Turkish people

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Total population
c. 63–80 million[a]
Regions with significant populations

 Turkey 55,589,988- 59,560,701 (2008 est. of 2015 pop.)[1]
 Northern Cyprus 280,000 d[›][2][3]

Top immigrant destinations
 Germany 2,714,000–2,800,000 (including Turkish Kurds)f[›]b[›][4][5][6][7]
 France 500,000–1,000,000[8][9]
 United Kingdom 500,000a[›][10][11][12]
 Netherlands 396,414e[›]–500,000c[›][13][14][15][16]
 Austria 350,000–500,000[17][18]
 Belgium 200,000[19][20][21]
 United States 196,222-500,000 b[›][22][23][24][25]
 Sweden 100,000-150,000[26][27]
  Switzerland 70,440 e[›][28]
 Australia 66,919-150,000 b[›][29][30][31][32]
 Denmark 28,892 f[›]b[›][33]
 Canada 24,910 b[›][34]
 Italy 22,580 e[›][35]


minority or immigrant communities in the Middle East
 Iraq 500,000–3,000,000[37][38][39]
 Syria 100,000–3,500,000[40][41][42][43][44]
 Saudi Arabia 150,000–200,000 b[›][45][46]
 Egypt 100,000–1,500,000 b[›][47][48]
 Jordan 60,000[45]
 Lebanon 50,000–80,000[49][50]

50,000 b[›][45]

minorities in the Balkans
 Bulgaria 588,318–800,000[51][52][53]
 Macedonia 77,959[54][55][56][57]
 Greece 49,000 (official estimate)–80,000 g[›][58][59]
 Romania 27,700[60][61][62]


minorities in the former USSR states
 Russia 109,883–150,000[64][65]
 Kazakhstan 104,792–150,000 h[›][66][67]
 Kyrgyzstan 40,953-50,000 h[›][68][67][69]
 Azerbaijan 38,000–110,000 h[›][70][67][71][72]

Predominantly Sunni Islam[73][74][75][76]

(nondenominational · Alevi · Bektashi · Twelver Shia · Ja'fari · Muwahhid Muslim)
Minority irreligious[73][77] Christianity[78][79][80] Judaism[citation needed]

a. ^ The total figure is merely an estimation; sum of all the referenced populations.

Turkish people (Turkish: Türk milleti), the Turks (Turkish: Türkler) or the Anatolian Turks (Turkish: Anadolu Türkleri) are an Eurasian ethnic group. They are the most numerous ethnic group among the Turkic peoples. In addition, a Turkish diaspora has been established with modern migration, particularly in Western Europe, North America, and Oceania. Historical minorities and creole populations of Turkish descent dating back to the early modern period exist in the former lands of the Ottoman Empire, such as the Balkans, the Middle East, and North Africa, while more recent displacement of Meskhetian Turks from the Caucasus has resulted in new minorities in many former Soviet states.[81][82][83][84][85]

Etymology and ethnic identity[edit]

The ethnonym "Turk" may be first mentioned in Herodotus' (c. 484–425 BCE) work "Targitas";[86] furthermore, during the first century CE., Pomponius Mela refers to the "Turcae" in the forests north of the Sea of Azov, and Pliny the Elder lists the "Tyrcae" among the people of the same area.[86] The first definite reference to the "Turks" come mainly from Chinese sources in the sixth century. In these sources, "Turk" appears as "Tujue" (Chinese: ; Wade–Giles: T’u-chüe), which referred to the Göktürks.[87][88] Although "Turk" refers to Turkish people, it may also sometimes refer to the wider language group of Turkic peoples. They are closely related to Azerbaijani people also known as Azerbaijani Turks who live primarily in Azerbaijan Republic and Iran[89]

In the 19th century, the word Türk only referred to Anatolian villagers. The Ottoman ruling class identified themselves as Ottomans, not usually as Turks.[90] In the late 19th century, as the Ottoman upper classes adopted European ideas of nationalism the term Türk took on a much more positive connotation.[91] The Turkish-speakers of Anatolia were the most loyal supporters of Ottoman rule.

During Ottoman times, the millet system defined communities on a religious basis, and a residue of this remains in that Turkish villagers commonly consider as Turks only those who profess the Sunni faith. Turkish Jews, Christians, or even Alevis to may be considered non-Turks.[92] On the other hand, Kurdish or Arab followers of the Sunni branch of Islam who live in eastern Anatolia are sometimes considered Turks.[93] Article 66 of the Turkish Constitution defines a "Turk" as anyone who is "bound to the Turkish state through the bond of citizenship."[94]


Prehistory, Ancient era and Early Middle Ages[edit]

Anatolia was first inhabited by hunter-gatherers during the Paleolithic era, and in antiquity was inhabited by various ancient Anatolian peoples.[95]j[›] After Alexander the Great's conquest in 334 BC, the area was Hellenized, and by the first century BC it is generally thought that the native Anatolian languages became extinct.[96][97][98]

In Central Asia, the earliest surviving Turkic-language texts, the eighth-century Orkhon inscriptions, were erected by the Göktürks in the sixth century CE, and include words not common to Turkic but found in unrelated Inner Asian languages.[99] Although the ancient Turks were nomadic, they traded wool, leather, carpets, and horses for wood, silk, vegetables and grain, as well as having large ironworking stations in the south of the Altai Mountains during the 600s CE. Most of the Turkic peoples were followers of Tengriism, sharing the cult of the sky god Tengri, although there were also adherents of Manichaeism, Nestorian Christianity and Buddhism.[100][86] However, during the Muslim conquests, the Turks entered the Muslim world proper as servants, during the booty of Arab raids and conquests.[86] The Turks began converting to Islam after Muslim conquest of Transoxiana through the efforts of missionaries, Sufis, and merchants. Although initiated by the Arabs, the conversion of the Turks to Islam was filtered through Persian and Central Asian culture. Under the Umayyads, most were domestic servants, whilst under the Abbasids, increasing numbers were trained as soldiers.[86] By the ninth century, Turkish commanders were leading the caliphs’ Turkish troops into battle. As the Abbasid caliphate declined, Turkish officers assumed more military and political power taking over or establishing provincial dynasties with their own corps of Turkish troops.[86]

Seljuk era[edit]

Main article: Seljuk Turks
The Öksökö, symbol of the Seljuk Turks.

