Fast Facts

Ankara; 3,428,000
779,452 square kilometers (300,948 square miles)
Turkish, Kurdish, Arabic, Armenian, Greek
Muslim (mostly Sunni)
Turkish lira
Life Expectancy:
GDP per Capita:
U.S. $7,300
Literacy Percent:
Flag: Turkey
Map: Turkey

Straddling the continents of Europe and Asia, Turkey tries to be a bridge between West and East. The portion of Turkey's land in Europe may be small (about 5 percent), but the country's largest city, Istanbul, is there. With nearly 13 million people, Istanbul is the third most populous European urban area, after Moscow and Paris.

The Asian part of Turkey is dominated by the dry plateau of Anatolia; the coastal areas of Anatolia consist of fertile lowlands. The country, especially northern Turkey, suffers from severe earthquakes. Mount Ararat, the highest point in Turkey at 5,137 meters (16,854 feet), is the biblical resting-place of Noah's ark.

Turkey joined the UN in 1945 and NATO in 1952. Although Turkey and Greece both belong to NATO, disputes over the Aegean Sea and Cyprus strain relations between the two countries. Turkish forces invaded Cyprus in 1974 to protect the Turkish-Cypriot community during a military coup—it still maintains some 35,000 troops in northern Cyprus. UN peacekeepers remain on the island.

Southeastern Turkey saw years of civil war in the 1980s and 1990s between Turkish forces and Kurds from the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), who wanted to form an independent Kurdish state. Relations improved when the Turkish parliament passed laws giving more rights to Kurds, but Turkey has used cross-border operations to quell Kurdish insurgents located in Iraq.

In 1990 Turkey supported the West against Iraq following Iraq's invasion of Kuwait and in 2003 allowed U.S. forces to use Turkish air space in the Iraq war. In 1999 Turkey gained approval as a candidate country for membership in the European Union. Turkey hopes to be able to join the EU by 2015, but the road has not been smooth. Questions about the role of religion in public life occupy Turkish discourse, notably seen in the state's ban on wearing headscarves in government buildings and schools, which has been a focus of protests.

There are some five million Turks working and living in EU countries—most in Germany. Most trade is with Europe, and many European vacationers come to Turkey for the climate, fine beaches, resorts, Roman ruins, and Crusader castles.


  • Industry: Textiles, food processing, autos, mining, steel, petroleum
  • Agriculture: Tobacco, cotton, grain, olives; livestock
  • Exports: Apparel, foodstuffs, textiles, metal manufactures, transport equipment

—Text From National Geographic Atlas of the World, Eighth Edition

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