Geography and Economy
Turkey, country that occupies a unique geographic position, lying partly in Asia and partly in Europe. Throughout its history it has acted as both a barrier and a bridge between the two continents.
Turkey is situated at the crossroads of the Balkans, Caucasus, Middle East, and eastern Mediterranean. It is among the larger countries of the region in terms of territory and population, and its land area is greater than that of any European state. Nearly all of the country is in Asia, comprising the oblong peninsula of Asia Minor—also known as Anatolia (Anadolu)—and, in the east, part of a mountainous region sometimes known as the Armenian Highland. The remainder—Turkish Thrace (Trakya)—lies in the extreme southeastern part of Europe, a tiny remnant of an empire that once extended over much of the Balkans.
The country has a north-south extent that ranges from about 300 to 400 miles (480 to 640 km), and it stretches about 1,000 miles from west to east. Turkey is bounded on the north by the Black Sea, on the northeast by Georgia and Armenia, on the east by Azerbaijan and Iran, on the southeast by Iraq and Syria, on the southwest and west by the Mediterranean Sea and the Aegean Sea, and on the northwest by Greece and Bulgaria. The capital is Ankara, and its largest city and seaport is Istanbul.
Of a total boundary length of some 4,000 miles (6,440 km), about three-fourths is maritime, including coastlines along the Black Sea, the Aegean, and the Mediterranean, as well as the narrows that link the Black and Aegean seas. These narrows—which include the Bosporus, the Sea of Marmara, and the Dardanelles—are known collectively as the Turkish straits; Turkey’s control of the straits, the only outlet from the Black Sea, has been a major factor in its relations with other states. Most of the islands along the Aegean coast are Greek; only the islands of Gökçeada and Bozcaada remain in Turkish hands. The maritime boundary with Greece has been a source of dispute between the two countries on numerous occasions since World War II.
A long succession of political entities existed in Asia Minor over the centuries. Turkmen tribes invaded Anatolia in the 11th century CE, founding the Seljuq empire; during the 14th century the Ottoman Empire began a long expansion, reaching its peak during the 17th century. The modern Turkish republic, founded in 1923 after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, is a nationalist, secular, parliamentary democracy. After a period of one-party rule under its founder, Mustafa Kemal (Atatürk), and his successor, Turkish governments since the 1950s have been produced by multiparty elections based on universal adult suffrage.
Turkey is a predominantly mountainous country, and true lowland is confined to the coastal fringes. About one-fourth of the surface has an elevation above 4,000 feet (1,200 metres), and less than two-fifths lies below 1,500 feet (460 metres). Mountain crests exceed 7,500 feet (2,300 metres) in many places, particularly in the east, where Turkey’s highest mountain, Mount Ararat (Ağrı), reaches 16,945 feet (5,165 metres) close to the borders with Armenia and Iran. In the southeast the Uludoruk Peak reaches 15,563 feet (4,744 metres); though further west, the Demirkazık Peak (12,320 feet [3,755 metres]) and Mount Aydos (11,414 feet [3,479 metres]) are also significant peaks. Steep slopes are common throughout the country, and flat or gently sloping land makes up barely one-sixth of the total area. These relief features affect other aspects of the physical environment, producing climates often much harsher than might be expected for a country of Turkey’s latitude and reducing the availability and productivity of agricultural land. Structurally, the country lies within the geologically young folded-mountain zone of Eurasia, which in Turkey trends predominantly east to west. The geology of Turkey is complex, with sedimentary rocks ranging from Paleozoic to Quaternary, numerous intrusions, and extensive areas of volcanic material. Four main regions can be identified: the northern folded zone, the southern folded zone, the central massif, and the Arabian platform.
