Turkey country profile

  • 18 July 2016
  • From the section Europe
Map of Turkey

Once the centre of the Ottoman Empire, the modern secular republic was established in the 1920s by nationalist leader Kemal Ataturk.

Straddling the continents of Europe and Asia, Turkey's strategically important location has given it major influence in the region - and control over the entrance to the Black Sea.

Progress towards democracy and a market economy was halting after Ataturk's death in 1938, and the army - seeing itself as guarantor of the constitution - repeatedly ousted governments seen as challenging secular values.

Joining the European Union has been a longstanding ambition. Membership talks were launched in 2005, but progress has been slow, as several EU states have serious misgivings about Turkish EU membership.

Kurds make up about a fifth of the population. Kurdish separatists who accuse the Turkish state of seeking to destroy their cultural identity have been waging a guerrilla war since the 1980s.


Republic of Turkey

Capital: Ankara

  • Population 74.5 million

  • Area 779,452 sq km (300,948 sq miles)

  • Major languages Turkish (official), Kurdish

  • Major religion Islam

  • Currency Turkish lira

Getty Images


President: Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Image copyright Getty Images

Recep Tayyip Erdogan was sworn in as president in August 2014, cementing his position as Turkey's most powerful leader.

His victory in Turkey's first popular presidential election capped 12 years as prime minister in which the economy tripled in dollar terms, while fuelling fears of growing authoritarianism.

Turkey is a parliamentary republic and the presidency largely ceremonial, so Mr Erdogan is seeking changes to the constitution to create an executive presidency.

His ambitions were checked when his Islamist-rooted AK Party lost its parliamentary majority in June 2015, before regaining it in snap elections in November, called after efforts to form a coalition failed.


Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Turkey has a poor record on media freedom

Turkey's airwaves are lively, with hundreds of private TV and radio stations competing with the state broadcaster, TRT.

Television is by far the most influential news medium; both press and broadcasting outlets are operating by powerful business operators.

For journalists, the military, Kurds and political Islam are highly-sensitive topics, coverage of which can lead to arrest and prosecution.

Some of the most repressive restrictions have been lifted on the path to EU entry, but it remains a crime to insult the Turkish nation and president, and a wave of prosecutions of journalists under Recep Tayyip Erdogan has prompted new concern for press freedom.


Some key dates in Turkey's history:

1453 - Sultan Mehmed II the Magnificent captures Constantinople, ending Byzantine Empire and consolidating Ottoman Empire in Asia Minor and Balkans.

15th-16th centuries - Expansion into Asia and Africa.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Istanbul's iconic Bosphorus Bridge links Asia and Europe

1683 - Ottoman advance into Europe halted at Battle of Vienna. Long decline begins.

1908 - Young Turk Revolution establishes constitutional rule, but degenerates into military dictatorship during First World War, where Ottoman Empire fights in alliance with Germany and Austria-Hungary.

1918-22 - Partition of defeated Ottoman Empire leads to eventual triumph of Turkish National Movement in war of independence against foreign occupation and rule of Sultan.

1923 - Turkey declared a republic with Kemal Ataturk as president. Soon afterwards it becomes secular.

1952 - Turkey abandons Ataturk's neutralist policy and joins Nato.

1960 - Army coup against ruling Democratic Party.

1974 - Turkish troops occupy northern Cyprus, partitioning the island.

1984 - Kurdish PKK group launches separatists guerrilla campaign which develops into a major civil war that simmers on for decades.

2011 - Syrian civil war breaks out, resulting in tension along the countries' border and a huge influx of refugees into Turkey.

2016 - Attempted coup fails.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Worshippers pray inside the Blue Mosque in Istanbul

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