During antiquity Anatolia was a center for a wide variety of numerous indigenous peoples such as Armenians, Assyrians, Hattians, Hittites, Hellenes, Pelasgians, Phrygians, Thracians, Medes and others. Later during the late Roman Period, prior to the Mongol invasion, the population of Anatolia had reached an estimated level of over 12 million people.
The first historical references to the Turks appear in Chinese records of about 2000 B.C. These records refer to tribes called the Hsiung-nu, an early form of the Western term Hun, who lived in an area bounded by the Altai Mountains, Lake Baikal, and the northern edge of the Gobi Desert and are believed to have been the ancestors of the Turks.
Specific references in Chinese sources in the sixth century A.D. identify the tribal kingdom called Tu-Küe located on the Orkhon River south of Lake Baikal. The Khans (chiefs) of this tribe accepted the nominal suzerainty of the Tang dynasty. The earliest known example of writing in a Turkic language was found in that area and can be dated from about A.D. 730. The origin of the Turks, like that of nearly all Central Asian peoples, in shrouded in mystery and legend. The story preserved in Chinese annals, the only early written history of the steppe, is that they are the offspring of wolves.
The ancient Turks clearly subscribed to this legend for there is atop a large ninth-century Turkic stela at Tsetserleg a stone carving of a wolf suckling a boy. Throughout history, the wolf has remained an evocative symbol of renewal for the Turks. In the 13th century, when Süleyman Shah led the drought-stricken Osmanh Turks out of Central Asia to found an empire which ultimately included the Balkans, North Africa and the Middle East, he carried a banner displaying a wolf’s head. Seven centuries later, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, who created modern Turkey from the ashes of World War I, was known as the legendary “Boz Kurt,” or Gray Wolf.
To most people, the term “Turk” denotes simply an inhabitant of Turkey. Few realize that as many as 60 percent of the world’s 90 million Turks, defined as anyone who speaks a Turkic language as a native tongue-live outside the Republic of Turkey. In Central Asia, for example, where they recently re-emerged as independent nations from a century of repression, Turkic Azeris, Kazaks, Kirgiz, Turkomans and Uzbeks roughly equal the number of Turks in Turkey itself.
There are sizable Turkic minorities too in Afghanistan, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Georgia, Greece, Iran, Mongolia, Russia and Ukraine. In northwest China, Uighur Turks outnumber Han Chinese, and give the country’s largest administrative unit its name.
Other Turkish nomads from the Altai region founded the Göktürk Empire, a confederation of tribes under a dynasty of Khans whose influence extended during the sixth to eighth centuries from the Aral Sea to the Hindu Kush in the land bridge known as Transoxania, across the Oxus River.
The Göktürks are known to have been enlisted by a Byzantine emperor in the seventh century as allies against the Sassanians. In the eighth century some Turkish tribes, among them the Oguz, moved south of the Oxus River, while others migrated west to the northern shore of the Black Sea.
Anatolia has been an important center of interaction, for many peoples and their cultures, throughout the known human history. This dynamic constitute a highly diverse culture and also a significant heterogeneity of peoples. The migrations of Turkic speaking groups in Anatolia is a dramatic shift in language barrier between Altaic languages and Indo-European languages. It is difficult to understand the complex cultural and demographic dynamics of the Turkic speaking groups that have shaped the Anatolian landscape for the last millennium. The region of the Anatolia represents an extremely important area with respect to ancient population migration and expansion.
Turkic peoples, in fact, are one of the most widespread ethnic groups in the world, inhabiting a vast region from the Great Wall of China in the east to the Balkans in the West, and from Siberia in the north to Afghanistan in the south. Although Ottoman Turkey, at the beginning of this century, was dubbed the “Sick Man of Europe”, the Turks have for 1500 years lived up to their name, which, in Turkic, means “forceful” or “strong”.
In the sixth century of the common era, the Turks swept across Central Asia to found an empire extending as far west as the Black Sea. In the 11th century-under the banner of Islam—they conquered most of India and the Middle East. Advancing into Europe and Africa in the 15th century, they built one of the largest empires the world has known.
