Geography and Landscape
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The highlands of Anatolia are the most important landscape in Turkey. It consists of an approx. 2000-2500 m high, treeless, partly desert-like plateau, surrounded in the north and south by high ridge mountains, both with a large number of peaks of 3000 m and more. To the Aegean side the highlands dissolve into a number of smaller mountain ranges.
On the highland there is an area without run-off, which takes up about one third of the entire highland. It consists largely of salt steppes, interspersed with salt marshes and salt pans. The released soil salt was transported with the remaining water to the lowest point of the area, where at 940 m altitude it formed the Tuz Gölü (= Salt Lake; approx. 1650 km2). Salt lakes also formed in the southwest of the drainless area. A narrow plain runs along the entire coast of the peninsula, where the rivers have formed wide valleys that penetrate deep into the land.
The Armenian Highlands begin roughly on the line where the Asia Minor peninsula emerges; the mountain ranges of Pontic Mountains and Antitaurus converge here and then fan out to the east in such a way that a large highland consisting almost entirely of volcanic rocks is formed: Armenia. The average height of this is about 1650 m; in the north and south, however, it rises to over 4000 m in its fringes. To the east is Turkey's highest mountain, Ararat (5156 m). Turkey is located in an area characterized by the frequent occurrence of earthquakes, often of a very devastating character. Volcanism is also widespread throughout Turkey, but most concentrated in Armenia. In Western Anatolia, volcanic activity started again since 1924. European Turkey is a largely low-lying landscape with many swamps.
Turkey has few rivers, which, moreover, are hardly suitable for shipping. Generally speaking, the rivers flow to all sides of the Anatolian plateau and break through the fringe mountains on their way to the sea. They have a large decline (up to 11%) and therefore develop a strong erosion effect; at the mouth they often form delta landscapes from the entrained material. The largest river flowing entirely in Turkish territory is the Kizil Irmak (= Red River). The Turkish lakes are largely located in the two drainage-free areas and have partly salty, partly brackish, and in places with underground drainage, partly even fresh water.
Climate and Weather
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The climate shows great differences, which are mainly related to the location in relation to the sea and the altitude. The interior has a strong continental climate, while the coasts have a maritime climate. Depressions, on average about five per year, occur only during the cold season and then cross the Black Sea or the Mediterranean Sea, but never the central highlands. Their influence does not exceed a few dozen kilometers inland. As a result, very low temperatures occur in the interior. In front of the Mediterranean depressions, desert winds also carry dry, warm air inland, particularly in the spring. In the summer, northern winds blow under the influence of the low pressure above Asia. The coasts are then cooler than inland, just the opposite of the winter situation. Except along the coast, in particular of the Black Sea, precipitation is low and highly variable. The best travel time for a sun holiday with acceptable temperatures are the months of May, June, September and October. The last two months are also particularly suitable for water sports enthusiasts. The seawater is then at its warmest.
Plants and Animals
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There is a lot of grassland in the dry heart of the Central Plateau. Steppes can be found on the flanks of extinct volcanoes such as Kara Dag and Erciyas Dagi, whose higher slopes are often forested, as well as on the plateaus of eastern Turkey between the mountains. Lush grass growth occurs in spring and summer on the slopes of the Taurus and Antitaurus. Centuries of logging and grazing have thinned and reduced forests (from 70% to 26% of the surface) and even changed their composition. Due to the constant grazing of goats in the western coastal mountains, the thickets predominate there. Turkey's densest forests are in the north, on the northern slopes of the Pontic Mountains near the Black Sea. The tulip is Turkey's national flower.
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Brown bear, wolf, wild boar and panther still occur here and there; the tiger has been exterminated, the lion has disappeared a long time ago. For the bird world, Turkey is an important place to pass through in the migration; the Bosporus is known for the large habitat of migratory birds in autumn and spring. Many birds of prey, cormorants, storks and pelicans breed in Turkey; the bald ibis is a dying breeding bird. A well-known reserve is Lake Manyas in western Asian Turkey, an important nesting and wintering place for birds.
