Geography of Turkey
Turkey is situated in Anatolia (97%) and the Balkans (3%), bordering the Black Sea, between Bulgaria and Georgia, and bordering the Aegean Sea and the Mediterranean Sea, between Greece and Syria. The geographic coordinates of the country lie at:
|Continent||Asia and Europe|
|Region||Western Asia and Southeastern Europe|
|• Total||783,562 km2 (302,535 sq mi)|
|Coastline||7,200 km (4,500 mi)|
|Borders||Total land borders: 2648 km |
Armenia 268 km, Azerbaijan 9 km, Bulgaria 240 km, Georgia 252 km, Greece 206 km, Iran 499 km, Iraq 352 km, Syria 822 km
|Highest point||Mount Ağrı (Ararat)|
|Lowest point||Mediterranean Sea|
3,755 km2 (1,449.81 sq mi)
Turkey extends more than 1,600 km (994 mi) from west to east but generally less than 800 km (497 mi) from north to south. The total area (of about 783,562 km2 (302,535 sq mi)) consists of about 756,816 km2 (292,208 sq mi) in Western Asia (Anatolia) and about 23,764 km2 (9,175 sq mi) in Southeastern Europe (Thrace).
Anatolia (Turkish: Anadolu) is a large, roughly rectangular peninsula, situated In Asia. The Anatolian part of Turkey accounts for 95% of the country's area. It is also known as Asia Minor, Asiatic Turkey or the Anatolian Plateau. The term Anatolia is most frequently used in specific reference to the large, semiarid central plateau, which is rimmed by hills and mountains that in many places limit access to the fertile, densely settled coastal regions.
The European portion of Turkey, known as Thrace (Turkish: Trakya), encompasses roughly 3% of the total area but is home to more than 10% of the total population. Istanbul, the largest city of Thrace and Turkey, has a population of 11,372,613. Thrace is separated from Anatolia (the Asian portion of Turkey) by the Bosphorus (Turkish: İstanbul Boğazı), the Sea of Marmara (Turkish: Marmara Denizi), and the Dardanelles (Turkish: Çanakkale Boğazı); which collectively form the strategic Turkish Straits that link the Aegean Sea with the Black Sea. Mount Ararat, Turkey's tallest mountain with an elevation of 5,137 m (16,854 ft), is the legendary landing place of Noah's Ark and is located in the far eastern portion of the country.
Land boundaries: 2,627 km (1,632 mi) border countries: Greece 206 km (128 mi), Bulgaria 240 km (149 mi), Georgia 252 km (157 mi), Armenia 268 km (167 mi), Nakhchivan (Azerbaijan) 9 km (6 mi), Iran 499 km (310 mi), Iraq 331 km (206 mi), Syria 822 km (511 mi).
Coastline: 7,200 km (4,474 mi) Maritime claims: exclusive economic zone: in the Black Sea only: to the maritime boundary agreed upon with the former USSR territorial sea: 6 nmi (11.1 km; 6.9 mi) in the Aegean Sea; 12 nmi (22.2 km; 13.8 mi) in Black Sea and in Mediterranean Sea
Surrounded by water on three sides and protected by high mountains along its eastern border, the country generally has well-defined natural borders. Its demarcated land frontiers were settled by treaty early in the twentieth century and have since remained stable.
The boundary with Greece was confirmed by the Treaty of Lausanne (1923), which resolved persistent boundary and territorial claims involving areas in Thrace and provided for a population exchange (see: War of Independence). Under the agreement, most members of the sizable Greek-speaking community of western Turkey were forced to resettle in Greece, while the majority of the Turkish-speaking residents of Thrace who were not forced out during the Balkan wars were removed to Turkey.
Since 1991 the more than 500 km (311 mi) boundary with the former Soviet Union, which was defined in the 1921 Treaty of Moscow (1921) and Treaty of Kars, has formed Turkey's borders with the independent countries of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia.
