officially Republic of Turkey (Turk. Türkiye Cumhuriyeti), SE Europe and SW Asia, bordered on the NW by Bulgaria and Greece; on the N by the Black Sea; on the NE by Georgia and Armenia; on the E by Iran; on the S by Iraq, Syria, and the Mediterranean Sea; and on the W by the Aegean Sea.

The modern Republic of Turkey was founded in 1923 by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk from a portion of the Ottoman Empire (see history below). Area, 779,452 sq km (300,947 sq mi).


Asian Turkey, the main area of the country, consists of the Anatolian Peninsula, ancient Asia Minor. It is separated from European Turkey—about 3% of the country's area, made up of E Thrace—by the strait of the Bosporus, the Sea of Marmara, and the strait of the Dardanelles. With several active seismic zones within its boundaries, Turkey is subject to frequent earthquakes.

Physiographic Regions.

Turkey can be divided into seven geographic regions: Thrace and the borderlands of the Sea of Marmara; the Aegean and Mediterranean region; the Black Sea region; W Anatolia; the central Anatolian plateau; the eastern highlands; and SE Anatolia.

Thrace and the borderlands of the Sea of Marmara contain a central plain of gently rolling hills. It is a fertile, well-watered area of which slightly more than one-quarter is farmed. The E portion of this region rises as high as 2543 m (8343 ft), atop Mt. Ulu (Olympus). The coastlands of the Aegean and Mediterranean region are narrow and hilly, and only about one-fifth of the land is arable. To the E, much of Turkey's cotton crop is grown in the Çukurova, a plain connected with the interior through the Taurus Mts. by a pass known since antiquity as the Cilician Gates (Külek Boğazi).

The Anatolian coastlands of the Black Sea region rise directly from the water to the heights of the Pontic Mts. Slopes are steep, and only about 16% of this area is farmed. Western Anatolia consists of irregular ranges and interior valleys separating the Aegean coast from the central Anatolian plateau; farming here is restricted to less than one-fifth of the total area. The central Anatolian plateau, the largest geographic region in Turkey, is surrounded on all sides by mountains. The highest point is the summit of Mt. Erciyas (3916 m/12,848 ft). Twenty-eight percent of the region is cultivated.

The eastern highlands region is the most mountainous and rugged portion of Turkey; Mt. Ararat (Ağri Daği), mentioned in the Bible as the place where Noah's ark came to rest, is the highest peak (5165 m/16,946 ft). Less than 10% of this area is cultivated. The eastern highlands are the source for both the Tigris (Dicle) and Euphrates (Firat) rivers. Southeastern Anatolia is a rolling plateau enclosed on the N, E, and W by mountains. With about 19% of its area farmed, SE Anatolia is part of the so-called Fertile Crescent and has been important since antiquity.

Rivers and Lakes.

Almost all the rivers of Turkey contain rapids and are thus unsuitable for navigation. A number of rivers do not flow during the dry summer. Some rivers are, however, important sources of hydroelectric power and water for irrigation. The Kizil Irmak (about 1355 km/840 mi long), which empties into the Black Sea, is the longest river flowing entirely within national boundaries. The Büyük Menderes (classical name, Meander) drains W Anatolia into the Aegean Sea; its many loops and bends have given rise to the term meander in English. The Tigris and Euphrates rivers flow from E Turkey to empty ultimately into the Persian Gulf.

Van Gölü, or Lake Van, is Turkey's largest lake; its waters are saline, as are those of another large body of water, Lake Tuz. Freshwater lakes include Beyşehir, Eğridir, and Burdur—all located in the SW.


The Mediterranean and Aegean shores of Turkey experience long, hot summers and mild, rainy winters. Nearly half the annual precipitation here, which is about 710 mm (about 28 in) at İzmir, falls in December and January. The central Anatolian plateau, which has a continental climate with hot summers and colder winters, receives only about half as much, but it is more evenly distributed throughout the year. The eastern highlands have even longer and colder winters than the plateau. Along the Black Sea, the climate is mild and rainy. SE Anatolia records the hottest summer temperatures in Turkey (averaging more than 30° C/86°F in July and August).

Mineral Resources.

In addition to good supplies of coal and iron ore, Turkey has a number of small but important mineral deposits, such as chrome ore near Guleman and Fethiye, high-grade magnetite ore at Divriği, and lead and zinc in scattered areas. Boron, copper, and silver are also found, and petroleum occurs in relatively small quantities in the SE.


Scattered forests alternate with low herbaceous growth along the Mediterranean and Aegean shores; olives, citrus fruit, figs, grapes, cotton, and early spring vegetables are raised. Grasslands and grain fields are abundant on the central Anatolian plateau, with sparse forests restricted to higher slopes. Some sparse forests are also found in the eastern highlands; alpine vegetation is common at higher elevations. Humid deciduous forests as well as thick brush cover are found along the Black Sea coast. In the hot southeastern part of Anatolia, grain farming predominates, with grazing in its drier portions. Higher elevations have forests similar to those found in the eastern highlands.


Only wild boar, which are seldom hunted or killed by Muslims (the great majority of the population), remain abundant in the forests. Wolf, fox, wildcat, hyena, jackal, deer, bear, marten, and mountain goat inhabit more remote areas. The camel, water buffalo, and Angora goat have been domesticated. In addition to numerous local species of birds, including the wild goose, partridge, and quail, migrations of birds of prey—lesser spotted eagles, buzzards, hawks, kestrels, and falcons—pass down the Bosporus. Trout are abundant in the mountain streams, and bonito, mackerel, and bluefish are plentiful in the Turkish Straits. Anchovies are caught in the Black Sea.


The territory of Turkey has been home to ethnically and culturally distinct groups from the ancient Hittites, Phrygians, and Assyrians to Greeks, Persians, Romans, Arabs, and Crusaders. The nomadic forebears of the modern Turks came out of Central Asia in the 11th century ad, conquered Arab and Byzantine empires, and set themselves up as rulers. Their arrival placed the distinctive stamp of the Turkish language and culture on the population they found there, and it was the instrument by which Islam replaced Christianity in this territory. About 80% of the population in the early 2000s were Turks, and about 20% were Kurds.

Population Characteristics.

