The Ethnogenesis Of The Dobrujan Turks

The definition of the genesis, as well as the delimitation of the area where the Turkish people was formed, and from where they spread from Central Asia to the Mediterranean Sea, is still a controversial issue among specialists. Discussions between Turkology scholars usually refer to the initial phase of the formation of the Turkish people, and to their filiation with other people such as the Huns, the Avars, etc. Our task is somewhat eased by the fact that the formation of the Dobrujan Turks doesn't belong to the initial period, mentioned above, which took place in Central Asia, but to the next phase and on the exact territory they live today. The Turkish-origin population in Dobruja is a descendant of both of the ethnic groups from the northern Pontic steppes and of the Oguzi groups arrived from the southern, Balkan region. The aforementioned historical sources reveal the fact that the Petchenegs, the Uzi, the Cumans, the Tatars as well as the Oguzi groups have a common area of formation (Central Asia) and that they belong to the same great community of Turkish peoples. As it has already been mentioned, in the 8th century, the Petchenegs occupied the regions around Issyk and Balkash lakes in Central Asia, and they made up the eastern branch of the old Turks, being the 19th tribe of the Oguzi confederation tribes. The Uzi, the second ethnic group that made up the Dobrujan Turks, represented the western branch of the Turkish Oguzi population. The Cumans represent the third group that made up the Dobrujan Turks. Their ethnic origin still constitutes an unsolved problem for scientists. Some specialists proposed the hypothesis of the Indo-European origin of the Cumans. Nevertheless there is a consensus regarding the fact that the Cuman tribes were later assimilated by the Turkish peoples. Thus, Asia represented a giant "melting pot" where the "great ethnic revolutions" took place. The next step of the ethnic synthesis of the Dobrujan Turks took place during the 11th and 15th centuries. The Turkish populations which settled themselves in this region in different time periods shared the same geographical space, which compared to their initial hearth was a lot smaller. We have to mention the fact that those Turkish tribes didn't only settle in Dobruja, but in the entire Balkan area, which was later dominated by the Ottoman Turks. Some of these tribes even crossed into Asia Minor. Having a common language and sharing the same traditions, customs, beliefs and religion, the homogenization process through the deletion of some irrelevant tribal and regional differences, happened very quickly. Thus a new synthesis of the Turkish element was born in Dobruja, gathering all the characteristics of each ethnic branch. After the instauration of the Ottoman administration in Dobruja, a large population of Oguzi Turks, from the Balkans and Anatolia, settled in this province. A new ethnic synthesis occurred in this period. The ethnogenesis process of the Dobrujan Turks had both complex, and heterogeneous characteristics at the same time. The synthesis of the Turkish element was staggered over different periods of time, each interval being made up of a number of phases, each interval being characterized by a number of specific features. The Turkish historian Osama Turan, referring to this process, claims that the Turks are different among themselves, "having dark hair in the south, blond hair in the north, Mongoloid in the east and Indo-European in the west". In Dobruja we can identify the dark and the blond types as well as the Indo-European type. We find it very interesting to observe the fact that even today the blond-redheaded type is still found among the Turks in Dobruja. The Dobrujan Turks, which are the descendants of the great family of Turkish peoples, have blended with other people who have been living in this area for a very long time. We refer to the Albanese people, the Greek, the Slavic populations and so on. The mixture, to which we refer, occurred through the conversion to Islam of the previous populations. Evliya Çelebi mentions in his notes that a Turkish population called the "Citaci" is the result of the marriages between the Turks and the Wallachians. Speaking about the ethnogenesis of the Dobrujan Turks, it is useful to notice the fact that this population preserves in its collective memory, and passes on from generation to generation, not only the names of the great Turkish population and the ethnic branches from where they descend, but also the names of the sub-branches. We also have to note that the ethnic synthesis process, which happened through centuries on the territory of today's Dobruja, is characterized by the continuity of the national features of the Turkish peoples. We refer first of all to the language, traditions and customs. As we are going to see, the Dobrujan Turks have preserved their traditions and customs until today, even some elements from the pre-Osman period.  Birth – customs and traditions of the Dobrujan Turks Customs before birth In the first day when the bride came into the house of the groom, a child unveiled the bride's face with a rolling pin. These gestures expressed the wish that the bride should have children. In the wedding room, the bride and groom prayed to Allah, during the Moslem prayer, to bestow them with a son. It was believed that these prayers would be accepted and fulfilled. These days, as it was in the past, the couple goes to a mausoleum where they light candles and give money as an offering and pray for children. It is believed that the woman makes a wish when offering the respective money, ant that the wish is accepted by Allah exactly in that moment. For example, at Koyun Baba's grave in Babadag, people tie white ribbons in the trees surrounding the grave. In order to light candles at mausoleums, special places were arranged behind the grave stones. After the 1960's, in Romania, and also in Dobruja, mandatory schooling was introduced up to the 8th grade, where they taught hygiene and health knowledge. That is why the new generations stopped practicing the old customs and beliefs, and young women who wanted to have children replaced the old practices with science. The old customs continued to be practiced only by the older generations.  