A republic in southeastern Europe and western Asia. The area now occupied by Turkey was the center of a number of ancient civilizations, and it remained the center of the Eastern Roman Empire for nearly a thousand years after the fall of Rome. During most of this period, it was the dominant power of the region. The Byzantine Empire, weakened by the inroads of Crusaders who found it easier to ransack Christian lands than to fight infidels, rapidly lost ground in the 13th and 14th centuries. The Ottoman Turks conquered the outlying provinces, and in 1453 they occupied Constantinople, which became their capital and the center of their own empire. During the next century, the Turks conquered southeastern Europe, North Africa and much of the Middle East. At its apex (1550-1683), the Turkish Empire stretched from the borders of Poland and the Russian steppes to the Sahara, and from Algeria to Arabia. From the late 17th century on, the Turkish Empire became increasingly weak and poorly administered, and its military power declined rapidly.
During the 19th century, the territorial integrity of the state was maintained only because the European powers could not agree upon the division of the spoils. In a series of generally unsuccessful wars during 1878-1913, most of Turkey's outlying provinces became independent or were lost to its more powerful neighbors. In 1914, the Turks joined the Central Powers. Their defeat cost Turkey most of its remaining territory, and by 1919 only Asia Minor remained. At that point, it became apparent that the Allies intended to dismember Turkey altogether. In reaction to this threat, a nationalist Turkish government was formed in Ankara in 1920, with Mustafa Kemal as president. The Nationalists defeated the Greeks, whom they expelled from Western Asia Minor and Eastern Thrace and compelled the Allies to withdraw from the Dardanelles and Cilicia. The Treaty of Lausanne (1923) confirmed Turkish independence and established its borders along roughly ethnic lines. Kemal established the republic and launched an ambitious program of social reform and industrialization. Turkey remained neutral during most of World War II, declaring war on the Axis in February 1945. Since that time, it has been aligned with the West and has been a member of NATO since 1952. Tension with Greece, a fellow NATO member, over the status of Cyprus, has at times threatened to estrange Turkey from its Western allies. During the 1990s, Turkey has been plagued by ongoing armed resistance from its Kurdish minority and by the rise in recent years of a fundamentalist Islamic opposition.
A district of southern Turkey, bordering on the Mediterranean Sea. Alexandretta was part of the Ottoman Turkish Empire for several hundred years, until its occupation by the French in 1918. It was administered as part of the French mandate of Syria until 1938, when it became autonomous from Syria, its name being changed to Hatay. Stamps of Hatay replaced those of Alexandretta. In 1939, the territory was returned to Turkey, and Turkish stamps have since been in use.
A district in the southeastern Balkans, bordering on the Aegean and Black seas. Under Turkish rule from the 14th century, the western portion of Thrace was occupied by Bulgaria in 1912. In 1913, an autonomous Moslem regime briefly ousted the Bulgarians. During its ephemeral existence, this regime issued lithographed stamps, as well as overprints on Turkish, Greek and Bulgarian issues. In 1913 western Thrace was incorporated into Bulgaria, using regular Bulgarian issues. In October 1918, this area was taken from Bulgaria by the Allies, who overprinted Bulgarian stamps for use in the zone. In May 1920, western Thrace was mandated to Greece, and in August, Greece annexed the territory. Eastern Thrace remained in Turkish hands until 1918, when it, too, was occupied by the Allies. Like the western portion of the province, it was turned over to Greece in 1920. After the Greek defeat in the Graeco-Turkish War (1922), it was returned to Turkey.
A Bulgarian district in the southeast Balkan Peninsula. After Turkey's defeat by Russia in 1877-78, Eastern Rumelia became autonomous. In 1885, a coup overthrew the vestiges of Turkish control and South Bulgaria was established.