Turkey is an independent republic occupying a region, partly in Europe and partly in Asia, that has played a major role in world history as a bridge connecting East and West. European Turkey, known as eastern THRACE, is bounded on the north by the BLACK SEA and Bulgaria and on the west by the AEGEAN SEA and Greece. It is separated from Asian Turkey (ANATOLIA or Asia Minor) by the BOSPHORUS, the Sea of MARMARA, and the DARDANELLES Strait. Anatolia is bounded on the north by the Black Sea; on the east by Georgia, Armenia, and Iran; on the south by Iraq, Syria, and the Mediterranean Sea; and on the west by the Aegean Sea.

Tourism, stimulated by the fine climate and the abundance of historic sites, such as TROY, PERGAMUM, EPHESUS and of course CAPPADOCIA, is number one industry in the country. Modern Turkey was founded on Oct. 29, 1923, as the successor of the Ottoman Empire.


Turkey lies within the Alpine-Himalayan mountain belt. More than 75% of the land lies at elevations above 500 m (1,640 ft), and the average elevation is 1,100 m (3,600 ft). Turkey is one of the most active earthquake regions in the world. The Arabian, African, Eurasian Aegean, and Turkish plates all converge in Turkish territory, resulting in severe seismic and volcanic activity.

The country may be divided into four physical regions: the central Anatolian plateau and surrounding mountains, the eastern highlands, the Aegean coastland, and Thrace. The central Anatolian plateau is separated from the coastal lowlands by the Pontic Mountains in the north and the TAURUS MOUNTAINS in the south. The Pontic Mountains increase in height toward the east, where their highest peak, Kackar Dagi (3,937 m/12,917 ft), is found. The Taurus Mountains rise to 3,734 m (12,251 ft) in the Ala Dag chain. Composed mainly of limestone, they have caves, underground streams, and potholes. Small glaciers are found in the eastern sections of both the Taurus and Pontic ranges. The central plateau is composed of uplifted blocks and down folded troughs. Shallow salt lakes–Lake Tuz is the largest–and geologically young volcanic features characterize the landscape.

The eastern highlands are dotted with peaks reaching elevations of 3,000-4,500 m (10,000-15,000 ft) and surrounded by high lava-covered plateaus. The highest of the peaks is Mount ARARAT (Agri Dagi; 5,122 m/16,804 ft), in the extreme east. Vast stretches of the highlands consist of barren waste. Lake VAN is a large salt lake with underground connections to the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, whose headwaters rise in the nearby mountains.

The Aegean coastland is an area of elongated mountain ridges cut by steep valleys. Thrace comprises a central plain of rolling terrain surrounded by mountains of moderate height.


Turkey has numerous soil types. About 40% of the land, including the Black Sea coast and most of the northeast, is covered by red and grey brown podzols and by brown forest soils. The Aegean and Mediterranean coasts are characterized by mountain soils (brown forest, terra rossa, rendzina). Chestnut and desert soils are found in central Anatolia. The southeast has rich chernozems and chestnut-type soils.


The TIGRIS RIVER and the EUPHRATES RIVER originate in eastern Turkey before flowing to the Persian Gulf. The Araks and Kurucay rivers flow to the Caspian Sea; the Kizil and Sakarya to the Black Sea; the Macestus to the Sea of Marmara; and the Gediz and the Buyukmenderes to the Aegean. The Goksu, Seyhan, and Ceyhan rivers flow to the Mediterranean. Most Turkish rivers are not navigable, having irregular, shallow beds and seasonal depth changes.


The Black Sea coast is the most densely forested region in Turkey, with both coniferous and deciduous trees. Much of the south, west, and northwest is covered by Mediterranean vegetation of thick, scrubby underbrush. The dry central plateau is steppe land, with short grasses, bushes, and stunted willow trees. Wild animals include the wolf, fox, bear, and wildcat. The water buffalo, camel, and Angora goat are domesticated.


Production and transport costs limit the importance of many minerals. Copper from Ergani in the Diyarbakir region and chrome from Fethiye are mined for export. The presence of coal near Eregli on the Black Sea and in Thrace and of iron ore in the Sivas region has been important to the industrialization effort. Petroleum, boron minerals, mercury, and manganese are also found.


The educational system of Turkey was modernized after the founding of the republic as part of an effort to westernize Turkish society. Today education is mostly public and free, about three-fourths of the population is literate. Funds, teachers, and facilities are scant in remote areas of the country. The University of Istanbul (1453), the Aegean University (1955) at Izmir, and the Middle East Technical University (1956) at Ankara are Turkey’s largest institutions of higher learning.


