Turkey (Turkish: Türkiye), officially known as the Republic of Turkey (Turkish: Türkiye Cumhuriyeti), is a Southern European and Western Asian country, one of a few countries spanning multiple continents. It is a NATO member and applicant to The European Union, and the third most populated country in both Europe and the Middle East. İstanbul is the country's biggest city, though the capital city is actually Ankara.
Media who are not familiar with the Middle East tend to assume that Turkey is just another Arab country. Those who study the region's ethnography will be in for a surprise. The Turkish language is unrelated to most Middle Eastern languages, being part of an East Asian language family whose roots laid in Mongolia and whose other members are mainly spoken in Central Asia (the major exception is Azerbaijani, which is also spoken in Western Asia), being more closely related to Kazakh, Uzbek and Uyghur than the Iranian and Semitic languages spoken in the rest of the region. Unlike Iran, you cannot handwave the mistake because of "unfamiliarity with the Arabic script", because Turkish is written with a Latin alphabet and has been since 1928; the leader of that time did it precisely to distance the country from its Arab neighbors. Culturally, the country is a weird Balkan-Caucasian-Greek-Persian mishmash. It was built on top of the heart of the Eastern Roman Empire, whose heritage Turkey's last imperial dynasty claimed. The same dynasty was quite a Persian-lover, as well. Eastern Turkey actually has more in common with The Caucasus and the 19th century-era immigration of Caucasiansnote only amplified the connection. The other wave of immigration was from the Balkans, after the dynasty's rule over the region crumbled.
As you can expect for such an oddball in the region, the Turkish people are proud of their heritage. Turkey is a very nationalistic country and is among the few in the region in which entering conscription is considered a duty, rather than a necessity (it shares this trait with Israel). Until the new millennium, the country was dominated by the military, who is the self-proclaimed "Guardian of Secularism". It was responsible for, among other things, stopping communism from taking over, banning headscarves in public (lifted in the late 2000s, though it's still a controversial issue in many places), bringing the country closer to the West, and suppressing minorities (the Kurds, in particular). This trend has since changed, however; the latest indication of a coup attempt lead to a strong public backlash against the Armed Forces. It seems that the Turkish military is no longer a viable force in politics.
Turkey distinctly straddles the line between East and West, given its geographic location. As such, it maintains a unique identity as being not quite European and not quite Middle Eastern, but somewhere in between.
Anatolia has been a cultural melting pot region for thousands of years. The place is the Ur-Example for "Asia"; the term came to be used for the continent later, by which time the name was suffixed with "Minor" to refer to the original location. It would probably take up pages after pages to describe the region's history before Alp Arslan and his army marched into the peninsula in the 11th century, so here's a summary. The Hurrians and Hittites were the first peoples to settle the area, having been recorded to live there since before the Late Bronze Age collapse circa 1200 BCE. Both created empires that were major powers in the ancient Middle East, though by 700 BCE they were subsumed under the Assyrians. There were also the Urartu, the Hurrians' distant cousins who established a state at the Armenian Highlands in the east. Armenians are believed to have descended from them. Around 600 BCE, the Iranians quickly began rising in power, first with Medes and Babylonia conquering Assyria, then Medes defeating Urartu, and finally The Achaemenid Empire took the cake by absorbing all of them and the Babylonians, setting up an empire that stretched from Northern Greece all the way to Sindh. Medes are believed to have been the ancestors of Kurds.
The ancient Greeks had a lot of tales about Anatolia, but their presence wasn't set until Alexander the Great and the Macedonians conquered the Middle East following the Greco-Persian Wars in the 4th century BCE (although some bits of coastal western Anatolia were colonized by proto-Greeks since the Mycenaean era). The enormous Greek influence slowly turned the area as part of the Hellenistic world, but nevertheless it remained culturally distinctive, especially in the east where Armenians were the boss. The Romans, though nominally conquering Anatolia in the 1st century BCE, mostly left administration at the hands of the Greeks and locals.
Anatolia was one of the first places reached by Christianity and the place is still significant to Christians. Saint Paul was born in Tarsus, a city in the southern Cilician region. Antioch, present-day Antakya, was where the term "Christian" emerged. Several historic towns at western Anatolia were the so-called "seven churches of Asia" for whom John of Patmos was ordered to pass the revelation. Meanwhile, Armenia (whose possessions at that time extended as far as the Mediterranean) became the first state in the world to adopt Christianity as state religion when it did so in 301 CE, almost 80 years before the Romans did.
When the Roman Empire divided, Anatolia was ruled as the principal territories of the Eastern half, later known as the Byzantine Empire. See their article for more details. Their capital, Constantinople, in particular, was the city for Eastern Europeans and Middle Easterners during Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages. However, the Byzantines and indeed the Romans didn't rule in peace, for they were competing with the Persian Parthians and later the Sassanids. Though they occasionally gained advantages over each other, their permanent holdings cut right in the middle of the former Armenian kingdom, which they carved each for themselves. The Byzantine-Sassanian wars lasted over three centuries, but nothing seemed to change at all, until, in their fatigue, the 7th century brought a gamechanger...
...and that was the Rashidun Caliphate, one of the biggest and most sudden empires to emerge from anywhere in the world. The Arabs utterly defeated and subsumed the Persians and they also managed to overrun the Armenian holdings of the Byzantines, although the latter were spared of the Persians' fate due to sheer self-preservation. Nevertheless, the Byzantines were slowly turning into a Vestigial Empire, their power dwindling and dwindling through time.
