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The Turkic peoples are a collection of ethno-linguistic groups of Central, Eastern, Northern and Western Asia as well as parts of Europe and North Africa. They speak related languages belonging to the Turkic language family. They share, to varying degrees, certain cultural traits, common ancestry and historical backgrounds. In time, different Turkic groups came in contact with other ethnicities, absorbing them, leaving some Turkic groups more diverse than the others. Many vastly differing ethnic groups have throughout history become part of the Turkic peoples through language shift, acculturation, intermixing, adoption and religious conversion. In their genetic compositions, therefore, most Turkic groups differ significantly in origins from one group to the next. Despite this, many do share, to varying degrees, non-linguistic characteristics, including certain cultural traits, some ancestry from a common gene pool, and historical experiences. The most notable modern Turkic-speaking ethnic groups include Turkish people, Azerbaijanis, Uzbeks, Kazakhs, Turkmen and Kyrgyz people.
The first known mention of the term Turk (Old Turkic: 𐱅𐰇𐰼𐰰 Türük or 𐱅𐰇𐰼𐰰:𐰜𐰇𐰛 Kök Türük Chinese: 突厥, Old Tibetan: duruggu/durgu (meaning "origin"), Pinyin: Tūjué, Middle Chinese (Guangyun): [tʰuot-küot]) applied to a Turkic group was in reference to the Göktürks in the 6th century. A letter by Ishbara Qaghan to Emperor Wen of Sui in 585 described him as "the Great Turk Khan." The Orhun inscriptions (735 CE) use the terms Turk and Turuk.
Previous use of similar terms are of unknown significance, although some strongly feel that they are evidence of the historical continuity of the term and the people as a linguistic unit since early times. This includes Chinese records Spring and Autumn Annals referring to a neighbouring people as Beidi. During the first century CE, Pomponius Mela refers to the "Turcae" in the forests north of the Sea of Azov, and Pliny the Elder lists the "Tyrcae" among the people of the same area. There are references to certain groups in antiquity whose names could be the original form of "Türk/Türük" such as Togarma, Turukha/Turuška, Turukku and so on. But the information gap is so substantial that we cannot firmly connect these ancient people to the modern Turks. Turkologist András Róna-Tas posits that the term Turk could be rooted in the East Iranian Saka language or in Turkic. However, it is generally accepted that the term "Türk" is ultimately derived from the Old-Turkic migration-term 𐱅𐰇𐰼𐰰 Türük/Törük, which means "created", "born", or "strong", from the Old Turkic word root *türi-/töri- ("tribal root, (mythic) ancestry; take shape, to be born, be created, arise, spring up") and conjugated with Old Turkic suffix 𐰰 (-ik), perhaps from Proto-Turkic *türi-k ("lineage, ancestry"), from the Proto-Turkic word root *töŕ ("foundation, root; origin, ancestors"), possibly from a Proto-Altaic source *t`ŏ̀ŕe ("law, regulation"). This etymological concept is also related to Old Turkic word stems 'tür' ("root, ancestry, race, kind of, sort of"), 'türi-' ("to bring together, to collect"), 'törü' ("law, custom") and 'töz' ("substance").
The earliest Turkic-speaking peoples identifiable in Chinese sources are the Dingling, Gekun (Jiankun), and Xinli, located in South Siberia. The Chinese Book of Zhou (7th century) presents an etymology of the name Turk as derived from "helmet", explaining that this name comes from the shape of a mountain where they worked in the Altai Mountains. According to Persian tradition, as reported by 11th-century ethnographer Mahmud of Kashgar and various other traditional Islamic scholars and historians, the name "Turk" stems from Tur, one of the sons of Japheth (see Turan).
During the Middle Ages, various Turkic peoples of the Eurasian steppe were subsumed under the identity of the "Scythians". Between 400 CE and the 16th century, Byzantine sources use the name Σκύθαι (Skuthai) in reference to twelve different Turkic peoples.
In the modern Turkish language as used in the Republic of Turkey, a distinction is made between "Turks" and the "Turkic peoples" in loosely speaking: the term Türk corresponds specifically to the "Turkish-speaking" people (in this context, "Turkish-speaking" is considered the same as "Turkic-speaking"), while the term Türki refers generally to the people of modern "Turkic Republics" (Türki Cumhuriyetler or Türk Cumhuriyetleri). However, the proper usage of the term is based on the linguistic classification in order to avoid any political sense. In short, the term Türki can be used for Türk or vice versa.
