Known for their militaristic and disciplined culture, the turians were the third race to join the Citadel Council. They gained their Council seat after defeating the hostile krogan for the Council during the Krogan Rebellions. The turians deployed a salarian-created biological weapon called the genophage, which virtually sterilised the krogan and sent them into a decline. The turians then filled the peacekeeping niche left by the once-cooperative krogan, and eventually gained a Council seat in recognition of their efforts.
Originally from the planet Palaven, turians are best known for their military role, particularly their contributions of soldiers and starships to the Citadel Fleet. They are respected for their public service ethic—it was the turians who first proposed creating C-Sec—but are sometimes seen as imperialist or rigid by other races. There is some animosity between turians and humans, largely due to the turian role in the First Contact War. This bitterness is slowly beginning to heal—as shown by the cooperation of the two races on the construction of the SSV Normandy—but many turians still resent humans, and vice versa.
Turians typically stand over six feet tall, have two long, proportionately thick fingers and an opposable thumb on each hand, each tipped with talons, and a set of mandibles around their mouths. The most distinguishing feature of turians is their metallic carapace, which contains trace amounts of thulium. The turians evolved this trait as a defense against the greater levels of solar radiation that penetrate their homeworld's weak magnetic field.
Turian features are avian, making them resemble humanoid birds or raptors, however unlike most Earth avian creatures, turians are viviparous and give birth to live young. In 2165, David Anderson claimed that turians reminded him of the evolutionary link between birds and dinosaurs. Turians are also recognizable by their voices, which have a distinctive flanging effect. Males and females do not differ greatly in physical appearance, but female turians lack the crest of horns found in the males of the race. The lifespan of a turian is comparable to that of a human.
Turians exhibit the characteristics of predators rather than those of prey species (compare to krogan biology). Their forward-facing alert eyes give the impression that they possess outstanding eyesight and their teeth and jaws mimic the structures possessed by apex predators such as crocodiles or ancient, carnivorous dinosaurs. Needless to say, their talons on both their feet and hands seem capable of ripping flesh. As such, their diet is primarily meat-based. Their slender bodies also seem to suggest that they are also capable of moving at high speeds.
The turian homeworld, Palaven, has a metal-poor core, generating a weak magnetic field and allowing more solar radiation into the atmosphere. To deal with this, most forms of life on Palaven evolved some form of metallic "exoskeleton" to protect themselves. Their reflective plate-like skin makes turians less susceptible to long-term, low-level radiation exposure, but they do not possess any sort of "natural armor". A turian's thick skin does not stop projectiles and directed energy bolts. Turian blood has a dark blue coloration.
Although life on Palaven is carbon-based and oxygen-breathing, it is built on dextro-amino acids. This places the turians in a distinct minority on the galactic stage; the quarians are the only other sapient dextro-protein race. The food of humans, asari, or salarians (who evolved in levo-amino acid-based biospheres), will at best pass through turian systems without providing any nutrition. At worst, it will trigger an allergic reaction that can be fatal if not immediately treated. The turian mechanic Lilihierax on Noveria uses the idiom, "if you can polish enough gizzard". This suggests that the turians have a digestive system similar to birds and reptiles on Earth, some of whom swallow stones to help break down harder foods in the stomach.
Turian civilization spans fifteen thousand years of history. Before the dawn of their civilization, the race was known to elder spacefaring species like the Protheans, who viewed them as primitive as the other ruling races of the modern era.
The Unification War
The turians had already discovered several mass relays and spawned colonies throughout the galaxy when the asari reached the Citadel. At about the time the asari were forming the Council with the salarians, the turians were embroiled in a bitter civil war next door. The Unification War, as it was later named, began with hostilities between the colonies furthest from the turian homeworld, Palaven.
These colonies were run by local chieftains, many of whom had distanced themselves from the Hierarchy. Without the galvanizing influence of the government, the colonies became increasingly isolated and xenophobic. Colonists began wearing emblems or facial markings to differentiate themselves from members of other colonies and open hostilities became common.
When war finally broke out, the Hierarchy maintained strict diplomacy and refused to get involved. After several years of fighting, less than a dozen factions remained and the Hierarchy finally intervened. By that time, the chieftains were too weak to resist; they were forced to put an end to fighting and renew their allegiance to the Hierarchy. Though peace was restored, it took several decades for animosity between colonists to fade completely. To this day, most turians still wear the facial markings of their home colonies.
