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Turkish people
Famous Turkish people.png
Row 1: Leyla Gencer  • Aydın Sayılı  • Halide Edip Adıvar  • Mimar Kemaleddin Bey  • Feriha Tevfik  • İbrahim Şinasi  • Fatma Aliye Topuz

Row 2: Namık Kemal  • Cahide Sonku  • Mustafa Kemal Atatürk  • Sabiha Gökçen  • Besim Ömer Akalın  • Nigâr Hanım  • Tevfik Fikret

Total population
70 million+
(1.04% of the world's population)

(see also Turkish population & Turkish diaspora)

Regions with significant populations
 Turkey 58,000,000 [1][2][3]
 Iraq 3,000,000 a [4][5][6][7]
 Germany 2,812,000 b [8][9]
 Bulgaria 800,000 c [10][11]
 France 500,000 [12][13]
 United Kingdom 500,000 [14]
 United States 500,000 [15][16]
 Netherlands 400,000 d [17][18]
 Austria 300,000 [19]
 Northern Cyprus 260,000 [20][21]
 Belgium 200,000 [22][23]
 Macedonia 200,000 [24][25]
 Saudi Arabia 200,000 [26]
 Australia 150,000 [27][28]
 Greece 150,000e [29][30]
 Kazakhstan 150,000 [31]
 Azerbaijan 90,000-110,000 [31]
 Switzerland 100,000 [32]
 Russia 100,000 [33][34]
 Sweden 70,000 f [35][36]
 Denmark 70,000 [37]
 Romania 55,000 [38]
 Canada 50,000 g [39][40]
 Kyrgyzstan 50,000 [31][41]
 Israel 30,000 [42]
 Lebanon 30,000 h [43]
 Kosovo 20,000 i [44][45]
 Italy 16,255 [46]
 Norway 15,500 [47]
 Uzbekistan 15,000 [48]
 Japan 10,000 [49]



Sunni Islam
Alevi Islam

a Some sources believe the figure to be as high as 5 million.[50]

b Estimates suggest there are now over 4 million people of Turkish descent living in Germany.[51]
c Some sources believe the figure to be as high as 1.5 million.[52]
d A further 10,000-30,000 people from Bulgaria live in the Netherlands. The majority are ethnic Turks from Bulgaria and are the fastest-growing group of immigrants in the Netherlands.[53]
e This figure only includes Turks of Western Thrace. A further 5,000 live in the Dodecanese.[54] In addition to this, 8,297 immigrants live in Greece.[55]
f A further 30,000 Turks from Bulgaria live in Sweden.[56]
g An estimated 100,000-140,000 claim Turkish descent.[57]
h This includes 10,000 Cretan Turks.[58]
i Some put the figure at 50,000[59]

The Turkish people (Turkish: Türk ulusu), also known as the "Turks" (Türkler) are defined mainly as citizens of the Republic of Turkey. An early historic text provided the definition of being a Turk as "any individual within the Republic of Turkey; whatever his/her faith or racial/ethnic background; who speaks Turkish, grows up with Turkish culture and adopts the Turkish ideal, is a Turk." This ideal came from the beliefs of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.[60] Today, the word is primarily used for the inhabitants of Turkey, but may also refer to the members of sizeable Turkish-speaking populations of the former lands of the Ottoman Empire and large Turkish communities which have been established in Europe (particularly in Germany, France, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands), as well as in North America and Australia.



The Göktürk Empire in 600.

The name Turk (Chinese: 突厥, pinyin: tu jue; jyutping: duk kyut) was first applied to a clan of tribal chieftains (known as Ashina) who overthrew the ruling Rouran confederency, and founded the nomadic Göktürk Empire ("Celestial Turks")[61] These nomads roamed in the Altai Mountains (and thus are known as Altaic peoples) in northern Mongolia and on the steppes of Central Asia.[62] The Göktürks were ruled by Khans whose influences extended during the sixth to eighth centuries from the Aral Sea to the Hindu Kush in the land bridge known as Transoxania. In the eighth century, some Turkic tribes, among them the Oghuz, moved south of the Oxus River, while others migrated west to the northern shore of the Black Sea.[63]

The name Türk spread as a political designation during the period of Göktürk imperial hegemony to their subject Turkic and non-Turkic peoples. Subsequently, it was adopted as a generic ethnonym designating most if not all of the Turkic-speaking tribes in Central Asia by the Muslim peoples with whom they came into contact. The imperial era also provided a legacy of political and social organisation (with deep roots in pre-Türk Inner Asia) that in its Türk form became the common inheritance of the Turkic groupings of Central Asia.[64]


Seljuk era

The Seljuk Empire at its zenith upon the death of Malik Shah I in 1092.

