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Title: Turkification  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: 1934 Turkish Resettlement Law, Crimean Tatars in Bulgaria, Battle of Manzikert, Genetic history of the Turkish people, Cultural assimilation
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Turkification is the assimilation of individuals, entities, or cultures into the various historical Turkic states and cultures, such as the Ottoman Empire. As the Turkic states developed and grew there were many instances of this assimilation, voluntary and involuntary, including the Anatolian, Balkan, Caucasian and Middle Eastern peoples from different ethnic origins, such as the Albanians, Arabs, Armenians, Assyrians, Circassians, Greeks, Jews, Romani, South Slavic peoples & East Slavic Ukrainians, Iranic peoples such as Kurds, as well as Lazs from all the regions of the Ottoman Empire and Iran. An early form of Turkification occurred in the time of the Seljuk Empire among the indigenous peoples of Anatolia, involving religious conversion, cultural and linguistic assimilation, and interethnic relationships.


The term is used in the Greek language since late-Byzantine era as "εκτουρκισμός", or "τούρκεμα". It literally means "becoming muslim or Turk". For example: "Είχε τουρκέψει κάτω από βία, τον καιρό της άτυχης εκείνης επανάστασης του 1770, τούρκεμα κανονικό με "σουνέτι" (περιτομή) από Τούρκο παπά (Χότζα)", i.e. "He had been turkified by force, at the time of the unfortunate revolution of 1770. A real turkification, with circumcision by a Turkish priest (Hodja)".[1] Apart from persons, it may refer also to cities that were conquered by Turks or churches that were converted to mosques. It is more frequently used in the form of the verb "τουρκεύω" (turkify, become muslim or Turk)[2][3][4]

In Serbian and other Slavonic languages the verb is poturčiti.,[5] however this verb does not imply adopting Turkish language, rather it usually signifies conversion to Islam.

Andrew Mango describes the diversity of phenotypes amongst the Turkish people as follows:[6]
The Turkish nation took shape in the centuries of Seljuk and Ottoman power. The nomadic Turkish conquerors did not displace the original local inhabitants: Hellenized Anatolians (or simply Greeks), Armenians, people of Caucasian origins, Kurds, Assyrians and – in the Balkans – Slavs, Albanians and others. They intermarried with them, while many local people converted to Islam and 'turned Turk'. They were joined by Muslims from the lands north of the Black Sea and the Caucasus, by Persian craftsmen and Arab scholars, and by European adventurers and converts, known in the West as renegades. As a result, the Turks today exhibit a wide variety of ethnic types. Some have delicate Far Eastern, others heavy local Anatolian features, some, who are descended from Slavs, Albanians or Circassians, have light complexions, others are dark-skinned, many look Mediterranean, others Central Asian, many appear Persian. A numerically small, but commercially and intellectually important, group is descended from converts from Judaism. One can hear Turks describe some of their fellow countrymen as 'hatchet-nosed Lazes' (a people on the Black Sea coast), 'dark Arabs' (a term which includes descendants of black slaves), or even 'fellahs'. But they are all Turks.


Arrival of Turks in Anatolia

Anatolia was home to many different peoples in ancient times who were either natives or settlers and invaders. These different people included the Hittites, Persians, Luwians, Hurrians, Armenians, Greeks, Cimmerians, Galatians, Colchians, Iberians, Carians, Lydians, Lycians, Phrygians, Arameans, Corduenes, Cappadocians, Cilicians, Kurds and scores of others. The presence of many Greeks, and the process of Hellenization, gradually caused many of these peoples to abandon their own languages in favor of Greek, especially in cities and along the western and southern coasts, a process reinforced by Romanization. Nevertheless, in the north and east, especially in rural areas, many of the native languages continued to survive, including both many extinct and a few extant languages such as Armenian and Assyrian Aramaic.[7] Byzantine authorities routinely conducted large-scale population transfers in an effort to impose religious uniformity and the Greek language. After the subordination of the First Bulgarian Empire in 1018, for instance, much of its army was resettled in Eastern Anatolia. The Byzantines were particularly keen to assimilate the large Armenian population. To that end, in the eleventh century, the Armenian nobility were removed from their lands and resettled throughout western Anatolia. An unintended consequence of this resettlement was the loss of local military leadership along the eastern frontier, opening the path for the inroads of Turkish invaders.[8] Beginning in the eleventh century, war with Turks led to the deaths of many in the native population, while others were enslaved and removed.[9] As areas became depopulated, Turkic nomads moved in with their herds.[10]

