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Monte Melkonian: Turkish-Related Terms. Who are Turks and where is their Homeland. Part 2

Monte Melkonian: Turkish-Related Terms. Who are Turks and where is their Homeland. Part 2

Painting: George Dawe, Portrait of a dignitary in Turkish Costume, ca. 1825

The text which appears below was part of a collective project undertaken by Monte Melkonian and others to prepare material for the political program and manifesto of a projected political organization, the Armenian Patriotic Liberation Movement (A.P.L.M.). The text was prepared in 1984 and significantly revised in 1988. 

Previous publication:

Part 1 Monte Melkonian: Armenian-Related Terms. Who are Armenians and where is their Homeland

Turk: Like the term Armenian, the term Turk has also meant various things at various times. During the formation of the first Turkic grouping the “Turk” had a tribal (or it) significance. Later on, it referred to all those who spoke Turkic dialects of the Ural-Altaic language family, or to those who were dominated by, or in league with, tribes speaking a Turkic language (the latter category includes Seljuks, the Kara Koyunlu, etc.). And still later, the term was associated with the Ottomans. However, it was not until the к late Ottoman period that Turks emerged as the distinct cultural-national к entity that they are now. Today, a Turk is recognized to be anyone whose I ancestors have been Turks, who considers herself to be a Turk and who is H more attached to Turkish culture than to any other national culture.

Attachment to Turkish culture may be accompanied by sane form of attachment to the Turkish homeland. However, there are many Turkish communities outside of the Turkish homeland whose members are attached to Turkish culture and who are thus properly defined as Turks, but who nevertheless are not very attached to the Turkish homeland, or who without accepting another culture over Turkish culture, currently identify a different homeland as their own. Partly as a result of protracted isolation from the Turkish homeland, many self-identified Turks in Europe, Cyprus and elsewhere cling to Turkish culture and yet consider their primary homeland to be that of their respective countries.

Examples of non-Turks who have had more or less distant historic ties to the present-day Turks and who share cultural or linguistic traits, but who in modem terms comprise separate and distinct cultural-national formations, are the Uzbeks, Uighurs, Turkmens, Kirghiz, Azeris, Kazakhs, Tatars and others. These peoples should not be confused with the Turks native to the Turkish homeland.

Turks Native to the Turkish Homeland: Turks native to the Turkish homeland inсlude all Turks living in (or currently living outside of but retaining permanent residence within) the Turkish homeland. The vast majority of Turks may be included in this category.

Turks of the Diaspora: Although most Turks reside within the Turkish homeland, since the 1960s and 1970s many thousands have left Turkey far western Europe, mostly in search of employment. These Turks live in a diaspora which, though substantial in absolute numbers, is far smaller relative to the total size of the nation than is the Armenian diaspora.

Turks of the diaspora are all those Turks whose immediate ancestors hail from the Turkish homeland, but who reside permanently outside of that homeland. Although local cultures invariably exercise an influence, Turks of the diaspora still remain more closely attached to Turkish culture than to any other culture.

Turks of the diaspora differ from Armenians and Kurds of the diaspora in at least one important respect. The Turkish people already enjoy a collective life in their homeland, a collective life which is not currently threatened by a foreign oppressor, occupier or colonial force (the Turkish people are rather subject “only” to internal class exploitation and external imperialist domination). Because of this, Turks of the diaspora may be less inclined to associate their attachment to Turkish culture with the need to secure the existence of a Turkish political formation.

Culturally Assimilated Turks: Included under this heading are persons of Turkish ancestry who are no longer primarily attached to Turkish culture. This would include those who acknowledge their Turkish heritage but are more attached to some other culture than to Turkish culture. Culturally assimilated Turks include U.S. citizens of Turkish ancestry, many people of Turkish ancestry in Europe and Arab countries, etc. The number of culturally assimilated Turks is relatively small.

Non-Turks of Turkish Ancestry: This category includes all persons of Turkish ancestry who (whether or not they are aware that their ancestors were Turks) show no trace of attachment to Turkish culture or to their Turkish heritage. Non-Turks of Turkish ancestry have completely adopted a non-Turkish culture as their own. Among the relatively small number of these elements, we may count Arabized people of Turkish ancestry and completely assimilated people of Turkish ancestry in the U.S.A. and western Europe.

Historic Turkish Communities outside the Turkish Homeland: Before and during the Ottoman period, Turkish elements settled in the area of southeastern Europe, Cyprus, Syria, the Armenian and Kurdish homelands, etc. These Turkish elements increased in number and became native peoples of non-Turkish regions. After the breakup of the Ottoman empire, many of these Turkish elements were cut off from the mainstream of Turkish cultural development. Despite their geopolitical break with the Turkish homeland, however, they continued to live as Turks, remaining attached to essentially the same Turkish culture as was present in the Turkish homeland. Nevertheless, they came to recognize their country of residence as their primary homeland.

The category of historic Turkish communities outside the Turkish homeland includes all concentrations of populations of Turkish origin which were established outside the present Turkish homeland. In general these concentrations grew in strength during the period of the Ottoman Empire and continued to be attached to Turkish culture after the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire. Most of these people today identify their country of residence outside of Turkey to be their homeland.