The Seljuks (Turkish Selçuklular; Persian: سلجوقيان Ṣaljūqīyān; Arabic سلجوق Saljūq, or السلاجقة al-Salājiqa) were a Turkish tribe from Central Asia.[65] In 1037, they entered Persia and established their first powerful state, called by historians the Empire of the Great Seljuks. They captured Baghdad in 1055 and a relatively small contingent of warriors (around 5,000 by some estimates) moved into eastern Anatolia. In 1071, the Seljuks engaged the armies of the Byzantine Empire at Manzikert (Malazgirt), north of Lake Van. The Byzantines experienced minor casualties despite the fact that Emperor Romanus IV Diogenes was captured. With no potent Byzantine force to stop them, the Seljuks took control of most of Eastern and Central Anatolia.[66] They established their capital at Konya and ruled what would be known as the Seljuk Sultanate of Rum. The success of the Seljuk Turks stimulated a response from Latin Europe in the form of the First Crusade.[67] A counteroffensive launched in 1097 by the Byzantines with the aid of the Crusaders dealt the Seljuks a decisive defeat. Konya fell to the Crusaders, and after a few years of campaigning, Byzantine rule was restored in the western third of Anatolia. Although a Turkish revival in the 1140s nullified much of the Christian gains, greater damage was done to Byzantine security by dynastic strife in Constantinople in which the largely French contingents of the Fourth Crusade and their Venetian allies intervened. In 1204, these Crusaders conquered Constantinople and installed Count Baldwin of Flanders in the Byzantine capital as emperor of the so-called Latin Empire of Constantinople, dismembering the old realm into tributary states where West European feudal institutions were transplanted intact. Independent Greek kingdoms were established at Nicaea (present-day Iznik), Trebizond (present-day Trabzon), and Epirus from remnant Byzantine provinces. Turks allied with Greeks in Anatolia against the Latins, and Greeks with Turks against the Mongols. In 1261, Michael Palaeologus of Nicaea drove the Latins from Constantinople and restored the Byzantine Empire. Seljuk Rum survived in the late 13th century as a vassal state of the Mongols, who had already subjugated the Great Seljuk sultanate at Baghdad. Mongol influence in the region had disappeared by the 1330s, leaving behind gazi emirates competing for supremacy. From the chaotic conditions that prevailed throughout the Middle East, however, a new power was to emerge in Anatolia, the Ottoman Turks. [68]

Beyliks era

Anatolian Beyliks (Turkish: Anadolu Beylikleri, Ottoman Turkish: Tevâif-i mülûk) were small Turkish principalities governed by Beys, which were founded across Anatolia at the end of the 11th century. Political unity in Anatolia was disrupted from the time of the collapse of the Anatolia Seljuk State at the beginning of the 14th century, when until the beginning of the 16th century each of the regions in the country fell under the domination of beyliks (principalities). Eventually, the Ottoman principality, which subjugated the other principalities and restored political unity in the larger part of Anatolia, was established in the Eskişehir, Bilecik and Bursa areas.[69] On the other hand, the area in central Anatolia east of the Ankara-Aksaray line as far as the area of Erzurum remained under the administration of the Ilhani General Governor until 1336. The infighting in Ilhan gave the principalities in Anatolia their complete independence. In addition to this, new Turkish principalities were formed in the localities previously under Ilhan occupation.

During the 14th century, the Turkomans, who made up the western Turks, started to re-establish their previous political sovereignty in the Islamic world. Rapid developments in the Turkish language and culture took place during the time of the Anatolian principalities. In this period, the Turkish language began to be used in the sciences and in literature, and became the official language of the principalities. New medreses were established and progress was made in the medical sciences during this period.

Ottoman era

Mahmud II effectively started the modernization of the Ottoman Empire and paved the way for the Tanzimat reforms which also influenced the modern Republic of Turkey.

The Ottoman Empire (Old Ottoman Turkish: دولت عالیه عثمانیه Devlet-i Âliye-yi Osmâniyye, Late Ottoman and Modern Turkish: Osmanlı Devleti or Osmanlı İmparatorluğu), was a Turkish state. The state was known as the Turkish Empire or Turkey by its contemporaries. (See the other names of the Ottoman State.) Starting as a small tribe whose territory bordered on the Byzantine frontier, the Ottoman Turks built an empire that at the height of its power (16th–17th century), spanned three continents, controlling much of Southeastern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa.

As the power of the Seljuk Sultanate of Rum weakened in the late 1200s, warrior chieftains claimed the lands of Northwestern Anatolia, along the Byzantine Empire's borders. Ertuğrul gazi ruled the lands around Söğüt, a town between Bursa and Eskisehir. Upon his death in 1281, his son, Osman, from whom the Ottoman dynasty and the Empire took its name, expanded the territory to 16,000 square kilometers. Osman I, who was given the nickname "Kara" (Turkish for black) for his courage,[70] extended the frontiers of Ottoman settlement towards the edge of the Byzantine Empire. He shaped the early political development of the state and moved the Ottoman capital to Bursa.

By 1452 the Ottomans controlled almost all of the former Byzantine lands except Constantinople. On May 29, 1453, Mehmed the Conqueror captured Constantinople after a 53-day siege and proclaimed that the city was now the new capital of his Ottoman Empire.[71] Sultan Mehmed's first duty was to rejuvenate the city economically, creating the Grand Bazaar and inviting the fleeing Orthodox and Catholic inhabitants to return. Captured prisoners were freed to settle in the city whilst provincial governors in Rumelia and Anatolia were ordered to send four thousand families to settle in the city, whether Muslim, Christian or Jew, to form a unique cosmopolitan society.

During the growth of the Ottoman Empire (also known as the Pax Ottomana), Selim I extended Ottoman sovereignty southward, conquering Syria, Palestine, and Egypt. He also gained recognition as guardian of the holy cities of Mecca and Medina; he accepted pious the title of The Servant of The Two Holy Shrines.[72][73]

Suleiman I was known in the West as Suleiman the Magnificent[74] and in the East, as the Lawgiver (in Turkish Kanuni; Arabic: القانونى‎, al‐Qānūnī), for his complete restructuring of the Ottoman legal system. The reign of Suleiman the Magnificent is known as the Ottoman golden age. The brilliance of the Sultan's court and the might of his armies outshone those of England's Henry VIII, France's François I, and Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. When Suleiman died in 1566, the Ottoman Empire was a world power. Most of the great cities of Islam (Mecca, Medina, Jerusalem, Damascus, Cairo, Tunis, and Baghdad) were under the sultan's crescent flag. After Suleiman, however, the empire's power gradually diminished due to poor leadership; many successive Sultans largely depended upon their Grand Viziers to run the state affairs.