Turkey's population in 2006 was estimated at 70,413,958, for a population density of 91 people per sq km (236 per sq mi). The highest population concentrations were in İstanbul and in coastal region. Over 60% of the people lived in urban areas, compared with 25% in 1945. The birth rate was about 16.6 per 1000 population, the death rate was about 6.0, and the annual rate of population increase was 1.06%. More than 1 million Turkish citizens worked abroad, especially in Germany, Saudi Arabia, and France.

Principal Cities.

According to 2001 estimates, İstanbul (urban agglomeration) had about 3,573,000 million inhabitants, and Ankara, the capital, a population of 4.6 million. İzmir had about 3.4 million people.


The official language of Turkey is Turkish (see Turkish Language), spoke by most of the population; it is written in a version of the Latin alphabet. Other languages include Kurdish and Arabic.


Since 1928 Turkey has been an officially secular state. About 97-99% of the population is Muslim—primarily Sunnite, although large numbers of Shiites are found in the SE. Christians account for less than 1% of the population. The Jewish community numbers about 20,000.


A modern school system based on European models is bringing literacy to Turkey. The arts combine traditional Turkish themes with Western styles. Radio and television broadcasting has removed much of the isolation of rural areas.


At the birth of the republic more than 90% of the people were illiterate. Atatürk, the new republic's leader, stressed the need for modern education, and the first constitution stated that “primary education is obligatory for all Turks and shall be gratuitous in government schools.” By the early 2000s more than 86% of the adult population could read and write; im 2000 some 10.5 million students attended primary schools, 1.5 million attended general secondary schools, and 875,200 attended technical and vocational schools. Seeking to curb the influence of Islamic religious schools, the government in 1997 extended the period of compulsory public education from five to eight years.

In 2000 about 1.6 million students attended higher education institutions. Entrance is extremely competitive. Major institutions are the University of İstanbul (1453); Aegean University (1955), at İzmir; and the University of Ankara (1946) and Middle East Technical University (1956), at Ankara; in addition, there is an Academy of Fine Arts in İstanbul and there rae several music conservatories.


During the 20th century there was a transition from Islamic artistic traditions under the Ottoman Empire (see Islamic Art and Architecture) to a more secular, Western orientation. Turkish painters today are striving to find their own art forms free from Western influence. Sculpture is less well developed, and public monuments are usually heroic representations of Atatürk and events from the war of independence. Folk music is a source of inspiration for longer symphonic works (see Islamic Music). Turkey maintains state operas in İstanbul and Ankara, a symphony orchestra, a national folk dance troupe, and other cultural institutions.

Libraries and museums.

Among the largest of Turkey's many libraries are the National Library (1946), in Ankara, and the Beyazit State Library (1882), in İstanbul. The former palace of the sultans in İstanbul, now the Topkapi Palace Museum, houses the imperial treasures and relics of the Prophet Muhammad. Ankara's Museum of Anatolian Civilizations (1921) has outstanding Hittite, Phrygian, and other exhibits. Among Turkey's many architectural landmarks are Christian churches converted to mosques and mosques built by the famous Turkish architect Sinan in İstanbul, Edirne, Bursa, and other cities.


Literature is considered the most advanced of contemporary Turkish arts. The writings of Nazim Hikmet (1902–63), a poet and dramatist, who left Turkey in 1951 to live in the Soviet Union, were banned during his lifetime but published after his death; he was admired as a hero by the left and thought by many to be one of the country's greatest literary figures. Many critics regard Kemal Tahir (1910?–72) as the greatest modern Turkish novelist. Another important novelist is Yaşhar Kemal (1922–    ); a number of his works have been translated into English, including Mehmed, My Hawk (1955; trans. 1961), a prizewinning novel depicting a modern Robin Hood; Anatolian Tales (1968); and Seagull (1981), which blends myth with realistic depiction of provincial life in modern Turkey. In 2006 the esteemed Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk won the Nobel Prize for literature.


The manufacturing sector has grown considerably since 1950, while farming has remained important, engaging about 36% of the labor force. The government has substantial influence on the Turkish economy and owns several important industries. The national budget in 2005 included $93.6 billion in revenues and $115.3 billion in expenditures.

National Output.

The gross domestic product (GDP) of Turkey in 2005 was estimated at $585 billion, or some $8400 per capita. About 30% of the gross domestic product (GDP) was contributed by industry, 12% by agriculture, and 59% by services. The GDP expanded by 7.4% in 2005.


The domestic Turkish labor force included about 25 million economically active persons in 2005. About 36% were employed in agriculture, and about 23% in industry. Some 1.2 million Turkish citizens were employed abroad, especially in Germany, Saudi Arabia, and France. The main labor organization in Turkey was the Confederation of Turkish Trade Unions.


Since 1950, agricultural output has increased because of greater use of machinery and fertilizer and better plant varieties, but productivity remains comparatively low, as many farmers still use inefficient methods and most farms are extremely small. The diversity of climates in Turkey allows many specialty crops to be grown, such as tea. In 2004, Turkey's farm output included 21 million metric tons of wheat, 14.0 million tons of sugar beets, 9.0 million tons of barley, 8.0 million tons of tomatoes, 4.8 million tons of potatoes, 4.3 million tons of watermelon, and 3.6 million tons of grapes. Other important crops included corn, apples, onions, eggplant, cabbage, rye, oats, tobacco, olives, and citrus fruit. Livestock on farms (2005)included some 25.2 million sheep, 7 million goats, 10 million cattle, and 297 million chickens.

Forestry and Fishing.

Although about one-fourth of Turkey's area is classified as forested, lumbering is relatively unimportant, with no more than one-third of the forests having commercial value. In the early 2000s approximately 16 million cu m of timber was cut each year, nearly two-thirds of which was used as fuel, with most of the rest being sawed into lumber.

About 645,000 metric tons of fish were landed in 2004; most of the catch comes from the Mediterranean and Black seas. Anchovies account for much of the catch.


Turkey's principal mineral products include lignite, coal, crude petroleum, chromite, copper, boron, and iron ore. A special mineral produced is meerschaum, which is used to make tobacco pipes.


The Turkish manufacturing sector has been growing; textiles and clothing are leading products, but face stiff competition in the export market. Other leading products include automotives, electronics, iron and steel, refined petroleum, chemicals, cement, paper, and cigarettes. İstanbul and İzmir were important manufacturing centers.


In 2003 Turkey produced about 134 billion kwh of electricity. About 80% of the electricity came from fossil fuels. About 20% was generated in hydroelectric facilities, including a large plant on the Euphrates R. near Elâziğ.

