Turks in Europe

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The Turks in Europe (sometimes called Euro-Turks) (Turkish: Avrupa'da yaşayan Türkler or Avrupa Türkleri) refers to ethnic Turks living in Europe. Most Turks live in Turkey, but in the diaspora most of them live in Germany. This includes the traditional Turkish minorities of Europe and their diasporas (namely the Balkan Turks, Meskhetian Turks, and Turkish Cypriots) and people descending from Turkey. The Turkish people have had a long history in Europe dating back to the Ottoman era when they began to migrate to Southeast Europe during the Ottoman conquests (see the Ottoman territories in Europe) which, other than Turkey, created significant Turkish communities in Bulgaria (Bulgarian Turks), Bosnia and Herzegovina (Bosnian Turks), Cyprus (Turkish Cypriots), Georgia (Meskhetian Turks), Greece (Cretan Turks, Dodecanese Turks, and Western Thrace Turks), Kosovo (Kosovan Turks), the Republic of Macedonia (Macedonian Turks), and Romania (Romanian Turks).

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.[1][2][3] More recently, Bulgarian Turks, Romanian Turks, and Western Thrace Turks have also migrated to Western Europe.


Ottoman migration[edit]

Ottoman Turks migrated to various parts of Europe during the rule of the Ottoman Empire; thus, large communities have been formed due to Turkish colonisation, especially in Bulgaria, the island of Cyprus, Georgia (especially in Meskheti), Greece (mainly in Western Thrace), Kosovo, the Republic of Macedonia, and Romania.

During the rule of the Ottoman Empire (1299-1923), Turkish settlers began to move into the Ottoman territories in Europe as part of the Turkish expansion, because these Turkish communities migrated to these countries during the Ottoman rule, they are not considered part of the modern Turkish diaspora. However, these populations, which have different nationalities, still share the same ethnic, linguistic, cultural and religious origins as today's Turkish nationals.

Balkan Turks[edit]

The conquest of the Balkans by the Ottomans set in motion important population movements of Turks brought over from Anatolia and Asia Minor, establishing a firm Turkish base for further conquests in Europe.[4] Thus, the Ottomans used colonization as a very effective method to consolidate their position and power in the Balkans. The colonizers that were brought to the Balkans consisted of soldiers, nomads, farmers, artisans and merchants, dervishes, preachers and other religious functionaries, and administrative personnel. Densely populated Turkish colonies were established in the frontier regions of Thrace, the Maritsa and the Tundzha valleys.[4] In addition to voluntary migrations, throughout the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth centuries, the Ottoman authorities also used mass deportations ("sürgün") as a method of control over potentially rebellious individuals.[5] One of the greatest impacts of the Ottoman colonization process of the Balkans was felt in the urban centres, many towns became major centres for Turkish control and administration, with most Christians gradually withdrawing to the mountains. The Ottomans embarked on creating new towns and repopulating older towns that had suffered significant population decline and economic dislocation during the wars preceding the Ottoman conquests.[5] Major Balkan towns, especially those on or near transportation and communication routes, were the focal point of Ottoman colonization in the Balkans. Most urban centres in the Balkans, especially in Thrace, Macedonia, Thessaly, and Moesia, achieved Muslim/Turkish majorities or substantial minorities soon after the completion of the conquest and remained overwhelmingly Muslim in composition into the eighteenth century, and in some areas such as Macedonia and Bulgaria well into the nineteenth century.[6] However, in the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, many Turks were displaced, most of them fleeing to Anatolia. At present, there are still significant Turkish minorities living in Bulgaria, the province of East Macedonia and Thrace in Northern Greece, Kosovo, the Republic of Macedonia, and Romania.[7]

Bulgarian Turks as refugees in 1877.
A Turkish Cypriot woman in 1878.