The Turks of Turkey were descended from the Oghuz confederation, who had a state in the eastern coast of the Caspian Sea in the 8th century. They worked their way to the top by converting to Islam, becoming obedient slaves to others, then slowly dominating their military. By this method, several Turk-ruled empires cropped up in South, Central, and West Asia. The one which eventually reached Anatolia were the Seljuks under Alp Arslan, who famously defeated the Byzantines at Manzikert in 1071 and forced Romanos IV Diogenes to wash his feet, although he was released. Victory at Manzikert allowed the Seljuks to conquer the region up to the outer reaches of Constantinople and many Turks began to immigrate to Anatolia, thus Turkifying the region. They were succeeded by the Sultanate of Rumnote . The Rum Sultanate were a major target of The Crusades and finally disintegrated following the Mongol invasions of the early 14th century. Several petty kingdoms (beyliks) emerged from their ashes and ruled independently. One of these, a beylik located in the Bithynia region close to Constantinople began to consolidate the others, a brief Timurid invasion in 1402-1413 notwithstanding. Once cornering the Byzantines at all sides, they under Mehmed II besieged Constantinople and then defeated and killed Constantine XI Palaiologos in 1453, officiating the end of the Roman Empire after 1480 years. Their name? The Ottomans.
A note about Turkification. People who hold anti-Turk view would argue that Anatolia only became largely Turkish-speaking because the current inhabitants are "not native" and came from the "barbarian east". The truth is more complicated than that. While it is true that the Oghuz Turks introduced Turkish, the locals were responsible for propagating it. Anatolia was already a very populous area in the Middle Ages and there was no room for a mass migration; the small community of pure Turk origin ruled over the largely unchanged indigenous people. To advance up the social hierarchy, Greeks, Armenians, Assyrians, Kurds, etc. adopted Turkish and Islam, becoming Turks in the process (so yes, a good chunk of Turkish people today most likely have Greek and Armenian ancestors, but it has been so long that it is inconsequential). There were those who did not undergo such change, so their descendants became the modern minorities. When you look at the region's history, it is really just the latest chapter of a history of frequent language shift. Genetically, Turks form a cluster with Balkanite and Southern Europeans ethnicities, but it's estimated that the "original" Central Asiatic Turks' input constitutes around 20-25% of modern Turks.
Ironically, there were immigrants, but they did not come from the east, but rather from north and west; from the 18th century onward, Anatolia was the premier destination for European Muslims of various ethnicities fleeing persecution in their homeland. Circassians and other Caucasians emigrated from Russia, while Albanians, Greeks, and Slavs of various types emigrated from the Balkans. These people were likewise linguistically assimilated into the Turkish majority.
Historically, Turkey is synonymous with the Ottoman Empire, which was in fact referred to as the "Turkish Empire" or "Imperium Turcicum" by its contemporaries. Since the end of the Turkish Empire, this period has become known as the Ottoman or Osmanic Empire, just as the Eastern Roman Empire has become known as the Byzantine Empire. At its height, the Ottoman Empire spanned three continents and controlled vast swathes of North Africa, Southern and Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Its main opponents for most of its lifetime were the Habsburgs and the Venetians; the former finally turned the tables on the Turks following the last siege of Vienna while the latter were eventually rendered powerless by the Italian Wars of 1494-1559. In the last centuries of its life, the Ottoman Empire also came into conflict with the Russian Empire, who made some serious gains in the Caucasus. Following the First World War, the empire collapsed, but the institution of the Turkish Sultan actually outlived the Habsburg Emperor and the Russian Tsar by around four years. During its life, the Ottoman Empire served as the main enemy for Christendom, since it had destroyed the Byzantine Empire and made rapid gains into Europe. The only ally it had in Europe was France, who was squeezed on all sides by Habsburg possessions. That's not to say that the Christendom was the Empire's only enemies though; on the eastern side, the empire also had a famously heated rivalry with Persia's Safavid and later Qajar dynasties. In fact, Persia's conversion to Shia Islam is thought of as a way to defend themselves from being integrated into the Sunni Muslim Ottoman Empire (which had controlled much of the Middle East and is threatening to encroach further east).
The Ottoman Empire entered a long period of decline that is presumed to have started in the late 18th century, but didn't really take off until the 19th century. During that time, Egypt split off and became an independent nation, taking with it a vast amount of income and a large population. Greece won its independence after humiliating the Ottoman Empire in the 1820s, and other Balkan states would soon follow. There were numerous reasons for the Empire's decline. There'd been a string of fairly lackluster Sultans in the 18th century. The Ottoman Navy had been destroyed by at the Battle of Lepanto, and although they were able to rebuild the ships, the loss of experienced seamen sent the Ottoman Navy into a decline that it never recovered from. The later Battle of Navarino put the final nail in the coffin of Ottoman dominance in the Mediterranean. The Empire's tax system was incredibly inefficient note and the Sultan's grasp on most parts of his Empire was in name only. A lack of funds meant that the Empire could not afford to sustain a more powerful army, leading to the decline of the famous Janissary corps. It also meant that infrastructure projects, like railroads, were often left up to foreign investors. Outside of the religious madrasas, Turks had no education. Furthermore, the French Revolution spread liberal and nationalist ideals to the provinces of the Empire, encouraging unrest and eventually revolution.
