First world country was a term coined during the Cold War Era.
According to the understanding of the time, the USA and its NATO allies were First World Countries. The Soviet Bloc formed the Second World countries, and Third World countries were the non-aligned countries.
Today’s definition of a first-world country includes NATO countries, US allies with advanced economies and liberal values, and EU members.
The shared values of today’s first-world countries are democracies with developed economies based on liberal principles.
Turkey is a first world country with a functioning democracy, a capitalist economy, and a high standard of living. Turkey has been a US ally and NATO member since 1952.
After the Second World War, Turkey has always aligned with Western countries and was never aligned with the Soviet Bloc.
For this reason, Turkey was never classified as a second or third world country according to the Cold War definition of the term.
In this blog, as a Turkish Local, I will tell you the most fundamental aspects that you need to know about Turkey.
1. Is Turkey a first world country?
Turkish people enjoy high life expectancy, education, income per capita, and high human development.
Turkey is also a part of the modern liberal world and a founding member of many institutions like the OECD, the European Council, and the G20.
As mentioned, Turkey is a developed economy and a NATO ally; for these reasons, Turkey is accepted as a first world country according to both modern world and cold war definitions of first world countries.
2. Turkey Has a Very High Standard of Living
According to the UN’s Human Development Index (HDI), Turkey enjoys a very high HDI score on par with developed countries.
Human Development Index is an analysis that takes mainly 3 factors. These are
- Life expectancy,
- Education level,
- Income per capita.
2.1 Human Development Index Turkey vs Others
In the 1990s, Turkey’s situation regarding Human Development was worse than Mexico, Ukraine, or South Africa due to economic crises.
After financial reforms, especially Kemal Dervis’s reform, Turkey’s standard of living has increased rapidly, reaching the standards enjoyed by first world countries like EU countries and other wealthy countries.
Turkey has a long road to achieving a level similar to the USA’s human development standard. Yet, in two areas, Turkey may match the USA’s standards, the health system and natural beauty.
Access to the health system is seen as a human right in Turkey, and even private health services are affordable and subsidized by the government.
3. Turkey is a Democratic Country
Turkey is a republic with a multi-party system, and Turkey has a strong tradition of democracy and fair elections.
Even in the Ottoman Empire, when Turkey was a monarchy, elections were held to determine the parliament.
To be honest with you, recently, Turkish democracy may live up to its exceptions. Yet, every democracy suffers regression periods, and even the US or UK is being criticized for not being democratic enough.
As we all know, liberal democracies have crises and then clean what is not working.
In my university years, one of my law professors stated this fact very clearly.
“You can change every law and regulation of a country, but if the nation does not know how to live freely, the country will not be a democracy.“
If you compare Turkey with Sweden, the US, and Germany, you will find Turkey has many flaws.
Yet, if you compare Turkey with Mexico, South Africa, Brazil, and other Latin, Asian, and African countries, you would find Turkey is far superior and closer to the European system.
Turkey has unique historical development and is a major contributor to European culture. To learn more, please read Why is Turkey considered a European Country?
4. Turkey is a US ally with a Strong Army
Turkey is a first world country according to both the cold war and modern definitions. Yet, based on the modern definition, there are also many critics of classifying Turkey being a first-world country.
As a Nato ally, Turkey has always been a first-world country embracing Western values.
Turkey has a more rooted tradition of democracy and a liberal economy than once second-world countries like Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, and Hungary.
Turkey is the second-largest military force in terms of manpower in NATO after the US. The Turkish military has more active personnel than the manpower of Germany and France combined.
Turkey also has a strong defense industry capable of producing advanced weapons like unmanned attack drones, battleships, and new technologies like railguns.
Though Turkey has the technological capability of producing nuclear weapons, like most European nations, Turks decided on another route.
Turkey is entrusted with 50 US Nuclear Warheads under NATO nuclear weapons sharing program.
5. Turkey is not an Islamic Country
Turkey is not an Islamic country. Being a Muslim-majority country is different from being an Islamic country.
For this reason, Turkey is often mixed with other Islamic regimes or Middle Eastern countries. Yet, the Turkish government is far different than your average Muslim country.
First of all, Turkey is ruled on the merits of Law and Human Rights and not by religious principles. Turkish Civil Code, commercial code, and all minor and major legislations are in alignment with European regulations.
Second, Turkey is a Republic and is the only country with a Muslim majority and a secular constitution.