The Ottoman sultanate lasted for 624 years, but its last three centuries were marked by stagnation and eventual decline. By the 19th century, the Ottomans had fallen well behind the rest of Europe in science, technology, and industry. Reformist Sultans such as Selim III and Mahmud II succeeded in pushing Ottoman bureaucracy, society and culture ahead, but were unable to cure all of the empire's ills. Despite its collapse, the Ottoman empire has left an indelible mark on Turkish culture and architecture. Ottoman culture has given the Turkish people a splendid legacy of art, architecture and domestic refinement, as a visit to Istanbul's Topkapi Palace readily shows.

The Republic of Turkey

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk visits the reorganized Istanbul University on December 15, 1930.
Eighteen female MPs joined the Turkish Parliament in 1935, at a time when women in a significant number of other European countries had no voting rights.

The Republic of Turkey was born from the disastrous World War I defeat of the Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman war hero, Mustafa Kemal Pasha (who was later given the surname Atatürk by the Turkish Parliament with the Surname Law of 1934), sailed from Istanbul to Samsun in May 1919 to start the Turkish liberation movement; he organized the remnants of the Ottoman army in Anatolia into an effective fighting force, and rallied the people to the nationalist cause. Under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal Pasha, a military commander who had distinguished himself during the Battle of Gallipoli, the Turkish War of Independence was waged with the aim of revoking the terms of the Treaty of Sèvres.[75] By 1923 the nationalist government had driven out the invading armies; replaced the Treaty of Sèvres with the Treaty of Lausanne and abolished the Ottoman State; promulgated a republican constitution; and established Turkey's new capital in Ankara.[76]

During a meeting in the early days of the new republic, Atatürk proclaimed:

To the women: Win for us the battle of education and you will do yet more for your country than we have been able to do. It is to you that I appeal.
To the men: If henceforward the women do not share in the social life of the nation, we shall never attain to our full development. We shall remain irremediably backward, incapable of treating on equal terms with the civilizations of the West.[77]
—Mustafa Kemal

Chronology of Major Kemalist Reforms: [78]

November 1, 1922 Abolition of the office of the Ottoman Sultan.
October 29, 1923 Proclamation of the Republic of Turkey.
March 3, 1924 Abolition of the office of Caliphate held by the Ottoman Caliphate.
November 25, 1925 Change of headgear and dress
November 30, 1925 Closure of religious convents and dervish lodges.
March 1, 1926 Introduction of the new penal law.
October 4, 1926 Introduction of the new civil code.
November 1, 1928 Adoption of the new Turkish alphabet
June 21, 1934 Law on family names.
November 26, 1934 Abolition of titles and by-names.
December 5, 1934 Full political rights, to vote and be elected, to women.
February 5, 1937 The inclusion of the principle of laïcité in the constitution.

The Kemalist revolution aimed to create a Turkish nation state (Turkish: ulus devlet) on the territory of the former Ottoman Empire that had remained within the boundaries of the Republic of Turkey in 1923. The meaning of Turkishness (Turkish: Türklük) implies a "citizenship" (of the Republic of Turkey) and "cultural identity" (speaking the Turkish language and growing up with the mainstream Turkish culture) rather than an ethno-genetical background. The Turkish-speaking Muslim citizens of the Ottoman Empire had been called "Turks" for centuries by the Europeans, and the Ottoman Empire was alternatively called "Turkey" or the "Turkish Empire" by its contemporaries. However, the Devşirme system and intermarriages with people in the former Ottoman territories of Southeastern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa ensured a largely heterogeneous gene pool that makes up the fabric of the present-day Turkish nation. The Turks of today, in short, are the descendants of the Turkish-speaking Muslims in the former Ottoman Empire.

Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code notoriously made it a legal offense to "insult Turkishness" prior to its amendment in 2008.

"Turkishness" (citizenship of Turkey) is the cornerstone of the Republic of Turkey, according to the Turkish Constitution.[79] Kemalist ideology defines the "Turkish people" as "those who protect and promote the moral, spiritual, cultural and humanistic values of the Turkish nation."[80] Kemalist ideology defines the "Turkish nation" as "a nation of Turkish people who always love and seek to exalt their family, country, and nation; who know their duties and responsibilities towards the democratic, secular and social state governed by the rule of law and founded on human rights, and on the tenets laid down in the preamble to the constitution of the Republic of Turkey."[80]

Ne Mutlu Türküm Diyene (How happy is he/she who calls himself/herself a Turk).

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk

Geographic distribution

Turks primarily live in Turkey; however, when the borders of the Ottoman Empire became smaller after World War I and the new Turkish Republic was founded, many Turks chose to stay outside of Turkey's borders. Since then, some of them have migrated to Turkey but there are still significant minorities of Turks living in different countries such as in Northern Cyprus (Turkish Cypriots), Greece, Bulgaria, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Republic of Macedonia, the Dobruja region of Romania, Pakistan, the Sandžak region of Serbia, Kosovo, Syria and Iraq.

