Turkish Inflation

We have pretty much finalized plans to fly to Türkiye, rent a car and spend a month driving around the country. We have been to the country a number of times in the past, but this will be our most extensive/intensive stay. We had originally planned this trip for 2016, but the political tree began shaking and we canceled out. Then there was their entry into the Syrian War, then came COVID and, long story made short, this is our redux.

When we first visited Türkiye, in 1998, the Turkish Lira had more ‘zeros’ than the Italian Lira. In 2005, the currency was revalued so that one new Turkish lira was worth one million of the old.

The monthly inflation rate in Türkiye reached 85.51 percent in October 2022. While the rate has slowed somewhat, the prices (in Lira) during 2023 are roughly ten times what they were in 2016.

Tourist attraction admission fees are being used to pour money back into government coffers. The 15-day Museum Pass was 1,000 lira ($37) in February 1023 and 3,500 lira ($129) in August 2023. It is now the norm for hotels to quote future prices in US Dollars or Euros, rather than Turkish Lira.

Before last year’s correction, the fee for passing through the straits was last reviewed in 1983. Since the signing of the Montreux Convention in 1936, which regulates navigation in the Straits Zone, the basis for calculating the amount of fees is the gold franc. Until 2022, the value of the franc was fixed, but last autumn it was decided to review the value of the gold franc every year at the end of June.

From July 2023, Turkiye will increase the fee for the passage of ships through the Bosporus and Dardanelles by 8.3% compared to the previous rate ’ up to $4.42 per ton of cargo. Aydinlik reports about it with the reference to the Main Directorate of Maritime Affairs of the Turkish Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure.

According to the department’s forecasts, thanks to the toll increase, the country’s income from crossing the straits, which currently amounts to $160-170 million, will increase to $900 million this year.

Geographically, Turkey sits at one of the crossroads of the world’s logistical system. In a parallel context, Turkey’s current land mass (Anatolia and a bit in Europe) is constructed by a residual mosaic of the demographics of it origin and empire. Without going into vast detail, suffice it to say that these are both its blessing and its curse.

The realities of Turkey’s nationalistic politics as well as its insistence on being independent from the pressures of the US, such as purchasing a Russian air-defense system, rather than a US one, has caused it to be on the pointy end of some types of trade sanctions. While it keeps failing to achieve EU membership in the face of Greek resistance to the idea, it has leveraged its membership in NATO to block Swedish and Finn membership until it received concessions. Its entry into the Syrian Civil war further strained relations with the US as the US supported the Kurdish efforts against the Assad regime and while Turkey also moved against the Assad regime, they insisted on attacking the Kurds as well. Turkey is not an “automatic” ally of the US or even the EU, but is at the fulcrum point between the West and Russia and tries to gain from both parties at every opportunity.

The Russo-Ukraine war has negatively impacted revenue from Black Sea shipping through the Dardanelles and, for a time, Turkey was able to negotiate a grain deal which, not only allowed both countries to feed poor nations and receive hard currency in return, but also help Turkey by the tolls it collected. The breakdown of the deal has also impacted the Turkish economy.

Turkey not only shares the Black Sea with countries of both the Balkan and Caucasus Peninsulas, but also Syria, Iraq and Iran - all former portions of their empire. This places their interests squarely in the Middle East. The recent reproachment between the Saudis and Israel coupled with Israel’s strong relationship with Egypt juxta positioned against Iran and its allies (especially considering the correlation of Israeli and Turkish interests in Syria) begs Turkish attention.

In any case, while the causes of Turkish inflation are many, the dangers caused by Turkish financial stress can further disrupt the, already frayed, fabric of world peace.

Jeff

8 Likes

So…why now? All of your well-spelled out details of the Turkish world would make it seem like waiting might still be better. I didn’t see any reasons you put forward to go: inflated prices, war strife, political instability, etc. don’t seem that they would be attractive to traveling there now.

Pete

2 Likes

Driving in the Middle East is fraught with various risks and dangers. Sometimes seemingly random dangers due to not fully understanding the local rules/customs. Things like parking on sidewalks, and knowing when the cops will allow it and when they will not allow it. Or barely marked public transit only lanes (with automatic camera systems to catch offenders). Or cryptic marking on curbs to indicate who/when can park there, and what the parking fee might be at any given place/time. It can get rather complex at times. And then, of course, there are the drivers, sometimes appearing to be suicidal and homicidal at the same time.

