Although the lands of Turkey have been home to a series of major civilizations throughout thousands of years, without doubt, the last civilization, Ottoman Empire has left the largest legacy. In fact, far beyond a mere legacy, the Turkish Republic is widely regarded as a continuation of the Ottoman Empire and thus cultural and political controversies surrounding this subject are still topical in today’s Turkey. The debate between the more conservative view that Turkey should follow the cultural legacies of the Ottoman Empire, for example in the foreign policy, and the more modernist view that Turkey should break with the Ottoman past leaves a strong mark on the cultural world of the country. Thus, Ottoman legacy is not a subject forgotten on the dusty pages of the history books, rather one of the most current subjects in the cultural and political life of Turkey.
The most vivid legacies of the Ottoman history, without doubt, can be seen in the cultural sphere, especially in architecture. In particular, the grandeur Ottoman buildings in the capital of the Ottoman Empire, in İstanbul, still provide an identity and a source of inspiration for the country. İstanbul, in fact, is an open-air museum of the living Ottoman history, and it is possible to breath the atmosphere of the Empire in the daily life while walking on the streets of the historical peninsula.
It won’t be an exaggeration to say that Ottoman legacies still have strong imprints on the traditional music, handicrafts and literature. At the same time, one of the ongoing debates in the country is the nature of the relationship of the Ottoman culture with the Islamic culture. Some views largely equate the Ottoman culture with the Islamıc culture, while others emphasize the multicultural, multi-religion nature of the Ottoman world. Western cultural currents, which had gained momentum in the early years of the Republic, declined in 1980s and cultural motives akin to the Ottoman culture have gained weight again.
The imprints of the Ottoman legacies on the historical and political developments of the Republican era can also be easily seen. Westernization efforts of the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century have gained momentum in the Republican era. It is a widespread view that Turkey’s application to enter the European Union and, in general, Turkey’s policies of establishing alliances with the Western states have been continuation of the Ottoman policies. On the other side of the coin, Turkish Republic has inherited a series of problems from the Ottoman Empire. The Cyprus problem, tensions with Greece and the Kurdish problem are among the subjects that show how deep the impact of the Ottoman history lays on the contemporary Turkish Republic.
The reforms carried out in the Ottoman Empire throughout the 19th century resulted in the modernization of especially the administrative structure of the Empire. This administrative modernization paved the way for the establishment of the new institutions, in which the founding fathers of the Republic received their education. For this reason, some historians emphasize the deep imprints of the Ottoman Empire on the administrative structures of the modern Turkey. Consequently, it is fair to say that there is both a break and continuity between the Ottoman history and the Republic.