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Circassian Minority in Türkiye: Samsun Case

24 September 2023

This resource was produced by MRG’s partner(s) with MRG. It remains the property of the organization(s) in question and does not necessarily reflect the views of MRG.

Although Türkiye’s cultural and linguistic diversity is quite broad and thus rich, there is no updated consensual data on the languages spoken in Türkiye today. The most recent official data was collected in the 1965 population census, according to which 36 languages were spoken in Türkiye. The UNESCO Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger reports that 15 of these languages are endangered today, and three of them are already extinct. Among these endangered languages spoken in Türkiye is Circassian.

It is estimated that about 4 million Circassians live in Türkiye today, which is higher than the population in their motherland. Despite this large population, there is no solid statistical data on the number of Circassian speakers in Türkiye. Ubykh, which belongs to the same language family group as Circassian, already went extinct in Türkiye when the last native speaker of the Ubykh language, Tevfik Esenç, passed away in 1992.

Against this backdrop, this report examines the cultural and linguistic practices and situation of the Circassians living in Samsun, Türkiye. The issue is first addressed in the broader context of Türkiye, providing a short overview of Turkish national law as it relates to the linguistic rights of minorities.

This content was published in the context of the programme ‘Strengthening the capacity of ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities in Türkiye’ (MARC). Learn more >

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Yasemin Oral