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Turkey: Village Life
Country Study > Chapter 2 > The Society and Its Environment > Structure of Society > Village Life

VILLAGE LIFE


Until the early 1950s, more than 80 percent of the inhabitants of Turkey lived in villages, which numbered more than 36,000. As defined by the government, a village (koy) is any settlement with a population of less than 2,000. Although Turkey's rural population has continued to grow, the percentage of the total population living in villages has declined as a result of rural-to-urban migration. In 1970 about 67 percent of the population lived in villages; five years later, this proportion had shrunk to 59 percent. In 1980 more than 54 percent still lived in villages, but by 1985 most people lived in urban areas. In 1995 less than 35 percent of the population lived in villages.

Since the 1950s, agriculture has become increasingly mechanized, and this gradual change has affected land tenure patterns and village society. Small landowners and landless families generally have not benefited from this change, and consequently they have been the rural residents most likely to migrate to the cities. In contrast, larger landowners have profited from the new agricultural methods by increasing their holdings and investing their increased wealth in industry. By the early 1980s, the personal and sharecropping relationships between landowners and agricultural laborers and tenants had been replaced by new and impersonal wage relations. This development prompted agricultural wage earners with grievances against landowners to seek advice and relief from labor unions or labor-oriented groups in the towns.

In the 1990s, the extended family network remains the most important social unit in village society, even though most households tend to be composed of nuclear families. The extended family serves a crucial economic function in villages by fostering cooperation among related households by way of informal arrangements concerning shared machinery, shared labor, and even shared cash income. The extended family also is expected to provide support if one of its constituent nuclear households faces an economic, political, or social crisis. An extended family may be composed of a father, his married adult sons, and their children and wives, but usually it is a broader concept embracing several generations headed by one or more senior males who can trace common descent from a male ancestor. In this sense, an extended family is a patrilineage. Although such kin groups lack status as corporate entities in custom or law, they have an important role in defining family members' rights and obligations.

There are important similarities among villages within a given region, as well as differences from one region to the next. In this sense, it is possible to distinguish among villages in three distinct geographic regions: Anatolia, the coastal area, and southern and eastern Turkey.

Data as of January 1995




Last Updated: January 1995


Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Turkey was first published in 1995. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on Factba.se.

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