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Kipchak Turkic as a part of the Balkans and Eastern
Europe history-geography1

Biblioteca Metropolitana Bucureşti


Editia a Iba

20-24 Septembrie 2009

fifiíl de anídela prima atestare
J J documentara a orasufui féucurestí



Başkent University - Ankara
Gazi University - Ankara

1. Introduction

The existence of Turkic in the Balkans and Eastern Europe, the Danube
Bulghard (the 7th century A.D.), the Khazars (the 9th century A.D.), the
Pechenegs, and the Oghuzs (the 11th century), the Cuman-Kipchaks etc.
can be considered in two main periods: the Pre-Ottoman period and the
Post-Ottoman period. It can be supposed that there are Turkic-speaking
ethnical groups among the Huns and Avars (the 5th and 6th centuries) who
emigrated from Asia to Eastern Europe. However, the tracks of Turkic
in the pre-Ottoman period pose obscure, complex, and difficult linguistic
problems (See for Turkic penetration in Europe in Golden 2002: 219, 234;
MENGES 1995: 11, 12, 20; KURAT 1992: 45-46, 72-75 et al.).

1.1. The Balkans

Similar to Kipchak dialect-continuum, once spoken in Donetsk near
the Sea of Azov and in Kamenets-Podolsk region in Western Ukraine, and
in Dobruja through Moldova, the varieties of Oghuz, spoken in an area
ranging from Anatolia and Thrace to Greece, Kosovo, Macedonia, Bulgaria,
Romania and Moldova also comprise a
dialect-continuum. Kipchak and

Oghuz varieties in the Balkans can be observed in Bulgaria, Romania, and
Moldova, in which the old Crimean Tatar is widely spoken.

The Balkans has been the contact area of different languages, religions,
and cultures since the ancient eras. The Romans, Byzantines and Ottomans
had been the sovereigns of this region in the last millennium. In parallel
with the attenuation of the Ottoman Empire, the nationalist and separatist
political-military developments, triggered by the French Revolution, caused
significant changes in ethno-linguistic structure of the Balkans since the
19th century during the Austro-Hungarian Empire expansion. The nation
states were established mostly complying with the language boundaries
after the numerous struggles had continued so far.

While the region has had continuous ethnical disputes and separation
risks as the term ‘the Balkanization’ refers to, it has also witnessed
linguistic contacts among different varieties and languages that are in
relation with each other. Therefore, like the Caucasus, the Balkans, also a
mosaic of languages and religions, is a well-known linguistic area which
has been extensively studied since the 19th century (See TOMIC 2006). It
is obvious that the linguistic areas are the result of the extensive contact
among different languages and cultures. Within the Balkan linguistic area,
Turkish is the only language which is not a member of the Indo-European
language family. In the historical process, Turkish has been influential
by functioning as a superstratum language at different linguistic levels,
especially in lexical copies over the regional languages (See the influence
of Turkish upon Balkan languages at lexical level in ROLLET 1996).
Nevertheless, the effects ofi-other languages on the Ottoman Turkish are
limited. Therefore, some researchers consider that the Ottoman Turkish
and standard Turkish are not members of the Balkan linguistic area, but
they are participant of this linguistic area. (See FRIEDMAN 1982: 1-77).

Balkan Turkic consists of the Rumelian varieties of Turkish, namely
Oghuz and Kipchak varieties (see KOWALSKI 1933: 1-28, NÉMETH
1983: 160-172). The prestigious written languages the Ottoman Turkish
and then Turkish restrain these two vernaculars.

Even though Turkish has a significant part within the ethno-linguistic
composition of the region, it has not developed a consistent existence in the
Balkan region. Oghuz varieties ranging from Anatolia to Central Europe
through the Ottoman conquests started to retreat from South Hungary to the
east in the 17th century, and from Mora to the north in 1821. The invasion
of Crimea by the Russians in 1783 and the Turkish-Russian War between
1877-1878 caused Kipchak varieties to retreat from the north towards
the south. The speakers of Turkic were exposed to the largest massive

population movements in the Balkans, and Turkic-speaking communities
and even the non-Turkish Muslim communities were forced to immigrate
massively to Anatolia because of the Balkan Wars, the First and the Second
World War.

1.2. Eastern Europe

Kipchak varieties spoken by small communities in Eastern Europe; in
Poland, Lithuania, Estonia and Ukraine consist of small islets isolated from
the Turkic languages in the east of Europe. The aforementioned countries
are the new homeland in which Turkic communities, the Karays and Tatars
who have different religions, but speak the same language, have been living
for six centuries.

