Turkic peoples

This article is in need of attention.
Please improve (https://academickids.com:443/encyclopedia/index.php?title=Turkic_peoples&action=edit) this article.

The Turkic peoples are (currently some 150 million) Central Asians whose members speak languages in the Turkic family of languages, and their descendants thoughout the world.



The first mention of the term "Turk" applied to a known Turkic group, was in reference to the Gokturks in the 6th century. A letter by the Chinese Emperor written to the Göktürk Khan named Isbara in 585 described him as "the Great Turk Khan". The Orhun inscriptions (735 AD) use the term "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 an ethnic (and possibly linguistic) unit since early times. These include: a tablet from 2000 BC found in the ancient city of Mari situated at Tell Hariri in Syria, mentioning that a people named "Turukku" are coming to the lands of Tiguranim and Hirbazanim; and a Chinese record of 1328 BC referring to a neighbouring people as "Tu-Kiu".

In the ancient Zoroastrian text, the Zend-Avesta, one of the grandsons of Yima (comparable to Noah as the sole survivor of a catastrophe that depopulated the Earth) is named "Tur" or "Tura" -- the supposed ancestor of so-called "Turanian" peoples, including Turks. Furthermore, this traditional Persian geneaology has been confused by some with the late 16th century Mughal (Indian) work Akbarnama by Abul-Fazel, where he recounts certain Islamic traditions making "Turk" the oldest son of Japheth and grandson of Noah; also, in the 19th century, it was common in Christian circles to equate the ancestor of the Turks with Togarmah, grandson of Japheth in Genesis 10.

The most common popular explanation in present-day Turkey regarding the root of the word "Turk" is that it means "strong" or "powerful". A possible derivation is the Chinese word tükü, meaning 'strong'. In the 16th century, the Ottoman Turks believed that "Turk" also meant: "He who has reached the most mature stage/stage of perfection" (kemâle ermiş)

The English term "Turkic" is nowadays mainly used to describe the entire family of related languages and peoples, whereas the term "Turkish" is usually seen as referring specifically to the peoples and language of the modern nation of Turkey, and some of the peoples and minorities in surrounding countries who are, ethnically and culturally, particularly close to that state. Some claim that this distinction is an artificial one, and not made by the speakers of Turkic languages themselves. However, in modern Turkey, the distinction is made: the term Türk corresponds to Turkish people and culture, while the term Türki refers to Turkic peoples and cultures.

It is sometimes claimed that much of the separation is the result of Stalinism, and that prior to the founding of the Soviet Union, the term "Turkish" was used to describe all Turkic peoples as united and part of a greater family. Others counter that this argument is used to support the racial theories of Pan-Turkism, pointing out that the differences among separate governmental administrations, as well as cultural, religious, historical, and even racial differences, are too great to speak of any political unity.


It is believed that the Turkic people are native to Central Asia. Some historians claim that the Turks originated in Western Asia, and migrated in prehistoric times to Central Asia, while others believe that migration to Western Asia, and interactions in various parts of the world by Turkic peoples in ancient times (before the advent of the Huns), occurred via Central Asia.

The author M. Adji in the book "'Kypçaks" presents a view typical of Turkish historians. He claims that the Turks first invented iron swords and arrows, were artful horse-riders, and were also the first to invent pants and the bridle. He further asserts that ancient Turkic (or Kypçak) people made an empire that was the biggest in the ancient world, bigger than Greek and Roman empires - from the Black sea on the west to China on the east, and from the Ural mountains on the north to India in the south.

Comparisons of the ancient Sumerian language with modern Turkic languages (labeled as Ural-Altaic) have allegedly shown some common vocabulary. Based on these comparisons, it is claimed that the Sumerians were the most ancient documented Turkic people, and that they originated east of the Caspian Sea, but established a civilization in Mesopotamia. Others dismiss this as an expression of pan-Turkist ideology, pointing out that most linguists consider Sumerian a language isolate, and a few others connect it to the Dravidian languages. Further, the classification of languages into an "Ural-Altaic" group is often criticised, due to a perceived lack of evidence or obvious similarities between the languages so classified.

Some scholars also consider the Huns, whose origins may go back to 1200 BC, as one of the earlier Turkic tribes.

Leaving these controversies aside, the precise date of the initial expansion from the early homeland remains unknown. The first state known as "Turk", giving its name to the many states and people afterwards, was that of the Gokturks (gog = 'blue' or 'celestial') in the 6th century AD.