Turkey’s varied climate—generally a dry semicontinental Mediterranean variant—is heavily influenced by the presence of the sea to the north, south, and west and by the mountains that cover much of the country. The sea and the mountains produce contrasts between the interior and the coastal fringes. Several areas have the winter rainfall maximum typical of the Mediterranean regime, and summer drought is widespread. However, the elevation of the country ensures that winters are often much colder than is common in Mediterranean climates, and there are significant contrasts between winter and summer temperatures.
January mean temperatures are below freezing throughout the interior, and in the east there is a sizable area below 23 °F (−5 °C); extremely low temperatures occur at times, with minima from −4 °F (−20 °C) in the west to −40 °F (−40 °C) in the east. The duration of snow cover ranges from two weeks in the warmer areas to four months in some mountainous areas in the east. The coastal fringes are mild, with January means above 41 °F (5 °C). Summers generally are hot: July means exceed 68 °F (20 °C) in all but the highest mountain areas, 77 °F (25 °C) along the Aegean and Mediterranean, and 86 °F (30 °C) in the southeast. Precipitation is strongly affected by relief; annual totals of 12–16 inches (305–406 mm) are characteristic of much of the interior, whereas the higher parts of the Pontic and Taurus ranges receive more than 40 inches (1,000 mm).
Contrasts between the interior and the coasts produce six main climatic regions.
The Black Sea coastlands are the wettest region, with rain throughout the year and a winter maximum. Annual totals exceed 32 inches (813 mm), reaching 96 inches (2,438 mm) in the east. Frosts can occur, but winters are generally mild, with January means of 43–45 °F (6–7 °C); summers are hot, with July means above 68 °F (20 °C) at sea level.
Thrace and Marmara are influenced by winter depressions passing through the straits, but summers are drier than along the Black Sea. Annual precipitation ranges from 24 to 36 inches (610 to 914 mm), with a pronounced winter maximum. January mean temperatures are close to freezing; summers are hot, with July means above 77 °F (25 °C).
The Aegean coastlands have a Mediterranean regime. Average temperatures range from 45–47 °F (7–8 °C) in January to 77–86 °F (25–30 °C) in July, and frosts are rare. Annual rainfall varies from 24 to 32 inches (610 to 813 mm), and there is a pronounced summer drought.
The Mediterranean coastlands display characteristics similar to the Aegean but in a more intense form. July means exceed 83 °F (28 °C) at sea level. Annual rainfall declines from 40 inches (1,000 mm) in the west to barely 24 inches in the Adana Plain, and the summer months are virtually rainless at sea level.
The southeast is dry and hot during the summer. Winters are cold, with January means near freezing; July means are generally above 86 °F (30 °C). Annual rainfall ranges from 12 to 24 inches (305 to 610 mm).
The Anatolian interior has a semicontinental climate with a large temperature range; Ankara’s January mean is 28 °F (−2 °C), and its July mean is 74 °F (23 °C). Precipitation is influenced by relief: Konya, with barely 12 inches, is among the driest places in the country, but in the mountainous east the annual totals generally exceed 24 inches.
According to the Turkish constitution, the word “Turk,” as a political term, includes all citizens of the Republic of Turkey, without distinction of or reference to race or religion; ethnic minorities have no official status. Linguistic data show that a majority of the population claim Turkish as their mother tongue; most of the remainder speak Kurdish and a small minority Arabic as their first language.
Though estimates of the Kurdish population in Turkey have generally been widely varied, at the beginning of the 21st century, Kurds were estimated to account for almost one-fifth of the country’s population. Ethnic Kurds are present in significant numbers throughout eastern Anatolia and form a majority in a number of provinces, including Ağrı, Bitlis, Bingöl, Diyarbakır, Hakkari, Mardin, Muş, Siirt, Şanlıurfa, and Van. Arabic speakers are mainly in Hatay, Adana, Mardin, Siirt, and Şanlıurfa. There are a further six ethnic groups with sizable numbers: Greeks, Armenians, and Jews are found almost entirely in Istanbul, and Circassians, Georgians, and Laz are generally located in the far east.
