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A Yörük father with his daughter, Antalya, Altınkaya, Turkey, 2009.jpg
A Yörük father with his daughter
Regions with significant populations
Anatolia, Balkans
 Turkey>1,000,000[1][2] (2011)
 North Macedonia4,000[3]
Islam (Sunnism, Alevism)
Related ethnic groups
Turkish people and other Turkic peoples
A Yörük village settled in 15th century, traditional Turkish houses

The Yörüks, also Yuruks or Yorouks (Turkish: Yörükler; Greek: Γιουρούκοι, Youroúkoi; Bulgarian: юруци; Macedonian: Јуруци, Juruci), are a Turkish ethnic subgroup of Oghuz descent,[5] [6][7] some of whom are nomadic, primarily inhabiting the mountains of Anatolia, and partly in the Balkan peninsula.[8] On the Balkans Yörüks are distributed over a wide area from southern Serbia, parts of Bulgaria, north to Larissa in Thessaly and southern Thrace.[9][10] 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".[11][12] The Yörüks were under the Yörük Sanjak, (Turkish: Yörük Sancağı) which was not a territorial unit like the other sanjaks, but a separate organisational unit of the Ottoman Empire.[13][14]

According to some, those tribes residing in the east of the Kızılırmak river are called Turkmen and those in the west Yörük. Both terms were used together in Ottoman sources for Dulkadirli Turkmens living in Maraş and its surroundings.[15] The ethnohistorical terms Turcoman and Turkmen are used synonymously in literature to designate Yörük ancestry.[7]


Yörük (red) and Turkmens (yellow) in Anatolia
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 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.[16]

  • Anatolian Yörüks: İçel Yörüks, Alaiye Yörüks, Tekeli Yörüks, Bursa Yörüks, Haruniye Yörüks, Maraş Yörüks, Ankara Yörüks, Eğridir Yörüks, Araç Yörüks, Taraklı Yörüks, Murtana Yörüks, Nacaklı Yörüks, Nasırlı Yörüks, Eski Yörüks, Toraman Yörük, Tacirleri Yörüks, Tor Yörüks.[7]

Sarıkeçili Yörüks[edit]

The Sarıkeçili tribes (Turk. "yellow goat") are the last Yörüks (Turkish nomads) maintaining the nomadic way of life. They mainly live in the Mersin province, in the central-eastern parts of Turkish Mediterranean coast, and consist of about 200 families. Their winter camp is in Silifke, Gülnar and Anamur coasts. In summer they live in the districts of Beysehir and Seydisehir of the Konya province. Their nomad tents can be seen throughout the Mediterranean coastal sides of Turkey. This is a very common practice among old Turkic tribes in central Asia even nowadays.[8][17] Throat playing tradition, known as “Boğaz Havası” or “Boğaz Çalma”, has an important aspect in the culture of the Sarıkeçili Yörüks, it is performed by pressing the throat with a finger while singing with a sound.[17][7] In the past centuries, many Sarıkeçili tribes also resided in these areas: İçel, Aydın, Konya, Karahisâr-ı Sahib, Akşehir, Saruhan, Doğanhisarı, Antalya, Eğridir, Isparta, Burdur, Dazkırı, Uluborlu. Most Sarıkeçili tribes living in these areas have already accepted the sedentary way of life. The Sarıkeçili around Antalya and Mersin are the last representatives of Yörük nomadism.[7][18] They are considered ‘the only group representing the Turkish migration from Central Asia’.[2]


French historian and Turkologist Jean-Paul Roux visited the Anatolian Yörüks in the late 1950s and found that the majority of them were practicing Sunni Muslims.[19] The tribes he visited were led by elected officials called muhtars, or village headmen, rather than hereditary chiefs, although he did note that village elders maintained some social authority based on their age.[20] For the majority of the year, they lived in dark wool tents called kara çadır.[21] During the summer, they went up to the mountains, and in the winter they came down to the coastal plains.[22] They kept a variety of animals, including goats, sheep, camels, and sometimes cattle.[23]