Meskhetian Turks[edit]

Main article: Meskhetian Turks

The Meskhetian Turks, also known as Ahiska Turks, are the descendants of Turkish colonizers who reside, or used to reside, in Meskheti which is in the southwestern region of Georgia. The region came under Ottoman rule in the sixteenth century up until 1829. Today, approximately 600 to 1,000 Meskhetian Turks are still living in Georgia,[8] the population drastically decreased in 1944 when Joseph Stalin deported approximately 100,000 of these Turks to Central Asia.[9]

Turkish Cypriots[edit]

Main article: Turkish Cypriots

The Ottoman Turks conquered Cyprus in 1571 when they began a campaign which led to the fall of Nicosia in September 1570 and of Famagusta in August 1571.[10] By 1571, about 30,000 Turkish settlers, which included soldiers who were involved in the conquest and their families, or agricultural colonizers, particularly from the Konya region, were given land on the island.[11][10] Thus, a strong Turkish element was formed in Cyprus’s population, which was later reinforced by immigration from Asia Minor.[10]

Ottoman galley slaves in Western Europe[edit]

As early as the 13th century Turkic slaves (Oghuz and Kipchak Mameluks), from Central Asia and the Pontic Steppe, had been sold to northern Italian city states by Arab traders.[12] Some of the slaves were bought free and mixed in with the local Italian population. At least from the 16th century onwards Ottoman traders settled in western European trading capitols such as Antwerp, Amsterdam[13] and London.[14] Turkish traders in the Netherlands had at least two mosques in Amsterdam in the early 17th century.[15]

Modern migration[edit]

According to an estimate in the European Union there are 3,7 million ethnic Turks.[16]

Turkish Cypriot migration to Great Britain (1920s-present)[edit]

Turkish Cypriots started to immigrate from Cyprus 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.[17] Many Turkish Cypriots went to the United Kingdom as students and tourists whilst others left the island due to the harsh economic and political life during the British Colony of Cyprus.[18] Emigration to the United Kingdom continued to increase when the Great Depression of 1929 brought economic depression to Cyprus, with unemployment and low wages being a significant issue.[19][20][19] During the Second World War, the number of Turkish run businesses increased which created a demand for more Turkish Cypriot workers.[21] Thus, throughout the 1950s, Turkish Cypriots emigrated to the United Kingdom for economic reasons and by 1958 the number of Turkish Cypriots was estimated to be 8,500.[22] Their numbers increased each year as rumours about immigration restrictions appeared in much of the Cypriot media.[20]

There are about 300,000 to 350,000 Turkish Cypriots, out of a total of 500,000 British Turks, living in the United Kingdom.[23][24]

Furthermore, the 1950s saw the arrival of many more Turkish Cypriots to the United Kingdom who felt vulnerable as they had cause for concern about the political future of the island.[21] This was first evident when the Greek Cypriots held a referendum in 1950 in which 95.7% of eligible Greek Cypriot voters cast their ballots in supporting a fight aimed at uniting Cyprus with Greece.[25] Hence, Turkish Cypriots fled to the United Kingdom due to the EOKA terrorists and its aim of Enosis.[18] By the 1960s, inter-ethnic fighting broke out and by 1964 some 25,000 Turkish Cypriots became internally displaced, accounting to about a fifth of their population;[26][27] furthermore, approximately 60,000 Turkish Cypriots were forcefully moved into Turkish Cypriot enclaves within Cyprus.[28] This period in Cypriot history resulted in an exodus of more Turkish Cypriots to the United Kingdom.[18] Other reasons for the continued migration to the United Kingdom was because of the economic gap which was widening in Cyprus. The Greek Cypriots were increasingly taking control of the country’s major institutions causing the Turkish Cypriots to become economically disadvantaged.[21] Thus, the political and economic unrest in Cyprus after 1964 sharply increased the number of Turkish Cypriot immigrants to the United Kingdom.[20] Many of these early migrants worked in the clothing industry in London, where both men and women could work together- sewing was a skill which the community had already acquired in Cyprus.[29] Turkish Cypriots were concentrated mainly in the north-east of London and specialised in the heavy-wear sector, such as coats and tailored garments.[30][31] This sector offered work opportunities where poor knowledge of the English language was not a problem and where self-employment was a possibility.[32]