2. Kipchaks and Old Kipchak

The geography of the Turkic languages range from the Dolgan-Nenets
Autonomous Region (Taymyria), dependant on the Russian Federation,
at the north-south line to the Shiraz Region of Iran; from Manchuria
in which isolated Fu-Yii Kirghiz
is spoken to the North-eastern part of
Europe at the east-west line; to the Baltic Sea, and even the
Peninsula.2 Apart from the marginal varieties like Chuvash, Yakut, and
other Siberian languages, Turkic languages in this geography can be
classified geographically and genetically into three main groups:
East (Chaghatay), the North-west (Cuman-Kipchak) and the South-west
Kipchak varieties in the -Balkans and Eastern Europe are in the
west of the Turkic languages map.

It is not possible to find ethnonyms of Cuman and Kipchak in pre-
Islamic period (See the previous usage
of the ethnical names of Kipchak
and Sir before that period in KLYASHTORNY/SULTANOV 2003:
134). However, that the Kipchaks are often told with the Oghuz in the
Divanii Liigati’t-Turk, the encyclopaedic dictionary, compiled by Ka$garli
Mahmud in 1077, approximately
two centuries after Turks conversion into
Islam, displays that the Kipchaks had a significant ethno-linguistic unity in
the Turkic world in the 11th century (KURAT 1992: 69-75).

Turkic communities that are named as the Kipchaks in the Islamic
sources are generally known with the ethnonyms of the Cumans in the
Western sources and
the Polovets in the Russian sources. In the beginning,
Cumans and Kipchak, who are two different
communities living close
to each other, have become a single ethnic group after Cuman-Kipchak
federation was established in the 13th century (See GUMILOV 2000: 104).

It is known that the Cuman-Kipchaks made political and military
contact with the Byzantine Empire, and that Turkic-speaking Cuman-
Byzantines lived in the lands of the Byzantine Empire towards the end of
11th century (See BRAND 1989: 1-25). The Cuman-Tatars, who got
involved in the Balkans in the 12th and 14th centuries, had come to this area
not from the East, but from the neighbouring steppes, the Down Tuna and
the Black Sea (VASARY 2005: 146).

The Kipchaks have spread over a wide area in Eurasia and Africa
throughout history. The area from Volga to Dnieper, even to the Balkans
is called as
Dasht-i Kipchak (the Cuman Steppe) in the Islamic world, and
Cumania/Comania (TOGAN 1981: 160; KURAT 1992: 69-99; GOLDEN
2002: 225) or
Tartaria in the Western world. Today, it is still possible to
find the toponyms of
Cumania/Comania etc. in countries where Cuman
communities settled down such as Hungary, Romania, Macedonia,
Bulgaria and so forth. The area consisting of Western Siberia, the Middle
East, Southern Russia, Eastern Europe, Hungary, the north part of the
Balkans, Georgia, Egypt and Syria still bears the traces of the ethnic and
linguistic inheritance of the Kuman-Kipchaks (See GOLDEN 2006: 16-29;
RASONYI 1971: 146-147, 150-151).

Even though the Cuman-Kipchaks spread over such an extensive area,
they could not establish a permanent political unity. Therefore, there is
no common, standard, and sustainable written language tradition. Apart
Divanu Lugati’t-Turk, which is the common heritage of all Turks
except Chuvash,
Codex Cumanicus, copied by the Christian missionaries
in Crimea at the beginning of the 14th century (1303) is one of the written
documents that represent Kipchak best with its text compiled from the
spoken language.3 Writs remained from the Kipchak Khanates in Eurasia,

Turkic grammar and dictionaries written in Arabic in Egypt, a few religious
and secular texts compiled in Khawarezmia and Golden Horde, are the
other Kipchak documents belonging to the Islamic period. However, these
documents are generally in a mixed language, Oghuz/Kipchak. In these
works, it is often disputable whether the elements given in Kipchak are
really in Kipchak.4 The chronicles, religious and juridical documents
of the Armenian-Kipchaks who are from the Gregorian communion of
Christianity, are the texts representing the real Kipchak written language.

As it was in the past, the speakers of Kipchak varieties, the autochthon
inhabitants of East and South-eastern Europe, still constitute an interesting
composition in terms of their faith today. Even though the Turkic languages-
speaking communities, who are united under the name of Kipchak, have
different religions such as Islam, Judaism, or Christianity, they are quite
close to each other apart from small differences in their languages, religious
terminology, and syntax.

