Surname Law (Turkey)
The Surname Law (Turkish: Soyadı Kanunu) of the Republic of Turkey was adopted on June 21, 1934. The law requires all citizens of Turkey to adopt the use of hereditary, fixed, surnames. Much of the population, particularly in the cities as well as Turkey's Christian and Jewish citizens, already had surnames, and all families had names by which they were known locally. The Surname Law of 1934 enforced not only the use of official surnames but also stipulated that citizens choose Turkish names. Until it was repealed in 2013 in Turkey the eldest male was the head of household and the law appointed him to choose the surname. However in his absence, death or mental incapacitation the wife would do so.
Muslims in the Ottoman Empire carried titles such as “Pasha”, “Hoca”, “Bey”, “Hanım”, “Efendi”, etc. These titles either defined their formal profession (such as Pasha, Hoca, etc.) or their informal status within the society (such as Bey, Hanım, Efendi, etc.). Ottoman prime ministers (Sadrazam/Vezir-î Azam or Grand Vizier), ministers (Nazır/Vezir or Vizier) and other high-ranking civil servants also carried the title Pasha. Retired generals/admirals or high-ranking civil servants continued to carry this title in civilian life. A “Pasha” did not become a “Bey” after retiring from active military or political service.
The articles of the Soy Adı Kanunu stipulated that:
- All Turks must bear their surnames in addition to their proper name;
- The surname must follow the proper name in signing, speaking and writing;
- Names may not relate to military rank and civil officialdom; to tribes, foreign races or ethnicities; nor may they be offensive or ridiculous. The use of “historical names” without the proper genealogical evidence were also forbidden.
The surname law specifically forbade certain surnames that contained connotations of foreign cultures, nations, tribes, and religions. New surnames had to be taken from the Turkish language. The surname could be used with the ‑oğlu ending, and it was forbidden to use Armenian endings such as ‑ian or ‑yan, Slavic endings such as ‑of (or ‑ov), ‑vich, ‑ic, Greek endings such as ‑is, ‑dis, ‑pulos, ‑aki, Persian endings such as ‑zade, and Arab endings such as ‑mahdumu, ‑veled, and ‑bin, "referring to other ethnicities or taken from another language." For example, names such as Arnavutoğlu (the Albanian’s son) or Kürtoğlu (the Kurd’s son), could not be used. Names of clans or tribes could not be used, or re-used. Additionally, names could not be duplicated in the same district, and, in case of any dispute, the family that registered first got the right to keep the claimed name.
As a result, many Greeks, Bulgarians, Albanians, Bosniaks, Jews, Arabs, Armenians, Assyrians, Georgians and Kurds were and are still forced to adopt last names of a more Turkish rendition, sometimes directly translating their original surnames, or otherwise just replacing markers such as Pontic Greek “‑ides” (son of) with Turkish “‑oğlu” (Kazantzoglou, Mitroglou, Mouratoglou, etc.).
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the Surname Law was meant to foster a sense of Turkishness within society and prohibited surnames that were related to foreign ethnicities and nations
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