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Is Turkey in Europe or Asia? Dual Continental Identity

The majority of Turkey’s landmass lies in Asia, with only a minor portion in Europe. The larger Asian part is known as Anatolia, or Asia Minor, while the smaller European section is in Thrace, at the southeastern tip of the Balkan Peninsula. Here, part of Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city, is located. Interestingly, the Turkish people’s ancestral roots trace back to East Asia, far from their current territory. Throughout history, Turkey has been a significant player in European affairs. 

During the Ottoman Empire’s zenith, Turkish rule extended deep into Europe, reaching near Vienna, the capital of present-day Austria. Today, while Turkey’s European land area is limited, its cultural and political influence remains evident across the continent. Additionally, Turkey has embraced many European cultural aspects and aligned itself with Western political and economic ideologies.

Why Turkey Is Considered Both in Europe and in Asia?

Istanbul is a special city in Turkey because it sits on two continents: Europe and Asia. The thing that separates these two parts is the Bosporus Strait, a narrow waterway that is 31 kilometers long. This strait connects the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara and acts like a line between Europe and Asia. 

On one side of the Bosporus is the European part of Istanbul. This area is famous for its historic buildings and busy markets like the Grand Bazaar. It’s where many tourists go to see famous places like the Hagia Sophia and the Topkapi Palace.

The Asian side of Istanbul is different. It feels more like where people live and less like a tourist spot. It has neighborhoods like Kadıköy and Üsküdar, where there are lots of cafes and markets. It’s a more relaxed place compared to the European side.

The Bosporus isn’t just a line on a map; it’s also an important waterway for ships. It connects two big seas and has been a key spot for trade for a long time. When you go on a boat ride on the Bosporus, you can see both the European and Asian sides of the city, which is really cool.

Istanbul’s culture is a mix of Europe and Asia. This mix is in its food, music, and art. The city has everything from old traditions to new styles.

The city also has bridges and a tunnel that connects the European and Asian sides. These are important for people who travel between the two sides every day. These are the specific reasons why Turkey is considered both in Europe and in Asia.

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Significant Historical Events Shaping National Borders

Turkey is a transcontinental country, with its landmass straddling both Europe and Asia. The division between the two continents is primarily geographical and is marked by the Bosporus Strait, the Sea of Marmara, and the Dardanelles. These waterways separate the European part of Turkey, known as East Thrace, from its Asian part, Anatolia. The European portion of Turkey, though smaller in size, includes the city of Istanbul, which is significant both historically and culturally.

Several historical events have shaped Turkey’s national borders and its unique position between Europe and Asia.

1. Roman and Byzantine Empires

Originally part of the Roman Empire, the region’s control shifted to the Byzantine Empire. The Byzantine Empire, with its capital in Constantinople (now Istanbul), was a bridge between the East and West and played a significant role in the cultural and political history of both Europe and Asia.

2. Ottoman Empire Expansion

The rise of the Ottoman Empire in the 14th and 15th centuries brought significant changes. The Ottomans, originating from Anatolia, expanded into Europe, capturing Constantinople in 1453 and renaming it Istanbul. This marked a major shift in the balance of power between Europe and the Middle East.

3. World War I and the Treaty of Sevres

The Ottoman Empire’s defeat in World War I led to the Treaty of Sevres in 1920, which proposed the partitioning of its territory. This treaty was never ratified due to Turkish resistance.

4. Turkish War of Independence and Treaty of Lausanne

The Turkish War of Independence (1919–1923), led by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, resulted in the abolition of the Ottoman Sultanate and the establishment of the Republic of Turkey in 1923. The Treaty of Lausanne in 1923 recognized the sovereignty of the new Republic of Turkey and defined its current borders, marking the end of the Ottoman Empire and solidifying Turkey’s presence in both Europe and Asia.

5. Strategic Importance During the Cold War

Turkey’s strategic location made it a key player during the Cold War. It served as a bridge between the Western and Eastern blocs, influencing political and military strategies in the region.