3. The Armenian-Kipchaks and Armeno-Kipchak

With the collapse of the Armenian Bagrationi Empire in the 1 llh
century, the Armenian people started to immigrate to Crimea and they
had already established a large colony there by the 13th century. The
Kipchak-Armenian theme, starting in that century at the latest, developed
through the neighbourhood relationships and commercial affairs. While
some Armenians became the speakers of Turkic, some Kipchak speakers
committed themselves to the Armenian Church. Therefore, a complex
ethnic-religious group occurred (See PRITS AK 1979:131 -140; CLAUSON
1971: 8-9; LEWICKI; KOHNOWA 1957: 153-165). The Armenian-
Kipchaks and Armeno-Kipchak are interesting examples of the partnership
of languages and religions.

The Armenian-Kipchaks settled down in the Kamenets-Podolsk and
Lviv region of today’s Ukraine with the Ottoman conquest of Caffa at the
last quarter of the 15th century. Armeno-Kipchak, which had been used
as the spoken and religious language until the 16th century, reached such
a level that it could inherit an important written heritage between the 16th
and 17th centuries. Scientists such as GRUNIN (1967), DENY (1957),
TRYJARSKI (1968-1972), SCHÜTZ (1998), GARKAVETS (2002)
and so forth published Armeno-Kipchak texts, and Tryjarski prepared

Kipchak-Polish/French dictionary for these texts. Armeno-Kipchak, losing
its function in the following periods, faded into oblivion like Egyptian and
Syrian Kipchak, and its speakers disappeared in history after they had been
mixed up in communities such as Polish or Ukrainian etc.

4. Kipchak Written Languages in the Balkans and Eastern Europe

The westernmost point of the marginal area in which Kipchak is spoken
is Finland, and the easternmost point is Manchuria. Modern Kipchak
varieties are spoken by many autochthon communities in a large area
ranging from the west part of Siberia to Poland, and from Tatarstan to the
north part of Afghanistan. Apart from the marginal varieties such as Fu-Yii
Kirghiz; Kirghiz, Karakalpak, a part of Kazakh and, all modem Kipchak
written languages are the autochthon languages of Europe.

A majority of Kipchak spoken varieties was made different written
languages at the end of the 19th century and in the first half of the 20th
century through Russian and Soviet language policies. Kipchak, the
branch of Turkic languages family that expanded the most extensively, is
the official written languages in two independent countries, Kirghizstan
and Kazakhstan, and the autonomous regions in the Russian Federation
and Uzbekistan.
Kazakh (Kazakhstan), Kirghiz (Kirghizstan), Karakalpak
(Uzbekistan), Tatar, Bashkir, Kumyk, Karachay-Balkar, Noghay (The
Russian Federation) are the mother tongues of almost twenty million
people. Kipchak written languages are directly in contact with primarily
Slavic language; Indo-European, Ural'and Paleo-Siberia languages.

Kipchak varieties in the Balkans and Eastern Europe without any
functional and consistent written languages cause the numbers of the
speakers of
Dobruja Tatar (Bulgaria, Romania), Lithuanian Karay,
Polish Karay, Krimcak, Urum
(Ukraine), Estonian Tatar, Finnish Tatar,
Lithuanian Tatar
and Polish Tatar to decrease gradually. Therefore, these
languages are in danger of becoming extinct. Crimean Tatar, with its
crowded population and its strong diaspora, is not in danger of becoming
extinct in short term.

Today’s western Kipchak written languages and varieties are the
successors of the spoken language that is represented by
Codex Cumanicus
together with Kipchak written language in Armenian letters in terms of
language features such as
-y-/-g-, -y/-g > -v-/ -v; -y-/-g~, -y/-g > -y-/ -y
(Tatar, Bashkir, Kumyk, Karachay-Balkar, Karay);
u > o, o > u\ o > ii,
u > o
(Tatar, Bashkir); q- > x- (Kumyk, Urum) interrogative partide - mA
(corresponds to - mA in Kazakh).

5. The Karays and Karay Variety

Following the Ottoman’s first conquest in Rumelia (1352), the
Lithuanian Grand Duke Vytautas brought a few hundred Karay families
to Eastern Europe, the ancient Lithuania and Western Ukraine, namely the
Galicia over the Black Sea coast in 1397 and 1398. The Karaites
(Karaim Turks/Turkic Karaim), followers of a small religious group, who
rejected Judaism and adopted the Talmud faith in the 8th century A.D.,
constitute small communities in the countries in which they are living

Unlike the old Armeno-Kipchak, the language of the Karay was used at
home and particularly for religious services, not for commercial and cultural
communication with other ethnic groups. In Karay, which has three dialects,
namely the
Halych, Trakai and Crimean, there are intensively available
Slavic and Hebraic lexical copies along with the Arabic and Persian origin
copies (See the Trakai variety in KOWALSKI 1929).
Crimean variety is
the closest variety to Oghuz. TEKIN classified Trakai variety in the
group together with the Caucasian languages of Kumyk, Karachay-Balkar,
and Halych in the
qos- group variety together with Kazakh, Karakalpak
andNoghay (1991: 5-18).