By and large, historic Turkish communities outside the Turkish homeland have resisted assimilation into more prominent cultures and peoples around them, and have retained forms of Turkish culture similar to that of the l Turkish homeland; however, the culture of some of these communities is gradually becoming more distinct due to their isolation from the Turkish homeland. This trend has reached different stages in different localities: in southeastern Europe and Syria a distinctive cultural evolution has led to much assimilation into the local cultures. In Cyprus this process has given rise to a Turkish-Cypriot culture, and in Greece the historic Turkish community is culturally attached to the Turkish homeland, although some cultural assimilation has taken place. In the parts of the Armenian and Kurdish homelands currently under Ankara’s control, the historic Turkish communities are directly tied to Turkey in the sense that they are included within the same geopolitical boundaries and economic and administrative sphere of the Turkish state. Thus, these Turks are culturally homogeneous with the Turkish people  in the Turkish homeland.

Turkish Culture: This term refers to the distinct material and intellectual traditions that have developed for the most part within the Turkish homeland by the Turkish people, especially during the Ottoman period and the twentieth century. It refers to much of the pre-Turkic tribal culture which provided its early

base, as well as to all the creations which have become generally recognized as belonging to the Turkish people.

Turkish People: This category includes: all Turks native to the Turkish homeland; all Turks of the diaspora; all members of the historic Turkish communities in the Armenian and Kurdish homelands (ix., those within die present political boundaries of the Turkish state who are direedy tied to the Turkish people native to the Turkish homeland); nonassimilated elements of the historic Turkish communities in Greece, Syria, etc; and elements of Turkish origin who, to a greater or lesser degree, embrace the Turkish culture of present-day Turkey as their own.

Turkish Homeland: The Turkish homeland includes all those areas within the geopolitical boundaries of present-day Turkey where the Turkish people have settled and developed as a distinct cultural-national entity (an entity which for the last 400 years has comprised the dominant political and military force in this region). Thus, the Turkish homeland comprises those parts of present-day Turkey which lie outside the Armenian and Kurdish homelands and outside several other regions, including the Arab region of Iskenderia (Hatay), as well as the mountainous Black Sea coastal homeland areas of the Laz, Cherkez and other peoples. The Turkish people comprise the majority of the population throughout the Turkish homeland. Since the exact boundaries of the other homelands currently controlled by Turkey cannot be definitively determined at this point in history, the exact borders of the Turkish homeland are also for die moment only approximate. (Refer to the map at the end of the present text.)

Native Peoples of the Turkish Homeland: The native peoples of the Turkish homeland include all those peoples who have originated in, or historically settled in and adopted, the region as their permanent residence— i.e., their homeland. This includes the Turkish people, the Armenian people having their permanent residences in parts of the Turkish homeland, the Kurdish people having their permanent residences in parts of the Turkish homeland, Arabs, Circassians (Cherkez), Greeks, Yezbeks, Lazes, Slavs, Assyrians and other minorities, as well as religious minorities who live in the Turkish homeland.

All of these peoples and elements must share equal rights as inhabitants of the region.

It should be noted that the members of the historically Turkish communities in southeastern Europe, Syria and Cyprus, as well as Turkish elements in parts of the Kurdish homeland now within the political boundaries of present-day Iraq, are native peoples of their respective regions (except for those among them who are more directly tied to the Turkish homeland and who can also be included as natives of the Turkish homeland if they chose to transfer their permanent residences to that region). Examples of nonnative elements in the Turkish homeland are NATO and U.S. troops, foreign employees, etc.

(Present-Day) Turkey: This term refers to the region currently controlled by the Turkish regime with its capital at Ankara. As such, the term refers to a geopolitical entity which does not represent a homogeneous cultural-national whole, but is rather an aggregation of distinct homelands and peoples, all under the domination of Ankara. The present Turkish regime has a chauvinist character, but in recent times it has wavered between different degrees of reaction, military control and fascism. The regime occupies much of the Armenian homeland,4' and its occupation of a large portion of the Kurdish homeland has a colonial character. Furthermore, the Turkish regime controls the ethnically non-Turkish regions of Iskenderia and the eastern Black Sea coast, and it militarily occupies, economically exploits and politically dominates the northern region of Cyprus—the so- called “Independent Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.”

In the future — after the Armenian and Kurdish national liberation struggles score some successes — the term “Turkey” may come to refer to quite a different geopolitical entity, one which will possibly comply with the region defined as the Turkish homeland. The eventual delineation of the borders of Turkey will depend on the degree of success or failure of the Armenian and Kurdish liberation struggles, and perhaps the Circassian and other struggles. (With reference to the Armenian struggle, for example, questions which remain to be answered are whether certain regions of the Armenian homeland may be united with Soviet Armenia, or whether Armenians will enjoy full rights as a national minority in a future Turkish or Kurdish state. Also to be resolved is whether ex not northern Kurdistan will achieve political independence from Turkey.)

Another reason it is impossible at this time to draw up the post-liberation political map of the region is that it remains to be seen what the demographic makeup of certain borderline (overlapping) regions will be. (We may occasionally refer to Turkey as “present-day Turkey,” to emphasize the temporary nature of the Turkish geopolitical entity as it now exists.)

Turkish Nation: The Turkish nation is the union of the Turkish people with the Turkish homeland. The Turkish nation, then, includes all those Turks who live in the Turkish homeland or who are devoted to the existence of the Turkish people in their homeland.



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