Some Facts and Figures about Turkey

Head of Statemosqueeclipse

Prime Minister, President


Political Divisions

81 Provinces



300,948 sq. miles. Approximately the size of Texas and half of New Mexico. Greatest distances—north-south, 465 miles; east-west, 1,015 miles. Coastline—2,211 miles. Elevation: Highest—Mount Ararat, 17,011 feet. Lowest—sea level along the coast



Estimated 1996 population—63,204,000; density, 211 persons per square mile; distribution, 69 percent urban, 31 percent rural.
1990 census – 56,473,035
2015 census – about 78 million

Chief products

Agriculture—barley, corn, cotton, fruits, potatoes, sugar beets, and wheat.



fertilizers, iron, steel, machinery, motor vehicles, processed foods and beverages, pulp, and paper products, textiles and clothing.


National emblem

Crescent and star


National motto

Yurtta sulh, Cihanda Sulh (Peace at home, peace in the world).


DSC01768National holiday

National Day, October 29



Basic unit – lira.



Turkey is a Middle Eastern nation (sometimes classified as a European nation) that lies both in Europe and in Asia.  About 3 percent of the country occupies the easternmost tip of southern Europe, a region called Thrace.  Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city, lies in the region of green, fertile hills and valleys.  To the east, the rest of Turkey covers a large, mountainous peninsula called Anatolia or Asia Minor.  Anatolia has several large cities, including the capital city of Ankara, and areas of rich farmland.  But much of Anatolia is rocky, barren land.

Old and New-Young Girl and Old ladyTurkey borders Bulgaria on the northwest; Greece on the west; Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Iran on the east; and Iraq and Syria on the south.  The Black Sea lies to the north, the Aegean Sea to the west, and the Mediterranean Sea to the south.

Three bodies of water—the Bosphorus, the Sea of Marmara, and the Dardanelles—separate Anatolia from Thrace.  These three bodies of water, often called the Straits, have had a major role in the history of Turkey.  By its control of the Straits, Turkey can regulate the movement of ships between the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea.

Most of Turkey’s people live in cities or towns.  The rest live on farms or in small villages.  Nearly all the people are Muslim (followers of Islam).  Turkey is a developing country. From 1980 to 1999, the share of agricultural products in exports declined from 57 to 10 percent.  Agriculture accounts for less than 20% of the GNP, although it employs well over half of the national labor force.

Various Asian and European peoples have ruled what is now Turkey since ancient times.  During the AD 1300’s, a group of Muslim Turks called the Ottomans began to build a powerful empire that eventually controlled much of the Middle East, southern Europe, and northern Africa.  The Ottoman Empire ended in 1922.  The next year, Turkey became a republic.

Islamic law has strongly influenced Turkish life for nearly 1,000 years.  However, Turkey’s new republican government introduced sweeping cultural and political reforms that discouraged or outlawed many traditional Islamic practices.  Most of the Turkish people accepted the reforms.  However, many others, especially those living in rural areas, resisted the changes.  This conflict over the role of Islam in Turkish life continues to divide the nation.


Archaeologists have found evidence of an advanced society, in what is now Turkey, before 6000 BC. The first inhabitants of the area to be recorded in history were a people called the Hittites. About 2000 BC, they began to migrate to central Anatolia from Europe or central Asia. During the next several hundred years, they conquered much of Anatolia and parts of Mesopotamia and Syria. By 1500 BC the Hittites had created a powerful empire that made them the leading rulers of the Middle East.

From about 1200 to 500 BC, large areas of Anatolia fell to the Phrygians, the Lydians, and other peoples. During the same period, the Greeks founded many city-states along Anatolia’s Aegean coast. Between about 550 and 513 BC, the Persian Empire seized control of Anatolia and Thrace. The Persians held control until Alexander the Great of Macedonia crushed their army in 331 BC After Alexander’s death in 323 BC, Anatolia became a battleground in the wars among his successors. Small kingdoms rose and fell until 63 BC, when the Roman general Pompey conquered the region. Anatolia was at peace under Roman rule for nearly 400 years.

In AD 330, the Roman emperor Constantine the Great moved the capital from Rome to the ancient town of’ Byzantium in Thrace. Byzantium was renamed Constantinople, meaning city of Constantine. In 395, the Roman Empire split into two parts–the East Roman Empire, which included Anatolia and Thrace, and the West Roman Empire. Barbarians conquered the West Roman Empire in the mid-400’s. But the East Roman Empire, also called the Byzantine Empire, thrived. Byzantine emperors thus came to rule all of what is now Turkey until the late 1000’s.