Currency and Banking.

The Central Bank of the Republic of Turkey, founded in 1930, is the bank of issue. Turkey also has many state banks concerned with economic development, such as the Agriculture Bank of the Republic of Turkey (1863), and several commercial banks. Turkey's principal stock exchange is in İstanbul. Chronic inflation and a financial crisis during the winter of 2000–01 eroded the value of the Turkish lira from about 33,600 to the U.S. dollar in 1994 more than 900,000 by early 2001. On Jan. 1, 2005, the lira was converted to the new Turkish lira at a rate of 1 million old to 1 new. In Sept. 2006 1 U.S. dollar was worth 1.52 new lira

Foreign Trade.

The cost of Turkey's yearly imports usually is much higher than earnings from exports; in 2005 imports totaled about $101 billion and exports $72 billion. The principal imports include petroleum, machinery, chemicals and pharmaceuticals, fertilizer, iron and steel products, and transportation equipment; the main exports are textiles, iron and steel products, transportation equipment, other manufactured goods, fruits and vegetables, leather items, and tobacco. Turkey's chief trade partners include Germany, Italy, Great Britain, Russia, U.S., France, and China. Turkey's foreign debt exceeded $170 billion in 2005. Tourist receipts from visitors came to more than $13 billion in 2003. All customs barriers between Turkey and the European Union (EU) were dropped as of Jan. 1, 1996.        


In the early 2000s Turkey had about 8700 km (5900 mi) of railroad track, all operated by the Turkish Republic State Railways. The country also was served by some 350,000 km (220,000 mi) of roads, of which about 45% was paved. About 5 million passenger cars were in use. Leading ports are İstanbul and İzmir; other important ports include Trabzon, Giresun, Samsun, and Zonguldak, on the Black Sea, and İskenderun and Mersin in the S. The national airline, Turkish Airlines, provides domestic and foreign service; major international airports serve İstanbul, Ankara, Adana, Antalya, and İzmir.


Turkey has more than 30 major daily newspapers; many dailies with small circulations are also published. Large dailies include Bugün, Cumhuriyet, Hürriyet, Milliyet, Sabah, Tercüman, Yeni Günaydin, and Zaman—all published in İstanbul. The country also is served by many weekly and monthly publications. The state-owned Turkish Radio and Television Corp. maintains radio and television broadcasting services, and hundreds of private stations also operate throughout the country. In 2005 the Turkish telecommunications network included about 19 million main telephone lines, 44 million cellular telephones, 16 million Internet users, and (1997) 21 million televisions.


An attempt by the Allied powers and Greece to partition the country following World War I precipitated the Turkish War of Independence, led by Atatürk. The Turkish Republic was proclaimed on Oct. 29, 1923. Modernization efforts followed, such as abolishing the religious courts in 1924. Women gained the right to vote in 1934.

The multiparty era began in 1946, when the newly founded Democratic party won 62 seats in parliament, joining the Republican People's party. In 1950, the Democratic party won the national elections. Increasing interparty tensions created a crisis in which a military junta seized power and governed from 1960 to 1961. A new constitution was adopted in 1961, and general elections followed. No clear majority emerged, however, and a series of coalition governments were formed by various t.llowing a period of economic uncertainty and political violence in the 1970s, a second junta in 1980 established martial law and dissolved all political parties. A new constitution was ratified by popular referendum in November 1982, and civilian government was restored at the end of 1983.

Central Government.

Under the 1982 constitution, legislative power rests in the Grand National Assembly, a 550-member unicameral body directly elected to 5-year terms. The head of government is the prime minister, who represents the majority party or coalition in parliament. The president, as chief of state, is chosen by parliament for a 7-year term.


Under the 1982 constitution, a constitutional court reviews the constitutionality of laws passed by parliament, and a court of cassation is the final court of appeal. There are many lesser civilian and military courts.

Local Government.

Turkey is divided into 81 provinces (İls), which are administered by governors (valis) representing the central government. Municipalities elect their own mayors and councils.

Political Parties.

The Welfare party, a pro-Islamic group, emerged from December 1995 elections with the largest bloc of seats in parliament. Initially, it was barred from forming a government by an alliance of secular groups, dominated by the conservative Motherland and True Path parties; when that alliance fell apart, the Welfare and True Path parties established a governing coalition. It fell in June 1997 and was replaced by a secular coalition under Motherland party leadership. Subsequently, government prosecutors sought to have the Welfare party dissolved, claiming that the organization's pro-Islamic policies threatened the democratic system. When Turkey's constitutional court upheld the Welfare party prohibition in January 1998, Islamist politicians regrouped under the banner of the Virtue party, which later split into a more conservative party (Felicity) and a party regarded as moderate (Justice and Development party).

In the legislative elections of November 2002 the Justice and Development Party won a strong victory with 34% of the vote and a majority of seats; the pronouncedly secular Republican People's party came in second with 19%.

Health and Welfare.

Health care is financed by the government for many who cannot afford to pay. In the early 2000s the country had more than 95,000 physicians and 180,000 hospital beds; medical facilities and personnel were in short supply in rural areas. Life expectancy at birth in the early 2000s was estimated at 75 years for women and 70 for men; the infant mortality rate was 40 per 1000 live births.


In the early 2000s, Turkey's armed forces included about 515,000 active-duty personnel. A 15-month period of military service was required of all male citizens.

International Organizations.

Turkey is a member of the United Nations (UN), the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the World Trade Organization, the Council of Europe (see Council of Europe), and the Organization of the Islamic Conference. Turkey signed a customs union agreement with the EU in 1995; the nation's application for full membership was rebuffed by the EU at a summit meeting in 1997 but received a more favorable hearing two years later. Economics, human rights, and immigration issues remained as possible obstacles to be resolved.


For the history of what is now Turkey prior to Ottoman rule, see Asia Minor.

