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Crescent and Star: Turkey Between Two Worlds

3.83  ·  Rating Details ·  841 Ratings  ·  124 Reviews
If Turkey lived up to its potential, it could rule the world - but will it? A passionate report from the front lines

For centuries few terrors were more vivid in the West than fear of "the Turk," and many people still think of Turkey as repressive, wild, and dangerous. Crescent and Star is Stephen Kinzer's compelling report on the truth about this nation of contradictions -
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Paperback, 272 pages
Published September 4th 2002 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published September 22nd 2001)
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Annie
Jul 22, 2007 Annie rated it really liked it
Shelves: turkey
I was equal parts enthralled and frustrated by this book. Kinzer clearly loves Turkey. He adores it. He sees how insanely fucked up it is, but loves it anyway. While he is not an apologist for for the essentially military-run government, he deftly puts it into a perspective in a way only a person who is both an insider and an outsider can, which as a whole makes certain events (like the military coups) much more understandable in post-Ataturk Turkey.
However, he on occasion comes off as the lectu
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Gordon
Dec 09, 2011 Gordon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Stephen Kinzer is an ex-New York Times correspondent who has written about many parts of the world, while based in locations as varied as Nicaragua, Berlin and Istanbul, the latter two as bureau chief. He has covered Central America, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Turkey, Africa … -- in short, he's been around.

I picked up this book because I read one of his previous efforts, Blood of Brothers, while travelling through Nicaragua in 2008. Daniel Ortega had just been re-elected, and the book dea
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Regina Lindsey
Crescent and Star by Stephen Kinzer
4.5 Stars Rounded to 5

I’ve always had a fascination with Turkey. It is at the crossroads of so much history. Geographically, it straddles two continents and it known as “the place where East meets West.” Its religious history is unique and it is one of the few countries in which democracy is evolving out of a former dictatorship. It is simply a country full of dichotomies. Yet, it is a country that hesitates to fully embrace its rich past in order to continue i
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Stephen
Jul 15, 2016 Stephen rated it really liked it
Turkey is an anomaly. For centuries, it was the dreaded foe of Christendom, twice pushing at the very gates of Vienna. After the Great War, when the victorious west disassembled the Ottoman Empire and reduced the Turks to mere Antaolia, it seemed a total defeat -- but shortly thereafter, a rare Turkish hero of the Great War led a revolution and established a new Turkish Republic, one that -- phoenix like -- drove away its exhausted enemies and even reclaimed a foothold into Europe. It was to Eur ...more
Lynn
May 31, 2010 Lynn rated it really liked it
So, finally, I am done. Please do not mistake the great length of time I took to complete this book to mean anything other than I am awful at managing time, this was a great book. As someone who visited Turkey and read a handful of literature about the great city of Istanbul and life under the Ottoman Empire this book wove together a bunch of missing facts and political details, I was otherwise unaware of.

It is obvious the author is passionately in love with this county, he can portray it for a
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Doug
Oct 27, 2008 Doug rated it liked it
This is the second Kinzer book I've read. He's a talented writer who brings his subject to life with a clear, direct, active style.

In both books I've read, Crescent and Star and All the Shah's Men (about the US/British overthrow of the Mossadegh government in Iran), Kinzer turns potentially dry subjects into page-turners.