The Seljuk Turks became one of the first Turkish peoples to rule in Turkey. The Seljuks were Muslims from central Asia east of the Caspian Sea. During the mid- 1000’s, they conquered Armenia; the Holy Land, or Palestine; and most of Iran. Then they invaded Anatolia. In 1071, the Seljuks destroyed most of the Byzantine power in Anatolia by defeating the Byzantine army in the Battle of Manzikert. They set up an empire with Iconium (now Konya) as the capital. From this point onward, the Christian religion and the Greek language of the Byzantine Empire were gradually replaced in Anatolia by Islam and the Turkish language.

In 1095, Christians in Western Europe organized the first of a series of military expeditions called the Crusades to drive the Turks from the Holy Land. During the First Crusade (1096-1099), Christian troops defeated the Seljuk Turks in western Anatolia. As a result, the Byzantine Empire recovered about a third of Anatolia. But the crusaders then left the peninsula to fight in the Holy Land. The Seljuk Empire thus endured until 1243, when it was invaded by Asian nomads known as Mongols.

The Rise of the Ottoman Empire

The Mongol Empire was torn by internal struggles and soon fell apart. As a result, the Turks’ influence in Anatolia continued to grow. During the 1300’s, a group of Turks called the Ottomans began to build a mighty empire. In 1326, they seized the Anatolian city of Bursa, which became their capital. By the late 1300’s, the Ottomans had conquered the western two-thirds of Anatolia, most of Thrace, and much of the Balkan Peninsula, including Greece. All that remained of the Byzantine Empire was the area around Constantinople.

In 1453, Ottoman forces led by Muhammad II captured Constantinople, ending the Byzantine Empire. The Ottomans called the city Istanbul and made it their capital. By 1481, their emYeni Camipire extended from the Danube River in Europe to southern Anatolia. The Ottoman Empire reached its height in the 1500’s. During the reign of Sultan Bayezid II, who ruled from 1481 to 1512, the empire became the leading naval power in the Mediterranean region. Ottoman forces conquered Syria in 1516 and Egypt in 1517. Suleiman I, whom Europeans called the Magnificent, ruled from 1520 to 1566. In 1526, his army conquered much of Hungary in the Battle of Mohacs. Suleiman also expanded the empire’s borders to Yemen on the south, Morocco on the west, and Persia on the east.

The Decline of the Ottoman Empire

After the Battle of Mohacs, European powers feared that the Ottomans would overrun Europe. However, European forces successfully defended Vienna, Austria, during an Ottoman attack in 1529. In 1571, European fleets defeated the Ottoman navy in the Battle of Lepanto, near Greece. The Ottomans again failed to capture Vienna in 1683.

During the 1700’s, the Ottoman Empire continued to weaken. In 1774, the Ottomans lost a six-year war against Russia and were forced to allow Russian ships to pass through the Straits–the Turkish waters that link the Black Sea with the Mediterranean. The Ottoman Empire lost the Crimea, a peninsula in the Black Sea, to Russia in 1783.

“The Sick Man of Europe,” as the Ottoman Empire came to be called, lost more territory during the 1800’s. In 1821, Greek nationalists revolted against Ottoman rule. France, Britain, and Russia sided with the Greeks and sent forces to fight the Ottomans.

The Treaty of Adrianople (Edirne) ended the fighting in 1829. This treaty acknowledged the independence of Greece and gave Russia control of the mouth of the Danube River. The Ottomans also lost other Balkan territory in a series of wars with Russia. But European powers forced Russia to give up much of its gains at the Congress of Berlin in 1878. The Ottoman Empire, continued to decline, however. The empire had lost Algeria to France in 1830, and France seized Tunisia in 1881. Britain gained Cyprus in 1878 and Egypt in 1882.

Ottoman leaders tried to halt the empire’s decline through a reform program. They reorganized the military and improved the educational system. In 1876, the empire’s first constitution was adopted. It provided for representative government and granted the people various freedoms. However, Sultan Abdul-Hamid II, who came to the throne the same year, set the constitution aside and ruled as a dictator. Government policies became increasingly violent, and Abdul-Hamid ruled by the use of fear. Religious persecution began to spread as members of various religious minorities became revolutionaries. Nationalist feelings were strong among the minorities. Ottoman officials, fearing further collapse of the already declining empire, reacted harshly. Violent attacks took place. Between 1894 and 1918, the Christian Armenians in the Ottoman Empire suffered an especially large loss of life.