One of the characteristic linguistic features of Turkic is that the
morph-syntactical order of bound and free morphemes is identical in all
Turkic languages. Armeno-Kipchak and Karay partially diverged from
this syntactical common property of Turkic because of their long-lasting,
intensive contacts with Slavic languages, particularly with Russian, Polish,
Ukrainian and Hebraic religious texts.

There are limited numbers of written documents from Jewish-Karays,
and they mainly belong to the recent periods.

The linguistic and cultural importance of Karay can be listed as follows:

-    It is one of the native languages in Eastern Europe.

-    The Karays are the only Turkic-speaking Jewish community.

-    Karay offers significant insights about Turkic-Persian language
interactions and the history of Arabian and Persian elements in

-    Karay has been greatly influenced by Krimchak and Karaite
ethnolects of Crimean Tatar as well as Slavic and Hebraic languages.

Therefore, although it is not widely spoken, Karay is an important
Turkic language, which has brought together Turkic, Slavic, and Hebraic
languages and cultures in the east of Europe for centuries (KIZILOV 2008:

The Karays of Poland and Lithuania have preserved their languages and
identities although they have been isolated from other Kipchak languages
for ages. It is not only because the Jewish-Karays have displayed a
resistant social structure towards cultural assimilation, but also it is because
Lithuania has been tolerant towards religious and ethnic differences. Slavic
vocabulary has not been influential in Karay Turkic since the Karays do
not share the Christian faith. The Karay communities have always regarded
their languages and cultures as their identity marker, and they have used
them as a means to preserve their identity for centuries.

By 1989, the number of the speakers of Karay, living in the old
USSR countries, Lithuania (Trakay, Vilnus/Vilnius, Panevejis), Ukraine
(Evpatoriya, Feodosiya, Simferopol, Haliç, etc.), and in Poland is totally
2,600 (Musayev 1997: 254-264). According to Arzoz, out of 280 Karays
in Lithuania, 150 of them live in Vilna; 50 of them live in Panevezys; and
80 of them live in Troki by 1991. Also, out of 150 Karays in Poland, 50 of
them live in Warsaw, Gdansk, and Varcelova; and 4 of them live in Pele
(2008: 56).5

In 1997, when the 600th anniversary of the existence of the Karays
in Lithuania was celebrated, the number of the Karays decreased to 257
according to the statistics of the same year. In 2002 census, only 45 people
informed themselves as
Karay. With the organizations, founded in 1988,
such as
the Lithuanian Karay Society and the Karay Religious Society, Karay
is taught in Sunday schools. Lithuania cooperates with Turkish linguists in
order to teach Karay children their mother tongue (See
Euromosaic III 2004:
222, 274). Lithuania has appointed the diplomat Halina KOBECKAITE,
whose native language is Karay Turkic, as the ambassador of Turkey so as
to display the value they attached to their relationships with Turkey and to
the Karay people.

6. Krimchaks and Krimchak Variety

The Krimchaks, a small ethnic and religious group, are the Jews, living
in the Crimean peninsula, engaged in farming, and speaking Turkic. Since
the Krimchaks are deeply attached to their faith; they use Hebrew as their
written language, and they practice endogamy, they had the opportunity
to preserve their identity until the Second World War. However, the
Krimchak people were exposed to ethnic cleansing when German troops
invaded Crimea in 1941 and 1942. Survivors of the genocide immigrated
to the U.S. and Israel, and some of the rest were assimilated among the
Crimean Tatars (OLSON et al. 1994: 402-403). Today, Krimchaks, who are
Orthodox Jews, live in the cities of Akmes^t and Karasubazar in Crimea.
Their number was 1.448 according to the 1989 census. In the same year,
two schools were opened with the training language of Krimchak.

The Krimchaks used an alphabet of Arami origin in their training and
education by the beginning of the twentieth century; then, they were forced
to use Latin alphabet through Stalin’s policies, and Cyrillic alphabet after
1936 just as other Turkic-speaking societies were. The Krimchak, one
of the least documented and studied Kipchak variety, is very similar to
Crimean Tatar and Karay (See REBI et al. 1997: 309).

7. The Urums6 and Urum Variety

Known as Mariupol ’skie greki, Greko-Tatar in Russian sources, and
Greek Tatar in Western sources, the Orthodox Urums, settled down in
Donetsk near the Sea of Azov by being separated from Crimea in 1778¬
1779. The second-wave migration was between the years of 1821 and
1825, and some Urums coming from Trabzon to Georgia immigrated to the
same area later (GARKAVETS 1999: 1-5).

