Karamanlidika inscription found on the door of a house in İncesu, Turkey
|Regions with significant populations|
|originally Karamanli Turkish, now predominantly Modern Greek also the languages of their respective countries of residence.|
The Karamanlides (Greek: Καραμανλήδες; Turkish: Karamanlılar), or simply Karamanlis are a Orthodox, Turkish-speaking people native to the Karaman and Cappadocia regions of Anatolia. Today, a majority of the population live within Greece, though there is a notable diaspora in Western Europe and North America.
Karamanlides were all Orthodox Christians in Central Anatolia who had adopted Turkish as their primary language. The term is derived from the 13th century Beylik of Karaman. This was the first Turkish kingdom to adopt Turkish as its official language and originally the term would only refer to the inhabitants of the town of Karaman or from the region of Karaman. Since there is no significant presence of established Christians in the area, the title is now most often used as a label for the local Muslim inhabitants.
Historically, the Karamanlides adopted and spoke a dialect of the Turkish language. Its vocabulary drew overwhelmingly from Turkic words with only minimal Greek loan words. The language should not be confused with Cappadocian Greek, which was spoken in the same region during the same timeframe, but is derived from the Greek language. It should be noted while their spoken language was Turkish, they employed the Greek alphabet to write it.
Academic disputes over the origins of the Karamanlides have led to the formation of two major theories.
The second theory states that Karamanlides are the direct descendants of Greek-speaking Byzantines. Despite their linguistic Turkification, they maintained their Greek Orthodox faith. This theory is also likely as 19th century linguists were able to travel through Karamanli-speaking regions of Cappadocia and document the few remaining Greek words that mostly elderly residents could remember. Hence the process of Turkification was documented. It also has a precedent with the Copts in Egypt, who abandoned their Coptic language as a daily speech and switched to Arabic, but remained Christian.
Nonetheless, in the age of nationalism in the 19th century, most Karamanlides identified with a sense of Greekness as distinct from their fellow Turco-phone neighbours; largely resulting from their adherence to the Greek Orthodox Church.
Many Karamanlides were forced to leave their homes during the 1923 population exchange between Greece and Turkey. Early estimates placed the number of Orthodox Christians expelled from central and southern Anatolia at around 100,000. However, the Karamanlides were numbered at around 400,000 at the time of the exchange.
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The distinct culture that developed among the Karamanlides blended elements of Orthodox Christianity with an Ottoman-Turkish flavor that characterized their willingness to accept and immerse themselves in foreign customs. From the 14th to the 19th centuries, they enjoyed an explosion in literary refinement. Karamanli authors were especially productive in philosophy, religious writings, novels, and historical texts. Lyrical poetry in the late 19th century describes their indifference to both Greek and Turkish governments, and the confusion they felt as a Turkish-speaking people with a Greek ethos.
- Vryonis, Speros. Studies on Byzantium, Seljuks, and Ottomans: Reprinted Studies. Undena Publications, 1981, ISBN 0-89003-071-5, p. 305. "The origins of the Karamanlides have long been disputed, there being two basic theories on the subject. According to one, they are the remnants of the Greek-speaking Byzantine population which, though it remained Orthodox, was linguistically Turkified. The second theory holds that they were originally Turkish soldiers which the Byzantine emperors had settled in Anatolia in large numbers and who retained their language and Christian religion after the Turkish conquests..."
- Blanchard, Raoul. "The Exchange of Populations Between Greece and Turkey." Geographical Review, 15.3 (1925): 449-56.
- Pavlowitch, Stevan K. A History of the Balkans, 1804-1945. Longman, 1999, ISBN 0-582-04585-1, p. 36. "The karamanlides were Turkish-speaking Greeks or Turkish-speaking Orthodox Christians who lived mainly in Asia Minor. They numbered some 400,000 at the time of the 1923 exchange of populations between Greece and Turkey."