Modern Turkey encompasses bustling cosmopolitan centers, pastoral farming villages, barren wastelands, peaceful Aegean coastlines, and steep mountain regions. More than 70% of Turkey's population lives in urban areas that juxtapose Western lifestyles with more traditional ways of life. Turkey lies between Asia and Europe, serving as a bridge geographically, culturally and economically with these two continents. Its land border has an overall length of 2,875 km. In the south, Turkey shares a 378-km border with Iraq and a 877-km border with Syria; in the west a 203-km border with Greece and a 269-km border with Bulgaria; in the east a 529-km border with Iran a 276-km border with Georgia, a 312-km border with Armenia and a 18 km border with Nakhichevan (Azerbaijan).
Turkey is surrounded by sea on three sides: The Mediterranean in the south, the Aegean in the west and the Black Sea in the north. The coastline exceeds 8,300 km. The two continents, Europe and Asia, are separated by the Dardanelles in the west and the Bosphorus Straits in the east. With a land mass of 779,452 km2, Turkey ranks second in size among European countries, and second among its neighbors following Iran. Its territory is roughly in the shape of a rectangle measuring 550 km from north to south and 1,565 km from east to west, at its widest points.
Turkey has 81 administrative provinces and is divided into seven regions (Marmara, Black Sea, Eastern Anatolia, Southeastern Anatolia, Mediterranean, Aegean and Central Anatolia). Although Turkey is situated geographically where climatic conditions are quite temperate, the diversity of the landscape, and the fact that mountain ranges run parallel to the coasts, result in significant differences in climatic conditions from one region to the other. While the coastal areas enjoy milder climates, the inland Anatolian plateau experiences hot summers and cold winters with limited rainfall.
According to the 2008 census conducted by the Turkish Board of Statistics as part of the new Address-Based Population Registration System, Turkey's population now exceeds 71 million. The census said the population rose from 70.6 million in 2007 to 71.5 million at the end of 2008, a 13.1 percent increase. Out of 81 provinces, 55 saw a population increase, while the remaining saw decreases. Istanbul now has a population of 12.7 million, Ankara 4.5 million, and ??zmir 3.8 million. These three cities make up 30 percent of the country's total population. The male-to female ratio stands nearly equal, at 1.008:1. According to the census, 75 percent of the country's population (53.6 million) is concentrated in cities. The remaining 17.9 million live in towns and villages.
Istanbul - Turkey's most populous city, located on the Bosphorus, a major commercial and cultural center linking the East and West since ancient times, and a focal point for industry, culture, trade and tourism - alone accounts for 17.8 percent of the total population, followed by Ankara (6.4 percent), Izmir (5.3 percent) , Bursa (3.5 percent) and Adana (2.8 percent) . Bayburt, with a population of 75,700, is the least-populated province.
The average age of the country's population is 28.5 - 28 for men, and 29 for women. The average age of city dwellers is 28.4, while it is 28.6 for those living in towns and villages. The working-age population (age 11-64) corresponds to 66.9 percent of the total population. A total of 26.3 percent of the country's population is 14 or under, while 6.8 percent are 65 and older. The population density of Turkey as a whole is 93 people per square kilometer.
The Turkish state has been officially secular since 1924. Approximately 99% of the population is Muslim. Most Turkish Muslims follow the Sunni traditions of Islam, although a significant number follow Alevi and Shiite traditions. The official language is Turkish. English is also widely spoken, especially in urban centers and tourist areas. Students are taught foreign languages, mainly English, French and German, in many high schools and universities. In recent years, Russian and Chinese have been added to these languages. Questions regarding role of religion in society and government, the role of linguistic and ethnic identity, and the public's expectation to live in security dominate public discourse. Turkish citizens who assert a Kurdish identity constitute an ethnic and linguistic group that is estimated approximately 12 million in number.