Origins and early expansion
|History of the Turkic peoples|
|Turkic Khaganate 552–744|
|Khazar Khaganate 618–1048|
|Great Bulgaria 632–668|
|Kangar union 659–750|
|Turk Shahi 665–850|
|Türgesh Khaganate 699–766|
|Uyghur Khaganate 744–840|
|Karluk Yabgu State 756–940|
|Kara-Khanid Khanate 840–1212|
|Ganzhou Uyghur Kingdom 848–1036|
|Oghuz Yabgu State|
|Ghaznavid Empire 963–1186|
|Seljuk Empire 1037–1194|
|Sultanate of Rum|
|Kerait khanate 11th century–13th century|
|Khwarazmian Empire 1077–1231|
|Naiman Khanate –1204|
|Qarlughid Kingdom 1224–1266|
|Delhi Sultanate 1206–1526|
|Golden Horde |  1240s–1502|
|Mamluk Sultanate (Cairo) 1250–1517|
Origin and early homeland
It is generally agreed that the first Turkic people lived in a region extending from eastern Central Asia to Siberia, with the majority of them living in today China. A ethnolinguistic study (Robbeets et al. 2017) claims that the Turkic people originated somewhere in northwestern Manchuria and later adopted a nomadic lifestyle and started a migration to the west. Another research, based on genetic data of ancient Turkic samples, suggest and origin and homeland somewhere in Northeastern China.
Historically they were established after the 6th century BCE.
The earliest separate Turkic peoples appeared on the peripheries of the late Xiongnu confederation about 200 BCE (contemporaneous with the Chinese Han Dynasty). Turkic people may be related to the Xiongnu, Dingling and Tiele people. According to the Book of Wei, the Tiele people were the remnants of the Chidi (赤狄), the red Di people competing with the Jin in the Spring and Autumn period. Turkic tribes such as the Khazars and Pechenegs probably lived as nomads for many years before establishing the Turkic Khaganate or Göktürk Empire in the 6th century. These were herdsmen and nobles who were searching for new pastures and wealth. The first mention of Turks was in a Chinese text that mentioned trade between Turk tribes and the Sogdians along the Silk Road. The first recorded use of "Turk" as a political name appears as a 6th-century reference to the word pronounced in Modern Chinese as Tujue. The Ashina clan migrated from Li-jien (modern Zhelai Zhai) to the Juan Juan seeking inclusion in their confederacy and protection from the prevalent dynasty. The tribe were famed metalsmiths and were granted land near a mountain quarry which looked like a helmet, from which they were said to have gotten their name 突厥 (tūjué). A century later their power had increased such that they conquered the Juan Juan and established the Gök Empire.
Turkic peoples originally used their own alphabets, like Orkhon and Yenisey runiforms, and later the Uyghur alphabet. Traditional national and cultural symbols of the Turkic peoples include wolves in Turkic mythology and tradition; as well as the color blue, iron, and fire. Turquoise blue (the word turquoise comes from the French word meaning "Turkish") is the color of the stone turquoise still used in jewelry and as a protection against the evil eye.
It has often been suggested that the Xiongnu, mentioned in Han Dynasty records, were Proto-Turkic speakers. Although little is known for certain about the Xiongnu language(s), it seems likely that at least a considerable part of Xiongnu tribes spoke a Turkic language. Some scholars believe they were probably a confederation of various ethnic and linguistic groups. A genetic research in 2003, on skeletons from a 2000 year old Xiongnu necropolis in Mongolia, found individuals with similar DNA sequences as modern Turkic groups, supporting the view that at least parts of the Xiongu were of Turkic origin.
Xiongnu writing, older than Turkic, is agreed to have the earliest known Turkic alphabet, the Orkhon script. This has been argued recently using the only extant possibly Xiongu writings, the rock art of the Yinshan and Helan Mountains. It dates from the 9th millennium BCE to the 19th century, and consists mainly of engraved signs (petroglyphs) and few painted images. Excavations done during 1924–1925 in Noin-Ula kurgans located in the Selenga River in the northern Mongolian hills north of Ulaanbaatar produced objects with over 20 carved characters, which were either identical or very similar to the runic letters of the Turkic Orkhon script discovered in the Orkhon Valley.
