Today in Cold War history: the Taksim Square massacre (1977)

Today is, of course, May Day, whose origins go back to pre-Christian European cultures, but for much of the world it’s also International Workers’ Day and, in some countries, Labor Day. Ironically, for a date chosen to commemorate the 1886 Haymarket Affair in Chicago, May 1 is not the official labor holiday in the United States. America celebrates… Continue reading Today in Cold War history: the Taksim Square massacre (1977)

Today in Middle Eastern/European history: the Battle of Manzikert (1071)

Originally posted on and that's the way it was:
We’re in kind of a high season for major historical battles in the Middle East, like Yarmouk, Chaldiran, and Marj Dabiq (there’s another one coming next week). You could argue that Manzikert is the biggest of the bunch, because although it took another 400 years…

Today in Middle Eastern history: the Battle of Otluk Dağı or Otluk Beli* (1473)

Originally posted on and that's the way it was:
I assume anybody reading this blog has at least heard of the Ottomans (I mean, I have to assume you do read these posts), but I have to say I’d be pretty impressed if any of you have heard of the Aqquyunlu. But for a…

Today in Middle Eastern/European history: the Turkish War of Independence begins (1919)

It’s kind of fitting that the signing of the Sykes-Picot agreement happened right around the same time on the calendar when the Turkish War of Independence began three years later, because the war was mostly about undoing whatever plans the World War I victor Europeans had for the Turks. The October 1918 Armistice of Mudros,… Continue reading Today in Middle Eastern/European history: the Turkish War of Independence begins (1919)

Today in World War I history: the Gallipoli campaign ends (1916), and the Battle of Rafa (1917)

There are a pair of World War I battles that have anniversaries today. Of the two, Gallipoli is far and away the larger and more famous. It’s also probably the more meaningful, although considering that the side that won Gallipoli wound up losing the war, that case isn’t totally cut and dried. This is actually… Continue reading Today in World War I history: the Gallipoli campaign ends (1916), and the Battle of Rafa (1917)

The politics of teaching foreign languages in Turkey

It isn’t often that you’ll see me unabashedly defend Tayyip Erdoğan over anything, but here goes nothing. There was a story in Al-Monitor last week that said that Erdoğan is under a little fire from Turkish secularists over a Ministry of Education plan to start offering Arabic electives to elementary school students as of the… Continue reading The politics of teaching foreign languages in Turkey