The boundary with Iraq was confirmed by the Treaty of Angora (Ankara) in 1926. Turkey's two southern neighbors, Iraq and Syria, had been part of the Ottoman Empire up to 1918. According to the terms of the Treaty of Lausanne (1923), Turkey ceded all its claims to these two countries, which had been organized as League of Nations mandates under the governing responsibility of Britain and France, respectively. Turkey and Britain agreed the boundary in the Treaty of Angora (Ankara).
Turkey's boundary with Syria has not been accepted by Syria. As a result of the Treaty of Lausanne, the former Ottoman Sanjak (province) of Alexandretta (present-day Hatay Province) was ceded to the French which administered it on behalf of the League of Nations. However, in June 1939 the people of Hatay had formed a new independent State and immediately after, the parliament voted to unite with Turkey. Since achieving independence in 1946, Syria has harbored a lingering resentment and this issue has continued to be an irritant in Syrian-Turkish relations.
The 1st Geography Congress, held in Ankara City between 6–21 June 1941, divided Turkey into seven regions after long discussions and work. These geographical regions were separated according to their climate, location, flora and fauna, human habitat, agricultural diversities, transportation, topography, etc. At the end, 4 coastal regions and 3 inner regions were named according to their proximity to the four seas surrounding Turkey, and their positions in Anatolia.
Distinct contrasts between the interior and the coastal areas of Turkey are manifested in landform regions, climate, soils, and vegetation. The coastal areas are divided into the Black Sea region, the Marmara region, the Aegean region, and the Mediterranean region. The interior areas are divided into three regions: Central Anatolia, Eastern Anatolia and Southeastern Anatolia.
Black Sea Region
The Black Sea region has a steep, rocky coast with rivers that cascade through the gorges of the coastal ranges. A few larger rivers, those cutting back through the Pontic Mountains (Doğu Karadeniz Dağları), have tributaries that flow in broad, elevated basins. Access inland from the coast is limited to a few narrow valleys because mountain ridges, with elevations of 1,525 to 1,800 meters in the west and 3,000 to 4,000 meters in the east in Kaçkar Mountains, form an almost unbroken wall separating the coast from the interior. The higher slopes facing northwest tend to be densely forested. Because of these natural conditions, the Black Sea coast historically has been isolated from Anatolia.
Running from Zonguldak in the west to Rize in the east, the narrow coastal strip widens at several places into fertile, intensely cultivated deltas. The Samsun area, close to the midpoint, is a major tobacco-growing region; east of it are numerous citrus groves. East of Samsun, the area around Trabzon is world-renowned for the production of hazelnuts, and farther east the Rize region has numerous tea plantations. All cultivable areas, including mountain slopes wherever they are not too steep, are sown or used as pasture. The mild, damp climate of the Black Sea coast makes commercial farming profitable. The western part of the Black Sea region, especially the Zonguldak area, is a center of coal mining and heavy industry.
The North Anatolian Mountains in the north are an interrupted chain of folded highlands that generally parallel the Black Sea coast. In the west, the mountains tend to be low, with elevations rarely exceeding 1,500 meters, but they rise in an easterly direction to heights greater than 3,000 meters south of Rize. Lengthy, troughlike valleys and basins characterize the mountains. Rivers flow from the mountains toward the Black Sea. The southern slopes—facing the Anatolian Plateau—are mostly unwooded, but the northern slopes contain dense growths of both deciduous and evergreen trees.
The European portion of Turkey consists mainly of rolling plateau country well suited to agriculture. It receives about 520 millimeters of rainfall annually.
Densely populated, this area includes the cities of Istanbul and Edirne. The Bosphorus, which links the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea, is about twenty-five kilometers long and averages 1.5 kilometers in width but narrows in places to less than 1000 meters. There are two suspension bridges over the Bosphorus, both its Asian and European banks rise steeply from the water and form a succession of cliffs, coves, and nearly landlocked bays. Most of the shores are densely wooded and are marked by numerous small towns and villages. The Dardanelles (ancient Hellespont) strait, which links the Sea of Marmara (ancient Propontis) and the Aegean Sea, is approximately forty kilometers long and increases in width toward the south. Unlike the Bosphorus, the Dardanelles has fewer settlements along its shores. The Saros Bay is located near the Gallipoli peninsula and is unliked because of dirty beaches. It is a favourite spot among scuba divers for the richness of its underwater fauna and is becoming increasingly popular due to its vicinity to Istanbul.