Once an area had been conquered, and hostilities had ceased, agricultural villagers may have felt little inconvenience with the arrival of these pastoralists, since they occupied different ecological zones within the same territory.[11] Turkic pastoralists remained only a small minority, however, and the gradual Turkification of Anatolia was due less to in-migration than to the conversion of many Christians to Islam, and their adoption of the Turkish language. The reasons for this conversion were first, the weak hold Greek culture had on much of the population, and second, the desire by the conquered population to "retain its property or else to avoid being at a disadvantage in other ways."[12] One mark of the progress of Turkification was that by the 1330s, place names in Anatolia had changed from Greek to Turkish.[13]

Late Ottoman era

Djemal Pasha, Nusret Bey, and Cerkez Hasan inspecting Armenian orphans of the Armenian Genocide. The Turkish orphanages held Armenian orphans in order to Turkify them.[14]

During the 19th century and early 20th century, the Ottoman Empire was composed of ethnically diverse populations such as Persians, Arabs, Albanians, Greeks, Bulgarians, Muslim Bulgarians (Pomaks), Armenians, Kurds, Zazas, Circassians, Assyrians, Jews, and Laz people.

With the rise of Turkish nationalism, an ideal among some Turkish nationalists was to form a modern homogenized nation state.[15] One of its main supporters was sociologist and political activist Ziya Gokalp who believed that a modern state must become homogeneous in terms of culture, religion, and national identity.[16] This conception of national identity was augmented by his belief in the primacy of Turkishness, as a unifying virtue. As part of this belief, it was necessary to purge from the territories of the state those national groups who could threaten the integrity of a modern Turkish nation state.[17][18] As a result of this policy, the Young Turk government launched a series of initiatives which marginalized, isolated, incarcerated, altered borders, deported, forcefully assimilated, exchanged populations, massacred and conducted genocide against its non-Turkish minority populations.[19] These policies resulted in the Armenian Genocide, Greek Genocide and Assyrian Genocide. The Anatolian Greeks numbered around 1.5 million people, most of them had fled to Greece after the Greco-Turkish War (1919-1922).[20]

This has been considered as ultimately completing a “Turkified” state.[21]

The lingual Turkification of Greek-speakers in the 19th century Anatolia is well documented. Speros Vryonis, providing some relevant accounts, believes that the Karamanlides are the result of partial turcification that occurred earlier, during the Ottoman period.[22] An important fact that has to be considered is that large numbers of Ottoman Armenians were forcibly turkified and Islamized .The editor of Agos newspaper has estimated that there are more than 4-5 million Islamized Armenians who consider themselves Turks "More than half of 4–5 million Islamized Armenians confess that their ancestors have been Armenian". Public Radio of Armenia. 5 November 2013. Turkish sources have estimated that more than 500,000 Islamized Armenians live in Turkey "Prof. Dr. Halaçoğlu: Ermeniler Anadolu'da 500 Bine Yakın Türk'ü Katletti" (in Turkish). Cihan News Agency. 2 March 2011. Retrieved 24 June 2013.


See full article: Devşirme

"Devshirme" (book illustration from Topkapı Palace Museum.)