The sea water is populated by mackerels, sea bass, dolphins, sardines, tunas, morels, eels and squid. Large sea turtles lay their eggs in the sand along the south coast.
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The national animal of Turkey is the grey wolf, the national bird is the thrush.
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The oldest traces of habitation have been found in Turkey on the Mediterranean coast; 100,000-year-old tools were found in caves near Antalya. Around 2000 BC. a tribe entered present-day Turkey from Central Asia; the Hittites. They managed to take control of much of Asia Minor. In the 9th century BC. the Urartians took over the power of the Hittites and ruled an area that extended over the area of present-day Armenia, Iraq and Turkey.
Greeks and Romans
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Around 1100 BC. colonization from mainland Greece started in the west. The high-quality Ionian culture arose from the combination of Greek culture and influences of the original inhabitants. In the 6th century BC. the Persians conquered the Primal Empire, only the Greek coastal cities retained their independence. After Alexander the Great who died in the 4th century BC. conquered the entire "civilized" world, the Romans conquered in the 2nd century BC. large parts of Asia Minor. In the 2nd century AD. Emperor Constantine moved his capital from Rome to the Greek colony of Byzantium on the Bosporus. The city becomes known as Constantinople, the city of Constantine. Although the western part of the Roman Empire was conquered by Germanic peoples, Constantinople became the center of the Byzantine Empire, which would last for nearly 1,000 years.
Around 1300 Osman I founded a dynasty that, after wars won with Mongols and Hungarians, would grow into the powerful Ottoman empire. In 1571, the Turks lost the Battle of Lepanto against the Spaniards and the Venetians. This was the beginning of the downfall of the Ottoman Empire. Slowly the Ottoman Empire crumbled until after the Crimean War the Peace of Paris was signed. The Turks were still able to maintain their independence, but otherwise had little power left. In the 1st World War the Turks sided with the Germans, but after initial successes the Ottoman empire was finally overrun. The Allies divided the Turkish territory after the war. The main damage to the Turkish honor was the fact that the Greeks were allotted the entire Aegean coast and a large part of the hinterland.
Mustafa Kemal Ataturk
The man responsible for the initial successes in WWI also played a leading role in the Turkish resistance against the Greeks; Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. In 1922, the Turks literally drove the Greeks into the sea and the war of independence came to a bloody end. After negotiations, in 1923 the borders of the current republic of Turkey were largely fixed. The years between 1923 and 1938 were entirely devoted to Atatürk. He built up a state after a Western example. In 1928 Islam was abolished as the state religion; the "layiklik" was introduced, the absolute separation between mosque and state. Atatürk's death on November 10, 1938 was a great shock to Turkey.
Second half of the 20th century
In WWII Turkey managed to remain neutral until a few weeks before the end of the war. Since the 1950s, Turkey has been continuously tossed between democracy and dictatorship and several coups have taken place accompanied by much political violence. In 1980 General Evren staged a coup d'état. Peace was restored and terrorism was tackled in a bloody way. Democracy was put inactive.
After the adoption of a new constitution, elections were again held in 1983, with Özal's Motherland Party winning the majority. This party paid a lot of attention to stimulating foreign investment. Tourism has also benefited from this since the mid-1980s. After Özal's death in 1993, Demirel was elected president and succeeded by Tansu Çiller, the first female prime minister.
After the 1995 elections, Erbakan became the first Islamic prime minister since the founding of the Turkish republic. Under pressure from the army, Erbakan was forced to resign in 1997. As a result of this issue, discussion has flared up again about the predominant role of the military in Turkish politics. Although Turkey has developed into a modern state on the Western model since the 1980s, a number of problems still exist.
One of them is the Kurdish question. The Kurds are hardly allowed to express their own culture. In the east of the country the PKK is active, which strives for an autonomous Kurdish state. Since 1984 the PKK has been trying to achieve this with great violence. The Turkish government responds equally violently to the actions of the Kurds. In 1999 Kurdish leader Öcalan was imprisoned and sentenced to death.