Immediately before the Turkish invasion, Anatolia (Asia Minor) was ruled by the declining Byzantine Empire. Regions of the east were shared with the Christian Armenians, who controlled the area around Lake Van, and the Georgians, whose kingdom extended into the Caucasus. The Byzantines defended Anatolia against Muslim invasions by the Umayyads (661–750) and the Abbasids (750–1258), but after the establishment of the Seljuk Turks in Baghdad (1055), thousands of Turkish nomads broke through the Byzantine defenses. In 1071 they routed the Byzantine army at the Battle of Manzikert; during the 12th century they ravaged eastern and central Anatolia. Although the objective of the Seljuks was not to attack the Byzantines but to eliminate the threat of heterodox Shiite Islam posed by the Fatimids of Egypt, some members of the Seljuk dynasty followed the nomads to take advantage of their success. They formed the sultanate of Rum (with its capital at Konya), which ruled central Anatolia in the 12th and 13th centuries.

Most of the nomads who had made the initial Seljuk victories possible were soon pushed to the west of Anatolia, where frontier colonies were maintained against the last Byzantine defenses. Although the sultanate of Rum imitated the Seljuk Empire of Baghdad, the presence within its boundaries of large numbers of Christians and its superimposition of Islam on top of a living Christian tradition produced a milieu considerably different from that of other Islamic states. It provided the basis for the unique Ottoman systems of government and society that began to emerge in the 14th century.

The Seljuks of Baghdad and Konya were soon overwhelmed by the invasion of the Mongols under Genghis Khan, culminating in the capture and sack of Baghdad in 1258. In Anatolia, the Turkoman nomads used the resulting anarchy to form a series of principalities, nominally under the suzerainty of Rum, which in turn was dominated by the Mongols. These principalities maintained themselves through their raids against one another and against the last Byzantine nobles, who held out in western Anatolia.


The Ottomans emerged in history as leaders of those Turkomans who fought the Byzantines in northwestern Anatolia. The location enabled Osman, founder of the Ottoman dynasty, to take the fullest advantage of Byzantine weakness and secure booty by raids into Christian territory. This situation lured into his service thousands of Turkoman nomads and also many Arabs and Iranians fleeing from the Mongols. Osman's conquests in Anatolia were crowned with the capture (1326) of the provincial capital Bursa by his son Orhan (1288–1360), which gave the Ottomans control over the Byzantine administrative, financial, and military systems in the area. Thus began the Ottoman tradition to expand by force only at the expense of the declining Christian states to the west, but not against the Turkoman principalities to the east. The peaceful acquisition of Turkoman lands by purchase, marriage, and the sowing of dissension within the ruling dynasties was, however, acceptable, and the Ottomans thus took over large territories in western Anatolia.

European Raids.

Ottoman expansion into Europe began late in Orhan's reign. Ottoman soldiers were hired as mercenaries by leading Byzantines, including John VI Cantacuzene, who was thus able to secure himself the Byzantine throne (1347). In return, Ottoman soldiers were allowed to raid Byzantine territories in Thrace and Macedonia, and the emperor's daughter was given to Orhan in marriage. The Ottoman raiders soon began to camp in the Gallipoli Peninsula and to mount continuous raids on the remaining Byzantine possessions in Europe.

The transformation of the Ottoman principality into a vast empire, covering southeastern Europe, Anatolia, and the Arab world, was accomplished in three major campaigns between the 14th and 16th centuries. The early Ottoman Empire, stretching from the Danube to the Euphrates, was created by Murad I and Bayazid I. Murad concentrated mainly on Europe in a series of campaigns that extended as far as the Danube, culminating in the Battle of Kossovo (1389), in which an allied Serbian, Bosnian, and Bulgarian army was routed. Murad himself was killed, but his son Bayazid completed the victory. During the next decade Bayazid broke with tradition and conquered most of the Anatolian Turkoman principalities, thus bringing the early empire to its peak.

Defeat and Restoration.

This conquest, however, greatly weakened the basic supports of the Ottoman state. The Muslim elements and the Turkish notables, who had helped the Ottomans achieve their victories in Europe, opposed this subjugation of Turks and Muslims. They refused to participate in the campaign into Anatolia, which as a consequence was carried out largely by Christians in Bayazid's service. At the same time, the emergence of the Ottomans as a major power in Anatolia threatened the rear flanks of Tamerlane, the Mongol conqueror who had recently taken over much of Iran and Central Asia. Tamerlane briefly invaded Anatolia in 1402, defeating and capturing Bayazid, who died a prisoner the following year.

Muhammad I (1389–1421), Bayazid's youngest son, restored the Ottoman Empire by defeating and killing his brothers, one after another, and, from 1402 to 1413, by fighting off Christian and Turkoman vassals in Europe and Anatolia. His son, Murad II, reasserted Ottoman dominion in Europe as far as the Danube by defeating the various Christian princes of Serbia and Bulgaria and replacing them with direct Ottoman administration. This policy was continued during the reign of Muhammad II, who defeated the last remaining Christian princes south of the Danube. His conquests culminated in the capture of Constantinople (1453) and the subjugation of Anatolia as far as the Euphrates. Bayazid II ended the policy of conquests in order to consolidate the lands that had been occupied during previous reigns. Unlike him, Selim I (1470–1520) used the territorial and administrative base of power left to him to defeat and destroy the Mameluke Empire (1517) and to conquer Syria, Palestine, Egypt, and Arabia, which he achieved in a single campaign, thus incorporating into the Ottoman Empire the heartland of the old Islamic caliphates. Suleiman I the Magnificent completed the Ottoman expansion by moving across the Danube to conquer Hungary and besiege Vienna (1529). In the east he conquered the remainder of Anatolia and the old Abbasid and Seljuk center in Iraq.


With the conquest of Suleiman the Magnificent, the Ottoman Empire reached its peak, and the social, administrative, and governmental institutions that had been evolving since the 14th century were formalized in a series of codes that remained the basis of Ottoman law until the end of the empire. As revealed in these codes, the society was divided into a ruling class of Ottomans and a subject class of rayas, of the sultan's “protected flock.”

The basic attribute of the ruler's authority was the right to exploit the wealth of the empire. The sultan divided this wealth into administrative and financial units and assigned them to his agents, along with the authority to collect the accruing revenues. These agents were considered “slaves” of the sultan, but because slaves in Middle Eastern society acquired the social status of their master, they actually constituted the ruling class of Ottoman society. Their authority, however, was limited to functions involved with exploiting the empire's wealth and with expanding and defending the state organized to accomplish this. To carry out these functions, the ruling class organized itself into four basic “institutions”: the Imperial Institution, including the Inner, or Palace, Service, which cared for the sultans, and the Outer Service, which made sure that the system worked; the Military Institution, which kept order through various military corps, of which the most important were the Janissaries and the cavalry; the Scribal Institution, which supported the sultan and his ruling class by assessing and collecting taxes that exploited the wealth of the empire; and the Religious, or Cultural, Institution, which gave religious leadership to the sultan's Muslim subjects and was in charge of education and justice. The ruling class was made up of two rival elements: (1) Muslim Turkomans, Arabs, and Iranians, who together constituted the Turkish aristocracy that dominated the Ottoman system during the 14th and 15th centuries, and (2) Christian prisoners and slaves, recruited, converted, and educated through the famous devshirme system. Beginning in the mid-16th century, the latter group took over and dominated the ruling class.

