Turkey Facts

Turkey Facts and History

Asia Europe

Turkey – the gateway to the Orient

Turkey, the country full of traditions located between the Orient and the Occident, is only 3% on the European and 97% on the Asian continent. Still, it belongs to Europe. The most famous big cities are Ankara and the strongly western influenced Istanbul.

The European area is called Thrace, the Asian area Anatolia. Turkey looks back on an extremely rich and great history. The country’s various ancient archaeological sites include such glamorous names as Troy, Pergamum, Ephesus and Miletus. They testify to the Greek, Persian, Hellenistic, Roman and, of course, Ottoman culture that established itself in the area of what is now Turkey over the centuries.

From the 13th century until 1923, when the “father of all Turks” Kemal Ataturk abolished the sultanate and took over the office of president, the Ottoman dynasty ruled the area. The secularization of the country began with Ataturk. The separation between state and religion was made. For around 40 years, Turkey has been hoping to join the EU or its predecessor organizations. Official accession negotiations between the EU and Turkey have been running since October 3rd, 2005 and did not bring any significant progress until 2008 either. On September 12, 2010, the Turks adopted the country’s new constitution with a majority of around 56% of the votes cast. It replaces the 1982 dictated by the military and, with its 26 amendments, represents the most comprehensive constitutional amendment since that time.

The country underwent a comprehensive reorganization with the election on June 24, 2018, when Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (born 1954) was elected President and Head of Government in one person with 52.58% of the votes cast.

With the constitutional amendment adopted at the same time, he received extensive rights, for example he can appoint and dismiss judges.

Name of the country Republic of Turkey/Türkiye Cumhuriyeti
Form of government Presidential Republic
Head of state Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (born 1954) has been the twelfth President of the republic since August 28, 2014.
Geographical location Europe/Asia
Arrival tip Flights to Turkey – price comparison at Cheapflug
National anthem istiklal marsi
National holiday Republic Day (October 29), on this day in 1923 Ataturk – the father of modern Turkey – proclaimed the republic
Population approx. 80 million (Credit: Countryaah: Turkey Population)
Ethnicities Mainly Turks (approx. 70-80%), besides Kurds, Zaza, Arabs, Circassians, Georgians, Lasen, Armenians, Abkhazians, Chechens, Yezidi, Ubyks, Greeks, Bulgarians, Albanians, Jews and others
Religions approx. 99% Muslim
Languages Turkish as well as various dialects
Capital Ankara
Surface 814,578 km²
Highest mountain Büyük Ağrı Daği (Ararat) with a height of 5,137 m
Longest river Kizilirmak with a length of 1,355 km
Largest lake Van Lake with an area of 3,713 km²
International license plate TR
National currency 1 Yeni Turk Lirasi (New Turkish Lira)
Time difference to CET + 1 h
International phone code 0090
Internet TLD (Top Level Domain) .tr

Turkey: history

Before the year 1000

From 7,000 to the 7th year v. Chr.

According to Abbreviationfinder website, as early as 7,000 BC, the area of today’s Turkey is inhabited. In the 2nd millennium BC The empire of the Hittites established itself. Between 1200 and 700 B.C. Doric tribes settled mainly on the Black Sea and Mediterranean coast. In the 7th century BC The high Greek civilization began in the Aegean part of Turkey.

546 to 133

from 546 BC The Persians invaded Anatolia and ruled the area for about 2 centuries. Only Alexander the Great was able to do so in 334 BC end the Persian supremacy. In the 3rd century Pergamon rose to become the leading military power in the region, which was established by the Romans in 133 BC. was beaten. Anatolia became a Roman province.

330 to the 11th century

The Romans ruled over what is now Turkey until 330. The Byzantine Empire, which lasted until 1453, was created on the territory of what is now Turkey as a result of the splitting off of the Eastern Roman Empire from the Western Roman Empire. The city of Byzantium was renamed Constantinople by Emperor Constantine and became the new capital of the Byzantine Empire. In the 7th century the Arabs defeated the empire and besieged Constantinople.

The Seljuks invaded the area in the 7th century and ruled western Central Asia from the 8th century. They took over Islam in the 10th century and placed themselves in the service of the Abbasid caliphs of Baghdad in the 11th century.

From the year 1000 to the 17th century

1054 to 1204

In 1054 there was a schism between the papacy and the Greek Church in Byzantium. Crusaders first crossed Anatolia from 1096 to 1204. The Byzantine Empire fell apart.

12th to 13th centuries

The Seljuks continued to expand into the 12th century and united the smaller Turkish tribes under their control. In 1243 the Seljuks were defeated by the Mongols. The empire then split into many Turkish dwarf states. The military leader Osman in Anatolia renounced the Seljuq Empire in the 13th century and founded the Ottoman Empire in eastern Anatolia in 1288. With the decline of the Mongloian Empire, the Ottomans also rose to become the leading power in the west of what is now Turkey.

15th Century

In the 15th century, half of Asia Minor was part of the powerful empire.


In 1453, under the leadership of Mehmet II, a huge Ottoman army attacked Byzantium, which at that time was limited to the city of Byzantion (Constantinople). On May 29, 1453 the city wall was overcome and the city was conquered. The international impact was immense. Greek clergy fled west, especially to Italy, bringing the ancient legacy with them. This event influenced the emergence of humanism and the Renaissance.

1520 to 1566

Under Süleiman the Magnificent, the golden age of the Ottoman Empire began from 1520 to 1566. Until the 16th century, the Ottomans extended their imperial borders to the Balkans, Greece, Anatolia, Crimea, Georgia, Armenia, Mesopotamia, Palestine, Yemen and the North African coast to Algiers. The borders of the empire expanded steadily, so that the Turks stood at the gates of Vienna in 1529 and besieged the city. The siege, however, was called off because of the immense cost. The second siege of the city by the Turks took place in 1638. However, the Turks had to retreat this time too, as they were defeated by the Austrians.