During the 11th century the Seljuk Turks grew in number and were able to occupy the eastern province of the Abbasid Empire. By 1055, the Seljuk Empire captured Baghdad and began to make their first incursions into the edges of Anatolia.[101] When the Seljuk Turks won the Battle of Manzikert against the Byzantine Empire in 1071, it opened the gates of Anatolia to them.[102] Although ethnically Turkish, the Seljuk Turks appreciated and became the purveyors of the Persian culture rather than the Turkish culture.[103][104] Nonetheless, the Turkish language and Islam were introduced and gradually spread over the region and the slow transition from a predominantly Christian and Greek-speaking Anatolia to a predominantly Muslim and Turkish-speaking one was underway.[102]

In dire straits, the Byzantine Empire turned to the West for help setting in motion the pleas that led to the First Crusade.[105] Once the Crusaders took Iznik, the Seljuk Turks established the Sultanate of Rum from their new capital, Konya, in 1097.[102] By the 12th century the Europeans had begun to call the Anatolian region "Turchia" or "Turkey", meaning "the land of the Turks".[106] The Turkish society of Anatolia was divided into urban, rural and nomadic populations;[107] the other Turkoman tribes who had also swept into Anatolia at the same time as the Seljuk Turks were those who kept their nomadic ways.[102] These tribes were more numerous than the Seljuk Turks, and rejecting the sedentary lifestyle, adhered to an Islam impregnated with animism and shamanism from their central Asian steppeland origins, which then mixed with new Christian influences. From this popular and syncretist Islam, with its mystical and revolutionary aspects, sects such as the Alevis and Bektashis emerged.[102] Furthermore, the intermarriage between the Turks and local inhabitants, as well as the conversion of many to Islam, also increased the Turkish-speaking Muslim population in Anatolia.[102][108]

By 1243, at the Battle of Köse Dağ, the Mongols defeated the Seljuk Turks and became the new rulers of Anatolia, and in 1256, the second Mongol invasion of Anatolia caused widespread destruction. Particularly after 1277, political stability within the Seljuk territories rapidly disintegrated, leading to the strengthening of Turkoman principalities in the western and southern parts of Anatolia called the "beyliks".[109]

Beyliks era[edit]

A map of the independent beyliks in Anatolia during the early 1300s.

Once the Seljuk Turks were defeated by the Mongol's conquest of Anatolia, the Turks became the vassal of the Ilkhans who established their own empire in the vast area stretching from present-day Afghanistan to present-day Turkey.[110] As the Mongols occupied more lands in Asia Minor, the Turks moved further to western Anatolia and settled in the Seljuk-Byzantine frontier.[110] By the last decades of the 13th century, the Ilkhans and their Seljuk vassals lost control over much of Anatolia to these Turkoman peoples.[110] A number of Turkish lords managed to establish themselves as rulers of various principalities, known as "Beyliks" or emirates. Amongst these beyliks, along the Aegean coast, from north to south, stretched the beyliks of Karasi, Saruhan, Aydin, Menteşe and Teke. Inland from Teke was Hamid and east of Karasi was the beylik of Germiyan.

To the north-west of Anatolia, around Söğüt, was the small and, at this stage, insignificant, Ottoman beylik. It was hemmed in to the east by other more substantial powers like Karaman on Iconium, which ruled from the Kızılırmak River to the Mediterranean. Although the Ottomans were only a small principality among the numerous Turkish beyliks, and thus posed the smallest threat to the Byzantine authority, their location in north-western Anatolia, in the former Byzantine province of Bithynia, became a fortunate position for their future conquests. The Latins, who had conquered the city of Constantinople in 1204 during the Fourth Crusade, established a Latin Empire (1204–61), divided the former Byzantine territories in the Balkans and the Aegean among themselves, and forced the Byzantine Emperors into exile at Nicaea (present-day Iznik). From 1261 onwards, the Byzantines were largely preoccupied with regaining their control in the Balkans.[110] Toward the end of the 13th century, as Mongol power began to decline, the Turcoman chiefs assumed greater independence.[111]

Ottoman Empire[edit]

Main articles: Ottoman Empire and Ottoman Turks
The Ottoman Empire was a Turkish empire that lasted from 1299 to 1922.
The loss of almost all Ottoman territories during the late 19th and early 20th century, and then the establishment of the Republic of Turkey, in 1923, resulted in Turkish refugees, known as "Muhacirs", from hostile regions of the Balkans, the Black Sea, the Aegean islands, the island of Cyprus, the Sanjak of Alexandretta, the Middle East, and the Soviet Union to migrate to Anatolia and Eastern Thrace.