Once the Greek military junta rose to power in 1967, Greece staged a coup d'état in 1974 against the Cypriot President, with the help of EOKA B, to unite the island with Greece.[33] This led to a military offensive by Turkey who invaded the island.[27] By 1983, the Turkish Cypriots declared their own state, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), which has since remained internationally unrecognised except by Turkey. The division of the island led to an economic embargo against the Turkish Cypriots by the Greek Cypriot controlled Government of Cyprus. This had the effect of depriving the Turkish Cypriots of foreign investment, aid and export markets; thus, it caused the Turkish Cypriot economy to remain stagnant and undeveloped.[34] Due to these economic and political issues, an estimated 130,000 Turkish Cypriots have emigrated from Northern Cyprus since its establishment to the United Kingdom.[35][36] In 2011, the House of Commons, Home Affairs Committee suggested that there are now about 300,000 Turkish Cypriots living in the UK.[23]

Meskhetian Turkish migration within Eastern Europe (1944-present)[edit]

The Meskhetian Turks, originally living in Meskheti (now known as Samtskhe-Javakheti) which is a part of southern Georgia, are widely dispersed throughout the former Soviet Union (150,000 live in Kazakhstan, 90,000-110,000 in Azerbaijan, 70,000-90,000 in Russia, 50,000 in Kyrgyzstan, 15,000 in Uzbekistan and 10,000 in Ukraine[37]) as a result of forced deportations and discrimination which began in 1944. During World War II, the Soviet Union was preparing to launch a pressure campaign against Turkey and Vyacheslav Molotov, then Minister of Foreign Affairs, formally presented a demand to the Turkish Ambassador in Moscow for the surrender of three Anatolian provinces (Kars, Ardahan and Artvin); thus, war against Turkey seemed possible, and Joseph Stalin wanted to clear the strategic Turkish population (especially those situated in Meskheti) located near the Turkish-Georgian border which were likely to be hostile to Soviet intentions.[38]

In 1944, the Meskhetian Turks were forcefully deported from Meskheti in Georgia and accused of smuggling, banditry and espionage in collaboration with their kin across the Turkish border.[39] Nationalistic policies at the time encouraged the slogan: "Georgia for Georgians" and that the Meskhetian Turks should be sent to Turkey "where they belong".[40][41] Joseph Stalin deported the Meskhetian Turks to Central Asia (especially to Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan), thousands dying en route in cattle-trucks,[42] and were not permitted by the Georgian government of Zviad Gamsakhurdia to return to their homeland.[40]

In the late 1970s, the Stavropol and Krasnodar authorities in Russia visited various regions of Uzbekistan to invite and recruit Meskhetian Turks to work in agriculture enterprises in southern Russia.[43] By 1985, Moscow issued a proposal inviting more Meskhetian Turks to move to villages in southern Russia that had been abandoned by ethnic Russians who were moving to the cities. However, the Meskhetian Turks response was that they would only leave Uzbekistan if the move were to be to their homeland.[44] Then, in 1989, ethnic Uzbeks began a series of actions against the Turks, they became the victims of riots in the Ferghana valley which led to over a hundred deaths. Within days, Decision 503 was announced "inviting" the Turks to occupy the empty farms in southern Russia that they had resisted moving to for years and around 17,000 Meskhetian Turks were evacuated to Russia.[45][46] Meskhetian Turks maintain that Moscow had planned the Uzbek riots.[46] By the early 1990s, of the 70,000 Meskhetian Turks who were still resident in Uzbekistan, approximately 50,000 Meskhetian Turkish refugees went to Azerbaijan due to continued discrimination[47][48][49][50] whilst others went to Russia and Ukraine due to fears of continued violence.[45]

Mainland Turkish migration to Western and Northern Europe (1960s-present)[edit]

The Turks in Germany number about 4 million,[51] which constitutes the largest Turkish community in Western Europe as well as the largest within the Turkish diaspora.
After Germany, France is the main destination country for Turks who emigrate. There are about 1 million Turks in France.
The "gastarbeiters" (guest workers)[edit]

