1071 is a very special year for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan — and his Islamist ideologues. Erdogan often speaks about his “2071 targets,” a reference to his vision of “Great Turkey,” on the 1000th anniversary of a battle that paved the Turks’ way into where they still live.
In 1071, the Seljuk Turks did not arrive in Anatolia from their native Central Asian steppes with flowers in their hands. Instead they were in full combat gear, fighting a series of wars against the Christian Byzantine [Eastern Roman] Empire and featuring a newfound Islamic zeal. The Battle of Manzikert in 1071 is widely seen as the moment when the Byzantines lost the war against the Turks: before the end of the century, the Turks were in control of the entire Anatolian peninsula.
Another divine date for Erdogan is May 29, 1453. That day saw the fall of Constantinople, capital of the Byzantine Empire, after an Ottoman army invaded what is today Istanbul, modern Turkey’s biggest city. The conquest of Constantinople was not a peaceful event either. The city’s siege lasted for 53 days and cost thousands of lives. The Byzantine defeat left the Ottoman armies unchecked, clearing the way for their advance into Christian Europe in the centuries to come. The long and violent Ottoman march into Europe came to a halt in 1683, when the Ottomans were defeated during the siege of Vienna. By then the Ottomans were in control of north Africa, most parts of the Middle East and central and eastern Europe, totaling 5.2 million square kilometers of land.