These shortcomings were periodically addressed throughout the 19th century by the sultans, starting with Mahmud II. After the disastrous Greek War of Independence, Mahmud set about modernizing the military by first abolishing and massacring the Janissary Corps, then inviting French and British advisers to open new officer schools. This had some unintended consequences, as the new teachers tended to bring with them Western ideals, and the officers-in-training learned English and French, meaning they now had the ability to read newspapers and literature from Europe. This helped further spur on the push for liberal reform. Under Mahmud II's successor Abdulmecid I, the new Tanzimat reforms were introduced. These included further military reforms, as well as major bureaucratic and tax reforms. This coincided with an attempt to build a sort of Ottoman national identity to try and reduce the strife between ethnic groups. Tanzimat proved to be moderately successful, as it managed to help modernize many parts of the Ottoman Empire. However, it only stymied its continuing decline, as monetary issues halted some of the reforms and forced the Empire further and further in debt to the French and British. The Ottoman Empire briefly flirted with establishing a constitutional monarchy and a parliament, but this didn't stick. Meanwhile, the Russians continued to fight the Turks, both in the Crimean War and the Russo-Turkish War. The latter ended up with the Ottoman Empire being severely diminished at the Congress of Berlin, where most of its Balkan possessions were split into independent nation states, Tunisia was conquered by France, and the British occupied Egypt. The newly independent country of Bosnia was invaded by the Austro-Hungarians in 1878, which would have dire consequences down the line.
Abdulhamid II's reign saw the rise of the Young Turks movement, which was a group of young nationalists (mostly low-level bureaucrats and officers) who wanted to create a modern, and distinctly Turkish, Ottoman Empire. They rebelled in 1908 and forced a new constitution on the Empire while severely limiting the Sultan's power in favor of a brand new democracy. However, this democracy quickly found itself dominated by the Young Turks' party, the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP). They would eventually triumph over their opponents, the Freedom and Accord Party. Meanwhile, Italy invaded Libya in 1911 and quickly seized it, and just a year later the Balkan Wars erupted, which caused the Turks to lose almost all of their European territory sans Istanbul. The messy break-up of Ottoman rule in the Balkans would directly lead to World War I.
Turkey, as the Ottoman Empire, was initially neutral during World War I. Before the conflict, it was being wooed by Imperial Germany, who invested heavily in Turkey, created the Berlin-Baghdad railway and helped modernise the Ottoman army. After the British forcefully requisitioned two warships ordered by the Ottoman Government, Turkey fell further into the orbit of the Central Powers, and officially joined the war after a German False Flag Operation. During World War I, Turkey fought mainly against the British Empire and her colonies/dominions like Australia, New Zealand, India and Canada in the Middle East and on the Gallipoli peninsula. The Gallipoli Campaign is notable for being a pilgrimage site for Australians and New Zealanders due to the involvement of the ANZACs, as popularised in the Mel Gibson film Gallipoli. Similarly, the war in the Middle East became famous for the actions of T. E. Lawrence (of Lawrence of Arabia fame), who incited the Great Arab Revolt which saw the Arab territories of the Ottoman Empire revolt against their Turkish masters. Unfortunately, this ended as a Full-Circle Revolution for the Arabs, who were promised a unified, independent Arab State but were instead placed under the control of the British and French empires. Turkey also put up a very weak fight against the Russians, owing to their Supreme Commander - Enver Pasha - being a Modern Major General with delusions of conquering Central Asia. Like Napoleon before him, Enver Pasha made the sad mistake of trying to invade in winter. The Russo-Turkish conflict was one of the few theatres of the First World War where the Russian Army did well against an opponent. Enver Pasha and much of the Turkish leadership scapegoated the Armenian minority in the region rather than admit that their own strategic failures caused their abysmal performance, and in response the Ottoman government forcibly "deported" millions of Armenians from the Caucasus region. Of course, these deportations left most Armenians stranded in the Syrian desert with no provisions and no water, and they were denied entry into cities like Aleppo (something that actually bothered local governors like Mehmet Celal Bey, who ignored the orders and worked to save thousands of Armenian lives). The end result is that at least 1.5 million Armenians died from starvation, dehydration, the conditions of the grueling march, or the occasional abuse from their Turkish guards. It became evident that this was intentional on part of CUP, and them and the Young Turks' movement had always regarded the Armenian minority with distrust and hate, believing them to be more loyal to foreign powers than to the Ottoman state, and expecting them to revolt like the Greeks and Serbs before them. Of course, the deportations did nothing to actually reverse the dramatic Turkish losses on the Caucasus Front. Fortunately for them, the Turks were saved by the collapse of the Tsarist regime and Red October. Less fortunately for them, the Central Powers still ended up losing, and the Ottoman Empire soon lost all its territory outwith Anatolia and Thrace.
Following the defeat of the Central Powers, Anatolia was occupied by the Entente. The resulting Treaty of Sèvres partitioned Turkey, ceding western Anatolia and most of Thrace to the Greeks and eastern Anatolia to the Armenians, while placing vast swathes of Asian Turkey under European influence. This led to the Turkish War of Independence, which raged through the early 1920s, and resulted in the Turkish nationalists - led by Mustafa Kemal (Atatürknote ) - establishing the modern Republic of Turkey in 1923, having repulsed the combined forces of Greece, France, Italy and Great Britain (though to be fair, the last three didn't really have their hearts in the war). They gained most of Armenia's land after some seedy deals between them and the Soviet government, who wanted them to go communist (which didn't end up happening), effectively ending centuries of an Armenian presence in the region. Turkey became the first secular state in the Middle East and would remain so for quite some time.
Atatürk is definitely a revered figure in Turkey. It is common to see his portrait prominently featured on keepsakes and at political rallies among waving Turkish flags. As his name suggests, he is considered the founding father of Turkey, aggressively pushing policies of secularization and statism in an attempt to modernize the country. While remembered fondly these days, Atatürk actually had sizable resistance when he first became president, primarily from the religious right-wing that sought to restore the caliphate. Still, his reforms had an immense impact on making Turkey the country it is today.