1 Like

The Turkish Lira is now very very cheap in dollars. The Turkish people overwhelmingly are friendly to USAians, and the recent turn by Erdogan back towards NATO and Biden from his last decade of playing footsies with Putin underlines that friendliness when you visit.

Now is an excellent time to visit. Istanbul, that is for me literally the mother cosmopolitan city of all cities of the world. Aside from its stunning history and architectural splendor it has stunningly well stocked markets (Turkish carpets retain and gain value better than gold, and are now available at steep discounts if you know where to look), and amazing street life. And then you cross over to Anatolia for some of the best beaches in the world and Greek ruins that put everything in Greece except Mycenae and the Acropolis to shame.

I would love to spend an afternoon dozing in the ruins of the temple of Artemis again. I had dreams.

david fb

4 Likes

First of all, Turkey is not part of the Middle East, but rather the part I’ll be driving in is part of Asia. The roads are well marked and, in general, well maintained.

Over the years I have rented cars and spent over a month driving around diverse countries such as Israel, South Africa, Brazil, Argentina and Cyprus (also Greece, France and Italy - not to mention Canada) . None have been particularly challenging and I would happily do any of them again.

The only place I was paranoid enough to hire a driver was when we “drove” around India for a month. I also have no desire to drive in China, Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan or Korea (due to the lack of English signage).

That said, I attended the ad hoc NYC school of offensive driving. I would say that driving in Paris, along the Amalfi coast, the Moyenne Corniche through La Turbie to Monaco, Bushwick Brooklyn at night or downtown Detroit can be a lot more dangerous than driving out in the boonies.

Jeff

4 Likes

Dad has always held the Turks in very high regard. My parents have been twice and love the country.

I worked years ago with a Turkish family. He was one of the worst businessmen I have ever seen. He was a very nice sort of soft man. He had worked for Erdogan in the mayor’s office. He went back to Turkey into the Office of foreign Affairs whatever it is called in Turkey. I truly loved that family. He always knew his bread would be buttered by Erdogan.

During Covid my friend would have had the Sinovax? Chinese vax? He was very overweight. He went into the ICU for 45 days and died. His widow looked me up on IG and gave me the news. We had all been close.

Several people have told me Istanbul is amazeballs–like really amazeballs–and I was planning a trip. Then COVID happened. The trip might not happen next year, but I really want it to happen by the year after. Depends a bit on how things in west Maui go.

2 Likes

Mentally it is part of the middle east!

I also started my driving in NYC and continued for nearly 2 decades. But I am referring to other things that only a local might know … like where/when can you park on the sidewalk. And what the curb colors mean. Or which areas you need a district tag on your car to park there. Or even how to use the parking app if it’s only in the local language. Etc.

Huh? Don’t be an ugly American.

From the Encyclopedia Britannica:
" Middle East, the lands around the southern and eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea, encompassing at least the Arabian Peninsula and, by some definitions, Iran, North Africa and sometimes beyond… By the mid-20th century a common definition of the Middle East encompassed the states or territories of Turkey, Cyprus, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, Israel, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, Jordan, Egypt, Sudan, Libya, and the various states and territories of Arabia proper (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Yemen, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar, and the Trucial States, or Trucial Oman now United Arab Emirates).


DB2

1 Like

I guess so but Israel and the Arab Muslin nations in the vicinity are generally what we mean today.

That’s pretty American oriented chauvinism. Wouldn’t that turn the UK, France, Spain, Algeria, Tunesia and Morocco into the Near East?

It would be easier to identify the area (in the same way we refer to Former-Soviet Republic or “used to be called Prince” or “used to be called Twitter”) as non-European territories which used to belong to the Ottoman Empire (not sure about Sudan and Afghanistan)?

To be honest, while far be it for me to challenge the Encyclopedia Britannica, but that’s a pretty broad swath of the earth they are including. Since it covers, not only multiple language and demographic areas (some of them, like Arabic, not completely), but covering area of three continents.