The Hun hordes ruled by Attila, who invaded and conquered much of Europe in the 5th century, might have been, at least partially, Turkic and descendants of the Xiongnu. Some scholars regard the Huns as one of the earlier Turkic tribes, while others view them as Proto-Mongolian or Yeniseian in origin. Linguistic studies by Otto Maenchen-Helfen and others have suggested that the language used by the Huns in Europe was too little documented to be classified. Nevertheless, many of the proper names used by Huns appear to be Turkic in origin.
In the 6th century, 400 years after the collapse of northern Xiongnu power in Inner Asia, the Göktürks assumed leadership of the Turkic peoples. Formerly in the Xiongnu nomadic confederation, the Göktürks inherited their traditions and administrative experience. From 552 to 745, Göktürk leadership united the nomadic Turkic tribes into the Göktürk Empire on Mongolia and Cental Asia. The name derives from gok, "blue" or "celestial". Unlike its Xiongnu predecessor, the Göktürk Khaganate had its temporary Khagans from the Ashina clan, who were subordinate to a sovereign authority controlled by a council of tribal chiefs. The Khaganate retained elements of its original animistic-shamanistic religion, that later envolved into Tengriism, although it received missionaries of Buddhist monks and practiced a syncretic religion. The Göktürks were the first Turkic people to write Old Turkic in a runic script, the Orkhon script. The Khaganate was also the first state known as "Turk". It eventually collapsed due to a series of dynastic conflicts, but many states and peoples later used the name "Turk".
Turkic peoples and related groups migrated west from Northeastern China, present-day Mongolia and the Turkestan-region towards Eastern Europe, the Iranian plateau and Anatolia (modern Turkey) in many waves. The date of the initial expansion remains unknown. After many battles, the western Oghuz Turks established their own state and later constructed the Ottoman Empire. The main migration of the Oghuz Turks occurred in medieval times, when they spread across most of Asia and into Europe and the Middle East. They also took part in the military encounters of the Crusades.
Turkic soldiers in the army of the Abbasid caliphs emerged as the de facto rulers of most of the Muslim Middle East (apart from Syria and Egypt), particularly after the 10th century. The Oghuz and other tribes captured and dominated various countries under the leadership of the Seljuk dynasty and eventually captured the territories of the Abbasid dynasty and the Byzantine Empire.
Meanwhile, the Yenisei Kyrgyz allied with China to destroy the Uyghur Khaganate in 840. The Kyrgyz people ultimately settled in the region now referred to as Kyrgyzstan. The Bulgars established themselves in between the Caspian and Black Seas in the 5th and 6th centuries, followed by their conquerors, the Khazars who converted to Judaism in the 8th or 9th century. After them came the Pechenegs who created a large confederacy, which was subsequently taken over by the Cumans and the Kipchaks. One group of Bulgars settled in the Volga region and mixed with local Volga Finns to become the Volga Bulgars in what is today Tatarstan. These Bulgars were conquered by the Mongols following their westward sweep under Genghis Khan in the 13th century. Other Bulgars settled in Southeastern Europe in the 7th and 8th centuries, and mixed with the Slavic population, adopting what eventually became the Slavic Bulgarian language. Everywhere, Turkic groups mixed with the local populations to varying degrees. In 1090–91, the Turkic Pechenegs reached the walls of Constantinople, where Emperor Alexius I with the aid of the Kipchaks annihilated their army.
As the Seljuk Empire declined following the Mongol invasion, the Ottoman Empire emerged as the new important Turkic state, that came to dominate not only the Middle East, but even southeastern Europe, parts of southwestern Russia, and northern Africa.
The Delhi Sultanate is a term used to cover five short-lived, Delhi-based kingdoms three of which were of Turkic origin in medieval India. These Turkic dynasties were the Mamluk dynasty (1206–90); the Khalji dynasty (1290–1320); and the Tughlaq dynasty (1320–1414). Southern India, also saw many Turkic origin dynasties like Bahmani Sultanate, Adil Shahi dynasty, Bidar Sultanate, Qutb Shahi dynasty, collectively known as Deccan sultanates.
