Surname Law

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This article is about the Turkish law. For the general concept, see Surname law.

The Surname Law (Turkish: Soyadı Kanunu) of the Republic of Turkey was adopted on June 21, 1934.[1] 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. The law appointed the male head of household as the person who would choose the surname, but there was a lot of variety as to how names were taken or chosen.[2]

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[3] stipulated that 1) every Turk must bear his surname in addition to his proper name; 2) the second article stated that the surname must follow the proper name in signing, speaking and writing; 3) and the third article forbade names which were related to military rank and civil officialdom, to tribes and foreign races and ethnicities; as well as surnames that were not suited to customs or which are disgusting or ridiculous. Male heads of households would choose the names, and in their absence, death or mental weakness the wife would do so. They were also against the use of ‘historical names’ without the proper genealogical evidence.

The surname law also forbade certain surnames that contained connotations of foreign cultures, nations, tribes, and religions.[4][5][6][7] 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.’ Names such as Arnavut oğlu (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.[8] 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.[9]

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,[4] 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.).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 1934 in history, Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism.
  2. ^ Turkoz, Meltem (2004). "The Social Life of the State's Fantasy: Memories and Documents on Turkey's Surname Law of 1934". 
  3. ^ "Soy Adı Kanunu" (PDF). 
  4. ^ a b İnce, Başak. Citizenship and identity in Turkey : from Atatürk's republic to the present day. London: I.B. Tauris. ISBN 9781780760261. 
  5. ^ Aslan, Senem. "Incoherent State: The Controversy over Kurdish Naming in Turkey". European Journal of Turkish Studies. Retrieved 16 January 2013. the Surname Law was meant to foster a sense of Turkishness within society and prohibited surnames that were related to foreign ethnicities and nations 
  6. ^ Suny, Ronald Grigor; Goçek, Fatma Müge; Naimark, Norman M. (eds.). A question of genocide : Armenians, and Turks at the end of the Ottoman Empire. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195393743. 
  7. ^ Toktas, Sule (2005). "Citizenship and Minorities: A Historical Overview of Turkey's Jewish Minority". Journal of Historical Sociology. 18 (4). Retrieved 7 January 2013. 
  8. ^ "Soy Adı Nizamnamesi" (PDF). 
  9. ^ Turkoz, Meltem (2007). "Surname narratives and the state–society boundary: Memories of Turkey's family name law of 1934". Middle Eastern Studies. 43 (6). 

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