Turkey

President: Abdullah Gul (2007)

Prime Minister: Recep Tayyip Erdogan (2003)

Land area: 297,591 sq mi (770,761 sq km); total area: 301,382 sq mi (780,580 sq km)

Population (July 2012 est.): 79,749,461 (growth rate: 1.197%); birth rate: 17.58/1000; infant mortality rate: 23.07/1000; life expectancy: 72.77

Capital (2011 est.): Ankara, 4.338 million

Largest cities: Istanbul, 13.301 million; Izmir, 2.783 million; Bursa, 1.704 million; Adana, 1.609 million.

Monetary unit: Turkish lira (YTL)

Republic of Turkey

National name: Türkiye Cumhuriyeti

Current government officials

Languages: Turkish (official), Kurdish, Dimli, Azeri, Kabardian

Ethnicity/race: Turkish 70-75%, Kurdish 18% (2008 est.)

Religions: Islam (mostly Sunni) 99.8%, other 0.2% (mostly Christians and Jews)

Literacy rate: 87.4% (2004 est.)

Economic summary: GDP/PPP (2011 est.): $1.075 trillion; per capita $14,400. Real growth rate: 8.5%. Inflation: 6.5%. Unemployment: 9.8% (plus underemployment of 4.0%). Arable land: 29.81%. Agriculture: tobacco, cotton, grain, olives, sugar beets, pulse, citrus; livestock. Labor force: 26.69 million (2011); note: about 1.2 million Turks work abroad; agriculture 25.5%, industry 26.2%, services 48.4% (2010). Industries: textiles, food processing, autos, electronics, mining (coal, chromite, copper, boron), steel, petroleum, construction, lumber, paper. Natural resources: antimony, coal, chromium, mercury, copper, borate, sulfur, iron ore, arable land, hydropower. Exports: $143.4 billion (2011 est.): apparel, foodstuffs, textiles, metal manufactures, transport equipment. Imports: $232.9 billion (2011 est.): machinery, chemicals, semifinished goods, fuels, transport equipment. Major trading partners: Germany, UK, Russia, U.S., Italy, France, Russia, China, Iraq, Iran (2011).

Communications: Telephones: main lines in use: 15.211 million (2011); mobile cellular: 65.322 million (2011). Broadcast media: national public broadcaster Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT) operates multiple TV and radio networks and stations; multiple privately-owned national television stations and up to 300 private regional and local television stations; multi-channel cable TV subscriptions are obtainable; more than 1,000 private radio broadcast stations (2009). Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 7.093 million (2012). Internet users: 27.233 million (2009).

Transportation: Railways: total: 8,699 km (2010). Highways: total: 352,046 km; paved: 313,151 km; unpaved: 38,895 km (2008). Waterways: about 1,200 km (2010). Ports and harbors: Gemlik, Hopa, Iskenderun, Istanbul, Izmir, Kocaeli (Izmit), Icel (Mersin), Samsun, Trabzon. Airports: 98 (2012).

International disputes: complex maritime, air, and territorial disputes with Greece in the Aegean Sea; status of north Cyprus question remains; Syria and Iraq protest Turkish hydrological projects to control upper Euphrates waters; Turkey has expressed concern over the status of Kurds in Iraq; in 2009, Swiss mediators facilitated an accord reestablishing diplomatic ties between Armenia and Turkey, but neither side has ratified the agreement and the rapprochement effort has faltered; Turkish authorities have complained that blasting from quarries in Armenia might be damaging the medieval ruins of Ani, on the other side of the Arpacay valley.

Major sources and definitions

Flag of Turkey

Geography

Turkey is at the northeast end of the Mediterranean Sea in southeast Europe and southwest Asia. To the north is the Black Sea and to the west is the Aegean Sea. Its neighbors are Greece and Bulgaria to the west, Russia, Ukraine, and Romania to the north and northwest (through the Black Sea), Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Iran to the east, and Syria and Iraq to the south. The Dardanelles, the Sea of Marmara, and the Bosporus divide the country. Turkey in Europe comprises an area about equal to the state of Massachusetts. Turkey in Asia is about the size of Texas. Its center is a treeless plateau rimmed by mountains.

Government

Republican parliamentary democracy.

