FACTS ON TURKEY
Turkey's geographical location has made it the land bridge between Europe and Asia for many thousands of years; the resultant ethnic mix has produced blond-haired, blue-eyed Turks, red-haired green-eyed Turks, brown-haired hazel-eyed Turks, and black-haired brown-eyed Turks. What makes a Turk a Turk is his choice of Turkish as his primary language.
In size, Turkey is about 800,000 square kilometers, or 10% larger than Texas. 20.2 million hectares of land in Turkey is covered by forest.
In 1961, Turkey consisted of 67 provinces, or "states"; by 1997, it had 80 provinces with the increase gained not by adding land but by subdividing it.
Since 1924, Turkey has been a secular nation, with religion separate from government.
The Republic of Turkey was founded on October 29, 1923, by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who led the Turkish troops to victory over the Allies following World War I. He is still (1997) Turkeys national hero.
The Turkish language belongs to the Ural-Altaic group; it resembles most closely Finnish and Hungarian of the languages found in Europe. Turkish is written in the Latin alphabet, not in Arabic or in Cyrillic characters, and it is spoken not only in Turkey but also in a wide band of Turkic-speaking countries all across Central Asia.
Due to its widely varied geographical and climatic conditions, Turkey is able to produce almost every type of fruit and vegetable. Turkey today (1997) produces enough food and fiber to supply not only all of its more than 60 million people but also the people of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia and many of the people in Libya and Algeria.
3% of Turkey lies in Europe; the other 97% (Anatolia) lies in Asia.
There are more than 40,000 historical sites in Turkey; of these, fewer than 300 have been excavated thus far. There are more Greek classical remains in good condition than there are in Greece, and more good Roman classical remains in Turkey than there are in Italy. The only real enemies of the classical remains are earthquakes.
Turkey has a democratic form of government and is deeply committed to maintaining that form. The Parliament (equivalent to the U.S. Congress) is the Grand National Assembly.
Twenty-six years before the United States had a woman on its Supreme Court, the Republic of Turkey had a woman on its Supreme Court. It took more than five times as long for the U.S. to allow women to vote and to run for government office than it did for the Republic of Turkey to extend those rights to Turkish women.
In Turkey, basic education is both free and compulsory for all, both male and female.
In Turkey, women receive exactly the same pay as men receive for the work they do: as doctors, as lawyers, as civil engineers, as petroleum engineers, as laser physicists, or whatever. More than half of the medical doctors are women.
Two bridges in Istanbul now connect Europe with Asia, and a third bridge is well along in the planning stage. The major trucking and tourist traffic from east to west and from west to east crosses those bridges.
Every male Turk between the ages of eighteen and forty undergoes compulsory military training and service. Next to the U.S., Turkey provides the largest number of troops for NATO; Turkish soldiers tied down 45 division of Warsaw-Pact troops along their own borders. In over 150 years of various wars with Russia, Turkey has never been defeated.
Turkey is bordered on three sides by water: on the north by the Black Sea, on the west by the Aegean Sea, and on the south by the Mediterranean Sea.
The tulip, long associated with Holland, originated as a wildflower in China but was subsequently domesticated in Turkey; quickly becoming both popular and valuable not only in the Ottoman Empire but throughout all Europe. Tulip bulbs were smuggled into Holland by an international diplomat as the start of a highly profitable export. Curiously, intensive crossbreeding in Holland has caused the hybrids the attractive fragrance that the tulip originally had in Turkey.
Turks are not Arabs; they are not Persians; they are Turks, with their roots in east and central Asia. The Turks first entered what is now Turkey in substantial force in the eleventh century as the Seljuk Turks; a later group of Turks, led by Osman, eventually conquered Constantinople (in 1453) and developed the Ottoman Empire, which lasted for more than 500 years. From the ashes of that Empire rose the Republic of Turkey, vastly smaller than the Empire but still the powerful linchpin between Europe and Asia.
Troy, the scene for Homers Iliad, was located in what is now western Turkey.
Istanbul (formerly Constantinople) is eight time zones east of Lubbock, Texas.
The cherry tree is native to Turkey, and spread throughout the world from there.
The tulip was much used in Ottoman decoration, especially in tile work. Because the word Allah (God), when written in Ottoman letters was thought to have a shape resembling the tulip, that flower was considered particularly suitable for decoration in mosques, tombs, and fountains.
The Whirling Dervishes, whose practice of whirling developed in Konya, Turkey, use their whirling dance as a devout form of worship.
Although 98% of the Turks profess Islam (the Muslim faith) as their religion, there is now (1997) complete religious freedom in Turkey for those of all faiths. In fact, the seat of the Eastern Orthodox (Catholic) Church the Patriarchate is located in Istanbul, and by law the leadership of that worldwide faith consists of Turks. Furthermore, the ottoman sultan provided refuge in what is now Turkey for the Sephardic Jews (Sephardim) who had been expelled from Spain by Queen Isabella in 1492; he sent ships from his own navy to provide transportation and protection en route. Interestingly, fifteenth-century Spanish is still being spoken in Istanbul and Izmir and elsewhere among the descendants of those same Sephardim.
St. Nicolas (Santa Claus) was born in the small ancient town of Patara on the southern coast of Turkey. His generous acts are still celebrated today in Turkey, and scholarly conferences are held on a regular basis at Demre relating to St. Nicholas and his service as Bishop at Myra, Turkey.
Mary, the mother of Jesus, was taken by St. John after the Crucifixion to Ephesus (in what is now Turkey), where she lived for the rest of her life; her reconstructed home is a place of pilgrimage for both Christians and Muslims.
Turkey is the New Testament Holy Land, the location of all seven churches of the Apocalypse.
Noahs Ark is believed to have landed on one of the mountains of Ararat, in eastern Turkey.
The first psychiatric treatment center in the ancient world was located at the hospital in Pargamum (Bergama), in what is now western Turkey.
The Turkish government identifies and educates at great government expense children who have special abilities in art, music, ballet, drama, and literature.
Engineers trained in Turkey now provide the main pool for construction and industrial development throughout the entire Middle East.
Within one year after Ataturk had introduced the Latin alphabet to Turks to replace the Old Arabic alphabet, one million of Turkeys then thirteen million people of all ages had learned to read and write Turkish. Now (1997) Turkey is supplying schoolbooks to students at all levels throughout the Turkic republics across central Asia, and within a short time, the Turkic peoples in all that wide band will be speaking, reading, and writing the standard Turkish now used in Turkey. In the Latin alphabet revised slightly to reproduce Turkish speech, the literacy rate will approach that in the Western world.
It joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in 1949. It has served as a steadfast ally to the United States, from offering support for keeping American missiles in its territory during the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, to allowing America use of its bases there for air strikes against Iraq in the Persian Gulf War of 1991.
Turkey is eager to join the European Union, hoping the federation will boost its sagging economy. It was made a candidate for membership in December 1999.
In 2001, the country suffered a financial crisis that saw the value of the Turkish lira devaluate by half and has forced half the population to live on less than $200 a month. Its economy has remained shaky.
Turkey, a democracy, has been heavily criticized for human rights abuses against the minority Kurdish population, and its handling of the struggle with Greece for control of the island of Cyprus.
The country's economy is a mix of old and new: textiles and clothing production is its most important industry, but banking, communications and industrial production play major roles as well. Despite pressure from the West, the nation remains a key heroin smuggling route to Europe.
Especially in its western regions, Turkey has proven vulnerable to cataclysmic earthquakes; a 7.4 magnitude tremor in 1999 killed 18,000 and left more than 200,000 homeless.
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