The English word "Turkish" comes from the ancient Turkish word Türk
, which can be used as an adjective or a proper noun. In Turkish,
the name of the country is Türkiye . After decades of
nationalistic indoctrination, most citizens self-identify as Turks
regardless of ethnic background. Some of the major non-Turkish ethnic
groups—the Kurds in the southeast, the Arabs in the south, the Laz of
the western Black Sea coast, and the Georgians in the northeast and
northwest—express double identities.
Turkey occupies Asia Minor and a small portion of Europe. Its area is
301,382 square miles (814,578 square kilometers). It is bounded on the
west by the Aegean Sea; on the northwest by the Sea of Marmara, Greece,
and Bulgaria; on the north by the Black Sea; on the east by Georgia,
Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Iran; and on the south by Iraq, Syria, and the
Mediterranean. Although Istanbul (formerly Constantinople) is the major
city and was the capital of the Ottoman Empire, the first
president—Mustafa Kemal Atatürk—chose Ankara, an interior Anatolian
city, as the capital in 1923. Militarily Ankara was less exposed and
more easily defended than Istanbul. The choice also symbolized Atatürk's
policy of nationalism, because Ankara was more Turkish and less
cosmopolitan than the old capital.
Turkey has 4,454 miles of coastline. The interior consists of mountains,
hills, valleys, and a high central plateau. The western coastal plains
are generally more densely populated and industrial than are the central
and eastern regions, except for Ankara on the central Anatolian plateau.
Because Asia Minor had been home to Lydians, Hittites, Greeks, Romans,
Byzantines, Seljuks, and Ottomans over the centuries, it is dotted with
Physiographically, the country may be divided into five regions. The
Black Sea region has a moderate climate and higher than average
rainfall. It is dominated by the Pontic mountain range. The west is
noted for agriculture, including grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and
tobacco. In the more humid east, the mountains leave a narrow coastal
plain rarely exceeding twenty miles wide. The Black Sea peoples settled
and farmed the valleys and narrow alluvial fans of the area's rivers,
developing a form of steep slope agriculture to grow vegetables and
fruits. Tea, the major cash crop, did not become popular until the
1960s. Some villagers combined gardening with transhumant pastoralism,
which involves grazing small herds of sheep, goats, and cattle on the
lowlands in the winter and in the high Pontic pastures in the summer.
Until recently, the rugged topography limited agriculture, and
alternative land-based industries were virtually absent. Thus, many
western Black Sea men sought work outside the region in the navy and
merchant marine or in major cities, later returning home to retire.
While the men worked away, the women kept up the home, farmed the land,
and cared for the livestock.
The central Anatolian plateau region is dotted with mountains and
denuded of trees. It has a semi-arid climate with high temperatures in
summer and low ones in winter. Villagers engage in animal husbandry and
cultivate wheat, barley, and sugar beets. Areas unsuited for cultivation
are used to graze large herds of sheep, cattle, and goats.
Eastern Anatolia is the most mountainous, remote, undeveloped, and
sparsely populated region. Its elevation and cold temperatures make it
less suitable for crop cultivation than the rest of Anatolia.
Historically, its people engaged predominantly in animal husbandry,
especially transhumant nomadism with herds of sheep, cattle, and goats.
A tribal social organization survived longer in this area among the
Turkish and Kurdish peoples.
The Mediterranean coastal region is lined by the Taurus Mountains. It
has a Mediterranean climate with hot, dry summers and mild, humid
winters. The eastern part, around Mersin and Adana, is known for
extensive cotton production by wealthy landowners. Mersin is an
important seaport and oilrefining center. The western region is noted
for citrus and banana groves. Seminomadic peoples traditionally utilized
the Taurus Mountains to graze sheep, goats, cattle, and camels. Women
among the Turkish Yürük pastoralists made woolen kilims, rugs, and
saddlebags. Tourism is now a major industry.
The Aegean region also has a Mediterranean climate. It contains rich
valleys and alluvial plains as well as rolling hills and mountains. A
wide variety of crops are produced, including citrus fruits, olives,
nuts, sunflowers, tobacco, sugar beets, grains, fruits, and vegetables.
The area contains most of Turkey's prosperous small farmers and
food-processing plants. Izmir is the region's major commercial and
industrial center; it is the third largest city and second major port.
region, a crossroads of Europe and Asia, is the most densely settled,
commercial, industrial, and touristic region. It has a moderate climate,
rich soil, and extensive coastlines. As a result of modern development,
it has the highest percentage of the population engaged in
nonagricultural pursuits of any region in the country. Istanbul, the
largest and most cosmopolitan city, leads the country in commerce,
shipping, fashion, literature, arts, and entertainment. Over the
decades, it has attracted a steady stream of migrants from all parts of