Have you ever wondered how similar or different two countries are? The Country Similarity Index attempts to quantify how similar countries are to each other relative to other countries. The index is a statistically-based way to measure this. It weighs equally five major aspects of countries: their demographics, culture, politics, infrastructure, and geography. The methodology is exactly the same for each country. The research combines 1,000 different data points to arrive at the conclusions.
Top 10 Countries Most Similar to Turkey
Turkey has the most in common with Central Asian countries, but it also has traits of European and Middle Eastern countries, so it is relatively unique. Four of the five countries most similar to Turkey have been part of the Ottoman Empire at one time or another. These countries tend to have many Muslims as well. However, with the exception of Iran, the laws in these countries are less conservative and more secular. The agriculture in the top five countries is similar as well, since their farms mostly grow wheat and barley. The terrain in these countries is quite mountainous as well.
- Azerbaijan is by far the most similar country to Turkey. The most similar language to Turkish is Azeri. The populations of both countries are mostly Muslim, although Azeri are mostly Shia, in contrast to Turkey. In addition, both countries have secular governments with strongmen as rulers. Their geography is also similar, although Azerbaijan does not border the Mediterranean Sea. Since Azerbaijan was once part of the Soviet Union, it has more of a Russian influence than Turkey.
- Albania had been part of the Ottoman Empire for hundreds of years, until it gained independence in 1912. It has the highest percentage of Muslims of any country entirely in Europe. Like Turkey, its government is officially secular, although Turks are generally more religious than Albanians. Although their languages are unrelated, both use the Latin alphabet. Both countries are quite mountainous and border the Mediterranean Sea.
- Iran is to the southeast of Turkey. It is another mountainous Muslim country. Although most Iranians speak Persian, the country has significant portions of the population that speak Kurdish and Azeri. Both countries excel in the Olympics at wrestling, however Iranians are not as interested in basketball as Turks. Like Azerbaijan, most of its population are Shi’ites, not Sunnis like in Turkey.
- North Macedonia is to the east of Albania. Unlike the first three countries on this list, it does not have a Muslim majority population, but it still shares many similar customs and infrastructure. They both drive on the right, use Type C, F electrical outlets, and have standard gauge railroad tracks. They also primarily use coal and hydropower to create electricity. However, one big difference is that North Macedonia is landlocked.
- Montenegro is another country on this list that borders the Mediterranean Sea. Like North Macedonia, most of its people are Christian, but it still has a significant Muslim population as well. Both countries especially enjoy soccer and basketball. Still, Montenegro’s agriculture is significantly different, since it grows a lot of grapes. As a result, in contrast to Turkey, winemaking is popular in Montenegro.
- Bosnia & Herzegovina, 7. Tunisia, 8. Bulgaria, 9. Uzbekistan, 10. Kyrgyzstan
Top 10 Countries Least Similar to Turkey
The least similar countries to Turkey are located in two main regions: Melanesia and Sub-Saharan Africa. In contrast to the relatively dry Turkish climate, the least similar countries get much more rainfall. They are also poorer and their infrastructure is not as well developed. Interestingly enough, four of the top five least similar countries have English as their official language.
- Solomon Islands is tropical archipelago in the Pacific Ocean. The country was a colony of Great Britain until 1978. The tropical rainforest nation located in Melanesia shares few things in common with Turkey, except that both countries have a lot of coastline. Furthermore, the country is fairly democratic, unlike Turkey.
- Central African Republic is least similar country to Turkey in Africa. It is landlocked and a high percentage of its land is forested. It was once a colony of France and as a result, it is mostly Christian. The country is far poorer than Turkey and has a younger population. In addition, its government is more democratic and has less censorship.
- Papua New Guinea is similar to the Solomon Islands. It is one of the hottest and wettest countries in the world, in contrast to Turkey’s drier and more temperate climate. Furthermore, its people are Christian and have little genetic similarity to Turks. In addition, they drive on the left and use Type I electrical outlets, unlike Turkey.
- Liberia is located in West Africa. It is yet another English speaking country on this list, although it was not a British colony like the others. It is mostly Christian and was founded by freed slaves from the United States. The country is quite flat and most of its land is near the Atlantic Coast. In addition, Liberia’s standard of living is far lower than Turkey.
- South Sudan is another landlocked country located to the east of Central African Republic. It is a newly formed Christian country that broke off from Sudan, due to civil war. Its infrastructure has yet to be fully modernized. Unlike Sudan, it is mostly Christian and get far more rainfall. The country’s diet is also extremely different from Turkey, since its staples are cassava and yam. Still, Turkey and South Sudan are in the same time zone.
- Lesotho, 7. Dem. Republic of Congo, 8. Malawi, 9. Haiti, 10. Zambia
Turkey is like if Azerbaijan was more like Italy
According to the Index, Azerbaijan is by far the most similar country to Turkey. However, they also have a significant amount of differences as well. The data shows that Italy has the most traits of Turkey that Azerbaijan lacks (Greece has the second most). Both countries border the Mediterranean Sea and have a lot of coastline. In fact, they were once part of the Roman Empire and Istanbul was once known as New Rome. Italy and Turkey also have a lower percentage of college graduates and a lower percentage of employed women than Azerbaijan. In addition, soccer and basketball are more popular in these countries than in Azerbaijan.
All data accurate as of 2020.