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Turkey

Bożena Siekierska

 
Basic information

People and their culture

National holidays and customs

Everyday life

Cuisine

Associations with Poland

Integration in Poland – successes and difficulties

 

Basic Information

Kapadocja mTurkey is a country spread on two continents (its main part lies in Asia and only 3% of its area in Europe), connected with bridges spread over the Bosphorus strait in Istanbul. This country is extremely diverse in terms of geography, culture, history reaching far back. Turkey is an extremely diverse country, area approx. 780,000 km2. It stretches across more than 2,000 km (the distance from Edirne - former Adrianople - in the north-west of Turkey to Hakkari - in the south-east). The shape of Turkey is slightly similar to a rectangle and it has seas on three sides: the Black Sea to the north, the Sea of Marmara with the Bosphorus strait (towards the Black Sea) and the Dardanelles (towards the Aegean Sea) separates Europe from Asia in the north-west, the Aegean Sea to the west and the Mediterranean Sea to the south. In the east and south, Turkey has the following neighbors on land: (looking from the north) Georgia, Armenia, Iran, Iraq and Syria.  The Turkish landscapes are amazing: mountains entering the sea or the rock formations of Cappadocia shaped by erosion. Mountain peaks are to be found by the Black Sea, the Aegean Sea and the Mediterranean Sea. One of the peaks in Antalya is as high as 2,365 meters above sea level. People say that you may ski and bathe in the sea on the same day in one region in Turkey. While the coasts of the Mediterranean Sea are scorched with sun in the summer, the Pontic Mountains by the Black Sea attract with their green and cool areas.


People and their culture


The population of Turkey is more than 76 million people, Istanbul itself has approx. 14 million inhabitants. Turkey is inhabited by: The Kurds (9-17 million - such discrepancy results from the approach to the Kurdish issue and the assumptions accepted in the research), the Arabs (approx. 8 million, in towns neighboring Syria they constitute even more than 40% of the population), the Georgians (approx. 1 million in the eastern part of the coast of the Black Sea), the Romany population (more than 400,000, the vast majority of them lives in Thrace and the area around the coasts of the Sea of Marmara),  the Armenians (in Istanbul and in the east of the country approx. 100,000, they live under great pressure from the Islamic majority), the Jews (approx. 20,000), the Greek (an exchange of Greek and Turkish populations took place under the Treaty of Lausanne in the years 1923-24: 1.2 million Greeks were forced to leave the region of the Aegean Sea and the Black Sea as well as Thrace, while 500,000 Turks left Greece; only a handful of old Greeks currently lives in Turkey, no more than 4,000). Language Users of the Altay language group, from which the contemporary Turkish language stems, speak languages of a similar (basic) vocabulary, a structure based on the suffix principle and a specific vowel harmony. The Turkic subfamily, apart from Turkish includes, among others, language Azerbaijani, Turkmen, Uzbek, Tatar, Kazakh, Tuvan, Altay and Kyrgyz. The Kurds speak languages from the group of Iranian languages, in Turkey - the Northern Kurdish dialect (Kurmanji Kurdish). The second dialect - Sorani Kurdish - is used by the Kurds living in Iran, Iraq and Syria.  The tradition of history passed down in oral form is still alive in Turkey. The ashiq (Turkish aşık) is a saz poet because he not only interprets the transferred stories but also creates himself and improvises and often plays the saz (a traditional 7-stringed instrument). The Aşıklık minstrelsy tradition was entered on the list of the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2009.