The Armed Forces have figured prominently in Turkish national life for centuries. Under Ottoman rule, the government and the military establishment were virtually indistinguishable. After World War I, the army commander, Mustafa Kemal, later called Atatürk (meaning Father Turk), evicted the occupying forces of the victorious Allies from Anatolia and formulated the principles underlying the modern Turkish state. On three occasions since then, the military leadership has intervened to protect the nation's democratic framework. The third interlude of military rule, which lasted from 1980 to 1983, was welcomed by many Turkish citizens because it ended the terrorism of the 1970s. The military's actions, however, also limited the democratic process.
A member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) since 1952, Turkey long had the vital mission of anchoring the alliance's southern flank against the military power of the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union. Turkish armed forces defended the Bosporus and Dardanelles straits and Turkey's northeastern border with the Soviet Union in the Transcaucasus region. Vessels of the Soviet Union's Black Sea fleet had to transit the Turkish-controlled straits to enter the Mediterranean.
The disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991 fundamentally changed Turkey's security environment. Fear of Soviet aggression no longer looms over the nation, yet Turkey remains at the center of a region seething with political and economic discord. The stability of Turkey's borders is threatened by turbulence among the newly independent republics of the Caucasus and by hostile states in the Middle East. Turkey's concern over the fortunes of the Turkic states of Central Asia could bring it into conflict with Russia or Iran. Turkey is an advocate of the interests of Muslim peoples in the Balkans, but its modest military role as part of the United Nations (UN) Protection Force in Bosnia has generated controversy because of memories of the Ottoman Empire's long involvement there.
The Turkish government has taken sweeping measures to restructure and modernize the armed forces to deal with the new conditions, in which Soviet military might has been superseded by a multiplicity of threats near Turkey's eastern and southern borders. The new strategy emphasizes the ability to perform a variety of missions, move forces rapidly from one region to another, and mount firepower sufficient to meet any foreseeable threat. Undergoing the most radical reorganization have been the land forces, which were reduced from about 525,000 troops in 1990 to about 393,000 in 1994. For added flexibility, the army has adopted a brigade structure in place of the previous divisional pattern. The army's stocks of tanks and armored vehicles have been enlarged and improved; self-propelled howitzers and multiple rocket launchers also have been added. Troop-carrying helicopters will ensure greater mobility.
An expanded Turkish defense industry has played a major role in the modernization of the armed forces. Under joint-venture programs with United States manufacturers, combat aircraft, armored vehicles, rocket systems, and tank upgrades have been supplied. Submarines and other vessels have been produced in cooperation with the German shipbuilding industry. The centerpiece of the modernization effort has been the United States-Turkey F-16 coproduction project, which added 240 high-performance fighter aircraft to the Turkish inventory during the 1990s.
Turkey and the United States developed many defense links and common goals after United States military and economic assistance began in 1947 in response to the threat of Soviet expansion. For instance, Turkey has permitted the United States to use forward bases and intelligence installations on Turkish territory. During the Cold War, these installations were of vital importance in monitoring military activity and weapons testing by the Soviet Union. Following the end of the Persian Gulf War in 1991, Turkish bases enabled the United States and coalition forces to conduct Operation Provide Comfort, an effort to supply humanitarian relief to Kurds in northern Iraq and enforce a "no-fly zone" in the area against Iraqi aircraft.
Overshadowing all external threats to Turkish security is the Kurdish insurgency, which began in 1984 in the southeastern region of the country. This movement, which involves only a small minority of Turkey's Kurdish population, is led by the extremist Kurdistan Workers' Party (Partiya Karkere Kurdistan--PKK). The conflict became particularly violent beginning in 1992. Some 4,000 Kurds and government security personnel were killed in 1993 alone, many of them noncombatants. The activities of the PKK complicate Turkey's relations with Syria, Iraq, and Iran, where the PKK insurgents have maintained supply and training bases. By early 1995, the Turkish government had deployed nearly 200,000 soldiers and police to the region, and had adopted a policy of forcibly evacuating and often burning Kurdish villages believed to be aiding the insurgents. These measures apparently dampened the insurgency, but at the cost of alienating large numbers of Kurds not involved in the separatist movement.
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