The human rights situation is also not very encouraging. Torture practices continue to take place in police stations and in prisons. This situation also stands in the way of much-desired membership of the EU.
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The Islamic Law and Development Party (AKP), led by former mayor Recep Tayyip Erdogan, won a historic monumental victory in the parliamentary elections in November 2002. The AKP got 363 of the 550 seats in parliament. That was just under a two-thirds majority, but the party could form a government without a coalition partner. The center-left Republican People's Party CHP took 19.4% of the vote, accounting for 178 seats. For all other parties, the 10% electoral threshold proved too high, so that the three parties that were part of Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit's incumbent coalition - the Democratic Left Party (DSP), the Motherland Party (ANAP), and the Nationalist Action Party (MHP) , did not return to parliament. So did the largest opposition party, Tansu Ciller's Party of the Right Path (DYP).
In the same month the name of the new prime minister was announced: Abdullah Gül. Gül is the deputy of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was unable to hold a board position himself because he was convicted in 1998 of inciting religious hatred. In December 2002, Turkish President Sezer vetoed a law that would allow Erdogan to sit in parliament. The law had recently been passed by parliament, but Sezer felt it was wrong to amend the constitution for just one person. Nevertheless, the constitution was eventually amended and he was able to run in a by-election in the Siirt district. Erdogan won a parliamentary seat there with great odds.
On Friday, March 14, 2003, Tayyip Erdogan was appointed as the new Turkish Prime Minister and presented his new cabinet the same day. The new cabinet consisted of 22 ministers, all belonging to the AK Party, which obtained an absolute majority in parliament in the elections at the end of 2002. Former Prime Minister Abdullah Gül became Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs.
When the APK government took office, there was great skepticism, especially in military circles, about the democratic and secular content of the government. Despite this, the government was given the benefit of the doubt. Support for the AKP increased even further in March 2004. During the local elections, the party received 42% of the vote (compared to 34% in November 2002). The top priorities of the AKP are democratization, further reform of the economy and accession to the EU.
A large number of reforms have been implemented in Turkey in recent years. A.o. in order to meet one of the Union's accession criteria, the so-called political criteria. These include democracy, rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of minorities. Constitutional changes were made in October 2001 and May 2004, and a total of 8 reform packages were adopted by Parliament. Turkey adopted a new criminal code in October 2004. Accession negotiations started on 3 October 2005.
The AKP won the elections in July 2007 and Abdullah Gül was elected president a month later. In 2008 there was the "headscarf affair" for allowing headscarves to be worn in college. There is suspicion among the military in particular about the secular character of the Turkish state under Gül. In 2009, Ahmet Turk provokes a Kurdish leader by addressing parliament in Kurdish. Turkish TV has stopped broadcasting.
In July 2009 there are rapprochements between Armenia and Turkey. In May 2010, Israel and Turkey are at odds with each other as a result of the Israeli attack on a ship seeking to bring relief supplies to Gaza. 9 Turks are killed.
The Turkish government won a referendum on constitutional changes in September 2010. A majority of 58 percent voted in favor of diminishing the power of judges and military; 42 percent voted against. The Turkish constitution dates back to the days of the military dictatorship and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan thought it was time to put the citizen first. Moreover, he expected that this would also make Turkey more eligible for accession to the European Union. The opposition warned that the changes would pave the way to turning Turkey into an Islamic state. Polls predicted a neck-and-neck race, but the government won more than expected.
In June 2011 the AKP wins the elections and Erdogan will run for his third term. Tensions with Syria are increasing in 2012 and many refugees are coming to Turkey. In May and June of 2013, protests around Taxim Square were violently crushed. At the end of December 2013, Turkey faces a corruption scandal in which sons of ministers are also accused. In January 2014, Erdogan says it is a plot against his government.