Perhaps as a by-product of his accessible style, Kinzer arrives at simplistic solutions. In Crescent and Star, the overall thesis is that the founders of the Turkish Republic we
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Henna Pääkkönen
Mar 17, 2014 Henna Pääkkönen rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, politics
Kinzers book is a wonderful read to understand Turkish 20th century history and politics and the challenges that the country has faced and faces in being in the crossroads of Europe and Middle East, with multiple ethnicities and religions. The book basically covers the period from Ataturk to Erdogan, discusses Kemalism, the Army, Religion, Kurdish problems, Armenian past, and the democratization challeges. Turkeys strive for EU membership and the changing foreign policy of country are also cover ...more
Diane
Jun 16, 2011 Diane rated it really liked it
Written in the very early 21st century, this book combines 20th century history with current politics to give the reader a history and contemporary view of Turkey. The author has spent many years in the country as a journalist, and he clearly has a great love of his subject. He serves as a major booster for the country. Since this book was written 10 years ago, much of the contemporary information is dated, but Kinzer has done a good job of predicting future trends. Many of the author's predicti ...more
James
Feb 19, 2008 James rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Crescent and Star is probably a bit basic for anyone who's familiar with Turkish politics and 20th century history, but I found it a great sub-250 page introduction. It focuses almost exclusively on the Turkish Republic and its people, from Ataturk to the present, but not at all in chronological order. I don't know how objective this book is, as the author, a American journalist, spends plenty of words criticizing (berating?) the military and its omnipresent role in government. But you might, to ...more
Lauren Albert
Jul 18, 2010 Lauren Albert rated it really liked it
Shelves: history-european
A reporter's affectionate but critical book on Turkey and its history. He shows how Turkey's repression of Kurdish culture and language has fostered extremism, as has its repression of Muslim religious expression. He shows how great Turkey has been, is, and how much greater it could be if it trusted its citizens and the democratic process. His section on the aftermath of the great earthquake when the Greek government and people rallied to Turkey's side, volunteering and donating in droves, is a ...more
Faye
Aug 24, 2013 Faye rated it really liked it
Stephen Kinzer was a journalist who lived in Turkey for a long time and his book has personal impressions as well as interesting political commentary and historical perspective. Great read in preparation for my trip to Turkey in a few months.
Blue
Nov 21, 2010 Blue rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, history
Kinzer is a great writer and a good storyteller. He alternates cultural mini-chapters with more analytical writing in Crescent and Star: Turkey Between Two Worlds. As a Turk who was heavily brainwashed with the "official history of the country during and post-Ataturk", there is much I can and should read, and this book is a good starting point. I can write a whole other book as a response to Kinzer's very insightful study, but for the most part I agree with the bulk of his criticisms and analyse ...more
Bob
Mar 04, 2017 Bob rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Leah Adams, James Foster
I only wish that Kinzer had written this brilliant history of modern Turkey in 2016 instead of 2001, since the ensuing 15 years has brought so many more chapters to the story. This is an outstanding background for anyone interested in understanding modern Turkey; I will have to find a more current work of equal depth and scope to bring me up to date on this most central of countries in the evolution of the modern world.
Billie Pritchett
Sep 14, 2016 Billie Pritchett rated it it was amazing
Stephen Kinzer's Crescent and Star is a work of journalism about Turkey, covering several different areas of the country's history and present, including the controversial ones. The book begins with the country's origins following the late Ottoman empire and on to Kemal Ataturk and the Young Turks. Kinzer seems to think that Ataturk's reformist efforts with Turkey were mostly a good idea but chock full of strange paradoxes.

Just as in France today, Turkey's earliest attempt to secularize meant th
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Justin Tapp
Jan 12, 2014 Justin Tapp rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read this in preparation for going to Turkey in August. Kinzer is a former NY Times correspondent who has written several books. Seems like he is a good journalist who learned the language and culture very well and was granted access to important figures.

One passage from his inter-chapter interludes got me particularly excited, Kinzer talks about the countless historically and archeologically significant sites that no one even knows about:

"Even the discovered sites are so remote and widely scat
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Guy
Jun 01, 2010 Guy rated it really liked it
Shelves: culture, travel
Kinzer was a foreign correspondent for the NY Times who lived in Turkey for several years and who clearly has a deep and abiding affection for the country. For my money (and, after just one trip of two and a half weeks to Turkey, albeit intense, I am anything but an expert), he does a good job of deconstructing the puzzle that is the Turkish Republic: militantly secular and yet deeply Islamic, attached to its traditions but determined to modernize, unable to decide if it is a multi-ethnic state ...more
Claire
Mar 14, 2015 Claire rated it liked it
This is the most informative book I have yet found of Turkish history/politics/et cetera. For this reason, I approve.
The two worlds here of the title are that west and east divide that much of world politics consists of: west being new-age and east being old-world. Uh oh, I'm not awake...

*shuts eyes, counts to thirty, returns*

OK, I am sick, so I must get to sleep now. (My illness probably is eating at my opinion of this book.) But, I want to promote it!
If this area and its people are included
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Alec
Mar 27, 2013 Alec rated it liked it
When digesting Stephen Kinzer's book, "Crescent and Star," the reader may feel that Turkey is much like the exotic spice bazaars in Istanbul lovingly described by the author. Like those clamorous bazaars, the land of Atatürk is an iconoclastic milieu of both ancient and modern in which the denizens loudly haggle among themselves about the direction their country should go. This spirited debate on a national level – as well its chaotic uncertainty – underscores every chapter and, in the eyes of K ...more
Patrick
Dec 10, 2015 Patrick rated it liked it
This book provides a look at some of the struggles of modern Turkey and some of the history that preceded them. I'd give it one more star, but recent history (the book was published in 2008) shows that the book's hopeful tone is overdone, and left me wanting an update from Kinzer. Luckily, Kinzer is a journalist, and still writes commentary on Turkey, so I suppose I can just google some newer material.

