Crescent and Star Turkey Between Two Worlds

Stephen Kinzer

Farrar, Straus and Giroux



Trade Paperback

288 Pages



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In Crescent and Star, Stephen Kinzer offers a report on Turkey today. He traces its development into a modern state and explains the great dilemmas it now faces. Turkey is poised between Europe and Asia, caught between the glories of its Ottoman past and its hopes for a democratic future, between the traditional power of its army and the needs of its impatient citizens, between Muslim traditions and secular expectations. Will Turkey continue to hide behind its fears, remaining only half-free and fulfilling only half its great potential, or will it yield to the pressure of a new generation and become a powerful and prosperous democracy?

Kinzer spent years working and living in Turkey, and he was captivated by its many delights. He describes the pleasures of smoking water pipes, searching for the ruins of lost civilizations, watching camel fights, discovering the country's greatest poet, swimming across the fabled Bosphorus and even hosting a blues program on an Istanbul radio station. He takes us from elegant city cafés to wild mountain outposts on Turkey's eastern border, talking along the way to dissidents and patriots, villagers and cabinet ministers. He reports on political trials and on his own arrest by Turkish soldiers when he was trying to uncover secrets about the army's campaign against Kurdish guerrillas. And he explores the nation's drive to join the European Union, the human-rights abuses that have kept it out and its difficult relations with Kurds, Armenians and Greeks.

Will this vibrant country, Kinzer asks, become the world's first Islamic democracy? Crescent and Star makes clear why Turkey might—or might not—become "the most audaciously successful nation of the twenty-first century."


Praise for Crescent and Star

"Kinzer gives an unusally candid account of the state of Turkish politics and the army's role . . . [He] writes in detail about how, in the name of national unity, the army has ruthlessly suppressed Kurdish demands for autonomy . . . He is right to see that the heart of the Turkish problem is an anachronistic nationalism."—Ira M. Lapidus, The New York Times

"A powerful, directed, and important book . . . Crescent and Star amounts to an impressive achievement with a high potential to make a difference."—Middle East Quarterly

"Kinzer, New York Times bureau chief in Istanbul from 1996 to 2000, is an experienced foreign correspondent who writes with admiration and affection for Turkey, tinged with a strong dose of criticism and impatience . . . This fluently written book ends on a note of cautious optimism, despite frequent expressions of dismay at the perilous state of Turkish politics, society, and economy."—F. Tachau, emeritus, University of Illinois at Chicago, Choice

"Stephen Kinzer ground-truths Turkey. He lets Turkey's political reality emerge upward from cafés and villages—you hear the voices of average people in these pages—and he shows that good journalism conveys the history and culture of a country so that readers can put its politics into perspective. The result is an intriguing portrait of a pivotal nation in historic transition."—Robert D. Kaplan, author of Balkan Ghosts

"In concise and elegant prose, Stephen Kinzer captures the excitement of modern Turkey with all its complexities and ambiguities, still struggling to define itself and its place 'between two worlds,' as he so aptly puts it. Turkey matters greatly to us, given its crucial role both in Europe and in the Middle East, and this vivid book, both personal and analytical, is the best recent work on the subject."—Richard D. Holbrooke

"A sharp, spirited appreciation of where Turkey stands now, and where it may head."—Carlin Romano, The Philadelphia Inquirer

"[A] sympathetic account of Turkey's problems, interspersed with vignettes of the pleasures of Turkish life . . . Vividly illustrated with the people and events Kinzer covered during his four years in Turkey, the book seeks to explain a confused and complex country both to itself and the outside world . . . A passionately argued analysis."—Leyla Boulton, Financial Times

"Kinzer's adventures in Turkey gave him in-depth knowledge and real appreciation for the country and its potential . . . He makes a powerful case that it is a country we must watch."—John Maxwell Hamilton, The Chicago Tribune

"This critical but affectionate portrait of Turkey's recent history throws considerable light on the complex ways of this strategically important ally of the West."—The Economist

"A thoughtful study of the wrenching problems that hold Turkey back."—Stanley Reed, Business Week

"Kinzer has obviously fallen in love with Turkey and the Turkish people. In this fascinating book he combines his insights into this ancient land with a concise history of modern Turkey, an analysis of its current and economic problems, and a keenly considered set of possible solutions. Crescent and Star is a must read."—Ahmet M. Ertegun

"Informative and provocative . . . An excellent, insightful work; highly recommended . . . Interspersing journalistic essays with personal vignettes, Kinzer discusses Turkey's potential to be a world leader in the 21st century, as it is truly a bridge between East and West, politically and geographically. Kinzer questions Turkey's ability to achieve this potential, however, unless true democracy can be established. Whether it can depends on Turkey's military, which, in order to ensure the continuation of the Kemalist ideal of a paternalistic state, has never allowed real freedom of speech, press, or assembly. Kinzer argues persuasively that if the military refuses this opportunity, the consequences (Islamic fundamentalism, Kurdish terrorism, denial of EU membership) could be catastrophic for the Turkish state and its people."—Ruth K. Baacke, Library Journal

"A lively, engaging report on modern-day Turkey, a nation poised between democracy and military rule . . . Kinzer's well-executed [book] will satisfy anyone curious about the future of this vibrant, volatile society."—Kirkus Reviews

"Kinzer's book sums up his reportage for the New York Times from Turkey in the 1990s. He evocatively describes the customs of Turkish social life and also analyzes the paradoxes of its political system which, whatever its original justification in saving the country in the 1920s, no longer fits a more prosperous, more literate populace. Kinzer is, of course, talking about the nationalist, secularist legacy of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, preserved by the country's military, which regards it as a nigh-sacred duty. The problem with higher callings, as Kinzer never tires of recounting, is the lack of accountability: the government's security entities enjoy a 'culture of impunity' that abets Turkey's poor image on the issue of human rights. Yet Kinzer recognizes that the military's influence, however much it inhibits democratization, stems from a real if obsessive fear of separatists and Islamicists. That paradox, and Turkey's options of facing either West or East, both geographically and figuratively, are ably presented by Kinzer's background on Turkey's contemporary scene."—Gilbert Taylor, Booklist

"Readers who want a one-volume guide to this fascinating country need look no further."—Publishers Weekly

Reviews from Goodreads



Read an Excerpt

Stephen Kinzer was Istanbul bureau chief for The New York Times from 1996 to 2000. He is the author of many books, including All the Shah's Men and Overthrow. He lives in Chicago.
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  • Stephen Kinzer

  • Stephen Kinzer is a veteran foreign correspondent who has covered more than fifty countries on four continents. In 1996 he became the first New York Times bureau chief in Istanbul; he is now that paper's national culture correspondent, based in Chicago. He is the author of Blood of Brothers: Life and War in Nicaragua and co-author, with Stephen Schlesinger, of Bitter Fruit: The Untold Story of the American Coup in Guatemala.
  • Stephen Kinzer