Turanism

Turanism asserts a common Inner Asian identity with racial overtones. Born in the 1800s, it was Hungary and Turkey’s answer to pan-Slavic and German nationalism. Turanism assigns racial identity to the (now debunked) Ural-Altaic language family, as Aryanism did Indo-European. At best it promotes exploring cultural and linguistic ties between varied peoples, at worst genocide and hate. Though long fallen from grace, Turanist thought still lives in the far-right corners of Turkish and Hungarian politics.

Turanism was born in Europe’s nationalist zeitgeist. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, old empires and principalities were redrawn along ethnic and linguistic lines. Prussia and Russia emphasised pan-Germanic and Slavic heritage respectively and the discovery of the Indo-European language family led to a supposed ‘Aryan race’. Hungarian, however, is not an Indo-European tongue; its speakers descend from the Eurasian Magyars. Slavic nationalism threatened Hungary’s hold on Eastern Europe and promoted worrying ties with rival Russia. As ethnic kinship came to supersede religious ties, Hungary needed new friends.

Herman Vambarry, Hungarian orientalist and the Ottoman Sultan’s former advisor, drew on the work of Finnish linguists to propose Hungarians and Turks shared a ‘Turanian’ origin – a master race heritage of their own – and therefore Hungary should look east, not west, in its alliances. The notion gained steam after 1918 when the western powers stripped Hungary of 72% of its territory and far-right thought took hold. Turanians comprise of not only Magyars and Turks, but all others supposedly descended from Central Asian conquerors. These include:

  • Turks (both Turkish and Central Asian)
  • Hungarians301 Moved Permanently
  • Bulgarians (considered ‘Slavicised Turanians’)
  • Finns
  • Estonians
  • Japanese
  • Koreans
  • Mongols
  • Tatars
  • Manchus
  • Sami
  • Indigenous Siberians

Turkey had its national awakening in the end days of the Ottoman Empire. Reformers stressed ethnic identity over religious: Turks were distinct from, even superior to, the Arabs, Kurds, Greeks and Armenians which they ruled. PART I: A SHORT INTRODUCTION TO PAN-TURANIANISM

Though pan-Turkism promoted solidarity with the Tartars and Central Asian Turks under Russian rule, Turanism went further. For Hungarian and Turkish nationalists, it provided a uniting ideology to counter the European powers, particularly Russia.

Hungary, Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire fought on the same side in WW1, as did Hungary, Bulgaria, Finland and Japan in WW2. Both the Young Turks, who took over in 1908 and perpetrated the Armenian genocide, and Hungary’s Arrow Cross, who murdered 10,000 Jews and Roma in WW2, were committed Turanists.

Japanese Turanists advocated cooperation with Hungary and the takeover of Manchuria and eastern Russia.  The High Command disbanded Turanist societies after 1941 however, to pursue a pan-Asian stance instead.

Turanists believe their race is superior. Like the Nazis, they twist science and history to suit their needs. 20th century Turanists claimed:

  • Ancient Rome, Egypt, Greece and Sumeria were Turanian
  • Prophet Muhammad was a Turk, not an Arab
  • Native Americans are Turkic descended
  • A Turanian Empire once stretched across Inner Asia and should be recreated

The Beginning of the War Between Iran and Turan (Shahnameh ...‘Turan’ is the old Persian term for Central Asia. In Iranian literature, the Turanians were fearsome warriors and the nemeses of Persian heroes. They were likely Iranic Scythians, however, not the Turks who migrated later.

After WW2, Turanism died out in Finland and Communist Hungary. Modern Turanism, however, is an ideological staple of the Grey Wolves, a Turkish ultranationalist group, and far-right Jobbik, Hungary’s second-largest party.

Sources: American Political Science Review, Armenian Genocide.org, The Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies, Hurriyet Daily News, Jobbik.com

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Crimean Tatars

Crimean Tatars leave peninsula because of unprecedented ...

Crimean Tatars live in the Black Sea region of Russia, Ukraine and Romania. Their homeland in the warm and strategic Crimean peninsula is contested by Russia and Ukraine.  Turkic by language and Muslim by faith, Tatars claim descent from the Mongol Horde.

The Mongols invaded Russia in the 13th century, slaughtering hundreds of thousands.  The Europeans called them ‘Tatars’ and the name stuck. The Tartars of Crimea descend from those Mongols, the Kipchaks who fought with them, and the Turks, Scythians and Goths who came before. They have been Sunni Muslims since the 1400s and are close cousins of the Volga, Nogai and Siberian Tatars of Russia and the Lipka Tatars of Lithuania.

Crimean Tatars are well integrated in Turkey and a protected minority in Romania. In the Crimea itself, where most live, they are not so lucky.

crimean tatars pdfThe Crimean Khanate, founded by a descendant of Genghis Khan, ruled Crimea and the Ukraine from 1478 to 1783 and provided cavalry and slaves for their allies the Ottoman Empire. Russian settlement began after Catherine the Great conquered Crimea in 1783. Since then, the Tatar population has fallen from 83 to 15%.