In Eastern Europe, Volga Bulgaria became an Islamic state in 922 and influenced the region as it controlled many trade routes. In the 13th century, Mongols invaded Europe and established the Golden Horde in Eastern Europe, western & northern Central Asia, and even western Siberia. The Cuman-Kipchak Confederation and Islamic Volga Bulgaria were absorbed by the Golden Horde in the 13th century; in the 14th century, Islam became the official religion under Uzbeg Khan where the general population (Turks) as well as the aristocracy (Mongols) came to speak the Kipchak language and were collectively known as "Tatars" by Russians and Westerners. This country was also known as the Kipchak Khanate and covered most of what is today Ukraine, as well as the entirety of modern-day southern and eastern Russia (the European section). The Golden Horde disintegrated into several khanates and hordes in the 15th and 16th century including the Crimean Khanate, Khanate of Kazan, and Kazakh Khanate (among others), which were one by one conquered and annexed by the Russian Empire in the 16th through 19th centuries.
In Siberia, the Siberian Khanate was established in the 1490s by fleeing Tatar aristocrats of the disintegrating Golden Horde who established Islam as the official religion in western Siberia over the partly Islamized native Siberian Tatars and indigenous Uralic peoples. It was the northern-most Islamic state in recorded history and it survived up until 1598 when it was conquered by Russia.
The Chagatai Khanate was the eastern & southern Central Asian section of the Mongol Empire in what is today part or whole of Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Xinjiang ("Uyghurstan"). Like the Moghulistan and Golden Horde, the Chagatai Khanate became a Muslim state in the 14th century.
The Timurid Empire were an Uzbek-based Turkic empire founded in the late 14th century by Timurlane, a descendant of Genghis Khan. Timur, although a self-proclaimed devout Muslim, brought great slaughter in his conquest of fellow Muslims in neighboring Islamic territory and contributed to the ultimate demise of many Muslim states, including the Golden Horde.
The Mughal Empire was a Turkic-founded Indian empire that, at its greatest territorial extent, ruled most of the South Asia, including Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and parts of Uzbekistan from the early 16th to the early 18th centuries. The Mughal dynasty was founded by a Chagatai Turkic prince named Babur (reigned 1526–30), who was descended from the Turkic conqueror Timur (Tamerlane) on his father's side and from Chagatai, second son of the Mongol ruler Genghis Khan, on his mother's side. A further distinction was the attempt of the Mughals to integrate Hindus and Muslims into a united Indian state.
The Safavid dynasty of Persia were of mixed ancestry (Kurdish and Azerbaijani, which included intermarriages with Georgian, Circassian, and Pontic Greek dignitaries). Through intermarriage and other political considerations, the Safavids spoke Persian and Turkish, and some of the Shahs composed poems in their native Turkish language. Concurrently, the Shahs themselves also supported Persian literature, poetry and art projects including the grand Shahnama of Shah Tahmasp. The Safavid dynasty ruled parts of Greater Iran for more than two centuries. and established the Twelver school of Shi'a Islam as the official religion of their empire, marking one of the most important turning points in Muslim history
The Afsharid dynasty was named after the Turkic Afshar tribe to which they belonged. The Afshars had migrated from Turkestan to Azerbaijan in the 13th century. The dynasty was founded in 1736 by the military commander Nader Shah who deposed the last member of the Safavid dynasty and proclaimed himself King of Iran. Nader belonged to the Qereqlu branch of the Afshars. During Nader's reign, Iran reached its greatest extent since the Sassanid Empire.
Turkic peoples like the Karluks (mainly 8th century), Uyghurs, Kyrgyz, Kazakhs, and Turkmens later came into contact with Muslims, and most of them gradually adopted Islam. Small groups of Turkic people practice other religions, including their original animistic-shamanistic religion, Christianity, Jews (Khazars), Buddhism and a small number of Zoroastrians.
Muslim Turks and non-Muslim Turks
The Muslim Kara-Khanid Turks performed a mass conversion campaign against the Buddhist Uyghur Turks during the Islamicisation and Turkicisation of Xinjiang.
The Basmil, Yabāḳu and Uyghur states were among the Turkic peoples who fought against the Kara-Khanid's spread of Islam, the Islamic Kara-khanids were made out of Tukhai, Yaghma, Çiğil and Karluk.
Kashgari claimed that the Prophet assisted in a miraculous event where 700,000 Yabāqu infidels were defeated by 40,000 Muslims led by Arslān Tegīn claiming that fires shot sparks from gates located on a green mountain towards the Yabāqu. The Yabaqu were a Turkic people.
