of the establishment and evolution of the Turkish Republic up to the 1990s.

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