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A Brief Review of Ethnicity Studies in Turkey

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image of Iran and the Caucasus

As is known, the racist worldview rising in Europe, particularly in Germany of the 1930s, affected also the socio-political realities in Turkey, and became in effect a part of the official policy of the country. Many theories of obvious Turkist nature, such as Güneş Dil Teorisi (Sun Language Theory), were even shaped by the government and introduced into the university programmes. In this framework, the ancient Near Eastern states were declared Turkish, and the idea about the primordial presence of the Turks in Anatolia and Mesopotamia became a sort of axiom or absolute truth. From anthropological perspective, thousands of Armenian and Greek graves were opened and examined for the purpose of determining the real Turkish type; the skulls taken from these graves were compared with those of the contemporary Turks. The racist ideology defeated in Europe as a result of World War II, was correspondingly overthrown in Turkey too; even some sanctions were imposed to its defenders. However, since the 1980s, the similar ideas have been brought to the agenda again via the project of “the re-discovery of the proto-Turks in Anatolia”. Moreover, some Turkish academics have argued that the non-Muslim and non-Turk peoples, such as the Pontus Greeks, the Armenians, and the Assyrians are, indeed, of Turkic origin.

This paper examines the recent publications by several Turkish authors who vehemently advocate the above summarised views, which, at the same time, are shared and embraced by a clear majority of the academics studying identity and ethnicity issues in Turkey. The introductory part of the paper discusses the theoretical aspects of ethnicity—again with a focus on the relevant literature published in Turkey.

Affiliations: 1: Yüzüncü Yıl University, Van


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