Earliest records of the Turkish people show that their ancestors in Central Asia date back to some time before 2000 B.C. Roaming widely throughout Asia and Europe, the Turks established vast empires throughout these continents. By the 10th century, most Turks adopted the religion of lslam. Following this substantial change, the Karahanid Empire of central Asia (10th and 11th centuries) and the Ghaznavid Empire (10th and 12th centuries) developed in areas known today as Iran, Afghanistan, and Northern India.

Some Turks traveled south-west to Anatolia (Asia Minor) considered to be the cradle of civilization because it has embraced more than 20 cultures and civilizations. These civilizations included: the Hittites, Assyrians, Lydians, Greeks, Persians, Macedonians, lonians, Romans, Byzantines and Turks. In A.D. 1071, the Turks fought a crucial war with the Byzantine Empire. Settling in Anatolia (which today covers most of Turkey), the Turks established many small feudal states and some empires.

The Seljuck Empire was the first Turkish empire in Anatolia. After the Seljucks' influence declined, Anatolia fragmented into a number of small states. The Ottoman Turks unified these separate units, which eventually became the largest empire in recent history, the Ottoman Empire. The Ottomans ruled for more than six centuries (1281 - 1922), in part because their system of government allowed flexibility in the practice of diverse religions, languages and cultures. The magnificent reign of Sultan Suleyman I (1520 -1566) is known as the golden age of the Ottoman Empire. Born during a turbulent age of continual political and military conflict, Suleyman became a dynamic leader at a very early age. To prepare for his reign that wouId begin after the death of his father (in 1520), Suleyman became governor of a province in Northwest Anatolia at the age of 15.

The Ottoman Empire more than doubled the boundaries of its realm under Suleyman the Magnificent's direction and was transformed into a full-fledged Muslim world empire. By his death in 1566, the empire included most of Eastern Europe, Western Asia and North Africa. But land and power were only part of what made the empire years golden. As a principal patron of the arts, and as a poet himself, Suleyman supported societies of painters, architects, metal workers, weavers and ceramists who produced works of extraordinary quality. Suleyman was a catalyst in the cultural legacy that has lasted for centuries. The 18th century marked the beginning of the decline in Ottoman power. Weakening continued until World War I (1914-1918), when Ottoman armies fought and lost on several fronts throughout the empire. Eventually, Anatolia was divided and occupied by allied forces. Although the Ottoman Empire was dissolved, the fight had just begun for the Turkish people.

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, a highly respected army general from World War I, led the Turkish people in their War of independence (1919-1922) against the allied occupiers. It was the first successful war of national liberation in this century. After many miraculous victories, the occupying forces were pushed back. And in 1923, a national Turkish state, the Republic of Turkey, was established. As the leader of the new nation, Ataturk created the foundations for a modern, secular state based on human rights and fundamental freedoms.

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