DANCES OF KARACHAY PEOPLE LIVING IN TURKEY
Today in Turkey many different nationalities from many different continents such as Africa, America, Europe, Caucasian, Transcaucasia, Asia as well as Asia-minor live in peace side by side. Although some of these nationalities such as Americans, Russians, Europeans, Africans, Arabs and some others have moved to Turkey in the recent decades on their own pleasure, some of the others had to migrate. For example, many of the Caucasian tribes fro m Northern part of Caucasus Mountains as well as Trans-Caucasian peoples such as Azerbaijanis and Georgians were forced by Russians to migrate to the Ottoman land which created extra problems besides the economic and political difficulties that Ottomans had. “During its weakest economic and political era, Ottoman Empire had confronted by a great migration of Muslim and Turkish speaking people from Caucasus, Krimea and the Balkans who brought their tangible and intangible cultural assets with them. Thus, every ethnic group with their language, religion and traditions had started a new life in the Ottoman land.” Stated a colleague of mine at another symposium regarding the difficult times that Ottomans had in time. 1
Most of these Caucasian tribes were moving in mass populations: in 1861 Daghestanians, between 1863 – 1864 Adiges, Abhazaians, all of the Ubıh tribe, many of Abzeh, Shapsıg, Natuhay, Jane, Temirgoys and almost half of Besleneys migrated to the Ottoman land. While most of Kabardinians were not affected by this migration and chose to stay in Caucasia, some migrated. The other big wave of migration from Caucasia started around 1877 and 1878, and continued until after the war between Ottomans and Russia. During this era most of Karachay-Malkars who lived on the skirts of famous Elbrus Mountain migrated. 2
As a result, between 18th and 19th century more than 600 thousand people migrated to Ottoman land which is the modern Turkey now. Due to this big migration many tribes of Caucasian as well as Trans-Caucasian people live in Turkey. There fore, today Turkey contains a broad mixture of Caucasian as well as Trans-Caucasian traditions within its culture.
The Roots and Cultural Background of Karachay People:
Karachays share the same cultural values with the other Caucasian tribes because they have been living in the Northern Caucasia for centuries. How ever, most historians, especially the French, German and Russian historians who conducted a research in Caucasus around 17th and 18th century relate the origin of Karachay people to Middle-Eastern and European civilizations there fore call them non-Caucasians living in Caucasia. The fallowing quotation from Barbaros Ünlü some what supports this claim: “The most detailed information about the roots of Karachays is revealed by the Karachay historian Umar Aliyev. According to him the roots of Karachays originate from Middle Eastern and European civilizations such as Iskit, Sarmat and Alan, and also from Central Asian Turkish communities such as the Huns, Hazars, Kıpchaks and Bulgars. Many words from the Alan language were found during the research conducted on the Karachay language and also on the archeological findings in the region. Hence, it is concluded that Karachay culture originates from the Alan civilization.” 3
Another research about the origin of Karachay people also relates them to the Turkic speaking civilizations and accepts them as non-caucasians. Aydın O. Erkan, a prominent researcher states in his book Tarih Boyunca Kafkasya (Caucasian Through out the History) that the famous French archaeolog and an anthropolog Ernest Chantre shows Karachays as non-Caucasians in the 5th volume of his five volume work that is the result of his great excavation project in Caucasia. 4
Although Karachays have the European and Middle-Eastern origin according to the historians and for the fact that they speak a different dialect of Turkish which belongs to the Kipchak branch of Turkish language, culturally, they resemble more Caucasian than Turkish, because of their long settlements in the Northern Caucasia. Following quotation supports this long settlement: “Before Diaspora, Karachays were living at the hard and sloppy valleys of the highest peaks over the Caucasians, known as Elbrus Mountain. They migrated because of the wars and social unrests confronted in their region. 5
Today, in the Russian Federation within the Republic of Northern Caucasian Regions, some Karachays reside in Karachay-Circassian Region that includes the sub-regions of Teberda, Duut, Cazlık, Uckulan, Kart-Curt, Hurzuk, Uckoken, Cogetey and some reside in Cegem, Holam, Baksan and Bizingi of Balkar Region.
