Asian Turkey (made up largely of Asia Minor), which includes 97% of the country, is separated from European Turkey (made up of E Thrace) by the Bosporus, the Sea of Marmara, and the Dardanelles (which together form a water link between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean). Northeast Asian Turkey includes part of historical Armenia, and SE Asian Turkey includes part of Kurdistan (see Kurds). European Turkey, which includes Edirne and most of İstanbul, is largely rolling agricultural land, drained by the Ergene River. Asian Turkey is mostly made up of highland and mountains, with some narrow strips of lowland in the west on the coasts of the Aegean Sea and the Sea of Marmara and along the Simav, Gediz, and Menderes rivers; in the north on the Black Sea coast and along the Sakarya and Kizil Irmak rivers; and in the south on the Mediterranean coast and along the Aksu, Göksu, Seyhan, and Ceyhan rivers.
The center of W Asian Turkey is made up of the vast semiarid plateau of Anatolia (average height c.3,000 ft/914 m), which includes lakes Tuz and Beyşehir and which is fringed in the north by the Köroğlu Mts. and in the south by the Taurus Mts. In NE Turkey are the Pontic Mts. and in E Turkey are the Eastern Taurus Mts. Great Ararat Mt. (16,945 ft/5,165 m), the highest point in Turkey, and Lake Van are in the extreme eastern part of the country. SE Turkey is drained by the upper courses of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Turkey is subject to strong, sometimes devastating earthquakes.
Although the Turks regard the Osmanlis, or Ottomans, as their ancestors, they are a highly composite ethnic mixture. About 80% of the population is Turkish; Kurds make up most of the rest. The official language is Turkish, and Kurdish is widely used in the south and southeast; there is also an Arabic-speaking minority. About 99% of the people are Muslim, mostly of the Sunni branch; there is a significant Alevi minority, whose heterodox Islamic beliefs have led to anti-Alevi violence and discrimination. There are also small groups of Orthodox Christians (İstanbul is the seat of the Ecumenical Patriarch) and Jews.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.