Known for their militaristic and disciplined culture, the turians are the most recent of the Citadel races invited to join the 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 - shown by the cooperation of the two races on the construction of the SSV Normandy - but many turians still hate 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 is a result of their evolution (see below). Turian features are avian, making them resemble humanoid birds or raptors. In Mass Effect: Revelation, David Anderson claimed that turians reminded him of the evolutionary link between birds and dinosaurs.
Since the Unification War, turians normally wear elaborate facial tattoos marking which colony they originate from, though it is not known which markings distinguish which colony. These are usually white - particularly on turians with darker carapaces - but can be various colours; Garrus Vakarian's markings, for example, are dark blue. As a point of interest, the turian term 'barefaced' refers to one who is beguiling or not to be trusted (note that Saren Arterius does not bear any facial markings). It is also a slang term for politicians.
Turians are also recognisable by their voices, which have a distinctive 'flanging' effect.
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. 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 colouration, possibly from the presence of hemocyanin rather than hemoglobin, which would fit with the biology of a metallic exoskeleton.
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.
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 in 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 import. 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 him when he wasn'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 his 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 his duties due to drug use, his 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 economy is vastly larger than the Alliance, but cannot match the size and power 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. It is not unknown for volus manufacturers to produce cheap knock-offs of turian equipment.
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.
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.
edit ReligionTurians 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.
Although they lack the brutality of the krogan, the refined 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 practice combined arms: infantry operates with armor, supported by overhead gunships. Strategically, they are methodical and patient, and dislike risky operations. The turians recruit auxiliary units from conquered or absorbed minor races. 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.
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.