Located on the western side of Anatolia, the Aegean region has a fertile soil and a typically Mediterranean climate; with mild, wet winters and hot, dry summers. The broad, cultivated valley lowlands contain about half of the country's richest farmlands.
The largest city in the Aegean Region of Turkey is İzmir, which is also the country's third largest city and a major manufacturing center; as well as its second largest port after Istanbul.
Olive and olive oil production is particularly important for the economy of the region. The seaside town of Ayvalık and numerous towns in the provinces of Balıkesir, İzmir and Aydın are particularly famous for their olive oil and related products; such as soap and cosmetics.
The region also has many important centers of tourism which are known both for their historic monuments and for the beauty of their beaches; such as Assos, Ayvalık, Bergama, Foça, İzmir, Çeşme, Sardis, Ephesus, Kuşadası, Didim, Miletus, Bodrum, Marmaris, Datça and Fethiye.
Toward the east, the extensive Çukurova Plain (historically known as the Cilician Plain) around Adana, Turkey's fifth most populous city, consist largely of reclaimed flood lands. In general, rivers have not cut valleys to the sea in the western part of the region. Historically, movement inland from the western Mediterranean coast was difficult. East of Adana, much of the coastal plain has limestone features such as collapsed caverns and sinkholes. Between Adana and Antalya, the Taurus Mountains rise sharply from the coast to high elevations. Other than Adana, Antalya, and Mersin, the Mediterranean coast has few major cities, although it has numerous farming villages.
Paralleling the Mediterranean coast, the Taurus Mountains (Turkish: Toros Dağları) are Turkey's second chain of folded mountains. The range rises just inland from the coast and trends generally in an easterly direction until it reaches the Arabian Platform, where it arcs around the northern side of the platform. The Taurus Mountains are more rugged and less dissected by rivers than the Pontic Mountains and historically have served as a barrier to human movement inland from the Mediterranean coast except where there are mountain passes such as the historic Cilician Gates (Gülek Pass), northwest of Adana.
Central Anatolia Region
Stretching inland from the Aegean coastal plain, the Central Anatolia Region occupies the area between the two zones of the folded mountains, extending east to the point where the two ranges converge. The plateau-like, semi-arid highlands of Anatolia are considered the heartland of the country. The region varies in elevation from 600 to 1,200 meters from west to east. The two largest basins on the plateau are the Konya Ovası and the basin occupied by the large salt lake, Tuz Gölü. Both basins are characterized by inland drainage. Wooded areas are confined to the northwest and northeast of the plateau. Rain-fed cultivation is widespread, with wheat being the principal crop. Irrigated agriculture is restricted to the areas surrounding rivers and wherever sufficient underground water is available. Important irrigated crops include barley, corn, cotton, various fruits, grapes, opium poppies, sugar beets, roses, and tobacco. There also is extensive grazing throughout the plateau.
Central Anatolia receives little annual rainfall. For instance, the semi-arid center of the plateau receives an average yearly precipitation of only 300 millimeters. However, actual rainfall from year to year is irregular and occasionally may be less than 200 millimeters, leading to severe reductions in crop yields for both rain-fed and irrigated agriculture. In years of low rainfall, stock losses also can be high. Overgrazing has contributed to soil erosion on the plateau. During the summers, frequent dust storms blow a fine yellow powder across the plateau. Locusts occasionally ravage the eastern area in April and May. In general, the plateau experiences extreme heat, with almost no rainfall in summer and cold weather with heavy snow in winter.
Frequently interspersed throughout the folded mountains, and also situated on the Anatolian Plateau, are well-defined basins, which the Turks call ova. Some are no more than a widening of a stream valley; others, such as the Konya Ovası, are large basins of inland drainage or are the result of limestone erosion. Most of the basins take their names from cities or towns located at their rims. Where a lake has formed within the basin, the water body is usually saline as a result of the internal drainage—the water has no outlet to the sea.