In 1856 after losing the Crimean War, the Tsars imposed Russian as Crimea’s official language and replaced Tatar place names with Russian ones. Many Tatars emigrated to Turkey and Romania.

The Crimean Tartars suffered under Communism. The White Army made its final stand at Crimea, and the Soviets subsequently deemed the Tatars a ‘suspect nationality’, whose way of life threatened the revolution. The Soviets converted Crimean mosques into cinemas and ‘atheist museums’ and sent 40,000 intellectuals to the Gulag. 75,000 Tatars starved to death in the 1930s.

The history of Crimean Tatar National Struggle against ...Such was their hatred for Stalin and the USSR, some Tatars collaborated with the Nazis in WW2. When Stalin retook Crimea in 1944, he held the entire people accountable, even Red Army officers. The Soviets bound all the Crimean Tatars in freight trains and deported them to Central Asia. 20% died on the way and Stalin forbade anyone in Crimea from mentioning its lost inhabitants. The Tatars mourn the event every year on the 18th of May.

Return was not possible until the 1980s, when 280,000 resettled en masse without compensation. When Ukraine gained independence, Crimean Tatars were afforded equal rights for the first time.

Annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation - Wikipedia

Blue – Russia, green – Ukraine, black – Crimea

The honeymoon did not last. In 2014 Crimea voted to leave Ukraine and join Russia. The Tatars were opposed and Russian authorities took note. Upon annexation, although granting it official status, Russia closed Tatar language television stations, newspapers and schools to prompt assimilation.  On charges of inciting separatism or Islamist terror, Tatar activists were detained, tortured and imprisoned while skinheads desecrated Tatar graves. Despite the charges, there has been no political violence, only peaceful protest. In 2014 the UN declared the Crimea referendum a sham and Russia’s annexation a breach of international law. No government or body, however, was willing to challenge it.

crimean tatars.jpgThe Crimean Tatar language is related to Turkish, derived from the language of the Kipchaks, a people who once lived in the region. Before the Russian Revolution, the entire peninsular – Tatars, Russians and Jews alike, spoke it. According to UNESCO, it is now critically endangered.

Sources: Al Jazeera, Crimea Dekoder, Foreign Policy, Human Rights Watch, National Geographic, Open Democracy, UNESCO, United Nations, Washington Post

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Turkic Migrations

possible turksThe Turkic Migrations were the greatest population movement before Colombus.  Throughout the Middle Ages, Turkic speaking nomads conquered and settled across Central Asia and Anatolia – assimilating some, replacing others. Once slave-soldiers, they came to rule the Muslim world.

Today there are seven Turkic nations, ordered by population:

  • Turkey
  • Azerbaijan
  • Uzbekistan
  • Kazakhstan
  • Turkmenistan
  • Kyrgyzstan

Significant minorities also live in Russia and China.

The Turks originated in the Altai Mountains of western Mongolia. Their name comes from the Chinese Tujue, meaning combat helmet, after a hill where they once lived. The early Turks were horse nomads and raiders who wrote in a runic script, worshipped the sky and worked iron.

The Gokturk Khaganate (Celestial Turks) ruled the Asian Steppe from 552-744. Under the Gokturks a common Turkic identity was born and when the confederation fell, Turkic peoples migrated in all directions, intermarrying with and absorbing native peoples where they went. Accordingly, the wider Turkic ethnicity encompasses a range of peoples and appearances.

Their migratory waves are reflected through language.

Azat Faskhutdinov – Fellow of the Head of the Chuvash ...

Speakers of the Oghur branch were the first Turks to migrate west (unless counting the Huns, who may have been Turkic). They included the Khazars, Bulgars and Chuvash. The Khazars, who converted to Judaism, ruled Ukraine from 648 – 1048. The Bulgars forged an empire in the Balkans, became Orthodox Christians and assimilated with their Slavic subjects. Only Chuvash in Russia is still spoken. In the Oghur languages, the common ‘z’ suffix becomes ‘r’: both ‘Oghur’ and ‘Oghuz’ mean tribe.

What race are Central Asians (i.e Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, Uzbeks ...

The Kipchak Branch is named after the Kipchak Confederation (1067-1271) of southern Russia. They fought against, then for the Mongols when they invaded, from whom many descend. Most were Muslim by the 1300s and, of all the Turks, stayed nomads the longest. They include the Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, Tatars and Bashkirs.

34 reasons I don’t travel like a local - reidontravel
The Siberian Branch
migrated northward before the rise of the Gokturks and mingled with the indigenous forest people. They traditionally herded reindeer and bred cattle and ponies to withstand Siberian winters. Today they mix Turkic shamanism with ‘modern’ religions – Christianity for the Yakuts and Buddhism for the Tuvans.  

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The Southeastern Branch includes Uzbek and Uyghur.  The Uyghurs of Mongolia overthrew the eastern Gokturks and in the 800s, migrated to western China. They settled down, adopted agriculture, a written script and Manichaeism. They were Buddhist for a time then Muslim.  The Uzbeks settled the oasis cities of Central Asia as soldiers in the Mongol Horde, ruling until the Russians came.