The concept of the Gastarbeiter involved the agreements between the host country and Turkey which was bound up with policies of the governments involved, with state bureaucracies on both sides ultimately responsible for the dispatch and settlement of the workers.[52] Subsequently, labor agreements were signed with several European countries- with Germany in 1961; with Austria, Belgium, and the Netherlands in 1964; with France in 1965; and with Sweden in 1967. The agreements were based on a principle of rotation, and a worker was expected to return home after a year of employment abroad.[52] However, employers wanted to retain workers who had become accustomed to the work; therefore, the rotation principle never became practice. Workers were not permitted to take their families abroad with them, and were housed in group living quarters or dormitories known as "Heim".[52]

Labour recruitment and social security agreements between Turkey and European states[1]
Country Labour recruitment agreement,
date and place
Social security agreement,
date and place
 Austria 15 May 1964, Vienna 12 October 1966, Vienna
 Belgium 16 July 1964, Brussels 4 July 1966, Brussels
 Denmark 13 November 1970, Ankara
 France 8 May 1965, Ankara 20 January 1972, Paris
 Germany 30 October 1961, Bonn
(was revised by the 20 May protocol, Bonn)
30 April 1964, Bonn
 Netherlands 19 August 1964, The Hague 5 April 1966, Ankara
 Sweden 10 March 1967, Stockholm 30 June 1978, Stockholm
  Switzerland 1 May 1969, Ankara
 United Kingdom 9 September 1959, Ankara
Family reunifications[edit]

By the early 1970s, the majority of Turkish emigration to Western Europe was for the purpose of family reunification. Furthermore, by the 1990s, migration mainly by way of marriage continued to be one of the principal reasons for settling in Western Europe.

Migration of Western Thrace Turks to Western Europe (1960s-present)[edit]

About 25,000 to 40,000 Turks of Western Thrace, who are the ethnic Turks who live in the north-eastern part of Greece, have emigrated to Western Europe.[53][54] Between 12,000 to 25,000 moved to Germany in the 1960s and 1970s, when the Thracian tobacco industry was affected by a severe crisis and many tobacco growers lost their income.[55][56] After Germany, the Netherlands is the most popular destination for Western Thrace Turks, especially in the region of Randstad.[57] There is also an estimated 600-700 Western Thrace Turks living in London, although the total number living outside of London is unknown.[57]

Migration of Bulgarian Turks to Western Europe (2000s-present)[edit]

See also: Bulgarian Turks

According to the National Statistical Institute of Bulgaria, Bulgarian Turks make up 12% of short term migrants, 13% of long term migrants, and 12% of the labour migrants.[58] However, it is unlikely that this generalisation shows a true indication of the ethnic make-up of Bulgarian citizens living abroad because Bulgarian citizens of Turkish origin make up entire majorities in some countries.[59] For example, out of the 10,000 to 30,000 people from Bulgaria living in the Netherlands, the majority, of about 80%, are ethnic Turks from Bulgaria who have come from the south-eastern Bulgarian district of Kurdzhali.[60] Moreover, the Bulgarian Turks are the fastest-growing group of immigrants in the Netherlands.[61] There is also about 30,000 Bulgarian Turks living in Sweden,[62] a growing community in the United Kingdom[23] and Germany,[63] and 1,000 in Austria.[64]