The Krogan Rebellions
In the midst of the Krogan Rebellions, the Citadel Council made first contact with the turians. At the Council's behest, the turians brought their considerable war machine to bear on the krogan, now a recognized threat. While the initial turian offensive was successful in routing many krogan warrior bands, it provoked a massive counterattack from the krogan which devastated several turian colonies. Three turian worlds were rendered completely uninhabitable after the krogan used fusion torches to throw asteroids at them, and the bloodiest battle in turian history occurred at Digeris, where the planet was severely bombarded and the turians sacrificed many frigates and fighters to take out a fleet of krogan dreadnoughts. Rather than scaring off the turians with this show of force, the turians only fought with more resolve to quash the krogan utterly. Eventually, the turians implemented the salarian-developed genophage. With their advantage in numbers removed, the majority of krogan were subdued by 800 CE, although scattered insurgent actions would continue for decades.
By 900 CE, the turians were granted full membership on the Citadel Council in gratitude for their service during the Krogan Rebellions. The turian military fills the military and peacekeeping niche left by the decimated krogan.
Relay 314 Incident
In 2157 CE, following Council laws in place since the Rachni Wars which prohibited the activation of uncharted mass relays, a turian force opened fire on explorers from an as yet unknown race: humanity. One human starship managed to escape and warn the Systems Alliance, which retaliated and destroyed several turian vessels. The situation quickly escalated to war.
Over the next several weeks, the outnumbered Alliance lost multiple scouting parties and patrols to turian offensives. The conflict came to a head when a turian fleet broke through Alliance lines and besieged the human colony of Shanxi. With no other options, the Alliance garrison on Shanxi surrendered, and the turians proceeded to occupy the world, confident that the majority of Alliance forces had been defeated. However, one month later the Alliance's Second Fleet caught the turian occupiers by surprise and evicted them from the planet. Both sides began preparations for a protracted interplanetary war.
Before that could happen, the Citadel Council intervened and revealed the galactic community to humanity. Terms of peace were negotiated and the conflict effectively brought to an end. The turians were ordered by the Council to give heavy reparations to the Alliance for their part in instigating the conflict, known to the galaxy as the "Relay 314 Incident". Mistrust between both races would linger for years to come.
The Reaper War (Mass Effect 3)
During the Reaper invasion in 2186, the turian colony of Taetrus is one of the first worlds the Reapers attacked following their conquest of Khar'shan and Earth. The Turian Hierarchy made two attempts to liberate Taetrus, but were unsuccessful. As the Reapers began to pour into the Trebia system and assault Palaven, they broadcasted images of Taetrus's destruction to the turian comm buoy network.
The Reapers met with heavy resistance from the turians during their invasion of Palaven and Menae; much of the turian fleet remained operable after the Reapers' initial assault, and the turian citizenry was heavily armed and capable of supporting turian troops. Although the Hierarchy maintained that Palaven had not fallen and the battle for it continued, the Reapers nonetheless made significant gains and turian casualties rapidly mounted.
Relief came with the help of an unlikely ally: the krogan, who had agreed to join the war once the genophage was cured. The combined turian and krogan counterattack caught the Reapers off-guard. While the Reaper fleet orbiting Palaven was distracted by an apparent turian offensive, transport craft carrying krogan reinforcements landed on Palaven and coordinated with turian resistance forces, handing over warp bombs and fission weapons. These weapons were smuggled aboard Reaper processor ships and detonated simultaneously across the globe, allowing large swathes of territory to be retaken. News of the victory gave a much-needed boost to the morale of the turian resistance and the galactic public, but it was not long before the Reapers retaliated.
Realizing the hopelessness of the situation, Primarch Victus ordered the remaining turian warships to withdraw from the Trebia system in order to participate in the Allied assault on Earth.
Since the Unification War, turians normally wear elaborate tattoos marking their colony of origin, though it is not known which markings distinguish which colony or if color has any meaning. These markings are usually white — particularly on turians with darker carapaces — but can be of other colors such as blue for Garrus Vakarian or red for Nyreen Kandros. The lack of facial markings is looked down upon in turian society; the turian term "barefaced" refers to one who is beguiling or not to be trusted. It is also a slang term for politicians.
