Home | Reviews | Blog | Daily | Glossary | Orrin's Stuff | Email

    A truly modern Turkey governed by the rule of law would raise the Turkish people to levels of
    prosperity and self-confidence they have never known before.  Despite the country's political and
    psychological underdevelopment, it has the resources to become a towering power.  If it can liberate
    itself from its paralyzing fears and embrace true democracy, it will also serve as a magnetic
    example of how the ideals of liberty can triumph over enormous obstacles.  By adding moral
    strength to its military strength, Turkey could become a dominant force in the Middle East,
    encouraging peace and pulling Arab countries away from the social backwardness and feudal
    dictatorship under which most of them now suffer.  It could exert a mighty and stabilizing
    influence westward to the Balkans and eastward to the Caucasus and Central Asia, becoming the
    key power in a region that is strategically vital, overwhelmingly rich in oil and other resources, and
    now ruled mostly by tyrants who are dragging it toward chaos.
        -Stephen Kinzer, Crescent & Star

Though we pay obscenely little attention, Turkey is an extraordinarily important nation and its future may go a long way to determining whether Islam and democracy can ultimately co-exist in one nation.  Geographically and politically, Turkey occupies a unique position, squeezed between Europe to the West and the Islamic world to the East.  Though traditionally Muslim, its great revolutionary leader Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, upon taking power in 1922 and establishing a Republic, reoriented the nation towards the West, toward the values of the Enlightenment and the institutions of secular democracy.  But still today, despite the continuing devotion of Turks to the person and ideas of Ataturk, it remains an open question as to whether the democracy can endure.

Stephen Kinzer was the NY Times correspondent in Turkey for four event filled years and his passion for the country and its people is infectious.  In conversational but admonitory style he manages both to educate Westerners as to the history and cultural richness of Turkey while also honestly depicting its internal problems, many of them unresolved, and firmly prodding Turks to deal with them, as a great nation must.

One very effective device Kinzer uses is a series of brief interludes each dealing with one element of Turkish life.  These include  : the fez; raki, the national drink; the nargile, or water pipe; the nation's three favorite sports--camel fighting, oil wrestling, and cirit (a form of jousting); the literature of Nazim Hikmet; and the romantic endeavor of swimming the Bosphorus.  These quick chapters provide a rich and fascinating texture to go along with the history.

The hero of the story is very much Ataturk, who at least in Kinzer's portrait seems to have been one of the most remarkable national leaders of the 20th Century.  Like Peter the Great in Russia and the Shah in Iran, which not coincidentally are the two other equally troublesome Eurasian democracies, he found it intolerable that his people should be so far behind the West in terms of technology, wealth creation and self governance, and so, using dictatorial means, he imposed Western institutions an an often reluctant populace and tried eliminating persistent vestiges of the Ottoman past.  That the Republic endures, is allied with NATO, has a strategic partnership with Israel, and is on the verge of entering the EU is testimony to his success.  But the too frequent necessity for the armed forces to step in and depose governments, the oppression of the Kurd minority, and the very real fear of a takeover of government by radical Islamicists, illustrates just how tenuous the democracy remains.

Kinzer is extremely optimistic about Turkey's future and feels that it can afford to face its past more  honestly than it has--including such issues as the Kurds, Cyprus, and the Armenian massacre--and can take the risk of loosening the Kemalist grip on society, the military backed determination of Turkey's elites that no threat to Kemal Ataturk's legacy will be permitted.  I certainly hope that he is right, though I'm not as confident.

Even as this book hits the stores, Turkey has decided to allow the United States to operate out of Turkish airbases in the war on terrorism.  Once again, Turkey is proving itself to be a far more important ally than we in the West give it credit for.  Hopefully Stephen Kinzer's excellent book will educate many Americans as to the unique and potentially vital role in world affairs that Turkey, with its uneasy blend of democracy and Islam, may play in the coming decades.  We have a far larger stake in the outcome of Turkey's internecine struggles than we seem to realize.


Grade: (A-)