Mustafa Kemal Atatürk died in 1938 and was succeeded by his former Prime Minister İsmet İnönü, largely without incident. Turkey remained neutral for the most part in World War II. Following the annexation of Albania by Fascist Italy, Great Britain made an alliance with Turkey for fear of an Axis invasion. This never transpired and so Turkey remained out of the conflict, albeit while being aligned with the Allies. However, they did declare war on Nazi Germany towards the end as a ceremonial gesture.
Turkey had been a Presidential Dictatorship up until that point, led by Atatürk and his successor İsmet İnönü. However, in the 1950s the CHP note had a staggering electoral loss to the new Democratic Party. The 1950s saw a major period of growth and expansion for the Turkish economy with new industries opening up, new infrastructural development, and improving literacy and education. However, in 1960 the DP government was ousted in a coup d'etat by the military. İnönü and the CHP were returned to office for a short time before losing another election to a selection of new successor parties to the DP. The military stepped in again, starting a massive period of civil strife in Turkey that lasted for an entire decade. The 1970s saw the rise of the Grey Wolvesnote , an organization that is divisive at best, which engaged in routine street violence in the name of "stopping communism". This period of instability was ended when the military committed another coup d'etat in 1980. This coup had a profound impact on Turkey as thousands of Turks were killed, imprisoned, or purged. The 1980 coup was noticeably more violent than other coups before or since and is a major reason for modern Turks' distrust of their military. Around the same time as the coup, an insurgency broke out in the southeast, the perpetrators being ethnic Kurds who formed the PKK,note , which is usually called either Marxist or libertarian socialist. It is still ongoing, although open warfare mostly subsided after the capture of insurgent leader Abdullah Öcalan in 1999. The conflict has killed 60,000 people, a tenth of them civilians.
Out of that chaos, the military ruled de facto for a while with a puppet civilian government. Slowly democracy was re-introduced, but it was unstable at best with no ideology gaining a majority, causing many weak coalitions to form. All of this, of course, was under the spectre of another military intervention. Eventually a tenuous coalition government led by Islamist parties emerged, with the dominant one being the decidedly Islamist RP note . When this coalition began to get to "cozy" in regards to religious issues, the military asked Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan to resign, in what was deemed a "soft coup". A more left-leaning coalition formed but proved to be unstable, especially because the social-democratic DSP note and the nationalist MHP were forced into a coalition despite being on opposite sides of the political spectrum. Turkey was then wracked by an economic crisis. The end result was that the new center-right AKP note led by Recep Tayyip Erdoğannote was swept into office. AKP has effectively governed Turkey for the past decade-and-a-half, and and the less said about it, the better.
The New '10s saw the country got increasingly hectic. The Syrian Civil War erupted from 2012 and took a toll on Turkey, with it hosting the lion's share of Syrian refugees among the world and suffering from some spillover, including terrorist bombings from 2014 to 2016 and occasional missile strikes into the bordering provinces. The 2013 ceasefire with the Kurdish insurgency broke down in 2015 and hostilities resumed in the southeast. The following year saw an attempted army coup. Finally, President Erdoğan successfully campaigned for a referendum in 2018 to abolish the post of the prime minister, turning the country's government into a presidential one. To say that mixed feelings abound would be, uh, putting it mildly.
Asian Turkey is where things get interesting. Owing to the number of rugged mountain ranges, this region has many climactic zones. Turkey's mountains are grouped into two complexes: the Pontic Alps in the north and the Taurus in the south. The Pontic Alps separates the central highlands from the Black Sea, whose coast is the wettest region in the country. Both elevation and precipitation gradually rise from the west to east. The few rivers that penetrate the gorges into the Black Sea create deep valleys that offer a lot of Scenery Porn.
Meanwhile, the Marmara (northwestern), Aegean (western), and Mediterranean (southern) regions of Asian Turkey are included within the broader Mediterranean climactic zone and generally feel like it. The Marmara Region has the same features as Thrace and is the country's most populous region, containing the Istanbul and Bursa metropolises. The Aegean region has many fertile river valleys interspersed by mountains that are extensively cultivated for agriculture. The Mediterranean region is separated from the central highlands by the Taurus range. Although this limits settlement to the coast, the Mediterranean region has quite a few large cities, such as Adana and Antalya, the former of which is located in the country's largest alluvial plain, Çukurova (ancient Cilicia). The Sanjak of Alexandretta, currently the Hatay province, is located in this region.
As a result of being bordered by mountain ranges at all sides, Central Anatolia is mostly semi-arid steppe, very hot during the summer but chilly during the winter. The geological formation of the plateau produces some impressive landforms, such as the Cappadocian fairy chimneys. The little available rainfall is important for agriculture, since there are few rivers and the lakes are saline. Nevertheless, Central Anatolia has several large cities (including Ankara) and is way livelier than its eastern neighbor, Eastern Anatolia, which is basically the same but with the cold turned Up to Eleven. Outside of a couple of population centers like Erzurum and Van, it is sparsely populated and very rural. It has both Lake Van and Mount Ararat (called Ağrı in Turkish), the country's largest lake and highest mountain, respectively. Historically, this region is not included within Anatolia proper, instead being mostly the western half of the Armenian Highlands. Meanwhile, the extreme southeast, in the provinces of Hakkâri and Şırnak, is part of the Zagros mountain range.
