Turkey (Turkish: Türkiye), known officially as the Republic of Turkey (Türkiye Cumhuriyeti), is a Eurasian country that stretches across the Anatolian peninsula in southwest Asia and the Balkan region of southeastern Europe. Turkey borders eight countries: Bulgaria to the northwest, Greece to the west, Georgia to the northeast, Armenia, Azerbaijan (the Nakhichevan exclave), and Iran to the east, Iraq and Syria to the southeast. It borders the Mediterranean Sea to the south, the Aegean Sea to the west, and the Black Sea to the north. Turkey also contains the Sea of Marmara, which is used by geographers to mark the border between Europe and Asia, thus making Turkey transcontinental.
The region comprising modern Turkey has overseen the birth of major civilizations such as the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires. Because of its strategic location, where two continents meet, Turkey's culture has a unique blend of Eastern and Western tradition, often described as a bridge between the two civilizations. A powerful regional presence from the Adriatic Sea to China in the Eurasian landmass between Russia and India, Turkey has come to acquire increasing strategic significance.
Turkey is a democratic, secular, unitary, constitutional republic whose political system was established in 1923 under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, following the fall of the Ottoman Empire in the aftermath of World War I. Since then, Turkey has become increasingly integrated with the West while continuing to foster relations with the Eastern world. It is a founding member of the United Nations, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, a member state of the Council of Europe since 1949, and of NATO since 1952. Since 2005, Turkey has been in accession negotiations with the European Union, having been an associate member since 1963. Turkey is also a member of the G20, which brings together the 20 largest economies of the world.
The name for Turkey in the Turkish language, Türkiye, can be divided into two words: Türk, which means "strong" in Old Turkic and usually signifying the inhabitants of Turkey or a member of the Turkish or Turkic peoples, a later form of "tu-kin", name given by the Chinese to the people living south of the Altay Mountains of Central Asia as early as 177 BC; and the abstract suffix -iye, which means "owner" or "related to". The first recorded use of the term "Türk" or "Türük" as an autonym is contained in the Orkhon inscriptions of the Göktürks (Sky Turks) of Central Asia (c. 8th century CE). The English word "Turkey" is derived from the Medieval Latin "Turchia".
Pre-Turkic History of Anatolia
The Anatolian peninsula (also called Asia Minor), comprising most of modern Turkey, is one of the oldest continually inhabited regions in the world due to its location at the intersection of Asia and Europe. The earliest Neolithic settlements such as Çatalhöyük (Pottery Neolithic), Çayönü (Pre-Pottery Neolithic A to Pottery Neolithic), Nevali Cori (Pre-Pottery Neolithic B), Hacilar (Pottery Neolithic), Göbekli Tepe (Pre-Pottery Neolithic A) and Mersin are considered to be among the earliest human settlements in the world. The settlement of Troy starts in the Neolithic and continues into the Iron Age. Through recorded history, Anatolians have spoken Indo-European, Semitic and Kartvelian languages, as well as many languages of uncertain affiliation. In fact, given the antiquity of the Indo-European Hittite and Luwian languages, some scholars have proposed Anatolia as the hypothetical center from which the Indo-European languages have radiated.
The first major empire in the area was that of the Hittites, from the 18th through the 13th century BCE. Subsequently, the Phrygians, an Indo-European people, achieved ascendancy until their kingdom was destroyed by the Cimmerians in the 7th century BCE. The most powerful of Phrygia's successor states were Lydia, Caria and Lycia. The Lydians and Lycians spoke languages that were fundamentally Indo-European, but both languages had acquired non-Indo-European elements prior to the Hittite and Hellenic periods.
Western Anatolia, was meanwhile settled by the Ionians, one of the ancient Greek peoples. The entire area was conquered by the Persian Achaemenid Empire during the 6th and 5th centuries and later fell to Alexander the Great in 334 BCE. Anatolia was subsequently divided into a number of small Hellenistic kingdoms (including Bithynia, Cappadocia, Pergamum, and Pontus), all of which had succumbed to Rome by the mid-1st century BCE In 324 CE, the Roman emperor Constantine I chose Byzantium to be the new capital of the Roman Empire, renaming it New Rome (later Constantinople and Istanbul). After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, it became the capital of the Byzantine Empire (Eastern Roman Empire).