Turks and Mongols: 6th – 13th century AD: The high plateau of Mongolia, east of the Altai mountains, is a region from which successive waves of tribesmen have emerged to prey upon more sedentary neighbours. Mongolia is the original homeland of both Turks and Mongols, two groups much intermingled in history and loosely related in their languages.
Mongolia is an ideal starting point for the movement of nomadic tribes in search of new pastures, and for sudden excursions of a more predatory nature. It lies at the extreme end of an unbroken range of open grasslands, the steppes, which reach all the way to Europe. Horsemen can move fast along the steppes. South of this nomadic highway live rich settled communities.
The emergence of the Turks from Mongolia is a gradual and uncharted process. Each successive wave makes its first appearance in history only when Turkish tribes or warriors acquire power in some new region, whether they be the Khazars, the Seljuks or one of many other such groups.
The sudden eruption of the Mongols from their homeland is different. Their astonishing expansion, spanning the breadth of Asia, can be precisely dated (to the early years of the 13th century) and can be attributed to the military genius of one man – born with the name of Temujin, but known now as Genghis Khan.
Gök Türk and the Khazars: 6th – 8th century AD: The first historical mention of the Turks is in Chinese accounts of a great empire established by a confederation of nomads in the 6th century AD. Stretching from north of the Great Wall in the east to the Black Sea in the west, the empire is known to the Chinese as T’u Küe and to the Turks themselves as Gök Türk, meaning Sky Turk.
This first expansion out of Mongolia is soon followed by a mysterious and powerful realm thought to be Turkish in origin – the empire of the Khazars, occupying the western part of the territory of Gök Türk. The Khazars surprise their contemporaries (and intrigue historians) by converting en masse to Judaism in the 8th century.
The Turks and Islam: 7th – 10th century AD: Turkish tribes to the east of the Khazars, settled around the cities of Bukhara and Samarkand, succumb to a powerful religious influence. Their own religion is shamanism but now they convert to Islam. This brings them within the Muslim caliphate, which from AD 762 is based in Baghdad.
The Baghdad caliphate is in one sense the Persian empire in a new guise. Within this empire the Turks play an increasingly important role, both as tribal allies and as slaves in Persian armies. Gradually the Turks begin to carve out territories for themselves. The career of Subuktigin, in the 10th century, shows how it can be done.
Subuktigin of Ghazni: 10th century AD: Born near Lake Issyk-Kul in about 942, Subuktigin is captured as a boy by a rival Turkish tribe and is taken to the slave market in Bukhara. There he is sold to a Turkish officer serving in the Persian army. The Turkish officer is later put in command of the district around Ghazni, where he sets himself up as a semi-independent ruler.
Subuktigin, popular with the Turkish troops in the region, inherits the same position and extends his control over an increasingly large district – all in the name of his overlord, a Persian emperor of the Samanid dynasty. But by the time Subuktigin is succeeded by his son Mahmud, in 997, the military district of Ghazni has acquired almost the status of a kingdom.
Mahmud of Ghazni: AD 999-1030: Mahmud’s rule coincides with the crumbling of the Samanid dynasty in Persia. From AD 999, when the Samanid emperor loses his capital city (Bukhara), Mahmud treats Ghazni as his own kingdom. Over the next thirty years he greatly extends his territory, until it reaches to Isfahan in the west.
It also stretches eastwards into India, where Mahmud regularly campaigns from 1000 onwards. His incursions begin the process by which northern India falls to a succession of Muslim invaders. But his own empire in Afghanistan and eastern Iran succumbs soon after his death to a new wave of Turkish tribesmen pressing in from the north. The newcomers in this case are the Seljuks.
The rise of the Seljuks: 10th – 11th century AD: Seljuk is the chieftain of a group of Turkish tribes who migrate, in the late 10th century, from the steppes to the northern borders of the Persian empire – in the region around the Syr-Darya river. They embrace Islam, and are expected to play their part in the frontier defences of the Muslim world.
But in the recurrent pattern of barbarians in the suburbs of civilization, they have their own ideas. They fancy a more central position.
The obvious stepping stone towards greater power is the newly formed Turkish realm, founded by Mahmud and centred on Ghazni. Mahmud, an experienced conqueror, dies in 1030. His son, Mas’ud, becomes the focus of Seljuk attention.