Eastern Anatolia Region
Eastern Anatolia, where the Pontic and Anti-Taurus mountain ranges converge, is rugged country with higher elevations, a more severe climate, and greater precipitation than are found on the Anatolian Plateau. The western part of the Eastern Anatolia Region is known as the Anti-Taurus, where the average elevation of mountain peaks exceed 3,000 meters; while the eastern part of the region was historically known as the Armenian Highland and includes Mount Ararat, the highest point in Turkey at 5,137 meters. Many of the East Anatolian peaks apparently are recently extinct volcanoes, to judge from extensive green lava flows. Turkey's largest lake, Lake Van, is situated in the mountains at an elevation of 1,546 meters. The headwaters of three major rivers arise in the Anti-Taurus: the east-flowing Aras, which pours into the Caspian Sea; the south-flowing Euphrates; and the south-flowing Tigris, which eventually joins the Euphrates in Iraq before emptying into the Persian Gulf. Several small streams that empty into the Black Sea or landlocked Lake Van also originate in these mountains.
In addition to its rugged mountains, the area is known for severe winters with heavy snowfalls. The few valleys and plains in these mountains tend to be fertile and to support diverse agriculture. The main basin is the Muş Valley, west of Lake Van. Narrow valleys also lie at the foot of the lofty peaks along river corridors.
Southeastern Anatolia Region
Southeast Anatolia is south of the Anti-Taurus Mountains. It is a region of rolling hills and a broad plateau surface that extends into Syria. Elevations decrease gradually, from about 800 meters in the north to about 500 meters in the south. Traditionally, wheat and barley were the main crops of the region, but the inauguration of major new irrigation projects in the 1980s has led to greater agricultural diversity and development.
Turkey's varied landscapes are the product of a wide variety of tectonic processes that have shaped Anatolia over millions of years and continue today as evidenced by frequent earthquakes and occasional volcanic eruptions. Except for a relatively small portion of its territory along the Syrian border that is a continuation of the Arabian Platform, Turkey geologically is part of the great Alpide belt that extends from the Atlantic Ocean to the Himalaya Mountains. This belt was formed during the Paleogene Period, as the Arabian, African, and Indian continental plates began to collide with the Eurasian plate. This process is still at work today as the African Plate converges with the Eurasian Plate and the Anatolian Plate escapes towards the west and southwest along strike-slip faults. These are the North Anatolian Fault Zone, which forms the present day plate boundary of Eurasia near the Black Sea coast, and the East Anatolian Fault Zone, which forms part of the boundary of the North Arabian Plate in the southeast. As a result, Turkey lies on one of the world's seismically most active regions.
However, many of the rocks exposed in Turkey were formed long before this process began. Turkey contains outcrops of Precambrian rocks, (more than 520 million years old; Bozkurt et al., 2000). The earliest geological history of Turkey is poorly understood, partly because of the problem of reconstructing how the region has been tectonically assembled by plate motions. Turkey can be thought of as a collage of different pieces (possibly terranes) of ancient continental and oceanic lithosphere stuck together by younger igneous, volcanic and sedimentary rocks.
During the Mesozoic era (about 250 to 66 million years ago) a large ocean (Tethys Ocean), floored by oceanic lithosphere existed in-between the supercontinents of Gondwana and Laurasia (which lay to the south and north respectively; Robertson & Dixon, 2006). This large oceanic plate was consumed at subduction zones (see subduction zone). At the subduction trenches the sedimentary rock layers that were deposited within the prehistoric Tethys Ocean buckled, were folded, faulted and tectonically mixed with huge blocks of crystalline basement rocks of the oceanic lithosphere. These blocks form a very complex mixture or mélange of rocks that include mainly serpentinite, basalt, dolerite and chert (e.g. Bergougnan, 1975). The Eurasian margin, now preserved in the Pontides (the Pontic Mountains along the Black Sea coast), is thought to have been geologically similar to the Western Pacific region today (e.g. Rice et al., 2006). Volcanic arcs (see volcanic arc) and backarc basins (see back-arc basin) formed and were emplaced onto Eurasia as ophiolites (see ophiolite) as they collided with microcontinents (literally relatively small plates of continental lithosphere; e.g. Ustaomer and Robertson, 1997). These microcontinents had been pulled away from the Gondwanan continent further south. Turkey is therefore made up from several different prehistorical microcontinents.