More than nine-tenths of the population is Muslim. Nevertheless, Turkey is a secular country. In a 1928 constitutional amendment, Islam was removed as the official state religion, and since that time the state has found itself periodically at odds with religion. The armed forces have maintained a vigilant watch over Turkey’s political secularism, which they affirm to be a keystone among Turkey’s founding principles. The military has not left the maintenance of a secular political process to chance, however, and has intervened in politics on a number of occasions.
Meanwhile, Turkey’s strong secularism has resulted in what have been perceived by some as strictures on the freedom of religion. For example, the head scarf has long been prohibited in a number of public venues. Such restrictions on religious freedom have been confronted in the 21st century by the rise of the Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi; AKP); a constitutional amendment was passed in February 2008 that permitted women to wear head scarves on university campuses.
In addition to the Muslim majority, there also exist small populations of Jews and Christians; Christian adherents are divided between Greek Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Protestant, and other denominations.
Since its inception in 1923, Turkey has operated a mixed economy, in which both state and private enterprise contribute to economic development. The economy has been transformed from predominantly agricultural to one in which industry and services are the most productive and rapidly expanding sectors. A decade into the 21st century, the services sector engaged about one-half of the workforce, while agriculture and industry each occupied about one-fourth.
Until about 1950 the state played the leading role in industrialization, providing most of the capital for structural improvement in railways, ports, and shipping facilities and for the establishment of such basic industries as mining, metallurgy, and chemicals; it also invested in manufacturing, notably in the food-processing, textile, and building-material sectors. Emerging industries were protected by tariff barriers, and foreign investment was discouraged; the economy remained self-contained and somewhat isolated, with foreign trade playing only a minor role.
Major political developments of the early postwar period—such as the institution of a multiparty democracy and Turkey’s adherence to the Western alliance—had a profound effect on the economy, which became more open to foreign influences. Foreign aid, chiefly from the United States, arrived in large quantities and was used in part to finance agricultural expansion and to import agricultural and industrial machinery and transportation equipment. Growth accelerated, with the private sector playing an increasing role. State intervention—mainly in the form of government loans to private firms—remained strong, and economic development was guided by a series of five-year plans. By the late 1970s, however, the economy was plagued by high inflation, large-scale unemployment, and a chronic foreign trade deficit.
Consequently, during the 1980s there were further shifts in economic policy, including the encouragement of foreign investment, the establishment of joint enterprises, a reduction in the relative importance of the state sector, and a vigorous export drive. By the 1990s, inflation remained a serious problem, and Turkey’s per capita gross domestic product remained well below those of most Middle Eastern and European countries. Facing inflation that had reached almost 100 percent by 1997, an 18-month economic monitoring program was initiated with the International Monetary Fund, which succeeded in significantly decreasing the rate of inflation in the following two years. A financial crisis in 2000–01 forced Turkey to accept another round of IMF-supported reforms. Economic growth was strong in the first decade of the 21st century until 2009, when the global economic crisis pushed the country into a brief recession that was followed by a recovery.
Turkey has a great variety of natural resources, though few occur on a large scale. Apart from Iran, Turkey is the only Middle Eastern country with significant coal deposits, mainly in the Zonguldak field. Output of lignite is substantial. There is small-scale production of oil from fields in the southeast of the country, as well as in the northwestern Thrace region; this provides for only a fraction of the country’s needs, and Turkey is thus dependent on imported petroleum products. Both lignite and oil are used in electricity generation, and hydroelectric resources are under intensive development. Among the largest hydroelectric plants are those on the Sakarya, Kemer, Kızıl, and Seyhan rivers and on the Keban and Atatürk barrages on the Euphrates. A national electricity grid covers the whole country, including nearly all villages. The most important metallic ores are iron, mainly from Divriği in Sivas province, and chromite, much of which is exported. There are significant deposits of manganese, zinc, lead, copper, and bauxite.