The Young Turks

During the late 1890’s, small groups of Turkish students and military officers, who opposed Abdul-Hamid’s harsh policies banded together secretly. The most influential group was the Young Turks. In 1908, the Young Turks led an army revolt against Abdul-Hamid and forced him to restore constitutional government. But the sultan soon staged an unsuccessful counterrevolution, and the Young Turks made him give up the throne in 1909. They then ruled the empire through his brother Muhammad V.

The Young Turks wanted to restore the greatness of the Ottoman Empire. However, many Turkish people no longer cared about the idea of maintaining an empire. In addition, the empire’s Christian minorities demanded freedom from Ottoman rule. And so the empire continued to crumble. Soon after the revolution in 1908, Bulgaria declared its independence, and Austria-Hungary annexed Bosnia-Herzegovina. Italy took Libya in 1912. In 1913, the Ottoman Empire surrendered Crete, part of Macedonia, southern Epirus, and many Aegean islands to Greece. By 1914, the empire had lost all its European territory except eastern Thrace.

In 1914, the Ottoman Empire entered World War I on the side of Germany and Austria- Hungary in an attempt to regain lost territory. In 1915, British, French, and other Allied troops tried to gain control of the Straits so that aid could be shipped to Russia. The Ottomans drove back the invaders, dealing the Allies a crushing defeat. However, the Allies won the war in 1918.

After World War I, the Allies set out to break up the Ottoman Empire. Allied troops occupied Istanbul and the Straits. In May 1919, Greek troops, protected by Allied fleets, landed at the Turkish port of Izmir. The Greeks then advanced into the country. The Turks deeply resented the Ottoman government’s inability to defend their homeland.

Mustafa Kemal, a Turkish military hero, quickly organized a nationalist movement. Under the leadership of Kemal, a nationalist congress met in Sivas in September to form a new provisional (temporary) government. In April 1920, the congress organized the Turkish Grand National Assembly in Ankara and elected Kemal as Assembly president.

In August 1920, the sultan’s government signed the harsh Treaty of Sevres with the Allies. The treaty granted independence to some parts of the empire and gave other parts to various Allied powers. The empire was reduced to Istanbul and a portion of Anatolia. As a result of the treaty, the sultan’s popularity among the Turks declined further, while the power of Kemal and the nationalists grew. In September 1922, the nationalist forces finally drove the Greeks from the country. The Grand National Assembly then abolished the office of sultan, and the Allies agreed to draw up a new peace treaty with the nationalists. The Treaty of Lausanne, signed in 1923, set Turkey’s borders about where they are today.

The Republic of Turkey

The Grand National Assembly proclaimed Turkey to be a republic on Oct. 29, 1923, and elected Kemal as president. Kemal and other nationalist leaders believed that the new nation could not survive without sweeping social changes. During the 1920’s and 1930’s, the government did away with such Islamic traditions as the Arabic alphabet, Muslim schools, the Islamic legal system, and the wearing of the veil by women and the fez by men. It abolished the religious and civil office of the caliph. It also outlawed polygamy, the practice of having more than one wife at the same time. Women received the right to vote and to hold public office. All Turks were required to choose a family name. At the same time, the Grand National Assembly, gave Kemal his surname– Ataturk, which means “father of the Turks.”

Ataturk held enormous political power. He controlled the Assembly and could appoint and dismiss the prime minister and cabinet without its approval. However, some Turks opposed Ataturk’s anti-Islamic policies. The Kurds revolted against them in 1925, but the government put down the uprising. Ataturk served as Turkey’s president until he died in 1938. Ismet Inonu then became president Under Inonu’s leadership. Turkey avoided entering World War II (1939-1945) until February, 1945, when Germany’s defeat seemed certain. Turkey joined the United Nations (UN) the same year.

After World War II, the Soviet Union demanded control of territory in eastern Turkey and the right to build military bases along the Straits. Turkish leaders turned to the Western powers for help. In 1947, U.S. President Harry Truman announced the Truman doctrine, under which the United States would provide aid to any country threatened by Communism. The United States gave Turkey millions of dollars in economic and military aid. In return for this help, Turkey allowed the United States to build and operate military bases on Turkish soil.

The Republican People’s Party, established by Ataturk, had governed Turkey since the establishment of the republic. However, in 1950, the Democrat Party won a majority in the Grand National Assembly. Celal Bayar became president, and Adnan Menderes became prime minister. Unlike the Republicans, the Democrats encouraged foreign investments and wanted less government control of the economy. But by the late 1950’s, a rise in the national debt and restrictions on freedom of speech had made the Democrat government unpopular.

The 1960’s

Turkish military forces believed that the Democrat government had strayed too far from Ataturk’s political principles. In 1960, army units led by General Cemal Oursel seized control of the government and set up a provisional government. The military placed many former government leaders on trial. Prime Minister Menderes was hanged. President Bayar was sentenced to life imprisonment but was later released.