History

Anatolia (Turkey in Asia) was occupied in about 1900 B.C. by the Indo-European Hittites and, after the Hittite empire's collapse in 1200 B.C., by Phrygians and Lydians. The Persian Empire occupied the area in the 6th century B.C., giving way to the Roman Empire, then later the Byzantine Empire. The Ottoman Turks first appeared in the early 13th century, subjugating Turkish and Mongol bands pressing against the eastern borders of Byzantium and making the Christian Balkan states their vassals. They gradually spread through the Near East and Balkans, capturing Constantinople in 1453 and storming the gates of Vienna two centuries later. At its height, the Ottoman Empire stretched from the Persian Gulf to western Algeria. Lasting for 600 years, the Ottoman Empire was not only one of the most powerful empires in the history of the Mediterranean region, but it generated a great cultural outpouring of Islamic art, architecture, and literature.

After the reign of Sultan Süleyman I the Magnificent (1494–1566), the Ottoman Empire began to decline politically, administratively, and economically. By the 18th century, Russia was seeking to establish itself as the protector of Christians in Turkey's Balkan territories. Russian ambitions were checked by Britain and France in the Crimean War (1854–1856), but the Russo-Turkish War (1877–1878) gave Bulgaria virtual independence and Romania and Serbia liberation from their nominal allegiance to the sultan. Turkish weakness stimulated a revolt of young liberals known as the Young Turks in 1909. They forced Sultan Abdul Hamid to grant a constitution and install a liberal government. However, reforms were no barrier to further defeats in a war with Italy (1911–1912) and the Balkan Wars (1912–1913). Turkey sided with Germany in World War I, and, as a result, lost territory at the conclusion of the war.

A New Republic and President

Turkey's current boundaries were drawn in 1923 at the Conference of Lausanne, and Turkey became a republic with Kemal Atatürk as the first president. The Ottoman sultanate and caliphate were abolished, and modernization, reform, and industrialization began under Atatürk's direction. He secularized Turkish society, reducing Islam's dominant role and replacing Arabic with the Latin alphabet for writing the Turkish language. After Atatürk's death in 1938, parliamentary government and a multiparty system gradually took root in Turkey, despite periods of instability and brief intervals of military rule. Neutral during most of World War II, Turkey, on Feb. 23, 1945, declared war on Germany and Japan, but it took no active part in the conflict. Turkey became a full member of NATO in 1952, was a signatory in the Balkan Entente (1953), joined the Baghdad Pact (1955; later CENTO), joined the Organization for European Economic Cooperation (OEEC) and the Council of Europe, and became an associate member of the European Common Market in 1963.

Turkey invaded Cyprus by sea and air on July 20, 1974, following the failure of diplomatic efforts to resolve conflicts between Turkish and Greek Cypriots. Turkey unilaterally announced a cease-fire on Aug. 16, after having gained control of 40% of the island. Turkish Cypriots established their own state in the north on Feb. 13, 1975. In July 1975, after a 30-day warning, Turkey took control of all the U.S. installations except the joint defense base at Incirlik, which it reserved for “NATO tasks alone.”

The establishment of military government in Sept. 1980 stopped the slide toward anarchy and brought some improvement in the economy. A constituent assembly, consisting of the six-member national security council and members appointed by them, drafted a new constitution that was approved by an overwhelming (91.5%) majority of the voters in a Nov. 6, 1982, referendum. Martial law was gradually lifted. The military, however, effectively continues to control the country.

Oppression of Kurds and Kurdish Culture and Deadly Clashes

About 12 million Kurds, roughly 20% of Turkey's population, live in the southeast region of Turkey. Turkey, however, does not officially recognize Kurds as a minority group and is therefore exempted from protecting their rights. Oppression of Kurds and Kurdish culture led to the emergence in 1984 of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), a militant Kurdish terrorist campaign under the leadership of Abdullah Ocalan. Although the guerrilla movement sought independence at first, by the late 1980s the rebel Kurds were willing to accept an autonomous state or a federation with Turkey. About 35,000 have died in clashes between the military and the PKK during the 1980s and 1990s. On Feb. 16, 1999, Ocalan was captured. He was tried and convicted of treason and separatism on June 2, 1999, and sentenced to death.

On Aug. 17, 1999, western Turkey was devastated by an earthquake (magnitude 7.4) that left more than 17,000 dead and 200,000 homeless. Another huge earthquake struck in November.

Construction on a $3-billion, 1,000-mile oil pipeline running from Baku, Azerbaijan, to the Mediterranean port city of Ceyhan began in Sept. 2002. The pipeline opened in July 2006.