About one-third of Turkey’s land area is utilized for agriculture, much of it extensively. About half of the agricultural land is used for field crops and about one-third for grazing. These proportions have remained fairly stable since the 1960s, following a period of rapid change in the 1950s, when the advent of tractors supported significant expansion of arable land, mainly at the expense of grazing land. A smaller proportion of the cultivated land consists of vineyards, orchards, olive groves, and vegetable gardens. The most important field crops are cereals; these occupy one half of the cultivated area. A majority of the cereal land is sown in wheat, with smaller areas of barley, rye, oats, corn (maize), and rice. Other important crops are cotton, sugar beets, tobacco, and potatoes. Roughly one-sixth of the cropland is irrigated. Livestock farming is a major activity; Turkey has vast numbers of cattle, sheep, goats, and water buffalo. Landholdings are generally small, with family farms averaging only 15 acres (6 hectares). Agricultural products provide substantial export earnings; cotton, tobacco, fruits, vegetables, nuts, livestock, and livestock products are the main items.
Regional variations in agriculture reflect those in the physical environment, especially between the interior, where cereals and livestock are predominant, and the coastal fringes, where most of the higher-value crops are grown. The relative warmth and dampness of the Black Sea coastlands make this region one of the most intensively cultivated despite its limited lowlands. Corn is the chief cereal and supports large numbers of cattle. High-value crops include hazelnuts, tobacco, tea, walnuts, almonds, pistachios, and citrus and other fruits; sugar beets, sunflowers, potatoes, and vegetables also are important. The Aegean coastlands constitute the most productive, commercialized, and export-oriented region, with a relatively low proportion of cereals. Cotton is the main industrial crop, and the Aegean coastlands are Turkey’s chief area of olive production. There are extensive vineyards, and the region is famous for its raisins, sultanas, and figs. The western part of the Mediterranean coastlands is dominated by wheat and barley, but cotton, flax, sesame, potatoes, fruits (including grapes and citrus—and even bananas, around Alanya), and rice also are grown. The Adana Plain is an important cotton-producing region. The elevated lands of the Anatolian interior are dominated by livestock and cereals, mainly wheat and barley. In the more favoured areas, especially where irrigation is possible, some cotton, fruits, tobacco, hemp, and sugar beets also are found, as are vineyards. The lowlands of Thrace and Marmara grow wheat, barley, corn, tobacco, sunflowers, vegetables, fruits, and olives. Vineyards also are present there and in the southeast, which is focused mainly on dry-farmed wheat and barley but also produces rice, fruits, and vegetables.
Turkey supports a wide range of manufacturing activities. Manufacturing plants are widely distributed, with clusters of factories in all sizable towns, although a high proportion of total output comes from four highly industrialized zones: Istanbul and the area around the Sea of Marmara, the Aegean coast around İzmir, the Adana basin, and the region around Ankara. The leading manufactures are chemicals; food, beverages, and tobacco; and textiles, clothing, and footwear.
Turkey, the Middle East’s leading steel producer, supplies most of its own domestic needs. The main plants are at Karabük, Ereğli, and İskenderun. Small-scale nonferrous metallurgy occurs at several sites, including Göktaş, Ergani, and Antalya. Engineering industries expanded rapidly during the 1970s and ’80s and now are widely dispersed, with major concentrations around Istanbul, İzmir, and Ankara. The chemical industries are located close to the oil refineries at Mersin (İçel), İzmit, and İzmir and at a variety of other sites.
The major manufacturing employer is the textile industry. The biggest plants are in the cotton-growing districts of the Adana Plain and Büyükmenderes valley, but textile production also occurs in most regional centres. The processing of agricultural products also is widely dispersed; leading branches are tobacco manufacture, mainly in the Black Sea and Aegean regions, and sugar production, in the beet-growing districts of the interior.