The three most important Turkish groups are the Anatolian Turks, the Rumelian Turks (primarily immigrants from former Ottoman territories in the Balkans and their descendants), and the Central Asian Turks (Turkic-speaking immigrants from the Caucasus region, southern Russia, and Central Asia and their descendants).

Country or Region Turkish population Total Population % Turkish Notes
Turkey 55,400,000 71,517,100 70%-75%
Europe 6,500,000
including Turkey: 76,500,000
631,000,000 0.9%
including Turkey: 12,1%
The majority of Turks (3 million) live in Germany.
Asia 5,000,000
including Turkey: 75,000,000
4,050,404,000 0.1%
including Turkey: 1.8%
Total of Eurasia 69,500,000 4,510,000,000 1.5%
Americas 600,000 890,000,000 0.07%
Oceania 150,000 32,000,000 0.4%
Africa 65,000 922,011,000 0.000070498074318%
P globe.svg World Total 70,000,000 6,733,415,000 1.18%

Turks in Turkey

People who identify themselves as ethnic Turks comprise 80-88% of Turkey's population.[81] Regions of Turkey with the largest populations are İstanbul (+12 million), Ankara (+4.4 million), İzmir (+3.7 million), Bursa (+2.4 million), Adana (+2.0 million) and Konya (+1.9 million). [82]

The biggest city and the pre-Republican capital İstanbul is the financial, economic and cultural heart of the country. Other important cities include İzmir, Bursa, Adana, Trabzon, Malatya, Gaziantep, Erzurum, Kayseri, Kocaeli, Konya, Mersin, Eskişehir, Diyarbakır, Antalya and Samsun. An estimated 70.5% of the Turkish population live in urban centers.[83] In all, 18 provinces have populations that exceed 1 million inhabitants, and 21 provinces have populations between 1 million and 500,000 inhabitants. Only two provinces have populations less than 100,000.

Age structure:

  • 0–14 years: 24.4% (male 8,937,515/ female 8,608,375)
  • 15–64 years: 68.6% (male 25,030,793/ female 24,253,312)
  • 65 years and over: 7% (male 2,307,236/ female 2,755,576) (2008 est.)

Median age:

  • total: 29 years
  • male: 28.8 years
  • female: 29.2 years (2008 est.)

Population growth rate:

  • 1.013% (2008 est.)

(Figures are given according to the 2008 Central Intelligence Agency) [84]

Turks in Europe

As a legacy of the Ottoman Turkish Empire, there are significant Turkish minorities in Europe such as the Turks in Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Kosovo and the Republic of Macedonia.

The post-World War II migration of Turks to Europe began with ‘guest workers’ who arrived under the terms of a Labour Export Agreement with Germany in October 1961, followed by a similar agreement with the Netherlands, Belgium and Austria in 1964; France in 1965 and Sweden in 1967. As one Turkish observer noted, ‘it has now been over 40 years and a Turk who went to Europe at the age of 25 has nearly reached the age of 70. His children have reached the age of 45 and their children have reached the age of 20’. [85]

Despite the United Kingdom not being part of the Labour Export Agreement, it is still a major hub for Turkish emigrants, and with a population of half a million Turks[86] (an estimated 100,000 Turkish nationals and 130,000 nationals of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus currently live in the UK. These figures, however, do not include the much larger numbers of Turkish speakers who have been born or have obtained British nationality),[87] it is home to Europe's third largest Turkish community. High immigration has resulted in the Turkish language being the seventh most commonly spoken language in the United Kingdom. [88]

Due to the high rate of Turks in Europe, the Turkish language is also now home to one of the largest group of pupils after German-speakers, and the largest non-European language (Turkish originated in Asia Minor) spoken in the European Union. Turkish in Germany is often used not only by members of its own community but also by people with a non-Turkish background. Especially in urban areas, it functions as a peer group vernacular for children and adolescents. [89]

Turks in the Americas

According to The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History there is an estimated 500,000 Turks living in the United States;[15] the largest Turkish communities are found in Paterson, Brooklyn, Staten Island, Long Island, Chicago, Houston, Miami, and Los Angeles. Since the 1970s, the number of Turkish immigrants has risen to more than 4,000 per year. There is also a growing Turkish population in Canada, Turkish immigrants have settled mainly in Montreal and Toronto, although there are small Turkish communities in Calgary, Edmonton, London, Ottawa, and Vancouver. The population of Turkish Canadians in Metropolitan Toronto may be as large as 5,000.[90]


Traditional Turkish coffee is ubiquitous in Turkish homes

Turkish people have a very diverse culture that is a blend of various elements of the Oğuz Turkic and Anatolian, Ottoman, and Western culture and traditions which started with the Westernization of the Ottoman Empire and continues today. This mix is a result of the encounter of Turks and their culture with those of the peoples who were in their path during their migration from Central Asia to the West.[91][92] 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 methods 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, and architecture. Because of different historical factors playing an important role in defining the modern Turkish identity, Turkish culture is a product of efforts to be "modern" and Western, combined with the necessity felt to maintain traditional religious and historical values.[91]


Atatürk introducing the new Turkish alphabet to the people of Sinop. September 20, 1928. (Cover of the French L'Illustration magazine)

The Turkish language is a member of the ancient Oghuz subdivision of Turkic languages, which in turn is a branch of the proposed Altaic language family.[93][94][95] About 40% of Turkic language speakers are Turkish speakers.[96] Turkish is for the most part, mutually intelligible with other Oghuz languages like Azerbaijani Turkish, Crimean Tatar, Gagauz, Turkmen and Urum, and to a lesser extent with other Turkic languages.

