Turkey

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The Republic Of Turkey emerged from the ashes of the Ottoman Empire in the 1920s as a national homeland for the Turks in both Europe (Rumelia) and Asia (Anatolia). In 2004 Turkey had anestimated population of 70.1 million.

Unusual for a European country, Turkey still suffers high rates of gun violence. Approximately 3,500 people in Turket lose their lives to gun violence every year.

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History

Anatolia (Asia Minor) had been a cradle to a wide variety of civilisations and kingdoms in antiquity. The Seljuk Turks were the first Turkic power to arrive in the 11th century as conquerors (earlier Turkic peoples such as the Pechenegs had become allies and subordinates of the Byzantine Empire), who proceeded to gradually conquer the existing Byzantine Empire. Their Turkic successors, the Ottoman Empire, completed this in the 15th century with the fall of Constantinople, after which the empire expanded across the eastern Mediterranean. Rising nationalism in the 19th century and the First World War caused the embattled empire to crumble in the aftermath of the war.

The Republic of Turkey was created in 1923 by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, who reformed Turkey into a modern, secular, and western-oriented republic. On March 3, 1924 Ataturk boldly asbolsihed the Caliphate, urshering in the modern era not only for the Turks but alos for other progessive peoples across the Muslim world. Fears of a shift from the secular and western oriented makeup of the country have led to several military coups over the years, the last of which was in 1980. Democratic rule has since returned. Turkey became a member of NATO in 1952, and is seeking membership of the European Union. Issues such as the Turkish involvement in Cyprus, a long standing Kurdishish insurgency in the east, and the increasing appeal of political Islam continue to fuel public debate in Turkey and influence its international relations.

Politics

The 1982 constitution provides for a democratic, secular, parliamentary form of government with a strong presidency and an independent judiciary. Internationally recognised human rights are protected but can be limited in times of emergency and cannot be used to violate the integrity of the state or to impose a non-secular or non-democratic system of government. A number of State Security Courts also exist to deal with offenses against the integrity of the state. The president and the Council of Ministers (the cabinet) led by the prime minister share executive powers. The president, who has broad powers of appointment and supervision, is chosen by the legislature for a term of 7 years and cannot be re-elected.

The unicameral Turkish parliament, the Grand National Assembly of Turkey or Türkiye Büyük Millet Meclisi carries out legislative functions. Election of its 550 members, who serve five-year terms, is by proportional representation. To participate in the distribution of seats, a party must obtain at least 10% of the votes cast at the national level as well as a percentage of votes in the contested district according to a complex formula.

Geography

Turkey forms a bridge between Europe and Asia, with the division between the two running from the Black Sea to the north down along the Bosporus strait through the Sea of Marmara and the Dardanelles strait to the Aegean Sea and the larger Mediterranean Sea to the south. The Anatolian peninsula consists of a high central plateau with narrow coastal plains, in between the Pontus range to the north and the Taurus Mountains to the south. To the east is found a more mountainous landscape, home to the sources of rivers such as the Euphrates, Tigris and the Araks, as well as Lake Van and Mount Ararat, Turkey's highest point at 5,166 m.

The climate is a Mediterranean temperate clime, with hot, dry summers and mild, wet winters, though conditions can be much harsher in the more arid interior. Turkey is also prone to very severe earthquakes. The capital city is Ankara, but the largest city is Istanbul. Other important cities include Izmir, Bursa, Adana, Izmit (Kocaeli), Konya, Diyarbakir, Antalya, and Samsun. See the list of cities in Turkey.

Economy

Turkey's dynamic economy is a complex mix of modern industry and commerce along with a traditional agriculture sector that in 2001 still accounted for 40% of employment. It has a strong and rapidly growing private sector, yet the state still plays a major role in basic industry, banking, transport, and communication. The most important industry - and largest export - is textiles and clothing, which is almost entirely in private hands.

In recent years the economic situation has been marked by erratic economic growth and serious imbalances. Real GNP growth has exceeded 6% in many years, but this strong expansion has been interrupted by sharp declines in output in 1994, 1999, and 2001. Meanwhile the public sector fiscal deficit has regularly exceeded 10% of GDP - due in large part to the huge burden of interest payments, which in 2001 accounted for more than 50% of central government spending - while inflation has remained in the high double digit range.

Perhaps because of these problems, foreign direct investment in Turkey remains low - less than USD 1 billion annually. In late 2000 and early 2001 a growing trade deficit and serious weaknesses in the banking sector plunged the economy into crisis - forcing Ankara to float the lira[ and pushing the country into recession. Results in 2002 were much better, because of strong financial support from the IMF and tighter fiscal policy. Continued slow global growth and serious political tensions in the Middle East cast a shadow over growth prospects in the future.

Demographics

The majority of the Turkish population (around 80%) is of Turkic ethnicity, who speak the only official language of the country, Turkish. The most significant minority is that of the Kurds, who constitute up to about 20% of the population (including groups such as the Zaza), and who are found predominantly in the eastern provinces of Turkey and in major Turkish cities. Other smaller minorities include Levantines, Georgians (incl. Lazs who are ethnic Georgians), Syriacs, Arabs, Greeks, and Armenians.

Nominally, some 98% of the population is Muslim. Most belong to the Sunni branch of Islam, but a significant number are Alevi Muslims, a branch related to Shi'a Islam. Smaller Greek Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox (Gregorian), Jewish, Roman Catholic and Protestant minorities are also present.

Political Elites

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