Foreign trade has played an increasing role in the Turkish economy since World War II. Until the 1960s most exports were derived from agriculture, and most of the remainder consisted of minerals and raw materials; imports were mainly limited to machinery, transportation equipment, and manufactured goods. The development of the manufacturing sector provided a new source of exports, and basic and miscellaneous manufactures together now contribute more than half the total. The leading exports are textile fibres, yarns, fabrics, and clothing, iron and steel, fruits and vegetables, livestock products, tobacco, and machinery. Imports include machinery, chemicals, petroleum products, transportation equipment, and consumer goods. About half of all trade is with Europe, where Germany is the main trading partner. Russia and China are major sources of imports, and significant trade also takes place within the Middle East, particularly with the United Arab Emirates and Iraq, the main recipients of Turkish exports in the region; Algeria and Israel are also trade partners in the region.
Since the establishment of the republic, and particularly since World War II, economic development has involved large-scale state investment in transportation. Until the 1950s this investment was concentrated on the railway network, but in subsequent decades Turkey focused on its system of roads and highways.
Prior to World War I the only long-distance rail route extended from Istanbul to Adana and into Iraq, developed as part of a German plan for a Berlin-Baghdad railway (see Baghdad Railway) to provide an overland link between Europe and the Persian Gulf. Other early rail lines were confined to a few short stretches in the west, linking areas of commercial agriculture to ports on the Aegean and Sea of Marmara. In the interwar years the state railway company built several lines to link the main regional centres, notably a line connecting Ankara, Kayseri, Sivas, and Erzurum with the Soviet frontier (with branches to the Black Sea at Samsun and Zonguldak) and a line connecting Konya, Kayseri, Sivas, and Malatya with Diyarbakır and the Raman oil field. The major development of the postwar period was the construction of a line from Elazığ to the Iranian frontier, which involved a train ferry across Lake Van and was part of an ambitious plan to provide a rail connection between Europe and Pakistan. Despite these developments, the rail network remained rudimentary. Railways carried a proportion of freight traffic—mainly agricultural produce and minerals—and relatively few passengers, but both of these uses steadily declined throughout the 1990s. By the early years of the 21st century, only a negligible number of passengers chose rail as their means of transport; the proportion of freight transport taking place by rail was also slight. In response, the Marmaray Project was undertaken to improve approximately 45 miles (75 km) of Turkey’s railway network. The massive transport project was anticipated to upgrade rail service around Istanbul and included an ambitious rail tunnel running beneath the Bosporus to connect the European and Asian halves of the city. The project was stalled in 2006, however, with the discovery of a 4th-century port along the construction zone.
Roads are by far the most important carriers of both freight and passengers. In addition to domestic traffic, there is a large and growing international freight movement across Turkey between Europe and the Middle East. This has been made possible by massive state investment in the construction of a modern road network linking all the main towns. Buses are widely used. City thoroughfares in Turkey are generally congested.
Coastal shipping routes are important freight carriers, particularly along the Black Sea coast; the main international ports are Istanbul, İzmir, Mersin (İçel), İskenderun, and İzmit.
The state airline and several international carriers provide air links through Istanbul, Ankara, and İzmir, and there is an internal network linking these cities with more than a dozen provincial centres. Airports on the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts at Dalaman and Antalya have been improved and cater to the growing tourist charter traffic.
Administration And Social Conditions
Following a period of authoritarian one-party rule under the first president of the republic, Mustafa Kemal (Atatürk; 1923–38), and his successor, İsmet İnönü (1938–50), multiparty democracy was instituted in 1950. Parliamentary democracy has for the most part remained in force since that date, although it has been interrupted by brief periods of military government at times when civilian rule was perceived as ineffective. After each military interlude (1960–61, 1971–73, 1980–83), power was returned to civilian hands under a revised constitution.
