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Demographics of Turkey

Modern Turkey spans bustling cosmopolitan centers, pastoral farming villages, barren wastelands, peaceful Aegean coastlines, and steep mountain regions. More than half of Turkey's population lives in urban areas that juxtapose Western lifestyles with traditional-style mosques and markets.

Turkey has been officially secular since 1924, although 98% of the population is Muslim. Most Turkish Muslims belong to the Sunni branch of Islam, but a significant number are Alevi Muslims. The appeal of political Islam and the Kurdish insurgency continue to fuel public debate on several aspects of Turkish society, including the role of religion, the necessity for human rights protections, and the expectation of security. Turks of Kurdish origin constitute an ethnic and linguistic group. Estimates of their population range up to 12 million.

Population: 65,666,677 (July 2000 est.)

Age structure:
0-14 years: 29% (male 9,722,217; female 9,375,920)
15-64 years: 65% (male 21,671,638; female 20,966,110)
65 years and over: 6% (male 1,811,599; female 2,119,193) (2000 est.)

Population growth rate: 1.27% (2000 est.)

Birth rate: 18.65 births/1,000 population (2000 est.)

Death rate: 5.96 deaths/1,000 population (2000 est.)

Net migration rate: 0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2000 est.)

Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.03 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.85 male(s)/female
total population: 1.02 male(s)/female (2000 est.)

Infant mortality rate: 48.9 deaths/1,000 live births (2000 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 70.97 years
male: 68.63 years
female: 73.41 years (2000 est.)

Total fertility rate: 2.16 children born/woman (2000 est.)

noun: Turk(s)
adjective: Turkish

Ethnic groups: Turkish 80%, Kurdish 20%

Religions: Muslim 99.8% (mostly Sunni), other 0.2% (Christian and Jews)

Languages: Turkish (official), Kurdish, Arabic, Armenian, Greek.

definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 82.3%
male: 91.7%
female: 72.4% (1995 est.)

As to the ethnic groups living in Turkey, it would be appropriate to mention that this is a highly debateful and difficult issue. Figures published in several different references show great varieties proving this difficulty. The Oghuz tribes, which used to constitute the majority of the reigning fraction of Turkic people in Anatolia, gained dominance in the region not by their high populations but their superiority in warfare. So, initially Turkic people lived as a minority in many regions that they first captured. Anatolia, which was formerly a part of the Roman Empire, was (and still is) especially an ethnically very mixed region. It is, therefore, impossible to speak about a pure Turkish race in the tangled ethnic mix of Anatolia.

Moreover, many non-Turkic tribes have accepted the Turkish race as their ethnical identity and Turkish language as their native language in the past centuries. In Turkey, it is not surprising to notice blond and blue-eyed individuals within the dominant black-haired, Mediterranean-looking mass. For this reason, it is not only difficult but also scientifically inappropriate to classify people in Turkey as those coming from Turkic origin and others. The truth is more complicated than that.

In this context, the genuinely Turkic people are individuals named as Central Asian Turks (including Tatars), most of whom have possibly come to the region by Mongol invasion long after the initial Oghuz tribes conquered and melted in the local population.

Proving the difficulty of classifying ethnicities living in Turkey, there are as many classifications as the number of scientific attempts to make these classifications. Turkey is not a unique example for that and many European countries (e.g. France, Germany) bear a great ethnic diversity. So, the immense diversity observed in the published figures for the percentages of Turkish people living in Turkey (ranging from 80 to 97%) totally depends on the method used to classify the ethnicities. Complicating the matter even more is the fact that the final official and country-wide classification of ethnical identities of Turkey has been performed on 1965 and many of the numbers published after that time are gross estimations (but surprisingly demonstrated as sheer facts). Some classifications based on the spoken language is also invaluable, because in the mixed society of Turkey many Kurdish people are speaking Turkish as their first language and many Turkish and Arabic citizens are speaking Kurdish as fluently as Turkish or Arabic.

It is mandatory to take into account all these difficulties and be cautious while evaluating the ethnic groups. A possible list of ethnic groups living in Turkey could be as follows (based on the classification of P.A.Andrews (1), however this book is more like a review and depends on other people's publications):

A)Turks: Kirghiz, Karapapaks, Turkmens, Kazakhs, Kumuks, Yoruks, Uzbeks, Tatars, Azerians, Balkars, Uighurs, Karachays.






G)Groups originally from the Balkans (Bulgarians, Serbians, Croatians, Rumenians and Bosnians): These people migrated to Anatolia during the Ottoman Era and have accepted Turkish-Muslim identity.

H)Minorities: Greeks, Jews, Armenians.

I)Others: It is well known that very small groups of people from Germany, Poland, Estonia, Sudan and Somali are also living within the territories of Turkey.

1.Andrews, Peter A. Ethnic groups in the Republic of Turkey. Wiesbaden: Reichert Publications, 1989.

See also : Turkey