In Nov. 2002 elections, the recently formed Justice and Development Party (AK) won. Its leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was barred from becoming prime minister, however, because of a conviction for “inciting religious hatred” by reciting an Islamic poem at a rally in 1998. Another popular AK leader, Abdullah Gul, served as prime minister until Turkish law was amended to permit Erdogan to run for a seat in parliament again, which he easily won. Gul resigned as prime minister, making way for Erdogan.

In March 2003, U.S.-Turkish relations were severely strained when Turkey's parliament narrowly failed to pass a resolution permitting the U.S. to use Turkish bases as a launching pad for the pending war against Iraq. Turkish opinion polls reported that an overwhelming 90% of Turks were against war in Iraq, but the U.S. had promised the country much-needed economic aid.

Terrorism; Attempts to Improve the Government

In Nov. 2003, two terrorist attacks rocked Istanbul. On Nov. 17, truck bombs exploded near two synagogues; on Nov. 22, the British Consulate and a British bank were targeted. More than 50 were killed and hundreds were wounded in the attacks; al-Qaeda is believed to be responsible.

In an effort to make itself more attractive for potential EU membership, Turkey has begun revamping some of its repressive laws and policies. In 2003, its parliament passed a law reducing the military's role in political life and offered partial amnesty to PKK members, many of whom have sought refuge in northern Iraq. In 2004, Turkish state television broadcast the first Kurdish language program and the government freed four Kurdish activists from prison. Turkey also abolished the death penalty in all but exceptional cases.

In April 2007, Prime Minister Erdogan nominated Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, an Islamist, as the ruling party's candidate for president over the objections of the military, which has historically been protective of a secular state. Gul, however, failed to win the necessary two-thirds majority in parliament, and a constitutional court later nullified the vote, citing a lack of a quorum. Many secularists in parliament, who accused Gul of harboring an Islamist agenda, boycotted the vote. Gul withdrew from the race in May. Gul was victorious in the third round of elections in August.

Turkey recalled its ambassador to the United States and threatened to withdraw its support of the war in Iraq in October after the U.S. House Foreign Relations Committee passed a resolution labeling as genocide Turkey's murder of some 1.5 million Armenians during World War I. President George Bush strongly urged members of the committee to vote against the resolution.

Tension between Turkey and Iraq peaked in October, as Kurdish separatists in Iraq, members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), escalated their attacks into Turkey. In response, Turkey's Parliament voted, 507 to 19, to allow the deployment of troops into northern Iraq. U.S. and Iraqi officials feared a war on another front in Iraq would further destabilize the already fragile country. In December, Turkish fighter jets, with the help of the U.S. military, bombed areas in Dohuk Province in northern Iraq, targeting the (PKK). Turkish troops resumed their attacks on Dohuk Province in February 2008, killing as many as 160 PKK fighters, who claimed to have killed as many Turkish troops.

In January 2008, police arrested 13 ultranationalists, including three former military officers, who were accused of organizing and carrying out political murders. One of the officers, Veli Kucuk, is suspected of running a secret unit within the police force that orchestrated political violence against religious and ethnic minority groups.

Improvements for Civil Rights and the Secular Movement

In February 2008, Parliament voted in favor of a measure put forth by Prime Minister Erdogan that would lift the ban on women wearing headscarves in universities. Secular lawmakers voted overwhelmingly against the laws, concerned that their secularism faced attack by the conservative government. In June, the Constitutional Court, Turkey’s highest court, overturned the measure, saying it violated secularist principles inherent in the country’s constitution.

On July 14, 2008, 86 people, who are suspected to be part of a secular organization called Ergenekon, were charged with attempting to overthrow the current AKP government. The attempted coup was exposed in June 2007. On October 20, 2008, the court began a public trail of the suspects.

On July 30, 2008, Turkey's 11-member Constitutional Court fell one vote short of banning the Justice and Development party for violating the country's secular constitution. The court did rule, however, to reduce by one-half the party's public financing.

After nearly 100 years of hostility between Turkey and Armenia over the murder of 600,000 to 1.5 million Armenians at the hands of Ottoman Turks during World War I, the two countries agreed in October 2009 to establish diplomatic relations and reopen the border between them. Both parliaments must approve the deal.

Turkey Takes on Bigger Role on the World Stage

In May 2010, as the U.S. and other members of the Security Council were negotiating the language and terms of a fourth round sanctions against Iran for continuing to enrich uranium and refusing to open its facilities to weapons inspectors, Iran agreed to send 2,640 pounds of enriched uranium to Turkey in exchange for uranium enriched to 20% that can be used in a reactor that creates isotopes for medical use—a deal strikingly similar to the one Iran reneged on in October 2009. Turkey and Brazil brokered the agreement. Both countries were criticized for interfering with the sanctions process and accused of attempting to increase their presence on the world stage.