Later Turkic peoples include the Karluks (mainly 8th century), Uyghurs, Kirghiz, Oghuz (or Ğuz) Turks, and Turkmens. As these peoples were founding states in the area between Mongolia and Transoxiana, they came into contact with Muslims and gradually adopted Islam. However, there were also (and still are) Turkic people belonging to other religions, including Christians, Jews (see Khazars), Buddhists, and Zoroastrians.

Turkic soldiers in the army of the Abbasid caliphs emerged as de facto rulers of most of the Muslim Middle East (except Syria and Egypt), particularly after the 10th century. 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, Kirghiz and Uyghurs were struggling with each other and with the mighty Chinese Empire. Kirghiz people ultimately settled in the region now referred to as Kyrgyzstan. Tatar peoples conquered the Volga Bulgars in what is today Tatarstan, following the westward sweep of the Mongols under Genghis Khan in the 13th century. Bulgars were thus mistakenly called Tatars by the Russians. Native Tatars live only in Asia; European Tatars are in fact Bulgars. (The Bulgars came to Europe in the 7-8th century). Everywhere, Turkic groups mixed with other local populations to some extent.

In Central Asia, a Turkic warrior caste whose lifestyle was influenced by the Mongols became the aristocrats of the polyglot Turco-Persian culture. These Turco-Mongols conquered on horseback, while Arabic-schooled Persians (called "Tajiks") served as their administrators over the territories they absorbed. Timur conquered much of Central Asia, while his descendant Babur moved into India, founding the Mughal ("Mongol") dynasty.

As the Seljuks declined after the Mongol invasion, the Ottoman Empire emerged as a new important Turkic state that came to dominate not only the Middle East, but also southeastern Europe and parts of southwestern Russia and northern Africa. Meanwhile, other Turkic groups founded dynasties in northern India (the Mughal Empire).

The Ottoman Empire grew weaker in the face of repeated wars with Russia and Austria, 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.

Geographical distribution and ethnic division

Presently, the largest group of Turkic people lives in Turkey. Other major Turkic peoples live in Cyprus,Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Iran,Russia, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. Additionally, Turkic people live in Crimea, the Xinjiang region of western China, northern Iraq, Afghanistan, Moldova, and the Balkans (particularly in Greece, Bulgaria, Romania and former Yugoslavia). A small number of Turkic people also live in Vilnius (capital of Lithuania).

An exact line between the different Turkic people cannot easily be drawn. The following is a non-comprehensive list of the major groups:

Some people divide the above into six branches: the Oghuz, Kipchak, Karluk, Siberian, Chuvash, and Saha/Yakut branches.

One of the major difficulties perceived by many who try to classify the various Turkic languages, dialects, peoples and ethnic groups, is the impact Soviet and particularly Stalin's nationality policies - creation of new national demarcations and mass deportations - had on the ethnic mix in previously largely multicultural regions like Khiva/Khwarezmia, Fergana valley and Caucasia. Many of the above mentioned classifications are therefore by no means universally accepted, either in detail or in general. Another aspect often debated is the influence of Pan-Turkism, and the emerging nationalism in the newly independent Central Asian republics, on the perception of ethnic divisions.

Physical appearance

Turkic peoples often differ greatly from one another in physical appearance. The majority of Turkic peoples from western China to eastern Europe seem to possess certain Caucasian characteristics. Some have very light features including blue eyes and blondish/reddish hair, although most Turkic people look Mediterranean, having brown or black hair and eyes, and olive to dark skin features. In some Turkic areas, the existence of peoples who have light skin features as well as light hair and eyes, with a Mongolian facial structure, is common (as with some Uzbeks and Tatars). The majority of Turkic people seem to have high cheek bones, round heads, and straight hair.

There has been much debate about the racial origin of Turkic people, with some assuming a Ural-Altaic race comprising Hungarians, Finns, Estonians, Turkic peoples, Mongolians and Tungus; others assuming a separate Turkic race, partially mixed with Mongols. The Ainu, Koreans (although Sinicized), and Japanese are believed to be Turkic peoples of the Tungusic group. Still others point out that many languages have often been adopted, either by choice or by force, by racially diverse peoples. Currently, the common understanding is to assume at least partially separate linguistic and racial heritages for the various groups, based on the multitude of invasions, wars, empires, and population movements in the region, and the general disrepute all other racial origin theories have received in recent times.


