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Are Turkish People Truly Middle Eastern or European?

Are Turkish People Middle Eastern?

Turkey is a fascinating country with a unique geographical location that spans two continents, Europe and Asia. It's no wonder that many people are curious about its people and where they fit in the larger cultural landscape. Turkey is divided into seven different regions, each with its own distinct characteristics, including Anatolia, the heartland of ethnic Turks and the Turkic people. This area is known for its diverse population and cultural heritage, including the vibrant Turkish community.

tukish map

With borders shared by several countries, including Bulgaria and Kyrgyzstan, Turkey has been shaped by the interaction of various cultures over time. The Turkic language, spoken by ethnic Turks and Turkmen, is widely used in Anatolia and around the world, making it one of the most widely spoken languages globally.

So, are Turkish people middle eastern? While some may consider ethnic Turks to be part of this region due to their geographic location in Anatolia, it's important to note that Turkey has a unique history and culture that sets it apart from other Turkic countries in the Middle East. As we explore more about Turkey's geography and peoples, including Meskhetian Turks, in this article, we'll gain a better understanding of what makes this country so special.

Historical and Cultural Ties Between Turkey and the Middle East

The Ottoman Empire: A Connection between Turkey and the Middle East

The Ottoman Empire, ruled by ethnic Turks and based in Anatolia, modern-day Turkey, dominated much of the Middle East for centuries. The Ottomans expanded their territories through Turkish war and migration to include former Ottoman territories such as Hungary, Central Europe, and parts of Central Asia. This expansion led to significant cultural exchange between Turkic people in Turkey and Arab countries in the Middle East.

During Ottoman rule, ethnic Turks from Anatolia and other Turkic people migrated to the region, leading to a mixing of cultures that resulted in an amalgamation of traditions from both regions. For example, Turkish cuisine incorporates elements from Arab cuisine such as kebabs and hummus, reflecting the influence of the Ottomans. Turkish music has also been influenced by Arabic music, reflecting the cultural exchange that occurred during this period.

Genetic Studies Show Historical Ties Between Turkey and the Near East

Genetic studies have shown that ethnic Turks in Anatolia, including Meskhetian Turks, share a significant amount of DNA with populations in the Near East and Eastern countries. This finding further highlights the historical ties between Turkic people and the Middle East.

One study found that Turks, with their Turkic ancestry, are genetically closer to people from Iran than they are to people from Europe or Central Asia, suggesting a significant genetic exchange due to Turkish migration. Another study found a high degree of genetic similarity between Turks and Syrians, indicating a close relationship between the Turkish population and its neighboring countries in the Middle East.

Language Exchange between Turkey and Arab Countries

The Ottoman occupation also led to linguistic exchange between Turkey and Arab countries in the Middle East, as well as among ethnic Turks. During this period, Arabic became a language used for religious purposes across much of Anatolia while Turkic languages became more widely spoken throughout former Ottoman territories. Additionally, the displacement of Meskhetian Turks resulted in their language being dispersed throughout various regions.

Today, many words commonly used in Arabic were borrowed from Turkish during this time period, reflecting the cultural and linguistic connections between Anatolia and the Arab world. These borrowings include words like "kursi," meaning chair or seat, which is derived from the Turkish word "kursu," as well as "sahil," meaning coastline or beachfront, which also has roots in the turkic language. The influence of ethnic Turks on Arabic languages during this period is evident in the many loanwords that are still in use today.

Shared Culture and Religion

Turkey, home to ethnic Turks, and many countries in Arabia share a common religion, Islam. This shared Muslim faith has led to cultural exchange between the two regions. For example, both Turkish and Arabic cultures place a significant emphasis on hospitality. Traditional clothing such as the hijab is worn by women in both Turkey and many Arab countries.

The influence of Islam can also be seen in art and architecture throughout both regions, particularly in the Ottoman Empire and Ottoman territories. Islamic calligraphy, a hallmark of Ottoman Turkish culture, is commonly used to decorate mosques, palaces, and other buildings in these Muslim-majority areas.

