Anatolia bridging the East and West has been a cradle to a wide variety of religions and cultures throughout the history. Anatolia and ıts hospitable people has always welcomed to oppressed, weak and stateless people because of concerning it as human duty and religious obligation. They shared their land, food, and home in a generous and ungrudging manner.
Immigration movements which happened as of second half of 19th century and caused major changes in the ethnic features of Anatolia, have very important role on today’s Turkey.
Mainly ıts geographical position and climate as well as some other features such as ıts harbors, meadows and strategic defense areas have made Anatolia an attraction center for human movements. Anatolia has been subjected to large refugee movements from different directions throughout its history. Major immigration movements have considerably affected Ottoman Empire’s and then Turkey’s social, ethnical and cultural structure.
In 1850s the migrations into the Ottoman Empire started with the Crimean and Tatar immigration. Besides Crimeans and Tatars, people from Caucasus, mainly Circassians and Georgians, Daghestanis, Chechens and Lazis, immigrated to Ottoman Empire as well.
Besides the immigration waves from the north, there were other significant movements including Turks who settled hundreds of years ago in this land and Albanians, Bosnians, Pomaks etc.
The first major Muslim migration into the Ottoman Empire started with the Crimean or Tatar immigration when Crimea was incorporated into Russia. Before 1783, there had been immigrations of Crimean Tatars to Ottoman Empire in small groups. The first major immigration was when Tsarist Russia captured Crimea in 1783. The migration intensified after the Turkish-Russian war in 1812.
The forced mass migration of the Circassions from the Caucasus into the Ottoman Empire was another population movement which had dramatic results like Crimean immigration and had effects on Turkey’s demographic structure. The approximately 2,5 million of Circassions were forced to migrate since World War 2. Many of them (approximately 1,5 million) died during the immigration.
As of the beginning of 19th century, large number of people from Azerbaijan immigrated to Ottoman Empire. The immigration intensified especially during the course of the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78. Also during the WW1, approximately 10,000 people migrated to Anatolia.
Georgian immigration movement including more than one million people was another wave of migration to Anatolia. Firstly started after the Russian-Ottoman War of 1828-29, Georgian immigration continued until 1921.
Firstly moved to Anatolia during the period of Mehmet the Conqueror’s reign, Albanians were resettled in district of Arnavutköy of İstanbul province in 1468. Such expressions as Arnavut ciğeri (Albanian style fried diced liver), Arnavutköy (a district in Turkey), Arnavut kaldırımı (cobblestone pavement) were ingrained in Turkish culture; also still used in Turkish language.
Albanians were the ethnic groups who worked in Ottoman administrative offices at very most. 35 of 215 Ottoman grand viziers were Albanians. Today, it is estimated that 5 million of Albanians live in Turkey.
The Ottoman Empire became an important destination for Polish emigration in 19th century. The number of Polish immigrants within Ottoman borders tended to increase after Russia’s invasion of Emirates Poland in 1831 and 10,000 Polish from intelligentsia emmigrated to other countries and some of them migrated and settled in the Ottoman Empire. Polonezköy (Adampol) in district of Beykoz in İstanbul was founded by Polish settlers.
Wars played a crucial role in first Arab immigrations to Ottoman Empire. During the spread of Islam throughout the world and after Ottoman-Arab wars and military expeditions to Anatolia, many Arabs did not return their own country and resettled in Anatolia. The reason why Arab Alawis resettled in Tarsus district and Adana province of Turkey was that they were subject to oppression in their countries. However, Arab families’ resettlement to Anatolia generally occurs for commercial reasons. The final wave of Arab immigration was in the last periods of Ottoman Empire. Before the World War, Arab Western-backed nationalism became more radicalized in Syria and Arab Revolt initiated by Hussein bin Ali, Sharif of Mecca was repressed. The Arab population which reached to 5,000 was transferred to Syria, Hedjaz and Mesopotamia.
When Austro-Hungarian Empire invaded Bosnia, four major waves of migration from Bosnia to Turkey had occurred until 1918. The first immigration was in 1878, just after Austro-Hungarian Empire invaded Bosnia. The second one was in 1882. The third wave of immigration occurred in 1900 with Dzabic's autonomy movement and the last one was in 1908.
The arrival of large numbers of Jewish refugees to Ottoman Empire was another wave of immigration. Amongst the Jewish people coming from Crimea, there were Krymchaks (Rabbinic Jews speaking Turki languages) and Crimean Karates. Besides, Mountain Jews and Georgian Jews arrived to Ottoman Empire. The Balkans Jewish migrants largely include Sephardi Jews. (North Mediterranean Jews known as Sephardi Jews were dismissed from Spain and Portugal in the latter of 15th century. There were Romaniote Jews and Eskenazis among them. In Addition, some of Jews from Yemen, India and Bukhara immigrated to Ottoman Empire.