The Muslim Kara-Khanid Turk Mahmud Kashgari insulted the Uyghur Buddhists as "Uighur dogs" and called them "Tats", which referred to the "Uighur infidels" according to the Tuxsi and Taghma, while other Turks called Persians "tat". While Kashgari displayed a different attitude towards the Turks diviners beliefs and "national customs", he expressed towards Buddhism a hatred in his Diwan where he wrote the verse cycle on the war against Uighur Buddhists. Buddhist origin words like toyin (a cleric or priest) and Burxān or Furxan (meaning Buddha, acquiring the generic meaning of "idol" in the Turkic language of Kashgari) had negative connotations to Muslim Turks.
Murals and statues of medieval Turks
Professor James A. Millward described the original Uyghurs as phenotypically Mongoloid until they began to mix with the Tarim Basin's original, Caucasoid inhabitants, such as the Tocharians and eastern Iranian peoples.
The Uyghurs of the Qocho and Turfan – whose ancestors had adopted the Buddhism of the Tocharians when they settled in the Tarim – were forcibly converted to Islam during a ghazat (holy war) by the Chagatai khan Khizr Khwaja. After they had converted to Islam, subsequent generations of Uyghurs came to believe, falsely, that the "infidel Kalmuks" (Dzungars) had built Buddhist monuments in the area. The Buddhist murals at the Bezeklik Thousand Buddha Caves were damaged by local Muslim population whose religion proscribed figurative images of sentient beings; the eyes and mouths in particular were often gouged out. Pieces of some murals were broken off for use as fertilizer by the locals.
Turks in Arabic texts
The Arab Muslim Umayyads and Abbasids fought against the pagan Turks in the Muslim conquest of Transoxiana. The Muslims built ribats (military fortifications) against the non-Muslim Turks in Transoxiana.
The Medieval Arabs recorded that Medieval Turks looked strange from their perspective and were extremely physically different from the Arabs, calling them "broad faced people with small eyes".
The Ottoman Empire gradually grew weaker in the face of poor administration, repeated wars with Russia and Austro-Hungary, and the emergence of nationalist movements in the Balkans, and it finally gave way after World War I to the present-day Republic of Turkey. Ethnic nationalism also developed in Ottoman Empire during the 19th century, taking the form of Pan-Turkism or Turanism.
The Turkic peoples of Central Asia were not organized in nation-states during most of the 20th century, after the collapse of the Russian Empire living either in the Soviet Union or (after a short-lived First East Turkestan Republic) in the Chinese Republic.
In 1991, after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, five Turkic states gained their independence. These were Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. Other Turkic regions such as Tatarstan, Tuva, and Yakutia remained in the Russian Federation. Chinese Turkestan remained part of the People's Republic of China.
Immediately after the independence of the Turkic states, Turkey began seeking diplomatic relations with them. Over time political meetings between the Turkic countries increased and led to the establishment of TÜRKSOY in 1993 and later the Turkic Council in 2009.
Turkic ethnic groups are prominent in the world today and there have been Turkic nations in the past.
The modern list includes:
The historical list includes:
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Today most of the Turkic peoples have their homelands in Central Asia, where the Turkic peoples settled from China. According to historian John Foster, "The Turks emerge from among the Huns in the middle of [the] fifth century. They were living in Liang territory when it began to be overrun by the greater principality of Wei. Preferring to remain under the rule of their own kind, they moved westward into what is now the province of Kansu. This was the territory of kindred Huns, who were called the Rouran. The Turks were a small tribe of only five hundred families, and they became serfs to the Rouran, who used them as iron-workers. It is thought that the original meaning of "Turk" is "helmet", and that they may have taken this name because of the shape of one of the hills near which they worked. As their numbers and power grew, their chief made bold to ask for the hand of a Rouran princess in marriage. The demand was refused, and war followed. In 546, the iron-workers defeated their overlords." Since then Turkic languages have spread, through migrations and conquests, to other locations including present-day Turkey. While the term "Turk" may refer to a member of any Turkic people, the term Turkish usually refers specifically to the people and language of the modern country of Turkey.
The Turkic languages constitute a language family of some 30 languages, spoken across a vast area from Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean, to Siberia and Western China, and through to the Middle East.
Some 170 million people have a Turkic language as their native language; an additional 20 million people speak a Turkic language as a second language. The Turkic language with the greatest number of speakers is Turkish proper, or Anatolian Turkish, the speakers of which account for about 40% of all Turkic speakers. More than one third of these are ethnic Turks of Turkey, dwelling predominantly in Turkey proper and formerly Ottoman-dominated areas of Eastern Europe and West Asia; as well as in Western Europe, Australia and the Americas as a result of immigration. The remainder of the Turkic people are concentrated in Central Asia, Russia, the Caucasus, China, and northern Iraq.
