Turning Point of the World’s History: the 15th century and the year 1453


Why are the events of the 15th century still important for us today?

The 15th century undoubtedly was a turning point for the world's history. Medieval times ended, and the Early Modern Era commenced - with all fascinating things and features of that time which a true history lover must really adore. Take the beauty of Renaissance culture and arts, the thrill of the Great Geographical Discoveries, and the fundamental breakthroughs in science and technology of the 15th century. Indeed, the importance and the heritage of that time could hardly be overestimated.

In a way, every moment of time is a turning point. Anything we do, or don't do, paves the way for the future to come and sets up certain patterns for many other events to take place later. Some remote consequences are hiding in the darkness of a pretty distant future we just can not foresee. But at a certain period of time, this "quantum uncertainty" of the world's history increases dramatically. Things get really tectonic. World's fate is decided, and the most important knots get untied and tied again. And that is exactly what happened in the 15th century.

The focus on 1453: what was the global impact?

Among many other key breakthroughs and fundamental changes which took place at that time, the most important event, perhaps, was the Fall (or the Conquest) of Constantinople in 1453. It is almost impossible to list the consequences and remote effects, especially if we want the list to be comprehensive, but we can try.

Great Geographical Discoveries

For the Europeans, an urgent need emerged to find alternative trade routes to the East. As a result, Vasco da Gama circumsailed Africa, and Columbus discovered America.

Sailing ships

See the point above. The Great Discoveries would have been impossible with a paddle fleet. But the decisive advantage of sailing ships over their paddle opponents in naval warfare had been clearly shown in 1453 - and the caravels able to cross the oceans appeared quite soon.


Tons of books were written about the Turkish artillery and how important it was to break the city walls in 1453. Well, artillery is important, but it never changes history. What mattered much more was the following:

  • Planning

  • Organization

  • Strategy thinking and command

  • Full resource mobilization

Warfare-wise, the siege of Constantinople was an unthinkable campaign several centuries ahead of time. A campaign only a strong empire could afford.

State and Society

See the point above. Neither feudal societies nor commerce-driven cities of the 15th century were capable of doing anything similar to what Sultan Mehmed had achieved. Centralized state power became seen as a key priority, or maybe a fetish, of a state rule - in a way, it still is. Just look around.


Some people say that the Greeks who fled the city - artists, scholars, scribes, philosophers etc. - actually made Renaissance in Europe so successful. In fact, Renaissance commenced long before 1453. But the Greek exodus undoubtedly contributed a lot.

Politics & Geopolitics

Many hopes for peaceful coexistence of Christians and Muslims were buried in 1453. The list of indirect consequences includes the activation of Reconquista and more than 200 years of wars generally known as Osman aggression in Europe.

It is fair to say that the bloody mess in the Balkans started long before 1453 and perhaps even before the Turks appeared in the Asia Minor. But the expansion of the Osman empire had launched many complicated migration processes and actually turned the region into the real "tinderbox of Europe". To a considerable extent, many problems still persist.

Here we come across a very important but often underestimated problem of how crucial a land map can be. The Ottoman Empire, literally, replaced the East Roman Empire on the world's map, and strangely inherited too many shortcomings and pains: in economy, religious issues, governance, etc., etc. And the everlasting and mutually exhausting enmity with Parthia/Iran. Modern time Turkey still has to face this agenda and many problems related to it.

How to deal with the agendas of the 15th century?

As we see, the agendas of the 15th century, and especially everything related to the Fall (the Conquest of Constantinople), are still very sensitive, and there is no need to explain why. Which means that the only way to deal with them is to be careful. Too many painful things happened in the past, and there is always a way to make everything worse.

But avoidance is not the answer. It is better to untie the knots tied a long time ago, than to simply bury them and to pretend that they don't exist. Because they do.

Arts can certainly help - actually, it was the Renaissance that had brought the art, as we know it, around - in terms of the functions and roles the art plays in the culture in general. And cinema should definitely have its say.

On the photo: Ukrainian and Turkish filmmakers working on Parateichion film project visit the Panorama 1453 museum in Istanbul, Turkey. You can read this article in Ukrainian here.