Turks and the Ottoman Empire
The House of Seljuk was a branch of the Kinik Oğuz Turks who in the 9th century resided on the periphery of the Muslim world, north of the Caspian and Aral Seas in the Yabghu Khaganate of the Oğuz confederacy. In the 10th century, the Seljuks migrated from their ancestral homelands into the eastern Anatolian regions that had been an area of settlement for Oğuz Turkic tribes since the end of the first millennium.
Following their victory over the Byzantine Empire in the Battle of Manzikert in 1071, the Turks began to abandon their nomadic roots in favour of a permanent role in Anatolia, bringing rise to the Seljuk Empire. The empire was not to last, however; by 1243 the Seljuk armies were defeated by the Mongols and the power of the empire slowly disintegrated. In its wake, one of the Turkish principalities in Anatolia governed by Osman I was to evolve into the Ottoman Empire, thus filling the void left by the collapsed Seljuks and Byzantines.
The Ottoman Empire interacted with both Eastern and Western cultures throughout its 623-year history. In the 16th and 17th centuries, it was among the world's most powerful political entities, often locking horns with the powers of eastern Europe in its steady advance through the Balkans and the southern part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Following years of decline, the Ottoman Empire entered World War I through the Ottoman-German Alliance in 1914, and was ultimately defeated. After the war, the victorious Allied Powers sought the dismemberment of the Ottoman state through the Treaty of Sèvres.
The occupation of İstanbul and İzmir by the Allies in the aftermath of World War I prompted the establishment of the Turkish national movement.Under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal Pasha, a military commander who had distinguished himself during the Battle of Gallipoli, the Turkish War of Independence was waged with the aim of revoking the terms of the Treaty of Sèvres. By September 18, 1922, the occupying armies were repelled and the country saw the birth of the new Turkish state. On November 1, the newly founded parliament formally abolished the Sultanate, thus ending 623 years of Ottoman rule. The Treaty of Lausanne of 1923 led to the international recognition of the sovereignty of the newly formed "Republic of Turkey" as the successor state of the Ottoman Empire, and the republic was officially proclaimed on October 29, 1923, in the new capital of Ankara.
Mustafa Kemal became the republic's first president and subsequently introduced many radical reforms with the aim of founding a new secular republic from the remnants of its Ottoman past. According to the Law on Family Names, the Turkish parliament presented Mustafa Kemal with the honorific name "Atatürk" (Father of the Turks) in 1934.
Turkey entered World War II on the side of the Allies on February 23, 1945 as a ceremonial gesture and became a charter member of the United Nations in 1945. Difficulties faced by Greece after the war in quelling a communist rebellion, along with demands by the Soviet Union for military bases in the Turkish Straits, prompted the United States to declare the Truman Doctrine in 1947. The doctrine enunciated American intentions to guarantee the security of Turkey and Greece, and resulted in large-scale US military and economic support.
After participating with United Nations forces in the Korean conflict, Turkey joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1952, becoming a bulwark against Soviet expansion into the Mediterranean. Following a decade of intercommunal violence on the island of Cyprus and the subsequent Athens-inspired coup, Turkey intervened militarily in 1974, resulting in the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus recognised only by Turkey.
Following the end of the single-party period in 1945, the multi-party period witnessed tensions over the following decades, and the period between the 1960s and the 1980s was particularly marked by periods of political instability that resulted in a number of military coups d'états in 1960, 1971, 1980 and a post-modern coup d'état in 1997. The liberalization of the Turkish economy that started in the 1980s changed the landscape of the country, with successive periods of high growth and crises punctuating the following decades.
Government and Politics
Turkey is a parliamentary representative democracy. Since its foundation as a republic in 1923, Turkey has developed a strong tradition of secularism. Turkey's constitution governs the legal framework of the country. It sets out the main principles of government and establishes Turkey as a unitary centralized state. The current constitution was ratified by referendum in 1982 and has been amended numerous times in recent years.
The head of state is the President of the Republic and has a largely ceremonial role. The president is elected for a seven-year term by the parliament but is not required to be one of its members. The current President, Abdullah GÜL, was elected on August 28, 2007, after having served as the President of the Constitutional Court. Executive power is exercised by the Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers that make up the government, while the legislative power is vested in the unicameral parliament, the Grand National Assembly of Turkey. The judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature, and the Constitutional Court is charged with ruling on the conformity of laws and decrees with the constitution. The Council of State is the tribunal of last resort for administrative cases, and the High Court of Appeals for all others.