Most Turkic people are Sunni Muslims. But many people in Eastern Turkey are Alevis. The distribution of Alevi Turks is balanced throughout the east and west ends of Turkey.

The Chuvash of Russia and the Gagauz of Moldova are largely Jews.

Some Turkic people (particularly in the Russian autonomous regions and republics of Altai, Khakasia, and Tuva) are largely shamanists. Shamanism was the predominant religion of the different Turkic branches prior to the 8th century, when the majority accepted Islam.

The ancient Shamanic religion of Turkic people has also been called Tenghriism, as it involved belief in the god Tenghri as the main god of all Altaic peoples, and ruler of skies. Though in modern times no one believes in Tenghri, his name hasn't entirely disappeared; it is typically used in languages of 'non-Muslim' Altaic peoples, like Kalmyks, Mongols, Tuvans, Buryats and Yakuts. It is also claimed by some Turkish scholars that many other religions were influenced by Tenghriism, including Buddhism (Makhayana) and Zoroastrianism; furthermore, that the cross symbol of Christians was really an ancient Turkic symbol of Tenghri, and that when the Turks arrived in Iran and the Caucasus, Christians took it as their symbol of God. These scholars point to early pictures of the death of Jesus, which very often used T-shaped crosses, as evidence for this theory. Other than this evidence, the theory is supported by very little.

There are also a few Buddhist, Jewish, Zoroastrian, and Baha'i Turkic people today.

"Turkish World" and "Pan-Turkism"

Some refer to the Turkic countries, regions and peoples as part of the "Turkish World". Others are worried that this is a result and example of Pan-Turkism, designed to encourage hegemonial or even imperialistic aims of modern day Turkey.

Proponents of the concept point out that in similar fashion, many Arabs also feel to be part of a greater "Arab World". It is also held that encouragement of this cultural and linguistic affinity can be used as a vehicle to increased regional development and security.

Opponents point to the nationalism and the imperial past of modern Turkey, the role of pan-Turkic movements in the revolutionary wars in Russia, and the cultural, religious, and political diversity among the many Turkic peoples and ethnic groups, and feel that a movement to greater pan-Turkic unity might be a negative influence on the region.

See also

External links

fr:Peuples turcs ja:テュルク pl:Ludy tureckie ro:Popor turcic tr:Türk halkları zh:突厥


  • Art and Cultures
    • Art (https://academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Art)
    • Architecture (https://academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Architecture)
    • Cultures (https://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Cultures)
    • Music (https://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Music)
    • Musical Instruments (http://academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/List_of_musical_instruments)
  • Biographies (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Biographies)
  • Clipart (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Clipart)
  • Geography (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Geography)
    • Countries of the World (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Countries)
    • Maps (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Maps)
    • Flags (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Flags)
    • Continents (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Continents)
  • History (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/History)
    • Ancient Civilizations (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Ancient_Civilizations)
    • Industrial Revolution (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Industrial_Revolution)
    • Middle Ages (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Middle_Ages)
    • Prehistory (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Prehistory)
    • Renaissance (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Renaissance)
    • Timelines (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Timelines)
    • United States (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/United_States)
    • Wars (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Wars)
    • World History (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/History_of_the_world)
  • Human Body (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Human_Body)
  • Mathematics (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Mathematics)
  • Reference (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Reference)
  • Science (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Science)
    • Animals (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Animals)
    • Aviation (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Aviation)
    • Dinosaurs (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Dinosaurs)
    • Earth (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Earth)
    • Inventions (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Inventions)
    • Physical Science (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Physical_Science)
    • Plants (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Plants)
    • Scientists (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Scientists)
  • Social Studies (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Social_Studies)
    • Anthropology (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Anthropology)
    • Economics (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Economics)
    • Government (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Government)
    • Religion (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Religion)
    • Holidays (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Holidays)
  • Space and Astronomy
    • Solar System (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Solar_System)
    • Planets (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Planets)
  • Sports (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Sports)
  • Timelines (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Timelines)
  • Weather (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Weather)
  • US States (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/US_States)


  • Home Page (http://academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php)
  • Contact Us (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Contactus)

  • Clip Art (http://classroomclipart.com)
Personal tools