Today’s Turks are descended from nomadic pastoralist Turkic tribal groups that originated in Siberia, China and Central Asia, went on to conquer the Anatolian landmass, and have subsequently intermarried on a large scale with the region’s already extremely heterogeneous population. Although historical records can trace them as a readily identifiable people as far back as the sixth century BC, only during the sixth century AD were they first recorded (by the Chinese) as “Tu-keh” or, to the west, Turks.

From around 1000 AD onwards, the Turks gradually migrated southwards and westwards. By the time they reached Anatolia, which would eventually become the heartland of the mighty Ottoman Turkish empire, most had converted to Islam. Turks still maintain ethnic, linguistic and cultural links with Turkic peoples in Central Asia, the Caucasus, northwest Iran, northern Iraq, southern Russia, and Xinjiang in western China.

Turkish, the official language of the modern Republic of Turkey, is neither Indo-European nor Semitic in origin, but Altaic, a language group that includes Japanese, Korean and Mongolian as well as the Turkic languages. Turkish Turks can still communicate with their ethnic and linguistic cousins in places like Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, even if centuries of isolation from them, and the language reforms instituted by Atatürk in the early years of the Turkish Republic, make the task difficult. Nonetheless, Turks today still feel an affinity with their Turkic kin, and the Turkish government is the first to kick up a fuss at, for example, Chinese mistreatment of its Uigur Turkish minority.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

Turkey features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

The film that will inspire your next trip to Turkey

The film that will inspire your next trip to Turkey

The allure of Istanbul is hard to beat. This thrilling city bridges two continents with a history spanning more than 2000 years. And with Istanbul’s Atatürk …

05 Aug 2015 • Eleanor Aldridge videocam Video
Video: why Cappadocia is best seen from above

Video: why Cappadocia is best seen from above

The ethereal landscape of Cappadocia is one of Turkey's top attractions, and the fields of naturally-hewn "fairy chimneys" and mysterious rock caves here hav…

03 Jun 2015 • Eleanor Aldridge videocam Video
5 street foods you need to try in Istanbul

5 street foods you need to try in Istanbul

One of the most enjoyable ways of tasting the best Istanbul has to offer is to work your way around the city snacking on the incredible street food, s…

28 May 2015 • Rough Guides Editors insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month