Turkey

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This article is about the country of Turkey. For other uses of the term Turkey, please see Turkey (disambiguation).

Turkey (Turkish: Türkiye), officially the Republic of Turkey, is situated in the southeastern Europe and southwestern Asia (that portion of Turkey west of the Bosporus is geographically part of Europe), bordering the Black Sea, between Bulgaria and Georgia, and bordering the Aegean Sea and the Mediterranean Sea, between Greece and Syria. Mount Ararat, the legendary landing place of Noah's Ark, is in the far eastern portion of the country. Its current population is upwards of 70,000,000 and it has 72 private and public universities. In many the language of instruction is English. For a number of reasons Turkey has major geopolitical significance. It is at the cross roads of Europe and Asia and it controls the Turkish Straits (Bosporus, Sea of Marmara, Dardanelles) that link Black and Aegean Seas. Its geographic coordinates are: 39 00 N, 35 00 E.

Up to the 17th century the Ottoman Empire was one of the most powerful countries in the world. Then it dramatically lost power because it did not keep up or better Europe’s scientific and technological improvements especially during the 18th century. In 1918, at the end of World War I, the Ottoman Empire became a chapter in history. A career military officer Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (1881–1938) led the Turkish people in a successful war of independence (1919–1922) against the Allied powers. The Republic of Turkey was founded in 1923 and Atatürk elected its founding President.

During the 1920s Turkey witnessed a maelstrom of radical reforms, which abolished the Caliphate, Islamic educational institutions, religious courts, introduced new dress codes as well as a civil law adopted from Switzerland, and replaced the Arabic script with the Latin alphabet. The same day, when Turkey became a secular state with all its ramifications by the abolition of the caliphate on 3 March 1924, another revolutionary law aiming at unification, and standardization, and secularization of the educational institutions Tevhid-i Tedrisat kanunu was passed. This law closed the religious schools and attached all educational institutions to the Ministry of National Education. Several other reforms in education followed with speed and enthusiasm. The most significant of these was the government’s invitation of some 190 eminent intellectuals at risk from the Nazis starting the 1930s.

After a period of one-party rule, an experiment with multi-party politics led to the 1950 election victory of the opposition Democratic Party and the peaceful transfer of power. Since then, Turkish political parties have multiplied, but democracy has been fractured by periods of instability and intermittent military coups (1960, 1971, 1980), which in each case eventually resulted in a return of political power to civilians. In 1997, the military again helped engineer the ouster - popularly dubbed a "post-modern coup" - of the then Islamic-oriented government.

Turkey joined the UN in 1945 and in 1952 it became a member of NATO. In 1964, Turkey became an associate member of the European Community; over the past decade, it has undertaken many reforms to strengthen its democracy and economy, enabling it to begin accession membership talks with the European Union.