Turians are noted for their strong sense of public service. It is rare to find one who puts his needs ahead of the group. Every citizen from age 15 to 30 serves the state in some capacity, as anything from a soldier to an administrator, from a construction engineer to a sanitation worker. Turians have a strong inclination toward public service and self-sacrifice, so they tend to be poor entrepreneurs. To compensate, they accepted the mercantile volus as a client race, offering protection in exchange for their fiscal expertise.
Turian society is highly regimented and very organized, and the species is known for its strict discipline and work ethic. Turians are willing to do what needs to be done, and they always follow through. They are not easily spurred to violence, but when conflict is inevitable, they only understand a concept of "total war." They do not believe in skirmishes or small-scale battles; they use massive fleets and numbers to defeat an adversary so completely that they remove any threat of having to fight the same opponent more than once. They do not exterminate their enemy, but so completely devastate their military that the enemy has no choice but to become a colony of the turians. It is theorized that another conflict between the rapidly advancing humans and the turians could annihilate a large portion of known space.
The turian military is the center of their society. It is not just an armed force; it is an all-encompassing public works organization. The military police are also the civic police. The fire brigades serve the civilian population as well as military facilities. The corps of engineers builds and maintains spaceports, schools, water purification plants, and power stations. The merchant marine ensures that all worlds get needed resources.
While turians are known for military-grade discipline, males and females of the species alike aren't averse to more relaxed forms of social interaction. Other species see turians as "men of action," and they are generally regarded as the most progressive of the Citadel races (though some species believe humans are rivalling this position). Since their culture is based on the structure of a military hierarchy, changes and advances accepted by the leadership are quickly adopted by the rest of society with minimal resistance.
While turians are individuals with personal desires, their instinct is to equate the self with the group, and to set aside all personal desires for the good of all. Turians are taught to have a strong sense of personal accountability, the 'turian honor' that other races find so remarkable. Turians are taught to own every decision they make, good or ill. The worst sin they can make in the eyes of their people is to lie about their own actions. Turians who murder will try to get away with it, but if directly questioned, most will confess the crime.
The turian economy is vastly larger than that of the Alliance, but cannot match the size and power of that of the asari. For many years, development was hampered by cultural disinterest in economics. When the turians accepted the volus as a client race, business development improved.
The military is supported by a well-developed infrastructure. Manufacturers such as Armax Arsenal and the Haliat Armory produce advanced, reliable equipment. Volus manufacturers have been known to produce cheap knock-offs of turian equipment.
Turians believe that groups and areas have "spirits" that transcend the individual. For example, a military unit would be considered to have a literal spirit that embodies the honor and courage it has displayed. A city's spirit reflects the accomplishments and industry of its residents. An ancient tree's spirit reflects the beauty and tranquility of the area it grows within.
These spirits are neither good nor evil, nor are they appealed to for intercession. Turians do not believe spirits can affect the world, but spirits can inspire the living. Prayers and rituals allow an individual to converse with a spirit for guidance or inspiration. For example, a turian who finds his loyalty tested may appeal to the spirit of his unit, hoping to reconnect with the pride and honor of the group. A turian who wishes to create a work of art may attempt to connect with the spirit of a beautiful location.
Turians enjoy absolute freedom of religion and can practice whatever appeals to them so long as it does not impede anyone's ability to perform their duties. There are many practitioners of the asari siarist philosophy. Since opening dialog with the human Systems Alliance, some turians have embraced Confucianism and Zen Buddhism.
In the past, turians believed that titans strode across Palaven, reaching for the heavens. They worshiped these deities and communicated with them at a structure called Temple Palaven. The temple was tended to by a religious order called the Valluvian Priests, who wear special purple robes which obscure their forms. In order for turians to join this order, they had to be considered worthy enough through some action. When the turians spread out from Palaven and discovered other life among the stars, however, they sealed Temple Palaven because they no longer needed legends to prod them upward. With the temple abandoned, eventually the Valluvian Priests fell into legend.
The turian government, known as the Turian Hierarchy, is a hierarchical meritocracy. While it has great potential for misuse, this is tempered by the civic duty and personal responsibility turians learn during their childhood.
Turians have 27 citizenship tiers, beginning with civilians (client races and children). The initial period of military service is the second tier. Formal citizenship is conferred at the third tier, after boot camp. For client races, citizenship is granted after the individual musters out. Higher-ranked citizens are expected to lead and protect subordinates. Lower-ranking citizens are expected to obey and support superiors. Promotion to another tier of citizenship is based on the personal assessment of one's superiors and co-rankers. At the top are the Primarchs, who each rule a colonization cluster. The Primarchs vote on matters of national importance. They otherwise maintain a "hands-off" policy, trusting the citizens on each level below them to do their jobs competently.
