"The gates of Anatolia opened to Turks with the Malazgirt victory" has been a brief and dull sentence in Turkish history books on the Battle of Malazgirt (Manzikert) for decades. The victory that cemented Turkish rule in Anatolia is today being celebrated with a grand event in the two towns where it took place 948 years ago. Some 250,000 people are expected to descend on the towns of Malazgirt and Ahlat for a four-day event starting today to celebrate the victory and remember its heroes, a Seljuk army led by Sultan Alparslan.
The Archers' Foundation, the nonprofit organization that organizes the event, officially launched celebrations yesterday in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus with a press event. Speaking at a press conference in Lefkoşa, Archers' Foundation Chairman Haydar Ali Yıldız said they decided to start the events in Cyprus, which they view as "Turkey's child."
"We owe our existence in Turkey to Sultan Alparslan and martyrs in his army who fought in Malazgirt. Cyprus, like Anatolia, is a place where people fought and is our homeland like Turkey," Yıldız said, adding that a delegation of 160 youth from Cyprus will also attend the events in Malazgirt and Ahlat.
Bilal Erdoğan, a board member of the Archers' Foundation, said the Malazgirt and Ahlat events will be turned into "a day with spectacular celebration and commemoration like in Çanakkale," referring to the World War I victory of the Ottoman army against the Allied powers. Erdoğan said they planned to erect monuments to remember the event and set up a museum on Malazgirt. "We expect more visitors this year, at least 10 times more than last year," he said.
The event's highlights include a series of tournaments of kökbörü, mounted archery, mounted javelin throwing, oil wrestling, aba wrestling, şalvar wrestling and karakucak wrestling, traditional sports played by Turkic communities for centuries. Traditional yurts will also be set up in the two towns to demonstrate the rituals of ancient Turkic communities, from wedding parties to events to celebrate births, while the Ottoman military band, Mehter, and popular singers will perform in concerts.
The Battle of Malazgirt on Aug. 26, 1071 saw Seljuk Turks led by Sultan Alparslan defeat a Byzantine army and open up Anatolia for Turkish domination. The battle was fought in Malazgirt, but Ahlat served as a key place for Seljuks to attack Byzantine forces.
Alparslan died a year after the battle, while his battlefield rival, Byzantine Emperor Romanos IV, was overthrown and killed by his political enemies upon his return to the empire's capital following the defeat.
The victory had a profound impact in shaping Turkey's history, as Turkic tribes, encouraged by the victory, sped up their advance to Anatolia, while Seljuks expanded further west. The Kayı tribe among them went on to establish the Ottoman Empire.
The Byzantine Empire, on the other hand, rallied Europe for the First Crusade to stop Muslims after the decisive defeat.