Under its founder, Osman I, the Ottoman beylik expanded along the Sakarya River and westward towards the Sea of Marmara. Thus, the population of western Asia Minor had largely become Turkish-speaking and Muslim in religion.[110] It was under his son, Orhan I, who had attacked and conquered the important urban center of Bursa in 1326, proclaiming it as the Ottoman capital, that the Ottoman Empire developed considerably. In 1354, the Ottomans crossed into Europe and established a foothold on the Gallipoli Peninsula while at the same time pushing east and taking Ankara.[112][113] Many Turks from Anatolia began to settle in the region abandoned by the inhabitants who had fled Thrace before the Ottoman invasion.[114] However, the Byzantines were not the only ones to suffer from the Ottoman advancement for, in the mid-1330s, Orhan annexed the Turkish beylik of Karasi. This advancement was maintained by Murad I who more than tripled the territories under his direct rule, reaching some 100,000 square miles, evenly distributed in Europe and Asia Minor.[115] Gains in Anatolia were matched by those in Europe; once the Ottoman forces took Edirne (Adrianople), which became the capital of the Ottoman Empire in 1365, they opened their way into Bulgaria and Macedonia in 1371 at the Battle of Maritsa.[116] With the conquests of Thrace, Macedonia, and Bulgaria, significant numbers of Turkish emigrants settled in these regions.[114] This form of Ottoman-Turkish colonization became a very effective method to consolidate their position and power in the Balkans. The settlers consisted of soldiers, nomads, farmers, artisans and merchants, dervishes, preachers and other religious functionaries, and administrative personnel.[117]

In 1453, Ottoman armies, under Sultan Mehmed II, conquered Constantinople.[115] Mehmed reconstructed and repopulated the city, and made it the new Ottoman capital.[118] After the Fall of Constantinople, the Ottoman Empire entered a long period of conquest and expansion with its borders eventually going deep into Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa.[119] Selim I dramatically expanded the empire’s eastern and southern frontiers in the Battle of Chaldiran and gained recognition as the guardian of the holy cities of Mecca and Medina.[120] His successor, Suleiman the Magnificent, further expanded the conquests after capturing Belgrade in 1521 and using its territorial base to conquer Hungary, and other Central European territories, after his victory in the Battle of Mohács as well as also pushing the frontiers of the empire to the east.[121] Following Suleiman's death, Ottoman victories continued, albeit less frequently than before. The island of Cyprus was conquered, in 1571, bolstering Ottoman dominance over the sea routes of the eastern Mediterranean.[122] However, after its defeat at the Battle of Vienna, in 1683, the Ottoman army was met by ambushes and further defeats; the 1699 Treaty of Karlowitz, which granted Austria the provinces of Hungary and Transylvania, marked the first time in history that the Ottoman Empire actually relinquished territory.[123]

Turkish woman in Ottoman costume

By the 19th century, the empire began to decline when ethno-nationalist uprisings occurred across the empire. Thus, the last quarter of the 19th and the early part of the 20th century saw some 7–9 million Muslim refugees (Turks and some Circassians, Bosnains, Georgians, etc.) from the lost territories of the Caucasus, Crimea, Balkans, and the Mediterranean islands migrate to Anatolia and Eastern Thrace.[124] By 1913, the government of the Committee of Union and Progress started a program of forcible Turkification of non-Turkish minorities.[125][126] By 1914, the World War I broke out, and the Turks scored some success in Gallipoli during the Battle of the Dardanelles in 1915. During World War I, the government of the Committee of Union and Progress continued with its Turkification policies, which effected non-Turkish minorities, such as the Armenians during the Armenian Genocide and the Greeks during various campaigns of ethnic cleansing and expulsion.[127][128][129][130][131] In 1918, the Ottoman Government agreed to the Mudros Armistice with the Allies.

The Treaty of Sèvres —signed in 1920 by the government of Mehmet VI— dismantled the Ottoman Empire. The Turks, under Mustafa Kemal, rejected the treaty and fought the Turkish War of Independence, resulting in the abortion of that text, never ratified,[132] and the abolition of the Sultanate. Thus, the 623-year-old Ottoman Empire ended.[133]

Modern era[edit]

Once Mustafa Kemal Atatürk led the Turkish War of Independence against the Allied forces that occupied the former Ottoman Empire, he united the Turkish Muslim majority and successfully led them from 1919 to 1922 in overthrowing the occupying forces out of what the Turkish National Movement considered the Turkish homeland.[134] The Turkish identity became the unifying force when, in 1923, the Treaty of Lausanne was signed and the newly founded Republic of Turkey was formally established. Atatürk's presidency was marked by a series of radical political and social reforms that transformed Turkey into a secular, modern republic with civil and political equality for sectarian minorities and women.[135]

Throughout the 1920s and the 1930s, Turks, as well as other Muslims, from the Balkans, the Black Sea, the Aegean islands, the island of Cyprus, the Sanjak of Alexandretta (Hatay), the Middle East, and the Soviet Union continued to arrive in Turkey, most of whom settled in urban north-western Anatolia.[136][137] The bulk of these immigrants, known as "Muhacirs", were the Balkan Turks who faced harassment and discrimination in their homelands.[136] However, there were still remnants of a Turkish population in many of these countries because the Turkish government wanted to preserve these communities so that the Turkish character of these neighbouring territories could be maintained.[138] One of the last stages of ethnic Turks immigrating to Turkey was between 1940 and 1990 when about 700,000 Turks arrived from Bulgaria. Today, between a third and a quarter of Turkey's population are the descendants of these immigrants.[137]