The name of Urum (Urumnar, Urum alx) and Turkic language that
is spoken by the Urums differentiate this community from Orthodox,
but Greek-speaking
Rumeys. -The Greco-Tatars, consisting of two ethnic
groups, Turkic-speaking
Urums and Greek-speaking Rumeys, live in 29
villages today (MURATOV 1997: 450; GARKAVETS 1999: 1-2). One
branch of the Urums settled in Tselka, Georgia.

According to the 1989 census in the U.S.S.R., the population of Greco-
Tatars in Ukraine was 98.570. Almost 45.000 of this population were Urum
(GARKAVETS 1999: 5).

Urum, a typical Kipchak language, which is very similar to Crimean
Tatar, has more Oghuz elements in the areas near the coast, and it has more
Kipchak elements when used in the interior areas as it is with Crimean
Tatar before the exile in 1944 (see MURATOV 1997: 450) After the field
studies in Donetsk area extending to the 1970s, texts including Oghuz and
Kipchak varieties and a large volume of Urum-Ukrainian dictionary were
published (See GARKAVETS 1999, 2000).

8. Crimean Tatars and Crimean Tatar Variety

Tatar is the common name given to the Kipchak people whose native
country is Crimea, and who have various ethnic groups and faiths and the
Kazan Tatars of the Kipchak people, who are the continuation of Volga
Bulgarians. There is no direct connection between Crimean Tatar and
Kazan Tatar except that they are in the Kipchak branch of Turkic languages.
Crimean Tatar is very similar to Kipchak varieties in the Caucasus rather
than Kazan Tatar. However, in TEKIN’s classification, Kazan Tatar is
qu§- group while Crimean Tatar is in the qo§- group with the dialects
of Karachay-Balkar, Kumyk and (1991: 5-18). Crimean Tatar, defined
as Esperanto of Turkic languages, is the most similar Kipchak variety to
Turkish due to the political unity for 308 years in the Ottoman period.

Crimea is the homeland of millions of Crimean Tatars scattering around
many countries, especially Turkey, after the policy of
deporting the Tatars,
beginning with the annex in 1783, and ending with the exile in 1944. Tatar-
Noghay Kipchak population in earlier
Cumania was totally deported after
160-years-of migration.

Studies on Crimean Tatars and Crimean Tatar are so extensive that
they can even comprise a separate discipline.

8.1. Ukraine-Crimea    v

In today’s Ukraine, besides the Ukrainians, there are a lot of different
communities having various languages and religions such as Russians,
Belarusians, Moldavians, Bulgarians, Hungarians, Romanians, Polish-
Jewish, etc. According to the official records, there are autochthon Crimean
Tatars and Tatars, speaking Kipchak varieties as well as allochthon
Azerbaijanis in the country. According to the results of the 2001 census, the
population of Crimean Tatars is 248,200; that of Tatars is 73,300; and that
of Azerbaijanis is 45,200. Crimean Tatars are at the fifth rank among the
ethnic groups with its population rate of 0,4% across the country. Crimean
Tatars are the third largest ethnic group with their population of 2,024,000
in Crimean Autonomous Republic and with their population rate of 12%
after the Russians and Ukrainians. The process of Tatars’ migration to their
homeland, which started in the U.S.S.R. period, has been still going on
under Ukraine’s strict control and harsh conditions with the migrations to
the homeland, beginning in the U.S.S.R. period and after the completion of
the project of deporting the Tatars from Crimea.

Crimean Tatar, which was used as the official language of Crimean
Autonomous Republic by 1944, is recognized by Ukraine, but it does not
have its status before the exile.

Crimean Tatars use Latin alphabet with the additions of the letters of
h/N and q/Q to the Turkish alphabet.

8.2. Romania

Dobruja, extending across the Black Sea coast, is a contact area in which
Latin-speaking Romanians, Slav-speaking Bulgarians, Altai-speaking
Turkic (Turkish/Tatar), Muslims and Christians have lived together in the
Balkan Sprachbund for centuries. After the population exchanges associated
with the political conflicts in the first half of the twentieth century, the
demographic structure of the area has been changed, and a great majority
of Crimean Tatars remained in Romania when two-thirds of Dobruja were
annexed to Romania.

In the sub-stratum of Romanian Tatar, a variety of Crimean Tatar,
there are Noghay varieties, in which Kipchak elements are dominant, and
also Tat, very close to Anatolian Turkish. Reflecting the linguistic and
cultural variation, the differences among
Noghay, Tat, and Tatar who
define themselves under the upper identity of
Tatar, or who do not, have
been transferred to the area from Crimea.