 National holidays and customs


Islam is the dominant religion in Turkey. The majority of the society are the followers of Islam in the Sunni (orthodox) form but approx. 6-8% of the population are Alevi (although data quoted by the Alevi themselves state 20 million).  Fasting in a Muslim country lasts a full one month - 29 or 30 days in the ninth month of the Muslim moon calendar, ramadan (Turkish ramazan). Every year the ramazan month, and thus the fasting, moves forward by eleven days. Fasting means that a healthy adult does not drink, eat, smoke anything and refrains from sexual intercourse from dawn till dusk. In the summer, not having a glass of cool water from a clay jug is very difficult. In practice, pass through the streets of Turkish towns groups of men before sunrise and drum drums to wake people for breakfast which should be completed before the dawn. In the evening, increased traffic and queues are observed in front of bakeries. A 3-day holiday Bayram, also called Şeker Bayram, is held after the end of the fasting period. In Turkey, this holiday means three days free from work which is an excellent occasion for family meetings. The entire country is "on the move". It is impossible to buy tickets for buses, trains at the last moment. Holiday visits between members of families living far from one another need to be planned with great advance. Huge traffic jams form at the entrances to big cities, buses are delayed by hours. It is slightly more peaceful in rural areas. Making holiday sweets is the most important element of the preparation. The most important celebration of the entire Muslim world is Kurban Bayram, namely the festival of the sacrifice. The Sunni also cal it Hacılar Bayram (Turkish hacı - pilgrim) because it is this holiday when "all religious Muslims" travel to the holy town Mecca to offer their sacrifices there. The interest in taking this pilgrimage is increasing each year in Turkey. There is not enough place for all volunteers and that is why the candidates are selected in drawings. The holiday lasts four days. Just like during Şeker Bayram, people also pay visits to one another in this case. The first thing you do on this occasion is to kiss the palms of respected, older members of the family to express your love and the significance of life's wisdom among the community. The blessing: Bayram kutlu olsun! or Bayram mübarek olsun! may be heard everywhere. Everyone is in a happy, good mood. Sacrificial animals (most often sheep or rams) are usually officially killed already on the first day of the holiday (with a prayer and drawing blood, preferably straight to the ground) to consume a meal with the coming guests. Meat is shared with the poor. In the past, the holidays used to be eagerly expected not only because there were several days free from works and school, but also because holiday festivities had a special character. Currently, nothing is left from the atmosphere of the past years. The ageing of rural areas is one of the effects of teenagers' migrations to cities. During the holidays, young people used to travel or pass through villages singing, playing some makeshift instruments, sounding the horns in vehicles. Dances were held in Alevi villages in the evenings.  Public holidays are treated very seriously in Turkey because pride from being Turkish is common. Flags and banners with the images of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk are posted up during public holidays. The victory day (Zafer Bayram, August 30) is celebrated to commemorate the victory over Greeks supported by the British in 1922. It was joyfully celebrated for the first time as early as in on its first anniversary in Ankara, Afyon and İzmir.  April 23 is the holiday of National Sovereignty and Children's Day (Ulusal Egemenlik ve Çocuk Bayram) commemorating the first opening of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey in 1920.


Everyday life

Family bonds in Turkey are very strong. The elderly are surrounded by special respect and love. Kissing the palm of an elderly person and touching one's forehead with it is a common expression of respect. Children in Turkey are loved, they give great joy and very often they are spoilt. The Turks spontaneously express their delight even with the beauty of strange children. Children are taught respect for the elderly from their earliest days. Turkey has a 4+4+4 education system, children are sent to schools at the age of 6 years of age. It was mandatory to wear uniforms at schools until recently. Small boys from Muslim families, usually not older than 10, undergo circumcision. This a festive period for the family, referred to as a wedding (Turkish sünnet düğünü). Invitations are prepared for guests. After the procedure itself, the boy dressed as a prince, with a fez on his head and with a scepter in his hand, receives gifts, strolls around and then the entire family meets at the table and feasts.  Women expecting children they care of themselves, eat well. Everyone from the family takes care of them and are interested in their health and well-being. A male descendant is very important in Turkey because it keeps the family, the family's name. The daughter usually goes to "others". Nowadays, families most often have two children. Names given to children are either names of their grandparents/great grandparents or names derived from religious tradition. Currently, however, there are more and more names the parents simply like. A small child is exposed to an envious "bad" look and too enthusiastic delight expressed over the child makes his relatives anxious. Therefore, the children's clothes (prams) often bear "the eye of the prophet" (Turkish nazar boncuğu). It is a type of talisman reflecting the bad charm, negative energy, envious thought from malevolent people. At the same time, it is one of the souvenirs most often brought from Turkey but, which is important, it should be offered to someone. "The eye of the prophet" is often placed on a newly erected house, in a bus or in a share taxi (dolmuş - a common means of transport, a small bus the driver of which has a specific route, without strictly defined stops), framed in silver as a pendant for chains or as a supplement to gold coins willingly offered to newlyweds. The marriage and the wedding reception is a moment when the members of two families meet. Large festivities are less frequently organized in cities. The tradition in rural areas is still alive, on the other hand. Only marriages in the civil registrar are officially recognized in Turkey. The side of the groom should provide a house for the new family, while the side of the bride - most of the equipment and whatever will be used for decoration (mostly tablecloths, napkins, bedlinen, bedspreads, towels and handkerchiefs finished with crotchet needles). The tradition of asking for the hand (Turkish kız isteme) and engagement is still alive, after which the young start to wear thin rings. As opposed to marriage which is very loosely related to religion in Turkey (according to research, the percentage of marriages in the presence of an imam is dropping, only approx. 15%), death is a moment when people turn to Allah and visit the mosque. There are special places in front of mosques prepared for coffins over which prayers are said. The body of the deceased person is washed in a symbolic ritual washing. If the deceased person expressed his will regarding clothes, it is followed and the body prepared in this way is placed in the coffin. The funeral in Turkey should take place on the day of the death or on the next day. Expressing condolences starts immediately after the funeral, at the cemetery. Women experience death very emotionally, they cry and wail. Men are more restrained. The strict period of mourning is forty days. During that time, the family meets several times at a common table.  Everyone, whether a household member or a guest, takes off his shoes in the hall of a Turkish house and puts on slippers or stays in his socks. Even before entering a shepherd's tent in the mountains, you should take off your shoes. In many places, you may encounter the habit of refreshing one's hands (and the face) by pouring cologne over them (Turkish kolonya), usually with the lemon aroma. After leaving a public toilet, paying the bill in a restaurant, in a long-distance coach (less and less frequently) the service personnel generously pours cologne over the customers' hands. Passengers in coaches traveling through Turkey receive disposable handkerchiefs moistened with cologne. The smell of fresh lemon is often sensed also at homes after solid meals.