The extent to which gene flow from Central Asia has contributed to the current gene pool of the Turkish people, and the role of the 11th century invasion by Turkic peoples, has been the subject of various studies. Several studies have concluded that the historical and indigenous Anatolian groups are the primary source of the present-day Turkish population.[139]k[›][140][141][142][143] This is unsurprising, as the Turkish people are a collection of assimilated peoples who were formed from their adoption of Islam and the Turkish language, with even the Turkish state considering all those who have citizenship there to be Turkish. Furthermore, various studies suggested that, although the early Turkic invaders carried out an invasion with cultural significance, including the introduction of the Old Anatolian Turkish language (the predecessor to modern Turkish) and Islam, the genetic contribution from Central Asia may have been very small.k[›][140][144] According to American Journal of Physical Anthropology (2008) Today's Turkish people are more closely related with the Balkan populations than to the Central Asian populations,[145][146] and a study looking into allele frequencies suggested that there was a lack of genetic relationship between the Mongols and the Turks, despite the historical relationship of their languages (The Turks and Germans were equally distant to all three Mongolian populations).[147] Multiple studies suggested an elite cultural dominance-driven linguistic replacement model to explain the adoption of Turkish language by Anatolian indigenous inhabitants.[139]k[›][143] A study involving mitochondrial analysis of a Byzantine-era population, whose samples were gathered from excavations in the archaeological site of Sagalassos, found that the samples had close genetic affinity with modern Turkish and Balkan populations.[148] During their research on leukemia, a group of Armenian scientists observed high genetic matching between Turks, Kurds, and Armenians.[149] Another studies found the Peoples of the Caucasus (Georgians, Circassians, Armenians) are closest to the Turkish population among sampled European (French, Italian), Middle Eastern (Druze, Palestinian), and Central (Kyrgyz, Hazara, Uygur), South (Pakistani), and East Asian (Mongolian, Han) populations.[150][151][152][153][154][155]

Y chromosome Haplogroup distribution of Turkish people.[141]

Y-DNA haplogroup distributions in Turkish people[edit]

According to Cinnioglu et al., (2004)[156] there are many Y-DNA haplogroups present in Turkey. The majority haplogroups are shared with their "West Asian" and "Caucasian' neighbours. By contrast, "Central Asian" haplogroups are rarer, N and Q)- 5.7% (but it rises to 36% if K, R1a, R1b and L- which infrequently occur in Central Asia, but are notable in many other Western Turkic groups), India H, R2 – 1.5% and Africa A, E3*, E3a – 1%.

Some of the percentages identified were:[141]

  • J2=24% – J2 (M172)[141] Typical of west Mediterranean populations
  • R1b=14.7%[141] Widespread in western Eurasia, with distinct 'west Asian' and 'west European' lineages.
  • G=10.9%[141] – Typical of people from the Caucasus and to a lesser extent the Middle East, southern parts of Central Asia, and Europe.
  • E3b-M35=10.7%[141] (E3b1-M78 and E3b3-M123 accounting for all E representatives in the sample, besides a single E3b2-M81 chromosome). E-M78 occurs commonly, and is found in northern and eastern Africa, western Asia[157] Haplogroup E-M123 is found in both Africa and Eurasia.
  • J1=9%[141] – Typical amongst people from the Arabian Peninsula and Dagestan (ranging from 3% from Turks around Konya to 12% in Kurds).
  • R1a=6.9%[141] – Common in various Central Asian, North Indian, and Eastern European populations.
  • I=5.3%[141] – Common in Scandinavia, Sardinia, the Balkans, eastern Europe and among Kurds.
  • K=4.5%[141] – Typical of Asian populations and Caucasian populations.
  • L=4.2%[141] – Typical of Indian Subcontinent and Khorasan populations. Found sporadically in the Middle East and the Caucasus.
  • N=3.8%[141] – Typical of Uralic, Siberian and Altaic populations.
  • T=2.5%[141] – Typical of Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Northeast African and South Asian populations
  • Q=1.9%[141] – Typical of Northern Altaic populations.

Geographic distribution[edit]

Main article: Turkish population

Traditional areas of Turkish settlement[edit]


In the latter half of the 11th century, the Seljuks began penetrating into the eastern regions of Anatolia. In 1071, the Seljuk Turks defeated the Byzantines at the Battle of Manzikert, starting Turkification of the area; the Turkish language and Islam were introduced to Anatolia and gradually spread over the region. The slow transition from a predominantly Christian and Greek-speaking Anatolia to a predominantly Muslim and Turkish-speaking one was underway.[158]

Ethnic Turks make up between 70% to 75% of Turkey's population.[1]


The Turkish Cypriots are the ethnic Turks whose Ottoman Turkish forbears colonised the island of Cyprus in 1571. About 30,000 Turkish soldiers were given land once they settled in Cyprus, which bequeathed a significant Turkish community. In 1960, a census by the new Republic's government revealed that the Turkish Cypriots formed 18.2% of the island's population.[159] However, once inter-communal fighting and ethnic tensions between 1963 and 1974 occurred between the Turkish and Greek Cypriots, known as the "Cyprus conflict", the Greek Cypriot government conducted a census in 1973, albeit without the Turkish Cypriot populace. A year later, in 1974, the Cypriot government’s Department of Statistics and Research estimated the Turkish Cypriot population was 118,000 (or 18.4%).[160] A coup d'état in Cyprus on 15 July 1974 by Greeks and Greek Cypriots favouring union with Greece (also known as "Enosis") was followed by military intervention by Turkey whose troops established Turkish Cypriot control over the northern part of the island.[161] Hence, census's conducted by the Republic of Cyprus have excluded the Turkish Cypriot population that had settled in the unrecognised Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.[160] Between 1975 and 1981, Turkey encouraged its own citizens to settle in Northern Cyprus; a report by CIA suggests that 200,000 of the residents of Cyprus are Turkish.