Since Dobruja was under the Ottoman government for a long time,
Rumelian Turkish and Romanian Tatar coexist in Dobruja. Except
Constanza, there are Tatar, or Rumelian Turkish-speaking colonies in the
capital Bucharest, Babadag, Tulcea, and other areas. The total number of
the speakers of Rumelian and Tatar Turkic is between fifty thousand and
eighty thousand according to various sources. According to the results
of the official census in 2002, the Turkish population is 32,596 out of
21,698,181 Romanian population, and the population rate of the Turkish is
2% in the general population. The population of Tatars is 24,137, and their
population rate is 0,01%.

Tatars (Romence Tatari), officially recognized by Romania, and
Ottoman Turks (Romence
Turci) have not been exposed to the official
assimilation policy of the country. In Romania, there is a quota for one
person in the parliament for each Turkic community, but social and
economic conditions, and sporadic settlement pose risks to preserve
Kipchak varieties in Romania, and Turkic varieties in Romania are among
the extinct languages.

Today, although it is limited, some broadcast is done in Turkish and
Crimean Tatar in Romania. In Tatar broadcasts, a mixed language of
Turkish and Crimean Tatar is used (See EKER 2006).

8.3. Bulgaria

Bulgaria is a Balkan country which is the most densely populated
country with Turkic communities from different religions and sects
as Christian, Muslim, Sunni, Kizilbash, etc. speaking different varieties
despite the massive immigrations to Turkey after the Turkish-Russian War
of 1877-1878. Only a few thousands of Turkic speakers in South Dobruja
are Tatar. In the 2001 census, it was not recorded exactly how many people
out of 69,204, who were documented as “Other” nationality, were Tatars.

South Dobruja Tatar is about to become extinct because of some of its
speakers’ immigration to Turkey; marriages with Oghuz Turks; Turkish
being broadcasted in Tatars’ houses through satellite televisions; and strong
influences of Bulgarian. However, it is still regarded as an opportunity for
Bulgarian Tatars to hold increasing relationships with Crimea, the spiritual
centre of Tatar nationalism, and with their neighbours Romanian Tatars;
and to keep faith in preserving the Tatar identity although they are not as
fortunate as their neighbours North Dobruja Tatars (WILLIAM 2001: 299).

9. Kazan Tatars and Tatar Variety

Tatars, who had migrated to Poland, Lithuania, and Estonia for military
service, trade, or as refugees, but who live as very small communities
today, are relatives of Volga/Kazan and Siberian Tatars, who are inheritors
of The Golden Horde Empire and Kipchak khanates. In Finland, there is
also a small Tatar community that is officially recognized and classified as
autochthon society.7    

9.1. Poland

Polish Tatars are the remnants of Muslim Tatars, who had settled down
in Poland and Lithuania since the 14th century. Since these Tatars had lost
their languages in three centuries ago, they have been trying to survive by
preserving their religious identities to some extend.

Today, 2,000 Tatars live in Poland with the status of ethnic minority
and comprising 0.01% of the whole population. Yet, according to the 2002
census, 495 people, mostly in Bialystok and Trojmiasto, informed their
nationality as
Tatar (See Euromosaic III 2004: 276).

9.2.    Lithuania

Muslim Lithuanian Tatars (in Lithuanian, Litov Tatar), immigrating
to Lithuania between the 14th and 16th centuries during the period of the
Grand Duchy of Lithuania, settled down in Hrodno, Minsk, Trakai, and
Vilna (Vilnius). Their population reached 200,000 towards the end of the
16th century, but it is claimed that since the tolerant environment during
the Grand Duchy of Lithuania could not be achieved after
the Polish-
Lithuanian Commonwealth
was established in 1569, the number of their
population decreased due to the consequent immigrations.

After the First World War, Lithuania’s lands in Belarus were given to
Poland and Russia. Also, following the World War II, most of those lands
were annexed by the U.S.S.R. This annex means that Tatars, particularly
their intellectuals, have been exposed to Stalin’s practices (See AKINER
1983: 85; OLSON et al.: 1994: 450).

9.3.    Estonia

Estonia is one of the settlement places of the Finno-Ugric peoples.
Muslim Tatars came to Estonia either as merchants or soldiers in the Russian
army in the 1870s. Estonian Tatars did not have any problems under the
Swedish government; on the contrary, they were even given lands.