In short, it’s a bogus quasi-Eurocentric term covering most of the world’s Wily Oriental Gentlemen living outside of the former British Raj.

Jeff

3 Likes

I have been to Istanbul numerous times over the past few decades.

Istanbul is one of the world’s most interesting cities. In my humble opinion, each country has a capital and some of those combine with it having a feeling that, given the opportunity, anything is possible. Paris is an example of such a city. In other cases, there is an artificial creation of a monumental city full of bureaucrats and a second city which serves as the country’s financial and business engine where anything is possible. These pairs include Washington DC/New York, Brasilia/Rio, Beijing/Shanghai and Ankara/Istanbul. Istanbul is an anthill of energy and motion and I always look forward to a visit there.

The Turkish geographic and cultural bridge boasts more Greek ruins than Greece, more Roman archaeological sites than all of Italy, and – in Antalya alone – more resort hotels than all the coast of Spain. Turkey is also a major custodian of sacred sites revered by Christians, Jews, and Muslims alike, and of invaluable artifacts of early Greek civilization, Byzantine majesty, and Ottoman supremacy.

The following is my own, admittedly opinionated short(ish) history of Turkey:

Looking back about 3,500 years ago, the southern and western coastline of what is now Türkiye, along with the major islands of the Mediterranean Sea, were colonized by the Phoenicians, a sea faring nation originally based in what is now Lebanon. The major civilizations in the eastern hemisphere in those days included Egypt, Mesopotamia (the group in charge there varied over the years), Persia, India (whose culture stretched south of China’s through Indochina and Indonesia) and China. The Phoenicians, while comparatively small players in those days, are credited with bringing the alphabet to the Greeks, as well as developing the galley and the bireme – both types of oar/sail driven ships. They are also responsible for the cross-pollination of civilization, including food preparations, until the nations lining the Mediterranean shared many aspects of their culture.

While Egypt was, of course, the major power touching the Sea, it was not known for being a seafaring nation. The Greeks, however were and, over the years, became a power in their own right and a counter-balance to Persia, that had become the predominant power in Mesopotamia after conquering Babylon. Whereas, previously, the center of gravity of power in the area was between Egypt and Mesopotamia, with the Greeks involved, it moved further to the north and towards Europe. Many, who we take for Greeks, were actually “cultural” Greeks.

Grab a map and focus on the Aegean Sea area. It’s basically a “lake” surrounded by the Peloponnesus (currently Greece) and the Asian peninsula of Anatolia (currently Türkiye) with a scattering of (currently) Greek islands.

The Greek culture, even back in the 10th century BC (before Homer wrote his epic poems), covered the west and southern coasts of Anatolia, the territory we now call Türkiye (as typified by the city of Troy). Archimedes, for example lived in Syracuse, which was located in Sicily, rather than in the Peloponnesus where Greece is located today. Much of the Greeks’ resentment of the Turks dates back to the 15th century when the Turks not only took Asia Minor, but then the Peloponnesus Peninsula as well (but I’m getting ahead of myself).

After Alexander the Great conquered not only Phoenicia, but all of Asia Minor (today’s Türkiye) and Asia as far as India, while the Greek empire split, its Pan-Mediterranean culture permeated the area. Hellenistic (Greek) culture was the norm in the eastern Mediterranean basin until the advent of the Romans on the scene (who also emulated the Greeks in many ways) a century and a half later. After the Punic wars, the Romans took over the empires of the Greeks, Phoenicians (whose homeland had been conquered by the Greeks, but whose colony of Carthage still retained autonomy) and the Egyptians – bringing the entire Mediterranean Sea under their cultural umbrella.

It was originally under the Greek hegemony that the Silk Road was developed in order to supply the luxuries of Asia to the Mediterranean basin. The Romans, later followed by the Byzantines, further developed this route through Central Asia to China and it was regularly plied by Arab traders for centuries.

At around the turn into the first millennium, a series of new sects developed based on the 1,500-year-old Jewish religion which, while originating near Phoenicia, had its followers spread through the Roman Empire as traders. These new sects followed the teachings of a prophet called Jesus and, being formed largely of proselytized pagans, quickly developed tangentially to the original religious basis.