The Meskhetian Turks are the ethnic Turks formerly inhabiting the Meskheti region of Georgia, along the border with Turkey. The Turkish presence in Meskhetia began with the Ottoman invasion of 1578,[162] although Turkic tribes had settled in the region as early as the eleventh and twelfth centuries.[162] Today, the Meskhetian Turks are widely dispersed throughout the former Soviet Union (as well as in Turkey and the United States) due to forced deportations during World War II. At the time, the Soviet Union was preparing to launch a pressure campaign against Turkey, and Joseph Stalin wanted to clear the strategic Turkish population in Meskheti, who would likely be hostile to Soviet intentions.[163] In 1944, the Meskhetian Turks were accused of smuggling, banditry and espionage in collaboration with their kin across the Turkish border;[164] nationalistic policies at the time encouraged the slogan: "Georgia for Georgians" and that the Meskhetian Turks should be sent to Turkey "where they belong".[165][166] The Meskhetian Turks were a small group expelled by Stalin in 1944 to Central Asia, their number according to the 1939 Soviet census was 115,000.


Region of settlement Year of Turkish settlement Name of Turkish community Current status
Albania Albanian Turks The 2011 Albannian census recorded 714 people speaking Turkish as mother tongue.
Bosnia 1463 Bosnian Turks The 1991 Bosnian census showed that there was a minority of 267 Turks.[167] However current estimates suggest that there are actually 50,000 Turks living in the country.[168]
Bulgaria 1396 Bulgarian Turks In the 2011 Bulgarian census, which did not receive a response regarding ethnicity by the total population, 588,318 people, or 8.8% of the self-appointed, determined their ethnicity as Turkish;[169] while the latest census of the entire population—the 2001 census—recorded 746,664 Turks, or 9.4% of the population.[170] Other estimates suggests that there are 750,000[171] to up to around 1 million Turks in the country.[172]
Croatia Croatian Turks According to the 2001 Croatian census the Turkish minority numbered 300.[173] More recent estimates have suggested that there are 2,000 Turks in Croatia.[174]
Dodecanese 1523 Dodecanese Turks Some 5,000 Turks live in the Dodecanese islands of Rhodes and Kos.[175]
Kosovo 1389 Kosovan Turks[176] There are 18,000 Turks in Kosovo, representing around 1% of the population.[63]
Republic of Macedonia 1392 Macedonian Turks[177] The 2002 Macedonian census states that there were 77,959 Macedonian Turks, forming about 4% of the total population and constituting a majority in Centar Župa and Plasnica.[55] However, academic estimates suggest that they actually number between 170,000–200,000.[52][57]
Montenegro 1496 Montenegrin Turks There were 104 Montenegrin Turks according to the 2011 census.[178] The majority left their homes and migrated to Turkey in the early 20th century.[179]
Dobruja 1388 Romanian Turks[180] There were 27,700 Romanian Turks living in the country according to the 2011 Romanian census.[181] However, academic estimates suggest that the community numbers between 55,000[182][61] and 80,000.[183]
Serbia Serbian Turks The 2002 Serbian census does not include Kosovo and it recorded 522 Turks.
Western Thrace 1354 Western Thrace Turks The Greek government refers to the community as "Greek Muslims" or "Hellenic Muslims" and denies the existence of a Turkish minority in Western Thrace, the easternmost poart of Northern Greece.[184] Population estimates around 1990 were about 80,000–130,000,[184] while there are more recent estimates giving both lower and higher numbers for the total Muslim minority.[59][185] Between 300,000 to 400,000 have emigrated to Turkey since 1923.[186]


Region of settlement Year of Turkish settlement Name of Turkish community Current status
Iraq 1534 Iraqi Turks The Turks of Iraq are often called "Iraqi Turkmens" or "Iraqi Turcomans" because there have been various Turkic migrations to Iraq, from as early as the 7th century. However, most of today's descendants of these first migrants are assimilated into the local Arab population.[187] Once Suleiman the Magnificent conquered Iraq in 1534, followed by Sultan Murad IV's capture of Baghdad in 1638, a large influx of Turks settled down in the region.[188][189][190] Thus, most of today's Iraqi Turkmen are the descendants of the Ottoman soldiers, traders and civil servants who were brought into Iraq during the rule of the Ottoman Empire.[191][192][188][190]
Jordan 1516 Jordanian Turks There exists a small minority of about 5,000 people in the country who are the descendants of the Ottoman-Turkish colonisers.[193]
Lebanon 1516 Lebanese Turks The Turkish community in Lebanon currently numbers about 80,000.[49] Turks were brought into the region along with Sultan Selim I’s army during his campaign to Egypt. The descendants of these early Ottoman Turkish settlors mainly live in Akkar and Baalbeck.[194] Late Ottoman-Turkish migration continued when the Ottoman Empire lost its dominion over the island of Crete, in modern-day Greece.[195] After 1897, when the Ottomans lost control of the island, the Ottoman Empire sent ships to protect the island’s Cretan Turks, most settled in Izmir and Mersin, but some of them were also sent to Tripoli, Lebanon.[195]
Syria 1516 Syrian Turks The Turks of Syria are often called "Syrian Turkmens" or "Syrian Turcomans" because various Turkic migrations to Syria began as early as the 7th century. However, most of today's descendants of these first migrants are assimilated into the local Arab population. In 1516 Sultan Selim I conquered Syria and the region was part of the Ottoman Empire until 1918.[196] Hence, during the 402 years of Ottoman-Turkish rule, Turks migrated from Anatolia to Syria for centuries, establishing themselves as a significant community.[197] Today, there are about 1.5 million Turks living in Syria who still speak Turkish, although about a further 2 million are believed assimilated within the Arab population.[198]

