Turkey (1923- ) is what remains of the Ottoman Empire, which once ruled the Middle East. It lies in Anatolia, the land between the Black and Mediterranean seas.
It is not the only country with Turks. To the east there are others: Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. But Turkey is by far the largest and richest of these.
Turkey stands between two worlds: Muslim and Western.
It is a Muslim country yet its people wear Western clothes, write with Roman letters and take part in parliamentary elections. Religion is kept out of government and even the women are not allowed to cover their heads in public like they do in other Muslim countries.
Turkey belongs to NATO, the Western military alliance. This means the second largest army in NATO is Muslim.
But Turkey is not part of the European Union (EU). It is not for want of trying. For years it was kept out because it had a bad record on human rights and its army had too much power in government.
Now that Turkey is changing its ways, the EU has begun talks for it to join, maybe in 2013. But the talks are going badly and Sarkozy, the president of France, is finding excuses to slow them down.
Even though Europe is no longer strongly Christian, many seem to be against Turkey joining the EU simply because it is Muslim. Turkey may seem Western on the outside but it is still Muslim on the inside.
Although Turkey has long been a friend of America, the two do not agree on Iraq: partly because Turkey is becoming more of a democracy and the people are against what America is doing in Iraq; but also because America turns a blind eye to Kurdish fighters crossing into Turkey from Iraq.
Turkey killed more than a half million Armenians in the early 1900s and later fought against Kurds in eastern Turkey. It was trying to make everyone in Turkey into Turks.
Anatolia was once a Christian land full of Greek towns and farms. It was the heart of the Byzantine empire. Between 1000 and 1500 the Turks uprooted and destroyed all of that. They marched on Constantinople and overthrew it, giving it a new name, Istanbul. The Ottoman Empire was born.
When the empire reached its height in the late 1600s it ruled the Arab world, Greece, Serbia, Hungary, Armenia and other nearby countries. Its armies got as far as the gates of Vienna. Two hundred years later the empire began to fall apart. In the early 1900s the First World War delivered the death blow.
After the war in the 1920s Ataturk made Turkey more Western.
Turkey stayed out of the Second World War. It still had one of the largest and best armies in the world, but it did not have the tanks and fighter planes it took to fight a war. But it did join America against Russia in the Cold War that followed.
– Abagond, 2007.