Finally, Southeastern Anatolia is located to the south of the Taurus and west of the Zagros. It is also not part of historical Anatolia, being the northern extension of the Arabian Plate and sharing the same geographical features as northern Syria. It is a rather hilly plateau crisscrossed by river valleys, including the Tigris and Euphrates, and featuring Mediterranean climate. The irrigation projects of the 20th century further cemented this region as a prominent breadbasket. The largest cities in Southeastern Anatolia are Gaziantep and Diyarbakır. There is also a city called Batman, although the name's etymology is far more mundane (it's a shortened form of Batı Raman, the name of a local mountain).
Turkey sits on the meeting point between the Anatolian, Arabian, and Eurasian Plates, making it a seismically active area. Earthquakes are frequent, especially in the arc-shaped area in Northern Anatolia ranging from Bursa in the northwest to Erzincan in the northeast, as well as the Aegean Region. The deadliest earthquake in Turkey's modern history was the 1939 Erzincan earthquake, which killed 32,700 people. Previously, the city of Antioch experienced a string of deadly earthquakes in the 1st millennium BCE that claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and contributed to its decline as a church center.
Turkey has some other issues relating to human rights and freedom of speech. Their government officially denies the Armenian Genocide as well as similar genocides suffered by the Greeks and Assyrians as the Ottoman Empire was crumbling, even though they were committed by the government the present republic deposed note . They also tend to be uptight about the word "Kurd" and the idea of a separate identity for their eastern, Kurdish-speaking provinces. They were called "mountain Turks". This is all apparently "insulting Turkishness", the idea of a unified Turkish nation-state. This concept of 'insulting Turkishness' is one of the reasons sites like Wikipedia are banned in Turkey, allegedly because of insults to Atatürk as you can be prosecuted for insulting Atatürk in Turkey, or saying anything else that allegedly insults Turkishness.
Due to the complex issue of Turkish nationalism and the activities of Kurdish terrorist group PKK, Kurds and the Kurdish language used to be a heated issue in Turkey. Since 2002, however, the bans on Kurdish radio and television shows were lifted and the option to have a private Kurdish education was introduced, and in 2009, the government began restoring the names of Kurdish towns and villages. Giving in to pressure from the EU and the U.S., the government has even repaired and returned a handful out of the hundreds of churches that after World War I were either converted into mosques, museums, or just left to deteriorate into ruins, back to the (now) small Christian population in the country, mostly just for show (although once Erdoğan became president these churches were soon seized by the government and now have an uncertain fate). Provisions against speaking publicly about the Armenian Genocide and an independent Kurdistan were mostly introduced by a military junta that took control in the 1980s, and since then, the Turkish Government has made efforts to improve freedom of speech in the country, due largely to international pressure. Progress in some areas is being made faster than in others; as the 2007 murder of Turkish-Armenian reporter Hrant Dink displayed, speaking out too loudly about taboo topics in Turkey is still a very risky proposition. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Turkey continues to have the world's highest number of jailed journalists, topping the list in 2012 and 2013 and beating out the likes of North Korea, Iran and China.
Turkey famously doesn't get along with Greece very well (Greek and Turkish minorities in both countries were expelled and exchanged in the 20th century), though they've been forced to co-operate a bit by both being in NATO. The Cyprus Question is just the most modern bone of contention. To make a long story short, Greece - when it was still an authoritarian state - made moves towards annexing Cyprus, prompting Turkey to invade and occupy the northern portion of Cyprus, which has a large Turkish population. Since then, Turkey has attempted to get it recognized as an independent country (Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus), distinct from the Greek-majority Republic of Cyprus. A third option has been to unify the two countries as a federation. The latest attempt at this was by the UN, who proposed a United Cypriot Republic under the Annan Plan. In a 2004 referendum, 64% of Turkish Cypriots voted in favour of the plan, but it was shot down by the Greek Cypriots, with 76% of them voting against the plan. Since then, unification talks have stalled.
Lately, Turkey has been longing to become a part of The European Union, but its long history as the regional bully has made this difficult for them. Greece is opposed to it due to the Cyprus Dispute. Bulgaria in particular has been against it due to past wrongs committed during the dark days of the end of the Ottoman Empire, and Germany feels that Turkey ought to fess up to their crimes like they had to after World War II, as does France. On the other hand, opposition to Turkish membership has been motivated by far less noble goals. Some European leaders - particularly the former French President Nicholas Sarkozy - fear that Turkey entering the EU would result in an influx of Muslims, due to EU immigration regulations. Proponents of Turkish membership point out its strong economic status (the EU originally being a purely economic union), especially when compared to the latest members, Bulgaria and Romania.