Devşirme[a] (literally "collecting" in Turkish), also known as the blood tax, was chiefly the annual practice by which the Ottoman Empire sent military to abduct boys, sons of their Christian subjects (Rum millet) in the villages of the Balkans.[23] They were then converted to Islam[24] with the primary objective of selecting and training the ablest children for the military or civil service of the Empire, notably into the Janissaries.[25] Started by Murad I as a means to counteract the growing power of the Turkish nobility, the practice itself violated Islamic law.[26] Yet by 1648, the practice was slowly drawing to an end. An attempt to re-institute it in 1703 was resisted by its Ottoman members who coveted its military and civilian posts. Finally in the early part of Ahmet III's reign, the practice of devşirme was abolished.

Turkish Republic

When the Turkish Republic was founded, nationalism and secularism were two of the founding principles.[27] Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the leader of the early years of the Republic, aimed to create a nation state (Turkish: Ulus) from the Turkish remnants of the Ottoman Empire. Kemalist ideology defines the "Turkish People" as "those who protect and promote the moral, spiritual, cultural and humanistic values of the Turkish Nation."[28] One of the goals of the establishment of the new Turkish state was to ensure “the domination of Turkish ethnic identity in every aspect of social life from the language that people speak in the streets to the language to be taught at schools, from the education to the industrial life, from the trade to the cadres of state officials, from the civil law to the settlement of citizens to particular regions.”[29]

The process of forced Turkification continued with the Turkish republic with such policies as:

  • Citizen speak Turkish! (Turkish: Vatandaş Türkçe konuş!) - An initiative created by law students but sponsored by the Turkish government which aimed to put pressure on non-Turkish speakers to speak Turkish in public in the 1930s.[30][31][32][33][34][35][36] In some municipalities, fines were given to those speaking in any language other than Turkish.[33][37][38][39][40][41]
  • Vocational restrictions Law (Turkey) Punitive Turkish nationalist exclusivist measures, such as a 1932 parliamentary law, barred Greek citizens living in Turkey from a series of 30 trades and professions from tailoring and carpentry to medicine, law and real estate.[42]
  • Geographical name changes in Turkey - An initiative by the Turkish government to replace non-Turkish geographical and topographic names within the Turkish Republic or the Ottoman Empire, with Turkish names,[56][57][58] as part of a policy of Turkification.[59][60][61] The main proponent of the initiative has been a Turkish homogenization social-engineering campaign which aimed to assimilate or obliterate geographical or topographical names that were deemed foreign and divisive against Turkish unity. The names that were considered foreign were usually of Armenian, Greek, Laz, Bulgarian, Kurdish, Assyrian, or Arabic origin.[56][58][60][61][62] For example, words such as Armenia were banned in 1880 from use in the press, schoolbooks, and governmental establishments and was subsequently replaced with words like Anatolia or Kurdistan.[63][64][65][66][67]
  • 1934 Resettlement Law (also known as the Law no. 2510) - A policy adopted by the Turkish government which set forth the basic principles of immigration.[68] The law however is regarded in academia as a policy of forceful assimilation of non-Turkish minorities through a forced and collective resettlement.[69]
  • Article 301 (Turkish Penal Code) - An article of the Turkish Penal Code which makes it illegal to insult Turkey, the Turkish nation, or Turkish government institutions. It took effect on June 1, 2005, and was introduced as part of a package of penal-law reform in the process preceding the opening of negotiations for Turkish membership of the European Union (EU), in order to bring Turkey up to the Union standards.[70][71]
  • Varlik Vergisi ("Wealth tax" or "Capital tax") - A Turkish tax levied on the wealthy citizens of Turkey in 1942, with the stated aim of raising funds for the country's defense in case of an eventual entry into World War II. Those who suffered most severely were non-Muslims like the Jews, Greeks, Armenians, and Levantines, who controlled a large portion of the economy.[72] Though it was the Armenians who were most heavily taxed.[73] It is argued, a main reason for the tax was to nationalize the Turkish economy by reducing minority populations' influence and control over the country's trade, finance, and industries.
  • Turkification was also prevalent in the educational system of Turkey. Measures were adopted making Turkish classes mandatory in minority schools and making use of the Turkish language mandatory in economic institutions.[74]

