Efforts to modernize the state and society started during the 19th century. Initially reforms targeted limited institutions, such as the Armed Forces. One of the first things to go was the traditional marching band of the Ottoman army (Mehter Takimi), the first of its kind in Europe, to be replaced by a modern, western one. Western forms of art and literature penetrated the culture and continued to flourish alongside classical and folk art, music, and literature.
The parliamentary system was introduced more than a century ago. Following the Turkish Revolution at the end of World War I, reforms to achieve fundamental and broad-based social and institutional change were initiated by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the revolutionary leader and the first president of the Republic of Turkey. Secularism and the protection of the democratic rights and responsibilities of all citizens by law are perhaps the most important of these reforms.
One of the proudest achievements of the Republic was the establishment of women's rights in the new social order. The Turkish woman has been exalted symbolically throughout history as the mother figure and pillar of the family. Since Ataturk's reforms women's role in social, political and economic life has expanded dramatically. Since the early days of the Republic, well educated women, particularly in the cities, have taken on active roles in the professions, government, and business.
Every social and institutional change eventually leaves its mark on the landscape. The reforms of the first half of the 20th century put Turkey on a course of accelerated modernization. Careful measures ensured that culture and traditions continue to live and evolve. Although the changes in the landscape were well orchestrated and significant, they were not of the magnitude of the changes that are occurring today.
Starting with the highway program of the 1950's and culminating with the free market reforms of the 1980's, unbridled transformation of the landscape has taken place. The country is electrified with the vitality of a young population ready to participate in a booming economy with endless possibilities in the new world order. The generation of farmers and soldiers who used to refer to the government as the "Father" (Devlet Baba), has been replaced by a "can-do" generation of entrepreneurs. The possibility of breaking all ties with both the past and the landscape, which the future depends on, has never been as real as it is today. For example, the ongoing process of agricultural industrialization is taking away the apricots, cherries and the rest of the Anatolian natives, along with the happy chickens, sheep and the cows, all marching in a parade which will eventually transform them into tasteless uniformity and miserable existence.
Our hopes lie with the wise Turkish woman, who knows better and listens to her palate, searching out vegetables raised without hormones at the local market. But will she be able to pass this wisdom on to her ambitious daughter who prefers wearing Levi's?
The Turkish people are known for their ingenuity, quick wit and ability to adapt. In the current climate of democracy and local involvement it is more than likely that the Turkish landscape will continue to reflect a harmonious and sustainable relationship with its people.