Overall, this book provided good insights to the Republic's founding under Kemal Ataturk, and
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Nosmo
Jul 17, 2015 Nosmo rated it really liked it
I've been very impressed by everything by Kinzer that I've read, yet this book was somehow the one I objected to the most. Admittedly I view much of his political writing from a differing position so I'm in no way surprised that a heavily personal book didn't quite gel with me. But therein lies one of my favourite things about the book - Kinzer unashamedly injects personal experience, opinion and personality throughout the book and so I found that the italicised portions gave the following chapt ...more
Alex
Mar 12, 2008 Alex rated it really liked it
An interesting read if only because Kinzer is tending to approach Turkey from a Turkey-is-European (or at least proto-European) than a Turkey-is-fundamentally-different standpoint. I worry that Kinzer is eliding some important differences even though he does do a fine job of balancing his viewpoint.

As with any book written about a country by a non-native, I also worry about his pile of "reccomendations" for Turkey, and am concerned that his obvious pro-Europe slant is coloring his perceptions of
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Abraham Gustavson
Apr 06, 2015 Abraham Gustavson rated it really liked it
I read this book in preparation to going on spring holiday to Turkey. Stephen Kinzer does an excellent job prepping his readers to both understand modern issues in that country, but also peppers his work with small, almost journal like entries that bring this truly unique modern country alive. One short to be remembered was the author's retelling of when he swam the Bosporous straight and the extraordinary feeling of being connected to both Asia and Europe. Kinzer provides ample amount of detail ...more
Laura
Jan 01, 2017 Laura rated it really liked it
I read this book again, despite having first read it in 2002, when it first came out, a time when I was totally engrossed in all things Turkish, especially Ataturk's biography and the historical forced swap between Greece and Turkey of their respective citizens as a result of Kemalist policies. In this work, the author focusses particularly on post 1980s Turkey, describing the role of the military as the safekeeper of Ataturk's legacy, the rise of a new political force, and the changes within th ...more
Nic
Aug 02, 2013 Nic rated it really liked it
Finally! A political, historical, and cultural book that is not written by the likes of bored, mindless, uncreative drones at McGraw Hill! I absolutely love social science/historical books that aren't written in your typical textbook format. The book was certainly thorough and interesting; I lived in Turkey for quite some time and felt myself reliving some of those moments by the pictures painted by Kinzer throughout his book.

There were some things that I did question (I have it noted in the ma
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Michael
Feb 04, 2008 Michael rated it it was ok
Shelves: light-nonfiction
I picked this up based on the recommendations of Goodreads users. I was hoping for a good history of modern Turkey, and instead found a journalistic sketch of the country. I was not impressed. Bouncing around between history, contemporary politics (circa early 2001), and light observations of Turkish life, Kinzer spends a good deal of time scolding the Turks for failing to fully embrace democracy. The word "should" appears prominently in each chapter, and I found this to be both distasteful and ...more
Xander Mitchell
May 18, 2015 Xander Mitchell rated it liked it
I'll be living in Turkey this summer, and I decided to pick up Stephen Kinzer's book to prime myself on the country's political situation/basic history. The book is a decent primer, and while I give it credit for this, it's just not that fantastic overall. Stephen Kinzer does this extremely awkward balancing act by alternating chapters in which he praises Turkish culture as relaxed and ideal, and then leads a Western-centric assault on everything about the government immediately afterwards. It i ...more
Michael
Nov 30, 2011 Michael rated it really liked it
Shelves: turkey
A readable and consistently interesting short introduction to current political trends and issues in Turkey. Kinzer was the NYT's Istanbul bureau chief in the late 90s and his strong affection for the country comes through on every page as he lucidly and concisely walks you through fascinating twists and turns from Ataturk to Erdogan.

Turkey is in a remarkable political moment, with an Islamist government gently but firmly prying the military's fingers off of the political machinery, and democra
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SpaceBear
I've read some of Kinzer's other books, and this was not my favorite. Kinzer lived in Turkey for an extended period and therefore one would expect a fairly solid outing in this book. The book explores broad themes, and therefore presents a non-linear narrative of Turkish history and society, which jumps back and forth between different time periods. For the beginner on Turkey, this presents a bit more of a confusing read, and one can't help but feel that the book would be better organized if pre ...more
Alice
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Selcuk dönmez
Apr 02, 2014 Selcuk dönmez rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
You insult turkish people all over the world, turk state, everything that made up my people. Stop this.
Stephen kinzer doesnt know anything about my country, and people. So who are you that saying about turkisness. According to you turk isnt etnic people. It is only common name that given by Atatürk.

"We are turk nomads. We are Yoruk, Turkmen, Turkic people. We have several state and the last one Turkey Repeblic will live forever. Atatürk says that "One day my mortal body will turn to dust, but
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Stephen Kinzer is an award-winning foreign correspondent who has covered more than 50 countries on five continents. His articles and books have led the Washington Post to place him "among the best in popular foreign policy storytelling." (source)
More about Stephen Kinzer...

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