North Africa[edit]

Region settlement Year of Turkish settlement Name of Turkish community Current status
Algeria 1517 Algerian Turks Estimates on the Algerian Turkish community vary significantly, according to the Turkish Embassy in Algeria there is between 600,000 to 2 million people of Turkish origin living in Algeria.[199] The Oxford Business Group has suggested that people of Turkish descent make up 5% of Algeria's total population, accounting to about 1.7 million.[200] However, other estimates state that the Turkish community make up 10–25% of Algeria's population, if the Turkish-Algerian creole population known as the Kouloughlis are included.[201][202]
Egypt 1517 Egyptian Turks About 100,000[47] Turks are still living in Egypt are often called "Egyptian Turkmens" or "Egyptian Turks" because various Turkic migrations to Egypt began as early as the 7th century. However, most of today's descendants, about 1.5 million, have assimilated into the Arab population.[48]
Libya 1551 Libyan Turks In 1936 there were 35,000 Turks living in Libya, forming about 5% of the total population at the time.[203]
Tunisia 1574 Tunisian Turks As much as 25% of Tunisia's population are of Turkish origin.[202]

Modern diaspora[edit]

Main article: Turkish diaspora

Western Europe[edit]

See also: Turks in Europe
The Turks in Germany number about 4 million,[6][7] which constitutes the largest Turkish community in Western Europe, as well as the largest within the Turkish diaspora.

After World War II, West Germany began to experience its greatest economic boom ("Wirtschaftswunder") and in 1961 invited the Turks as guest workers ("Gastarbeiter") to make up for the shortage of workers. The concept of the Gastarbeiter continued with Turkey bearing agreements with Austria, Belgium, and the Netherlands in 1964, with France in 1965; and with Sweden in 1967.[204]

Current estimates suggests that there is approximately 9 million Turks living in Europe, excluding those who live in Turkey.[205] Modern immigration of Turks to Western Europe began with Turkish Cypriots migrating to the United Kingdom in the early 1920s when the British Empire annexed Cyprus in 1914 and the residents of Cyprus became subjects of the Crown. However, Turkish Cypriot migration increased significantly in the 1940s and 1950s due to the Cyprus conflict. Conversely, in 1944, Turks who were forcefully deported from Meskheti in Georgia during the Second World War, known as the Meskhetian Turks, settled in Eastern Europe (especially in Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Ukraine). By the early 1960s, migration to Western and Northern Europe increased significantly from Turkey when Turkish "guest workers" arrived under a "Labour Export Agreement" with Germany in 1961, followed by a similar agreement with the Netherlands, Belgium and Austria in 1964; France in 1965; and Sweden in 1967.[206][207][208] More recently, Bulgarian Turks, Romanian Turks, and Western Thrace Turks have also migrated to Western Europe.

North America[edit]

Compared to Turkish immigration to Europe, migration to North America has been relatively small. According to the US Census Bureau and Statistics Canada, 196,222 Americans in 2013[22] and 24,910 Canadians in 2011[34] were of Turkish descent. However, the actual number of Turks in both countries is considerably larger, as a significant number of ethnic Turks have migrated to North America not just from Turkey but also from the Balkans (such as Bulgaria and Macedonia), Cyprus, and the former Soviet Union.[209] Hence, the Turkish American community is currently estimated to number about 500,000[25][23] whilst the Turkish Canadian community is believed to number between 50,000–100,000. The largest concentration of Turkish Americans are in New York City, and Rochester, New York; Washington, D.C.; and Detroit, Michigan. The majority of Turkish Canadians live in Ontario, mostly in Toronto, and there is also a sizable Turkish community in Montreal. With regards to the 2010 United States Census, the U.S government was determined to get an accurate count of the American population by reaching segments, such as the Turkish community, that are considered hard to count, a good portion of which falls under the category of foreign-born immigrants.[24] The Assembly of Turkish American Associations and the US Census Bureau formed a partnership to spearhead a national campaign to count people of Turkish origin with an organisation entitled "Census 2010 SayTurk" (which has a double meaning in Turkish, "Say" means "to count" and "to respect") to identify the estimated 500,000 Turks now living in the United States.[24]


A notable scale of Turkish migration to Australia began in the late 1940s when Turkish Cypriots began to leave the island of Cyprus for economic reasons, and then, during the Cyprus conflict, for political reasons, marking the beginning of a Turkish Cypriot immigration trend to Australia.[210] The Turkish Cypriot community were the only Muslims acceptable under the White Australia Policy;[211] many of these early immigrants found jobs working in factories, out in the fields, or building national infrastructure.[212] In 1967, the governments of Australia and Turkey signed an agreement to allow Turkish citizens to immigrate to Australia.[213] Prior to this recruitment agreement, there were less than 3,000 people of Turkish origin in Australia.[214] According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, nearly 19,000 Turkish immigrants arrived from 1968–1974.[213] They came largely from rural areas of Turkey, approximately 30% were skilled and 70% were unskilled workers.[215] However, this changed in the 1980s when the number of skilled Turks applying to enter Australia had increased considerably.[215] Over the next 35 years the Turkish population rose to almost 100,000.[214] More than half of the Turkish community settled in Victoria, mostly in the north-western suburbs of Melbourne.[214] According to the 2006 Australian Census, 59,402 people claimed Turkish ancestry;[216] however, this does not show a true reflection of the Turkish Australian community as it is estimated that between 40,000 to 120,000 Turkish Cypriots[217][218][219][220] and 150,000 to 200,000 mainland Turks[221][222] live in Australia. Furthermore, there has also been ethnic Turks who have migrated to Australia from Bulgaria,[223] Greece,[224] Iraq,[225] and the Republic of Macedonia.[224]