Distribution of Turks in Europe.
Country Current est. Turkish population Further information Lists of Turks
 Austria 350,000[65][66][67]-500,000[68][69] Turks in Austria List of Austrian Turks
 Azerbaijana[›] 19,000 (Turkish minority only)[70]
90,000-110,000 (Meskhetian Turks only)[8]
Turks in Azerbaijan
 Belgium 200,000[71][72] 250,000[73][74][75][76] Turks in Belgium List of Belgian Turks
 Bosnia and Herzegovina 50,000[77][78] (Turkish minority only) Turks in Bosnia and Herzegovina
 Bulgaria 588,318 (Turkish minority only) Turks in Bulgaria List of Bulgarian Turks
 Croatia 367 (2011 census)[79] (Turkish minority only)
2,000[80] (including recent Turkish immigrants)
Turks of Croatia
 Czech Republic 1,700[81]
 Northern Cyprus
2,000[82] (Turkish Cypriots only)
300,000[83]-500,000[84] (includes Turkish Cypriots and recent settlers)
Turkish Cypriots List of Cypriots
 Denmark 70,000[85] 80,000[86] Turks in Denmark
 Estonia 24[87]
 Finland 10,000[88] Turks in Finland
 France 800,000[89]- 1,000,000[90][91] Turks in France List of French Turks
 Georgiac[›] 600-1,000 (Meskhetian Turkish minority only)[8] Turks in Georgia
 Germany 3,500,000[92][93] - 4,000,000[94][95] Turks in Germany List of German Turks
Western Thrace
Rhodes and Kos
Total unknown
10,000[99] to 15,000[100]
Turks in Greece
 Hungary 1,700[102] Turks in Hungary
 Iceland 68[103]
 Ireland 3,000[104] Turks in Ireland
 Italy 30,000-40,000[105][106] (excluding the Turkish minority in Moena) Turks in Italy
 Kazakhstand[›] 150,000 (Meskhetian Turks only)[8] Turks in Kazakhstan
 Kosovoe[›] 50,000[107][77]-100,000[108] (Turkish minority only) Turks in Kosovo
 Latvia 142[109] lv:Turki Latvijā
 Liechtenstein 1,000[110] Turks in Liechtenstein
 Lithuania 35[111]
 Luxembourg 450[112]
 Republic of Macedonia 170,000-200,000[113][114][115] (Turkish minority only) Turks in the Republic of Macedonia
 Malta 53[116]
 Moldova Turks in Moldova
 Monaco 57[117]
 Montenegro 104[118] (Turkish minority only) Turks in Montenegro
 Netherlands 400,000-500,000[119] 627,000[120]
Plus 10,000-30,000 Bulgarian Turks.[61]
Turks in the Netherlands List of Dutch Turks
 Norway 16,000[121] Turks in Norway
 Poland 2,500[122] Turks in Poland
 Portugal 250[123]
 Romania 28,226[124] (Turkish minority only)
Turks in Romania
 Russiaf[›] 120,000-150,000[127] Turks in Russia
 San Marino
 Serbia 647[128] (Turkish minority only) Turks in Serbia
 Slovakia 150[129]
 Slovenia 259[130]
 Spain 4,000[131] Turks in Spain
 Sweden 100,000[132][133]-200,000[134][135]
Plus 30,000 Bulgarian Turks[136]
Turks in Sweden
  Switzerland 100,000[137]-120,000[138][139] Turks in Switzerland List of Swiss Turks
 Turkey 10,000,000 (In the European region of Turkey only)[140] Turkish people List of Turks
 Ukraine 10,000 (Meskhetian Turks only)[141] Turks in Ukraine
 United Kingdom 500,000 (including 300,000-350,000 Turkish Cypriots)[23][24] Turks in the United Kingdom List of British Turks
Total Excluding Turkey: 5[142]-10,000,000[143]
Including European Turkey: ~ 15-20,000,000


See also: Islam in Europe

See also[edit]


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^ a: Azerbaijan is often considered a transcontinental country in Western Asia. However the population figures are for the entire state.
^ b: Cyprus is physiographically an island in the water basin of Western Asia and it has strong historical and sociopolitical connections with Europe.
^ c: Georgia is often considered a transcontinental country in Western Asia and Eastern Europe. However, the population figures include the entire state.
^ d: Kazakhstan is physiographically considered a transcontinental country in Central Asia (UN region) and Eastern Europe, with European territory west of the Ural Mountains and both the Ural and Emba rivers. However, population figures refer to the entire country.
^ e: Kosovo unilaterally declared its independence from Serbia on 17 February 2008. Its sovereign status is unclear.
^ f: Russia is considered a transcontinental country in Eastern Europe and Northern Asia. However the population figures include the entire state.


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