Are There Any Turks in Turkey?

Garen Yegparian
Garen Yegparian

Garen Yegparian


I’ve wanted to write this piece for a long time, but there’s a set of information that would make it more complete which I have not been able to find (more on this later). So, after putting it off for more than a year, I decided to give it a go anyway.

To start, I played a game with myself by listing how many different nationalities living in Turkey today I could name. I came up with this list: Albanians (Arnawoot), Alevis, Arabs, Armenians, Assyrians, Azerbaijanis, Bosnians (Boshnaks/Bosniaks), Bulgarians, Circassians (Adyghe and Kabardian as I sybsequently learned), Greeks (including Pontic Greeks), Jews, Kurds, Laz, Macedonians, Turkmens, Zaza (Kurds), and miscellaneous Eastern European stock converted to Islam by the Ottomans who settled in post-Ottoman Turkey, often in the homes left vacant by Armenians who were murdered or exiled. I’m not even including the more ancient peoples who dwelt as Armenians’ neighbors to the west and have since disappeared, nor the various nations represented by their business-based diasporas.

Of course, I missed some: Abazins, Abkhazians, Chechens, Crimean Tatars, Gagauzes, Georgians, Ossetians, Pomaks, Romani/Roma/Gypsy, Karakalpaks, Tahtaci, and one source described “minorities of West European … the Levantines (or Levanter, mostly of French, Genoese and Venetian descent) … present in the country (particularly in Istanbul and İzmir) since the medieval period”. These two lists, together, are what I could find, in what I can only describe as a “stingy” environment. There are probably many more. Obviously, Ankara wants the world to believe that everyone living in Turkey is a Turk. This is a very clever bit of wordplay, since the Republic of Turkey’s constitution defines the country’s residents in that way. Ankara certainly doesn’t want awareness, neither worldwide nor among its own citizens, of the large number of nationalities that pan-Turkist and Ataturkist policies aim to subsume and render “Turkish” over time. In fact, the last census they gathered information about aomething as simple as languages spoken, not national identity, was in 1965.

The CIA seems hell bent on assisting Ankara. Its “The World Factbook” gives these statistics for Turkey’s demographic diversity: “Turkish 70-75%, Kurdish 19%, other minorities 7-12% (2016 est.)” That is not only terse, but extremely misleading. Even so, it tells us that roughly one-third of the population is NOT Turkish. Let’s proceed from here, assuming that that two-thirds is, indeed Turkish. This is where the demographic time bomb that terrifies Ankara is ticking away in plain view.

Turkey fertility map 2015

Turkey fertility map 2015

There are many articles out there about how Turkey’s population, like much of the rest of the world, is getting older. They also address the brain drain of the country’s most talented youth departing for Europe or America, especially since the abortive 2016 coup that enabled Erdoğan to consolidate his power to the point of “choking” the young generation, further prompting them to leave. But this is NOT the biggest fear of Turkey’s current leaders.

Take a look at the accompanying map of Turkey and its provinces. The red, yellow, and light green colors indicate where net fertility (basically, birth rates) are highest. You’ll notice they are in the predominantly Kurdish-populated parts of the country. The more heavily “Turkish” parts of the country have lower birthrates, often BELOW replacement levels. “Replacement level” is defined as the average number of children that must be born to a woman to maintain a constant population. In developed countries, this figure is 2.1. But it can be as high as 3.4 in some developing countries because of higher mortality rates. So let’s say for Turkey it is somewhere in between, 2.7. You can see the western and northern parts of the country are well below this level. What this means is that in a few generations, “Turks” could well become a minority population in Turkey.

But even the “Turkishness” of today’s Turks is really suspect, ambiguous, and ultimately meaningless. Really, how many Turks arrived from the Altai Mountains and Central Asia into Anatolia and the Armenian Highlands? This is the information I lack referenced above. I have not been able to find or compile a table that indicates years of arrival of successive waves of Turkic invaders, how many they were, and what the population of the territories concerned was in that year. With those numbers, we could really tell what proportion of the overall number of Turks today can really be seen as Turks. The rest would be Armenians, Assyrians, Greeks, and everyone else who lived there before the invaders came.

Ask your “Turkish” contacts. What are they REALLY when it comes to their roots? It might trigger some reflection, soul-searching, and reassessment of their identity. Or, in the case of the large number of racists to be found among Turks, it will give you the mischievous pleasure of driving them to great irritation.


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  1. lydia tutunjian said:

    Thank you Garen for your interesting article. A year ago or so, I was watching a you tube about genealogy and in that report it said that through DNA research they identified that the real turkish population in turkey is only 3% – 4%, the rest are all mixtures of all the other nationalities you mentioned in your article. In fact the turkish friends I have, one is jewish, one had an Armenian great grandfather, and one doesn’t know his ancestry.
    Look forward to updates.

  2. Jeff said:

    There videos on-line where Turks find out from their DNA tests that they are either Greek or Armenian. I think Turks have been brainwashed with the biggest national myth ever told. As more educated Turks do DNA tests and find out the truth I guarantee you that DNA testing will be outlawed in Turkey in a few years

  3. Vinko said:

    Then you can also look at the demography picture and compare the year 1920 and 1990. in 1920 the census found 20 million turks and in 1990 50 million already – what a fertile nation. I doubt in the numbers for 1920 since there is a steady policy of turkification on the way, not to mention year 1990.
    Let me give one thought. It was possible to play one state one nation policy for european centralised states that played this game for centuries, like France or Spain (have a look at Spain today – basks, cathalans etc are still very alive), but you can’t do this in modern times – means in the last century. For example my slavic “tribes” in Balkans remained separated and formed a myriad of small states today.
    I would say that under the coat Turkey is still a mosaic of peoples and nations as you stipulate, but everyone fears the destiny of armenians or greeks. And there were well more pogroms but we do not know.
    National agenda in Germany produced nacism, in Italiy fachism in Turkey – what would be the name of it? Stil on the way today!