Former Soviet Union[edit]

The Turkish people traditionally lived in the Meskhetia region of Georgia. However, due to the ordered deportation of over 115,000 Meskhetian Turks from their homeland in 1944, during the Second World War, the majority settled in Central Asia.[226] According to the 1989 Soviet Census, which was the last Soviet Census, 106,000 Meskhetian Turks lived in Uzbekistan, 50,000 in Kazakhstan, and 21,000 in Kyrgyzstan.[226] However, in 1989, the Meshetian Turks who had settled in Uzbekistan became the target of a pogrom in the Fergana valley, which was the principal destination for Meskhetian Turkish deportees, after an uprising of nationalism by the Uzbeks.[226] The riots had left hundreds of Turks dead or injured and nearly 1,000 properties were destroyed; thus, thousands of Meskhetian Turks were forced into renewed exile.[226] The majority of Meskhetian Turks, about 70,000, went to Azerbaijan, whilst the remainder went to various regions of Russia (especially Krasnodar Krai), Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Ukraine.[226][227] Soviet authorities recorded many Meskhetian Turks as belonging to other nationalities such as "Azeri", "Kazakh", "Kyrgyz", and "Uzbek".[226][228] Hence, official census's have not shown a true reflection of the Turkish population; for example, according to the 2009 Azerbaijani census, there were 38,000 Turks living in the country;[229] yet in 1999, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees stated that there were 100,000 Meskhetian Turks living in the country.[230] Furthermore, in 2001, the Baku Institute of Peace and Democracy suggested that there was between 90,000 to 110,000 Meskhetian Turks living in Azerbaijan.[72]


Further information: Culture of Turkey and Turkey § Culture

Arts and Architecture[edit]

Safranbolu was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1994 due to its well-preserved Ottoman era houses and architecture.
An example of Turkish classical music.

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Turkish architecture reached its peak during the Ottoman period. Ottoman architecture, influenced by Seljuk, Byzantine and Islamic architecture, came to develop a style all of its own.[231] Overall, Ottoman architecture has been described as a synthesis of the architectural traditions of the Mediterranean and the Middle East.[232]

As Turkey successfully transformed from the religion-based former Ottoman Empire into a modern nation-state with a very strong separation of state and religion, an increase in the modes of artistic expression followed. During the first years of the republic, the government invested a large amount of resources into fine arts; such as museums, theatres, opera houses and architecture. Diverse historical factors play important roles in defining the modern Turkish identity. Turkish culture is a product of efforts to be a "modern" Western state, while maintaining traditional religious and historical values.[233] The mix of cultural influences is dramatized, for example, in the form of the "new symbols of the clash and interlacing of cultures" enacted in the works of Orhan Pamuk, recipient of the 2006 Nobel Prize in Literature.[234]

Traditional Turkish music include Arabesk, Turkish folk music (Halk Müziği), Fasıl, and Ottoman classical music (sanat music) that originates from the Ottoman court.[235] Contemporary Turkish music include Turkish pop music, rock, and Turkish hip hop genres.[235]


Main article: Turkish language
See also: Cypriot Turkish
Atatürk introducing the Turkish alphabet to the people of Kayseri. 20 September 1928. (Cover of the French L'Illustration magazine)

The Turkish language also known as Istanbul Turkish is a southern Oghuz branch of the Turkic languages. It is natively spoken by the Turkish people in Turkey, Balkans, the island of Cyprus, Meskhetia, and other areas of traditional settlement that formerly, in whole or part, belonged to the Ottoman Empire. Turkish is the official language of Turkey. In the Balkans, Turkish is still spoken by Turkish minorities who still live there, especially in Bulgaria, Greece (mainly in Western Thrace), Kosovo, the Republic of Macedonia, and Romania (mainly in Gagauzia).[236] The Turkish language was introduced to Cyprus with the Ottoman conquest in 1571 and became the politically dominant, prestigious language, of the administration.[237]

One important change to Turkish literature was enacted in 1928, when Mustafa Kemal initiated the creation and dissemination of a modified version of the Latin alphabet to replace the Arabic alphabet based Ottoman script. Over time, this change, together with changes in Turkey's system of education, would lead to more widespread literacy in the country.[238] Modern standard Turkish is based on the dialect of Istanbul.[239] Nonetheless, dialectal variation persists, in spite of the levelling influence of the standard used in mass media and the Turkish education system since the 1930s.[240] The terms ağız or şive often refer to the different types of Turkish dialects.

There are three major Anatolian Turkish dialect groups spoken in Turkey: the West Anatolian dialect (roughly to the west of the Euphrates), the East Anatolian dialect (to the east of the Euphrates), and the North East Anatolian group, which comprises the dialects of the Eastern Black Sea coast, such as Trabzon, Rize, and the littoral districts of Artvin.[241][242] The Balkan Turkish dialects are considerably closer to standard Turkish and do not differ significantly from it, despite some contact phenomena, especially in the lexicon.[243] In the post-Ottoman period, Cypriot Turkish was relatively isolated from standard Turkish and had strong influences by the Cypriot Greek dialect. The condition of coexistence with the Greek Cypriots led to a certain bilingualism whereby Turkish Cypriots knowledge of Greek was important in areas where the two communities lived and worked together.[244] The linguistic situation changed radically in 1974, when the island was divided into a Greek south and a Turkish north (Northern Cyprus). Today, the Cypriot Turkish dialect is being exposed to increasing standard Turkish through immigration from Turkey, new mass media, and new educational institutions.[237] The Meskhetian Turks speak an Eastern Anatolian dialect of Turkish, which hails from the regions of Kars, Ardahan, and Artvin.[245] The Meskhetian Turkish dialect has also borrowed from other languages (including Azerbaijani, Georgian, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Russian, and Uzbek), which the Meskhetian Turks have been in contact with during the Russian and Soviet rule.[245]


Circle frame.svg

Religion in Turkey (2012) [246]

  Islam (96.5%)
  Christianity (0.3%)
  other/none (3.2%)
The Sultan Ahmed Mosque is an example of the most common form of a Turkish mosque with a central dome and cascading semi-and quarter-domes and minarets.

