Yörük - History and Cultural Relations

The Yörük, according to their own accounts, which are substantiated by some documentation, were among the Turkic tribes that moved into Anatolia from Iran during the eleventh century A.D. As with similar groups, their original homeland was Central Asia. Most historians regard the Yörük as closely related to the Turkmen tribes who came in large numbers after the battle of Manzikert in 1071, but it is also likely that indigenous nomadic pastoral populations along the coast became Turkified and acquired Yörük identity during the early period of Turkish rule in Anatolia. The Yörük, like other Anatolian populations—but unlike the Turkmen and related populations of Iran and Central Asia—have predominantly Caucasian features. As early as the reign of Bayezid 1 (1389-1402), there are accounts of Yörük tribes in Macedonia, Thrace, and elsewhere in the Balkans. Following the conquest of Cyprus by Selim II (1564-1574), Yörük groups moved to that island, where they may be found today as settled villagers. The Yörük tribes followed early conquests as sappers, transport corps, and soldiers. Even as late as the eighteenth century, Yörük tribal leaders supplied the Ottoman government 52,000 troops. During the late nineteenth century, substantial numbers of Yörük moved to southeastern Turkey, the ethnic makeup of which is otherwise predominantly Kurdish and Arabic. Today the Yörük, while retaining strong pride in their identity, clearly consider themselves part of the mainstream of Turkish history and sharply distinguish themselves from other ethnic groups among whom they may live, for example, Alevi, Tahtacilar, Gypsies, Kurds, Circassians, Arabs, and Turkmen.

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