In late May 2010, an activist group, Free Gaza Now, and a Turkish humanitarian organization, Insani Yardim Vakfi, sent a flotilla of aid to Gaza, a violation of a blockade that Israel and Egypt imposed on Gaza in 2007. The move was an apparent attempt to further politicize the blockade. In the early hours of May 31, Israeli commandos boarded one of the ships, and there are conflicting accounts of what happened next. The Israelis say the commandos were attacked with clubs, rods, and knives, and that they fired upon the activists in retaliation; the activists say the commandos opened fire when they landed on deck. Nine Turkish activists were killed in the conflict.

In a September 2010 referendum, voters approved several constitutional changes that will give Parliament increased oversight of the judiciary and the military, diminishing the power of both and introducing wider democratic freedoms to Turkey's citizens. The vote, 58% to 42%, was considered a referendum on the leadership of Prime Minister Erdogan.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) won a third term in June 2011. Voter turnout was 84.5% in a general election that gave the ruling party 326 seats in parliament—41 seats shy of the two-thirds majority needed to amend the country's constitution unilaterally. The secular Republican People's Party (CHP) had 26% of vote and the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) 13%. In his victory speech, Mr. Erdogan pledged to work with opposition parties, which criticized him before the election for his divisive ruling style.

The publication in September 2011 of a UN report on the attack on the Turkish flotilla further frayed relations between Turkey and Israel. The report concluded that Israel's blockade of Gaza was legal but that Israel used "excessive and unreasonable" force when boarding the ships. It also called on Israel to apologize and compensate victims. Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, however, said he would not issue a statement of regret. In response, Turkey ejected the Israeli ambassador and severed defense ties with Israel.

In October, PKK militants killed two dozen Turkish troops near the border with Iraq. In response, Turkey launched a large-scale offensive, deploying about 10,000 troops and warplanes into Kurd strongholds in northern Iraq. Tension had been building for months, with the militants increasing their attacks.

7.2 Magnitude Earthquake Hits Turkey

On October 23, 2011, an earthquake, measured at 7.2 in magnitude, struck Turkey in Van Province, near the border of Iran. The death toll quickly rose to more than 360 and was expected to climb higher. Rescue teams worked quickly to find survivors in more than 2,260 buildings that had collapsed from the earthquake. More than 1,300 were injured in what was one of the strongest earthquakes to hit the area in recent years.

More than 50 countries offered aid, including Israel, despite strained relations between the two countries. Officials in Turkey denied reports that the government refused Israel's offer. In the days immediately following the earthquake, the Turkish Government said that it planned to build 3,000 houses and would postpone residents' tax collections for a full year.

Relations Between Syria and Turkey Deteriorate

Turkey, once a close ally of Syria, threw its support behind opposition groups during the uprising against Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, which began in March 2011. Turkey endorsed the Syrian National Council, an organization of dissidents and opposition leaders, and allowed members of the Free Syrian Army to set up camp within its borders.

Relations between Syria and Turkey deteriorated in 2012, reaching a nadir in the fall. In October, a cross-border mortar attack from Syria killed five Turkish civilians, and Turkey launched retaliatory attacks on targets in Syria. The following day, the Turkish Parliament passed a motion that authorized military action as long as Syria continued to shell Turkey. If the fighting does persist, NATO may intervene to protect Turkey, a member nation. The Turkish government said it did not want to go to war with Syria, but it would protect its borders as necessary militarily.

On March 13, 2013, the Kurdistan Workers' Party (P.K.K.) released eight Turkish soldiers and civil servants. The captives were kidnapped in 2011 and 2012 and held by the Kurdish militants in the mountains of northern Iraq. The P.K.K. has been using forms of guerrilla warfare against Turkey for almost three decades.

The P.K.K.'s leader, Abdullah Ocalan ordered the release of the eight captives. A prisoner himself since 1999, Ocalan has been in peace talks with Turkish government officials since 2012. If peace between the Kurdish rebels and Turkey could be achieved it would end a war that has so far claimed 40,000 lives.