According to the CIA factbook, 99.8% of the population in Turkey is Muslim, most of them being Sunni. The remaining 0.2% is mostly Christian and Jewish.[247] There are also some estimated 10 to 15 million Alevi Muslims in Turkey.[248] Christians in Turkey include Assyrians/Syriacs,[249] Armenians, and Greeks.[250] Jewish people in Turkey include those that descend from Sephardic Jews who escaped Spain in 15th century and Greek-speaking Jews from Byzantine times.[251] There is an ethnic Turkish Protestant Christian community most of them came from recent Muslim Turkish backgrounds, rather than from ethnic minorities.[79][252][253][254]

According to KONDA research, only 9.7% of the population described themselves as "fully devout," while 52.8% described themselves as "religious."[255] 69.4% of the respondents reported that they or their wives cover their heads (1.3% reporting chador), although this rate decreases in several demographics: 53% in ages 18–28, 27.5% in university graduates, 16.1% in masters-or-higher-degree holders.[73] Turkey has also been a secular state since Ataturk.[256] According to a poll, 90% of respondents said the country should be defined as secular in the new Constitution that is being written.[257]

See also[edit]

References and notes[edit]

^ a: According to the Home Affairs Committee this includes 300,000 Turkish Cypriots.[258] However, some estimates suggest that the Turkish Cypriot community in the UK has reached between 350,000[259] to 400,000.[260][261]
^ b: Includes people of mixed ethnic background.
^ c: A further 10,000–30,000 people from Bulgaria live in the Netherlands. The majority are Bulgarian Turks and are the fastest-growing group of immigrants in the Netherlands.[262]
^ d: This includes Turkish settlers. 2,000 of these Turkish Cypriots currently reside in the southern part of the island, the rest on the northern.[263]
^ e: This figure only includes Turkish citizens. Therefore, this also includes ethnic minorities from Turkey; however, it does not include ethnic Turks who have either been born and/or have become naturalised citizens. Furthermore, these figures do not include ethnic Turkish minorities from Bulgaria, Cyprus, Georgia, Greece, Iraq, Kosovo, Macedonia, Romania or any other traditional area of Turkish settlement because they are registered as citizens from the country they have immigrated from rather than their ethnic Turkish identity.
^ f: In addition to Turkish citizens, this figure includes people with ancestral background related to Turkey, so it includes ethnic minorities of Turkey.
^ g: This figure only includes Turks of Western Thrace. A further 5,000 live in the Rhodes and Kos.[175] In addition to this, 8,297 immigrants live in Greece.[264]
^ h: These figures only include the Meskhetian Turks. According to official census's there were 38,000 Turks in Azerbaijan (2009),[229] 97,015 in Kazakhstan (2009),[265] 39,133 in Kyrgyzstan (2009),[266] 109,883 in Russia (2010),[267] and 9,180 in Ukraine (2001).[268] A further 106,302 Turks were recorded in Uzbekistan's last census in 1989[269] although the majority left for Azerbaijan and Russia during the 1989 pogroms in the Ferghana Valley. Official data regarding the Turks in the former Soviet Union is unlikely to provide a true indication of their population as many have been registered as "Azeri", "Kazakh", "Kyrgyz", and "Uzbek".[270] In Kazakhstan only a third of them were recorded as Turks, the rest had been arbitrarily declared members of other ethnic groups.[271][272] Similarly, in Azerbaijan, much of the community is officially registered as "Azerbaijani"[273] even though the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reported, in 1999, that 100,000 Meskhetian Turks were living there.[71]
^ i: A further 30,000 Bulgarian Turks live in Sweden.[274]
^ j: "The history of Turkey encompasses, first, the history of Anatolia before the coming of the Turks and of the civilizations—Hittite, Thracian, Hellenistic, and Byzantine—of which the Turkish nation is the heir by assimilation or example. Second, it includes the history of the Turkish peoples, including the Seljuks, who brought Islam and the Turkish language to Anatolia. Third, it is the history of the Ottoman Empire, a vast, cosmopolitan, pan-Islamic state that developed from a small Turkish amirate in Anatolia and that for centuries was a world power."[275]
^ k: The Turks are also defined by the country of origin. Turkey, once Asia Minor or Anatolia, has a very long and complex history. It was one of the major regions of agricultural development in the early Neolithic and may have been the place of origin and spread of lndo-European languages at that time. The Turkish language was imposed on a predominantly lndo-European-speaking population (Greek being the official language of the Byzantine empire), and genetically there is very little difference between Turkey and the neighboring countries. The number of Turkish invaders was probably rather small and was genetically diluted by the large number of aborigines."
"The consideration of demographic quantities suggests that the present genetic picture of the aboriginal world is determined largely by the history of Paleolithic and Neolithic people, when the greatest relative changes in population numbers took place."[276]

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