All other social functions were left to the subject class to carry out as they wished, primarily through religiously oriented communities called millets, and through economic and social guilds. The Jewish, Greek Orthodox, Armenian Gregorian, and Muslim millets, later joined by Roman Catholic, Protestant, and Bulgarian Orthodox millets, were allowed religious and cultural autonomy.


The decline of the Ottoman Empire began late in the reign of Suleiman I and continued until the end of World War I. Official reaction to this decline came in phases—that of Traditional Reform (1566–1807), when efforts were made to restore the old institutions, and that of Modern Reform (1807–1918), when the old ways were abandoned and new ones, imported from the West, were adopted.

Nature of the Decline.

Until the mid-16th century the sultans had controlled and used both the old Turkish aristocracy and the devshirme Christian converts and their descendants by carefully balancing and playing them off against each other. During Suleiman's reign, however, the devshirme achieved control, drove the Turkish aristocracy out of the ruling class, and then began to exploit the state for their own advantage. At the same time, the empire began to suffer from overpopulation, resulting from the peace and security that had been established. A high birth rate eventually resulted in both urban and rural unemployment, due to the limited availability of land and to highly restrictive economic policies enforced by the urban guilds. Without jobs, the oppressed masses formed robber bands that infested town and country alike. With incompetent, dishonest, and inefficient government by the ruling class, lands fell out of cultivation, the empire suffered from endemic famine and disease, and entire districts—sometimes entire provinces—fell under the control of provincial notables. The subject class suffered a good deal but was protected from the worst effects of the anarchy by the millets and guilds, which formed a substratum of society, taking over the functions of government when needed. At the same time, Europe was developing nation-states that were far more powerful than those that had faced the Ottoman Empire in earlier centuries.

Ottoman reaction to the decline was tempered for several reasons: First, Europe was so involved in its own affairs that for at least a century it was unaware of the Ottoman situation and made no effort to take advantage of it. Second, most members of the ruling class benefited from the chaos, for it enabled them to retain huge profits for themselves. Finally, the Ottomans in their isolation were unaware of the changes that had made Europe far more powerful than before. They assumed that the Islamic world was still more advanced than Christian Europe. Under these conditions, the ruling class saw no need for change or reform.

After a time, however, Europe began to realize the extent of internal Ottoman decay and to take advantage of it. In 1571 the Holy League fleet, led by John of Austria, moved into the eastern Mediterranean and destroyed the Ottoman fleet in the Battle of Lepanto. The victory was counteracted by the building of an entirely new fleet, and the Ottomans resumed their naval control in the Mediterranean for another half century. Nonetheless, the impression began to spread in Europe that the Ottomans were not invincible. War with Austria followed (1593–1606), leading the sultan to recognize the Holy Roman emperor as an equal and to give up his insistence on annual Austrian payments of tribute—a fact that further opened Europe's eyes to Ottoman decline.

Reforms and Losses.

Only when powerful foreign attacks threatened the empire, on which its privileges and wealth depended, did the ruling class accept some sort of reform. In 1623, Shah Abbas I of Iran conquered Baghdad and eastern Iraq and stirred up a series of Turkoman revolts in eastern Anatolia. In response, Sultan Murad IV restored honesty and efficiency to the ruling class and the army. By ruthlessly executing thousands found guilty of violating Islamic law and tradition, he began the so-called Traditional Reforms. The reforms were successful enough for the Ottoman army to drive the Iranians out of Iraq and to conquer the Caucasus (1638). Murad's successor, however, allowed the previous decay to resume. A war with Venice, which culminated in a Venetian naval attack on the Dardanelles, then led to the rise of the Köprülü dynasty of grand viziers, which once again restored the old institutions with the same methods used by Murad IV. Eradication of the decay and restoration of Ottoman power stimulated the last Köprülü grand vizier, Kara Mustafa Pasha (1634–83), to make a new attempt to conquer Vienna in 1683. After a short siege, however, the Ottoman army completely fell apart, making it possible for a new European Holy League to conquer integral parts of the empire. The losses of Hungary and Transylvania to Austria; Dalmatia, the Peloponnesus, and important Aegean islands to Venice; Podolya and the southern Ukraine to Poland; and Azov and the lands north of the Black Sea to Russia were confirmed in the Treaty of Karlowitz (1699).

Some Gains and More Losses.

Even at this time, however, the Ottoman Empire had enough internal strength to pull itself together, correct the worst abuses, and, by adopting modern European weapons and tactics, even regain some of its losses. In 1711 the Ottomans defeated a campaign mounted by Czar Peter the Great, forcing him to return the territories lost at Karlowitz, but a war with Venice and Austria (1714–17) led to the loss of Belgrade and northern Serbia. This stimulated a new reform era called the Tulip Period (1715–30), in which the Ottoman army was reorganized and modernized in order to spare the empire further losses. This effort was continued during the reign (1730–54) of Mahmud I (1696–1754), when the French artillery officer Claude de Bonneval, called Humbaraci Ahmed Pasha (1675–1747), created a new European-style artillery corps. As a result, in the war that broke out with Russia and Austria (1736–39), the Ottomans were able to regain most of their previous losses in northern Serbia and the northern shores of the Black Sea. A period of peace with Europe followed, largely because of European involvement in other wars; this lull, however, once again convinced the ruling class that the danger was past, and the old abuses and decay soon returned. Consequently, in two disastrous wars between 1768 and 1792 (see Russo-Turkish Wars), the Ottoman army crumbled, major new territorial losses were suffered, and the empire itself seemed near total collapse.


