Turkey Ethnic Groups

Instructor: Kevin Newton

Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught middle and high school history, and has a master's degree in Islamic law.

In this lesson, we take a look at the various ethnic groups that make up modern Turkey. Despite having a majority population of Turks, Turkey has many smaller groups that cause some unrest.

A State Based on Nationality

French people tend to live in France, while German people tend to live in Germany. Therefore, wouldn't it follow that Turkish people tend to live in Turkey? Well, that's at least what the Turkish Constitution would have you believe! However, the truth is that it's not quite that simple.

In this lesson, we'll look at why that is the case. We'll examine many of the ethnic groups within Turkey, including those that aren't always represented in the Turkish constitution. In doing so, we'll gain a large amount of insight into one of America's most important allies in the Middle East and in NATO.


One hundred years ago Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, came along. He said that people should be proud of their 'Turkishness'. After all, Turks had conquered much of the Middle East and had ruled the Ottoman Empire for hundreds of years.

Therefore, Ataturk, as he is called, created a state based on the idea of Turkishness. Called Turkey, it would separate itself from the Ottoman past but put the needs of the Turks first. As a result, Turks are far and away the largest ethnic group in Turkey, making up 85% of the population.


Greeks, Armenians, and Jews

However, Turkey's borders had plenty of people who weren't Turks. Greeks, Armenians, and Jews lived in significant numbers in Turkey. While each of these groups is constitutionally protected as a minority in the Turkish Constitution, they were treated in a way that affects their numbers today.

The Greeks, a traditional enemy of the Turks, were encouraged (in many cases by use of force) to leave for Greece, just as Turks living in Greece were encouraged to leave for Turkey.

The Armenians have had a particularly long and brutal history with the Turks, most obviously as a result of the Armenian Genocide, which lead to millions of Armenians dying at the hands of Turks during World War I. As a result, few Armenians remained in the eastern part of Turkey, where they used to live in large numbers. Today, a few hundred thousand Armenians live in Turkey, largely in Istanbul.

Finally, for the Jews, the establishment of Israel has led to a decrease in the number of Jews in Turkey. However, they are still constitutionally protected, and they continue to lobby for better relations with Tel Aviv.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account