By 285 AD the Roman Empire had grown so vast that it was no longer feasible to govern all the provinces from the central seat of Rome. The Emperor Diocletian divided the empire into halves with the Eastern Empire governed out of Byzantium (later Constantinople and ultimately Istanbul) and the Western Empire governed from Rome. The Roman Emperor Constantine I is often credited with converting the Roman Empire to Christianity. In fact, though he ended the persecution of Christians, his eventually conversion was likely primarily for political reasons.

The next year Constantine, now the Western Roman Emperor, and Eastern Roman Emperor Licinius signed the Edict of Milan, which finally ensured religious tolerance for Christians. The agreement granted freedom of worship to all, regardless of deity.

After unifying the Roman Empire under his rule in A.D. 324, Constantine rebuilt his seat of his power in largely Christian Byzantium, which was renamed Constantinople. The growth of a Christian ruling class under Constantine ensured the faith’s increasing and enduring prominence through the Roman, and later the Byzantine, Empire.

Constantine convened and took part in the first meeting of Christian churches, the Council of Nicea, held in 325 in what is today Iznik, Türkiye. He hoped to help church leaders find common ground on some contentious aspects of Christian doctrine. Chief among these issues was the relationship and relative divinity of God the Son (Jesus) and God the Father. Arianism was popular during this period, which held that Jesus, though the Son of God, was inferior to God the Father.

The Council of Nicea established the equality of Father and Son and documented this in a creed, or universal statement of faith, to which all but two attending bishops agreed. The dissenting bishops were exiled. The council also attempted, unsuccessfully, to standardize the date of Easter.

The Christian Church – still unified but with separate co-heads in Rome and Constantinople, like the pagan polytheistic priest/temple infrastructure before it, was adopted as the religion of the Roman State and a bureaucratic function of the Roman government (as evidenced by the Pantheon, a major polytheistic temple being turned into Rome’s primary church). By the 5th century, both the Western and Eastern churches had come into agreement on the matter of the New Testament canon.

In any case, when the Western Roman Empire started to crumble during the sixth century, the Western branch (Roman Catholic) of the church was able to maintain its own bureaucratic structure while the infrastructure of Roman governance broke down. While we think of the “West” as being based on (the now defunct) Western Roman Empire, the Eastern Roman Empire lived on under the new designation of the Byzantine Empire.

During the seventh century, influenced by Judaism, Christianity and the Gnostics, Mohamed introduced the world to Islam as its prophet. This religion exploded out of Arabia and spread in all directions. It followed the Silk Road into China, charged into Persia (eventually circling back and entering India from Persia), and headed down Indochina, the Malay Peninsula and into Indonesia, through the Middle East and across North Africa.

Interestingly, while the Moslems practiced religious tolerance for those who followed “the Book” (Christians and Jews), the Christians could not tolerate any deviance from their religion.

The symbol of a two-headed crowned eagle started to be introduced a few hundred years after the fall of the Western Roman Empire to indicate that the successors to the Roman government consisted of the “executive” branch of the emperor as well as the “religious” branch of the church. This symbol was repeatedly incorporated into the coats of arms of future Holy Roman Emperors, Czars and the like.

Starting in the tenth century and lasting for a couple of hundred years, a movement known as the Crusades sent waves of Western Europeans into Palestine in an attempt to wrest back control of the area from the Moslems. They temporarily succeeded a couple of times, but one of the results of this effort was elevating the fortunes of a number of the Italian States – Namely Genoa and Venice – who participated as seafaring middlemen. A side effect was the decimation of many European Jewish communities along the routes the Crusaders took along the Rhine, the Danube and elsewhere.

As late as the year 1030 AD, the Byzantine Empire, which was still closely associated with Greek culture (at least in their own perception), still ruled over all of Asia Minor, Greece, Bulgaria and southern Italy. In 1053, an additional step was taken in the process which led to formal religious schism between what would become the Roman Catholic (western) and the “Greek” Orthodox (eastern) churches. Patriarch of Constantinople Michael Cerularius ordered the closure of all Latin churches in Constantinople, in response to the Greek churches in southern Italy having been forced by the Roman Catholic leadership to either close or conform to Latin practices.