To try and appear more qualified to join the EU Turkey has adopted a "zero problems" policy with its direct neighbors, though it hasn't quite panned out so far. They signed a protocol in 2009 with neighboring Armenia which would open their borders (closed since the Nagorno-Karabakh War between Armenia and Azerbaijan in the early 1990's) and attempt to bury the hatchet between the two states. However, the protocols fell into limbo after Armenia unsurprisingly refused to link the protocols with dropping the genocide issue and conceding Karabakh to Azerbaijan, which was likely the whole point of the protocols as now Turkey can say that anything related to genocide recognition or recognizing the Republic of Artsakh's independence puts its normalization with Armenia in jeopardy. In late 2013 Turkey pulled the Protocols out of limbo and tried to negotiate with Armenia again, hoping to patch things up ahead of the centennial of the Armenian genocide; sure to be a PR nightmare for the country. Meanwhile, it has had shaky relations with just about every other country that borders it except Azerbaijan. However, its relations with the Arab world have been getting increasingly peachy. Arabs—whose view of the Turks wasn't half as bad as those of Turkey's Christian neighbors—have come to see the Turkish model as an excellent path to democracy, for various reasons: Islamist Arabs point to the ruling AK Party's moderate line, while authoritarian Arabs like the aforementioned role for the military. Either way, commercial and cultural links (the latter of which include some very successful soap operas, dubbed into Arabic in the Syrian dialect and the thing to watch if you're a remotely fashionable Arab) with Turkey have grown strong since the early 2000s. Indeed, the Islamist parties that were swept into power in the Arab Revolutions have modeled themselves upon the AK Party,note and the Turkish government has won tremendous brownie points from the Arab street thanks to its relatively quick denunciation of the Syrian regime and willingness to host refugees and rebels (as of November 2018, Turkey's 3.5 million Syrian refugees are orders of magnitude more than other hosting countries. Lebanon is a distant second with 950,000 refugees).
It is important to note that lately Turkey's pursuit of EU membership seems to have stalled completely, even though President Erdoğan has claims to still be open to the idea. However, Turkey has been directing far more resources towards promoting a distinctly none-European Turkish identity by emphasizing their Ottoman roots. Politically, this has seen Turkey move from a fairly isolated non-interventionist state to a far more influential country in the Middle East, especially with their intervention in the Syrian Civil War. This policy has been termed Neo-Ottomanism, although many Turks find this term disparaging.
Until the 2010s, Turkey had a friendly relationship with Israel, unique in the region. It began to deteriorate in 2010 due to a certain incident involving a certain flotilla bound for a certain strip of territory in the Levant. Though Israel apologized for this, ties were restored, and the countries continue to maintain diplomatic missions in each other's capitals, the relationship is never the same afterwards. Turkey has transformed from the region's most reticent to one of the most vocal critics of Israel's policies (even some Arab countries who never establish a relationship with Israel are quiet about their criticism in comparison).
Turkey has a notable cultural industry, especially in the TV and music areas - the Holly Valance song "Kiss Kiss" was originally sung in Turkish (strangely enough, the original singer is male, while a significant number of the various covers have been sung by women.) Plus belly dancers, which people tend to focus on. The oil wrestling is male-only, so it's usually ignored (of course, it largely depends on the demographic).
Turkish food is commonplace, especially in Europe. Many Turkish immigrants work as street vendors or restaurant owners, especially in Germany, and the food of choice is almost always kebab. Turks are also famous for creating sherbet, although some dispute this. Turkish food generally has a lot more in common with the food of the Balkans and Greece than with its southernly neighbors, usually emphasizing a large amount of dairy products like goat cheese and yogurt. Kahvenote and Çaynote are the favored beverages, with the former still enjoyed in the kahvehanenote of Istanbul. Unlike many Muslim-majority countries, the sale of alcohol is perfectly legal and although public drinking is typically discouraged (especially in more conservative areas), alcohol consumption isn't much different than in the West.
Turkey does have its own film industry, but it hasn't gained much notoriety outside of Turkey. Turkish television, on the other hand, has gained widespread popularity over the last decade, with significant success in the Middle East, Southern and Eastern Europe, Latin America, and South and Central Asia. More recently, viewership has expanded into Western Europe and North America, namely through streaming services such as Netflix. Truly a television powerhouse, it was the second biggest exporter of serials in 2017, only behind the United States. Most Turkish television series note live by the Rule of Drama, feature Loads and Loads of Characters, and have absurdly long runtimes: it is not uncommon for a single episode of a weekly drama to run over two hours.
One interesting observation about Turkish culture is their love for cats, particularly in Istanbul. Besides cats just looking plain old cute, there are pragmatic reasons to keep them around to help kill pests. More importantly, cats are treated with a degree of reverence in Islam, with Muhammad praising them for their cleanliness. Because of this, they are often given free food and water and are allowed to wander into mosques at their leisure.
Turkey hosts a total of eighteen UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The majority are cultural, but there are also natural ones like the Göreme National Park in Cappadocia, renowned globally for its fairy chimneys and hot air balloon rides.
A peculiarity of Turkey that has been around for a while is the idea of derin devlet, or "deep state", an elite group of elites that is believed to secretly control Turkey. Turks see this organization/cabal/whatever as simple fact, whereas foreigners tend to see it as merely an odd cultural phenomenon. There was a US-backed counter-guerilla movement trained to keep Turkey out of the hands of the reds, whose existence was revealed in 1974, but this group is defunct and it's not entirely clear how it relates to the deep state of today. Even Turks themselves can't seem to agree what the deep state's agenda is or who the head members are; they have been seen as anti-democratic by democratic factions, anti-worker by socialist factions, anti-Islamic by Islamist factions, anti-Kurdish by Kurds, and as ultra-nationalists by everyone else. Some argue that they work for the betterment of Turkey or that they are merely a covert arm of government, others believe their goal is to undermine the government and launch coups, which is understandable since that sort of thing seems to happen a lot. It's not clear who leads them, either; it's been said to be led by descendents of the ottoman sultans, high-level military brass, US-backed guerrillas, criminal kingpins, and corrupt politicians. Whatever the case, the truth is far from certain.
They're also responsible for changing the name of the city of Constantinople to Istanbul, although the city was known as Kostantiniyye (the Turkish translation of Constantinople) throughout the duration of the Ottoman Empire, after it was captured from the Eastern Roman Empire in 1453. The name Istanbul itself is Older Than They Think, being the Turkish form of a colloquial Greek word that had been used since medieval times (eis ten polin, "to the city", because by all accounts it really was the only City in the ERE). Modern Greeks still call it Konstantinopouli, though.