Under the current constitution, approved by national referendum in 1982 and amended several times since, the main legislative body is a 600-member parliament, the Grand National Assembly (Büyük Millet Meclisi), elected by universal adult suffrage for a five-year term. Members are chosen by a modified system of proportional representation based on political parties. There are a number of restrictions: extremist parties of both left and right are banned, and no party that obtains less than 10 percent of the national vote may be represented in the parliament. Though religion had been largely discouraged from appearing in the political sphere, the role of Islamist parties in Turkish politics expanded in the 1990s and 2000s.
Executive power was originally divided between the prime minister as head of government and the president as head of state. However, in a constitutional referendum in 2017 a majority of voters favoured abolishing the office of prime minister and expanding the role of president, changes that were to take effect after the 2018 elections. Originally, the president was able to call or dissolve parliament, return legislation to the parliament for reconsideration, refer laws to the constitutional court, declare a state of emergency for up to three months, and submit proposed constitutional changes to a popular referendum. The changes resulting from the 2017 referendum, which went into effect in July 2018, also allow the president to appoint a cabinet, form and regulate ministries, declare a state of emergency for up to six months, and draft the budget.
Before the establishment of the Republic of Turkey, Turkish civil law was linked to religion and was administered by Sharīʿah courts. With the reforms of 1926, a number of new legal codes were established based in part on the Swiss Civil and Italian penal codes. Following these changes, the independence of the judiciary—including the constitutional court and the courts responsible for criminal, civil, and administrative matters—has been ensured by the constitution. A number of superior courts, including a court of appeals, also exist to examine these rulings.
Turkey’s provinces are administered by governors, who are appointed by the Council of Ministers, subject to the approval of the president. Provinces are divided into districts and subdistricts. Villages are governed by a headman and a council of elders, both elected by the village residents.
Between 1950 and 1980 the number, names, and composition of Turkish political parties changed frequently. Generally, there was one main leftist and one main rightist party—receiving roughly equal shares of the popular vote—and several smaller parties. As a result, the country often was ruled by unstable coalitions. The 1982 constitution, with its 10 percent electoral threshold for parliamentary representation, was designed to reduce the need for coalition governments but has largely failed to do so.
A recurrent theme in Turkish politics is the conflict between progressive and conservative elements, the former intent on fully implementing Atatürk’s vision of a wholly secular, Westernized state and the latter seeking to preserve the values of traditional Islamic-Turkish culture. The legacy of Atatürk remains central to Turkish political life; throughout the first 50 years of the republic, all major political parties professed adherence to the doctrines of Atatürkism, which defined Turkey as nationalist, republican, statist, populist, and revolutionary and emphasized Westernization, the separation of religion from politics, and a leading role for the state in economic affairs. In the 1980s and ’90s there were significant changes: state intervention in economic matters was reduced, a program of privatization of state-run farms was introduced, and private enterprise—both indigenous and foreign—was encouraged. Most striking, while the maintenance of a secular state remained enshrined in the constitution, this issue became even more prominent as a focus of political dispute; support for pro-Islamic political parties increased greatly, resulting in the expansion of the role of Islamist parties in Turkish politics in the 1990s and 2000s.
Throughout the first several decades of the postwar period, Turkey’s international relationships were influenced by its Westernization policies and by the perceived threat from the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact countries. A founding member of the United Nations, Turkey joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1952 and has been a close ally of the United States. Turkey was also a member—along with the United States, the United Kingdom, Iran, and Pakistan—of the now-defunct Central Treaty Organization, which was created as part of the “ring of containment” separating the Soviet Union from the Arab Middle East. Turkey is a member of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and of the Council of Europe. It has long sought full membership in the European Union (EU) and its predecessor organizations. A customs accord between Turkey and the EU was signed in 1995. Turkey’s relations with the Arab world at times have been cool; Turkey was long the only Middle Eastern state that maintained cordial relations with Israel.