During the Cenozoic folding, faulting and uplifting, accompanied by volcanic activity and intrusion of igneous rocks was related to major continental collision between the larger Arabian and Eurasian plates (e.g. Robertson & Dixon, 1984).
Present-day earthquakes range from barely perceptible tremors to major movements measuring five or higher on the open-ended Richter scale. Turkey's most severe earthquake in the twentieth century occurred in Erzincan on the night of December 28–29, 1939; it devastated most of the city and caused an estimated 160,000 deaths. Earthquakes of moderate intensity often continue with sporadic aftershocks over periods of several days or even weeks. The most earthquake-prone part of Turkey is an arc-shaped region stretching from the general vicinity of Kocaeli to the area north of Lake Van on the border with Armenia and Georgia.
Turkey's terrain is structurally complex. A central massif composed of uplifted blocks and downfolded troughs, covered by recent deposits and giving the appearance of a plateau with rough terrain, is wedged between two folded mountain ranges that converge in the east. True lowlands are confined to the Ergene Ovası (Ergene Plain) in Thrace, extending along rivers that discharge into the Aegean Sea or the Sea of Marmara, and to a few narrow coastal strips along the Black Sea and Mediterranean Sea coasts.
Nearly 85% of the land is at an elevation of at least 450 meters; the average and median altitude of the country is 1,332 and 1,128 meters, respectively. In Asiatic Turkey, flat or gently sloping land is rare and largely confined to the deltas of the Kızıl River, the coastal plains of Antalya and Adana, and the valley floors of the Gediz River and the Büyükmenderes River, and some interior high plains in Anatolia, mainly around Tuz Gölü (Salt Lake) and Konya Ovası (Konya Plain). Moderately sloping terrain is limited almost entirely outside Thrace to the hills of the Arabian Platform along the border with Syria.
More than 80% of the land surface is rough, broken, and mountainous, and therefore is of limited agricultural value (see Agriculture, ch. 3). The terrain's ruggedness is accentuated in the eastern part of the country, where the two mountain ranges converge into a lofty region with a median elevation of more than 1,500 meters, which reaches its highest point along the borders with Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Iran. Turkey's highest peak, Mount Ararat (Ağrı Dağı) — 5,137 meters high — is situated near the point where the boundaries of the four countries meet.
Turkey's diverse regions have different climates, with the weather system on the coasts contrasting with that prevailing in the interior. The Aegean and Mediterranean coasts have cool, rainy winters and hot, moderately dry summers. Annual precipitation in those areas varies from 580 to 1,300 millimeters (22.8 to 51.2 in), depending on location. Generally, rainfall is less to the east. The Black Sea coast receives the greatest amount of precipitation and is the only region of Turkey that receives high precipitation throughout the year. The eastern part of that coast averages 2,500 millimeters (98.4 in) annually which is the highest precipitation in the country.
Mountains close to the coast prevent Mediterranean influences from extending inland, giving the interior of Turkey a continental climate with distinct seasons. The Anatolian Plateau is much more subject to extremes than are the coastal areas. Winters on the plateau are especially severe. Temperatures of −30 to −40 °C (−22 to −40 °F) can occur in the mountainous areas in the east, and snow may lie on the ground 120 days of the year. In the west, winter temperatures average below 1 °C (33.8 °F). Summers are hot and dry, with temperatures above 30 °C (86 °F). Annual precipitation averages about 400 millimeters (15.7 in), with actual amounts determined by elevation. The driest regions are the Konya Ovasi and the Malatya Ovasi, where annual rainfall frequently is less than 300 millimeters (11.8 in). May is generally the wettest month and July and August the driest.