The Prime Minister is generally the head of the party that has won the elections and is elected by the parliament through a vote of confidence in his government. The current Prime Minister is the former mayor of İstanbul, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, whose Islamic conservative AKP won an absolute majority of parliamentary seats in the 2002 general elections, organized in the aftermath of the economic crisis of 2001, with 34% of the suffrage. Neither the Prime Minister nor the Ministers have to be members of the parliament, but in most cases they are (one notable exception was Kemal Derviş, who was the Minister of State in Charge of Economy following the financial crisis of 2001; he is currently the president of the UN Development Programme).
There are 550 members of parliament who are elected for a five-year term by a party-list proportional representation system from 85 electoral districts which represent the 81 administrative provinces of Turkey (İstanbul is divided into three electoral districts whereas Ankara and İzmir are divided into two each because of their large populations). To avoid a hung parliament and its excessive political fragmentation, only parties that win at least 10% of the votes cast in a national parliamentary election gain the right to representation in the parliament. As a result of this threshold, only two parties were able to obtain that right during the last elections in 2002. Independent candidates may run; however, they must also win at least 10% of the vote in their circonscription to be elected. Universal suffrage for both sexes has been applied throughout Turkey since 1933, and every Turkish citizen who has turned 18 years of age has the right to vote. As of 2004, there were 50 registered political parties in the country, whose ideologies range from the far left to the far right. The Constitutional Court can strip the public financing of political parties that it deems anti-secular or separatist, or ban their existence altogether.
The military has traditionally been a politically powerful institution, considered as the guardians of Atatürk's Republic. The protection of the Turkish Constitution and the unity of the country is given by law to the Turkish Armed Forces, and it therefore plays a formal political role via the National Security Council (NSC) as the guardian of the secular, unitary nature of the republic and the reforms of Atatürk. Through the NSC, the army contributes to recommendations for defense policy against any threat to the country, including those pertaining to ethnic separatism or religious extremism. In recent years, reforms led to efforts to reduce the military's constitutional responsibilities, under the program of compliance with EU demands and an increased civilian presence on the NSC. Despite its influence in civilian affairs and possibly because of it, the military owns strong unequivocal support from the nation and is considered to be the country's most trusted institution.
Turkey's main political, economic and military relations have remained rooted within the West since the foundation of the republic and its membership to NATO in 1952. Ankara became a crucial strategic ally in diverting Soviet forces from Central Europe and preventing their expansion into the Mediterranean. Though primarily a Western orientated actor in international affairs, Turkey also fostered relations with the Middle East, becoming the only NATO member of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, as well as forging close relations with Israel.
The European Union remains Turkey's biggest trading partner, and the presence of a well-established Turkish diaspora in Europe has contributed to the development of extensive relations between the two over the years. Turkey became a member of the Council of Europe in 1949, applied for associate membership of the EEC (predecessor of the EU) in 1959 and became an associate member in 1963. After decades of political negotiations, Turkey applied for full membership of the EEC in 1987, reached a Customs Union agreement with the EU in 1995 and has officially begun accession negotiations on October 3, 2005. It is believed that the accession process will take at least 15 years because of Turkey's size and the depth of disagreements over certain issues.
Historically, relations with neighbouring Greece have known periods of tension. The long divided island of Cyprus and the disputes over the air and sea boundaries of the Aegean Sea remain the main issues of disagreement between the two neighbours. Recently, the issue of Cyprus has become one of the main points of contention in Turkey's accession negotiations with the EU since Turkey is refusing to open its ports to Greek Cypriot traffic. Nonetheless, following the consecutive earthquakes of 1999 in Turkey and Greece, and the prompt response of aid and rescue teams from both sides, the two nations have entered a much more positive period in their relations, with Greece actively supporting Turkey's candidacy to enter the European Union.