At present, there are six independent Turkic countries: Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Turkey, Uzbekistan; There are also several Turkic national subdivisions in the Russian Federation including Bashkortostan, Tatarstan, Chuvashia, Khakassia, Tuva, Yakutia, the Altai Republic, Kabardino-Balkaria, and Karachayevo-Cherkessiya. Each of these subdivisions has its own flag, parliament, laws, and official state language (in addition to Russian).
The Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in western China and the autonomous region of Gagauzia, located within eastern Moldova and bordering Ukraine to the north, are two major autonomous Turkic regions. The Autonomous Republic of Crimea within Ukraine is a home of Crimean Tatars. In addition, there are several communities found in Iraq, Georgia, Bulgaria, the Republic of North Macedonia, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, and western Mongolia.
The Turks in Turkey are over 60 million to 70 million worldwide, while the second largest Turkic people are the Azerbaijanis, numbering 22 to 38 million worldwide; most of them live in Azerbaijan and Iran.
Turks in India are very small in number. There are barely 150 Turkish people from Turkey in India. These are recent immigrants. Descendants of Turkish rulers also exist in Northern India. Mughals who are part Turkic people also live in India in significant numbers. They are descendants of the Mughal rulers of India. Karlugh Turks are also found in the Haraza region and in smaller number in Azad Kashmir region of Pakistan. Small amount of Uyghurs are also present in India. Turks also exist in Pakistan in similar proportions. One of the tribe in Hazara region of Pakistan is Karlugh Turks which is direct descendant of Turks of Central Asia. Turkish influence in Pakistan can be seen through the national language, Urdu, which comes from a Turkish word meaning "horde" or "army".
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There are several international organizations created with the purpose of furthering cooperation between countries with Turkic-speaking populations, such as the Joint Administration of Turkic Arts and Culture (TÜRKSOY) and the Parliamentary Assembly of Turkic-speaking Countries (TÜRKPA).
The newly established Turkic Council, founded on November 3, 2009 by the Nakhchivan Agreement confederation, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkey, aims to integrate these organizations into a tighter geopolitical framework.
The TAKM – Organization of the Eurasian Law Enforcement Agencies with Military Status, established on 25 January 2013.
The distribution of people of Turkic cultural background ranges from Siberia, across Central Asia, to Eastern Europe. As of 2011[update] the largest groups of Turkic people live throughout Central Asia—Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Azerbaijan, in addition to Turkey and Iran. Additionally, Turkic people are found within Crimea, Altishahr region of western China, northern Iraq, Israel, Russia, Afghanistan, and the Balkans: Moldova, Bulgaria, Romania, and former Yugoslavia. A small number of Turkic people also live in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania. Small numbers inhabit eastern Poland and the south-eastern part of Finland. There are also considerable populations of Turkic people (originating mostly from Turkey) in Germany, United States, and Australia, largely because of migrations during the 20th century.
Sometimes ethnographers group Turkic people into six branches: the Oghuz Turks, Kipchak, Karluk, Siberian, Chuvash, and Sakha/Yakut branches. The Oghuz have been termed Western Turks, while the remaining five, in such a classificatory scheme, are called Eastern Turks.
Much of the Turkic population of Central Asia has significant Caucasoid and Mongoloid ancestry. The genetic distances between the different populations of Uzbeks scattered across Uzbekistan is no greater than the distance between many of them and the Karakalpaks. This suggests that Karakalpaks and Uzbeks have very similar origins. The Karakalpaks have a somewhat greater bias towards the eastern markers than the Uzbeks.
|1 AD||2–2.5 million?|
The Turkic people display a great variety of ethnic types. They possess physical features ranging from Caucasoid to Northern Mongoloid. Mongoloid and Caucasoid facial structure is common among many Turkic groups, such as Chuvash people, Tatars, Kazakhs, Uzbeks, and Bashkirs.