During the 19th century, the continuous danger of foreign conquest was aggravated by the rise of nationalism. One after another, the non-Turkish peoples of the empire sought and obtained independence. This began in 1821 with the Greek War of Independence, followed by revolts of the Serbs, Bulgars, and Albanians, as well as of the Armenians of eastern Anatolia. Ottoman survival was due less to the empire's own strength than to European disagreement over how to divide the spoils—a part of history often referred to as the Eastern Question

The Tanzimat.

The Ottoman ruling class responded to these crises with a concentrated effort at reform; it replaced the old ways with new ones imported from the West in a reform movement (1839–76) known as the Tanzimat (Turk., “reorganization”). Planned and begun under Mahmud II, and culminating in the highly autocratic reign (1876–1909) of Abd al-Hamid II, the Tanzimat modernized the Ottoman Empire by extending the scope of government into all aspects of life, overshadowing the autonomous millets and guilds that previously had monopolized most governmental functions. A modern administration and army were created along Western lines, with highly centralized bureaucracies. Secular systems of education and justice were created to provide personnel for the new administration. Large-scale programs of public works modernized the physical structure of the empire, with new cities, roads, railroads, and telegraph lines. New agricultural methods also contributed to Ottoman revitalization.

European Sabotage.

Severe economic, financial, political, and diplomatic problems emerged, however, to undermine the Tanzimat reforms. The newly industrialized European states preferred to keep the Ottoman Empire as a source of cheap raw materials and a market for their manufactured goods. Using the Capitulations—treaties by which, since the 16th century, the sultans had allowed Europeans to live and work in the empire according to their own laws and under their own consuls—the Europeans were able to prevent the Ottomans from restricting foreign imports and thus kept them from protecting their own nascent industries. Because the Ottomans depended largely on foreign industrialists for capital and know-how, the Europeans could also undermine and destroy what industrial efforts were made. The empire borrowed so heavily from European banks that by the last years of the Tanzimat, more than half of its total revenues were consumed by interest charges. Moreover, the new and modern bureaucracy soon began to use its authority to misrule the subjects.

A group of intellectuals and liberals known as the Young Ottomans for a Constitution then began to demand a limit to the power of the ruling class and the bureaucracy and a parliament to enforce the rights of the people. Severely suppressed by the Tanzimat leaders, the Young Ottomans fled abroad, publishing their demands in books and pamphlets that were sent into the empire through the foreign post offices, which, protected by the Capitulations, were free of Ottoman government control. At the same time, the newly independent Balkan states began large-scale agitation to gain control of Macedonia, where the population was almost evenly divided between Muslims and Christians. In Greece, Serbia, and Bulgaria, societies were organized that sought to enforce their claims by terrorist campaigns, severely straining the ability of the Ottoman state to keep order. Finally, the deaths of the principal Tanzimat leaders about 1870 left the autocratic structure of government they had created in the hands of dishonest politicians, who resumed the corruption and misrule that had prompted the Tanzimat in the first place.

Coup and Constitution.

At this point a new international crisis, threats of a war with Russia and Austria, and the constitutionalist aspirations of a group of reformers led to the overthrow of Sultan Abd al-Aziz (1830–76). After a very short reign, Murad V (1840–1904) was succeeded by Sultan Abd al-Hamid II. He promulgated a constitution and accepted a representative parliament, which convened in 1877, but was soon suspended because of war with Russia. In cooperation with Britain, Abd al-Hamid managed to solve the international crisis at the Congress of Berlin (1878). He then moved to restore the Tanzimat reforms, which by the end of the century had created a relatively modern and prosperous state. In the face of continued European dangers, however, Abd al-Hamid suspended the parliament and installed a highly autocratic government (1878). Governmental power was taken from the bureaucracy and centered in the palace, and all opposition was suppressed. Abd al-Hamid restored financial stability and advanced the economy, but the political repression ultimately led to the rise of a new liberal opposition movement, the Young Turks, who forced him to restore the constitution and parliament in what is known as the Young Turk Revolution (1908). The success of the new constitutional regime was immediately undermined, however, by a series of disasters: Austria annexed Bosnia and Hercegovina, Bulgaria annexed East Rumelia, and terrorism in Macedonia and eastern Anatolia resumed with renewed fury.

Abd al-Hamid and those around him in the palace blamed these disasters on the new constitutional regime and attempted a counterrevolution in April 1909. Parliament was dissolved and many members arrested, but the army in Macedonia, dominated by Young Turks, marched back to İstanbul, defeated the counterrevolution, and dethroned the sultan. Subsequent Ottoman sultans reigned but did not rule.

The Young Turk Years.

The early years of the Young Turk era (1908–18) were the most democratic period of Ottoman history. The constitution and parliament were restored, and parties were formed to contest for leadership. The strongest among them was the Union and Progress party, founded and supported by the Young Turks, but many others also flourished.

The Young Turk reforms, which reached all areas of life, culminated in the secularization of the Muslim schools and courts and the introduction of women's rights during World War I. The modern state apparatus of the Tanzimat was democratized, industry and agriculture were developed, and modern budgetary techniques were introduced. The First Balkan War (see Balkan Wars), however, led to a revolt within the Committee of Union and Progress and an attempt to take over the government by a triumvirate led by Enver Pasha. The triumvirate's domination was assured when it took advantage of dissension among the victorious Balkan states to regain Edirne (Adrianople) in the Second Balkan War.

World War I.

At first, the triumvirate tried to avoid involvement in World War I, but German offers to help regain lost provinces, British confiscation of Turkish warships being constructed in England, and manipulation by Enver Pasha led to an alliance with the Central Powers and Turkish entry into the war in 1914. The Turkish armed forces performed well during the Gallipoli campaign and drove back and captured an entire British expeditionary force at Kut-al-Imara in Iraq. A campaign across the Sinai Peninsula with the aim of capturing the Suez Canal and Egypt was unsuccessful, however, and led to the British organization of an Arab revolt in the Arabian Peninsula. With Arab help, a British force from Egypt then invaded Syria and had reached southern Anatolia by the time the war ended. A campaign led by Enver Pasha into the Caucasus at the start of the war was defeated less by the Russians than by poor organization and revolts in the eastern provinces. Thereafter the Russians invaded eastern and central Anatolia at will (1915–16), until their campaign was brought to an end in 1917 by the Bolshevik Revolution. The destructive effects of these foreign invasions were compounded by internal revolts, famine, starvation, and disease. Some 6 million people of all religions, one-quarter of the entire population, died or were killed, and the economy was devastated.

