Istanbul was the capital of the ottoman empire for more than four hundred years. In 1451 Sultan Mehmed conquered this city and made this the capital of the Ottoman Empire. This city was previously the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire also known as the Byzantine empire.
During the time of byzantine, Istanbul was called Constantinople. Even in the current times, Istanbul is the cultural and economic capital of Turkey. However, the capital of modern Turkey is Ankara, not Istanbul. Why is that?
Why Istanbul which was the capital of two great empires, is not the capital of modern Turkey?
Ankara is the capital of Turkey due to three reasons.
During the first world war, the Ottoman empire sided with the central powers which were Germany and Austria-Hungarian Empire against the allies.
Unfortunately, the central power lost the war and the ottoman empire had to pay a heavy price. Allies divided the territories occupied by the ottoman empire among themselves. The Syrian coast and much of modern-day Lebanon went to France; Britain would take direct control over central and southern Mesopotamia, around Baghdad and Jordan. Even the area of modern-day Turkey was divided among the allies.
At that time some Ottoman military officers, under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal gathered an Amry and started a war of independence. later Mustafa Kemal resigned from the ottoman empire and built its own army. First, he made a national committee of revolutionary leaders of the country. meanwhile, the Ottoman parliament in Istanbul accepted an agreement, of Turkish independence. This infuriated the allies, and they dissolve the parliament in Istanbul.
In this condition, Mustafa Kemal built Grand National Assembly in Ankara, after choosing the revolutionary leaders. This assembly nominated Mustafa Kemal as the Speaker and prime minister. There were two governments in Turkey, First was in Istanbul of the Ottoman Caliph which was under the influence of the Allies, and the second was the revolutionary government of Mustafa Kemal in Ankara. Obviously, the Allies didn’t like this and sent armies to demolish Ankara’s government.
Mustafa Kemal was an able military commander. Turkish Army under his leadership was able to defeat France, Greece, and Armenia on three different fronts at the same time.
Mustafa Kemal Army’s forced the allies to leave Turkey. After liberating Turkey from the allies, the Ottoman government was also abolished. On 29th October 1923, Mustafa Kemal was selected as the president of modern Turkey, and the Grand National Assembly in Ankara was converted into Parliament of the new Turkey. Ankara the headquarters of the Turkish leaders during the war of independence was given the status of Turkey’s capital.
The second reason was geopolitical reason. Ankara is in the center of Turkey, unlike Istanbul. During the Turkish independence war, Istanbul was occupied via ships. Bosphorus of Istanbul is advantageous for trade but disadvantageous during the war. Unlike Istanbul, Ankara isn’t attainable via sea and far away from every border of the country.
Moreover, Istanbul is only 200km away from the border of Greece. Historically Greece is the biggest rival of Turkey. Turkey has fought many wars with Greece. There is no natural obstacle like mountains between Greece and Istanbul except for the Bosporus strait. So it may get difficult for Turkey to defend Istanbul. From a defense perspective, it is better for turkey to have Ankara as its capital as it is surrounded by mountains.
Istanbul was the capital of the Ottoman Empire. So it is the symbol of the Ottoman. After the independence war, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and his supporters decided that the republic should have new symbols, not only a new capital but also new alphabets, new clothes, a new way of thinking and living. They wanted to build a modern, democratic and secular country. Old constitutions and old traditions are hard to change. Istanbul had many of them. So for the revolution they needed a new start, a new place with no tradition and that was Ankara.
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