JBO'C's Historical Reference

The Yuruk of Anatolia

The Yuruk of Anatolia

From The frontiers of language and nationality in Europe by Léon Dominian

The nomad element of the Anatolian plateau is represented mainly by the Yuruks, whose wanderings range from the northern landward slopes of the Cilician Taurus to the mountainous tract surrounding Mt. Olympus. They are divided into tribes of varying size, some not exceeding twenty tents. Their number is estimated at about 200,000. Roving over barren districts, the members of this group are half-starved human products bred in areas of defective food supply. The men know no other occupation than that of tending their sheep and horses. The women are noted carpet-weavers. Strangers passing within sight of their tent settlements can generally rely on finding the nomad's proverbial hospitality under their felt roofs.

In common with kindred plateau communities, the Yuruks hold severely aloof from the Turks. But they have adopted Turkish speech, and it is gradually replacing their ancient vernacular. They have sometimes been connected with European gipsies, although the little that is known concerning their history and traditions hardly warrants such an assumption. A promising field for ethnographic research still awaits exploitation among their settlements. They call themselves Mohammedans and circumcise, but have no priests or churches.
The frontiers of language and nationality in Europe, Issue 3 of Special publication by Léon Dominian, Pub. for the American Geographical Society of New York by H. Holt and Company, 1917

From Impressions of Turkey during twelve years' wanderings by Sir William Mitchell Ramsay

YURUK.—The Yuruks are nomads, who are found in many parts of Asia Minor, but almost always, so far as my experience goes, in mountainous districts, whereas the Turkmen tribes usually live more in the great plains. According to Von Luschan, the Yuruks of Lycia are an immigrant race, akin to the Gypsies: his earlier view had been that they were Mongolian, but, in his final work on Lycia, he abandons his original opinion. I cannot pretend to hold any ethnological view; but, while his later opinion seems in some respects startling and at first sight improbable, it has the merit of explaining the difference of haunts between Yuruk and Turkmen. Moreover, it is certain that there is a decidedly greater difference in character between Yuruk and Turkmen than there is between Turkmen and Turk. 1

Differing from Dr. Humann, who declared that the Yuruks have no religion at all, Von Luschan maintains that they are good Mussulmans, regular in the five daily prayers, and in many cases going on pilgrimage to Mecca. My own experience is intermediate; they do indeed claim to be Mohammedans, and practice circumcision, but I never saw a Yuruk praying in his own home, though, when they come into the settled villages, they put on all the appearance of good Moslems.2 It is, however, possible, as Von Luschan remarks, that the Lycian Yuruks may differ in character from those of other regions known better to Humann and to me.

Von Luschan heard among the Yuruks a language different from Turkish. He is, doubtless, right; but I know nothing to confirm it. In general appearance and way of talking they seemed to me very like the Turkmens. In 1880 I spent some days in a Yuruk winter village in Mt. Sipylos near Smyrna. After a very wet day, which much impeded exploration,! next morning asked the chief, a splendid looking old man of about eighty, what he thought of the prospect of weather, thinking that his long experience would have made him weather-wise. His answer was in the true Turkish style, grave, measured, sententious: " How should I know the weather? God knows. If the sun shines, it will be fine weather; if it rains, the weather will be bad." So his answer was translated to me.

1 Reisen in Lykitn, etc., 1889, ii., p. 216 ff.

1 So Sir C. Wilson, Handbook, Turkey (Murray), p. 68.

Dr. Von Luschan denies that intermarriage ever takes place between Yuruks and Turks. I have, however, known an example. In 1886 one of our men, named Veli, was a puzzle to me in character; he was always good-humored and light-hearted, always good company, always idle, never to be trusted to do anything or take any trouble out of my sight, in short, utterly unlike a Turk. At last he could stand the work no longer, shammed illness, got himself laid up and doctored, and we went on without him. Our other man, Akhmet, one of the best Turks I have known, explained matters. Veli was no Turk, but a Yuruk, who had married a woman of his village and settled down there. Akhmet had great contempt for Yuruks, and thought them a useless and worthless lot; but he would not bring disgrace on Veli so long as it might do him harm, and therefore told nothing until Veli had deserted.

That excellent traveller, Mr. Bent, gives an interesting account of the Yuruks of Taurus in the Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society, loth Aug., 1890, to which the curious reader may be referred. He attributes to them a more polygamous habit than I should have thought right, and he decidedly differs from Von Luschan as regards marriage, saying that they are not very particular where they steal a wife. He is, however, a better authority than I am on this point.

Impressions of Turkey during twelve years' wanderings; Sir William Mitchell Ramsay, G.P. Putnam's sons, 1897

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