Yesterday, a new 2.86-mile suspension bridge spanning the Dardanelles Strait opened in Turkey. The bridge links the European portion of the country with Asia. While the bridge serves a very functional purpose, its construction was also intended to stoke national pride.
The 1915 Çanakkale Bridge crosses the Dardanelles roughly 135 miles southwest from the transcontinental city of Istanbul. It’s the fourth Turkish bridge connecting Asia and Europe, but it’s the first one built outside Istanbul. The bridge’s mainspan is 2,023 meters (1.25 miles) long, meaning that this is the new longest suspension bridge in the world by the margin of 105 feet. The entire project cost $2.8 billion, with the bridge taking five years and over 5,000 workers to build.
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the President of Turkey, officially opened the bridge at a ceremony. Erdoğan was Istanbul’s mayor during the mid-1990s and has overseen several massive infrastructure projects in Istanbul during his presidency. The most recently built bridge over the Bosphorus Strait in Istanbul, Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge, also opened during the Erdoğan presidency in 2016.
The 1915 Çanakkale Bridge will replace a one-hour ferry ride across the Dardanelles. The bridge’s name references the Gallipoli campaign during the First World War. The opening ceremony took place on March 18, the anniversary of the Ottoman Empire successfully repelling an Allied fleet of British and French warships attempting to force their way through the Dardanelles to Istanbul. The failed naval expedition led to the infamous failed Allied amphibious landing at Gallipoli.
The mainspan’s length of 2,023 meters is also symbolic as 2023 will be the centennial of the Turkish Republic. But more importantly for Erdoğan, 2023 will also be an election year in Turkey. It looks pretty on-brand for him to tie himself to both an impressive infrastructure project and the legacy of the Ottoman Empire. He needs the boost because his near thirty-point lead against his closest opponent in opinion polls at the start of 2021 has shrunk down to single digits.