Once the centre of the Ottoman Empire, the modern secular republic was established in the 1920s by nationalist leader Kemal Ataturk.
Straddling the continents of Europe and Asia, Turkey’s strategically important location has given it major influence in the region – and control over the entrance to the Black Sea.
Turkey, known officially as the Republic of Turkey, is a Eurasian country that stretches across the Anatolian peninsula in western Asia and Thrace in the Balkan region of southeastern Europe. Turkey is bordered by eight countries: Bulgaria to the northwest; Greece to the west; Georgia to the northeast; Armenia, Azerbaijan (the exclave of Nakhchivan) and Iran to the east; and Iraq and Syria to the southeast. The Mediterranean Sea and Cyprus are to the south; the Aegean Sea to the west; and the Black Sea is to the north. The Sea of Marmara, the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles (which together form the Turkish Straits) demarcate the boundary between Eastern Thrace and Anatolia; they also separate Europe and Asia. Turkey’s location at the crossroads of Europe and Asia makes it a country of significant geostrategic importance.
The territory of Turkey is more than 1,600 km long and 800 km wide, with a roughly rectangular shape. Turkey is the world’s 37th-largest country in terms of area.
The European section of Turkey, Eastern Thrace, forms the borders of Turkey with Greece and Bulgaria. The Asian part of the country, Anatolia, consists of a high central plateau with narrow coastal plains, between the Köroglu and Pontic mountain ranges to the north and the Taurus Mountains to the south. Eastern Turkey has a more mountainous landscape and is home to the sources of rivers such as the Euphrates, Tigris and Aras, and contains Lake Van and Mount Ararat, Turkey’s highest point at 5,165 metres.
The flag of Turkey (Turkish: Türk bayragi) is a red flag with a white crescent moon and a star in its centre. The flag is called Ay Yildiz (literally, moon star.) or Albayrak (Red flag). The Turkish flag is referred to as Alsancak (Red banner) in the Turkish National Anthem.
The current design of the Turkish flag is directly derived from the late Ottoman flag, which had acquired its final form in 1844. It is known that the Ottomans used red flags of triangular shape at least since 1383, which came to be rectangular over the course of history.
Ottomans used several different designs, most of them featuring one or more crescents, for different purposes, such as the flag with green background signifying the caliphate. During the late imperial period, the distinctive use of the color red for secular and green for religious institutions became an established practice. In 1844, the eight-pointed star was replaced with a five-pointed star and the flag reached the form of the present Turkish flag; Red was the colour of Umar I, the Caliph who ruled from AD 634 to 644 and was known as a great consolidator of the Islamic Empire. In the 14th century red became the colour of the Ottoman Empire. The origin of the flag is the subject of various legends in the country, some contradicting the historical knowledge about the Ottoman Flag.The most accepted legend of the flag in Turkey is that in the year 1071, after the Battle of Manzikert and the defeat of the Byzantine army, the Seljuk Khan, Alp Arslan was roaming the battlefield where he saw the reflection of the crescent moon and the star on a pool of blood of Turkish warriors. After he saw this image, he decided that this would be the flag representing the Turks.
The Istiklâl Marsi (Independence March) is the Turkish National Anthem, officially adopted on 12 March 1921 – two and a half years before the 29 October 1923 establishment of the Republic of Turkey, both as a motivational musical saga for the troops fighting in the Turkish War of Independence, and as an anthem for a Republic that was yet to be established.
Penned by Mehmet Âkif Ersoy and ultimately composed by Osman Zeki Üngör, the theme is one of affection for the Turkish homeland, freedom, and faith, of sacrifice for liberty, and of hope and devotion.
The manuscript by Ersoy, between the title line Istiklâl Marsi and the first text line, carries the dedication Kahraman Ordumuza – “To our Heroic Army”, the army that won the Independence War. The lyrics reflect on the sacrifice of the soldiers during the War.
The Anthem is regularly heard during state and military events, as well as during national festivals, bayrams, sporting events, and school ceremonies.
Of the ten-stanza anthem, only the first two are typically sung. A framed version of the national anthem typically occupies the wall above the blackboard in the classrooms of every public – as well as almost every private – school in Turkey (accompanied by a Turkish flag, a photograph of the country’s founding father Atatürk, and a copy of Atatürk’s famous inspirational speech to the nation’s youth).
The composition has also been adopted as the National Anthem of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.
Coat of Arms
Turkey does not have an official coat of arms or national emblem. The symbol on the cover page of Turkish passports is simply the star and crescent as found in the flag of Turkey. Various official institutions of Turkey use instead their own several emblems, most of which have no legal basis.