Diversity of Istanbul

“In the early years of the republic, Istanbul was overlooked in favor of Ankara, selected as Turkey’s capital to distance the new, secular country from its Ottoman history. However, starting from the late 1940s and early 1950s, Istanbul underwent great structural change, as new public squares, boulevards, and avenues were constructed throughout the city, sometimes at the expense of historical buildings. The population of Istanbul began to rapidly increase in the 1970s, as people from Anatolia migrated to the city to find employment in the many new factories that were built on the outskirts of the sprawling metropolis. This sudden, sharp rise in the city’s population caused a large demand for housing development, and many previously outlying villages and forests became engulfed into the metropolitan area of Istanbul.”

Official Government numbers suggest that Istanbul’s current population is less than 14 million. Most people living in Istanbul doesn’t even take that number seriously. If you ask anyone on the street, they will tell you that it’s at least 20 million. The difference is ‘people’ are right!

In 1960, Istanbul’s population was 1,8 million. In 1980, it was up to 4,7.

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This incredible amount of migration brought ethnic and cultural diversity with it. Almost all of Turkey was coming together in one city. Their greatest city! All of Turkey became one (physically mostly) in only a few decades. All the variety, diversity, complexity, multi-layeredness, richness and confusion was all connected in Istanbul. It was both people’s dreams and nightmare.

Istanbul (as many other parts of Turkey) is currently Turkish land but it is not necessarily full of Turks. And then again, who are Turks? That’s a nice question to ask…

A possible list of ethnic groups living in Turkey could be as follows:

  • Turkic-speaking peoples: Turks, Azeris, Tatars, Karachays, Karakalpaks, Uzbeks, Crimean Tatars and Uyghurs
  • Indo-European-speaking peoples: Kurds, Zaza-Dimli Kurds, Bosniaks, Albanians, Pomaks, Armenians, Hamshenis, Gorani and Greeks
  • Semitic-speaking peoples: Arabs, Assyrians/Syriacs and Jews
  • Caucasian-speaking peoples: Circassians, Georgians, Laz and Chechens

According to the 2012 edition of the CIA World Factbook, 70-75% of Turkey’s population consists of ethnic Turks, with Kurds accounting for 18% and other minorities between 7 and 12%. According to a Turkish newspaper, there is a 2008 report prepared for the National Security Council of Turkey by academics of three Turkish universities in eastern Anatolia, estimating approximately 55 million ethnic Turks, 12.6 million Kurds, 2.5 million Circassians, 2 million Bosniaks, 500,000-1.3 million Albanians, 1,000,000 Georgians, 870,000 Arabs, 600,000, Pomaks, 80,000 Laz, 60,000 Armenians, 25,000 Assyrians/Syriacs, 20,000 Jews, and 15,000 Greeks living in Turkey. You can be sure that those numbers are a little bit ‘optimistic’…


Considering the religious demographics below;

  • 40.8% defined themselves as “a religious person who strives to fulfill religious obligations” (Religious)
  • 42.3 % defined themselves as “”a believer who does not fulfill religious obligations” (Not religious).
  • 2.5% defined themselves as “a fully devout person fulfilling all religious obligations” (Fully devout).
  • 10.3% defined themselves as “someone who does not believe in religious obligations” (Non-believer).
  • 4.1% defined themselves as “someone with no religious conviction” (Atheist).


We can be damn sure that Istanbul is one exciting city lately!