Turkey is located in southeastern Europe and southwestern Asia (that portion of
Turkey west of the Bosporus is geographically part of Europe), bordering the
Black Sea, between Bulgaria and Georgia, and bordering the Aegean Sea and the
Mediterranean Sea, between Greece and Syria.
Present-day Turkey was created in 1923 from the Turkish remnants of the Ottoman
Empire. Soon thereafter, the country instituted secular laws to replace
traditional religious fiats. In 1945 Turkey joined the UN, and in 1952 it became
a member of NATO.
A short history
The Aegean coast of Anatolia was an integral part of a Minoan-Mycenean
civilization (ca. 2600-1200 B.C.) that drew its cultural impulses from Crete.
During the Aegean region's so-called Dark Age (ca. 1050-800 B.C.), Ionian Greek
refugees fled across the sea to Anatolia, then under Lydian rule, to escape the
onslaught of the Dorians. Many more cities were founded along the Anatolian
coast during the great period of Greek expansion after the eighth century B.C.
One among them was Byzantium, a distant colony
established on the Bosporus by the city-state of Megara. Despite endemic
political unrest, the cities founded by the Ionians and subsequent Greek
settlers prospered from commerce with Phrygia and Lydia, grew in size and number,
and generated a renaissance that put Ionia in the cultural vanguard of the
At first the Greeks welcomed the Persians, grateful to be freed from Lydian
control. But when the Persians began to impose unpopular tyrants on the city-states,
the Greeks rebelled and called on their kinsmen in Greece for aid. In 334 B.C.,
Alexander the Great crossed the Hellespont, defeated the Persians at the
Granicus River (Biga Ηayi), and during four years of campaigning liberated the
Ionian city-states, incorporating them into an empire that at his death in 323
B.C. stretched from the Nile to the Indus.
After Alexander died, control of Anatolia was contested by several of the
Macedonian generals among whom his empire was divided. By 280 B.C. one of them,
Seleucus Nicator, had made good his claim to an extensive kingdom that included
southern and west ern Anatolia and Thrace as well as Syria, Mesopotamia, and,
for a time, Persia. Under the Seleucid Dynasty, which survived until 64 B.C.,
colonists were brought from Greece, and the process of hellenization was
extended among the non-Greek elites.
The Seleucids were plagued by rebellions, and their domains in Anatolia were
steadily eaten away by secession and attacks by rival Hellenistic regimes.
Pergamum became independent in 262 B.C., during the Attalid Dynasty, and won
fame as the paragon of Hellenistic states. Noted for the cleanliness of its
streets and the splendor of its art, Pergamum, in west-central Anatolia, derived
its extraordinary wealth from trade in pitch, parchment, and perfume, while
slave labor produced a food surplus on scien tifically managed state farms. It
was also a center of learning that boasted a medical school and a library second
in renown only to that of Alexandria. But Pergamum was both despised and envied
by the other Greek states because of its alliance with Rome.
Formal Name: Republic of Turkey.
Term for Citizens: Turk(s).
Size: About 779,452 square kilometers
Topography: Seven natural regions--Black Sea, Aegean,
Mediterranean, Pontus and Taurus mountain ranges, Anatolian Plateau, eastern
highlands, and Arabian Platform. Country includes one of the most
earthquake-prone areas of the world.
Population: 68,109,469 (July 2003 est.)
Languages and Ethnic Groups: Turkish, official language,
spoken by most citizens; mother tongue of about 82 percent. Kurdish spoken by
roughly 17 percent of population. Arabic and Caucasian languages spoken by small
minority groups. Turks constitute at least 80 percent of population; Kurds form
at least 10 percent. Other minorities include Arabs, people from Caucasus
countries, Dφnme, Greeks, and Jews.
Religion: About 99 percent nominally Muslim, of whom about
66 percent Sunni Muslims, and about 33 percent Alevi (Shia) Muslims.
Constitution proclaims Turkey secular nation.
Currency and Exchange Rate: 1 EURO to
Turkish Lira: 1.688.510,000 (April 2004)
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