This explanation was prepared by a dear friend and contributor of TAU…

What is a Turk?  The Turkic people inhabit many nations, regions and different types of terrain and climate. A person could travel from western Europe, through the Middle East, into the Caucasus, through Central Asia, into China and up into Siberia with relatively few problems communicating, if they know at least one Turkic language. Since Turks are so spread out around the world, their physical appearances, cultures and languages also differ. But in most cases, these differences are not so great and there are always many similarities amongst them.

Genetically, many Turks are the same, but many are genetically unrelated as well. A Salar most likely shares no genetic makeup with a Gagauz, a Salar physically looks more like the Chinese and a Gagauz looks more like a White European, but both are Turks. Their cultures, music, food, and traditional clothing look and sound unrelated, and even though they’re separated by thousands of miles and live on two different continents, their languages are related.

They could communicate with each other without many problems, and the more they speak to each other, the less problems they’d encounter. So, their cultures, music, food, clothings, and even genes, in many cases are unrelated, but they still belong to the same family….why is this? The main commonality is their language.

Their language, no matter the differences; no matter how many thousands of miles separate them; no matter if they live in the desert, mountains, Mediterranean, or Siberia, the common language bonds them like nothing else does. But that’s not all there is to being a Turk, the feeling can’t be explained. It’s a feeling one has, and it cannot be felt by a Turk until they sit at a table with Turks of other nationalities. Sure, a Turk walking the streets in Istanbul or Urumchi knows he’s a Turk, but when those two Turks meet, talk, sit and eat together, they notice that some words sounds foreign, some of the food looks foreign, but they absolutely in no way feel that the person they’re sitting with is foreign, they feel they’ve just met a long lost brother/sister…………that feeling right there, that’s what being a Turk is about! 

The Turkic language is made up of many dialects, some with millions of speakers, some with thousands or hundreds, and even some with so few fluent, native speakers that they are endangered and will become extinct. These dialects are split up into five sub groups, every dialect is more similar to the others in their same group than they are to those of other groups. For example, Kazakh belongs to the Kipchak group and Qashkay belongs to the Oghuz group.

Generally, speakers of these two dialects can understand each other, the more complex the conversation, the more difficulties they’d encounter. But because every dialect follows the same rules or sentence structure and grammar, and share much of the same vocabulary, learning to understand each other more easily would not be difficult. Now, if a Kazakh speaks to a Kyrgyz, which belongs to the same Kipchak group, there’d be virtually no problems at all. The author has categorized the Turkic ethnic groups into these same groups on this page.

Linguistically and anthropologically these may be the common features as to what constitutes a Turk. However, TAU takes the stance that all human beings are of the same universal family.


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