With the Turkic expansion during Early Middle Ages (c. 6th–11th centuries), peoples speaking Turkic languages spread across Central Asia, covering a vast geographical region stretching from Siberia to Europe and the Mediterranean. The Seljuqs of the Oghuz Turks, in particular, brought their language, Oghuz Turkic—the direct ancestor of today's Turkish language—into Anatolia during the 11th century.[97] Also during the 11th century, an early linguist of the Turkic languages, Mahmud al-Kashgari from the Kara-Khanid Khanate, published the first comprehensive Turkic language dictionary and map of the geographical distribution of Turkic speakers in the Compendium of the Turkic Dialects (Arabic: Dīwānu'l-Luġat at-Turk).[98] In 1277 Karamanoğlu Mehmet Bey declared Turkish as the sole official language of the Karamanoğlu Beylik in Anatolia.

After the foundation of the Republic of Turkey and the script reform, the Turkish Language Association (TDK) was established in 1932 under the patronage of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, with the aim of conducting research on Turkish. One of the tasks of the newly-established association was to initiate a language reform to replace loanwords of Arabic and Persian origin with Turkish equivalents.[99] By banning the usage of imported words in the press, the association succeeded in removing several hundred foreign words from the language. While most of the words introduced to the language by the TDK were newly derived from Turkic roots, it also opted for reviving Old Turkish words which had not been used for centuries.

Istanbul Turkish is established as the official standard language of Turkey. Turkish is the official language of Turkey and is one of the official languages of Cyprus. It also has official (but not primary) status in the Prizren District of Kosovo and several municipalities of Republic of Macedonia, depending on the concentration of Turkish-speaking local population.


Blue Mosque.ogg
A short movie showing details of the Blue Mosque
Safranbolu was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1994 due to its well-preserved Ottoman era houses and architecture.

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.[100] Overall, Ottoman architecture has been described as a synthesis of the architectural traditions of the Mediterranean and the Middle East.[101]

During the zenith of the Sultanate of Rum, Seljuk architects undertook extensive public works projects. Using the abundant Anatolian stone and clay, they built mosques, medreses, and türbes. To safeguard their profitable trade in silks, spices and to provide rest for merchants, the Seljuk’s built over 100 kervansarays along Anatolian highways, each spaced a day’s ride away from the next. These rest stops featured mosques, storage rooms, stables, coffeehouses, hamams, private rooms and dormitories. The most impressive of its kind is the Sultan Han outside Kayseri. Seljuk buildings were characterised by their elaborate stone carvings. In addition to carvings, the Seljuk’s enhanced their mosques with glazed earthenware (faience) which was used to cover walls and minarets with the best examples at Konya in the Karatay Medrese.[102]

Traditional waterfront houses, called yalı, on the Bosporus

The first Ottoman capital, Bursa, is a museum of 14th and 15th century Ottoman architecture. With the capital of Istanbul in 1453, Ottoman architects were challenged to exceed the vaults and pendentives of the Hagia Sophia's dome. Ottoman architecture reached its peak under the unprecedented benefaction of Suleiman the Magnificent. During his rule alone, over 80 major mosques and hundreds of other buildings were constructed. Divan Yolu, Istanbul’s processional avenue, boasts a collection of these structural wonders. The master architect, Mimar Sinan served Suleyman and his sons as Chief Court Architect from 1538-1588, during which time he created a unified style for all Istanbul and for much of the empire. [103]

Many Ottoman mosques stand at the centre of a ‘külliye’ (complex) designed to serve all of a community’s needs. Külliyes often included a school, markets, soup kitchens and a medical centre, all integrated architecturally into a single whole. The most impressive külliyes are those of the Süleymaniye Mosque in Istanbul, and the Bayezid II Mosque and Hospital in Edirne. Most külliyes were established as charitable foundations, although economic instability has jeopardised these institutions financially, many of them still function today.

16th century Ottoman architects set a powerful precedent for future structures. Buildings such as the Blue Mosque were mere imitations of the Sinan blueprint. During the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries, Ottoman architecture was influenced by European styles. The first examples of Baroque architecture appeared in the 18th century, in buildings such as the Harem section of the Topkapı Palace, the Aynalıkavak Palace and the Nuruosmaniye Mosque, the latter also having a famous Baroque fountain. Numerous buildings were built in the 19th century with an eclectic mix of various European styles such as Baroque, Rococo and Neoclassical architecture, including the Dolmabahçe Palace, Beylerbeyi Palace, Dolmabahçe Mosque and the Ortaköy Mosque. Some mosques were even designed with an Ottoman adaptation of the Neo-Gothic style, such as the Pertevniyal Valide Sultan Mosque in the Aksaray quarter, and the Yıldız Hamidiye Mosque in the Yıldız quarter of Beşiktaş, close to the Yıldız Palace and the Barbaros Boulevard. Towards the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Istanbul became one of the leading centers of the Art Nouveau movement, with architects such as Alexander Vallaury and Raimondo D'Aronco designing a number of prominent buildings in this style. In the early 20th century, Turkish architects such as Mimar Kemaleddin Bey and Mimar Vedat Bey (Vedat Tek) pioneered a "Turkish neoclassical" architectural style (Turkish: Birinci Ulusal Mimarlık Akımı), using many elements from the Turkish buildings of the past centuries. The most important examples of this style include the Büyük Postane (Grand Post Office) and Vakıf Han office buildings in Istanbul's Sirkeci quarter.