Mas’ud is campaigning in the eastern part of his empire, in India, when Togrul Beg, a grandson of Seljuk, strikes in the west. Mas’ud hurries home to confront this threat. He meets the Seljuk army in 1040 at Dandandqan, to the northeast of Mashhad, and is defeated.
The Seljuks establish their base in this border region between modern Iran and Afghanistan, while Togrul Beg looks further west for even greater prizes. Persia is in a state of anarchy, ruled by many petty princes (the majority of them Shi’as). The authority of the Sunni caliph in Baghdad is no more than nominal.
Togrul Beg gradually fights his way westwards through Persia. By 1055 he is in a position to enter Baghdad itself. He does so without violence, being welcomed by the caliph as a liberator from the Shi’as. The caliph gives him the title of sultan and an ambitious task – to overwhelm the Fatimids, the Shi’ite dynasty controlling the caliph’s Egyptian territories.
This is beyond the powers of Togrul Beg and his still somewhat unruly Turkish tribesmen. But for the next two generations the Seljuk dynasty retains control in Baghdad and governs a Persian empire restored to extensive boundaries.
Byzantines and Turks: AD 1064-1071: In 1064 the Seljuk Turks, under their sultan Alp Arslan, invade Armenia – for many centuries a disputed frontier region between the Byzantine empire and neighbours to the east. Alp Arslan follows his success here with an attack on Georgia, in 1068. These acts of aggression prompt a response from the Byzantine emperor, Romanus IV Diogenes.
Turks came into Asia Minor in 1071 AD after the victory of Malazgirt by the Seljuks. The Oghuz Turks were the main Turkic people that moved into Anatolia. Many Turks began their migration after the victory of the Seljuks against the Byzantines at the Battle of Manzikert in 1071. In the centuries after the Battle of Malazgirt local populations began to assimilate to the emerging Turkish population. Around 1,000,000 Turkic migrants settled in Anatolia in 12th and 13th centuries.
However this initial immigration of 1,000,000 strong Turkic group was followed by a continuous flow of Turkic immigrants from Iran, Crimea and Turkestan through the following centuries. Especially after the Ottomans’ loss of Ankara War to Timur’s forces in year 1402 many Turkoman tribes flowed from Iran and Khorasan into Anatolia in perhaps the second most important immigration wave of Turkomans since Malazgirt (1071 CE).
The armies meet in 1071 at Manzikert, near Lake Van. The battle, a resounding victory for the Seljuks, is a turning point in the story of the Byzantine empire. Within a few years there are Turkish tribes in many parts of Anatolia. Some of them are bitter enemies of the Seljuks, but the Seljuks are now the main power in this borderland between Islam and Christianity.
The Seljuks and the sultanate of Rum: 11th – 13th c. AD: Rum, meaning Rome, is the word used by the Turks for Byzantium (whose officials still describe themselves as Romans, in keeping with the origins of the Byzantine empire). Pressing deep into Anatolia, after the victory at Manzikert in 1071, the Seljuks reach Konya in the following year and Nicaea, much closer to Constantinople, in about 1080. They make Nicaea their capital until it is recovered by the Byzantines during the first crusade, in 1097. In 1099 Konya, strategically placed in the centre of Anatolia, becomes the Seljuk capital.
The Seljuks describe their new territory, at the heart of the old Byzantine empire, as the sultanate of Rum.
Throughout the 12th and 13th century Anatolia is in turmoil. Turkish tribes fight among themselves. The Byzantines try to recover their land. Crusaders, passing through and from 1204 occupying Constantinople, complicate the picture.
But the new and overriding feature is that Anatolia is now largely occupied by Turks. This fact enters the languages of the period. In addition to its many other names, the region begins to be referred to as Turkey – the land of the Turks. The new identity survives the arrival of the Mongols in the 13th century and the end of the Seljuk dynasty in the early 14th century. By then another Turkish tribe, the Ottomans, are making their mark.
The Ottoman Turks: 13th – 14th century AD: During the 13th century, when many Turkish emirates are being established in Anatolia, a petty chieftain by the name of Ertughrul wins control over a limited area around Sögüt, between Ankara and Constantinople. He is succeeded in about 1285 by his son Osman, whose name is a Turkish version of the Arabic Othman. Through Osman, seen later as founder of the dynasty, his people become known as the Ottoman Turks.
