Open main menu

Turks (term for Muslims)

The ethnonym Turks (Greek: Τούρκοι/Tourkoi, Serbo-Croatian: Turci/Турци) has been commonly used by the non-Muslim Balkan peoples to denote all Muslim settlers in the region, regardless of their ethno-linguistic background. Majority of these, however, were indeed ethnic Turks.[1] In the Ottoman Empire, the Islamic faith was the official religion, with Muslims holding different rights than non-Muslims.[2] Non-Muslim (dhimmi) ethno-religious[3] legal groups were identified by different millets ("nations").[2]

Turk was also notably used to denote all groups in the region who had been Islamized during the Ottoman rule, especially Muslim Albanians and Slavic Muslims.[2] For the Balkan Christians, converting to Islam was synonymous with Turkification, succumbing to "Ottoman rule and embracing the Ottoman way of life," hence "become a Turk".[2] In South Slavic languages, there are also derivative terms, such as poturiti, poturčiti and poturica (all essentially meaning "Turk" or "to turkify").[4][2] Slavic Muslims follow the Hanafi school of Sunni Islam, the most dominant school in the Ottoman Empire.[5]

According to the religious ideology of Christoslavism, coined by Michael Sells, religion played a key role in maintaining alliances and ethnic identification during tumultuous ethnic conflicts in Southeastern Europe for centuries, from the High Middle Ages onward. Sells postulates that there existed a "belief that Slavs are Christian by nature and that any conversion from Christianity is a betrayal of the Slavic race"[6] as seen in Croatian and Serbian ethnic and nationalist movements. Slavic Muslims were, therefore, not regarded part of their ethnic kinship, as by conversion to Islam, "they have become Turks".[7]

In Greece and Greek language, the same belief was held about islamized Greeks, that they had essentially "become Turks", while tourkalvanoi ("Turco-Albanians") became a common term for Muslim Albanians who had been a significant minority in the country.[8]

All of these terms are now considered pejorative ethnic slurs in their respective languages as well as by those groups that they refer to.

Following the end of World War I and the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, all Ottoman Muslim were made part of the modern citizenry or the Turkish nation. While Turkish nationalism viewed all Muslims in Turkey as Turks without exception, non-Muslim minority group, such as Jews and Christians, were designated as "foreign nations", the aforementioned millet.[3][9] In modern Turkey, data on the ethnic makeup of the country is not officially collected, although various estimates exist. All Muslim citizens are regarded as Turks by law, regardless of their ethnicity or language, in contrast to non-Muslim minorities, which are seen as "non-Turks"; the largest ethnic minority, the Kurds, who are predominantly Muslim and number as many as 20 million, are therefore classified as simply "Turks".[3][9]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Mentzel 2000, p. 8.
  2. ^ a b c d e Antonello Biagini; Giovanna Motta (19 June 2014). Empires and Nations from the Eighteenth to the Twentieth Century: Volume 1. Cambridge Scholars Publishing. pp. 143–. ISBN 978-1-4438-6193-9.
  3. ^ a b c Cagaptay, Soner (2014). Islam, Secularism and Nationalism in Modern Turkey: Who is a Turk? (Routledge Studies in Middle Eastern History). p. 70.
  4. ^ Mient Jan Faber (1996). The Balkans: A Religious Backyard of Europe. Longo Editore. p. 125. ISBN 978-88-8063-091-3.
  5. ^ Sabrina P. Ramet (1989). Religion and Nationalism in Soviet and East European Politics. Duke University Press. pp. 380–. ISBN 978-0-8223-0891-1.
  6. ^ Steven L. Jacobs (2009). Confronting Genocide: Judaism, Christianity, Islam. Lexington Books. pp. 82–. ISBN 978-0-7391-3589-1.
  7. ^ Omer Bartov; Phyllis Mack (1 January 2001). In God's Name: Genocide and Religion in the Twentieth Century. Berghahn Books. pp. 183–. ISBN 978-1-57181-302-2.
  8. ^ Megalommatis, M. Cosmas (1994). "Turkish-Greek Relations and the Balkans: A Historian's Evaluation of Today's Problems". Cyprus Foundation: 28. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  9. ^ a b Cagaptay 2014, p. 70.