Settlements are classified according to the number of inhabitants: Less than 2,000 inhabitants is a village (koy), between 2,000 and 20,000 is a town (kasaba) and a population of more than 20,000 is a city (sehir).
A few large cities dominate the nation. The principal economic, political and social forces converge on Istanbul, Ankara and, to a lesser extent, Izmir, Adana and Bursa.
City people, except for the elite, are organized into social groups, not necessarily exclusive and enduring, but interacting with each other at different levels.
Occupational groups are more stable and easily recognizable than others and are more significant in cities than in rural areas.
Towns range from simple settlements around marketplaces to large population centers offering a variety of goods, services and facilities as well as serving the basic economic and political functions. In general, the towns where the primary function is economic tend to be small, conservative and rural in character. In small towns, where occupational groups are few and weak, relations among residents tend to be more personal, non-institutionalized and informal. The small-town merchant, trader or artisan identifies himself with the community. Whereas when the political function has joined or overridden the economic function, towns tend to be larger, progressive and urban. However rural a town may appear to the outsider, there is a distinct difference between a town and the surrounding villages.
54% of the national population is rural in Turkey .In rural Turkey the focus of life is agriculture.
In a typical village, houses with their courtyards are built around a central place. Land for agriculture surrounds the village. In each village, there is usually a mosque, a school, a coffeehouse, guest rooms and some small shops.
Village life starts very early, usually before sunrise. After cleaning and tidying up the house, the animals are taken care of. Milking the sheep or cows and eating breakfast are early morning tasks before the serious work starts. Only after all this do children go to school and people to the fields to work.
The large majority of Anatolian villages are self sufficient. They produce their own food according to their production range and for winter they prepare food grown in the summer or autumn months. Among the foods they prepare are flour, bulgur (pounded wheat), oil, kavurma (preserved fried meat), dried vegetables and fruit, yufka (dried thin layers of pastry), macaroni, jam, pickles, tomato paste, molasses, cheese, butter, etc. They obtain their other needs like clothing from bigger settlements in the vicinity.
The tools used in daily life are clearly very old in design. The light wooden plow, or saban in Tr., is drawn easily by one pair of oxen. It has an iron-tipped share but no moldboard so that it does not turn a furrow. Sowing is traditionally done by hand and reaping with a sickle or scythe. The crops are carried to the village for storage on four-wheeled horse-drawn carts or on the traditional two-wheeled oxcart, the kagni. Threshing involves driving an ox-drawn sledge about five feet long over the crops, round and round, day after day. Flint teeth on the underside of the sledge break the grain from the ears and chop the straw into chaff. This mixture is winnowed by hand with wooden forks and put into woolen sacks.
In homes, people sit on rugs or mats spread on the floor. Houses have built-in divans running along the walls and very often a stone or wooden floor. Tables and chairs, once rare, are now becoming more common.
Most peasants wear cloth caps and the famous Turkish baggy trousers which are exceedingly full in the seat. Shepherds, whose work may involve withstanding intense cold, wear a special large cloak, kepenek, made of felted wool and a hood with attached scarf that winds around the head and protects the ears. Village women still generally prefer traditional costume. They wear some locally customary combination of baggy trousers, skirts and aprons. In many areas it is still possible to identify a woman’s town or village and her marital status by her dress; village women in Turkey have never worn the veil, but they have traditionally covered their heads and mouths with a large scarf.
Most village areas contain weavers, masons, carpenters and smiths including tinsmiths. Some villagers go to town for craft services and a number of craftsmen travel around the villages—particularly specialists, such as sieve makers or sawyers.
Women are measured by rigid standards of purity; sex is a forbidden topic between close kin; and a young couple is forbidden to show any interest in each other if anyone else, even a member of the household, is present. A man leaving for a trip does not say good-bye to his wife publicly, nor does he greet her publicly on his return.
Most Anatolian villages can be described as economically homogeneous, differences in wealth are small with many Turkish villagers owning their own land. The frequency with which large landowners once dominated the socioeconomic structure diminished significantly in the early republican period.
Where large landowners do exist, they dominate the political, economic and social life of the village by linking it with national life.
The criteria for social ranking are usually wealth, descent, occupation and social conformity, among which wealth is coming increasingly more important.
Although there are village headmen from an administrative point of view, they may not be the real leaders in places where wealthier people are eager to be dominant or in control.
The relationship between wealth and social rank is nowhere better seen than in the institution of the guest room. Perhaps only 10% of the houses have guest rooms, because only the wealthy can afford them. Most evenings men gather in these rooms and spend much of their time there, particularly during the winter months.
Villages in European Turkey, along the Black and Aegean Seas and to a lesser degree along the Mediterranean Sea have long been in contact with urban and western influences. Coastal villages have almost always lacked the self-sufficient subsistence patterns of the Anatolian villages.
Economic rather than traditional kinship considerations tend to pattern social relations. Most coastal villagers have a broader social awareness than other Anatolian villagers and are more susceptible to national influences.
In these villages, large landowners, by providing employment and land for tenants and by serving as an economic link between the village and the outside at world, are the primary holders of power and prestige.
As a country of highlands, Turkey naturally has many mountain villages. In places higher than 1,800 m / 5,900 ft, you can find people living for the summer months with their herds of sheep, cattle or goats who return to their permanent houses in the winter. This is called yaylacilik.
Apart from these very high places, there are also permanent mountain villages whose geographical conditions mean that they are generally very small and perhaps without a school. Where there is no school students have to travel to a neighboring village.
Economically, as there is often no suitable land for agriculture, animal husbandry is dominant in these mountain villages.
In forest villages, life is much more difficult than in normal villages, because of the daily living difficulties and transportation problems.