The focus of each tribe was the family unit. Young men would move directly from their family's tent to their own upon marriage. The Yörüks married endogamously; that is, they married strictly within their own tribe. Children were raised by the tribe as a whole, who told Roux "we are all parents."[24] Although the Yörüks had acquired a reputation for being deliberately resistant to formal education, Roux found that a full quarter of Yörük children he encountered were attending school, despite the difficulties of living a nomadic lifestyle in remote locations with limited access.[25]


Balkan Yörük settlements

In 1911, the Yörük were a distinct segment of the population of Macedonia and Thrace, where they settled as early as the 14th century.[26] An earlier offshoot of the Yörüks, the Kailar or Kayılar Turks, were among the first settlements in Europe.[citation needed]

  • Rumelian Yörüks: Atçekenler/Tanrıdağı Yörüks, Naldöken Yörüks, Kocacık Yörüks, Ofcabolu Yörüks, Vize Yörüks, Yanbolu Yörüks, Selanik Yörüks.[7] Tekirdağ Yürüks.[27]

In 1900 the Rumelian Turkish population in the Balkans was estimated at seven million. Shortly after the independence of the new Bulgarian state, they formed the majority in the country. Several migrations led to a decline of the Rumelian Turkish population, leaving about 1.5 million people by 1925. Many Rumelian Turks in Greece are not counted in census because they are registered as Christians to escape discrimination.[28][29] Due to religious, linguistic and social differences, most part of Rumelian Turks did not intermarry or mix with the native populations of the Balkans.[30]

As late as 1971, Rumelian Turks still formed a distinct ethnos of former nomads (known as Yorukluk). Originally, these Yörük nomads were taken from West Anatolia (Saruhan, Menemen) to colonize parts of Rumelia, such as Thessaly and Rhodope in the Greek-Bulgarian-Macedonian borderland, or Plovdiv and Yambol in Bulgaria.[31][32][33]

Yörüks of Macedonia and Bulgaria[edit]

In 1993, the Yörük population of Bulgaria is estimated at approx. 418 thousand people,[34] mainly divided into Surguch (7,000 without children) and Yörük (320,000 without children).[35] They live mainly in the European part of Turkey, in Dulovo and the Deliorman area in Bulgaria and in the Kumanovo and Bitola areas of North Macedonia. Dialects include Gajal, Gerlovo Turk, Karamanli, Kyzylbash, Surguch, Tozluk Turk, Yuruk (Konyar, Yoruk), Prizren and Macedonian Gagauz. Current estimates of 2019 assume that in the entire Balkan region approx. 1.5 to 2.3 million people of Yörük Turkish descent live.[36]

Kayılar Yörüks[edit]

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.[26]


