Minorities and Chief Ethnic and Subcultural Groups in the Ethnic Tourism of Turkey Today

In ethnic tourism, the most important motivation to visit is the historical cultural heritage of these ethnic groups and their traditional values. Ethnic kinship relationships between local communities and visitors are also important for the demand. For this reason, we consider it useful to briefly introduce the main ethnic groups in Turkey, their distribution, and their importance for ethnic tourism in this country. Nevertheless, we must make it clear that it is impossible to provide exact figures on the size and distribution of these ethnic groups, for the censuses carried out in

Turkey after 1965 contain no data about the ethnic or religious division of the population. Therefore, the figures that we provide are only estimates. The main ethnic groups involved in ethnic tourism in Turkey are as follows:

Rums In Turkish, “Rum” usually refers to a person who belongs to the Christian Orthodox religion, who speaks the modern Greek language and who is not a Greek citizen (thus, one speaks of Istanbul, Cypriot, and American Rums). In the Greek language, however, “Rum” is usually synonymous simply with “Greek” or “Hellene”, referring to the Greek cultural and political community. There is not, in any case, any standard academic term for referring to this community (Millas 2004; Babul 2006, cited by Gali^kan 2010: 66). The number of Rums living in Turkey is estimated to be 3-4 thousand today (MFA 2008). They mostly live in Istanbul, Izmir, Ankara, Bursa, and Ganakkale.

Armenians There are about 70 thousand Armenians in Turkey today. They live in Istanbul, Kayseri, Malatya, Mardin, Diyarbakir, Kastamonu, Hatay, Amasya, Elazig, Sivas, Yozgat, and Tokat provinces, with the majority living in Istanbul. Of these Armenians, most are Orthodox, about 2000 are Catholic, and very few of them are Protestant. Catholic Armenians have an archbishop in Istanbul. Orthodox Armenians have a patriarchate of their own located also in Istanbul.

Jews The Ottoman State embraced about 200 thousand Jews (Sephardi Jews) who escaped from the Inquisition in Spain in 1492. The community sources in Turkey report their total population as 20 thousand today. Approximately, 18 thousand of them live in Istanbul and about 1500 of them in Izmir, whereas the rest inhabit Ankara, Bursa, Ganakkale, Kirklareli, Adana, and Antakya provinces (The Turkish Jewish Community 2014).

Syriacs As an Orthodox Christian community, Tur Abdin (Mardin) Syriacs have an important place in Eastern Christianity. Today about 2000 Syriacs live here (Erginer 2007: 5). With a population of 25 thousand people throughout Turkey, Syriacs are distributed particularly in Istanbul and Mardin as well as in Diyarbakir, Elazig, Adiyaman, and Ankara (Efe and Akgul 2011: 97). Besides, Chaldeans and Nestorians, whose language of worship is Syriac, also live in Turkey. Today, it is estimated that the number of Chaldeans in Turkey ranges from 4 to 5 thousand and that the number of Nestorians is around 5-6 thousand (§ener 2004: 173-183). Other ethnic groups involved in ethnic tourism in Turkey are as follows:

Arabs The number of Arabs in Turkey is estimated to be around 1 million. They are not a homogenous group, though. Most of them are Muslim—Sunni or Alevi (Nusayri)—with the Christians (Nasranis) representing a small minority of about 10 thousand (§ener 2004: 73-75, 227).

Gypsies The majority of the Gypsies lead a sedentary life in Turkey today; however, there is also a minority group that carries on a nomadic lifestyle. Today, the total number of Gypsies is estimated to range from 600 thousand (§ener 2004) to 2 million (MRGI 2007), and they are distributed in almost all provinces of Turkey. However, Istanbul, Thrace and its vicinity (Edirne, Kirklareli, Tekirdag, and Ganakkale), and the provinces of Adana, Bursa, Balikesir, Izmir, Antalya, and Konya are the places with the largest Gypsy population (Efe and Akgtil 2011: 112— 113).

Georgians Predominantly distributed in the Black Sea Region (the provinces of Ordu, Giresun, Samsun, Sinop, and Artvin) and the Marmara Region (the provinces of Sakarya, Bolu, Kocaeli, Bursa, and Balikesir), the Georgian population is estimated to be 500-600 thousand today. The Georgians of Turkey are mostly Muslim and Turkish-speaking; however, there is also a small Orthodox Christian community in Istanbul.

Pomaks The Pomaks represent a small ethnic group of people in the Balkans who are Muslim and speak a Bulgarian dialect (mixed with Turkish words). After the Russo-Turkish war (1877-1878), there were Pomaks among immigrants who took refuge in Turkey. They settled predominantly in the Marmara Region, particularly in the settlements located in the Thracian section.

White Russians At the end of the Bolshevik Revolution (1920), many supporters of the Tsar and the aristocracy (“White Russians”) were forced to leave into exile. Turkey was on their migration route. The number of Russians who reached Istanbul in the early 1920s exceeded 150 thousand. Another important group was directed to Gelibolu (Ganakkale). In time, most Russians left Turkey to settle in various other countries around the world. In 1923, the last group of Russians left Gelibolu too. However, White Russians continued to stay in Istanbul until the 1940s as Istanbul was able to offer much more favourable conditions for their lifestyles. While almost all White Russians eventually left the country, their legacy has survived. White Russians made crucial contributions to the development of the artistic, cultural, sporting, and entertainment lives of the towns or neighbourhoods they inhabited while in Turkey.

Yuruks and Turkmens These are Turkic populations that settled in Anatolia during the time of the Ottoman Empire or earlier and were known for their nomadic lifestyle until the 1950s.1 Although settled today, Yuruks and Turkmens[1] [2] maintain their traditional lifestyles around the Taurus Mountains in the Mediterranean Region and in the rural settlements on various mountainous masses (e.g. the Kaz Mountains, Mt. Madra, and the Boz Mountains) in the Aegean Region. With some of their traditional festivals, these groups have carried the colours of the Turkish culture from Central Asia to Anatolia and maintained them up to the present time.

  • [1] The Sankegili tribe with a population of about 400 people crossing the Taurus Mountains in thenorth-south direction (between Mersin and Konya) every year is the last representative of thenomadic tradition.
  • [2] In the Ottoman archive sources, the name “Turkmen” was predominantly used for the nomads inthe central and eastern regions of Anatolia, whereas the name “Yuruk” was mostly used for thenomads in the western region of Anatolia (§ahin 2006: 56-61; Tanrikulu 2014: 237).
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