In the 18th and 19th centuries

18th and 19th centuries

It was not until the 18th and 19th centuries that the Ottomans’ supremacy declined. During the Crimean War with Russia from 1853 to 1856, the country faced economic ruin and Egypt had to pledge Egypt to England. In 1876 the Ottoman Empire went bankrupt (they spoke of the “sick man on the Bosporus”) after England and France canceled their loans. This made Turkey dependent on other countries.

19th Century

At the end of the 19th century, resistance against the Sultan’s autocracy and foreign dependency arose within the Ottoman Empire. Secret societies like the “Young Turks” were formed and called for the establishment of a constitutional monarchy and the re-establishment of parliament.

In the 20th century until today

In 1908 the Young Turks came to political power through a military uprising in Salonika. The division of Turkey had already been decided by the major European powers. In the Balkan War, Turkey lost most of the Balkans to Greece and the Habsburgs. During the First World War, Turkey sided with Germany. After the defeat, the Allies planned to dissolve the Ottoman Empire, which ultimately consisted only of Inner Anatolia. Greece marched towards Ankara, Italy occupied the coastal strip around Antalya, France occupied Cilicia. Kurdistan and Armenia should become independent. The Bosporus became an international mandate area and was occupied by the British.

In 1919 Mustafa Kemal Ataturk founded the National Assembly in Ankara and led the Turkish struggle for independence.

In 1920/21 the Armenians were defeated by the newly formed Turkish National Army. Millions of people were killed. In 1921, the Turks defeated the Greek troops, which eventually had to be evacuated by the Americans. The French and Italians then voluntarily withdrew. In 1922 there was an armistice.

On October 29, 1923, the Republic of Turkey was proclaimed President Kemal Ataturk. Reforms for modernization and secularization were carried out. With the constitution of 1924 the separation of religion and politics was carried out and thus the sovereignty of the state made clear. In 1925 the Gregorian calendar was introduced. BetweenFrom 1926 to 1929 a code of law based on the European model was introduced, which replaced the Sharia, the Islamic jurisprudence. The caliphate and spiritual courts were abolished, the orders dissolved, the Arabic language was replaced by Latin in 1928, veils and headscarves for women and turbans for men were banned.

Turkey remained neutral during World War II. In 1946 the state became a member of the UN and in 1952 a member of NATO.

In 1961 the military staged a coup and had the incumbent Prime Minister executed because he gave in to reactionary and religious tendencies. The military attacked just as harshly in the 1970swhen domestic political unrest broke out. In 1980, the military intervened for the third time in political events. It dissolved parliament and forbade the leaders of the major parties to be active in politics. General Kenan Evren became head of state.

In 1974 Turkey occupied northern Cyprus. There were always conflicts over Cyprus and the sovereignty in the Aegean with Greece. Until today the Greeks have not recognized the north of Cyprus as Turkish territory.

1983Turkey returned to a civilian government. In the following years the Kurdish conflict became more and more explosive. After Ataturk’s reforms, the Kurds and their culture were severely suppressed. In 1984 the PKK, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, was formed to fight for the independence of the Kurds. Tens of thousands of people have died through this struggle for freedom to this day.

In 1998 the head of the PKK, Abdallah Öcalan, was captured. The PKK then announced a ceasefire, which was not broken until 2004.

In 1987 Turkey applied for membership in the European Community. A customs union between the EU and Turkey has existed since 1996.

In 1999 Turkey was added to the list of candidate countries.

In 2002 the Turkish parliament decided to abolish the death penalty in peacetime, to allow Kurdish lessons, to control the police and to liberalize freedom of expression and freedom of the press to facilitate admission to the EU.

2003 On March 11, 2003 Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (born 1954) of the AKP – the Justice and Recovery Party – became Prime Minister of Turkey.


Accession negotiations with the EU have been ongoing since October 3rd, 2005 and in 2010 there was still no progress.


The head of state is the country’s president, Abdullah Gül (born 1950). In 2007 he was elected President in the third ballot of the Grand National Assembly – his term of office is five years.


On September 12, 2010, the Turks adopted the country’s new constitution with a majority of around 56% of the votes cast. It replaces the 1982 dictated by the military and, with its 26 amendments, represents the most comprehensive constitutional amendment since that time.


In the election on June 12, 2011, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s party – the AKP – won 326 seats out of a total of 560. His party thus missed the target two-thirds majority. The Social Democratic Party won 26% of the vote


At the beginning of June 2013, demonstrations against the government of Prime Minister Erdogan and his Islamic government took place on Taksim Meydanı (Taksim Square) in Istanbul, some of which were violent.

The reason for the protests was the government’s intention to build a shopping center in the adjacent Gezi Park. But the protests against the new building quickly turned into a wave of protests against the creeping Islamization of Turkey.

On June 11, 2013, the police evacuated the square in a relatively brutal manner. Since then the protest has subsided considerably and a development like in Egypt was and is not to be expected.

2016 On July 15, 2016, there was a military coup, but it was carried out so amateurishly that it collapsed after a short time.

The Turkish leadership under President Erdogan blames Gülen, who lives in the USA, for the attempted coup. Since then, the Turkish authorities have taken action against alleged supporters of his group, but also against opposition members, journalists, scientists and artists. In the course of the purges, well over 100,000 people were either arrested or lost their jobs. The Turkish parliament declared a state of emergency after the attempted coup and extended it to April 19 in early 2017.

Turkey Facts