According to official statistics, Istanbul is home to 13,255,685 million people (approx. 18% of the total population). Unofficial estimates speak of more than 15 million. The capital Ankara has 3.8 million residents, followed by Izmir with 2.6 million, Bursa with 1.5 million and Adana with 1.3 million citizens. Many of them are not registered, which renders detailed investigation unnecessary. The newcomers settle in the outskirts and Gecokondus (houses built overnight), which are mostly infrastructured in the course of election campaigns. Formerly illegal residential buildings are transformed into official suburbs and their “builders” become owners and landlords. Turkey (alongside Mexico) tops the list of OECD countries with the greatest regional disparities. The labor productivity of the Marmara region is four times higher than that of other parts of the country. Even within the metropolitan areas there is a pronounced social Segregation of the population according to income, standard of living, religion or ethnicity. The admission of refugees affects the Gaziantep, Izmir and Istanbul regions and the influx of 4 million people also changes the social spaces there.
According to businesscarriers, Turkey is to be developed into an international hub. That is why investments in traffic routes run into billions. There are now multi-lane expressways with a total length of 21,300 km, while until 2003 it was only 6100 km. The resulting east-west and north-south axes now connect 74 of the 81 provinces.
While the Turkish railways have been neglected for decades, the rail network is currently being expanded significantly. Two high-speed roads between Ankara and Istanbul and between Ankara and Konya in particular shorten travel times considerably. An extension of the line to the Bulgarian border is planned to ensure a rail connection to European railways. The Marmaray project, a railway tunnel that connects Asia with Europe and runs under the Bosporus, has also been completed.
Since many rail routes are only single-track over long kilometers and do not have any possibility of crossing, the passenger and freight numbers have so far been low. The majority of the population travels on the roads by buses that reach all parts of the country down to the smallest villages and faster than the train.
There are airports all over the country, many of which can be reached internationally. Another major project of the current government is a ” super airport” in Istanbul, which is to become the world’s largest. The opening took place on schedule in October 2018. Turkish Airlines is the national airline.
Turkish ports increase their turnover figures because 80% of the increasing foreign trade is handled by sea. The new systems are characterized by clear specialization. Privatization is not yet universal and the lack of logistics centers in connection with other modes of transport is currently still hindering the onward transport of goods by land.
Flag and other national symbols
The country’s national anthem is called “Istiklal Marsi” – Freedom or Independence March. It emerged from a competition in 1921 as a winning march. It was written by Mehmet Akif Ersoy and the setting is by Osman Zeki Ungör.
In a translation by Eduard Zuckmayer, the first two stanzas read:
Confident, the morning star broke,
In the new light our flag blows.
Yes, you should blow,
As long as one last home still stands,
A stove smokes in our fatherland.
You our star, you eternally shining shine,
you are ours, yours we are whole.
Do not turn your face from us,
O crescent, accustomed to victory forever. Seem
friendly to us
and give us peace and happiness,
To the heroic people who consecrated their blood to you.
Preserve our freedom, for whom we glow, the
highest good for the people who will one day set themselves free.
The national flag of Turkey consists of a white crescent and a white star on a red background. It is called “al sancak” – “red banner” and also occurs in the 1st stanza of the hymn. There are numerous myths surrounding the meaning of symbols. One of them is that an Ottoman sultan on his ride after a great battle won at dusk rides past a stream or a small lake, which was colored red by the blood of fallen Turkish soldiers. The moon and a few stars were reflected in the water. This sight touched the Turkish ruler and this image was immortalized with the Turkish flag.
In fact, the “moon star” (ay yildizi) is a motif that was used in pre-Islamic times in Mesopotamia.
The denigration and misuse of the flag, e.g. using it as a piece of clothing, is prohibited. Precise regulations apply to the size and assignment of symbols. It has to blow constantly on state buildings, it also has to set public facilities. On holidays – whether religious or state – it is hoisted as part of a ceremony. This ritual also had a permanent place in everyday school life. The week started and ended earlier with the raising / lowering of the flag and the singing of the anthem in the playground.
Ataturk busts and statues
Statues and busts of the state’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, which can be found everywhere, are just as present as the flag. Larger squares adorn his likeness, streets, buildings and facilities are named after him. His picture can be found in all public institutions, all banknotes show his face. On November 10th, the day of his death, the flag is raised to half-mast and at 9:05 a.m., the time of death, public life is often idle. His mausoleum, the Anit Kabir, in Ankara, is a national memorial. Although Ataturk’s importance for Turkey remains unchallenged, the personality cult around the founder of the state is slowly declining.
Today schools and universities are also named after the President Erdogan, who enjoys similar veneration among his supporters as Ataturk was formerly.