Arts and calligraphy

A transition from Islamic artistic traditions under the Ottoman Empire to a more secular, Western orientation has taken place in Turkey. Turkish painters today are striving to find their own art forms, free from Western influence. Sculpture is less developed, and public monuments are usually heroic representations of Atatürk and events from the war of independence. Literature is considered the most advanced of contemporary Turkish arts. The reign of the early Ottoman Turks in the 16th and early 17th centuries introduced the Turkish form of Islamic calligraphy. This art form reached the height of its popularity during the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent (1520–66). As decorative as it was communicative, Diwani was distinguished by the complexity of the line within the letter and the close juxtaposition of the letters within the word.


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The roots of traditional music in Turkey span centuries to a time when the Seljuk Turks colonized Anatolia and Persia in the 11th century and contains elements of both Turkic and pre-Turkic influences. Much of its modern popular music can trace its roots to the emergence in the early 1930s drive for Westernization. [104]

Traditional music in Turkey falls into two main genres; classical art music and folk music. Turkish classical music is characterized by an Ottoman elite culture and influenced lyrically by neighbouring regions and Ottoman provinces.[105] Earlier forms are sometimes termed as saray music in Turkish, meaning royal court music, indicating the source of the genre comes from Ottoman royalty as patronage and composer.[106] Neo-classical or postmodern versions of this traditional genre are termed as art music or sanat musikisi, though often it is unofficially termed as alla turca. In addition, from the saray or royal courts came the Ottoman military band, Mehter takımı in Turkish, considered to be the oldest type of military marching band in the world. It was also the forefather of modern Western percussion bands and has been described as the father of Western military music.[107]

Turkish folk music is the music of Turkish-speaking rural communities of Anatolia, the Balkans, and Middle East. While Turkish folk music contains definitive traces of the Central Asian Turkic cultures, it has also strongly influenced and been influenced by many other indigenous cultures. Religious music in Turkey is sometimes grouped with folk music due to the tradition of the wandering minstrel or aşık (pronounced ashuk), but its influences on Sufism due to the spritiual Mevlevi sect arguably grants it special status.[108] It has been suggested the distinction between the two major genres comes during the Tanzîmat period of Ottoman era, when Turkish classical music was the music played in the Ottoman palaces and folk music was played in the villages.[109]

Musical relations between the Turks and Europe can be traced back many centuries,[110] and the first type of musical Orientalism was the Turkish Style.[111] European classical composers in the 18th century were fascinated by Turkish music, particularly the strong role given to the brass and percussion instruments in Janissary bands. Joseph Haydn wrote his Military Symphony to include Turkish instruments, as well as some of his operas. Turkish instruments were also included in Ludwig van Beethoven's Symphony Number 9. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart wrote the "Ronda alla turca" in his Sonata in A major and also used Turkish themes in his operas, such as the Chorus of Janissaries from his Die Entführung aus dem Serail (1782). This Turkish influence introduced the cymbals, bass drum, and bells into the symphony orchestra, where they remain. Jazz musician Dave Brubeck wrote his "Blue Rondo á la Turk" as a tribute to Mozart and Turkish music.


The literature of the Turkish Republic emerged largely from the pre-independence National Literature movement, with its roots simultaneously in the Turkish folk tradition and in the Western notion of progress. 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.[112]


Stylistically, the prose of the early years of the Republic of Turkey was essentially a continuation of the National Literature movement, with Realism and Naturalism predominating. This trend culminated in the 1932 novel Yaban ("The Wilds"), by Yakup Kadri Karaosmanoğlu. This novel can be seen as the precursor to two trends that would soon develop: social realism, and the "village novel" (köy romanı).[113] Çalıkuşu ("The Wren") by Reşat Nuri Güntekin addresses a similar theme with the works of Karaosmanoğlu. Güntekin's narrative has a detailed and precise style, with a realistic tone.

The social realist movement is perhaps best represented by the short-story writer Sait Faik Abasıyanık (1906–1954), whose work sensitively and realistically treats the lives of cosmopolitan Istanbul's lower classes and ethnic minorities, subjects which led to some criticism in the contemporary nationalistic atmosphere.[114] The tradition of the "village novel", on the other hand, arose somewhat later. As its name suggests, the "village novel" deals, in a generally realistic manner, with life in the villages and small towns of Turkey. The major writers in this tradition are Kemal Tahir (1910–1973), Orhan Kemal (1914–1970), and Yaşar Kemal (1923– ). Yaşar Kemal, in particular, has earned fame outside of Turkey not only for his novels; many of which, such as 1955's İnce Memed ("Memed, My Hawk"), elevate local tales to the level of epic; but also for his firmly leftist political stance. In a very different tradition, but evincing a similar strong political viewpoint, was the satirical short-story writer Aziz Nesin (1915–1995) and Rıfat Ilgaz (1911-1993).

Another novelist contemporary to, but outside of, the social realist and "village novel" traditions is Ahmet Hamdi Tanpınar (1901–1962). In addition to being an important essayist and poet, Tanpınar wrote a number of novels; such as Huzur ("Tranquillity", 1949) and Saatleri Ayarlama Enstitüsü ("The Time Regulation Institute", 1961); which dramatize the clash between East and West in modern Turkish culture and society. Similar problems are explored by the novelist and short-story writer Oğuz Atay (1934–1977). Unlike Tanpınar, however, Atay—in such works as his long novel Tutunamayanlar ("The Disconnected", 1971–1972) and his short story "Beyaz Mantolu Adam" ("Man in a White Coat", 1975)—wrote in a more modernist and existentialist vein. On the other hand, Onat Kutlar's İshak ("Isaac", 1959), composed of nine short stories which are written mainly from a child's point of view and are often surrealistic and mystical, represent a very early example of magic realism.