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Influence of Multiple Continents on National Culture

Turkey, straddling both Europe and Asia, uniquely blends Eastern and Western cultural traditions due to its geographic position.

1. European Influence

The European part of Turkey, especially the city of Istanbul, which was historically known as Byzantium and later Constantinople, has been significantly influenced by its history with the Byzantine and Ottoman empires. This European influence is evident in Turkey’s architecture, cuisine, and some aspects of its legal and political systems.

2. Asian Influence

The larger Asian part of Turkey reflects influences from the Middle East and Central Asia. These influences are seen in aspects such as the Turkish language, which belongs to the Turkic language family of Central Asia, and in cultural practices and cuisine that are shared with neighboring Middle Eastern countries.

3. Cultural Synthesis

Turkey’s unique position has led to a synthesis of Eastern and Western cultures. This is most notable in its art, music, literature, and culinary traditions, which blend elements from both continents. For example, Turkish music often incorporates both Byzantine and Asian elements, and Turkish cuisine includes dishes that are a mix of Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Central Asian, and Balkan flavors.

4. Modern Influence

In modern times, Turkey’s strategic location continues to influence its culture and politics. It’s a member of various European organizations and has been a candidate for membership in the European Union, while also maintaining strong cultural and political ties with Middle Eastern and Central Asian countries.

European Portion

  • The European part of Turkey, known as Eastern Thrace or Turkish Thrace, comprises only about 3% of its territory but includes the city of Istanbul, the country’s largest and historically most significant city.
  • This region is bordered by Greece and Bulgaria to the west and the Bosphorus to the east, which connects the Black Sea with the Sea of Marmara.

Asian Portion

  • The Asian part of Turkey, known as Anatolia or Asia Minor, makes up the majority of its landmass.
  • This region is characterized by a high central plateau with narrow coastal plains, mountainous regions, and significant cultural and historical sites.

Role of Turkey in Continental Diplomacy between Southeastern and West Asia

Role in Continental Diplomacy small portion in southeastern Europe and the majority in western Asia. This unique position has given Turkey a significant role in continental diplomacy and international relations.

1. Bridge Between East and West

Turkey’s geographical position has historically made it a bridge between Europe and Asia, allowing it to play a strategic role in political, economic, and cultural exchanges between the two continents.

2. NATO Membership

Turkey has been a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) since 1952, reflecting its alignment with the West during the Cold War and its ongoing strategic importance in regional and global security.

3. EU Relations

Turkey has long sought membership in the European Union, a process that has been complex and fraught with challenges. Its candidacy reflects its desire to be part of European political and economic structures, though negotiations have been stalled over various issues, including human rights and democracy standards.

4. Regional Influence

Turkey plays a key role in Middle Eastern politics, balancing relationships with neighboring countries and often mediating in regional conflicts. Its position at the crossroads of Europe and Asia gives it significant influence in regional diplomacy.

5. Cultural and Economic Exchange

Turkey’s unique position facilitates a blend of Eastern and Western cultures, as seen in its diverse cultural heritage. It also serves as an important corridor for energy pipelines and trade routes between Asia and Europe.


Turkey’s unique geographical position, straddling both Europe and Asia, endows it with a dual continental identity that profoundly shapes its culture, politics, and history. This blend of Eastern and Western influences creates a rich, diverse tapestry that is distinctly Turkish, reflecting a nation that bridges and embodies the characteristics of two continents.


Is Turkey on the continent of Europe or Asia?

Turkey is situated in both Southeastern Europe and Southwestern Asia. The European section of Turkey, also known as Balkan Turkey, is smaller in comparison to its Asian segment, known as the Anatolian Plateau, a vast peninsula. As of December 2017, the estimated population was 80,810,525.

Does Turkey come under Europe or worldwide?

Turkey is located at the junction of Europe and Asia, serving as a bridge between the two continents. Its European region is referred to as Thrace, whereas the Asian section is known as Anatolia, also commonly called Asia Minor.

Oleksandra Mamchii

Working as a academic lead at Best Diplomats.

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