- Alp Arslan. The second and most famous sultan of the Seljuk Empire, Muhammad bin Dawud Chaghri decisively defeated Romanos IV Diogenes at Manzikert, signaling the beginning of the end of the Byzantine Empire. Although the concept obviously did not exist at that time, he is widely regarded in Turkish nationalism, as his conquest started the Turkification of the peninsula. His name is a honorific and means "Heroic Lion" in Turkish.
- Mehmed the Conqueror. The seventh sultan of the Ottoman Empire. At the tender age of 21, he succeeded in conquering Constantinople, a city that had been previously besieged fifteen times and with only one success. The fall of Constantinople destroyed Byzantium and established the Ottomans as the spiritual successors to the Roman Empire. Mehmet II used the Byzantine administration model as a blueprint for the Ottoman State, and this model stayed in place long after his death. He also unified Anatolia under the Ottomans and brought the empire into Europe, advancing as far as Belgrade. This is the guy known for his skirmishes with Vlad the Impaler in Wallachia and Stefan the Great in Moldova.
- Selim I. The ninth Sultan of the Ottoman Empire. Ruthless and efficient, Selim defeated and put an end to the Mamluks of Egypt, bringing vast swathes of the Middle East including the holy cities of Mecca and Medina into the empire. He also curbstomped Ismail I in the Battle of Chaldiran, a Shocking Defeat Legacy that the Safavids never recovered from, and brought Eastern Anatolia and Mesopotamia firmly under the Ottomans' control. These victories shifted the Ottomans' center of power from the Balkans to the Middle East. Selim forced the abdication of al-Mutawakkil III, the last Abbasid caliph (by then a longtime prisoner of the Mamluks) and officially confirmed the institution of the Ottoman Sultan as the sole caliph of the Sunni Muslims.
- Suleiman the Magnificent. The tenth Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, as well as the longest-reigning. Presided over the expansion of Turkey into Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. Also known as "Suleiman the Lawmaker" for his complete reconstruction of the Ottoman legal system. A distinguished goldsmith and poet, he also oversaw the Golden Age of Ottoman artistic, literary and architectural development. The Süleymaniye Mosque - the second largest mosque in Istanbul - is named after him.
- Ahmed I. Notable only for creating the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, one of the most impressive mosques in the world and a masterpiece of Turko-Byzantine architecture. Was erected in an effort to distract the public from the Sultan's unsuccessful wars against the Habsburgs and Persia. Until this point, mosques had been paid for with 'war booty' but, due to his recent military failures, Ahmed I had to borrow from the treasury, upsetting the ulema - Muslim legal scholars. Pope Benedict XVI visited the Blue Mosque (as it is also known) in 2006, only the second time in history that a Pope has visited a Muslim place of worship.
- Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. The founding father of modern Turkey. An extremely capable military officer in the army during WWI who went on to create the Republic of Turkey and serve as its first President. Modernized and secularized the backward Ottoman Empire into something resembling more of the modern state through his ideology, called Kemalism, which is a key element of the Turkish constitution. Saying that he is highly regarded within the country is akin to saying that a desert is a little dry; a specific minute within a year is set up for every Turkish citizens to remember him in silence.note Do not insult him in Turkey or risk prosecution.
- Sabiha Gökçen was one of Atatürk's adopted daughters, as well as being the worlds first female combat pilot.
- Ahmet Ertegun was one of the founders of Atlantic Records, and incredibly influential record label that had major hits in soul, rock, and R&B music. Atlantic would go on to be a label for musicians and bands like Ben E. King, Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Percy Sledge, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, and was even the guy who brought Neil Young in to Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.
- Fethullah Gülen. A Muslim scholar and founder of the worldwide Gülen movement, which promotes Islamic democracy and interfaith dialogues. In 1999, he left Turkey to live in exile in the United States, as his advocacy for political Islam clashed with the secular Kemalist ideology adopted by the government at that time. His movement had a close relationship with the AKP government in the 2000s, but by 2016 it has been declared a traitor/terrorist after President Erdoğan blamed them for that year's failed army coup. The ensuing fallout has seen thousands of academics, civil servants, and military officials jailed or sacked from their jobs. Please note that discussing him in today's Turkey is a strong Flame Bait.
- Aziz Sancar. Biochemist specializing in the study of DNA repair. The second Turkish Nobel laureate, he received the 2015 Nobel Prize in Chemistry alongside Tomas Lindahl of Sweden and Paul L. Modrich of the United States.
- Orhan Pamuk. Novelist, academic, and the first Turkish Nobel laureate, receiving the 2006 Nobel Prize in Literature.
- Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Politician, the 25th Prime Minister (20032014) and the 12th President of Turkey (2014present). Also the current head of the AKP party, which has dominated the country since 2002. He oversaw an era of economic growth, relaxation of the strict secularist policies (the hijab ban was lifted during his tenure), and gradual erosion of parliamentary politics, culminating with the successful 2018 referendum to switch into presidential governance. He entered Turkey into the Syrian Civil War on the side of the rebels, bringing him face to face with Russia and the United States. A very divisive figure, to say the least.
- Tarkan. No doubt it would be amiss not to mention Turkey's biggest pop star.
- Hamdi Ulukaya. Famous entrepreneur and founder of the yogurt brand Chobani. Hamdi was born and raised in the poor northern part of Anatolia bordering the Black Sea. He was the son of a shepherd, but he ended up coming to America to study, eventually founding the brand with the help of his family.
