Turkey, which forms a bridge between Europe and Asia, is in fact located on two continents. Separated by the waters of the Bosphorus, Dardanelles, and the Sea of Marmara, European Turkey is known as Thrace, and Asian Turkey is known as Anatolia or Asia Minor.
Anatolia is the heartland of Turkey and is bordered on the north by the Black Sea, on the east by Iran, and on the southeast by Iraq and Syria. Directly south lies the Mediterranean Sea.
The Turkish constitution provides for a parliamentary democracy with a free-market economy in a secular state. Legislative responsibility rests with the 550-member Turkish Grand National Assembly (TGNA). Its members are chosen by universal suffrage for five-year terms. Election is by proportional representation.
The TGNA elects the president who appoints the prime minister, the chairman of the Central Banking Commission, and the executives who manage the nation's broadcasting industry.
There is also a National Security Council, which is made up of five government leaders and five military leaders, who can take action in the event of an emergency. When confronted with a national crisis, the president is empowered to declare a state of emergency and rule by executive decree. During the not-infrequent periods of political instability the military has sometimes intervened through the national Security Council to maintain law and order, protect the constitution and maintain the tradition of secular government in Turkey.
This practice has been threatened periodically by pro-Islamic political groups. Such attempts have so far been unsuccessful. There has been considerable support for some of the Islamic political parties, however, and the government is on the alert for an upsurge in their power.
Political considerations, such as an ongoing conflict with the Kurdish minority and a continuing dispute with Greece over the status of the island of Cyprus, have often stood in the way of needed economic reforms. Government corruption has been another problem. All three of these problems have stood in the way of Turkey's meeting the requirements for membership in the European Union (EU). The island of Cyprus gained membership to the European Union (EU) in May 2004; as of December 2012, Turkey is a candidate country.
The Turkish economy has continued to grow at a steady pace. The government is working to implement major economic reforms including a tighter budget, banking reorganization, and acceleration of privatization.
This commitment to reform has resulted in loans from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which have helped improve the economy.
The country's economy is a complex mixture of modern industry, commerce, agriculture, and crafts such as rug making. Tourism has been one of Turkey's fastest-growing industries with visitors attracted to its affordable cities and sunny Mediterranean beaches.
Turkey likes to consider itself an example of an Islamic country that is also a modern, westernized nation. They hope to demonstrate that the two elements are not incompatible. For example, women, especially in the cities, are permitted the same rights as men with equal access to education and the job market. In the countryside, however, the older traditions continue to prevail.
Expatriates will find that the friendly and hospitable attitudes of the Turkish people are a reflection of the nation's long and varied history, which has exposed its people to the variety of cultures which it has subsequently assimilated.
The country has an archaeological treasury of prehistoric burial mounds, Egyptian monuments, Greek and Roman temples, massive city walls, fortresses, cathedrals, churches, mosques, palaces, and innumerable artifacts from the many civilizations that have occupied this land.
Residents and visitors will find plenty of opportunities for exploration in this richly endowed country.