  4. ardachece barseghian said:

    Merci encore et encore. Dans les années 70 durant 3 ou 4 ans j’ai rencontre les populations de quelques villages anatoliens, ils étaient conscients de leur origine et diversité culturelles qu’ils gardaient secrètes par crainte. J’ai rencontre un mollahs a Karaman Marach qui m’a conduit au quartier arménien me racontant avec un mea culpa que je crois sincère, le sang qui avait coule durant le génocide, expliquant que depuis la société s’était réduite a la pauvreté, regrettant ces événements, disait-il.
    Thanks again and again. In the 1970s for 3 or 4 years I met the populations of some Anatolian villages, they were aware of their origin and cultural diversity they kept secret for fear. I met a mullah in Karaman Marach who took me to the Armenian quarter telling me with a mea culpa that I sincerely believe the blood that had flowed during the genocide, explaining that since society was reduced to poverty, regretting these events, he said.

  5. Ari said:

    All so called Turkish citizens should be encouraged to take genetic test to determine their ancestry. It will be interesting to find out how many Armenians and other nationalities still live in the so called Turkey. People in our stolen homeland have the right to know who they really are!

  6. Satenik said:

    Well just looking at some of them you know straightaway that they are not ethnically Turks and the majority of them have so much mix in them that they would not know what they were. Turkey is toast!

  7. Kaplan said:

    Anti-Turkish propoganda piece. Most of the Turkish provinces have more population than eastern provinces. Also, Turkish people are everywhere in Turkey. Even in provinces like Diyarbakır 20% of the pop is Turkish. There are also many native Arabs, Kurds who are Turkish nationalist(ex. Harran, Şanlıurfa and Elazığ). You can’t play your demographics politics like it’s USA.

  8. Steve said:

    This is a dangerous article with content that has some very unpleasant ideological fellow travelers. Presumably its author agrees with Turkish president Erdogan’s assertion that good Turks need to have many children for the good of the state and that women who do not want such a fate are a danger to the security of the state. There are extremists in Armenia saying more or less the same thing. Eastern Turkey is backwards and poor precisely because of this “large families good” attitude Mr Yeghparian is asserting is important to national survival. The world can no longer sustain more population growth, there is nowhere left for excess populations to migrate to. It is irresponsible and stupid for anyone to be suggesting that Turkey is not sustainable because it does not have high population growth.

    • Edward Demiraiakian said:

      You missed the theme of the article. Tose Turkish citizens who think of themselves as Turks are having fewer children than those who feel that they are not Turkish.
      Like the Kurds, Greeks, Armenians, Hemshins, etc. Those are having three tmes more children, and at that rate they will outnumber those who think of themselves as Turks. On top of all this, genetic results show very few Turkish genes in Turkey.
      So few; 3 to 4%. makes the whole Turkish idea ridiculous. Why by comparisson, 3% is the amount of Armenian genes in the Han Chinese population. The whole Turkishness idea of Western Asia minor is a childrens story. A fabrication by ignorant people. A lie.

  9. State of Emergency said:

    The world and its human inhabitants are in an ever evolving pace. The same kind of statistics can be applied to any nation. No one county is monolithic. Not China, not France, and certainly not the US. Populations migrate for all sorts of reasons and the continued globalization will muddy up the water at an even faster pace. Eventually, leading to a one mongrel race without borders or history. A liberals utopia come true.

    • Tatev said:

      State of emergency all countries have natives, China has natives with it’s own tribes, Frans has french but turks are from Uyguria from Mongolian & Chinese border, so your comment is stupidity….. USA is the mixture of immigrants but the minority is the native Mexican….. so do not play around with your lie….. go learn educate yourself….

      • State of Emergency said:

        With your logic, then every country and nation should revert to the status quo as it was at least 500 years ago. Besides, maybe a small percentage of Uygurians actually came over to conquer but the majority of today’s Turks are remnants of natives who converted (under duress or overwise) to Turkic identity. But to dismiss the whole of the population as foreign is totally absurd. Perhaps educating them might be an easier task than to totally expel or deport them as you might be imagining.

        FYI: Mexican is not native to the US nor to Mexico. They are the product of the Conquistadors, who happen to be from Spain. Aztec and Mayan are the true native inhabitants of Mexico.

  10. Harry Derderian said:

    We thank Garen for the time and energy that created such an informative presentation.
    Well done with visual and detail.

  11. Tatev said:

    Garen there no azerbaigani nation it is the creation of Lenin they are mixture of kurds, iranians & mongols….. so be careful

  12. harry dardanel said:

    We are all human beings with ancestry. All of the aforementioned populace live in the borders of Turkey. Americans are identified as living on the North American continents hence called by an area they live in. So, by comparison Turk of all sorts is a designation to those living in Turkey whether Armenian, Kurd, or Pontic, or Roman. Let us not judge each other by ethnicity but by human values.