Index / Peoples
By far the largest people group of Turkey are Turks, even if a great part of them are not genuine ethnic Turks. Several other peoples, many the of original peoples before the immigration of Turkic peoples, have adopted Turkish language and culture. The Turks are a mixture of the indigenous population belonging to the region since millennias, the Turk-Tatarians immigrating from 11th century and the two following centuries. In the centuries following this immigration, people came from all over the Mediterranean world, as well as from Caucasia.
The presence of Turkmens is very uncertain. One estimate make them about 1 million, another 900 (nine hundred, less than 1,000!).
Through the centuries mountains provided safety for specific groups, in modern times, large cities have also provided security.
The Kurds make up between 15 and 20% of the population of Turkey, but represent the majority in many regions of the country. Today Kurds live over all Turkey, but the heart areas of the Kurds are in the west, in the mountainous areas close to Iran, Iraq, Syria and even Azerbaijan. Different from the Turks, who look at themselves as descendants of immigrants coming from Central Asia, the Kurds are the indigenous people of the region they inhabit. The Kurds are Sunni Muslims.
The ethnic group of Zaza causes quite a bit of problems with classification, many scholars consider them a Kurdish group. Estimates to their numbers varies a lot, from about 1 million to 2.5 million.
The other ethnic groups of Turkey are often original peoples. This applies to Armenians, Georgians and Laz. Azerbaijanis and Circassians have arrived here from later migrations. Arabs seem to have migrated too, some groups by voluntary nomadism, others relocated by different Ottoman governments over the centuries. Georgians and Laz live in the northeast. Arabs live in the very south, close to the border to Syria. Armenians live all across the country, a large community has settled in Istanbul. Since 1988, Armenia's devastating earthquake made roughly 100,000 Armenian citizens immigrate illegally to Turkey, taking low-skilled jobs.
In the case of Turkey, there are some lost peoples too, due to Ethnic and Religious Cleansings between the end of the 19th century until the first decades of the 20th century. Assyrians and Greeks are ethnic groups with deep roots that were torn up in these tragedies. Hardest struck were the Armenians, but as far as statistics can be reconstructed, they still represent one of the largest minorities.