History : Asiatic Turkey, that is, Anatolia, was the seat of one of the earliest civilizations known. Istanbul, the largest city, was first known as Byzantium and then as Constantinople. The Ottoman Turks conquered Constantinople in 1453 and founded a Turkish Empire. In 1923, Turkey became a republic.

Religious and ethnic tensions and active left and right extremists have caused endemic violence.

Some 12 m Kurds lve in Turkey. Kurdish militants demand an independent state for the Kurds. Kurdish Workers’ party (PKK)  leader Abdullah Ocalan was arrested in Kenya in Feb. ’99 and taken to Turkey. In Sept., PKK said it would lay down arms once and for all.

In July 1996, in a break with Turkey’s 73 year record of zealous secularism, Turkish parliament gave approval to a coalition government led by the Islamic party. In June ’97 conservative Mesut Yimaz took over as PM. In ’98, the Islamist party was banned. Welfare party, the largest political party, was officially disbanded for being anti-secular.

A rail link completing the new “slik route’’ between China and Turkey through Central Asia started operation in May, ’96.

In July,’97, Turkey announced plans to gradually integrate northern Cyprus into Turkey, to match any moves by the Greek-Cypriot party of the divided island to join EU. The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is only recognized by Ankara. In Dec.’97 EU rejected Turkey’s candidacy.

On Aug. 17, 1999 a devastating earthquake hit Turkey killing at least 12,000 people. 600,000 people were made homeless.

Economy: Agriculture maintains about 64 per cent of the population. The chief products are tobacco, wheat, cotton, olive oil and sugar. Turkey is the world’s second largest producer of sultana raisins. Sheep and cattle abound in the plateau of Anatolia and provide mohair for which Turkey is famous. The main minerals are iron ore, copper, chromium, bauxite and coal. Industry: Iron, steel, machinery, petroleum, metal products, cars, processed foods.

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