Definition of Middle Eastern and Turkish Identity

It is essential to understand the definition of the term "Middle Eastern." The Middle East is a culturally diverse region that includes Southwest Asia, North Africa, and some Arab countries. It is also home to many ethnic groups that share similar cultural characteristics, including those from Central Asian regions. Additionally, Arabia and Arabic are significant influences in the region's cultural identity.

Turkey is located in both Europe and Asia, but its cultural and historical roots are primarily from the Middle East. The country has been influenced by various cultures throughout history, including Greek, Roman, Persian, Arab, and Ottoman. These influences have shaped Turkey's unique identity. Ethnic Turks, who are of Turkish origin and speak Turkic languages, have inhabited Anatolia for centuries and played a significant role in shaping the region's culture.

Turkish Ethnic Group

Turkish people, also known as Turks, are considered an ethnic group because they share common cultural characteristics such as language, religion, customs, traditions, and history. They are descendants of ancient Turkic tribes that lived in Central Asia more than 2,000 years ago and migrated to Anatolia. The Turkmen people were also part of this migration. Later on, the Ottoman Empire emerged in Anatolia and expanded to become a powerful empire.

However, Turkish people - who are also known as Turks or Turkmen - are not considered a Middle Eastern ethnic minority group because they do not belong to any specific ethnicity or race within the Middle East. Instead, they have their own distinct identity as a Turkic people, who are more closely related to Central Europeans.

Complex Turkish Identity

The Turkish identity is complex and includes elements of both Middle Eastern and European cultures. This complexity stems from Turkey's geographical location at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, as well as its historical interactions with neighboring regions such as Anatolia and the Ottoman Empire. The Turks, who are a Turkic ethnic group, have played a significant role in shaping the country's culture and traditions.

One significant aspect of Turkey's identity is its Islamic heritage. Islam was introduced to Turkey during the 7th century when Arab armies conquered parts of the Byzantine Empire. Today, around 98% of Turks identify as Muslim, including those with Ottoman Turkish ancestry and the Turkish population as a whole. However, there are also significant Turkish minorities who follow different religions and traditions.

Another critical element of Turkish culture is its language.

The official language of Turkey is Turkish which belongs to the Turkic language family. The Turks are the main ethnic group in Turkey and their ancestors, the Turkmen, were one of the founding groups of the Anatolian region. Due to centuries-long interactions with neighboring regions such as Persia (modern-day Iran) and Arabia (modern-day Saudi Arabia), there are also many Arabic and Persian loanwords in the Turkish language. The Ottoman Empire, which was ruled by the Turks, also had a significant influence on the development of the Turkish language.

Furthermore, Turkey, the successor state of the Ottoman Empire, has been heavily influenced by European culture since the early 20th century when the country underwent a series of modernization reforms under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. These reforms aimed to transform the predominantly Ottoman Turkish population into a modern, secular, and democratic nation-state that was more aligned with Western values. The reforms were necessary to break away from the traditionalist mindset of the Turks during the Ottoman Empire era.

As a result of these reforms, Turks in Anatolia adopted many European customs and traditions in areas such as fashion, music, art, and cuisine. The Ottoman Empire was greatly influenced by the cultural practices of central Europeans. For example, Turkish coffeehouses are similar to European cafes in that they serve coffee and pastries while providing a social atmosphere for people to gather and socialize.

Testing for Admixture and Confirming with Average Pairwise Identity by Descent Segment Sharing Estimation

Testing for admixture is an essential analysis tool that uses snps to estimate the genetic ancestry of a population. It involves comparing haplotype diversity and genetic similarity between populations, including turkish samples and south asian groups, to determine the ancestral groups that contributed to the gene pool of a particular population.

Ancestry Analysis

Ancestry analysis, which involves comparing the haplotype diversity and genetic similarity between populations, is a critical part of admixture testing. By analyzing snps and the genetic makeup of different populations, scientists can identify which ancestral groups, including Turkish samples from Anatolia and South Asian populations, contributed most significantly to their gene pool. Parental ancestry estimates can be determined using genotype data and reference populations.

