Turkey, republic occupying Asia Minor and a small part of southeastern Europe. Lying between the Black and the Mediterranean seas, the Asian and European parts of Turkey are separated by the Straits, a waterway consisting of the Bosporus, the Sea of Marmara, and the Dardanelles. The Straits strategically link the Black Sea with the Mediterranean Sea. Covering 301,382 sq mi (780,574 sq km), Turkey is bounded by Iraq, Syria, and the Mediterranean Sea on the south; the Aegean Sea on the west; Greece and Bulgaria on the north; and Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Iran in the east. The capital is Ankara.
Asian Turkey is mountainous inland and has an extensive semiarid plateau giving way to narrow coastal lowlands. Mt. Ararat, at 16,945 ft (5,165 m), is Turkey's highest peak, and the Tigris and Euphrates rivers rise in the east. Earthquakes are frequent. European Turkey, which is actually eastern Thrace, is fertile hill country and the site of the city of Istanbul, formerly Constantinople. The climate is Mediterranean around the coastal lowlands and the European section, but drier and subject to greater extremes inland on the Asian side, with harsh winters toward the northeast.
The Turks are largely descended from the Tatars, who entered Asia Minor in the 11th century A.D. There are small Kurdish, Arab, and Orthodox Christian minorities. The people are overwhelmingly Muslim. The official language is Turkish.
Agriculture is the basis of the economy. The chief crops are grains, cotton, fruits, and tobacco. Cattle are raised on the Anatolian plateau, in the western reaches of Asian Turkey. Turkish industry has been developed greatly since World War II and includes steel, iron, and textile manufacturers. There are large deposits of coal, iron, and other metals, and some oil.
Anatolia was the cradle of ancient civilizations, dating back to at least 7000 B.C. Its famous sites include Troy, Ephesus, and the Hittite capital of Hattusas. Turkey was, successively, part of the Hittite, Persian, Roman, Seljuk, and Ottoman empires. Its western coast was, for a time, the site of some of the most brilliant city-states of the ancient Greeks, including Halicarnassus and Miletus. The Ottoman Empire, with its center in Turkey, was founded in the 13th century and endured until it was formally dissolved after World War I. Modern Turkey was largely the work of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, who declared the republic in 1923. Atatürk initiated an ambitious program of reform and modernization aimed at establishing Turkey as a modern nation-state on the European model. His reforms ranged from changing the alphabet to emancipating women. Atatürk died in 1938 and Turkey remained neutral for most of World War II. Afterwards, the country joined NATO and received substantial U.S. aid. Turkey has undergone 2 major military coups since the end of World War II, one in 1960 and another in 1980. Tension with Greece has almost led to war on several occasions. In 1974, Turkey invaded and occupied the northern third of the island of Cyprus. The central government has also fought intermittently with Kurds in Anatolia. Civilian rule returned to Turkey in 1983 with the election of Turgut Ozal to the presidency. In 1996, for the first time in Turkey a Muslim fundamentalist (Necmettin Erbakan) became prime minister. Entry into the EU became problematic.