“We shall make the expansion and rise of Turkish culture in every era the mainstay of the Republic.”

Among the prominent statesmen of the 20th century, few articulated the supreme importance of culture as did Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of the Turkish Republic, who stated: “Culture is the foundation of the Turkish Republic.” His view of culture encompassed the nation’s creative legacy as well as the best values of world civilization. It stressed personal and universal humanism. “Culture,” he said, ” is a basic element in being a person worthy of humanity,” and described Turkey’s ideological thrust as “a creation of patriotism blended with a lofty humanist ideal.”

To create the best synthesis, Ataturk underlined the need for the utilization of all viable elements in the national heritage, including the ancient indigenous cultures, and the arts and techniques of the entire world civilization, past and present. He gave impetus to the study of earlier civilizations of Anatolia — including Hittite, Phrygian, Lydian and others. Pre-Islamic culture of the Turks became the subject of extensive research which proved that, long before the Seljuk and Ottoman Empires, the Turks had already created a civilization of their own. Ataturk also stressed the folk arts and folklore of the countryside as a wellspring of Turkish creativity.

The development of painting, sculpture and the decorative arts had been arrested by Ottoman officials, who claimed the depiction of the human form was idolatry, but these arts flourished during Ataturk’s presidency. Many museums were opened and architecture gained new vigour. Classical Western music, opera and ballet, as well as theatre took impressive strides. Several hundred “People’s Houses” and “People’s Rooms” all over Turkey gave local people and youngsters a wide variety of artistic activities, sports and cultural affairs. Book and magazine publication enjoyed a boom. The Film industry started to grow. In all walks of cultural life, Ataturk’s inspiration created an upsurge.

Ataturk’s Turkey is living proof of this ideal — a country rich in its own national culture, open to the heritage of world civilization and at home in the endowments of the modern technological age.


At the turn of the last decade, Turkey has chosen to liberalize its economy and enable its private sector to take the lead in generating growth and employment. Major strides have been taken to revamp conditions for entry, operations and exit for both national and international business by completely dismantling bureaucratic barriers and streamlining procedures based on a thorough deregulation effort. The completion of the remaining reforms in the public sector combined with an intensive privatization program and targeted customs union with the EU scheduled for the end of 1995, will make the Turkish economy one of the most open and internationally integrated markets in the whole nation.

Turkey has been the centre of trade and enterprise in the region for centuries and its location between the continents of Europe and Asia remains the crossroads between the East and the West. With a population of close to 65 million, Turkey has the largest single market in the region. It is rich in human resources, its business community has developed a very high entrepreneurial spirit and experience about the market oriented approach and it possesses a good mix of skilled, semi-skilled and highly qualified and productive work force.


Manufacturing provides about 20% of the nation’s GNP but employs only a small percentage of the labour force. Food processing accounts for one-third of all manufacturing, textiles and clothing for about 20%. Steel production, particularly at Eregli and Iskenderun, is also important. Other major industrial products include machinery and metal goods, vehicles, petrochemicals, fertilizers, and pulp and paper. Iskenderun is the terminus of an important oil pipeline from Iraq, but the Turkish government stopped the flow of oil from Iraq through its territory after Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in August 1990. Energy needs remain low on a per capita basis despite a remarkable increase in total national energy consumption. Nevertheless, the cost of imported petroleum is a heavy burden, and an effort is being made to develop other sources of power generation, especially by building hydroelectric plants on the Euphrates River.


Agriculture accounts for less than 20% of the GNP, although it employs well over half of the labour force. Just over a third of the land is under cultivation, and productivity is low. Cereals are the principal crop. Vegetables, grapes, sugar beets, potatoes, and oilseeds are also grown, and cattle, sheep, goats, and poultry are raised. Overgrazing is a problem in many parts of the country. Forests, covering more than 25% of the land, are protected by the state. Much of the wood harvest is used for energy. The commercial fishing industry is being developed.


Domestic transportation, chiefly by road, is difficult in many areas because of the rough terrain. Turkey is an important transit route from Europe to the Middle East, and long stretches of railroads were built by foreign powers through Turkish territory. The first bridge across the Bosphorus was completed in 1973; a second was built in the 1980s. Istanbul has the nation’s major international airport and is one of the world’s major ports.


Principal exports include cotton, fruits, nuts, tobacco, metals, cereals, textiles and clothing, and livestock. Imports include machinery, chemicals, crude oil, base metals, fertilizers, mineral products, and vehicles. Middle Eastern nations are beginning to rival Western European countries and the United States as Turkey’s trading partners.