The Greatest Generation

Last night we were having coffee and desserts with our friend Alexis, who’s an American architect living in Istanbul for the last 5-6 years.  The topic was vision and innovation.  I was sharing with her some of my observations of the VC and entrepreneur community in Istanbul.  She brought up a very interesting insight.

She mentioned that she sometimes finds it easier to have conceptual, idea-based discussions with older Turks – those past 65 or 70.  Alexis speculates that these people, having grown up in a period in Turkey when the modern Republic was being built on the foundation of the bankrupt Ottoman Empire, almost brick by brick.

The building of a new state is as complex and ambitious a project as one can imagine.  The founder of modern Turkey, M.K. Ataturk had to establish a new vision for a country that was radical for this geography in many ways, including:

– A democracy, after centuries of monarchy
– Secularism, after centuries of theocratic principles guiding the judicial system, with the Ottoman sultan as the Caliph
–  The Latin alphabet, after centuries of using the Arabic alphabet

For the generation born in the early years of the republic, this vision was taken as the guiding principle, and in their youth, they saw this massive project take shape.  They can understand and deal with concepts.

I think Alexis has identified a very interesting point about modern Turkey.  I will be thinking more about this.

158567334x01_bo2204203200_pilitbdp500arr_1For those interested in the early years of the Turkish Republic, Andrew Mango does a good job covering the critical points in his biography of Ataturk.

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