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Turks

Introduction

Turks, term applied in its wider meaning to the Turkic-speaking peoples of Turkey, Russia, Central Asia, Xinjiang in China (Chinese Turkistan), Azerbaijan and the Caucasus, Iran, and Afghanistan. They total about 125 million, and they are distributed from E Siberia to the Balkans. The wide differences in physical appearance and culture among the Uigurs of China, the Uzbeks of central Asia, and the Osmanlis of Turkey (to cite random instances) make it impossible to speak of Turks as an ethnic or racial group. Although Islam is the religion of the majority of Turks, its importance came relatively late. The most significant unifying link among the Turks is the very close relation of their languages, which are marked by great regularity of pattern and clarity of structure. It is probable that many peoples who were unrelated to the original Turks adopted either wholly or in part their speech and their social organization. The Avars were probably Turkic; they and the Magyars certainly had adopted the Turkic tribal organization when they appeared in Europe, and many Magyar words are of Turkic origin.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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