The climate of the Anti-Taurus Mountain region of eastern Turkey can be inhospitable. Summers tend to be hot and extremely dry. Winters are bitterly cold with frequent, heavy snowfall. Villages can be isolated for several days during winter storms. Spring and autumn are generally mild, but during both seasons sudden hot and cold spells frequently occur.
|Regions||Average Temp.||Record High Temp.||Record Low Temp.||Average Hum.||Average Prec.|
|Marmara Region||13.5C||56.3F||44.6°C||112.3°F||-27.8°C||-18.0°F||71.2%||564.3 mm||22.2 in|
|Aegean Region||15.4°C||59.7°F||48.5°C||119.3°F||-45.6°C||-50.1°F||60.9%||706.0 mm||27.8 in|
|Mediterranean Region||16.4°C||61.5°F||45.6°C||114.1°F||-33.5°C||-28.3°F||63.9%||706.0 mm||27.8 in|
|Black Sea Region||12.3°C||54.1°F||44.2°C||111.6°F||-32.8°C||-27.0°F||70.9%||828.5 mm||32.6 in|
|Central Anatolia||10.6°C||51.1°F||41.8°C||107.2°F||-36.2°C||-33.2°F||62.6%||392.0 mm||15.4 in|
|East Anatolia||9.7°C||49.5°F||44.4°C||111.9°F||-45.6°C||-50.1°F||60.9%||569.0 mm||22.4 in|
|Southeast Anatolia||16.5°C||61.7°F||48.4°C||119.1°F||-24.3°C||-11.7°F||53.4%||584.5 mm||23.0 in|
arable land: 35.00
permanent crops: 4.00
Irrigated land: 53,400 km² (2012)
Total renewable water resources: 211.6 km2 (2012)
lowest point: Mediterranean Sea 0 m
highest point: Mount Ararat 5,166 m
Very severe earthquakes, especially on the North Anatolian Fault and East Anatolian Fault, occur along an arc extending from the Sea of Marmara in the west to Lake Van in the east. On August 17, 1999, a 7.4-magnitude earthquake struck northwestern Turkey, killing more than 17,000 and injuring 44,000.
Ratified international agreements
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This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. (October 2012) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
- Bergougnan, H. (1976) Dispositif des ophiolites nord-est anatoliennes, origine des nappes ophiolitiques et sud-pontiques, jeu de la faille nord-anatolienne. Comptes Rendus Hebdomadaires des Séances de l'Académie des Sciences, Série D: Sciences Naturelles, 281: 107–110.
- Bozkurt, E. and Satir, M. (2000) The southern Menderes Massif (western Turkey); geochronology and exhumation history. Geological Journal, 35: 285–296.
- Rice, S.P., Robertson, A.H.F. and Ustaömer, T. (2006) Late Cretaceous-Early Cenozoic tectonic evolution of the Eurasian active margin in the Central and Eastern Pontides, northern Turkey. In: Robertson, (Editor), Tectonic Development of the Eastern Mediterranean Region. Geological Society, London, Special Publications, 260, London, 413–445.
- Robertson, A. and Dixon, J.E.D. (1984) Introduction: aspects of the geological evolution of the Eastern Mediterranean. In: Dixon and Robertson (Editors), The Geological Evolution of the Eastern Mediterranean. Geological Society, London, Special Publications, 17, 1–74.
- Ustaömer, T. and Robertson, A. (1997) Tectonic-sedimentary evolution of the north Tethyan margin in the Central Pontides of northern Turkey. In: A.G. Robinson (Editor), Regional and Petroleum Geology of the Black Sea and Surrounding Region. AAPG Memoir, 68, Tulsa, Oklahoma, 255–290.
- This article incorporates public domain material from the Library of Congress Country Studies website http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/.
- This article incorporates public domain material from the CIA World Factbook website https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/index.html.
- Zdanowski, Jerzy (2014). Middle Eastern Societies in the 20th Century. Cambridge Scholars Publishing. p. 11. ISBN 978-1443869591.
The Republic of Turkey lies on two continents. Approximately 97% of it is in Asia, in the geographical regions known as Asia Minor and the Armenian Upland. The remaining 3% of Turkey is in Europe, on the Balkan Peninsula.
- UN Demographic Yearbook, accessed April 16, 2007
- Worldofturkey.com: Regions of Turkey