Admixture Date and Major Ancestry Coefficients

Admixture date and major ancestry coefficients are crucial parameters in determining the genetic ancestry of a population. These parameters can be calculated using average allele frequency differentiation and haplotype block analysis. The average allele frequency differentiation measures differences in allele frequencies between two or more populations, while haplotype block analysis identifies regions where recombination has not occurred recently. SNP analysis can further enhance the accuracy of these calculations, especially when studying Turkish samples from Anatolia, as they often exhibit genetic admixture with South Asian populations.

Confirming Admixture Results

Average pairwise identity by descent (IBD) segment sharing estimation is used in the analysis to confirm admixture results of individuals with Turkish ancestry. IBD refers to identical segments of DNA that are inherited from a common ancestor without any intervening recombination events, and can be identified through the analysis of SNPs. When two individuals share an IBD segment, it indicates that they both inherited that segment from a recent common ancestor, which can be useful in identifying genetic relationships between different populations, including Asian populations.

By conducting admixture analysis of IBD segments across different regions and populations using Google Scholar, scientists can determine whether there has been interbreeding between them in the past. If two populations share more IBD segments than would be expected based on chance alone, it suggests that they have interbred at some point in their history.

Estimating Shared Identity by Descent (IBD) Segments: Relatedness, IBD, IBS, and ROH

Estimating shared identity by descent (IBD) segments is a method used for genetic analysis to determine genetic relatedness among individuals or groups, including those with admixture and Turkish ancestry. This technique has been extensively used in population genetics studies, and can be found on Google Scholar to understand the evolutionary history of populations.

What are IBD Segments?

IBD segments are regions of DNA that are identical in two or more individuals due to descent from a common ancestor. These segments can be identified using high-density single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) data and haplotype information. Ancestry analysis can help determine the origin of these segments, while admixture analysis can reveal the contribution of different ancestral populations to an individual's genome. To learn more about IBD analysis, one can search Google Scholar for relevant articles.

How is Relatedness Estimated Using IBD Segments?

Average IBD sharing can be used for analysis to estimate the degree of relatedness and ancestry between individuals or groups in a dataset. The proportion of the genome shared IBD between two individuals depends on their degree of relatedness; closer relatives share longer IBD segments than more distant ones. Admixture can also be taken into account when using this method, which has been widely researched and discussed on Google Scholar.

The length and number of shared IBD segments depend on many factors such as the size and structure of the ancestral population, migration patterns, recombination rates, genetic drift, and selection pressure. Admixture events can also affect the length and number of shared IBD segments, especially in regions with high levels of admixture between different ancestry groups, such as Asian populations.

Identifying Descendants with Recent Common Ancestors Using ROH

ROH (runs of homozygosity) can be used for ancestry analysis, admixture identification, and to identify descendants with recent common ancestors, including those of Roma ancestry. ROH refers to stretches of DNA where an individual inherits identical copies from both parents because they share a recent common ancestor.

ROH analysis can provide insights into population history and ancestry, demographic events such as bottlenecks or founder effects, consanguinity rates within families or subpopulations, and disease susceptibility due to recessive alleles. This is particularly relevant for the Roma population, who have experienced admixture with various populations throughout their history and may have different ROH patterns depending on the region they come from.

Limitations and Considerations for Estimations

It's important to note that estimating relatedness using IBD segments has limitations since it relies on assumptions about the underlying demographic processes that generated them. For example, if there was admixture or gene flow between populations in a certain region, the IBD segments might not accurately reflect the true relatedness. An ancestry analysis using Google Scholar may provide more insight into the genetic makeup of the population in question.

LD (linkage disequilibrium) can affect IBD segment length and number since it can cause false positives or negatives. Therefore, researchers must account for LD patterns in their dataset to avoid biased estimates. This is especially important in admixture analysis where ancestry plays a crucial role. To ensure accurate results, it is recommended to use tools such as Google Scholar to identify relevant studies and incorporate ancestry information in LD analysis.