Most of the Turks of Anatolia live in a style in keeping with their origins, as fierce nomads of the steppes. Riding out to war is their everyday activity. But they are also keen Muslims. They see themselves as ghazi, an Arabic word for warrior but with religious connotations.
Turks setting out on a ghaza (armed raid) are indulging in an expedition of plunder but also in a jihad (holy war). It is a potent combination. The enfeebled Byzantine empire to the west of their territory – crippled, ironically, by the Christian fourth crusade – provides the Ottoman Turks with a natural target.
Progress is at first slow. The Ottoman horsemen lack the equipment to take fortified Byzantine towns. Instead they plunder the surrounding countryside, effectively strangling their victims into submission. Bursa, the first important Byzantine stronghold to the west, falls to them in 1326, the year of Osman’s death.
After the fall of Bursa the Ottoman advance quickens. Nicaea yields in 1331 and Nicomedia in 1337. In that direction a narrow neck of land leads directly to Constantinople, but the Ottomans prefer a roundabout route. In 1354 they cross into Europe at the other end of the sea of Marmara, capturing Gallipoli. Eight years later Adrianople falls to them, severing the main route westwards from Constantinople.
A stranglehold is being applied to the Byzantine capital itself, but the Turks look first for plunder in an easier direction. They continue westwards into the Balkans, where their successes prompt the formation of the formidable Ottoman fighting force known as the Janissaries.
The Turks in the Balkans: AD 1389 – 1402: A victory at Kosovo in 1389 brings Serbia under Ottoman control as a vassal state. The Ottoman sultan Murad I dies on the battlefield of Kosovo and is succeeded by his son Bayazid I, whose name Yildirim (‘Thunderbolt’) reflects his early military successes. The Slav kingdom of Bulgaria is fully occupied by 1393. In the following year Bayazid begins the long expected blockade of Constantinople. A Hungarian army marching as a crusade against the Turks is heavily defeated at Nicopolis in 1396. Meanwhile the sultan campaigns south into Greece. But then the Balkans and Constantinople are given a sudden reprieve.
Bayazid is confronted by a major threat in Anatolia – the arrival of Timur.
The Battle of Ankara: AD 1402: After destroying Baghdad in 1401, Timur turns his attention to Anatolia. He finds that several emirs are willing to side with him against the Ottoman Turks. Bayazid’s armies have been extending the Ottoman empire to the east as well as the west. But his victims to the east have been fellow Muslims, not Christians. There is resentment to be tapped, not that Timur needs much in the way of assistance.
Bayazid meets the threat near Ankara, where his army is heavily defeated. Captured in the battle, he dies as Timur’s prisoner in 1403 (legend later provides the indignity of an iron cage).
Retrenchment and recovery: AD 1402 – 1481: The Ottoman domain shrinks drastically after Bayazid’s defeat and capture by Timur in 1402. The many small emirs of Turkey reassert their independence, as do the Balkan states. The three sons of Bayazid are left with only the family’s central territories round the southern and western sides of the sea of Marmara. They fight each other in a civil war which is won by the youngest, Mehmed I, in 1413.
From this unpromising position, the son and grandson of Mehmed (Murad II and Mehmed II, whose combined reigns span nearly seventy years) achieve an astonishing recovery for the Ottoman state – posing an ever greater threat to the Byzantine empire.
Murad patiently reasserts control over much of western Anatolia, and makes equivalent headway in the Balkans. Serbia is brought back into the Ottoman fold (Murad marries a Serbian princess in 1433). Much of Bulgaria also is recovered. A strong counter-attack down the Danube in 1443 by an army of Hungarians and Poles is at first successful, until the Ottoman Turks win a decisive victory at Varna in 1444.
This steady process is continued by Murad’s son, Mehmed II. Mehmed II conquers Athens and almost the whole of the Greek peninsula in 1458-60. He then engages in a prolonged war with Venice, winning many valuable ports along the Adriatic coast. In 1463-4 he captures Bosnia where a large number of nobles convert to Islam, unlike neighbouring Serbia which remains largely Greek Orthodox, a distinction with resonance in more recent history. By the time of Mehmed’s death, in 1481, Anatolia has also been recovered. Even regions north of the Black Sea are vassal states.