The following incomplete list of Turkic people shows the respective groups' core areas of settlement and their estimated sizes (in millions):
|People||Primary homeland||Population||Modern language||Predominant religion and sect|
|Azerbaijanis||Iranian Azerbaijan, Republic of Azerbaijan||
|Crimean Tatars||Crimea (Russia/Ukraine)||
0090.5 to 2 M
|Crimean Tatar||Sunni Islam|
|Karachays and Balkars||Karachay-Cherkessia and Kabardino-Balkaria (Russia)||
|Turkic Karaites and Krymchaks||Ukraine||
|Karaim and Krymchak||Judaism|
Minorities in Turkic countries
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Past and future population
- List of countries by past and future population provide 1950, 2000 and 2050 population while the year 2100 is taken from United Nations data.
Land and water area (excluding Caspian Sea)
This list includes dependent territories within their sovereign states (including uninhabited territories), but does not include claims on Antarctica. EEZ+TIA is exclusive economic zone (EEZ) plus total internal area (TIA) which includes land and internal waters.
The Turkic alphabets are sets of related alphabets with letters (formerly known as runes), used for writing mostly Turkic languages. Inscriptions in Turkic alphabets were found in Mongolia. Most of the preserved inscriptions were dated to between 8th and 10th centuries CE.
The earliest positively dated and read Turkic inscriptions date from c. 150, and the alphabets were generally replaced by the Old Uyghur alphabet in the Central Asia, Arabic script in the Middle and Western Asia, Greek-derived Cyrillic in Eastern Europe and in the Balkans, and Latin alphabet in Central Europe. The latest recorded use of Turkic alphabet was recorded in Central Europe's Hungary in 1699 CE.
The Turkic runiform scripts, unlike other typologically close scripts of the world, do not have a uniform palaeography as, for example, have the Gothic runes, noted for the exceptional uniformity of its language and paleography. The Turkic alphabets are divided into four groups, the best known of them is the Orkhon version of the Enisei group. The Orkhon script is the alphabet used by the Göktürks from the 8th century to record the Old Turkic language. It was later used by the Uyghur Empire; a Yenisei variant is known from 9th-century Kyrgyz inscriptions, and it has likely cousins in the Talas Valley of Turkestan and the Old Hungarian script of the 10th century.
The various Turkic languages are usually considered in geographical groupings: the Oghuz (or Southwestern) languages, the Kypchak (or Northwestern) languages, the Eastern languages (like Uygur), the Northern languages (like Altay and Yakut), and one existing Oghur language: Chuvash (the other Oghur languages, like and Bulgaric, are now extinct). The high mobility and intermixing of Turkic peoples in history makes an exact classification extremely difficult.
The Turkish language belongs to the Oghuz subfamily of Turkic. It is for the most part mutually intelligible with the other Oghuz languages, which include Azerbaijani, Gagauz, Turkmen and Urum, and to a varying extent with the other Turkic languages.
Markets in the steppe region had a limited range of foodstuffs available—mostly grains, dried fruits, spices, and tea. Turks mostly herded sheep, goats and horses. Dairy was a staple of the nomadic diet and there are many Turkic words for various dairy products such as süt (milk), yagh (butter), ayran, qaymaq (similar to clotted cream), qi̅mi̅z (fermented mare's milk) and qurut (dried yoghurt). During the Middle Ages Kazakh, Kyrgyz and Tatars, who were historically part of the Turkic nomadic group known as the Golden Horde, continued to develop new variations of dairy products.
Nomadic Turks cooked their meals in a qazan, a pot similar to a cauldron; a wooden rack called a qasqan can be used to prepare certain steamed foods, like the traditional meat dumplings called manti. They also used a saj, a griddle that was traditionally placed on stones over a fire, and shish. In later times, the Persian tava was borrowed from the Persians for frying, but traditionally nomadic Turks did most of their cooking using the qazan, saj and shish. Meals were served in a bowl, called a chanaq, and eaten with a knife (bïchaq) and spoon (qashi̅q). Both bowl and spoon were historically made from wood. Other traditional utensils used in food preparation included a thin rolling pin called oqlaghu, a colander called süzgu̅çh, and a grinding stone called tāgirmān.
Medieval grain dishes included preparations of whole grains, soups, porridges, breads and pastries. Fried or toasted whole grains were called qawïrmach, while köchä was crushed grain that was cooked with dairy products. Salma were broad noodles that could be served with boiled or roasted meat; cut noodles were called tutmaj in the Middle Ages and are called kesme today.
There are many types of bread doughs in Turkic cuisine. Yupqa is the thinnest type of dough, bawi̅rsaq is a type of fried bread dough, and chälpäk is a deep fried flat bread. Qatlama is a fried bread that may be sprinkled with dried fruit or meat, rolled, and sliced like pinwheel sandwiches. Toqach and chöräk are varieties of bread, and böräk is a type of filled pie pastry.
