Population Projection
Turkey’s population projection over the years is as follows (2000):














Fertility rate







Crude birth rate (‰)







Life span (year)














Crude death rate (‰)







Population growth (‰)







Age group ratios (%)





















Median age








The majority of the population consists of young people, about 26% of whom are under the age of fifteen and almost 60% are below the age of 35.

The Crude birth rate is changing between 14-15%, and it differs throughout the country. It is dependent on the education of people and socio-economic conditions. The rate is higher in the rural and eastern areas compared to urban and those of the West.

Previously, because of World War I, the proportion of women was greater than men, but recently it has become almost equal.

Male population 50,17%

Female population  49,82%

Population Distribution and Settlement of Turkey

The population distribution is closely related to topographic conditions, soil and rainfall. Settlements are most heavily concentrated in European Turkey and in the fertile valleys and lowlands of the Marmara, Aegean and Black Sea coasts. This area, accounting for about 25% of the country’s territory, is inhabited by nearly half of the population.

Population Density of Turkey

Turkey is the 108th most densely populated country in the World with 100 people per km² and 259 per mi².

General 100 per km² (259 per mi²)

Istanbul  2,725 per km² (7,060 per mi²)

Izmir 338 per km² (875 per mi²)

Ankara 206 per km² (533 per mi²)

More than 30% of the population now live in three main provinces which means that the population density in these cities is very high, as seen in the table above.

Compared to 1927, when 84% of the population lived in rural areas the percentage living in rural areas has now dropped radically. The urban population started to increase after the 1950s because of the intensive migration from the rural areas to the urban centers.

From the religious point of view, although there is no official religion, 99% of the people living in Turkey are Moslems, the majority of whom are Sunnis. The remaining 1% are of different religions or indeed irreligious.Under the frames of the Lausanne Peace Treaty signed on July 24, 1923, the definition of the minorities was made as “non-Moslems” and their rights were granted as follows:

  • The freedoms of living, religious beliefs and migration
  • The rights of legal and political equality
  • Using the mother tongue in the courts
  • Opening their own schools or similar institutions
  • The holding of religious ceremonies

Minorities enjoy equal legal rights under the Constitution, which describes Turkey as a secular state and guarantees “freedom of conscience, religious faith and opinion” to all citizens, each of whom is legally a Turkish citizen.

a) Armenians of Anatolia

Armenians have lived in Istanbul since 1197 AD. New settlements appeared in Kumkapi, Yenikapi and Samatya after Mehmet II’s conquest of the city (1453).

The Armenians started to emigrate worldwide from 1896 onwards, however many returned after the inauguration of the first Turkish Parliament (1908) and took part in political life. Their population fell from around 240,000 in the 1850s to 150,000 at the turn of the century.

Today a total of 55,000 Armenians live within the boundaries of Turkey. They contribute to the country’s culture, science and the arts by continuing their traditions, intermarriages and trades (particularly as printers, jewelers and coppersmiths).

b) Jews of Anatolia

The history of the Jews in Anatolia goes back to the 4C BC. Some ancient synagogue ruins have also been found in Sardis, dating from 220 BC.

When the Ottomans captured Bursa in 1324 and made it their capital, they found and welcomed a Jewish community which had been oppressed under Byzantine rule.

The Balkan Jews were aware of the Ottoman tolerance towards other religions and migrated to Murat I’s territories. Later Ashkenazi Jews fled to Anatolia, followed by Byzantine Jews and received by Mehmet II. It was Bayezit II who offered safety for the refugees of the Spanish Inquisition in 1492.

Throughout history, Jews have not only found religious asylum in Turkey, but also become part of its society and assumed important roles in different fields.

Today 26,000 Jewish people live in Turkey. The vast majority live in Istanbul, with a community of about 2,500 in Izmir and other smaller groups are located mainly in Adana, Ankara, Bursa, Canakkale, Iskenderun and Kirklareli.

The Jewish minority is more complex than other minorities because it lacks homogeneity in language and history.

Most Jews are Sephardic whose ancestors fled from the Inquisition or were expelled from Spain and Portugal during and after 1492. In general they speak different mother tongues, such as Turkish, Ladino or French.

c) Rums (Greeks of Anatolia)

Rums in Turkey today are of Byzantine origin. In the 1970s they formed the largest non-Moslem minority in the country. Their number, however, is decreasing and according to recent estimates there are less than 25,000 Rums most of which are Eastern Orthodox Christians. Istanbul Rums are successfully engaged in business and finance and some live on the two islands of Gokceada and Bozcaada, off the entrance to the Dardanelles.

Anatolia, an Ethnic Mosaic

As previously discussed, Anatolia has been a melting pot of racially and culturally distinct groups since early prehistoric times. Throughout history, because of its location and fertility of the land, it has always attracted the attention of various peoples. These people, with different origins, have always lived in peace providing a good example for other countries.The policies of the National State, without taking into consideration the ethnical or historical differences, encourage people to unite under a “national identity”. In other words, the ethnic-historical identity will not always be identical to the official-national identity.

