Turkey is a republic in Western Asia and Southeastern Europe. A unitary state is since its inception in 1923, secular and Kemalist following the First World War, and before that a successor state of the Ottoman Empire. The country’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, initiated a modernization of Turkey by social and legal reforms along the lines of various European national states.
The ethnic composition of the population in Turkey is not often determined accurately. In fact, in its official census, ethnicity is not recorded at all. However, by analyzing the population’s native and second languages, you can see that many minority communities have declined dramatically due to Turkish assimilation policies. In addition, for centuries various ethnic groups have mixed, so pinpointing that exact reason is had to define.
The information collected on ethnic groups vary greatly, depending on which sources are used. According to general consensus, the Turkish population is broken into the following ethnic groups: 70-77% Turks, 14-18% Kurds, 4% Zaza, 2% Circassians, 2% Bosniaks , 1.5% Arabs, 1% Albanians, 1% Hydrolases, 0.1% Georgians and several other ethnic groups and nationalities like Armenians, Hemshin people, Bulgarians, Pomaks, Syrians, Chechens, Greeks, Pontier, Jews and Romas.
The national and official language of Turkey is Turkish, which is spoken by more than 80% of the population as a native language, and as a second language by another 10-15%. Turkish is by far the most important language in today’s Turkey, and sits alongside Turkish Sign Language as the co-official Turkish language since 2005.
In addition to Turkish, there are about twenty languages from five different language families that are spoken today by non-Turkish ethnicities and minorities. In this sense, Turkey is a multiethnic state. The most important of these languages are
- Kurmanji or Northern Kurdish with about 14 million speakers
- Zazaisch with 1.2-2 million speakers
- Arabic with about 1 million speakers
- Azerbaijani 550,000 speakers
- Kabardian or East Circassian with 550,000 speakers
- Bulgarian with 300,000 speakers
- Adyghe or West Circassian with nearly 300,000 speakers
- Western Armenian and Homschezi with 70,000 speakers
According to official statistics, about 99% of the Turkish population are Muslim. Of these, approximately 80% are Sunni, 15-20% Alevis and 1-2% Alawites . Additionally, there are 0.2% Christians (125,000) and 0.04% Jews (23,000) living in Turkey. Even a small number of Yazidis and Dönme lives here. At the beginning of the 20th century, however, about 20% of the population were Christians – especially Armenians and Greeks – and the Jewish population exceeded more than 120,000.
Population Development and Migration
Since the founding of the Republic in 1923, Turkey’s population grew rapidly. In 1927 Turkey was home to nearly 14 million people. In 2003 there were just under 70 million. In 2014 there were 77.7 million. Turkey is also a country subject to emigration and immigration. During the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, millions of Turks left their country as migrant workers and political refugees, destined for Belgium, France, Sweden, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria and Germany.
Emigrants from the Balkans, Middle East, Greece, Iran, Central Asia, the Crimea came after the fall of the Iron Curtain. In 2009, about 4,600 people from Germany chose Turkey as their new adopted country, to make a total of 155,000 German emigrants. In addition to the climate and beautiful landscapes, the low-cost of living and relatively low bureaucratic obstacles are popular factors in moving to the region. On the other hand, many minorities from Turkey have chosen to leave, including Syrians, Alevis, Armenians, Assyrians, Greeks, Kurds, Jews, Yazidis and Zaza.
The State provides basic health care, which is available to all citizens. In 2007 there were 1.23 doctors per 1,000 inhabitants. The life expectancy for men in Turkey is 70.18 years, and for women 75.18 years. The welfare indicator according to the Human Development Index in 2014 ranked Turkey as number 69 of 187 rated countries; ranking it among the countries which have high human development.
In comparison, Germany, a country with very high human development, is ranked 6th place, with the aggregate average of the entire EU being 33. According to a study by Credit Suisse in 2014, Turkey has a Gini coefficient of 0.84 and is thus is considered a country with a high degree of wealth inequality. The injustice of skewed wealth increased in the years 2002 to 2014, with the proportion of the top one percent of wealth capturing 54.3% of all assets, up from 39.4%.