Occupation and War of Independence.

In the wake of surrender, the Turkish government was placed under the authority of the Allied occupation powers led by the British. The Paris Peace Conference prepared to impose a settlement by which not only the Balkan and Arab provinces would be ceded, but areas occupied by predominantly Turkish populations in eastern and southern Anatolia would be placed under foreign or minority control. A large Greek army captured İzmir and invaded southwestern Anatolia, but massacres of the Turkish population led the Allies to withdraw their support from the Greeks. In reaction to the proposed peace settlement and to the Greek invasion, the Turkish nationalist movement rose in Anatolia under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. During the Turkish War of Independence (1918–23) Atatürk successfully resisted the Allied terms; drove out the Greeks and the British, French, and Italian occupation forces; and imposed a settlement, embodied in the Treaty of Lausanne (1923), by which the Turkish areas of eastern Thrace and Anatolia were left to form their own state. Following this victory, a Turkish republic was proclaimed, with its capital in Ankara, and the İstanbul government of the sultan simply ceased to exist (1923).


Led by Atatürk during its first 15 years, the Turkish republic was founded on six basic principles incorporated into the constitution: republicanism (based on the premise that sovereignty belongs to the people); Turkish nationalism (emphasizing the glories of the Turkish past and the need for the Turks to build their own state according to modern principles and without foreign intervention); populism (the idea that the people ruled through the Grand National Assembly, with all economic and social interests represented); secularism (dictating complete separation between the Muslim religious establishment and the state); statism (meaning state intervention in major sectors of the economy and its control of the rest, so as to assure rapid economic development); and revolutionism (dictating that all these changes be instituted at once and in full so that Turkish society could develop as rapidly as possible). The Atatürk years were ones of substantial economic progress and general development. Turkey avoided tendencies toward revenge, joining in close diplomatic relations with its former Balkan territories and at the same time emphasizing its secularist policy by avoiding alliances with its Muslim neighbors to the east.

From Neutrality to Western Alliance.

Atatürk was succeeded as president by his close associate İsmet İnönü, who continued his internal policies. Remembering the terrible experience of World War I, İnönü kept Turkey neutral during almost all of World War II; not until February 1945 did Turkey declare war on Germany and Japan. Following the war, the Soviet Union attempted to include Turkey within its sphere of influence, demanding control of Turkey's eastern provinces and the straits. In response, Turkey accepted large-scale aid offered by U.S. President Harry S. Truman and entered a close military and economic alliance with the U.S.; in 1952 it became a full member of NATO. Along with this new association with the democratic West, İnönü democratized the regime and allowed the introduction of opposition parties. This led to the triumph in 1950 of the Democratic party, advocating more private and individual enterprise than had been permitted by the statist policies of Atatürk's Republican People's party, which now went into opposition.

Led by President Celâl Bayar (1882–1986), along with Prime Minister Adnan Menderes (1899–1961) and Foreign Minister Fuat Köprülü (1890–1966), the Democratic party controlled the Turkish government for a decade (1950–60). The Turkish economy expanded rapidly during this time as a result of the new economic liberalism and the large-scale foreign assistance, principally from the U.S., that followed Turkey's entry into the Western alliance. Ultimately, however, rapid economic growth and poor management led to severe economic and social strains and increasing political discontent voiced by the Republican People's party, which the Democrats began to repress. In 1960 an army coup finally overthrew the government, hanged Menderes and a few associates on charges of corruption the next year, and installed a new constitution based on modern economic and social principles, with provisions to prevent the kind of repression the Democrats had inflicted.

Slide Toward Chaos.

After the second constitution was adopted in 1961, Turkey was governed by a series of ever weaker governments. The rapid economic development of the 1950s, combined with liberal legislation freeing workers and others to unite, engendered a series of organizations that assumed power and authority formerly held by the government, the legislature, and the political parties. At the same time, an increasingly active leftist movement spawned violent extremist groups, which engaged in terrorist acts to achieve their ends. These in turn led to the formation of right-wing terrorist bands, leaving the country polarized and both sides fomenting violence. The labor organizations that sprang up after 1950 coalesced into two major labor confederations, Turkish Labor (Turk IŞ), representing the rightist and more moderate groups, and the Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions, incorporating the Communist and other leftist groups. By the mid-1960s the influence of these organizations spread to all areas of Turkish life.

Political affairs also were polarized in two major parties, the Republican People's party, which under the leadership of Bülent Ecevit tended to incorporate social-democratic ideas, and the Justice party, led by Süleyman Demirel, which more or less represented the old Atatürk traditions. Several minor Communist and Socialist parties represented the various extremes of the left, whereas the National Action party spoke for Turkish nationalists, and the National Salvation party advocated a return to an Islam-oriented state. Both parties favored active social and economic programs, making it difficult to classify them as right wing in the ordinary sense of the term. The proportional representation provisions of the 1961 constitution made it difficult for any party to gain the majority needed to enact effective legislation. Action, therefore, was taken to the streets.

Foreign Affairs.

Through all the governmental chaos of this era, Turkey remained faithful to its alliance with the West, providing military bases for NATO and U.S. forces facing the Soviet Union. But the alliance was subjected to considerable strain in 1974, when Turkey occupied the northern part of Cyprus in response to a Greek-engineered coup on the island. The U.S. suspended military and economic aid, and Turkey responded by temporarily closing all U.S. bases in the country. Turkish troops remained in northern Cyprus, and Turkey continued to support a separate Turkish Cypriot government, defying the U.S. and the UN.

The U.S. Congress ultimately resumed its assistance, leading the Turks to reopen the bases, but the incident left them suspicious of the U.S. presence, a situation encouraged and amplified by the vocal leftist groups and abetted by Communist propaganda. Islamic groups also began to oppose the U.S. presence, preferring that Turkey abandon its secularist traditions in foreign affairs and draw closer to the Muslim Arab countries that were benefiting from their newfound oil wealth and the resulting political power.

Army Coup of 1980.

The government (1979–80) of Süleyman Demirel chose to retain Turkey's close alliance with the West, with the hope of developing the private sector of the economy with foreign assistance. The Republican People's party reacted by advocating socialist control of the basic means of production and the establishment of new alliances with the Third World and the Communist bloc. Extremists on both the left and the right turned to political assassinations and other violent acts. On Sept. 12, 1980, the army took over the government and suspended the constitution. The new rulers imposed martial law, banned political activity, restricted the press, and jailed thousands of suspected terrorists.