The movement of immigration to Anatolia still continued though not so much as in Ottoman period. The common characteristic of these immigrants was that they experienced tragic losses and grief before their arrival to Anatolia.
Turkey is defined as a geography where a large number of civilians live. States which was founded on such a synthesis of civilizations are known to take the large and increasing number of migrants; therefore take social, political and administrative measures and solutions as well. The waves of immigration also continued in post-republic period.
The first and the most important immigration movement in post-republic period occurred after the 1923 population exchange between Turkish-Greek. Approximately, 384,000 Turks arrived to Turkey between 1922 and 1938.
The mass migration from Yugoslavia-Macedonia to Turkey was another wave which occurred in post-republic period. The first immigration of Turkish people living in Macedonia was in 1924. The first one was followed by the second immigration in 1936. The policies commonly carried out by the governments in all these lands and oppression towards Turkish people resulted in waves of immigration. Turkish government signed the “Open Migration Agreement” with Josip Broz Tito in 1953 and another migration movement began from Macedonia to Turkey.
In post-republic period, 77.431 Yugoslavian households including 305.158 people moved to Turkey. The Turkish government resettled 14.494 of Yugoslavians who came until 1950. The rest of households were resettled in Turkey as free immigrants.
The movement of Bulgarian migration was essential in the context of “mass influx”. A great number of Bulgarians intermittently arrived to Anatolia until 1989. The immigration including approximately 800,000 Bulgarians occurred in four stages:
Following the conclusion of Turkish-Bulgarian Residence Agreement in 1925, 218.998 Bulgarians migrated to Turkey until 1949.
After Bulgaria was declared a people’s republic in 1946, the number of Bulgarians arriving Turkey reached to 156.063 between 1949 and 1951.
Between 1968 and 1979, 116.521 Bulgarians immigrated to Turkey in the framework of the agreement signed between Turkey-Bulgaria.
The last wave of immigration from Bulgaria was in 1989 when Muslim Bulgarians of Turkish origin fled to Turkey to escape a campaign of forced assimilation of Bulgarian government.
From 1923 to 1949, 19.865 Romanian households including 79.287 people arrived Turkey as migrants to be granted resettlement. Besides, 11.280 households including 43.271 people came as well and were settled in same regions as where their relatives reside. 800,000 people were forced to migrate from Balkans between 1923 and 1945. Because of China’s invasion in Eastern Turkestan, many of Turkistanis fled to Turkey.
Along with World War II, Turkey became the second homeland for some people from Eastern Legions. Eastern Legions were conscripts and volunteers from the occupied eastern territories recruited into the German army during the Second World War. Eastern Legions were formed from Muslim nations including Uzbeks, Kazaks, Kyrgyzs, Turkmans, Karakalpaks, Balkars, Karachays, Azeris, Dagıstanis, Ingushes and Chechens.
Approximately one million of Iranians whose ethnic origins mostly were Azeris and also Persian and Kurdish immigrated to Turkey as a consequence of Iran Islamic Revolution in 1979.
The Soviet war in Afghanistan played a crucial role on the migration of Afghans in the beginning of 1980s. As a result of Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, a large number of people of Turkish origin including Uzbeks as well as Uighurs, Kazaks and Kyrgyzs fled to Turkey.
Besides Syrians fleeing individually, a great number of waves of mass migration from Syria occurred in 1945, 1951, 1953 and 1967. The uncertain number of immigrants were resettled in Kırıkhan and İskenderun districts and Adana province of Turkey.
The movement of migration from Iraq largely occurred after 1988 Halabja Massacre in northern Iraq and caused 51.542 people to immigrate to Turkey.
467.489 people fled Turkey due to Gulf War in 1991. 20,000 Bosnians between 1992 and 1998; 17,746 Kosovans in 1999; 10,500 Macedonians in 2001 immigrated and arrived Turkey.
As a result of the domestic conflicts which Syria has experienced, approximately one million Syrians are estimated to cross the border and arrive Turkey between April 2011 and May 2014.
During the post-republican period, besides the Balkan countries, particularly from Muslim or Turkic languages speaking countries, many households immigrated Turkey as migrants to be granted resettlement as well as free migrants. For example; among the arrivals from Turkistan in 695 households, 2.194 persons arrived Turkey as migrants to be granted resettlement and in 214 households, 684 persons arrived as free migrants. Among the 1,006 households from Afghanistan, in 1,006 households 4,163 persons arrived Turkey as migrants to be granted resettlement. They were especially settled in Central, Eastern and Southeastern Anatolia Regions of Turkey.
Approximately 6 million migrants have been resettled in Republic of Turkey’s territories throughout the bicentennial history of Turkey. Almost half of them have been relocated and employed by the help of government opportunities. The other half of them generally have been settled near their relatives or acquaintances of their families.
The mutual interaction and harmonization of the society and of migrants and the resettlement of them have been subject to Turkey’s agenda for ages.