Herd animals were usually slaughtered during the winter months and various types of sausages were prepared to preserve the meats, including a type of sausage called sujuk. Though prohibited by Islamic dietary restrictions, historically Turkic nomads also had a variety of blood sausage. One type of sausage, called qazi̅, was made from horsemeat and another variety was filled with a mixture of ground meat, offal and rice. Chopped meat was called qïyma and spit-roasted meat was söklünch—from the root sök- meaning "to tear off", the latter dish is known as kebab in modern times. Qawirma is a typical fried meat dish, and kullama is a soup of noodles and lamb.
Early Turkic mythology and Tengrism
Pre-Islamic Turkic mythology was dominated by Shamanism, Animism and Tengrism. The Turkic animistic traditions were mostly focused on ancestor worship, polytheistic-animism and shamanism. Later this animistic tradition would form the more organized Tengrism. The chief deity was Tengri, a sky god, worshipped by the upper classes of early Turkic society until Manichaeism was introduced as the official religion of the Uyghur Empire in 763.
The wolf symbolizes honour and is also considered the mother of most Turkic peoples. Asena (Ashina Tuwu) is the wolf mother of Tumen Il-Qağan, the first Khan of the Göktürks. The horse and predatory birds, such as the eagle or falcon, are also main figures of Turkic mythology.
Tengri Bögü Khan made the now extinct Manichaeism the state religion of Uyghur Khaganate in 763 and it was also popular in Karluks. It was gradually replaced by the Mahayana Buddhism. It existed in the Buddhist Uyghur Gaochang up to the 12th century.
Tibetan Buddhism, or Vajrayana was the main religion after Manichaeism. They worshipped Täŋri Täŋrisi Burxan, Quanšï Im Pusar and Maitri Burxan. Turkic Muslim conquest in the Indian subcontinent and west Xinjiang attributed with a rapid and almost total disappearance of it and other religions in North India and Central Asia. The Sari Uygurs "Yellow Yughurs" of Western China, as well as the Tuvans and Altai of Russia are the only remaining Buddhist Turkic peoples.
The Krymchaks of Eastern Europe (Especially Crimea) are Jewish, and there are Turks of Jewish backgrounds who live in major cities such as Istanbul, Ankara and Baku. The Khazars widely practiced Judaism before their conversion to Islam.
Even though many Turkic peoples became Muslims under the influence of Sufis, often of Shī‘ah persuasion, most Turkic people today are Sunni Muslims, although a significant number in Turkey are Alevis. Alevi Turks, who were once primarily dwelling in eastern Anatolia, are today concentrated in major urban centers in western Turkey with the increased urbanism.
The major Christian-Turkic peoples are the Chuvash of Chuvashia and the Gagauz (Gökoğuz) of Moldova. The traditional religion of the Chuvash of Russia, while containing many ancient Turkic concepts, also shares some elements with Zoroastrianism, Khazar Judaism, and Islam. The Chuvash converted to Eastern Orthodox Christianity for the most part in the second half of the 19th century. As a result, festivals and rites were made to coincide with Orthodox feasts, and Christian rites replaced their traditional counterparts. A minority of the Chuvash still profess their traditional faith. Church of the East was popular among Turks such as the Naimans. It even revived in Gaochang and expanded in Xinjiang in the Yuan dynasty period. It disappeared after its collapse.
Today there are several groups that support a revival of the ancient traditions. Especially after the collapse of the Soviet Union, many in Central Asia converted or openly practice animistic and shamanistic rituals. It is estimated that about 60% of Kyrgyz people practice a form of animistic rituals. In Kazakhstan there are about 54.000 followers of the ancient traditions.
The Jereed – Horses have been essential and even sacred animals for Turks living as nomadic tribes in the Central Asian steppes. Turks were born, grew up, lived, fought and died on horseback. So became jereed the most important sporting and ceremonial game of Turkish people.
Bezeklik caves and Mogao grottoes
- Chigils Turks
- Dukha people
- Turkic languages
- Turkic migrations
- Turkic mythology
- Turko-Persian tradition
- List of ethnic groups
- List of Turkic dynasties and countries
- European ethnic groups
- Peoples of the Caucasus
- Kabul Shahi
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