The military governed through the National Security Council; the council's head, Gen. Kenan Evren, was chief of state, and Adm. Bülent Ulusu (1923–    ) became prime minister. A major step toward civilian rule was taken in 1982, when a new constitution was enacted, under which Evren became president of the republic. Parliamentary elections in November 1983 resulted in an upset victory for the conservative Motherland party (the military had favored a more right-wing group), and party leader Turgut Özal (1927–93) became prime minister.

Civilian Rule.

In 1989, Özal was chosen as Turkey's first civilian head of state since 1960, and Yildirim Akbulut (1935–    ) replaced him as prime minister. Turkey supported the international effort to oust Iraq from Kuwait during 1990–91, though no Turkish troops fought in the first of the Persian Gulf Wars. After the 1990-91 war and an unsuccessful uprising by Iraqi Kurds, tens of thousands of Kurdish refugees crossed into Turkey. Süleyman Demirel returned to office as prime minister after his True Path party won a plurality in the 1991 election. When Özal died in April 1993, the parliament elected Demirel to replace him as head of state.

In June 1993 another True Path leader, Tansu Çiller (1946–    ), became Turkey's first woman prime minister. Facing high inflation and chronic trade and budget deficits, she introduced an economic austerity program and moved to privatize inefficient state-run companies. She also intensified the military pressure against armed Kurdish secessionists in southeastern Turkey and across the border in northern Iraq, where the Kurds had established a de facto state after the 1990-91 Persian Gulf War; in 1995, 35,000 troops entered into northern Iraq to suppress Kurdish nationalists who had mounted a guerrilla war against Turkey. Severe fighting continued throughout 1996–97, while a political dialogue to reach a settlement of the conflict was pursued by the Kurds.

Secular and Islamic Governments.

The Welfare party (1983), a pro-Islamic group opposed to Turkey's bid to join the European Union, gained strength in the 1990s but was blocked from forming a government after the 1995 election by a power-sharing arrangement between True Path party's Çiller and the Motherland party's Mesut Yilmaz (1947–    ), who became prime minister in March 1996. When that right-wing secular coalition fell apart, in part because of a growing corruption scandal involving Çiller, she agreed to an alliance with the Welfare party leader since 1987, Necmettin Erbakan (1926–    ), and in June he became head of government. Erbakan pursued closer relations with Islamic governments, including Iran and Libya, and sought to enhance the role of Islam in education and public life. These steps aroused opposition among military leaders, who viewed Islamic radicalism as a serious threat to Turkey's secular constitution. When Erbakan resigned under military pressure in June 1997, he expected that Çiller, his political ally, would be named to succeed him. Instead, President Demirel designated Yilmaz, who formed a governing coalition of secular parties that excluded both Erbakan and Çiller. In August the Turkish parliament extended the period of compulsory public education through junior high school, thereby curbing the role of Islamic academies.

During the next 15 months, the Welfare party was banned, Erbakan was barred from participating in politics for five years, and pro-Islamic mayors in İstanbul and Ankara were arrested. When a new corruption scandal toppled the Yilmaz government in November 1998, military leaders sought to cobble together a coalition that would exclude the Islamist Virtue party, which held the largest bloc of seats in parliament. The veteran politician Ecevit was then named to head an interim government in January 1999, and when his Democratic Left party won parliamentary elections in April, Ecevit formed a new coalition as prime minister. In June a security court found Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Öcalan (1948–    ) guilty of terrorism and sentenced him to death (the sentence was commuted to life in prison after Turkey abolished the death penalty in 2002). During his trial, Öcalan called for an end to the Kurdish armed struggle, begun in 1984, against the Turkish government. His party, the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' party, now renamed the People's Congress of Kurdistan (KGK), suspended the insurgency for a time, but resumed attacks in 2004. By this time the violence had claimed more than 30,000 lives.

An earthquake registering 7.4 on the Richter scale rocked NW Turkey on Aug. 17, 1999; the disaster left over 17,000 people dead, injured more than 25,000, and caused damage estimated at over $25 billion. On November 12 a second major quake, measuring 7.2 on the Richter scale and centered about 70 km (44 mi) east of the first, claimed more than 700 lives.

A proposal by Ecevit to amend the constitution to allow President Demirel to serve a second term was defeated by parliament in April 2000. Lawmakers further embarrassed Ecevit by deadlocking on two presidential ballots, for which a two-thirds vote was required; not until the third ballot, when a simple majority sufficed, did parliament approve Ecevit's candidate, Ahmet Necdet Sezer (1941–    ), chief justice of the constitutional court. Meanwhile, a financial crisis during the winter of 2000–1 sent interest rates soaring, depressed stock prices, and drained Turkey's international reserves, despite emergency assistance from the International Monetary Fund.

The Virtue party, which in April 1999 elections lost the leading position in Parliament that it had inherited from the Welfare party, was banned in June 2001 for being a center of Islamic fundamentalism and violating constitutional rules on anti-secular activity. Two months later, moderate members of this Islamist party formed the Justice and Development party (AK), with a platform designed to appeal to a broader electorate. In November 2002 elections the Justice and Development party won a strong victory; the party's leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan (1954- ), became prime minister in March 2000, after a special election gave him the required seat of his own in parliament. 

During the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March-Apr. 2003, Turkey, though a NATO member, refused to let coalition forces launch military attacks from its territory into northern Iraq. In November 2003 suicide bombings by Islamic extremists in Istanbul against two synagogues, offices of a London-based bank, and the British embassy killed 58 people and wounded about 750. In November 2006, Pope Benedict XVI made a visit to Turkey under tight security. Street demonstrations protested the visit beforehand; the pope, under fire for remarks deemed by some to have been hostile to Islam, sought to mend fences and, reversing comments made in the past, endorsed Turkey's bid to be the first Muslim-majority member of the European Union.


For further information on this topic, see the Bibliography, sections 654. Islamic art and architecture, 1045. Byzantine Empire, 1053. Modern Turkey, 1054. Turkish history.

An article from Funk & Wagnalls® New Encyclopedia. © 2006 World Almanac Education Group. A WRC Media Company. All rights reserved. Except as otherwise permitted by written agreement, uses of the work inconsistent with U.S. and applicable foreign copyright and related laws are prohibited.

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