ETHNIC MOSAIC


Some subjects of the Seljuk and later the Ottoman Sultans adopted the language and the religion of their masters. Others, on the contrairy, hold fast on their identity and they represent the following minorities:

The Armenians mainly settled in Eastern Anatolia. Centuries later, some came to live in Istanbul from the 12C. The Ottoman Armenians obtained confidence and credit with the sultans and were shown as the "loyal community". They became bankers, traders, manufacturers and rose to high positions in the imperial administration. For example, in the 19C. they acceded to the supreme rank of pashas, of ministers, parliamentarians (1876), consuls, professors, officers... After the tragic events (for both sides) of 1894-96 and 1915-17, following the repressions to the riots of the nationalist Armenians, today, there are about 30,000 Armenians still living in Turkey, perpetuating their traditions, and contributing like in the past to the country's culture,arts, music and science..

The Greeks of Anatolia are also called Rums and are of Byzantine origin. Most of them left the country at the time of the exchange of the populations following upon the War of Independence: 1 million Greeks had to leave Anatolia in exchange of 200,000 turks living on the Greek territory. Those who have remained live essentially in Istanbul, in Bozcaada and Gökçeada Islands.

The Jews whose traces can already be found in Anatolia from the 4C., were later welcomed by the Ottomans who had a great tolerance regarding religions. Sefaraddi Jews ran away from the Spanish Inquisition in 1492, finding a home and security in old Istanbul. Other Ashkenazi Jews came from northern and eastern Europe. They took part in the development of the country, bringing their experience and playing a prominent part in various fields. Today, about 25,000 Jews live in the main cities of Turkey.

The Kurds are the largest ethnic group after the Turks. People of Kurdish origin represent less than 10% of the population. The Kurds do not live solely in the east and the south-east of the country, but in all regions of Turkey, and most of all in Istanbul. A majority of these people speak Turkish and also Kurdish which is not a prohibited language. On August 2, 2002, the Turkish Parliament voted in favour of teaching the Kurdish language in Turkish schools.

The 10th article of the Turkish Constitution states that "all citizens are equal before the law with no discrimination as to language, race, color, political leanings, philosophy, religion and similar factors".