Stephen Kinzer Links:
    -BOOK SITE : Crescent & Star : Turkey Between Two Worlds By Stephen Kinzer (FSB Associates)
    -ESSAY: Will Turkey Make It? (Stephen Kinzer, July 15, 2004, NY Review of Books)
    -ESSAY: Mr. Jefferson, What's This About a Contretemps?: For the 200th anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase, the New Orleans Museum of Art is noting the occasion with an ambitious show celebrating French-American friendship. (STEPHEN KINZER, 4/30/03, NY Times)
    -ESSAY : Traveling Companions (Stephen Kinzer, April 19, 1998, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of FUHRER-EX Memoirs of a Former Neo-Nazi. By Ingo Hasselbach with Tom Reiss (Stephen Kinzer, NY Times Book Review)
    -ARTICLE : Military's Sole Supplier of Anthrax Vaccine Still Can't Make It (STEPHEN KINZER, October 6, 2001, NY Times)
    -ARTICLE : After a Pause, Arts Companies Find Their Role (Stephen Kinzer, 9/18/01, NY Times)
    -ARTICLE : New York Times reporter detained in Turkey (March 4, 1997)
    -ARTICLE : Turkey's Version of Wrestlemania : THERE is only one wrestling tournament in the world at which contestants use tons of olive oil. It is held each year in western Turkey, and its tradition reaches far back into history.(STEPHEN KINZER, June 2001, NY Times)
    -ARTICLE : Turks Debate Human Rights and Links With Europe (Stephen Kinzer, NY Times, 23/3/2000
    -ARTICLE : Greece, Turkey pledge on peace (STEPHEN KINZER, 22 January 2000, NY Times)
    -ARTICLE : Rebel Kurdish Leader Sentenced to Die by Turkish Court  (Stephen Kinzer,  June 30, 1999, NY Times)
    -ARTICLE :In Turkey, Speaking of Kurdish Problems, Don't (STEPHEN KINZER, June 6, 1999, NY Times)
    -ARTICLE : In Plea for His Life, Kurdish Rebel Offers to Halt War  (Stephen Kinzer, The New York Times, June 1, 1999)
    -ARTICLE : Kurd's Trial Draws Attention to Turkish Court (Stephen Kinzer, The New York Times, May 31, 1999)
    -ARTICLE : Nationalism Is Mood in Turkey's Kurdish Enclaves (Stephen Kinzer, The New York Times, May 16, 1999)
    -ARTICLE : Turkey's Kurdish Problem (Stephen Kinzer, New York Times, February 21, 1999)
    -ARTICLE : Kurdish Leader Isolated on Turkish Island (Stephen Kinzer, The New York Times, Feb. 18, 1999)
    -ARTICLE : Jubilation in Turkey, and a Fierce Debate (Stephen Kinzer, The New York Times, Feb. 18, 1999)
    -ARTICLE : In Snatching a Fugitive Rebel, Ankara Wins Opportunities on Several Fronts (Stephen Kinzer, The New York Times, Feb. 17, 1999)
    -ARTICLE : Kurds' Rebel Leader May Prove a Discredit to His Cause (Stephen Kinzer, The New York Times, Feb. 17, 1999)
    -ARTICLE : The Plunder of Cyprus : Massive Plundering of Early Christian Art Exposed (JUDITH MILLER and STEPHEN KINZER, New York Times 1/4/98)
    -ARTICLE : Tamerlane the Tender Inspires Uzbekistan (Stephen Kinzer, The New York Times, 10 November 1997)
    -ARTICLE : Kurds Fashion Two Identities in a Fearful Turkey (Stephen Kinzer, The New York Times, July 27, 1997)
    -ARTICLE : Turkish Generals Raise Pressure on Premier (Stephen Kinzer, The New York Times, June 13, 1997)
    -ARTICLE : Inhale the Pleasure of an Unhurried Ottoman Past  (Stephen Kinzer, The New York Times,  6/10/97)
    -ARTICLE : Rights Abuses : Stain Turkey1s Democratic Image (Stephen Kinzer, The New York Times, July 13, 1997)
    -ARTICLE : Europeans Shut the Door on Turkey's Membership in Union (Stephen Kinzer, The New York Times, March 27, 1997)
    -ARTICLE : Brussels Meeting Dims Turkey's Bid to Join European Union (Stephen Kinzer, The New York Times, March 11, 1997
    -ARTICLE : Defending Secularism, Turkey's Military Warns Islamic Leaders (Stephen Kinzer, The New York Times, March 2, 1997
    -ARTICLE : Turkey Finds European Union Door Slow to Open (Stephen Kinzer, The New York
Times, February 23, 1997)
    -ARTICLE : In Turkey, Links Between Police, Politicians and Criminals (Stephen Kinzer, The New York Times, December 31, 1996)
    -ARTICLE : Empty Seat at Dinner Signals Turkey's Sensitivity Over Role (Stephen Kinzer, The New YorkTimes, December 11, 1996)
    -INTERVIEW: Interview with Stephen Kinzer: 1953+1979=2001 (Well, There's a Link) (Rick Shenkman, 9/26/05, HNN)
    -ARCHIVES : "stephen kinzer" (Find Articles)
    -REVIEW : of Crescent and Star: Turkey Between Two Worlds By Stephen Kinzer (Ira M. Lapidus, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of Crescent and Star (FERNANDA EBERSTADT, NY Times Book
    -REVIEW : of Crescent and Star: Turkey Between Two Worlds By Stephen Kinzer (The Economist)
    -REVIEW : of Crescent and Star: Turkey between Two Worlds by Stephen Kinzer (Daniel Pipes, Middle East Quarterly)
    -REVIEW : of Crescent and Star: Turkey Between Two Worlds By Stephen Kinzer (Steven Martinovich, Enter Stage Right)
    -REVIEW : of Crescent & Star (Mark Weisenmiller, Pittsburgh TRIBUNE-REVIEW)