Since the end of the Cold War, Turkey has been actively building relations with former communist countries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, leading to many reciprocal investments and migratory currents between these states and Turkey. However, Turkey's relations with neighbouring Armenia are still tense due to the ongoing stalemate in Nagorno-Karabakh between Armenia and Azerbaijan, a Turkic-speaking neighbour and ally of Turkey, and also due to the controversy surrounding the events of 1915–17, in which actions by the Ottoman Young Turks led to the forced mass evacuation and related deaths of an estimated hundreds of thousands up to 1.5 million Armenians. The Turkish government rejects the notion that these events constituted a genocide, and instead states the deaths, in the dying days of the Ottoman Empire during World War I, were a result of inter-ethnic strife, disease and famine. Owing to its secular traditions, Turkey has always viewed suspiciously certain countries in the region and this has caused tensions in the past, particularly with its largest neighbour, Iran.
Even though Turkey participated in the NATO-led peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan after September 11, the Iraq War faced strong domestic opposition in Turkey. A government motion which would have allowed U.S. troops to attack Iraq from Turkey's southeastern border couldn't reach the absolute majority of 276 votes needed for its adoption in the Turkish Parliament, the final tally being 264 votes for and 250 against. This led to a cooling in relations between the U.S. and Turkey and fears that they may be damaged as a result of the situation in Iraq. Turkey is particularly cautious about an independent Kurdish state arising from a destabilised Iraq; it has previously fought an insurgent war on its own soil, in which an estimated 37,000 people lost their lives, against the PKK (listed as a terrorist organization by a number of states and organisations, including the USA and the EU). This led the Turkish government to put pressure on the U.S. to clamp down on insurgent training camps in northern Iraq, without much success.
The Turkish Armed Forces consists of the Army, the Navy and the Air Force. The Gendarmerie and the Coast Guard operate as parts of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in peacetime, although they are subordinated to the Army and Navy Commands respectively in wartime, during which they have both internal law enforcement and military functions.
The Chief of the General Staff is appointed by the President, and is responsible to the Prime Minister. The Council of Ministers is responsible to the parliament for matters of national security and the adequate preparation of the armed forces to defend the country. However, the authority to declare war and to deploy the Turkish Armed Forces to foreign countries or to allow foreign armed forces to be stationed in Turkey rests solely with the parliament. The actual Commander of the armed forces is the Chief of the General Staff General Yaşar Büyükanıt, who succeeded General Hilmi Özkök on August 26, 2006.
The Turkish Armed Forces is the second largest standing armed force in NATO, after the U.S. Armed Forces, with a combined strength of 1,043,550 uniformed personnel serving in its five branches. Every fit heterosexual male Turkish citizen is required to serve in the military for time periods ranging from three weeks to fifteen months, depending on his education and job location (homosexuals have the right to be exempt, if they so request).
In 1998, Turkey announced a program of modernization worth some US$31 billion over a ten year period in various projects including tanks, helicopters and assault rifles. Turkey is also a Level 3 contributor to the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program, gaining an opportunity to develop and influence the creation of the next generation fighter spearheaded by the United States.
Turkey has maintained forces in international missions under the United Nations and NATO since 1950, including peacekeeping missions, various missions in the former Yugoslavia, and support to coalition forces in the First Gulf War. Turkey maintains 36,000 troops in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and has had troops deployed in Afghanistan as part of the U.S. stabilization force and the UN-authorized, NATO-commanded International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) since 2001.In 2006, the Turkish parliament deployed a peacekeeping force of Navy patrol vessels and around 700 ground troops as part of an expanded United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) in the wake of the Israeli-Lebanon conflict.
The capital city of Turkey is Ankara. The territory of Turkey is subdivided into 81 provinces for administrative purposes. The provinces are organized into 7 regions for census purposes; however, they do not represent an administrative structure. Each province is divided into districts, for a total of 923 districts.
Provinces usually bear the same name as their provincial capitals, also called the central district; exceptions to this are the provinces of Hatay (capital: Antakya), Kocaeli (capital: İzmit) and Sakarya (capital: Adapazarı). Provinces with the largest populations are İstanbul (+10 million), Ankara (+4 million), İzmir (+3.4 million), Konya (+2.2 million), Bursa (+2.1 million) and Adana (+1.85 million).
