Many people, especially outside of Europe, aren’t familiar with Turkey. Yet, Turkey has parallels to American history and some events unique to it’s own. In this article, we take a look at where Turkey has come from, who lives there, the climate and other general facts about this secret European jewel.
Turkey – At the Crossroads of Europe and Asia
The Republic of Turkey, commonly referred to as Turkey (you can link to the official Tourism Portal of Turkey here), is a country situated at the edge of both Europe and Asia. This makes Turkey a land that is directly affected by the conflicts of its neighbors, of which there have many. In fact, Turkey is bordered by eight countries. Over the centuries, there have been various struggles, conquests, and changes of power, which have all shaped the nation into its current setting as a gateway between the Middle East, Asia, and Europe.
The Mighty Ottoman Empire Becomes the Republic of Turkey
Before Turkey became a republic, the land was ruled by the Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman state was formed in 1299 after Osman Bey united many of the Turkish tribes. It wasn’t until the conquest of Constantinople in 1453 that the Ottoman state truly became an empire. From that point, up until 1683, the Ottoman Empire continued to grow, through a series of conquests and invasions of other territories and tribes. During the peak of the Ottoman Empire’s control of the region, the area ruled by the empire included a population of over 15,000,000.
The start of the 18th century saw the beginning of a series of wars that would eventually lead to the downfall of the Ottoman Empire. From 1700 to 1878, there were dozens of battles and several large scale wars fought between the Ottoman Empire and the Russians. This would cripple the hold that the Ottoman Empire had on many of its territories.
World War I saw the official end of the Ottoman Empire and the transition to the Republic of Turkey. One of the founders of this new movement was Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. Ataturk was an Ottoman and Turkish army officer that led the Turkish National Movement during what is considered the Turkish War of Independence. After his victory, Ataturk began transitioning the Ottoman Empire into a European Nation-State. This was done through the opening of new schools, initiating government reform programs, and by lowering taxes. The emergence of this new type of government in Turkey was the start of its growth into a modernised European nation.
From Early Republic to Modern Power
After becoming a Republic, it took some time for Turkey to evolve into the modern power that it is today. The early steps taken by Ataturk to guide Turkey towards a more secular government were the stepping stones that needed to be placed. This also helped the growth of population in Turkey. In 1927, the population had been just 13 million. By 1950, the population had reached 20 million. This kind of explosive growth was not seen by other countries that were involved in World War I and II and demonstrated the security and national pride felt by most Turks.
In 1945, at the end of World War II, Turkey became a member of the United Nations. This helped them become a part of the Marshall Plan, which was written to aid in the rebuilding of Europe after World War II.
As a member of the United Nations, Turkey took part in the Korean War, after which, they joined NATO. Being directly involved in the conflicts of allies and other countries was instrumental in Turkey’s remaining a prominent country during the second half of the 20th century. This prominence can be noted by again looking at their population. The population of Turkey continues to grow at a rate of 1.35% each year, leading to their current population of over 75 million citizens.
The Parliamentary System of Turkey
The Grand National Assembly of Turkey is the name given to the legislative body that makes up the Turkish government. The outline of this parliamentary system was established in the Turkish Constitution, written during the Turkish War of Independence in 1920. The influence of religious leaders and clerics is often considered one of the reasons that the Ottoman Empire began falling apart. This is part of the reason that Turkey’s constitution is based around a secular government that separates itself from the church. The head of state in Turkey’s government is the President of the Republic. This position is voted for by the parliament and the parliament is elected by the Turkish people.
The government of Turkey is divided into three sections. The executive power is managed by the Council of Ministers and the Prime Minister. The Grand National Assembly of Turkey is responsible for the legislative decision-making. Independent of the other groups, the judiciary is ruled by the Constitutional Court, similar to the United States Supreme Court.
Foreign Policy and Diplomatic Relationships
Turkey is surrounded by eight neighbouring countries. These countries include Greece and Bulgaria to the north and west, Georgia to the northeast, Iran, Azerbaijan, and Armenia to the east, and Syria and Iraq to the south. This places them at a crossroads between Europe, the Middle East, and western Asia.
Turkey is a member of both the United Nations and NATO. They are closely allied with Western European countries and have begun negotiations to become a full member of the European Union. Since 1974, they still do not recognise the establishment of the Republic of Cyprus and the relationship is stable, but tenuous. Throughout the cold war, Turkey backed the United States in support of Democracy over Communism.
Turkey has been in a notable expansion mode for several years, unlike almost all of Europe and the United States. The government has ended barriers to foreign land ownership and added more time to tourist visas, encouraging foreign investment that is fuelling a building boom. Adding to the growth are very low interest rates for borrowers and above-average interest rates for investment funds parked in Turkish banks. Turkey’s varied regions also attract investors and tourists from around the globe and Turkey’s annual growth rate is over 10 percent while its neighbours see minimal or no growth.
The Geographical Regions of Turkey
The geographical layout of Turkey is varied, due to the location of the country. Turkey is surrounded by three seas. Turkey is divided into seven geographical regions. These regions are called the Aegean, Central Anatolia, Eastern Anatolia, Southeastern Anatolia, Black Sea, Marmara, and the Mediterranean region. The largest land area of Turkey is Anatolia, which connects Turkey to Asia. The majority of the Anatolia region is comprised of narrow coastal plains and high plateaus. The east, most of the land is mountainous and connected to major river systems.
• Total Area: 783, 562 square km
• Coastline: 7200 km
• Climate: Dry and hot summers and mild winters
• Highest Point: Mount Ararat 5,166 m
• Lowest Point: Mediterranean Sea 0 m
These different regions also have varied climates, a feature unique to Turkey. Along the coast of the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas, the climate is hot and dry during the summer and cool and wet during the winter. The coastal regions that lay along the Black Sea tend to be cooler and wetter in the summer than other coastal parts of Turkey.
The Demographics of Turkey
Turkey is a modern European country and home to a variety of cultures. This is partly due to the large amount of expansion they carried out during the middle ages. The census of 2000 recorded a population of 67 million citizens. 70-75% of Turkish citizens are of Turkish ancestry, primarily progressive Muslims. The minority groups in Turkey are mostly made up of Jews, Greeks, and Armenians. Turkey is also home to a large population of Muslim Kurds, comprising roughly 18% of the population of Turkey.
Unsurprisingly to some, Turkey boasts the 15th largest economy in the world.
With its combination of a progressive democratic government, aggressive growth rates and it’s gateway geographic position coupled with diverse regional climates, Turkey has come a long way and appears to have more to come.