But the achievement which gives Mehmed his title of Fatih (Conqueror), and his secure place in history, has been his capture in 1453 of Constantinople.
Fall of Constantinople: AD 1453: A month after his twenty-first birthday, in April 1453, Mehmed II applies to Constantinople the stranglehold which has been a tacit threat for nearly a century, ever since the Ottoman capture of Adrianople (Edirne in its Turkish name) in 1362. He initiates a tight blockade of the city by both sea and land.
The inhabitants place their faith in their immensely strong city walls. Only on the harbour side are these walls vulnerable, and the harbour (the long creek known as the Golden Horn) is protected by a great chain preventing enemy ships from entering. But the young sultan has an answer to that.
At dawn, one Sunday morning in May, the defenders on the walls are surprised to see Muslim ships in the harbour. During the night they have been dragged on wheeled carriages, on a temporary wooden roadway, over a 200-foot hill. Over the next few days cannon are moved into place, including one 19-ton bombard. At sunset on May 28 the attack begins. Every bell in the city rings the alarm. Santa Sophia is full of people praying and singing Kyrie Eleison (Lord, have mercy).
By dawn the Turks are in the city. The last Byzantine emperor, Constantine XI, has died in the fighting.
Mehmed, the sultan, goes straight to Santa Sophia to hear a proclamation from the pulpit – that there is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet. The great church, for many centuries the most magnificent in Christendom, now begins its career as a mosque. And Constantinople gradually acquires a new name; the urban area, widely referred to in everyday Greek as eis tin polin (in the city), becomes Istanbul.
The Ottoman army is allowed three days of pillage (a depressing convention of medieval warfare), but Mehmed keeps it under tolerable control. He has acquired a capital for his empire. He intends to preserve and improve it.
In an honourable Muslim tradition, he plans a multicultural and tolerant city. The population is much reduced, after decades of fear and uncertainty, so Mehmed brings Greeks from the Aegean (soon another part of his domain) to revive the place. The Greek Orthodox patriarch is left in charge of his flock.
And when the Jews in Spain are expelled, in 1492, many of them come to Istanbul where it is official policy to welcome them.
Mehmed launches into a busy building programme, founding several mosques and beginning Topkapi Sarayi in 1462 as his own palace. Constantinople, transformed into Istanbul, is set to be a great imperial centre again. It has exchanged one empire for another, Byzantine for Ottoman.
GeneticTesting: The data on the DNA of Turkish people suggests that a human demographic expansion occurred sequentially in the Middle East, through Anatolia, and finally to the rest of Europe. The estimated time of this expansion is roughly 50,000 years ago, which corresponds to the arrival of anatomically modern humans in Europe. According to some researchers Anatolians do not significantly differ from other eastern Mediterraneans, indicating that while the ancient Asian Turks carried out an invasion with cultural significance (language), it is weakly genetically detectable. These researchers suggest that recent genetic research has suggested the local, Anatolian origins of the Turks and that genetic flow between Turks and Asiatic peoples might have been marginal.
On the other hand, some researchers have found profound Central Asian contribution to the Turkish gene pool. According to one such study, the historical and cultural consequences of the Turkic invasion of Anatolia were profound, the genetic contribution of the Turkic people to the modern Turkish population seems less significant. Various estimates exist of the proportion of gene flow associated with the arrival of Central Asian Turkic speaking people to Anatolia.
One study based on an analysis of Y-chromosomes from Turkey suggested that Central Asians have made a 30% genetic contribution. In this study, titled “DNA Diversity and Population Admixture in Anatolia” by Di Benedetto, it is clearly seen that is it not Elite Culturel Dominance, but a steady genetic contribution over a long period of time. It is illogical to be able to change the entire language of a sedentary population by a recent wave of nomads. Also, religious conversion also occurred, and the most successful way to achieve this was to constantly mix with the local population, supported by Di Benedetto, et al. In the conclusion of the report, Di Benedetto, et al. states that there was a constant genetic contribution over a long period of time, because the ‘elite dominance’ theory was too inefficient (there was a substantial Turkish gene contribution, too much for a zero-level) , so the theory of ‘continuous admixture’ was supported with research, “…if most Asian alleles in the current Anatolian gene pool arrived in the 11th century AD, the Oghuz invasion had a much greater demographic impact than is commonly believed by historians. The alternative is a continuous input of alleles from Central Asia”.