The biggest city and the pre-Republican capital İstanbul is the financial, economic and cultural heart of the country. Other important cities include İzmir, Bursa, Adana, Trabzon, Malatya, Gaziantep, Erzurum, Kayseri, İzmit, Konya, Mersin, Eskişehir, Diyarbakır, Antalya and Samsun. An estimated 67% of Turkey's population live in urban centers. In all, 12 cities have populations that exceed 500,000, and 48 cities have more than 100,000 inhabitants.
Geography and Climate
The territory of Turkey is more than 1,600 kilometres (1,000 mi) long and 800 km (500 mi) wide, with a roughly rectangular shape. Turkey's area, inclusive of lakes, occupies 779,452 square kilometres (300,948 sq mi), of which 755,688 square kilometres (291,773 sq mi) are in Southwest Asia and 23,764 square kilometres (9,174 sq mi) in Europe, thus making Turkey a transcontinental country. Turkey's size makes it the world's 37th-largest country (after Mozambique). It is somewhat bigger than Chile or the U.S. state of Texas. Turkey is encircled by seas on three sides: the Aegean Sea to the west, the Black Sea to the north and the Mediterranean Sea to the south. Turkey also contains the Sea of Marmara in the northwest.
The European section of Turkey, in the northwest, is Eastern Thrace, and forms the borders of Turkey with Greece and Bulgaria. The Asian part of the country, Anatolia (also called Asia Minor), consists of a high central plateau with narrow coastal plains, in between the Köroğlu and East-Black Sea mountain range to the north and the Taurus Mountains to the south. Eastern Turkey has a more mountainous landscape, and is home to the sources of rivers such as the Euphrates, Tigris and Aras, and contains Lake Van and Mount Ararat, Turkey's highest point at 5,165 metres (16,946 ft).
Turkey is geographically divided into seven regions: Marmara, Aegean, Black Sea, Central Anatolia, Eastern Anatolia, Southeastern Anatolia and the Mediterranean. The uneven north Anatolian terrain running along the Black Sea resembles a long, narrow belt. This region comprises approximately one-sixth of Turkey's total land area. As a general trend, the inland Anatolian plateau becomes increasingly rugged as it progresses eastward.
Turkey's varied landscapes are the product of complex earth movements that have shaped the region over thousands of years and still manifest themselves in fairly frequent earthquakes and occasional volcanic eruptions. The Bosporus and the Dardanelles owe their existence to the fault lines running through Turkey that led to the creation of the Black Sea. There is an earthquake fault line across the north of the country from west to east, which caused a major earthquake in 1999.
The climate is a Mediterranean temperate climate, with hot, dry summers and mild, wet and cold winters, though conditions can be much harsher in the more arid interior. Mountains close to the coast prevent Mediterranean influences from extending inland, giving the interior of Turkey a continental climate with distinct seasons. The central Anatolian Plateau is much more subject to extremes than coastal areas. Winters on the plateau are especially severe. Temperatures of −30 °C to −40 °C (−22 °F to -40 °F) can occur in the mountainous areas in the east, and snow may lie on the ground 120 days of the year. In the west, winter temperatures average below 1 °C (34 °F). Summers are hot and dry, with temperatures generally above 30 °C (86 °F) in the day. Annual precipitation averages about 400 millimetres (15 in), with actual amounts determined by elevation. The driest regions are the Konya plain and the Malatya plain, where annual rainfall frequently is less than 300 millimetres (12 in). May is generally the wettest month, whereas July and August are the most dry.
For most of its republican history, Turkey has adhered to a quasi-statist approach, with strict government controls over private sector participation, foreign trade, and foreign direct investment. However, during the 1980s, Turkey began a series of reforms, initiated by Prime Minister Turgut Özal and designed to shift the economy from a statist, insulated system to a more private-sector, market-based model The reforms spurred rapid growth, but this growth was punctuated by sharp recessions and financial crises in 1994, 1999 (following the earthquake of that year), and 2001, resulting in an average of 4% GDP growth per annum between 1981 and 2003. Lack of additional reforms, combined with large and growing public sector deficits and widespread corruption, resulted in high inflation, a weak banking sector and increased macroeconomic volatility.
Since the economic crisis of 2001 and the reforms initiated by the finance minister of the time, Kemal Derviş, inflation has fallen to single-digit numbers, investor confidence and foreign investment have soared, and unemployment has fallen. Turkey has gradually opened up its markets through economic reforms by reducing government controls on foreign trade and investment and the privatisation of publicly-owned industries, and the liberalisation of many sectors to private and foreign participation has continued amid political debate.
