Turkey: A Brief Introduction

I’ve gotten a lot of questions about Turkish culture and society, so I thought I’d aggregate the information I’ve read and write a brief informative post about Turkey and the city I’ll be living in, Alanya.

The Republic of Turkey was officially established in 1922, and in the years immediately following, actions were taken to end official Ottoman rule and build a government. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk led the independence movement and was the country’s first president. Since its founding, Turkey has been a secular democracy and has generally been oriented toward Western Europe when it comes to political values. Turkey’s history goes back much further than the 1920s, however – in fact, Istanbul was at one point the capital of the Roman Empire and the Byzantine Empire (although it was not called Istanbul then), and the Anatolian peninsula has a really fascinating history with multiple great empires meeting together near the Mediterranean and Black Seas.

Although Turkey is a secular state and does not have a state-endorsed religion, Islam is the dominant religion in Turkey, with about 98% of the population practicing Islam. Christianity is not widely practiced in Turkey (less than 1% of Turkey’s population is Christian), but the country has a rich history of Christianity, with the Eastern Orthodox Church based in Istanbul and many Christian sites located throughout Anatolia.

Turkish is the only officially endorsed language in Turkey, even though Turkey is home to many minority groups with their own languages, including Arabic, Kurdish, and Zaza. I will be taking Turkish classes while in Alanya, and I’m hoping to find a cafe where someone speaks Russian so I can practice chatting Russki-style. In Istanbul, I had a lovely experience talking with an Uzbek man in a restaurant, so hopefully that can be recreated in my new home.

At the beginning of the program, we’ll be spending time in Istanbul (Turkey’s biggest city, with a population of over 13 million people) and Ankara (Turkey’s capital city). After two weeks touring those cities, we’ll be moving into our home for the semester in Alanya. Alanya’s located on the southern coast of Turkey, near the Taurus Mountains (I guess I’ll be in my zodiac element).

I can’t wait to get there in less than two weeks (!!!) Istanbul was truly magical, and I can only hope that Alanya will also be wonderful.


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