In Estonia, governed by parliamentary democracy since 1991, the
population of the Tatars was 4,058 in 1989, and it was 3,315 in 1997.
According to the 2003 census, there are 2,582 ethnic Tatars, comprising
02% of the whole population ofn the country, which is 1,356,045. Out of
this population, 1,229 people, that is 47.6% of them, stated that they use
Tatar as their native language. The number of people who informed that
their native language is Russian is 1,295, and there are 51 people who
stated that their native language is Estonian (See ARZOZ 2008: 55).8

Estonian Tatars, regarding themselves as the inheritors of Misher
and Kazan Tatars, have had religious and social organizations since the
The Tatar Cultural Society was established in the capital city,
Tallinn in 1988;
Idel, a cultural organization, was founded in 1995; and
The Estonian Tatar Society was founded in 1990. Also, courses are offered
at Sunday schools to teach Tatar and Estonian to Tatar children and adults
(Euromosaic III 2004: 105).

10. Influences of Turkish and Results

With their population less than one hundred thousand, the varieties of

Romanian and Bulgarian Tatar, Urum, Karay, and Krimchak, which are
Kipchak varieties in the Balkans and East Europe, are among the ‘extra
small languages’ (XS). The Karay varieties in Poland and Lithuania are
the ‘extra extra small languages’ (XXS)9 (See linguistic features of Turkic
varieties in Bulgaria in KOWALSKI 1933: 1-28; KÔPRÜLÜ 1934: 294).

The role and function of Kipchak varieties, which are spoken by a limited
population and which are generally comprised of spoken varieties, over other
languages in the region is ambiguous, yet Kipchak’s limited influences over
Oghuz varieties can still be discussed as it is seen in the example of Gagauz
(KOWALSKI 1933: 15-26; KÔPRÜLÜ 1934: 306-307).

Today, Kipchak varieties in the Balkans are under the strong influence
of the standard languages spoken in the countries including their syntax (See
Bulgarian’s influences over Turkish syntax in NÉMETH 1965: 108-115).
Turkish still continues to influence spoken and written Kipchak varieties,
spoken especially in Crimea, Romania, and Bulgaria and to make them
more similar to Oghuz through the recent developments in communication
technologies and the Crimean Tatar diasporas in Turkey.

Nowadays, there are several risks at different levels ranging from the
loss of function to the extinction of the language concerning the Balkan
Turkic since they are under the pressure of Turkish and other official and
autochthon languages in the region. The risk is lower in a country such
as Bulgaria, in which the speakers of Oghuz varieties are comparatively
dense, but this risk is higher for the XS and XXS Kipchak varieties, the
speakers of which are less than a thousand.

Modem Turkish affects not only Oghuz varieties in the Balkans, but
also Kipchak varieties by means of satellite and internet technologies. In
these regions, while some speakers of Turkic varieties, who do not want
to break their ties with their relative country Turkey, lose their languages,
some others strongly feel the increasing influence of Turkish over their
languages. The speakers of Kipchak varieties, reflecting the characteristics
of their minority languages, struggle with the dichotomy between
preserving and using their original languages and cultures and challenging
the feeling of linguistic and cultural isolation in society. This dichotomy is
quantitatively reflected through visual and written media.

Including Kipchak and Turkish, and specified as ‘Turkic Esperanto,’
mixed written languages have been emerging as it is observed in the
publications in Dobruja Tatar. With the strong support of diasporas,
Crimean Tatars, who similarly try to return to their homeland, have put
almost a completely Oghuz written language into practice, including only
a limited number of Kipchak lexical data, in which the typical dative case
-GA and the accusative case marker -nl are kept to comply with

The influences of Turkish over East European Karay and Tatar are
unknown, but some television programmes or similar publicity activities
are held by official or civil organizations or institutions in order to make
these communities known in Turkey.

11. Results

Just as Oghuz varieties, Kipchak varieties in the Balkans are also a
significant part of the linguistic heritage of South-eastern Europe, and
the Turkic speakers are the natives of the area sharing the historical and
geographical heritage of the region for centuries. However, local Turkic
varieties, the number of the speakers of which has been decreasing after the
Ottoman Turkish’s retreat from the Balkans, are on the verge of extinction.

The case is not different in the east of Europe. Eastem-European Karays
and Tatars have succeeded in preserving their cultures and languages until
today, but these varieties are about to lose their last speakers. According to
the classification of UNESCO’s
Intangible Cultural Heritage Endangered
Languages Programme,
Karay is at the most critical group in terms of
extinction, since it is hardly or never transmitted through generations, the
number of its speakers has been decreasing, and since it is claimed that
there will be no speakers of this language in an estimated course of time.
The next stage for Karay is the status of ‘extinct language.’

Kipchak varieties in the Balkans and Eastern Europe are a part of
the cultural wealth of the area as it is emphasized by the motto, ‘unity in
diversity’ of the European Union’s cultural policies that focus on linguistic,
religious, and ethnic diversities.