Our law relies on the same secular law principles of European countries, and our legal system is a fusion of Italian, Swiss, German, and French legal systems. I explain this a bit further below.
Turkish people do not like to be compared to other Islamic countries, and we can feel offended by you not knowing the difference.
Some political parties attending elections in Turkey are associated with the Islam faith, but they are similar to conservative political parties like Christian Democrat parties in Europe.
Suggested Reading: Is Turkey in the Middle East? Why and Why Not?
6. Gender equality in Turkey
Turkey is one of the first countries to accept Women’s Suffrage. Turkish women earned equal voting rights and social rights in 1930.
Western European countries like France (1944), and Italy (1945), Belgium (1948) followed the Turkish example a decade later.
Turkish women work in many professions. They are political leaders, jet pilots, university professors, and judges.
There is no law banning women from becoming something in Turkey; Turkish women can become anything they like their modern Western counterparts.
Read Turkish Women – How and Why They Are Different? to learn more about Turkish Women and Gender Equality in Turkey.
7. Turkish Legal System is built upon Western Principles
As a Turkish lawyer, I can confirm that Turkish courts and legal rules are aligned with the European system.
For example, Turkey’s criminal law is based on the Italian Penal Code, Turkish Civil Law is based on Switzerland’s Civil Code, and Commercial Laws are heavily influenced by German Codes.
Lately, Turkish e-government systems used in legal proceedings have become so advanced that the software is exported to third countries.
Turkey is also a founding member of the European Council, and the top legal authority in Turkey is the European Court of Human Rights.
Besides being an international body regulating European affairs, the European Council is also responsible for monitoring European human rights.
The human rights agreed upon by the European States are far greater than the UN’s Human rights declaration.
Everyone in Turkey can appeal all human rights violations to the European Court of Human Rights, and Turkish courts must obey its rulings.
The European Court of Human Rights functions similarly to the US Supreme Court in Europe.
Suggested Reading: What Languages Do Turkish People Speak? A Local Explains
8. Turkey is a Developed Economy
According to the CIA Factbook, Turkey has one of the most developed economies.
Turkey is a resource-poor country. Turkey has no oil, and Turkey is dependent on other international energy sources to fuel its industry.
Yet, Turkey covers the lack of resources with its advanced and diverse industry structure.
Turkey is the 20th (nominal GDP) and 11th (GDP by PPP) biggest global economy, depending on how you calculate its economy.
The average Turkish person earns 9,327$ (Nominal) and has purchasing power equivalent to $32,278$ (PPP).
Turkey has a good and diverse economic structure, not relying upon one sector for all nations’ income.
Machinery, tourism, textile, electronics, construction, shipbuilding, autos, mining, steel, and food processing are the major industries of the Turkish economy.
Click to read: Is Istanbul Rich or Poor? A Local Answers with Statistics
9. UN Classifies Turkey as one of the Western Countries
According to the UN Regional category of countries, Turkey is in Western Europe and the Others group.
Western European Countries (like France, Spain, UK), the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Greece, and Turkey form the Western Europe and Others group.
Turkey is a country located in both Europe and Asia. For this reason, attends UN Asia and the Pacific Group but votes with Western countries in the UN.
You may also like to read
- 21 Fun and Unique Things To Do in Istanbul (A Local’s Guide)
- Why is Turkey considered European? Explained With Unknown Facts
- Turkish Women – How and Why They Are Different?
- Is Istanbul Rich or Poor? A Local Answers with Statistics
- What Languages Do Turkish People Speak? A Local Explains
Turkey Travel Planning Guide
🚑 Should I buy travel insurance for Turkey?
100% YES! — With basic coverage averaging just $5-10 USD per day, enjoy peace of mind with a plan from SafetyWing, one of the biggest names in travel insurance.
💧Can you drink tap water in Turkey?
Rarely — You’ll want to buy a Water-To-Go Bottle, which filters your drinking water so you don’t get sick from drinking water in Turkey, and helps keep you hydrated while traveling Turkey. (Read more)
🚙💨 Is it safe to rent a car in Turkey?
Yes — Renting a car in Turkey is one of the best ways to explore the seven regions of Turkey! I always rent with Discover Cars, which checks both international companies and local Turkish companies, so you get the best rates. (Read more)
🏩 What’s the best way to book my Turkey accommodation?
🎫 Do I need a visa for Turkey?
Likely Not — U.S., Canadian, and most European Passport holders don’t need a visa for Turkey but check here to see if you do need a Turkey travel visa.