In August 2014, Erdogan won the first directly elected presidential election. In 2015 and 2016, things have been very unsettled in Turkey due to the Syrian refugee crisis and the ongoing disagreement with the Kurds. The ceasefire with the PKK will not last. There are bomb attacks in which both IS and the Kurds are said to be involved. A major conflict arises with the important trade partner Russia after the shooting down of a Russian plane, whether or not in Turkish airspace.
At the end of 2015, the EU and Turkey signed an agreement to stem the flow of refugees to Europe. Prime Minister Davutoglu resigns in May 2016 after arguing with President Erdogan. In June 2016 there was a major attack on Istanbul airport, Turkey assumes that IS is behind this. From 15 to 16 July there is a coup attempt by a group of soldiers, President Erdogan continues to hold power. In August 2016, Erdogan visits Putin in St Petersburg to resolve the conflict over the downing of the plane and restore economic ties. In March 2017, diplomatic tension arose between the Netherlands and Turkey due to the refusal of a Turkish minister who wanted to campaign in the Netherlands for a referendum that wants to give President Erdogan more power. Erdogan wins that referendum with a narrow majority in April 2017, Turkey moves to a presidential system with a lot of power for Erdogan. In January 2018, Turkey starts an offensive against Syrian Kurds. Erdogan is re-elected as president. In June 2019 there is a political setback for Erdogan, the city of Istanbul elects a mayor from the CHP. In the summer of 2020, there are tensions between Greece and Turkey about test drilling for gas that Turkey wants to do in the Aegean Sea.
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Turkey has 84,490,286 inhabitants (2020) The vast majority (70-75%) consists of Turks. The Kurds are the largest minority (19%).
Smaller minority groups are the half million Arabs and the tens of thousands of Cherkesses, Bulgarians, Armenians and Greeks. Originally much larger numbers of Greeks and Armenians lived in Turkey, but their numbers have decreased significantly after the First World War. The Kurds mainly live in the southeast of the country.
The population growth was 0.52% in 2017. 25% of the population is under 15 years old. The most populous provinces are the western provinces, those along the Black Sea and the provinces of Adana and Hatay on the Mediterranean.
More than 75% of the population lives in the cities. The largest cities are: Istanbul (14.8 million inhabitants), Ankara (4.9 million inhabitants), Izmir (2.9 million inhabitants), Bursa (1.9 million inhabitants), Adana (1.7 million inhabitants). million inhabitants). Other cities of any size are Gaziantep, Konya, Kayseri, Eskisehir, Mersin and Diyarbakir. Many Turks work abroad, especially in Western Europe (millions of them in Germany and about 400,000 in the Netherlands).
The average life expectancy in 2017 is 75 years (men 72.7 and women 77.5 years).
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The official language is Turkish and is spoken by about 90% of the population. Turkish originates from the steppe region of Mongolia and is originally a nomad language. Turkish arrived with the nomads migrating west in Asia Minor in about the tenth century. Turkish has been written in our alphabet since 1928. Modern Turkish has adopted many loanwords from Arabic and Persian. A Turkish language is still spoken by millions of people in the Caucasus and Central Asia up to western China. Kurdish dialects are spoken in Turkish Kurdistan. The hitherto banned Kurdish language was allowed to be used again in public by the government in 1991.
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About 96% of the population belongs to Islam. Although there has been an official strict separation between Islam and the state in Turkey since 1923, Islam still has a major influence on social life, especially in rural areas. More than 85% of the Turkish and Kurdish Muslims belong to the Sunni religion. Not much remains of the quite numerous Christian and Jewish communities until the First World War. An estimated 15,000 Greek and 45,000 Armenian Orthodox Christians live in the major cities. There are also small Catholic and Protestant communities and various sects. In the southeast still live about 20,000 Syrian Orthodox (Jacobites) and a few thousand Arab Orthodox. Jacobites who fled to Western Europe became known in the 1970s as 'Christian Turks'. Turkey has a community of approximately 25,000 Sephardic Jews.