In 1961, Turkey adopted a new Constitution. The provisional government then held free national elections. No party won a majority in the legislature. Inonu, of the Republican People’s Party was chosen to become Prime Minister. In 1965, the Justice Party won a majority, and party leader Suleyman Demirel became Prime Minister.

The Cyprus crisis

During the 1960’s, Turkey and Greece nearly went to war over the issue of the Mediterranean island of Cyprus. In 1964 and 1967, fighting broke out on Cyprus between the island’s Turkish minority and Greek majority. Both Turkey and Greece threatened to intervene before outside peacemakers arranged a settlement. But in 1974, Greek military officers overthrew the president of Cyprus. Turkish troops then invaded the island and captured much territory. The Turks on Cyprus later set up a separate government. The Turks declared the captured territory an autonomous (self-governing) region in 1975, and an independent republic in 1993. But Greek Cypriots protested strongly against these measures.

Political unrest

In the late 1960’s, radical groups of Turks began staging such terrorist acts as bombings, kidnappings, and murders in an attempt to overthrow the government. In the 1970’s, deep divisions developed between secular and religious groups. Since the mid-1970’s, much fighting has taken place between the two sides. Terrorist acts have continued, and radicals of the two groups have accused each other of committing them. Since 1984, the government has fought Kurdish rebels in the southeast. The rebels want to form an independent state in that region.

In 1971, Prime Minister Demirel resigned under pressure from the military. A series of prime ministers then failed to form a stable government. In 1975, Demirel again became prime minister. In the late 1970’s, the office passed back and forth between Demirel and Bulent Ecevit of the Republican People’s Party several times. Demirel became Prime Minister in November 1979. In 1980, army leaders took control of the government and greatly reduced the civil disorder.

Recent developments

A new Constitution was adopted in 1982. Turkey returned to civilian rule in 1983 when parliamentary elections were held. From then until 1991, the Motherland Party controlled the government. In elections held in October 1991, the True Path party won the most legislative seats, though not a majority. True Path formed a coalition government with the Social Democratic Populist Party. Suleman Demirel, who had become leader of the True Path, again became Prime Minister. The National Assembly elected Demirel as president in 1993. Tansu Ciller of the True Path party then became Prime Minister. She was Turkey’s first woman Prime Minister. In elections held in late 1995, the Welfare (Refah) Party, a pro-Islamist party, won the most seats in the legislature, though not a majority. For several months, secular parties tried to block Welfare from forming a government. In June 1996, however, the Welfare and True Path parties agreed to form a coalition government. Necmettin Erbakan, the leader of the Welfare Party, became Prime Minister. He was the first person from an Islamist party to head the government since Turkey became a republic in 1923.



Turkey has been a democratic secular republic since 1923, with a parliament (called the Grand National Assembly), President, cabinet, Prime Minister, and Supreme Court.    There are currently 81 provinces which are then divided into districts.

The Turkish government has been relatively stable compared to much of the rest of the Middle East, partly due to the huge military presence throughout the country.



Turkey is a contrast of modern/secular and ancient/Islamic.  Everywhere you go you see people dressed in very modern clothes and some women who are more covered.  This contrast runs throughout the whole culture, in most all the people.  You see villagers with their horse-drawn carts talking on cell phones.  You see women dressed as they would in Europe or the U.S. and those who are very traditional.  You see ancient sites and modern shopping malls which could be anyplace in the world.

The culture is rapidly changing in Turkey, with strong forces toward Islam and strong forces toward secularism.  Turkey is at the same time very traditional and very modern.



About 90% of Turks speak Turkish, and about 6% Kurdish, although most of the Kurdish people also speak Turkish.



Turkey’s Ottoman Empire was for centuries the guardian of all of the holy places of Islam and its chief protagonists. Since the sweeping reforms of the 1920’s Turkey has officially been a secular state. In recent years Islam has become a more important political factor, making the lot of non-Muslim minorities more difficult despite the constitutional guarantee of religious freedom.

Muslim: 99.8%. Sunni Muslims: 83%. Alevi Shi’a: 14% predominantly among Zaza Kurds. Shi’a: 2% among Azeri and Iranians. There are also Yezidis among the Kurds.

Jews: 0.04%.

Christian: There is a growing Protestant church in Turkey.

Growth of Christians – about  6.5% per year.

The Protestant church in modern Turkey did not exist until the 1970’s.   Since then there has been steady growth in both the ethnic churches and Turkish churches.