Turkey’s international relationships have reflected its geographic position at the junction of Europe and the Middle East; it belongs wholly to neither but has interests in both. Since the 1970s, while retaining its predominantly Western orientation, Turkey has moved closer to the Arab states of the Middle East, both politically and economically. Many Turks, particularly those who support Islamic political parties, have felt a certain disenchantment with the Western alliance, resulting from perceived Western support of Greece in the disputes over Cyprus and control of the Aegean, European criticism of Turkey’s record on human rights (especially with regard to the Kurds), the treatment of Turkish workers in western Europe, and delays in Turkey’s admission to the European Union. With the collapse of the Soviet Union and the communist bloc, Turkey in the 1990s sought closer relationships with the countries around the Black Sea and with the Turkic-speaking former Soviet republics of Central Asia.
Education, health, and welfare
As part of its modernization policy, Turkey has sought—with limited resources—to improve the social conditions of its population in a variety of ways.
The state education system involves five main sectors. Primary education, which is free and compulsory, begins at age six and lasts five years. A considerable proportion of the primary schools are village schools, where training in agricultural activities and handicrafts is emphasized. Nearly all eligible children are enrolled. Secondary education—with more than half of eligible students enrolled—continues for another six years and includes middle school and high school programs of three years each. There are a large number of technical and vocational schools, which may be entered after completion of the middle school level. Of the more than 1,200 institutions of higher education, more than 60 have university status. The largest are the universities at Istanbul, Ankara, and Ege (Aegean, at İzmir) and the Middle East Technical University in Ankara, Istanbul Technical University, and Hacettepe University in Ankara.
Health and welfare
Health care is provided by both state and private health services. Not all workers are covered by the social security system, which provides health insurance. Turkey has a sufficient number of doctors and other health workers, but facilities are concentrated in urban areas. To counter this, the government operates a network of “health houses,” each staffed with a midwife, in the villages; “health units,” directed by a physician, serving groups of villages; and group hospitals, located in district and provincial centres.
Pensions and other social security programs are coordinated by various organizations within the Ministry of Health and Social Assistance. Very few agricultural workers participate in these programs.
Culturally, as in so many other respects, Turkey sits between East and West, drawing elements from both to produce its own unique blend. The territory that now constitutes the republic has been subject to a striking range of cultural influences; these have left a rich archaeological legacy, still visible in the landscape, from the civilizations of Classical Europe and the Islamic Middle East. Several locations of cultural significance have been designated UNESCO World Heritage sites, including historic areas around Istanbul, the Great Mosque and Hospital of Divriği, the old Hittite capital of Hattusha, the remains at Nemrut Dağ and Xanthos-Letoon, the city of Safranbolu, and the archaeological site of Troy. In addition to these, UNESCO recognized two mixed-interest properties (sites of both cultural and natural significance) in Turkey: the area of Göreme National Park and the Rock Sites of Cappadocia, which is known for the traces of Byzantine art extant amid its dramatic rocky landscape, and Hierapolis-Pamukkale, which is known for its terraced basins of unique mineral formations and petrified waterfalls, where ruins of the thermal baths and temples constructed there in the 2nd century BCE are still present.
With the division of the Roman Empire into western and eastern sections, Asia Minor became part of the Byzantine realm (see Byzantine Empire), centred at Constantinople (Istanbul). The rise of Islam in the east led to a division of the peninsula between the Byzantine Christian world and the Islamic Middle East, and it was not until the arrival of the Turks that Asia Minor finally became part of the Islamic world. The Ottoman Empire was multinational and multicultural; the new Turkey established by Atatürk, however, was more homogeneous in language and religion than its predecessor states. Under Atatürk and his followers, Turkey became increasingly secular and Western-oriented, a trend manifested in the reform of the Turkish language, the replacement of the traditional Arabic script by a modified Roman alphabet, and the separation of Islam from the state. Nevertheless, Islam has exerted a profound influence on the relations between the sexes and on family life. The strength of this influence varies between the more- and less-developed regions of the country, between urban and rural populations, and between the social classes.