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According to the Nov. 1982 Constitution approved by referendum (amended in 1995), the president is elected by parliament for a seven-year term, appoints ministers and judges, and is also head of the influential National Security Council. The constitution provides for a single chamber, the National Assembly, consisting of 550 members, with universal suffrage elected for a term of five years. Political parties that support communism, fascism or religious fundamentalism are prohibited, as are the Kurdish parties PKK and DEP.
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Turkey is divided into 81 provinces (iller), administered by a governor appointed by the government. The provinces are divided into 838 districts and are headed by a governor. There are 187 cities and over 36,000 villages (ruled by a muhtar, a village chief elected by the village assembly). The cities are divided into mahalleler (neighborhoods).
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The social relations in the Turkish countryside, especially in the underdeveloped East, are mainly determined by Islam and tradition. The family often still functions as a production and consumption unit, that is to say, it grows its own products for its own use. A large part of the urban population consists of people who were born in the countryside. The male and female world are often strictly separated and dowry is still very common in marriages. In village society, the imam (the predecessor in prayer) and the aga (chief, large landowner) often play a major role. In the context of prevailing relationships, the aga often plays a role as a link between the village and central government. Increasing migration (to cities and abroad) is changing this pattern. In cities such as Ankara and Istanbul, about 25% of the population lives in the slums. The registered unemployment rate in 1995 was 10%, but it is certain that the actual unemployment rate is around 20%. In addition, there is quite a bit of hidden unemployment and Turkey has many street vendors and other marginal professions.
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Education has been a matter for the state since 1923, although Koran schools also exist. Illiteracy is approximately 20%, but is higher in rural areas and among women. Education is compulsory for up to 14 years, education is free up to and including university. Actual school attendance is not general, especially in rural areas in the east and among older girls. In rural areas, there is a shortage of teaching materials and a lack of teachers. After five years of primary education, you can go to a middle school and a lycée of three years each, which are completed with state exams. There are more than 200 universities (the largest in Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir, Erzurum and Trabzon). There are over 400 higher vocational schools and about 1,600 technical vocational training courses. About 30,000 Turks with wealthy parents study abroad, often in Germany. To combat illiteracy, reading rooms and libraries have been established all over the country, which also provide reading and writing courses for adults.
After the coup d'état of Sept. 1980 the political parties were dissolved. New political parties were admitted in the 1983 elections, approved by the National Security Council. Former politicians were barred from political activity until 1987. In practice, a number of old political parties returned under a new name. The main parties where: the Anavatan Partisi (ANAP) or Motherland Party; the Dogru Yol Partisi (DYP) or Party of the Right Path, the Sosyal Demokratik Halkçi Parti or Social Democratic Populist Party, the Party of the Democratic Left. In the Refah Partisi or Prosperity Party are the National Salvation Party of Necmettin Erbakan (traditionalist Islamic) and the National Action Party of Alparslan Türkes; the battle group of the 'Grey Wolves' was connected to this. There are also the Milliyetçi Demokrasi Partisi or Party of Nationalist Democracy (pushed forward by the army after 1980) and the Halkin Emek Partisi or Workers' Party of the People, with mostly Kurdish members.
The 1982 constitution recognizes the right to unionize and the right to strike, but imposes strict restrictions on the activities of the union organizations, especially in the political field. The largest umbrella trade union is Türk-is (Confederation of Turkish Trade Unions), founded in 1952 and a member of the International Federation of Trade Unions. The main Turkish employers are united in TUSIAD (Turkish Association of Industrialists and Businessmen).
The current political situation is described in the chapter history.
