Turkey, formally the Republic of Turkey, is located in southeastern Europe and southwestern Asia and encompasses an area of 780,580 sq km, with an estimated population of 70.5 million (2006). The capital city is Ankara (population 4.5 million); other major cities include: Istanbul, Izmir, Bursa, and Adana. The terrain of Turkey consists of a narrow coastal plain surrounding Anatolia, an island plateau becoming increasingly rugged as it progresses eastward. The coastal areas have a mild climate, while the inland areas have a harsher climate.
The highest point in Turkey is Mount Ararat (5,166 m), the legendary landing place of Noah's ark, is in the far eastern portion of the country. The natural resources of Turkey include: coal, iron ore, copper, chromium, antimony, mercury, gold, barite, borate, celestite (strontium), emery, feldspar, limestone, magnesite, marble, perlite, pumice, pyrites, and clay. Turkey suffers severe earthquakes, especially in northern Turkey, along an arc extending from the Sea of Marmara to Lake Van.
Turkey's government is a parliamentary democracy. It has 81 provinces with universal suffrage at 18 years of age. The President is the chief of state, while the Prime Minister is head of government. Its unicameral Grand National Assembly of Turkey has 550 seats; members are elected by popular vote, serving five-year terms.
Modern Turkey was founded in 1923 from the Anatolian remnants of the defeated Ottoman Empire by national hero Mustafa Kemal, who was later honored with the title Ataturk or "Father of the Turks." Under his authoritarian leadership, the country adopted wide-ranging social, legal, and political reforms. 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 intervened militarily on Cyprus in 1974 to prevent a Greek takeover of the island and has since acted as patron state to the "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus," which only Turkey recognizes. A separatist insurgency begun in 1984 by the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) - now known as the People's Congress of Kurdistan or Kongra-Gel (KGK) - has dominated the Turkish military's attention and claimed more than 30,000 lives. After the capture of the group's leader in 1999, the insurgents largely withdrew from Turkey mainly to northern Iraq. In 2004, KGK announced an end to its ceasefire and attacks attributed to the KGK increased.
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.
CIA World Factbook; U.S. State Department Background Notes, 2008/06; 2008/01