Turkish People “Awakened” by Protests, Say Students | PBS NewsHour Extra
The Oghuz
of Central Asia were heirs to the Gokturks. After converting to Islam, Oghuz Turks served as slaves, mercenaries and bodyguards for Persian and Arab lords. So reliant did the caliph in Baghdad become on his Turkic generals, that by the 900s, the Seljuk tribe was the power behind the throne.

In 1071 a Seljuk army defeated the Byzantines at Manzikert and seized Anatolia.  Turkic tribes flooded the region and over time native Greeks and Armenians adopted Islam and the Turkish language. The remainder were killed or expelled in the early 20th century. The modern Turkish are genetically closer to Greeks and Armenians than other Turkic people: only 15-20% of their ancestry being Central Asian. Azeri, Turkish and Turkmen belong to the Oghuz Branch.

Turkish migrations.jpg

Turkic migrations. Sakha – Yakut, Cuman- Kipchak.

Sources:
The Diplomat, Khazaria.com, Science on the Web, Wikipedia

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Steppe People

Mongolia – Pure adventure with a Nomadic family – The Inspirer
The Eurasian steppe is a sea of grass stretching from Hungary to Manchuria.
In the old days, it supported neither agriculture nor cities. Its inhabitants were pastoral nomads who lived in felt tents and moved with the seasons, living on a diet of meat and dairy from their herds.

The harsh steppe climate and nomadic life bred tough warriors. Steppe peoples like the Turks and Mongols were raised on the saddle, and masters of the bow. What nomads couldn’t raise themselves they took from others. Farmers proved easy targets. Raiders plundered settled communities of animals, valuables and slaves then melted away before organised armies could respond.  In the cutthroat world of the steppe, only the warlike survived.

south korena mounted archer.jpg

Skilled mounted archers fire when all four hooves are off the ground to get a clear shot.

The saddle, stirrups and composite bow revolutionised nomadic warfare. Mounted archers could stand in their stirrups and fire at full gallop, controlling their horse with their knees. Under Genghis Khan the average Mongol warrior could twelve arrows a minute and hit a bird mid-flight. Man for man, cumbersome foot soldiers were little match for an organised nomadic army.

What nomads lacked, however, was the unity and numbers of their civilized neighbours. Canny rulers strove to keep the steppe tribes weak and divided through tribute, espionage or bribery. Chinese and Roman Emperors and Arab caliphs hired nomadic cavalry to fight on their behalf.

Eurasian steppe

The Eurasian steppe (blue) covers parts of modern-day China, Mongolia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Hungary

Occasionally a charismatic warlord or khan united the tribes against their neighbours – a constant fear for the peoples of Europe, China and the Middle East. Men like Genghis Khan, Tamerlane and Attila the Hun slaughtered millions. After a few generations, however, barbarian overlords would typically ‘civilise’, settle down and adopt the ways of their subjects. In some cases – as in Turkey or Hungary – they retained their language and cultural identity; in others they assimilated completely – like the Mongols in Iran and China.

The Orkhon Inscription of 8th century Mongolia reads:orkhon.jpg

“The Chinese with silver and gold and sweet enticements draw the [Turkic] peoples into their style of life. Their lazy courts drew our peoples to them and as a result many have died and have been ultimately conquered by the Chinese. Deserting the dark forest many looked toward the south saying ‘I would settle in the plains’. O Turks if you go and settle in that country, you will perish! But if you remain nomads in the forest, where there are neither riches nor cares, you will preserve an ever-lasting empire O Turks!”

Indo-Europeans were the first to domesticate the horse. In ancient times they roamed the steppe on chariots and spread their languages across India, Europe and Iran. Notable examples are the Scythians, Sarmatians and Goths.

The Huns triggered the Germanic Migrations which destroyed Rome, and forged a brief empire in Eastern Europe. Their cousins, the Hephthalites and Sveta Hunna, ravaged Central Asia and northern India in the 5th century.

The Turks arose in Eastern Mongolia in the 500s. When the Chinese expelled them they migrated west. After Genghis Khan annihilated the Iranians of Central Asia, Turkic peoples took their place.

Magyars from the Ural Mountains terrorised Europe in the 900s. In 1000 they converted to Catholicism and founded Hungary.

Charge of the Mongol cavalry in Northern China | East ...

The Mongols conquered history’s greatest land empire in the 12th century. Of their successors, however, only the Golden Horde in Russia maintained a nomadic existence. The Mongols and ancient Turks lived similar lifestyles but spoke different languages. They worshipped the sky god Tengri and called their rulers ‘Khagans’. By 1000 AD most Turks were Muslim.

Despite their prowess, nomadic warriors could not compete against firearms. A rifle, unlike the bow, requires little skill to use. From the 15th to 19th centuries, the Russians and Chinese tamed the steppe and subjugated its people.  The age of the nomadic empire was at an end.

Today (outer) Mongolia and the Turkic nations of Central Asia are independent. East Turkestan and Inner Mongolia remain part of China. Roughly 40% of Mongolia’s people still live as nomads.

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