Cuisine

Tea is an inseparable element of almost every space in Turkey (Turkish çay). Tea is grown on a mass scale in the eastern part of the coast of the Black Sea. Rize, the capital city of the Rize Province, is the home of tea in Turkey. It has both state and private plantations (owned by approx. 200,000 families) and tea drying plants. The Turks are proud of their environmentally friendly tea growing methods, they consider their product the healthiest and the most natural one. This country produces more than 200.000 tons of tea of which only 1.5 % is spent on export. The annual consumption of tea in Turkey amounts even to 3 kg per capita. Brewing black tea is an art - a multi-level kettle is used for this purpose, water boils over the fire at the bottom, while the essence boils in the top kettle. Tea prepared in such way quenches thirst almost everywhere: at the railway station, at the bazaar, at the office, at the university, in a store with souvenirs for tourists, in the street and, obviously, in each Turkish home. It is men who almost exclusively professionally deal with brewing tea. Tea is served in small cups resembling the bell of a tulip. Sugar is an inseparable ingredient of tea - almost nobody drinks bitter tea in Turkey. Sugar is not mixed silently - the teaspoon usually hits the thin glass walls of a small cup. Herbal teas are served as a variety (Turkish ada çay), brewed directly in the cup from many species of mountain herbs. Bread occupies a prominent place in the Turkish cuisine. Bread, similar to the Polish bułka wrocławska, dominates during breakfasts and dinners but it is also served with soups or hot lunch meals. Flatbreads are baked in rural areas (Turkish yufka) or thicker yeast cakes (Turkish pide or bazlama). Until recently, older people in rural areas prepared disposable "teaspoons" from part of the yufka and they consumed meals in this way, rarely using cutlery. The entire family traditionally consumed meals sitting on the floor at a round low table (Turkish sofra) covered with a tablecloth. Bread is very respected and breadcrumbs are carefully collected. Wasting bread, throwing it out, is commonly perceived as a sin.