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Turkey has a free market economy, dominated by the private sector. Through cooperation with the EC, a planned development policy and increasing income from guest labor, reasonable economic growth was achieved every year from 1965. Following the 1980 coup, a drastic economic restructuring program was implemented according to IMF recipe. This was aimed at promoting exports, countering inflation and austerity. Turkey also wanted to encourage foreign investment. Government expenditure was mainly focused on investments in infrastructure (large dam and road construction) and tourism. Initially, this economic policy was successful: exports grew, the balance of payments deficit narrowed and inflation fell. But after 1985, inflation and unemployment increased again and purchasing power declined.
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Foreign investment was disappointing and the foreign debt burden increased. The enormous population explosion also had a negative effect. About one fifth of the population is employed in the agricultural sector (2017), the productivity of which is not very high. About a quarter of the agricultural land is cultivated with forests, and 30% is used for livestock, mainly sheep and goats. Important products are also grain, cotton, grapes, olives, tobacco and hazelnuts. About 27% (2017) of the labor force works in industry and mining. A large part of the total export is provided by textile factories. In addition, Turkey also has large iron and steel factories and a growing automotive industry. The service sector and public administration are relatively large. Turkey receives a lot of income from tourism and from guest workers who transfer money from abroad. In the 21st century, Turkey is experiencing a period of strong economic growth. Although growth will slow down slightly in 2012 and 2013, it will be 7% in 2017. The GDP per capita was $27,000 in 2017.
Holidays and Sightseeing
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However, the possibilities for luxury beach or sun holidays are plentiful, not only along the Aegean coasts, but also in the south on the Mediterranean and in the north on the Black Sea. For the tourist in search of culture, Turkey is a true paradise. Cities like Istanbul and Izmir have always attracted many tourists, as well as the remains of Troy and places like Ephesus and Bursa.
World famous are the remains of Hattasud, the ancient capital of the Hittite Empire, and the limestone terraces at Pamukale.
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In addition to many Islamic monuments, Istanbul has the main work of Byzantine architecture, the Aya Sophia (6th century). Another city worth seeing in European Turkey is Edirne with, among other things, the mosque designed by the important architect, Sinan (16th century). Manisa is the main Turkish-Islamic cultural center in the Aegean area, including many mosques. The seaside town of Çesme has a medieval fortress. Kusadasi (Bird Island) is a modern, busy seaside resort. The seaside resort of Antalya is the tourist center of the Mediterranean coast.
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This coastal area also contains remains from ancient times, including a number of Roman theaters. At Demre are also the ruins of Myra, the city of Nicholas of Myra (Sinterklaas), above whose grave a church has been built. In addition to a theater, Perge is also an antique stadium, intended for 27,000 spectators. More to the east are tourist places: Alanya, a fortress from the Seljuk period with mosques, a covered bazaar and a palace within the double walls; the Damlatas dripstone cave near Alanya; the seaside resort of Anamur with a large medieval castle; the seaside resort of Silifke with a crusader fortress; Mut with a 14th century fortress.
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Antakya (Ancient Antioch) with a renowned collection of Roman mosaics in the museum. The Black Sea coast has a mild climate. This is where most of the rainfall in Turkey falls, so that there are extensive forests. Giresun is one of the more modern seaside resorts. Trabzon (Trebizond from the Byzantine era) has interesting architecture. South of this, above a steep precipice, lies the 14th-century Monastery of Sumela (Byzantine frescoes). In Western Anatolia, Bursa and Iznik are worth seeing. At Çanakkale is the ruined hill of Troy.
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Amasya has mosques and rock tombs of Pontic kings. In the south, the pilgrimage town of Konya is known for the 'whirling dervishes'. The south of Eastern Anatolia is occupied by the (historical) landscape of Cappadocia, which is best known for groups of jagged rocks with many natural caves, which have served as a residence, church or monastery. The other parts of Eastern Anatolia are worth seeing: Tokat with a castle with 28 towers and mosques from the 12th-16th century; Kars with remains of the Armenian city of Ani (10th-11th century); Diyarbakir with numerous old buildings, including a mosque from about 1090 and a 5 km long basalt (thus black) city wall with 72 towers; From Lake Van, where rock graves have been found.
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