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Regions with significant populations
Anatolia, Balkans
Rumelian Turkish,[1] Turkish
Sunni Islam and Alevism
Related ethnic groups
Turkish people and other Turkic peoples

The Yörüks, also Yuruks or Yorouks (Turkish: Yörükler; Greek: Γιουρούκοι, Youroúkoi; Bulgarian: юруци; Macedonian: Јуруци, Juruci), are a Turkish ethnic subgroup,[2] some of whom are nomadic, primarily inhabiting the mountains of Anatolia, and partly in the Balkan peninsula. Their name derives from the Turkish verb yürü- (yürümek in infinitive), which means "to walk", with the word yörük or yürük designating "those who walk on the hindlegs, walkers".[3][4] Yörüks lived within the Yörük Sanjak (Turkish: Yörük Sancağı) which was not a territorial unit like other sanjaks but a separate organisational unit of the Ottoman Empire.[5][6]


Yörük shepherd in the Taurus Mountains in 2002.

Historians and ethnologists often use the additional appellative 'Yörük Turcoman' or 'Turkmens' to describe the Yörüks of Anatolia. In Turkey's general parlance today, the terms "Türkmen" and "Yörük" indicate the gradual degrees of preserved attachment with the former semi-nomadic lifestyle of the populations concerned, with the "Turkmen" now leading a fully sedentary life, while keeping parts of their heritage through folklore and traditions, in arts like carpet-weaving, with the continued habit of keeping a yayla house for the summers, sometimes in relation to the Alevi community etc. and with Yörüks maintaining a yet stronger association with nomadism. These names ultimately hint to their Oghuz Turkish roots. The remaining "true" Yörüks of today's Anatolia traditionally use horses as a means of transportation, though these are steadily being replaced by trucks.

The Yörüks are divided in a large number of named endogamous patrilineal tribes (aşiret). Among recent tribes mentioned in the literature are Aksigirli, Ali Efendi, Bahsıs, Cakallar, Coşlu, Qekli, Gacar, Güzelbeyli, Horzum, Karaevli, Karahacılı, Karakoyunlu, Karakayalı, Karalar, Karakeçili, Manavlı, Melemenci, San Agalı, Sanhacılı, Sarıkeçili, Tekeli and Yeni Osmanlı. The tribes are splittered in clans or lineages, i.e. kabile, sülale or oba.[7]


In 1911, the Yörük were a distinct segment of the population of Macedonia and Thrace, where they settled as early as the 14th century.[8] An earlier offshoot of the Yörüks, the Kailar or Kayılar Turks, were among the first settlements in Europe.[citation needed]

Yörüks and Sarakatsani[edit]

Their nomadic way of life and the fact that they spread through the Balkans led Arnold van Gennep to try to establish a connection between the Yörüks and the ethnically Greek Sarakatsani (Greek: Σαρακατσάνοι) or Karakachans of Greece.[9] However, the Sarakatsani when for the first time mentioned under this name were Orthodox Christians and speaking Greek. Despite some connections and similarities as to the transhumant, nomadic way of life[10], there are no actual linguistic or religious links. On the contrary, a popular theory based on cultural and linguistic data suggests that Sarakatsani are of Dorian descent. [11][12][13][14][15]

Kayılar Yörüks[edit]

The first settlements of Kayılar Yörüks in Erdemuş

The Kailar Turks formerly inhabited parts of Thessaly and Macedonia (especially near the town of Kozani and modern Ptolemaida). Before 1360, large numbers of nomad shepherds, or Yörüks, from the district of Konya, in Asia Minor, had settled in the country. Further immigration from this region took place from time to time up to the middle of the 18th century. After the establishment of the feudal system in 1397 many of the Seljuk noble families came over from Asia Minor; some of the beys or Muslim landowners in southern Macedonia before the Balkan Wars may have been their descendants.<[8]


