There’s more to Turkey than we can write in a single blog, but let’s give it a shot…

Turkey is a complicated country. It seems to be a country of contradictions. East meets west, modern meets ancient, future meets history, and new meets old. It seemed to us as though Turkey cannot look into the future without looking back at the past, and acknowledging that history and its impact on society.

There’s incredible national pride in Turkey. The flag is everywhere, people seem very committed and proud to be Turkish, and there seems to be a great deal of patriotic sentiment here — not unlike America.

Close ties with the Ottoman Empire. Across Turkey, there seems to be a great deal of pride surrounding their Ottoman heritage and how the Ottoman empire was a global superpower for centuries. Turks won’t have you forget it, as though it’s in their blood (and it is!).

Conflicting views on whether Turkey can be a global influencer, or not. Many people seem to see Turkey as having regional influence with the goal of regional stabilization. That makes sense, if only because Turkey has so many troubled neighboring nations, that it’d make sense for them to want to first and foremost have a stable region in which to exist.

Turkey’s definition of power is different. The lens through which Turks approach that paradigm of power is so radically different from how Americans approach the word power, and the ideas of power and influence, that it’s a fascinating sub-topic for this show. Turkey is powerful, and they will be powerful, but it’s so much more nuanced than the American idea of power and military might.

Turkey’s geography matters. Being a bridge country, there are identity questions; are they European? Are they Asian? They see themselves as both, but at the same time, they see themselves as neither European nor Asian, but rather a middle eastern country with such unique geography and opportunity that they can’t qualify themselves in those categories.

Education is a concern. How does Turkey develop a strong education system that can sustain their economy and promote an educated, innovative workforce? Sure, the economy is great now, but does Turkey have the infrastructure in their education system to modernize their workforce to the point where they can compete with Europe and America in terms of higher education and appropriate career paths?

Turkey is changing so rapidly. It seems there’s a great deal of uncertainty on this social and cultural change. On the one hand, people are ecstatic that Turkey is successful right now in the economic sector, but at the same time, there are concerns about Turkey’s cultural change, clinging to traditions and customs, and how to balance the new and old effectively. Will Turkey strike a good balance, or swing the pendulum one way or the other?

Turkey is more than a country in transition. It’s a country potentially experiencing a complete paradigm shift – are they eastern or western? Modern or ancient? European or Asian?

Do they want to be a global power, or a regional influencer?

Is Turkey there yet?

More thoughts a video blog tomorrow, and then behind-the-scenes footage from interviews all month long while we post-produce the show…