The villages also cause a certain amount of destruction in the forests. That is why, these villages are supported by the state and villagers are encouraged to use coal for heating instead of wood, and other animals instead of goats whose grazing habits are harmful to the trees.
Southern and Eastern Villages
Many of the farmers in the villages of the South and East are descendants of nomadic herders who have settled in the past 100 years. Groups of these people formed tribal units. Social and political relations were largely feudal and the measure of strength was the number of warriors at the command of each group. Weak tribes depended on the strong and gave them economic and military support in exchange for protection.
Because of the changes through government settlement programs and modernized farming, families are being detached from traditional structures in order to compete with others for jobs. Therefore these kinds of villages are losing their typical characteristics.
The Old Anatolian House
The traditional Anatolian city developed in conformity with one of the basic principals of modern urban planning; that is, necessity for the location of the residential and commercial quarters separately.
From greater to smaller the traditional living units are as follows; city, district (mahalle), street (sokak), courtyard (avlu), paved entrance hall (taslik), central reception room (sofa) and room (oda).
Regional differences in Anatolia led to the use of a great variety of building systems, materials and plans. Southeastern Anatolia is characterized by the use of stone, Central Anatolia by the use of a combination of stone and adobe (originally Hittite style), while the Aegean and Mediterranean regions are characterized by their cubic stone structures. In the inner Aegean region, the upper floors are built on the timber frame principle with mud brick filling, while in the Eastern Black Sea region the houses are made entirely of wood.
This variety can be explained both as a result of climatic differences and of the very different cultures that have existed in Anatolia during the course of the centuries.
Traditional streets are narrow and filled with stones on the surface. Generally there is a sloping downward from both sides to meet in the middle, to keep the rain water away from the walls of the houses. The large eaves of the roofs serve the same purpose.
In the traditional streets residents could fill their pitchers or passers-by could drink from the street fountains built into one of the walls and sometimes located in a cul-de-sac (blind alley).
The old miniatures and pictures show that the houses were painted white, indigo, pale pink, light yellow and green.
Traditional houses always had a garden, quite irrespective of the size of the house itself. The Turks built the garden before proceeding to build the house. This attracted the attention of the French architect Le Corbusier who is regarded as one of the greatest of our age and he wrote: “The Turk first of all lays out the garden and plants trees; the Frenchman cuts down the trees to build the house.”
The gardens were planted with climbing roses, honey-suckle, geraniums and fruit trees. Lanterns used to be hung at different places in the gardens.
As a result of the agricultural social basis, old houses had large garden gates, wide enough to allow the passage of the horse and carts. The handles performed the function of door-knockers; when the door opened, the bell suspended behind the door would ring and inform the residents that someone had arrived.
For practical reasons, the store-room, pantry, granary and stable were placed on the ground floor. The kitchen, bath, bakery, fountain (sometimes a well with a pump) and toilet were located outside in the garden.
The sofa was the central space to which the other rooms opened out. Foodstuffs for winter use were prepared either in the sofa or in the garden; the carpets, kilims and other fabrics were woven in the sofa.
The rooms were multi-functional. During the daytime they were used as living rooms with a hearth, during meal times as dining rooms and at night as bedrooms with bathrooms. One part of the cupboard served as the bathroom. and water was carried in buckets or just heated on a brazier.
The wall cupboards filled with mattresses, quilts and sheets might well be regarded as prototypes of the “fold-out beds” to be found in some modern houses.
The windows were long and narrow. Balconies were not common. Instead, they had bay-windows which provided 3-sided vision of the street. According to Islamic belief women especially had to protect their privacy from potential onlookers, so they sat unseen behind the curtains.
The rooms were surrounded on 3 sides by divans, with white lace covers or carpets upon which cushions would be laid. A favored pleasure of traditional life used to be fresh Turkish coffee in the traditional living room.
Anatolian house types
As a result of an old rule, the way to make houses depends upon the natural conditions of regions. According to the basic mentality, in forest areas houses will be made of wood, or in places where there are quantities of stones, houses will be built of stones.
a) Mud-brick houses
Bricks made of mud including high amounts of clay are commonly used in rural Anatolia, especially in regions where stone and wood are rare. Nearly one third of all village houses are made with mud-bricks in Anatolia.
The size of a brick is about 20-30 cm / 8-9 inches and is made stronger by adding pieces of straw or dried plants into its mud before drying.
When the walls are laid with bricks, the roof is covered with pieces of trunk and these are filled with tree branches or plants. The last stage involves covering the roof with clay and pressing it flat with a cylindrical instrument. These flat roofs provide many advantages for villagers, such as a place to sleep on during hot summer nights, to dry fruit and vegetables, and to preserve things like straw or dried dung.
b) Stone houses
Another common method of building houses is using suitable stones. Stone is the dominant building material in the Taurus Mountains, the Aegean region and parts of eastern Anatolia. Some stones are easy to shape, in which case, stones are placed on top of each other like bricks and it is even possible to build houses with more than one floor. Cappadocian stones are good examples for this kind of building. To prevent a house collapse, big wooden beams are used as supports inside the walls.
c) Wooden houses
Wooden houses are typical in the Black Sea area. In forest or mountain villages houses are generally made of wood. Long pieces of trunk are joined by clamps or big nails and different materials such as pieces of stones, mud plaster, dried plants and such are filled in between. In humid areas, spaces between the trunks which act as rafters are left empty and not filled.
d) Brick houses
In some villages, but mostly in towns and cities, the most common material is bricks produced from special soil in factories. Bricks are attached to each other by cement. This is comparatively the strongest system and with this technique it is possible to build many floors.
In addition to these are houses made with new construction materials produced parallel to technological developments.