Imprecise meaning of Türk

During the 19th century, the word Türk was a mildly opprobrious term used to refer to Anatolian villagers; the Ottoman elite identified themselves as Ottomans, not as Turks.[75] In the late 19th century, as European ideas of nationalism were adopted by the Ottoman elite, and as it became clear that the Turkish-speakers of Anatolia were the most loyal supporters of Ottoman rule, the term Türk took on a much more positive connotation.[76] During Ottoman times, the millet system defined communities on a religious basis, and a residue of this remains today in that Turkish villagers will commonly consider as Turks only those who profess the Sunni faith, and will consider Turkish-speaking Jews, Christians, or even Alevis to be non-Turks.[77] The imprecision of the appellation Türk can also be seen with other ethnic names, such as Kürt, which is often applied by western Anatolians to anyone east of Adana, even those who speak only Turkish.[77] On the other hand, Kurdish-speaking or Arabic-speaking Sunnis of eastern Anatolia are often considered to be Turks.[78] Thus, the category Türk, like other ethnic categories popularly used in Turkey, does not have a uniform usage. In recent years, centrist Turkish politicians have attempted to redefine this category in a more multi-cultural way, emphasizing that a Türk is anyone who is a citizen of the Republic of Turkey.[79] Now article 66 of the Turkish Constitution defines a "Turk" as anyone who is "bound to the Turkish state through the bond of citizenship".

Genetic testing of language replacement hypothesis in Anatolia, Caucasus and Balkans

The region of the Anatolia represents an extremely important area with respect to ancient population migration and expansion, and the spread of the Caucasian, Semitic, Indo-European and Turkic languages, as well as the extinction of the local Anatolian languages. During the late Roman Period, prior to the Turkic conquest, the population of Anatolia had reached an estimated level of over 12 million people.[80][81][82] 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 several studies. These studies conclude that local Anatolian groups are the primary source of the present-day Turkish population.[83] DNA results suggests the lack of strong genetic relationship between the Mongols and the Turks despite the historical relationship of their languages.[84]

Anatolians do not significantly differ from other Mediterranean populations, indicating that while the Asian Turks carried out an invasion with cultural significance (language and religion), the genetic significance is only weakly detectable.[85] Recent genetic research has suggested the local Anatolian origins of the Turkic Asian peoples might have been slight.[86] These findings are consistent with a model in which the Turkic languages, originating in the Altai-Sayan region of Central Asia and northwestern Mongolia, were imposed on the indigenous peoples with relatively little genetic admixture, possible example of elite cultural dominance-driven linguistic replacement.[87] These observations also may be explained by Anatolia having the lowest migrant/resident ratio at the time of Turkic migrations. Analysis suggested that, genetically, Anatolians are more closely related also with Balkan populations than to the Central Asian populations.[88][89] Analogical results have been received in neighbouring Caucasus region by testing Armenian and Turkic speaking Azerbaijani populations, therefore representing language replacements, possibly via elite dominance involving primarily male migrants.[90] In conclusion, today the major DNA components in Anatolian population are shared with European and neighboring Near Eastern populations and contrast with only a minor share of haplogroups related to Central Asian, South Asian and African affinity, which supports the language replacement hypothesis in the region.[91]

A 2011 study concluded "that the profile of Anatolian populations today is the product not of mass westward migrations of Central Asians and Siberians, or of small-scale migrations into an emptied subcontinent, but instead of small-scale, irregular punctuated migration events that engendered large-scale shifts in language and culture among the diverse" indigenous inhabitants (p. 32).[92] Results of a 2012 genetic study by Hodoğlugil and Mahley showed the admixture of Turkish people, which were primarily European and Middle Eastern, with a small Central Asian (9%-15%) component.[93]

Notable individuals who voluntarily turkified

See also


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