Associations with Poland

The year 1414 is considered the moment of establishing diplomatic relations between Poland and Turkey. It was the time when king Władysław Jagiełło sent the first envoys (Skarbek z Góry and Grzegorz Ormianin) to the Ottoman sultan to Bursa. The first preserved written document is the letter from Mehmed the Conqueror, sent two years after conquering Istanbul, in 1455, to the Wallachia governor. The Ottoman empire expanded its boundaries very efficiently in the 15th century to enter in direct border contact with the Polish-Lithuanian Jagiellonian state. Both countries in the 16th century sought a similar purpose: stopping the expansion of the Habsburg house. Contacts were further tightened due to the exchange of envoys. King Jan III Sobieski's the Battle of Vienna (1683) became a scratch on the positive image of relations between these two countries. The friendly Polish-Turkish relations during the partitions of Poland were based to a large extent on the sense of solidarity against joint enemies. In the middle of the 19th century, especially after the fall of the Hungarian Revolution of 1848, Istanbul became a refuge for many Poles who centered around duke Adam Jerzy Czartoryski. The Main Agency of the Eastern Mission of Hotel Lambert, established on his initiative, had the signs of diplomatic representation. Due to his efforts, Polish emigrants (deserters from the Tsar's troops, to a large extent) managed to establish Adampol, a Polish settlement, near the banks of the Bosphorus in 1842 (Turkish Polonezköy, literally Polish village). Until this day, their descendants live there, still trying to cultivate the Polish culture, tradition and language. Probably the best known Turk related to Poland was Nazım Hikmet Ran (born in 1901 in Thessaloniki, died in 1963 in Moscow), a poet, a playwright sympathizing with communism. His mother was the granddaughter of Konstanty Borzęcki. He was a participant of the Poznań Uprising in 1848 and the Hungarian Revolution in 1849. He emigrated to Turkey with general Bem, converted to Islam and became Mustafa Celaleddin Paşa and contributed a lot to the strategy of Turkish wars from 1852, promoted to general, the author of the book "Les Turcs anciens et modernes". Hikmet was many times tried for his communist activities, arrested several times, escaped from Turkey after one amnesty, deprived of the Turkish citizenship (it was restored to him posthumously in 2009), adopted the Polish citizenship but lived in Moscow. Many of his poems were translated into Polish. According to data from the Office for Foreigners, the number of migrants from Asian countries, including Turkey, is growing in Poland. 2,500 Turks had valid residence cards at the end of 2012 (in 2008 - the number was 1,400). Migrations of the Turks began in the 1960s Upon signing agreements for sending workers for seasonal works. The vast majority of employees came from small towns or from rural areas.  The next wave of migration, from the 1980s , was related to the social-political situation in Turkey, namely the military coup and the increasing Kurdish conflict. Migrants who then came to our country were almost exclusively engaged in business activities: they traded in textiles, gastronomy and tourism. They have been living in Poland for many years, most of them married Polish women, which often was the most important reason why they stayed away from their homeland. Generally, they are a relatively wealthy and well developed group. Entrepreneurs from the tourist, gastronomic, textile and building industries started to come after the political transformation in Poland. The textile trade is still strongly represented in Wólka Kosowska, while building workers (both highly-qualified engineers as well as workers) stayed and are staying in Poland in connection with Turkish investments (e.g. Millennium Plaza, Blue City, the construction of the 2nd line of the Warsaw subway).  Numerous bilateral legal acts were signed in connection with the inflow of Turks to Poland at the beginning of the 1990s. The acts included legal assistance in criminal, civil and commercial proceedings, extradition, mutual support and protection of investments, cooperation regarding education, the school system and culture, cooperation in counteracting terrorism and crime. A new wave of migration from Turkey arrived after Poland's accession to the EU (a large wave of the migration of Polish citizens to EU states) - mostly entrepreneurs establishing companies in the hotel, gastronomic and industrial sectors. The youngest group representing the migration of Turks to Poland are students coming to our country (to Warsaw and other larger cities) as part of the Erasmus program.


Integration in Poland – successes and difficulties

The Society of Turkish Entrepreneurs in Poland POTIAD is dynamically operating in Warsaw. It consists of approx. 130 active members and is in constant contact with approx. 300 companies. After the flood in 2007, the Society supported the repair of School Complex No. 1 in Wrocław. The Vocational Secondary School No. 1 received the name of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk on June 2, 2008 with the participation of the city's authorities, educational authorities and guests from Turkey. Every year, in April, the school organizes meetings with the Turkish culture as part of celebrating its patron's holiday. The Society organizes events assembling the Turks: picnics, holiday meetings and April 23 as the day of Polish-Turkish friendship (National Sovereignty and Children's Day, a state holiday in Turkey established by the founder of the Turkish republic to stress the importance of children as the nation's future) as well as a street festival in Warsaw. In the opinion of the Turks themselves, Poland is a very friendly country for them. They usually point to the historical relations full of mutual respect and sincere friendship. They consider Poles people tolerant towards strangers. They are aware of the fact that the followers of Islam - the Tatars, have been living in the Republic of Poland for centuries.