The number of the ethnic groups that take part in today’s Turkey is about 50. The major ethnic groups are Turks, Kurds, Circassians, Laz people of the northern coast, Caucasians, Georgians, Bosnians and Albanians.

The majority of these ethnic groups have lost their ethnic identity within the unity of Anatolia. However, there are some who still continue to preserve and nurture their identities, traditions and language.

A Regional Problem

The largest of the ethnic groups after the Turks is the Kurds. An estimated 5-10 million people are ethnically Kurdish. The majority of these people speak Turkish and they do not live solely in the east or southeast but in all regions of Turkey. However, the Kurdish terrorist organization, PKK which has been active in the southeast of Turkey, claims:

1. The majority of people living in the southeast of the country are originally Kurds and therefore the region should be granted autonomy.

2. Kurds in Turkey are treated as second class citizens.

3. Kurds cannot use their mother tongue.

4. Kurds in Turkey are deprived of their political rights.

Their mottoes are “Freedom for the Kurdish Nation” and “War on behalf of Identity and Freedom”. Since the beginning of terrorism by the PKK in 1984, thousands of citizens and security staff have been killed or wounded. Thousands of terrorists have been caught.

This outlawed separatist terrorist organization, under the pretense of fighting for freedom, does not recognize any international laws and in particular the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by conducting attacks, killing infants, women, men, old and young. They have also set hospitals and schools on fire and have killed teachers and doctors. The Turkish Armed Forces try to prevent attacks and protect civilians.

The PKK managed to give a false impression both to some people in the region and to the world at large. However this impression is not accepted by many countries and the PKK has been declared internationally as a terrorist organization and all activities of the PKK have been banned in those countries today. It is generally thought that the PKK is a separatist group which should not be confused with the Kurdish people and it is not considered representative of the Kurds.

The 10th article of the Turkish Constitution states that “All citizens are equal before the law with no discrimination as to language, race, color, political leanings, philosophy, religion and similar factors.” All citizens have the right to vote and to be elected. As a result, there have been many Kurdish generals, professors, politicians and citizens of prominence. The eighth Turkish president, Turgut Ozal, was of Kurdish origin.

Speaking Kurdish, publishing books, magazines and newspapers or the singing of Kurdish songs are not prohibited. But for the sake of unity and considering the richness of ethnic origins, the official language is Turkish.

Turks as Citizens of Other Countries

Turks living in other countries can be summarized as follows:

  • People who, from Central Asia, have not come to Anatolia with others.
  • People who have stayed out of the borders after the Republic.
  • People who have gone to other countries as workers.

When the borders of the Ottoman Empire became smaller after World War I and the foundation of the new Republic, many Turkish people chose to stay outside Turkey’s borders. Since then, some of them have migrated to Turkey but there are still many ethnically Turkish people living in different countries such as Greece, Bulgaria, Syria and Iraq. Among these are Turkish Cypriots who form a problem on the island.

The Cyprus Problem

The island of Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean is the homeland of two distinct peoples, one is Turkish the other is of Greek origin. The majority of these are Greek and they are the descendants of the people who came to the island in the year 1100 BC. The Turkish people on the island consist of those who came during the Ottoman Empire, 16C and those who migrated afterwards. These two peoples have different national, linguistic, cultural, social and religious characteristics. In 1960, independence and sovereignty were transferred to a joint bi-communal State on the basis of a contractual constitution, which created an equal partnership between the two peoples.

This partnership came to a violent end three years later as a result of disagreements between the two peoples.

The intervention of Greece and Turkey took place in the following years. In 1974, the military junta in Athens instigated a coup in Cyprus in an attempt to unite the country with Greece. Turkey used military force on the island to protect the Turkish population and war between Greece and Turkey was narrowly averted.

In the present political situation, there are two independent governments and administrations belonging to Greek and Turkish Cypriots in each the north and south of the island.

The core of the problem in Cyprus is the relationship between the Turkish and Greek Cypriots, which is not one of majority or minority, but one of equal partnership.

The question to which an answer is sought today is this: “Can the Turkish and Greek Cypriots form a new political partnership in federal form through which they will peacefully share power on the basis of political equality?”


Emigration reached its peak between the years 1960-1970. In the beginning it was in the direction of Western Europe but later also to some Arabic countries. The number of people who have emigrated from Turkey, including their families is around 2.5-3 million. 1.6 million of these people live in Germany today.In order to contribute to the postwar reconstruction of Europe, the Turkish people were invited as “guest” workers. Those who were mostly from the so-called backward areas of Turkey did not always create a favorable image of Turkey in the countries to which they went.

Most immigrants in Western Europe are first generation and regard where they live as their home rather than as a temporary place of abode. For the second generation, the tendency to regard Europe as their home is understandably stronger.

Although they are increasingly becoming an important factor in the economies of those countries, in many instances they have not yet been given the right to stand or even vote in local elections.