The GDP growth rate for 2005 was 7.4%, thus making Turkey one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Turkey's GDP ranks 17th in the world, and Turkey is a member of G20 which brings together the 20 largest economies of the globe. Turkey's economy is no longer dominated by traditional agricultural activities in the rural areas, but more so by a highly dynamic industrial complex in the major cities, mostly concentrated in the western provinces of the country, along with a developed services sector. The agricultural sector accounts for 11.9% of GDP, whereas industrial and service sectors make up 23.7% and 64.5%, respectively. The tourism sector has experienced rapid growth in the last twenty years, and constitutes an important part of the economy. In 2005, there were 24,124,501 visitors to the country, who contributed 18.2 billion USD to Turkey's revenues. Other key sectors of the Turkish economy are construction, automotive industry, electronics and textiles.
In recent years, the chronically high inflation has been brought under control and this has led to the launch of a new currency to cement the acquis of the economic reforms and erase the vestiges of an unstable economy. On January 1, 2005, the Turkish Lira was replaced by the New Turkish Lira by dropping off six zeroes (1 YTL= 1,000,000 TL). As a result of continuing economic reforms, the inflation has dropped to 8.2% in 2005, and the unemployment rate to 10.3%. With a per capita GDP (Nominal) of 5,062 USD, Turkey ranked 64th in the world in 2005. In 2004, it was estimated that 46.2% of total disposable income was received by the top 20% income earners, whilst the lowest 20% received 6%.
Turkey's main trading partners are the European Union (52% of exports and 42% of imports as of 2005), the United States, Russia and Japan. Turkey has taken advantage of a customs union with the European Union, signed in 1995, to increase its industrial production destined for exports, while at the same time benefiting from EU-origin foreign investment into the country. In 2005, exports amounted to 73.5 billion USD while the imports stood at 116.8 billion USD, with increases of 16.3% and 19.7% compared to 2004, respectively. For 2006, the exports amounted to 85.8 billion USD, representing an increase of 16,8% over 2005.
After years of low levels of foreign direct investment (FDI), Turkey succeeded in attracting 8.5 billion USD in FDI in 2005 and is expected to attract a higher figure in 2006. A series of large privatizations, the stability fostered by the start of Turkey's EU accession negotiations, strong and stable growth, and structural changes in the banking, retail, and telecommunications sectors have all contributed to a rise in foreign investment.
As of 2005, the population of Turkey stood at 72.6 million with a growth rate of 1.5% per annum. The Turkish population is relatively young, with 25.5% falling within the 0-15 age bracket. According to statistics released by the government in 2005, life expectancy stands at 68.9 years for men and 73.8 years for women, for an overall average of 71.3 years for the populace as a whole.
Education is compulsory and free from ages 6 to 15. The literacy rate is 95.3% for men and 79.6% for women, for an overall average of 87.4%. This low figure is mainly due to prevailing feudal attitudes against women in the Arab- and Kurdish-inhabited southeastern provinces of the country.
Article 66 of the Turkish Constitution defines a "Turk" as anyone that is "bound to the Turkish state through the bond of citizenship"; therefore, the legal use of the term "Turkish" as a citizen of Turkey is different from the ethnic definition. However, the majority of the Turkish population are of Turkish ethnicity. Other major ethnic groups include the Kurds, Circassians, Roma, Arabs and the three officially-recognized minorities (per the treaty of Lausanne) of Greeks, Armenians and Jews. The largest non-Turkic ethnicity is the Kurds, a distinct ethnic group traditionally concentrated in the southeast of the country. Minorities other than the three official ones do not have any special group privileges, and while the term "minority" itself remains a sensitive issue in Turkey, it is to be noted that the degree of assimilation within various ethnic groups outside the recognized minorities is high, with the following generations adding to the melting pot of the Turkish main body. Within that main body, certain distinctions based on diverse Turkic origins could be made as well. Reliable data on the exact ethnic repartition of the population is not available, as the Turkish census figures do not include ethnic or racial figures.