Preparation for birth Before 1950, a baby's clothes were prepared by the future mother in secret and they weren't shown to anyone. If someone should find out about these preparations, the whole thing was considered a shame. After 1950, the future mother prepared clothes and other things necessary to the newborn, together with her own mother and some other female relatives. If the birth happened in a hospital, the future mother made the necessary preparations for the baby. If the birth took place at home, a midwife from the hospital or the village midwife was called. The midwife was usually an older, very experienced woman.  Establishing the gender of the future baby If the belly of the baby's mother is toward the right, it is considered that the baby will be a girl. Salt is placed on the woman's head. Then, it is carefully observed what part of her body the woman touches first. If the woman first touches her mouth, it is believed that the newborn will be a girl. If she touches another part of her body, the baby is believed to be a boy. These beliefs exist both in the Turkish and the Romanian traditions. Various comments upon the unborn baby's gender are made taking into consideration the aspect of the woman's body during her pregnancy. That is why a great deal of attention is paid to the fact that certain parts of the woman's body become more beautiful, or on the contrary they become uglier. Also the color of the pregnant woman's nipples is important. The birth In case the birth takes place at home, the woman lies on the bed, on a mattress and gives birth, or the woman is seated and a washbasin placed under her. During birth, next to the chosen midwife, are also the bride's sisters-in-law who also assist her at childbirth. When the pregnant woman couldn't give birth or the baby was dead, the midwife tried to take the baby out of its mother's womb. After the baby was born its umbilical cord was cut close to its abdomen. After this, herbs were placed near the wound and the belly button was tied with a strip of white cloth while prayers were chanted. The bath before 40 days The newborn baby is washed daily with eggs and in the following days with a chamomile infusion. The newborn is also bathed with salted water every two days. The salt is used to prevent the baby's skin from getting dirty or irritated. It is believed that in this way the baby's skin will be more resistant to diseases. In fact this is the first measure that ensures the baby's health after birth. The baby is bathed daily until it is 40 days old.  The bath after 40 days (kırklama yada kırk döküldü) In their 40th day since birth, the baby and the mother bathe according to special customs. After 40 days since giving birth, women break 40 eggs for the respective ceremony and put the egg shells in holy water. Water from 40 spoons can also be used, mixed with the water which the woman uses for her Moslem ritual washing. Afterwards, the water for the baby's bath is prepared following the same procedure. While the mother washes herself, the water from the 40 blessed egg shells is poured on her head by an older woman. Gold objects and money are thrown into the water in which the baby is washed. This represents a wish for luck and richness. The baby's bath is accompanied by prayers. Water from 40 egg shells is blessed, and then two relatives of the mother pour the water onto her head. Thus it is considered that the new mother has carried out the 40 days ceremonies. After the mother's bath, the baby's bath takes place, following the same rules. After the ceremony, the people who have performed the bath are paid for their services, usually the Moslem midwife and other older women who know how to bless the water according to Islamic rules. These women are given money or gifts such as head scarves and handkerchiefs. Also after the ceremony, the relatives and the neighbors present are invited to eat. After the bath the mother wears new clothes. It is considered that after the bath in the 40th day since birth, both the mother and the baby will be protected from the devil and other evil spirits.  Naming the baby The Romanian author Popescu Ciocanel described the traditions of the Turks in Dobruja in 1906. Among the enumerated ceremonies was also that of the naming of the baby. He described how the baby's father first washed his face and hands up to his elbows, then said a prayer, spat some water from his mouth over the baby's ear, and whispered some word. Then he said out loud the name of the baby, and told his wife the name which their baby would have from then on. Another source indicates the fact that in the 40th day since birth the baby is named during a ceremony to which the mullah is invited. The lad who was the best man at the baby's parents' wedding must participate in the ceremony, having a very important task. Family and close relatives come to witness the naming ceremony. The best man buys for the baby all the things required by tradition. The best man suggests a name for the baby, but the final decision is left for the baby's older relatives. In the end the name is chosen either by the baby's grandmother or his grandfather. The mullah speaks the Moslem calling to prayers (ezan) in each of the baby's ears, and then he whispers to the baby his new name three times. Bibliography: Mehmet Naci Önal, From the Folklore of the Dobrujan Turks Mehmet Ali Ekrem, From the History of Dobrujan Turks

by Ervin Ibraim