The tradition of literary modernism also informs the work of novelist Adalet Ağaoğlu (1929– ). Her trilogy of novels collectively entitled Dar Zamanlar ("Tight Times", 1973–1987), for instance, examines the changes that occurred in Turkish society between the 1930s and the 1980s in a formally and technically innovative style. Orhan Pamuk (1952– ), winner of the 2006 Nobel Prize in Literature, is another such innovative novelist, though his works—such as 1990's Beyaz Kale ("The White Castle") and Kara Kitap ("The Black Book") and 1998's Benim Adım Kırmızı ("My Name is Red")—are influenced more by postmodernism than by modernism. This is true also of Latife Tekin (1957– ), whose first novel Sevgili Arsız Ölüm ("Dear Shameless Death", 1983) shows the influence not only of postmodernism, but also of magic realism.


In the early years of the Republic of Turkey, there were a number of poetic trends. Authors such as Ahmed Hâşim and Yahyâ Kemâl Beyatlı (1884–1958) continued to write important formal verse whose language was, to a great extent, a continuation of the late Ottoman tradition. By far the majority of the poetry of the time, however, was in the tradition of the folk-inspired "syllabist" movement (Beş Hececiler), which had emerged from the National Literature movement and which tended to express patriotic themes couched in the syllabic meter associated with Turkish folk poetry.

The first radical step away from this trend was taken by Nâzım Hikmet Ran, who—during his time as a student in the Soviet Union from 1921 to 1924—was exposed to the modernist poetry of Vladimir Mayakovsky and others, which inspired him to start writing verse in a less formal style. At this time, he wrote the poem "Açların Gözbebekleri" ("Pupils of the Hungry"), which introduced free verse into the Turkish language for, essentially, the first time.[115] Much of Nâzım Hikmet's poetry subsequent to this breakthrough would continue to be written in free verse, though his work exerted little influence for some time due largely to censorship of his work owing to his Communist political stance, which also led to his spending several years in prison. Over time, in such books as Simavne Kadısı Oğlu Şeyh Bedreddin Destanı ("The Epic of Shaykh Bedreddin, Son of Judge Simavne", 1936) and Memleketimden İnsan Manzaraları ("Human Landscapes from My Country", 1939), he developed a voice simultaneously proclamatory and subtle.

Another revolution in Turkish poetry came about in 1941 with the publication of a small volume of verse preceded by an essay and entitled Garip ("Strange"). The authors were Orhan Veli Kanık (1914–1950), Melih Cevdet Anday (1915–2002), and Oktay Rifat (1914–1988). Explicitly opposing themselves to everything that had gone in poetry before, they sought instead to create a popular art, "to explore the people's tastes, to determine them, and to make them reign supreme over art".[116] To this end, and inspired in part by contemporary French poets like Jacques Prévert, they employed not only a variant of the free verse introduced by Nâzım Hikmet, but also highly colloquial language, and wrote primarily about mundane daily subjects and the ordinary man on the street. The reaction was immediate and polarized: most of the academic establishment and older poets vilified them, while much of the Turkish population embraced them wholeheartedly. Though the movement itself lasted only ten years—until Orhan Veli's death in 1950, after which Melih Cevdet Anday and Oktay Rifat moved on to other styles—its effect on Turkish poetry continues to be felt today.

Just as the Garip movement was a reaction against earlier poetry, so—in the 1950s and afterwards—was there a reaction against the Garip movement. The poets of this movement, soon known as İkinci Yeni ("Second New"[117]), opposed themselves to the social aspects prevalent in the poetry of Nâzım Hikmet and the Garip poets, and instead—partly inspired by the disruption of language in such Western movements as Dada and Surrealism—sought to create a more abstract poetry through the use of jarring and unexpected language, complex images, and the association of ideas. To some extent, the movement can be seen as bearing some of the characteristics of postmodern literature. The most well-known poets writing in the "Second New" vein were Turgut Uyar (1927–1985), Edip Cansever (1928–1986), Cemal Süreya (1931–1990), Ece Ayhan (1931–2002), Sezai Karakoç (1933- ) and İlhan Berk (1918– ).

Outside of the Garip and "Second New" movements also, a number of significant poets have flourished, such as Fazıl Hüsnü Dağlarca (1914– ), who wrote poems dealing with fundamental concepts like life, death, God, time, and the cosmos; Behçet Necatigil (1916–1979), whose somewhat allegorical poems explore the significance of middle-class daily life; Can Yücel (1926–1999), who—in addition to his own highly colloquial and varied poetry—was also a translator into Turkish of a variety of world literature.


The vast majority of the present-day Turkish people are Muslim and the most popular sect is the Hanafite school of Sunni Islam. Secularism in Turkey was introduced with the Turkish Constitution of 1924, and later Atatürk's Reforms set the administrative and political requirements to create a modern, democratic, secular state aligned with the Kemalist ideology. Thirteen years after its introduction, laïcité (February 5, 1937) was explicitly stated as a property of the State in the second article of the Turkish constitution. The current Turkish constitution neither recognizes an official religion nor promotes any. This includes Islam, which at least nominally more than 99% of citizens subscribe to (according to the government).[118]

Turkish timeline

Throughout history, the Turks have established numerous states in different geographical areas on the continents of Asia, Europe and Africa. Therefore, they encountered different cultures, influenced these cultures and have also been influenced by them. This list consists of the main events of the ancient Turks to today's modern Turks.