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 Turkmens of Iran, the Yomuts come the closest to the definition of the Yörüks. An interesting offshoot of the Yörük mass are the Tahtacı 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]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Area Handbook for the Republic of Turkey", Volume 550, Issue 80, Thomas Duval Roberts, American University (Washington, D.C.). Foreign Area Studies. U.S. Government Printing Office, 1970. Page 74.
  2. ^ a b Michaël Thevenin (2011): "Kurdish Transhumance: Pastoral practices in South-east Turkey". Springer: Pastoralism Research Policy and Practice (1), Social Anthropology, URMIS Paris 7, DOI: 10.1186/2041-7136-1-23 page 21.
  3. ^ Yoruk in North Macedonia. Joshua Project.
  4. ^ Yoruk in Bulgaria. Joshua Project.
  5. ^ Klyashtorny, S.G. (1997) "The Oguzs of the Central Asia and The Guzs of the Aral Region" in International Journal of Eurasian Studies 2
  6. ^ Vakalopoulos, Apostolos Euangelou. " Origins of the Greek Nation: The Byzantine Period, 1204-1461". Rutgers University Press, 1970. web link, p. 163, p. 330
  7. ^ a b c d e f Gelekçi, Cahit (2004). Türk Kültüründe Oğuz-Türkmen-Yörük Kavramları. Türkiyat Araştırmaları Dergisi, Güz 2004, Issue 1 ISSN 1305-5992
  8. ^ a b A. Georgoudis, A. Rosati, C. Mosconi. Animal production and natural resources utilisation in the Mediterranean mountain areas. Wageningen Academic Publishers, 2 Aug 2005, page 621-622.
  9. ^ Svanberg, Ingvar: The turkish-speaking ethnic groups in Europe (pp.65-128) in Europa ethnica, volume 41. W. Braumüller, 1984, p.68.
  10. ^ A Bibliography of the Turkish-speaking Tribal Yörüks, by Ingvar Svanberg (Uppsala). Materialia Turcica, Volumes 5-8. Studienverlag Brockmeyer, 1981, page 21.
  11. ^ 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)
  12. ^ "yuruk." Webster's Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged. Merriam-Webster. 2002.
  13. ^ Сима Ћирковић; Раде Михаљчић (1999). Лексикон српског средњег века. Knowledge. p. 645. ISBN 9788683233014. Retrieved 23 March 2013.
  14. ^ Aleksandar Matkovski (1983). Otpor na Makedonija vo vremeto na turskoto vladeenje. Misla. p. 372. Retrieved 23 March 2013.
  15. ^ Solak, İbrahim. XVI. Yüzyılda Maraş ve Çevresinde Dulkadirli Türkmenleri.
  16. ^ Materialia Turcica, vol. 5-8, Studienverlag Brockmeyer., 1981, p.25
  17. ^ a b A. Metin KARKIN / Selin OYAN. A Study on Life, Cultural Features and Music of Sarıkeçililer, the Last Yoruks (Turkish Nomads) Living in Mersin Province. Atatürk Üniveristesi Güzel Sanatlar Enstitüsü Dergisi. Journal of the Fine Arts Institute (GSED), 35, Erzurum 2015, pp. 271-285.
  18. ^ Dulkadir, Hilmi (1997). İçel'de son Yörükler: Sartkeçililer, İçel Valiliği Yayınları
  19. ^ Roux, Jean-Paul (1961). "La sédentarisation des nomades Yürük du vilayet d'Antalya". L'Ethnographie (in French). L'Entretemps éditions. 55: 67–68.
  20. ^ Roux 1961, p. 68.
  21. ^ Roux 1961, p. 66.
  22. ^ Roux 1961, p. 68-69.
  23. ^ Roux 1961, p. 75.
  24. ^ Roux 1961, p. 69.
  25. ^ Roux 1961, p. 70.
  26. ^ a b Bourchier 1911, p. 217.
  27. ^ Çevik, Hikmet (1971). Tekirdağ Yürükleri, Tekirdağ Halkevi Yayını, İstanbul
  28. ^ Encyclopedia of the Stateless Nations: L-R, Volume 3 of Encyclopedia of the Stateless Nations: Ethnic and National Groups Around the World, James Minahan, Greenwood Press (Westport, Conn., 2002) ISBN 0313316171, 9780313316173 pp. 1611–1616.
  29. ^ The Languages and Linguistics of Europe: A Comprehensive Guide, Walter de Gruyter 2011.
  30. ^ Vol. 2 of Muslim Peoples: A World Ethnographic Survey (Greenwood Press, 1984) by Richard V. Weekes, ISBN 0313233926, p.821.
  31. ^ Volume 3 of Proceedings of the 21st International Congress of Byzantine Studie s (London, 2006) by Elizabeth Jeffreys, quotation from p. 105.
  32. ^ Volume 4 of Encyclopaedia of the World Muslims: Tribes, Castes and Communities (Global Vision, 2001), by Nagendra Kr Singh, ISBN 818774605X, 9788187746058.
  33. ^ Ottoman Methods of Conquest, by Halil Inalcik, Studia Islamica No. 2 (1954), pp. 103-129 (27 pages) Published By: Brill DOI:10.2307/1595144
  34. ^ "Turquie: situation générale". (cited 2014) Axl.cefan.ulaval.ca. Retrieved 22 August 2020.
  35. ^ Ethnologue entry for Balkan Gagauz Turkish (Johnstone 1993)
  36. ^ Açık, F. ve Yavuz R. İ. (2019). “Balkanlarda Öğreticilerin Gözünden Türkçe Öğretimi” ("Teaching Turkish from the Perspective ofTeachers in the Balkans"). Turkish World Journal of Language and Literature, Issue: 48 (Autumn 2019) - Ankara, pp. 299-326. DOI: 10.24155/tdk.2019.122.



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

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