Turkey holds a fascinating position in the world. It acts as a bridge between Europe and Asia. Nearly the size of Texas, only five percent of its landmass is on the European continent but Istanbul is the third largest city in Europe, home to 13 million people. Since 2005, Turkey has been involved in formal membership talks, hoping to join the European Union.
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The first fact most people get wrong about Turkey is that, although Istanbul is its largest city, its capital is Ankara. Many people are also familiar with Kemal Ataturk, the national hero who established Turkey in 1923 after the defeat of the Ottoman Empire. However, some people may not be aware that this man's given name was Mustafa Kemal. Ataturk is an honorary title, meaning "Father of the Turks." The majority of the population is ethnically Turkish (about 70 to 75 percent) but Turkey also has a large Kurdish minority population of 18 percent. There have been many disputes of treatment of the Kurdish minority, including a guerilla campaign to create a Kurdish homeland during which thousands of people died.
When Turkey became a candidate country for the European Union in 1999, it prompted improvement in human rights and economic reform. However, questions about the role of religion in the government and a longstanding fight with Greece over the rights to the island of Cyprus have continued to delay progress in membership talks.
Read more about Turkey:
BBC: Turkey country profile - Overview
The World Factbook: Turkey