What determines the location of a capital. The case study of Ankara, Turkey.

(Posted on December 10, 2014)

When you look at an atlas, you will see that a lot of capitals in the world are located on or near the coast, but some are located inland although those countries have sea shores. What factors are involved in selecting the location of a capital? Obviously, they could be for the convenience of transportation, climatic environment, political inevitability and so forth. So, from this point, we would like to take a closer look at a particular country: this time, Turkey and its capital Ankara, which is the second largest city after Istanbul.

 

Turkey with a population of about 76 million (2012) lies at a geopolitically important region where Europe meets Asia. The country has been a critical NATO member especially during the cold war era, facing then Warsaw Pact countries across the Black Sea. For some time, Turkey has been endeavoring to become an EU member. Due largely to this geographical standing, Turkey’s history abounds with different cultural heritages: from Greco-Roman empires to the Byzantine Empire, and to the Ottoman Empire.

 

During the Roman period, Ankara was called Ancyra and became the capital city of the Roman province of Galatia. Then a few centuries later, the Roman Emperor Constantinus founded the capital of the East Roman Empire, which was called Constantinople (later to become Istanbul) as the center of Christian faith, at a vulnerable place facing the Bosporus strait that is the only connecting point between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea.

 

Constantinople flourished for nearly ten centuries, but was finally conquered by the Ottoman Empire in the 15th Century and was renamed Istanbul as its capital and the center of Islam culture. The Ottoman Empire managed to exist until the end of World War I, when the Turkish empire which had allied with Germany and Austria was defeated and most of its territories were occupied by allied forces. At that time, the Turkish nationalists based in Ankara took the offensive and deposed Ottoman Khalif and set up a republic instead. They established their capital in Ankara. Why didn’t they stick to Istanbul as their capital? Perhaps they thought Ankara would be a better place to implement radical political agenda, such as secularism, nationalism, and republicanism. 

 

So, to the question, “why Ankara is the capital of Turkey,” the answer is straightforward: it was chosen politically as such. Ankara, which is located more or less in the center of the country, has been developed as a modern city with a population of approximately 4.4 million (2013), whereas Istanbul is flourishing as an exciting cosmopolitan city with a population of more than 14 million (2013).             

 












Photos of Ankara (from Wikipedia)

 





 


  Photos of Istanbul (from Wikipedia)





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