During the Fourth Crusade, in 1204, Venetian crusaders looted and destroyed parts of Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire (including the theft of the horse sculpture from the ancient Roman hippodrome and erecting them in St. Mark’s Square in Venice). After Constantinople’s capture, the Byzantine Empire fragmented into a number of small successor states, one of which would eventually manage to recapture the city in 1261 and proclaim the reinstatement of the Roman Empire. However, the weakened Byzantine state would never manage to regain its lost territories, wealth, or imperial status, relegating its area to the eastern corner of present-day Greek Thrace (around Thessaloniki) the north coast of the Dardanelles and Constantinople (including the Bosporus).

While this was taking place, in Asia, the Mongols, first under Genghis Kahn and then under his grandson Kublai Kahn, assembled the largest empire on earth. This stretched from China through Central Asia during the 13th and 14th century and drove the Turkish tribes out of some of their homelands – displacing them into Asia Minor (Anatolia). These nomadic tribesmen, now converted to Islam, set out to conquer territory in Asia Minor and Europe. A number of tribal waves of Turks swept in over the course of nearly three hundred years. These included the Seljuks and culminated in the Ottoman Turks whose empire in Europe (including Anatolia as well as the Balkans – including Peloponnesian Greece) lasted over 400 years.

For this reason, the sack of Constantinople in 1204 is seen as marking the final decline of the Byzantine Empire, ultimately leading to its demise in the Ottoman Turk conquest of 1453, and the arrival of a new Islamic empire on European soil.

It is also interesting to note that this, the final fall of the last vestige of the Roman Empire, was only 50 years before Columbus discovered America. In the same year, Spain celebrated the pushing out of Iberia of the Moslem Moors (who had previously reached their apex near the Pyrenees around the year 750 AD and even entered Charlemagne’s Frankish kingdom) as well as the Sephardic Jews by the creation of the Spanish Inquisition. At the same time, in 1492, the Turkish Sultan Bayezid II sent ships to Cadiz to transport Sephardic Jews to ports of the Ottoman Empire. He declared: “They say that Ferdinand of Spain is a wise man, but he is a fool, for he takes his treasure and sends it all to me”.

By its high-water mark in 1683, the Ottoman Turkish Empire stretched from the walls of Vienna in Austria to Georgia to the Middle East, the Arabian Peninsula, along the North African coast to Morocco and down the Egyptian Nile – encompassing two thirds of the Mediterranean coast.

While their empire shrunk over the years, much of it being absorbed by the Russian and Austro-Hungarian Empires, the problems caused by the multi-ethnic basis of the Balkans has not only been responsible for the sparks which started World War I, but wars as recent as those during the breakup and reconfiguration of Yugoslavia.

The Turks were not kind rulers. To this day, instead of blaming the Venetians for sacking and weakening the Byzantine (Greek) Empire, the Greeks revile the Turks (while it is the same product, do not ever order a Turkish coffee in a Greek restaurant if you know what’s good for you ). The Armenians blame the Turks for genocide and the Kurds for “taking their independence” (though both of these accusations are not so simplistic). The Anzac’s for Gallipoli. And so on. After their teaming up with Germany and Austria during the First World War, their punishment was to lose most of their territory.

The Turkish Parliament reopened in Constantinople in January 1920 but was dissolved by British forces in March. In April 1920, the “Grand National Assembly”, a new Turkish Parliament, opened in Ankara with Mustafa Kemal as the speaker; this act effectively created the situation of diarchy in the country (with both a civilian government and a royal one).

On 10 August 1920, the Ottoman Grand Vizier Damat Ferid Pasha signed the Treaty of Sèvres, finalizing plans for the partitioning of the Ottoman Empire, including the regions that Turkish nationals viewed as their heartland. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, now considered the architect of modern Türkiye, was juxtaposed to the Sultan in the Turkish War of Independence (1919-1922). Since the nation’s treasury was in the hands of the Caliphate, who was in turn associated with the Allies, Atatürk’s efforts were financed by a steady supply of gold and armaments from the Russian Bolshevik government from the autumn of 1920 onwards (who were repelling their own invasions from the Allies who were attempting to reinstate the White Russian Tsarist regime).