Throughout their lives, turians ascend to the higher tiers and are occasionally "demoted" to lower ones. The stigma associated with demotion lies not on the individual, but on those who promoted them when they weren't ready for additional responsibility. This curbs the tendency to promote individuals into positions beyond their capabilities. Settling into a role and rank is not considered stagnation. Turians value knowing one's own limitations more than being ambitious.
Turians enjoy broad freedoms. So long as one completes their duties, and does not prevent others from completing theirs, nothing is forbidden. For example, there are no laws against recreational drug use, but if someone is unable to complete their duties due to drug use, their superiors step in. Judicial proceedings are 'interventions.' Peers express their concern, and try to convince the offender to change. If rehabilitation fails, turians have no qualms about sentencing dangerous individuals to life at hard labor for the state.
The turian imperial anthem is called "Die for the Cause."
Although they lack the brutality of the krogan, the refined biotic skill of the asari, and the adaptability of the humans, the turian military has formidable discipline. Officers and NCOs are "lifers" with years of field experience. Enlisted personnel are thoroughly trained and stay calm under fire. Turian units don't break. Even if their entire line collapses, they fall back in order, setting ambushes as they go. A popular saying holds: "You will only see a turian's back once he's dead."
Boot camp begins on the 15th birthday. Soldiers receive a year of training before being assigned to a field unit; officers train for even longer. Most serve until the age of 30, at which they become part of the Reserves. Even if they suffer injuries preventing front-line service, most do support work behind the lines.
Biotics are uncommon. While admired for their exacting skills, biotics' motives are not always fully trusted by the common soldier. The turians prefer to assign their biotics to specialist teams called Cabals.
Command and control is decentralized and flexible. Individual squads can call for artillery and air support. They make extensive use of combat drones for light duties and VI-controlled fighters, and practice combined arms: infantry operates with armor, supported by overhead gunships. Strategically, they are methodical and patient, and dislike risky operations.
Tradition is important. Each legion has a full-time staff of historians who chronicle its battle honors in detail. The oldest have records dating back to the turian Iron Age. If a legion is destroyed in battle, it is reconstituted rather than being replaced.
The turians recruit auxiliary units from conquered or absorbed minor races, like the volus. Auxiliaries are generally light infantry or armored cavalry units that screen and support the main battle formations. At the conclusion of their service in the Auxiliaries, recruits are granted turian citizenship.
Turian wars are often marked by citizen resistance. Most turian families keep small arms in their homes and take basic training courses that include instruction on how to create simple anti-vehicle explosive devices. To suppress citizen militias, the Turian Hierarchy makes use of "execution squads" known as hastatim. First, "safe camps" are established in cities to incentivize surrender. Next, hastatim soldiers are deployed door-to-door; anyone who refuses to be transported to a safe camp or demonstrates hostile intent will be shot. Hastatim burial units then retrieve and cremate the bodies. This approach is necessary because without the safe camps, no turian would ever surrender, and without the hastatim, it would take years for a population to be pacified.
The mainstay of the turian infantry is the Phaeston assault rifle, a light, accurate, and versatile weapon that nonetheless packs more punch than other rifles of its size. Other turian weapons include the Krysae anti-materiel sniper rifle, and the ML-77 Missile Launcher, manufactured by Armax Arsenal, one of the turian military's main suppliers. Vehicles the turians employ include the A-61 Mantis Gunship, a versatile multi-role aircraft, the C77 Tyrus, a durable 13-ton infantry fighting vehicle, an APC variant of the M-080, the Jiris Infantry Fighting Vehicle, a hovercraft capable of traversing most terrains and engaging enemies at 20 kilometers with its missiles.
The turian navy is divided into at least 32 fleets, and is allotted more dreadnoughts by the Treaty of Farixen than any other race; the turians possessed 37 dreadnoughts in 2183 CE and 39 as of 2185 CE, and in 2186 CE the Turian Hierarchy and the Vol Protectorate were jointly gifted the dreadnought Kwunu by the Elkoss Combine. The turians are also known to possess at least two fighter carriers. The navy serves as a galactic peacekeeping force, and is also the primary military arm of the Council, contributing the single largest portion of the Citadel Fleet.