Turkey In Fiction
Anime & Manga
- Türkiye from Shoukoku no Altair is basically Ottoman Empire but with a different government system (the country is ruled by a stratocracy instead of caliphate) along with a healthy dose of Historical Beauty Upgrade.
- The DCU has Selma Tolon, a Red Crescent doctor who fights crime in Ankara as "the Janissary." She wields the Flaming Scimitar of Suleiman the Magnificent and recites spells from Merlin's Eternity Book, both of which she obtained while aiding the injured after the earthquake in İzmit. She was created by Brian K. Vaughan as part of the unpopular "Planet DC" annuals series in 2000. To date, this has been her only major appearance.
- Djinn starts out in modern day Turkey where the main protagonist searches about her grandmother's past, who used to be a concubine in the Ottoman Imperial Harem.
- The Accidental Spy: This 2001 Jackie Chan film had plenty of scenes set in Turkey, including the ruins of Cappadocia and the Grand Bazaar.
- The Turks are the "bad guys" in Lawrence of Arabia, which portrays the Ottoman Empire as (appropriately enough) The Empire and the Arab Revolt as La Résistance. The movie's focus being on Lawrence's relationship with the Arabs and with his British superiors, the Turks themselves don't actually appear very much except as Mooks. The only non-Mook Turkish character is a Torture Technician, played by José Ferrer and identified only as "the Turkish Bey".
- Topkapi has a con artist having to serve as a double agent for a heist gang and the Turkish police, all for a priceless Ottoman relic stored in the Topkapı Palace.
- Midnight Express follows an American attempting to escape the Turkish prison, having been imprisoned there due to trying to smuggle hashish out of the country.
- James Bond:
- From Russia with Love's first two-thirds is set in Istanbul. Bond needs to retrieve a cryptographic device from a Soviet defector in the Soviet consulate.
- Bond returns to Istanbul in The World Is Not Enough to stop a terrorist from attempting to detonate the nuclear bomb on the city, which will sabotage Russian oil pipelines.
- Skyfall opens with Bond and Moneypenny tracking a mercenary in Istanbul.
- Taken 2: The Albanian mafia leader follows the main protagonist to Istanbul to avenge the death of his son, who kidnapped the latter's daughter in the previous film.
- The International
- The Water Diviner follows the titular water diviner as he travels to Anatolia to recover the bodies of his sons, who were soldiers during the Battle of Gallipoli, in interwar Turkey.
- Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is set in Hatay, the province hosting Antioch.
- Dracula Untold has Sultan Mehmed II and his Janissaries as the antagonists.
- The Promise (2016): The first Hollywood film to deal with the Armenian Genocide committed by Ottoman Turkey in 1915. Also a bit of a stealth adaptation of The Forty Days of Musa Dagh by Frank Werfel about the Armenian defense of the mountain of Musa Dagh before being rescued by the French, which Turkey has successfully prevented from being made into a movie since the 1930's.
- In The Usual Suspects, Keyser Söze's backstory is set in Turkey's criminal underworld. "Söze" is actually a Turkish word meaning "one who talks too much." This is a hidden clue to his identity.
- Orlando: A Biography has some of its parts set in Constantinople (the novel is set long before Istanbul (Not Constantinople) had taken place). The 1992 film adaptation shot the scenes in Uzbekistan, though.
- In Dan Brown's Inferno, Sienna attempts to release the Sterility Plague in the waters of Basilica Cistern, the underground receptacle of Hagia Sophia, while Langdon and Dr. Sinskey try to prevent her from doing so. She succeeds, but that's because it's already been released since a week ago.
- In The Brave, Incirlik Air Base is the main base of operations for the protagonists. The two-part finale episodes also take place in Adana, Turkey, which is literally a 20 minute drive away from Incirlik.
- Season 3 of Da Vinci's Demons has the Ottoman Empire invading Italy.
- Warhammer 40,000: The God-Emperor's birthplace is usually said to be somewhere in Anatolia, around 8,000 BC.
- Early 16th century Istanbul, or Constantinople, or Konstantiniyye is the main setting of Assassin's Creed: Revelations. The game was probably responsible for introducing no small number of people to some of the intricacy of Turkish history.
- Super Street Fighter IV introduces to the franchise Hakan, proud practitioner of Turkey's national martial art, Yağlı güreş... Or, in other words, Oil Wrestling.
- Mission 4 of the GLA campaign in the base Command & Conquer: Generals campaign has them destroy the U.S. Air Force base at Incirlik, Turkey.
- Punch-Out!! has recurring fighter Bald Bull, who is from Istanbul.
- The tutorial chapter of Uncharted 2: Among Thieves has Drake sneaking into and robbing a Turkish museum.
- Splinter Cell: Blacklist has a Kobin mission set in a fish market in Istanbul, where you are tasked with eliminating a group of arms dealers who are having a meeting there.
- Hetalia: Axis Powers: The Moe Anthropomorphism of Turkey is the proud, strong and energetic Sadik Adnan, and is shown to be at best Vitriolic Best Buds or at worst Arch Enemies with Greece. Wears a mask at all times to cover his eyes.
The Turkish flag
The Turkish national anthem
- Unitary presidential constitutional republic
- President: Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
- Vice President: Fuat Oktay
- Assembly Speaker: Mustafa Şentop
- Capital: Ankara
- Largest city: Istanbul
- Population: 83,614,362
- Area: 783,356 km² (302,455 sq mi) (36th)
- Currency: Turkish lira (₺) (TRY)
- ISO-3166-1 Code: TR