Book-related and General Links:

    -THUS : About Turkey : Embassy of the Republic of Turkey
    -Background Note: Turkey (U.S. State Department)
    -Latest News from Turkey
    -Press Agency Ozgurluk : In Support of the Revolutionary Peoples Liberation Struggle in Turkey
    -Turkey and the Rule of Law (
    -Amnesty International on Turkey
    -Turkey: focus on Human Rights, Human Rights Watch
    -Turkish Odyssey : a traveler's guide to Turkey
    -Ottoman Empire (Osmanli tarihi)
    -ARCHIVES : Turkey and process of democratization : Realistic opportunity or midnight summer's dream?
    -ARCHIVES : constantinople (Find Articles)
    -LINKS : Turkey (Yahoo!)
    -PROFILE: The Erdogan Experiment (DEBORAH SONTAG, May 11, 2003, NY Times Magazine)
    -ESSAY: Death Watch: One of the world's earliest Christian cultures totters on the edge of extinction. (Thomas C. Oden, 01/10/2003, Christianity Today)
   -ESSAY: Democratic culture and extremist Islam: When Islamists choose scripture over tradition, is a road to democracy opened? WERNER SCHIFFAUER's intimate study of Turkish Islam in Germany is a challenge and a revelation. (Open Democracy)
    -ESSAY: The Ottoman umpire : Some Turks observe Ramadan, others do not: Norman Stone on a state that is a model for the Islamic world (The Spectator, November 2001)
    -ESSAY :  US Bows to Turkey (Ian Urbina, October 2001, The Nation)
    -ESSAY : The Turkish Model : America's ally is poised to lead the Muslim world. (MELIK KAYLAN, October 25, 2001 , Wall Street Journal)
    -LECTURE : U.S. Department of State, Strobe Talbott, Deputy Secretary, Turgut Ozal Memorial Lecture, "U.S.-Turkish Relations in an Age of Interdependence" (Washington Institute on Near East Policy, October 14, 1998)
    -ARTICLE : Turkey revises male-dominated code (SUZAN FRASER, Oct. 24,
2001 | ANKARA, Turkey (AP)
    -ESSAY : America's Allies For the Long Haul : Israel, India and Turkey will never
waver. (TUNKU VARADARAJAN, September 19, 2001, Opinion Journal WSJ)
    -ESSAY : Ayse Kadioglu, "The Paradox of Turkish Nationalism and the  Construction of Official Identity" (Middle Eastern Studies, Vol. 32, no. 2 (April 1996)
    -ESSAY : Ihsan Dagi, "Democratic Transition in Turkey, 1980-83: Y«The Impact of European Diplomacy," (Middle Eastern Studies, Vol. 32, no. 2, April 1996)
    -ESSAY : Turkey isn't about to kick camel-fighting (Ayla Jean Yackley / Reuters)
    -REVIEW : of Y« Islam And Society In Turkey by David Shankland (Norman Stone, Spectator)
    -REVIEW : of TURKEY UNVEILED A History of Modern Turkey. By Nicole Pope and Hugh Pope (Robert D. Kaplan, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of Constantinople City of the World's Desire, 1453-1924. By Philip Mansel (Robin Cormack, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of Constantinople City of the World's Desire, 1453-1924. By Philip Mansel (Robin Cormack, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of The Flame of Freedom: The Greek War of Independence 1821-1833 by David Brewer  (Saul David, booksonline)
    -REVIEW : of MY NAME IS RED By Orhan Pamuk. Translated by Erdag M. Goknor (Richard Eder, NY Times)
    -REVIEW : of My Name Is Red by Orhan Pamuk (Tom Holland, booksonline)
    -REVIEW : of MY NAME IS RED: A Novel, By Orhan Pamuk (JONATHAN LEV, LA Times)
    -REVIEW : of  My Name Is Red By Orhan Pamuk (Lenora Todaro, Village Voice)
    -REVIEW : of MY NAME IS RED By Orhan Pamuk (Char Simons, CS Monitor)

    -ARCHIVES : Ataturk (Find Articles)
    -REVIEW : of Atatürk by Andrew Mango (Grey Gowrie, booksonline)

    -Armenian National Committee of America
    -ARCHIVES : armenia (Find Articles)

    -REVIEW : of KURDISTAN In the Shadow of History. By Susan Meiselas (Karl E. Meyer, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of AFTER SUCH KNOWLEDGE, WHAT FORGIVENESS? My Encounters With Kurdistan. By Jonathan C. Randal (Geraldine Brooks, NY Times Book Review)
Y«    -REVIEW : of A MODERN HISTORY OF THE KURDS By David McDowall (Marvin Zonis , NY Times Book Review)
    -ARCHIVES : kurds (Find Articles)