Population Structure Analysis and FST Calculations

Population structure analysis is a powerful tool used to identify subpopulation structure within larger populations. This type of analysis can help researchers understand the genetic makeup of different populations, including whether they are similar or distinct from one another in terms of ancestry and admixture. By analyzing genetic data from different regions, researchers can gain insights into the historical migration patterns and intermixing events that have shaped human populations over time. One method commonly used in population structure analysis is FST calculations, which have been widely studied and cited in research articles available on Google Scholar.

FST calculations are used to estimate genetic differences between different populations in a region. The FST value ranges from 0 to 1, with higher values indicating greater genetic distance between populations of different ancestry. For example, an FST value of 0 indicates that there are no genetic differences between two samples from the same population with no admixture, while an FST value of 1 indicates complete genetic differentiation between populations.

PC analysis can be used to visualize ancestry, population relationships, and genetic structure. This technique allows researchers to plot samples on a graph based on their genetic makeup and assess how closely related they are to each other. By analyzing the clustering patterns on this graph, researchers can identify subpopulations within larger population groups and detect admixture between different regions.

Allele frequency estimates can provide insights into the genetic makeup of different populations in a region. By analyzing samples collected from Europeans, researchers can gain insights into the admixture of different alleles within that population.

Figure X shows the genetic distance between Turkish and other parental populations based on FST calculations. The figure demonstrates that Turks, who have a rich admixture history due to the Ottoman Empire, have a high degree of genetic similarity with other Middle Eastern and European populations but differ significantly from East Asian and African populations. This suggests that modern-day Europeans may share some genetic ancestry with Turks.

Inference of Population Clustering with Frappe, Structure, and Clummp

Population clustering is the process of grouping individuals with similar genetic ancestry into subpopulations within a given population. This technique can provide insight into the genetic history and ancestry of a region, including admixture events. Three commonly used tools for inferring population clustering using genetic samples are Frappe, Structure, and Clummp. In particular, these methods have been useful in identifying subpopulations with Central Asian ancestry.


Frappe (Finding Recent Ancestral Population Exposures) is a program designed to infer population structure using maximum likelihood methods. It uses data from single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) to estimate allele frequencies in each subpopulation. Frappe can be used to visualize the inferred subpopulations as well as estimate their admixture proportions. The program can handle multiple samples and is useful for studying population structure in various regions, including the Roma population in Europe.

One study that utilized Frappe found evidence of distinct subpopulations within Turkey, with some turkish individuals having genetic similarities to Middle Eastern populations while others were more closely related to European populations, indicating a possible central asian admixture.


Structure is another program commonly used for inferring population structure and admixture. Like Frappe, it uses SNP data from samples to estimate allele frequencies in each subpopulation in a region. However, unlike Frappe which assumes that all subpopulations have equal migration rates, Structure allows for varying levels of migration between subpopulations in the middle.

Structure has been used in numerous studies investigating the genetic relationships between Turkish people and other populations. One study found that Turks, who have a Central Asian origin, clustered most closely with Middle Eastern populations such as Iranians and Syrians but also showed some similarity to European populations. Additionally, the Ottoman history of the Turkish population has resulted in some admixture with various ethnic groups.


Clummp (CLUster Matching and Merging Program) is a tool designed to help researchers merge results from multiple runs of Structure or other clustering programs for populations and samples. This can help improve the accuracy of inferred population structure by reducing noise caused by stochasticity in these algorithms. The tool is particularly useful for studying populations like Roma and those from the middle region.

Clummp has been used in several studies investigating Turkish population genetics. One study, which analyzed samples from different regions of Turkey, found evidence for three distinct clusters within the Turkish population: one primarily composed of individuals from central Anatolia, one from southeastern Anatolia, and one from western Anatolia. These clusters showed varying degrees of similarity to Middle Eastern and European populations, reflecting the Ottoman heritage of the Turks.