Due to a demand for an increased labour force in post-World War II Europe, many Turkish citizens emigrated to Western Europe (particularly West Germany), contributing to the creation of a significant diaspora. Recently, Turkey has also become a destination for numerous immigrants, especially since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the consequent increase of freedom of movement in the region. These immigrants generally migrate from the former Soviet Bloc countries, as well as neighbouring Muslim states, either to settle and work in Turkey or to continue their journey towards the European Union.
Turkish is the sole official language throughout Turkey. Reliable figures for the linguistic repartition of the populace are not available for reasons similar to those cited above.Nevertheless, the public broadcaster TRT broadcasts programmes in local languages and dialects of Arabic, Bosnian, Circassian and Kurdish a few hours a week.
Nominally, 99.0% of the Turkish population is Muslim, of whom a majority belong to the Sunni branch of Islam. A sizeable minority of the population is affiliated with the Alevi sect. The mainstream Hanafite school of Sunni Islam is largely organised by the state, through the Diyanet İşleri Başkanlığı (Religious Affairs Directorate), which controls all mosques and Muslim clerics. The remainder of the population belongs to other beliefs, particularly Christian denominations (Greek Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic, Syriac Orthodox), Judaism, Yezidism and Atheism.
There is a strong tradition of secularism in Turkey. Even though the state has no official religion nor promotes any, it actively monitors the area between the religions. The constitution recognises freedom of religion for individuals, whereas religious communities are placed under the protection of the state; but the constitution explicitly states that they cannot become involved in the political process (by forming a religious party, for instance) or establish faith-based schools. No party can claim that it represents a form of religious belief; nevertheless, religious sensibilities are generally represented through conservative parties. Turkey prohibits by law the wearing of religious headcover and theo-political symbolic garments for both genders in government buildings, schools, and universities; the law was upheld by the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights as "legitimate" in Leyla Şahin v. Turkey on November 10, 2005.
Turkey has a very diverse culture that is a blend of various elements of the Oğuz Turkic and Anatolian, Ottoman which was itself a continuation of both Greco-Roman and Islamic cultures, and Western culture and traditions which started with the Westernization of the Ottoman Empire and continues today. This mix is a result of the encounter of Turks and their culture with those of the peoples who were in their path during their migration from Central Asia to the West. As Turkey successfully transformed from the religion-based former Ottoman Empire into a modern nation-state with a very strong separation of state and religion, an increase in the methods of artistic expression followed. During the first years of the republic, the government invested a large amount of resources into the fine arts, such as museums, theatres, and architecture. Because of different historical factors playing an important role in defining the modern Turkish identity, Turkish culture is a product of efforts to be "modern" and Western, combined with the necessity felt to maintain traditional religious and historical values.
Turkish music and literature form great examples of such a mix of cultural influences. Many schools of music are popular throughout Turkey, from "arabesque" to hip-hop genres, as a result of the interaction between the Ottoman Empire and the Islamic world along with Europe, and thus contributing to a blend of Central Asian Turkic, Islamic and European traditions in modern-day Turkish music. Turkish literature was heavily influenced by Arabic and, especially, Persian literature during most of the Ottoman era, though towards the end of the Ottoman Empire the effect of both Turkish folk and Western literary traditions became increasingly felt. The mix of cultural influences is dramatized, for example, in the form of the "new symbols [of] the clash and interlacing of cultures" enacted in the work of Orhan Pamuk, winner of the 2006 Nobel Prize in Literature.
Architectural elements found in Turkey are also testaments to the unique mix of traditions that have influenced the region over the centuries. In addition to the traditional Byzantine elements present in numerous parts of Turkey, many artifacts of the later Ottoman architecture, with its exquisite blend of local and Islamic traditions, are to be found throughout the country, as well as in many former territories of the Ottoman Empire. Since the 18th century, Turkish architecture has been increasingly influenced by Western styles, and this can be particularly seen in Istanbul where buildings like the Blue Mosque and the Dolmabahçe Palace are juxtaposed next to numerous modern skyscrapers, all of them representing different traditions.
The most popular sport in Turkey by far is football, with certain professional and national matches drawing tens of millions of viewers on television. Nevertheless, other sports such as basketball and motor sports (following the inclusion of İstanbul Park on the Formula 1 racing calendar) have also become popular recently. The traditional Turkish national sport has been the Yağlı güreş (Oiled Wrestling) since Ottoman times.