Therefore, it is necessary that Turkic varieties in the Balkans and
Eastern Europe should be evaluated in terms of the policies of international
organizations such as UNESCO or the EU and non-governmental
organizations concerning the protection of the intangible cultural heritage
in the world; and it is also required that projects on Turkic varieties be
made, including documentation activities in order to preserve their cultural

Kipchak varieties in the east of Europe, surviving throughout centuries
and reaching today, still continue their struggle to survive at the thin line
between existence and extinction as a symbol of the mentioned countries’
tolerance, and as a historical reflection of their ideals of multilingualism
and multiculturalism with the supports of voluntary and international

Turkic-speaking Muslims, Christians, Jews, or Jewish-Karays, living
together in the east and southern-east of Europe, combine their religions,
languages, and cultures with the richness of their diversity, and they unite
them in the same single pot.


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Electronic Sources





This study is limited to Kipchak varieties in the Balkans and Eastern Europe
(old Armeno-Kipchak and modem Karay, Krimchak, Urum, Crimean Tatar, and Kazan
Tatar varieties), and it does not include Kipchak written languages, used in the Russian
Federation, (Bashkir, Karachay-Balkar, Kumyk, Noghay and Kazan Tatar) and spoken


‘At present the Turkic languages stretch along a latitudinal strip lying roughly
between 35° latitude N. and the 55° latitude N., from the Baltic to Southern Siberia.’
(MENGES 1995: 10).


Two encyclopaedic dictionaries on the history of Turkic languages, Divanu
(1077), and Codex Cumanicus (1303), the first study on Turkish language
in Latin letters and in Latin (and German) language, enlighten the history of Turkish
language and culture, and they play crucial roles in comprehending linguistic problems as
well as solving them. The fact that one of these works is in Arabic, and the other one is in
Latin emphasizes their attachment to Islamic and Christian cultural circles. The mission of
Codex Cumanicus, which was written by German and Italian ecclesiastics, was to spread
Christianity; thus, this work also constitutes an important part of European religious
and cultural history (See
Divanu Liigdti’t-Turk in ATALAY 1985-1986, DANKOFF &
KELLY 1982-1984;
Codex Cumanicus in DRJMBA2000; GRONBECH 1936).

UNESCO emphasized the importance and mission of Divanu Lugati’t-Turk by
declaring the year of 2008 as the thousandth anniversary of the birth of the author of the
work. Similarly, it is necessary to focus on books that combine languages and civilizations
such as
Codex Cumanicus in institutional and international levels.


Among the dictionaries and grammar books, written in Egypt-Mamluk zone, Et-
tuhfetii ’z-zekiyye fi ’l-liigati 't-Türkiyye
is the work that reflects Kipchak features most (See
ATALAY 1945).


There are various numbers given in different sources concerning the number of
Karay-speaking people. For example, according to Kocaoğlu, the term,
Karaim, which
does not emphasize language or ethnic origin, includes other ethnic groups, speaking
different languages. Thus, there are 20,000 Karaims in Israel while there are 5,000 Karaims
in Egypt. Karay, a Turkic language, is spoken by 230 people in Lithuania, by 50 in Poland,
by 1,200 in Ukraine-Crimea, by 680 in Russia, and by 50 in Turkey (Istanbul) (2006: 2).
According to
Euromosaic III, the number of Karays in Poland is 150 (2004: 276).


The etnonym of Rum in Turkish is used to refer to Greek-speaking Orthodox
communities, who are the remnants of the Byzantium and who used to coexist with the
Muslims. It is typical of Turkish to insert a sound in front of any word, the first letter
of which is -r, and this is called epenthesis.
Rum is thus changed into Urum according
to the rule. Therefore, the etnonym of
Urum, combining the Turkish sound system with
Orthodox faith, is an interesting synthesis.


Some Tatar merchants, coming from Russia to Finland, which was still a part of
Russia at that time, towards the end of the 19'h century for trade, settled down in the country
and established
the Fimo-Tatar Islamic Society although their number was quite limited.
Finnish Tatars can be considered as natives. The Tatar community, which is officially
recognized by Finland, and the people of which do not have any adaptation problems
in Finnish society, is very enthusiastic about preserving their existence and culture in


During the massive immigrations from Estonia in 1944, a small number of Misher
Tatars migrating from Russia and other Muslim and Turkish Russian citizens settled down
in Sweden.


Extra small languages are generally specified as such (See JOHANSON 2003):

-They are observed in the peripheries.

-They are isolated compared to their relative languages.

-They are vulnerable to strong foreign influences.

-They are less studied, and they are not standardized.

All the Tatar varieties in the mentioned areas reflect these specifications. (See these
specifications for Romanian Tatar in Eker 2006).