Clans closely related to the Yörüks are scattered throughout the Anatolian Peninsula and beyond it, particularly around the chain of Taurus Mountains and further east around the shores of the Caspian sea. Of the Turcomans of Iran, the Yomuts come the closest to the definition of the Yörüks. An interesting offshoot of the Yörük mass are the Tahtadji of the mountainous regions of Western Anatolia who, as their name implies, have been occupied with forestry work and wood craftsmanship for centuries. Despite this, they share similar traditions (with markedly matriarchal tones in their society structure) with their other Yörük cousins. The Qashqai people of southern Iran are also worthy of mention due to their shared characteristics.[clarification needed]

Northern Cyprus[edit]

A considerable number of the original Turkish population of Northern Cyprus are also of Yörük descent.[citation needed]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Balkan Gagauz Turkish". Ethnologue. Retrieved 25 April 2019.
  2. ^ Vakalopoulos, Apostolos Euangelou. " Origins of the Greek Nation: The Byzantine Period, 1204-1461". Rutgers University Press, 1970. web link, p. 163, p. 330
  3. ^ Turkish Language Association - TDK Online Dictionary. Yorouk Archived April 4, 2009, at the Wayback Machine, yorouk Archived April 4, 2009, at the Wayback Machine (in Turkish)
  4. ^ "yuruk." Webster's Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged. Merriam-Webster. 2002.
  5. ^ Сима Ћирковић; Раде Михаљчић (1999). Лексикон српског средњег века. Knowledge. p. 645. Retrieved 23 March 2013. Посебни санџак-бегови управљали су санџаци- ма који нису представљали територијалне, него само организационе јединице неких војничких и друштвених редова (војнуци, акинџије, Јуруци, Цигани)
  6. ^ Aleksandar Matkovski (1983). Otpor na Makedonija vo vremeto na turskoto vladeenje. Misla. p. 372. Retrieved 23 March 2013. Нај-голема организациона единица на таквите општествени редови како што биле војнуци, акинџии, Јуруци, Роми, Власи кои имале своја посебна организација и [...]
  7. ^ Materialia Turcica, vol. 5-8, Studienverlag Brockmeyer., 1981, p.25
  8. ^ a b Bourchier 1911, p. 217.
  9. ^ Ethnic groups worldwide: a ready reference handbook By David Levinson page 41 :” Sarakatsani are Greek-speaking people in northwestern Greece and southern Bulgaria. They number less than 100 thousand , are ethnically Greek, speak Greek, and are Greek orthodox.”
  10. ^ Kavadias, Georges B. (1965). Pasteurs-Nomades Mediterraneens: Les Saracatsans de Grèce (in French). Gauthier-Villars. p. 6. Retrieved 2008-11-17. Gennep T, les considère (mais à titre d'hypothèse) comme des descendants des Turcs, installés dans le pays.
  11. ^ Cusumano, Camille (2007). Greece, a Love Story. Seal Press. p. 72. ISBN 978-0-786-75058-0. Legend tells us that the Sarakatsani, isolated for centuries in the mountains, are descended from the original Dorian Greeks.
  12. ^ Dubin, Mark; Kydoniefs, Frank (2005). Greece. New Holland Publishers. p. 192. ISBN 978-1-860-11122-8. ...while the dialect of the Sarakatsani shepherds is said to be the oldest, a direct descendant of the language of the Dorian settlers.
  13. ^ Kakouri, Katerina (1965). Death and resurrection. G. C. Elefteroudakis. p. 16. Certain investigators fit them in with the archaic nomadic descent of the very ancient Dorians.
  14. ^ Eliot, Alexander (1991). The penguin guide to Greece. Penguin Books. p. 318. Fermor believes these nomads to be the direct, unalloyed descendants of the Dorians, whose geometric pottery designs are today mirrored in the weave of Sarakatsani textiles.
  15. ^ Young, Kenneth (1969). The Greek passion. Dent. p. 12. Leigh Fermor (1966) even suggests that Sarakatsani clothing, woven into 'black and white rectangles, dog-tooth staircases and saw-edges and triangles', resembles the designs on geometric pottery of the later Dorian period.



  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainBourchier, James David (1911). "Macedonia". In Chisholm, Hugh (ed.). Encyclopædia Britannica. 17 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 216–222.

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