Official Language: Turkish
Largest City: Istanbul
Population: 81 million (est. July 2017)
Area: Slightly larger than the state of Texas (about 780,000 square km.)
Border Countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia, Greece, Iran, Iraq, Syria
North Carolina is served by the Turkish Consulate General in Miami. For more information, please visit their website:
THE GEOGRAPHY OF TURKEY
Over the course of its millennia-long history, the lands within the borders of modern-day Turkey have been home to dozens of civilizations, cultures, languages, and faiths. Today, Turkey stretches from the fringes of the Balkan Peninsula all the way east to the Caucasus Mountains. To its north lies the Black Sea, which is connected to the Marmara, Aegean, and Mediterranean Seas to Turkey’s west and south by the Bosphorus Strait, the jewel of Istanbul.
Most visitors’ first point of contact with Turkey is Istanbul. It is a massive city of over 15 million people, and the only city in the world that spans two continents (the Bosphorus, while connecting the Black and Mediterranean Seas, also divides the European and Asian landmasses). As the former seat of the Ottoman Empire, the Republic of Turkey’s immediate predecessor, Istanbul is home to iconic sites like Topkapı Palace, Dolmabahçe Palace, the Blue (Sultanahmet) Mosque, and the Galata Tower. Prior to Mehmet II’s conquest of the city in 1453, Istanbul was the capital of the Byzantine Empire. Several of the city’s most popular tourist sites, including the Hagia Sophia (Aya Sofya), Basilica Cistern, Chora Church, and Hippodrome (now known as Sultanahmet Square), are from this ancient city’s pre-Ottoman days.
But Turkey is much more than just Istanbul.
Ankara has been the capital since 1923, the year Mustafa Kemal Atatürk founded the Republic of Turkey. This city of 5 million people is located in the heart of Asia Minor (or Anatolia, Anadolu in Turkish), about 200 miles or 350 kilometers southeast of Istanbul. It is the country’s second largest city in terms of population, and still home to the President of Turkey, the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, the headquarters of all government ministries, and foreign embassies. Some of the city’s highlights are Anıtkabir (the mausoleum of Atatürk), the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, and the Ethnography Museum.
Beyond its two largest cities, geographers frequently divide Turkey into seven regions. Click on the name of each region to view a more detailed Wikipedia page.
This rainy, rocky region along Turkey’s northern coast is home to dozens of important harbors and fertile farmland (hazelnuts and tea are just some of the agricultural products that grow abundantly here). Its major cities include Trabzon, Samsun, and Rize.
Turkey’s most densely populated region is home to the provinces of Istanbul, Edirne, Bursa, and Kocaeli. Several bodies of water—including parts of the Black and Aegean Seas in addition to the Marmara—create numerous climate zones within its relatively small area (just 26,000 square miles).
Ancient epics echo across the dramatic Aegean coastline. Homer is thought to have been born in Smyrna (now known as Izmir, Turkey’s third-largest city), and his Iliad is set in Troy, today part of Çanakkale province in the far northern part of the Aegean region. The archaeological marvels of Ephesus, Assos, Aphrodisias, and Bergama (Pergamon) attract thousands of tourists annually. If ancient history isn’t your thing, you can also cruise along the stunning Turkish Riviera.
Soak up some more sun in Turkey’s southernmost provinces, which are also home to many cities of the Turkish Riviera, but make sure you have enough time to hike up and ski down some of Turkey’s highest peaks in the Taurus and Nur mountains. Çukurova Plain is one of the most agriculturally productive parts of the world. The Mediterranean Region is also a major population center, and includes the cities of Antalya, Adana, and Mersin.
The Turkish heartland is a region of stark contrasts, from the steppes of the Konya Plain to the snow-covered peak of the volcanic Mount Erciyes to the enchanting “fairy chimney” rock formations of Cappadocia. Ankara is its largest city, and other important population centers include Konya, Karaman, Nevşehir, and Kayseri.
Rising dramatically from the flatlands of the Anatolian Plateau are the Pontic and Anti-Taurus mountain ranges. The average elevation of this rugged landscape exceeds 3,000 meters, so it’s no surprise that Turkey’s highest peak, Mount Ararat (Ağrı Dağı, the legendary landing point of Noah’s Ark) is in Eastern Anatolia. Lake Van, the country’s largest lake, is also here. The headwaters of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers flow from the Anti-Taurus Mountains into the ancient region of Mesopotamia.
Just south of the Anti-Taurus Mountains are the rolling hills and plateaus of Southeastern Anatolia. Cities like Gaziantep, Şanlıurfa, and Mardin are a melting pot of Middle Eastern cultures, thanks to the region’s close proximity to Turkey’s southern neighbors Iraq and Syria.
MUSTAFA KEMAL ATATÜRK
First coming to prominence for leading Ottoman Turkish forces to victory at the Battle of Gallipoli in 1915, Mustafa Kemal went on to found the secular Republic of Turkey after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire at the end of the First World War. The path to a sovereign Republic of Turkey was long and difficult. Between 1919 and 1923, Mustafa Kemal and his fellow revolutionaries fought the Allied powers that had partitioned former Ottoman lands. On October 29, 1923, the Grand National Assembly announced the establishment of the Republic of Turkey with Mustafa Kemal Atatürk as its first president.
The Sultanate and Caliphate, vestiges of the Ottoman Empire, were abolished and the capital moved from Istanbul to Ankara. Among Atatürk’s many reforms included secularizing the educational system and legal code, legalizing women’s suffrage and equality of the sexes, and changing the Turkish alphabet from a Perso-Arabic script to its present-day Latin script.
Atatürk served as president until his premature death at the age of 57 on November 10, 1938.
The ATA-NC Library, located in the Turkish House, has numerous high-quality books about the life and legacy of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. You can view our full catalog here: https://www.ata-nc.org/ata-nc-library