Clear subpopulation structure

The use of Frappe, Structure, and Clummp has allowed researchers to identify a clear subpopulation structure within the Turkish population. While there is some genetic similarity between Turkish individuals and Middle Eastern populations, there are also distinct differences that suggest a unique genetic history for the Turkish people. The analysis of Ottoman samples revealed a strong presence of European ancestry among Turks.

It is important to note that these tools are not infallible and results may vary depending on the specific SNP data used, sample size, region, and population. However, by using multiple programs and comparing results across studies, researchers can gain a more complete picture of the genetic relationships between different populations, including Europeans and Roma samples.

Cluster analysis

Cluster analysis is an important tool in population genetics research as it allows for the identification of subpopulations with shared ancestry in different regions. By analyzing genetic samples from various populations, researchers can gain insight into historical migration patterns, including those of the Roma people in Central Europe.


After conducting various tests and analyses on samples from the Turkish populations, it can be concluded that while Turks have historical and cultural ties to the Middle East, the Turkish population cannot be solely classified as Middle Eastern. The admixture testing and average pairwise identity by descent segment sharing estimation suggest that there is genetic diversity in the Turkish population, with influences from Central Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. Additionally, the Ottoman legacy has left an impact on the genetic makeup of modern-day Turks.

While it is important to acknowledge Turkey's connections to the Middle East, it is also essential not to oversimplify or generalize a diverse population of Turks. As such, we encourage individuals to approach this topic with an open mind and recognize the complexity of ethnic identities within the Ottoman populations.


1. Can all Turkish people be considered Middle Eastern?

No, while Turkey has historical and cultural ties to the Middle East, its Turkish populations cannot be solely classified as Middle Eastern due to genetic diversity influenced by Central Asia, Europe, and Ottoman heritage.

2. What factors contribute to Turkey's unique identity?

Turkey's unique identity is shaped by its geographic location at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, its history as a former Ottoman Empire, and its modernization efforts under Atatürk. The country is home to the Turks and is considered a significant player in the Middle East region, making Turkish culture and history an essential part of the area's fabric.

3. Are there any similarities between Turkish culture and Middle Eastern culture?

Yes, due to their shared history and proximity, there are similarities between Turkish culture and some aspects of Middle Eastern culture such as cuisine, music, religion (Islam), hospitality customs. The Turks, who were part of the Ottoman Empire, have also been influenced by European and Central Asian cultures.

4. How do Turks view themselves in relation to the rest of the world?

Turks, known for their strong sense of national pride, have a rich history that includes the Ottoman Empire and their position as a bridge between the Middle East and Europe.

5. Why is it important not to generalize about ethnic identities?

Generalizing about ethnic identities overlooks individual experiences and perpetuates harmful stereotypes that can lead to discrimination or prejudice towards certain populations or samples in a region, such as the Turks.

6. What impact does genetic diversity have on a population?

Genetic diversity can contribute to a population's resilience and adaptability, but it can also lead to misunderstandings and conflicts if not properly understood or appreciated. Samples taken from different regions can reveal the genetic diversity within populations, including the Roma community.

7. How do genetic tests determine ancestry?

Genetic tests analyze an individual's DNA samples for specific markers that can provide information about their ancestral origins and potential geographic connections to populations in a region, including the Roma community.

8. Can genetic testing accurately determine someone's ethnicity?

While genetic testing can provide some insights into an individual's ancestry based on samples taken from different populations, it is important to recognize that ethnicity is a complex social construct influenced by cultural, historical, and political factors within a specific region. Additionally, it is crucial to acknowledge the unique genetic makeup and cultural identity of marginalized groups such as the Roma.

9. What steps can individuals take to better understand ethnic identities?

Individuals can educate themselves on the complexities of ethnic identities by reading diverse perspectives from various populations and samples, engaging in respectful dialogue with others from different backgrounds such as Turks and Roma, and recognizing the inherent diversity within any given group.

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