Turkish Republic and Independence war 1299-1922 1000–1300s

Ethnogenesis and genetic links

It is difficult to understand the complex cultural and demographic dynamics of the Turkic speaking groups that have shaped the Anatolian landscape for the last millennium.[119] During the Bronze Age the population of Anatolia expanded, reaching an estimated level of 12 million during the late Byzantine Empire period. Such a large pre-existing Anatolian population would have reduced the impact by the subsequent arrival of Turkic speaking groups from Seljuk Persia, whose ethno-linguistic roots could be traced back to the eastern coast of the Caspian Sea basin in Central Asia.[120][121] The Seljuk Turks were the main Turkic people who moved into Anatolia, starting from the Battle of Manzikert in 1071.[122][123] Around 1,000,000 Turkic migrants settled in Anatolia during the 12th and 13th centuries.[124]

The question of to what extent a gene flow from Central Asia, via Persia, to Anatolia has contributed to the current gene pool of the Turkish people, and the role of the 11th century invasion by Seljuk Turks, has been the subject of several studies. It is concluded that aboriginal Anatolian groups may have given rise to the present-day Turkish population. DNA analysis research studies suggest that the Anatolians do not significantly differ from other Mediterraneans, indicating that while the Seljuk Turks carried out a permanent territorial conquest with strong cultural, linguistic and religious significance, it is barely genetically detectable.[125]

Another significant flow into the present-day Turkish gene pool occurred during the Ottoman period, when large groups of non-Turks were culturally Turkicized through the Devshirme (Devşirme) system; including many of the leading Ottoman Grand Viziers such as Sokollu Mehmed Pasha and members of the Köprülü family. The famous Janissary (Yeniçeri) corps were entirely formed of non-Muslim children recruited at a very young age and raised with Turkish culture. Many Ottoman sultans (as well as other members of the Ottoman society) preferred to marry women from the European provinces of the empire, such as the famous sultanas Hürrem, Kösem, Nurbanu, Safiye and numerous others; and to a lesser extent with women from the Ottoman provinces in the Near East and North Africa. The naval battles between the Ottoman Empire and other European powers around the Mediterranean Sea also played an important role in large population exchanges (see, for instance, Uluç Ali Reis and Cigalazade Yusuf Sinan Pasha.Greek Muslims have been absorbed into the Turkish ethnic group and many Turkish nobles have some Greek ancestry through the Ottoman practice of taking Christian wives.

See also

References and notes

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  112. ^ Lester 1997; Wolf-Gazo 1996
  113. ^ Bezirci, 105–108
  114. ^ Paskin 2005
  115. ^ Earlier poets, such as Ahmed Hâşim, had experimented with a style of poetry called serbest müstezâd ("free müstezâd"), a type of poetry which alternated long and short lines of verse, but this was not a truly "free" style of verse insofar as it still largely adhered to prosodic conventions (Fuat 2002).
  116. ^ Quoted in Halman 1997.
  117. ^ The Garip movement was considered to be the "First New" (Birinci Yeni).
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Further reading

Turkish people
  • Atillasoy, Yüksel (2002). Atatürk: First President and Founder of the Turkish Republic. Woodside House, Woodside, NY. ISBN 978-0971235342. 
  • Barber, Noel (1988). Lords of the Golden Horn: From Suleiman the Magnificent to Kemal Ataturk. Arrow, London. ISBN 978-0099539506. 
  • Findley, Carter Vaughn (2004). The Turks in World History. Oxford University Press, USA. ISBN 0195177266. 
  • Kinross, Patrick (1977). The Ottoman Centuries: The Rise and Fall of the Turkish Empire. Morrow. ISBN 0688030939. 
  • Mango, Andrew (2000). Ataturk: The Biography of the Founder of Modern Turkey. Overlook. ISBN 1585670111. 
  • Merriman, Roger Bigelow (1944). Suleiman the Magnificent, 1520–1566. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. OCLC 784228. 
  • Shaw, Stanford Jay; Kural Shaw, Ezel (1977). History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521291631. 
  • Findley, Carter V. (2004). The Turks in World History. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-517726-6. 
  • Katzner, Kenneth (2002). Languages of the World, Third Edition. Routledge, an imprint of Taylor & Francis Books Ltd.. ISBN 978-0415250047. 
  • Lewis, Geoffrey (2001). Turkish Grammar. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-870036-9. 
  • Lewis, Geoffrey (2002). The Turkish Language Reform: A Catastrophic Success. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-925669-1. 
  • Nişanyan, Sevan (2007). Sözlerin Soyağacı: Çağdaş Türkçenin Etimoloji Sözlüğü (Etymological Dictionary of Contemporary Turkish). Adam Yayınları, Revised and Enlarged 3rd Edition. ISBN 975-418-868-4. (Turkish)
  • Özsoy, A. Sumru; Taylan, Eser E. (eds.) (2000). Türkçe’nin ağızları çalıştayı bildirileri (Workshop on the dialects of Turkish). Boğaziçi Üniversitesi Yayınevi. ISBN 9755181407. (Turkish)
  • Soucek, Svat (2000). A History of Inner Asia. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0521651691. 
Arts & Culture

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