Israel Formally Apologies to Turkey for 2010 Commando Raid

In mid-March 2013, President Obama visited Israel. During the visit, he helped negotiate a reconciliation with Turkey. Prime Minister Netanyahu expressed sincere regret to Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's prime minister, for the commando raid in 2010 on a Turkish ship that killed nine people. Israel also offered compensation for the incident. Erdogan accepted Israel's apology.

After the apology, both countries announced that they would reinstate ambassadors and completely restore diplomatic relations. President Obama supported the apology in this statement, "the United States deeply values our relationships with both Turkey and Israel, and we attach great importance to the restoration of positive relations between them, in order to advance regional peace and security."

Anti-Government Protests Call for Erdogan's Resignation

In late May 2013, a sit-in protesting government plans to raze Istanbul's Gezi Park in Taksim Square to build a shopping mall grew into enormous anti-government demonstrations after police began spraying protesters with tear gas and water cannons. The demonstrations spread to dozens of cities throughout the country. On June 1, police withdrew from the park and let the occupation continue. Protesters criticized Prime Minister Erdogan for being authoritarian and called for his resignation. Erdogan initially dismissed the protesters as "thugs," but agreed to meet with representatives of the many groups of demonstrators. However, a day later—on June 11, police stormed the park, again spraying protesters with tear gas and water, and forced protesters out of the area. Two demonstrators died in the violence. The protests were compared to the Occupy movement that took hold in the U.S. in September 2011. Erdogan has been popular since taking office in 2003, leading an economic recovery, expanding the middle class, and weakening the influence of the military. At the same time, his critics have accused him of being heavy-handed and allowing his religious views to influence his leadership. In July, it was reported that a judge had ruled in June against the development of Taksim Square.

Erdogan unveiled a package of reforms in late September aimed at reopening a dialogue with the minority Kurds, who have been at odds with the government since the early 1980s. The reforms included lifting a ban on teaching the Kurdish language in private schools, allowing villages to reclaim their Kurdish names, and making it easier for Kurds to be elected to parliament. Many Kurds, however, said the reforms did not go far enough. In particular, they bemoaned the fact that the reforms did not include revising the country's anti-terrorism laws, which have landed thousands of Kurdish activists in jail. In addition, the package included returning confiscated property to Syriac Orthodox Christians and easing restrictions on women wearing headscarves in public. Many believe the package was an attempt by Erdogan to restore confidence among Turks that he would follow through on his promise of reform.

In early August 2013, protests again broke out—this time in response to the sentencing of dozens involved in the so-called Ergenekon plot of 2002, which was an attempt to overthrow the new Erdogan government. General and former army leader Ilker Basbug received a life sentence.

An investigation into government corruption began in Dec. 2013, resulting in the dismissal of 350 police officers in Turkey's capital, Ankara, in early January. Later that month, almost 500 police officers were either moved or fired in a ongoing effort on behalf of Erdogan's government to gain control of the judiciary and stem the tide of opposition.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan shut down YouTube and Twitter after taped conversations were leaked in which he was allegedly heard discussing with his son to how to get rid of millions of euros during a corruption investigation.

As scandal continued to plague the prime minister, on the last day of March, 2014, Turkish voters went to the polls to weigh in on a referendum testing Erdogan's rule. His ruling party, Justice and Development (AK), won 45% of the vote.

Fleeing ISIS, Refugees Pour into Turkey

In Sept. 2014, about 130,000 mostly Kurdish refugees from north-central Syria flooded into Turkey as ISIS militants seized large swaths of territory in the region and unleashed attacks on the population. The influx of refugees created a humanitarian crisis. More than 1 million refugees had already entered Turkey from Syria.

See also Encyclopedia: Turkey .
U.S. State Dept. Country Notes: Turkey
State Institute of Statistics www.die.gov.tr/ENGLISH/index.html .


Information Please® Database, © 2013 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.

Tunisia Countries Turkmenistan

More on Turkey from Fact Monster:

  • Earthquake in Turkey - Earthquake Factsheet Learn earthquake basics in Earthquakes 101. Earthquake epicenter: near Izmit, ...
  • turkey, in zoology - turkey turkey, common name for a large game and poultry bird related to the grouse and the ...
  • Turkey: Rulers - Turkey: Rulers Sultans Mustafa II (1695–1703) Ahmed III (1703–1730) Mahmud I ...
  • Carving the Perfect Turkey - Six steps to serving the perfect Thanksgiving bird
  • Turkey - Turkey Profile: People, History, Government and Political Conditions, Economy, Foreign Relations, U.S.-Turkey Relations