What is clear is that current Anatolian genetic pool has received at the minimum 13% and at the maximum 30% genetic inflow from Central Asian Turkic speakers. Moreover it seems that this genetic impact affected Anatolia through multiple waves of migration episodes and / or possibly through continuous flow of Turkic speakers from Central Asia, likely with 1% Central Asian genetic input per generation starting in the 11th century until at least the 16th century. (There are about 20 generations that lived in this period and a 1% genetic input every generation throughout this time seems to be the source of East Asian genes in Turkey).
In the 16th century Turks in Anatolia were cut off from their Turkic brethren in Central Asia due to the tense relations between the Ottomans, a Turkic family ruling over Anatolia, and Safavids, a Turkic family ruling over Iran. From the 16th century to the 21st century there was none to little genetic/immigrant flow from Central Asia to Anatolia and the Balkans. The Turkish language and genetic makeup was therefore likely shaped by the local inhabitants with little interaction with Central Asia thereafter.
The question to what extent a gene flow from Central Asia to Anatolia has contributed to the current gene pool of the Turkish people, and what the role is in this of the 11th century invasion by Oghuz Turks, has been the subject of several studies. A factor that makes it difficult to give reliable estimates, is the problem of distinguishing between the effects of different migratory episodes. Recent genetics researches indicates that the Turkic peoples originated from Central Asia and therefore are possibly related with Xiongnu. A majority (89%) of the Xiongnu sequences can be classified as belonging to an Asian haplogroups and nearly 11% belong to European haplogroups.
This finding indicates that the contacts between European and Asian populations were anterior to the Xiongnu culture, and it confirms results reported for two samples from an early 3rd century B.C. Scytho-Siberian population. According to the study, Turkish Anatolian tribes may have some ancestors who originated in an area north of Mongolia at the end of the Xiongnu period (3rd century BCE to the 2nd century CE), since modern Anatolian Turks appear to have some common genetic markers with the remains found at the Xiongnu period graves in Mongolia. Moreover, the mtDNA (female linkeage) sequence shared by four of these paternal relatives were also found in a Turkish individuals, suggesting a possible Turkic origin of these ancient specimens.
Haplogroup distributions in Turks: According to Cinnioglu et al., (2004) there are many Y-DNA haplogroups present in Turkey. The majority haplogroups are primarily shared with European and Near Eastern populations such as haplogroups E3b, G, J, I which form 60.5% from the Turkish Gene pool and contrast with a smaller share of haplogroups related to Central Asia L, N, K, C, Q, O, R1a,R1b – 36%, India H, R2 – 1.5% and Africa A, E3*, E3a – 1%. Some of the percentages identified were:
J1=9% – Typical amongst people from the Arabian Peninsula.
J2=24% – Typical amongst Near Eastern and Western Asian peoples.
R1a=6.9% – Typical of Eastern Europeans and Central Asians
I=5.3% – Typical of Central Europeans and Balkan populations
R1b=14.7% -Typical of Central Asia and Western Europeans
G=10.9% – Typical of people from the Caucasus
N=3.8% – Typical of Siberian and Altaic populations
T=2.5% – Typical of Mediterranean and South Asian populations
K=4.5% – Typical of Asian populations.
L=4.2% – Typical of Indian Subcontinent and Khorasan populations.
Q=1.9% – Typical of Northern Altaic populations.
Research on Turkish Y-DNA Groups: The latest study from Turkey by Gokcumen (2008) took into account oral histories and historical records. They went to villages and did not do a random selection from a group of university students like many other studies. Accordingly here are the results:
1) At an Afshar village whose oral stories tell they come from Central Asia they found that 57% come from haplogroup L, 13% from haplogroup Q, 3% from haplogroup N thus indicating that the L haplogroups in Turkey are of Central Asian heritage rather than Indian. These Asian groups add up to 73% in this village. Furthermore 10% of these Afshars were E3a and E3b. Only 13% were J2a, the most common haplogroup in Turkey.
2) An older Turkish village center that did not receive much migration was about 25% N and 25% J2a with 3% G and close to 30% of some sort of R1 but mostly R1b.