Mustafa Kemal insisted on the country’s complete independence and the safeguarding of interests of the Turkish majority on “Turkish soil”. He persuaded the GNA to gather a National Army. The GNA Army faced the Caliphate army propped up by the Allied occupation forces and had the immediate task of fighting the Armenian forces on the Eastern Front and the Greek forces advancing eastward from Smyrna (modern-day İzmir) that they had occupied in May 1919, on the Western Front. In addition, he had to defeat a new Kurdish kingdom created by the British from what had previously been a part of Türkiye.

Mustafa Kemal advanced his troops into the Battle of Marash against the French-Armenian Legion. The battle resulted in a Turkish victory alongside the massacres of 5,000–12,000 Armenians spelling the end of the remaining Armenian population in the region. Similarly, an all-out attack was launched against the Greek invasion force in 1922.

The Greek/British invasion force had eventually captured Istanbul. The French intelligence services started helping the Turks against their former ally when it became clear that Britain’s sphere of influence land grab of former Turkish Empire territories in the Middle East was counter to France’s geopolitical interests. While Istanbul was returned to Türkiye as part of the final peace treaty, the final border with Greece was just a hop from the city and the capital was moved to Ankara in order protect the country’s capital from any future Greek invasion.

With the establishment of the Republic of Türkiye in 1922, efforts to modernize the country started. Under Atatürk’s leadership, thousands of new schools were built, primary education was made free and compulsory, and women were given equal civil and political rights, while the burden of taxation on peasants was reduced. His government also carried out an extensive policy of Turkification - turning Türkiye into a modern secular country including abandoning the use of the Arabic alphabet and forcing the overnight change of all signage, newspapers and written matter into the Roman alphabet.

What all this means is that there is a fair degree of consistency in food, dress and customs throughout the Mediterranean basin dating from before Greek and Roman times and through much of the Ottoman Empire as the Turks absorbed and retransmitted them throughout their territory. Whether it is the old widow dressed in black (whose photo won’t tell if she lives in Spain, Sicily or Greece), flat bread (variously known as pita, pide or pizza), coffee cooked with the water (which depending on venue might be called Turkish, Arabic or Greek) or the style of cooking variously claimed by the Turks, the Greeks or the Lebanese/Syrians, the similarities are obvious.

The fact that the Turks refer to the Greeks in Istanbul as Romans (Latins) is an indication of how confused we are about history.

If there is a defining role played by the region, it is of the various interpretations of how to worship the monotheistic God known by various names, but more importantly worshiped by varying rituals to which people have become so attached as to justify war, plunder and fire for millennia.

Jeff

5 Likes

Maybe so, but then why include any countries at all in the designation? Get rid of Middle East as a location/country indicator since it is ‘a bogus quasi-Eurocentric term’ just by existing.

Pete

1 Like

MENA is sometimes used for the region (Middle East, North Africa). I suppose one could use SWANA (southwest Asia, north Africa).

DB2

When I was in school, in the mid 20th century, Turkey was most commonly referred to as part of “Asia Minor”. Of course, we were also indoctrinated about the horrors of “Communism”, so there is a possibility some of the information I was fed was questionable. :slight_smile:

Steve

1 Like

Talk to the people who had to live under ‘communism’ in Eastern Europe.

DB2

2 Likes

DB2

I did my high school years in the 80’s, it was far less effective in indoctrinating me to the horrors of “Communism” as was when I started working and met people from Eastern Europe, East Berlin and Russia. Not to mentioned Cubans while working in Miami.

Happy to dismiss US propaganda but do listen to people’s real life experiences…

1 Like

Far East, Middle East, Near East.

The Near East is the eastern Mediterranean region once dominated by the Ottoman Empire. Middle East—the newest of the three terms—originally referred to everything between the other two Easts (Mesopotamia to Burma), but it now usually denotes the Near East in addition to Afghanistan, Iran, and the Arabian peninsula.

Middle East essentially supplanted Near East in the early 20th century, although the two are now used interchangeably among English speakers. So, for all intents and purposes, *Middle East and Near East refer to the same region when used today.
Are the Middle East and the Near East the Same Thing? | Britannica.

Jeff

2 Likes