Karachays were the only Turkish speaking Muslim Caucasians who migrated to Turkey in great numbers. About 15 thousand Karachay-Balkars migrated in two different times and in two different waves. The first and relatively a small group moved to Ottoman land in1885; the big wave fallowed this in 1904. During the first wave they came to Anatolia via Georgia together with their Caucasian neighbor Kabardeys and settled down around Eskişehir (Yazılıkaya), Kayseri (Pınarbaşı and Eğrisöğüt), Tokat and Sivas. The second wave came to Istanbul and Izmit first from Sohumi Port in Abhazia and then they separated in to different settlements around Ankara (Yağlıpınar), Eskisehir (Yakapınar), Afyon (Kilise), Akhisar (Doğlat) and Konya (Bashoyuk). All of these settlements were arranged and conducted by the Ottoman Empire with the help of Ottoman missionaries (Efendiler). How ever, Karachays did not only move to Anatolia. Some of them moved to Syria and the others selected New Jersey, USA as their new residential area after the World War II. 6
Dances Tradition of Karachay People and Their Variations in Turkey:
Until the mid-18th century Karachays had multi-god beliefe system. Around this period they met with Muslim religion and by the end of the century (1782) they fully accepted this religion and the whole society became Muslim.
In the preislamic period, dance had an important place in Karachay society. They had traditions relating their old believe system which valued dancing as an important societal phenomenon. They danced for every event that carried an important meaning in the Karachay society. A wedding ceremony was celebrated with certain dances such as “Tuz Tepseu”, “Togerek Tepseu”, “Aslanbiy”, “Marako” and “Sandirak”. They danced “Apsati”, “Biynoger”, “Kiyikle” to get power before going to a war or hunting. For more rain, a better product and a successful harvest season, they danced “Gollu”, “Dolay”, “Iynay”, “Indırbay”. There were also other dances that they did to socialize with each other and entertain themselves.
Several different field researches have been done regarding Karachay dances that were performed in the past. Most of these researches were conducted around 18th and 19th centuries. They described characteristic features of the dances, their function in the society and the reason they were performed for. Muhtar Chukaevich Kudayev who completed “Karachaevo–Balkarskie Narodnie Tantsı” in 1984 gives a wide range of place to these field researches. There, N. F. Grabovskiy, talks about a gathering in Balkarya were about 20 young men and women dance arm to arm around a bon-fire moving to right direction in half circle; and the leader is replaced by the fallowing couple every time they come to a certain point indicated by the accompanying music. N. P. Tulchinskiy gives information about a dance “Togerek Tepseu” that belongs to preislamic time period. This dance was performed by a young couple alone who supposed to have an eye on each other. İ. Ivanikov and M. Kovalevskiy talk about a dance called “Coppa” that was performed to please the god of sky (cosmos) who gets angry and kills a man or an animal by his lightning. F. A. Orusbiyeva also talks about “Coppa” being performed rhythmically as a worship dance in circular formation. Susoyev in his research gives information about a very popular dance called “Abezek” which is still being performed today. R. Ortabayeva talks about a dance called “Kiyikle” that is performed by the rock called “Apsatı”. This dance is about hunting. When a young man is going hunting first time, a group of experienced hunters first perform a ritual by this rock and tell stories about hunting to prepare the young man for his first hunting experience. According to K. Azamatov Balkars had a rain ritual dance called “Suu Anası” that was performed to worship for more rain. Also, Klaphroth talks about another popular dance “Aslanbiy” that no gathering will end without performing it. 7
As it was stated above, Karachays have been living in the Caucasus for centuries. For this reason, their cultural values and traditions including their dancing is almost exactly the same as the other Caucasian neighbors such as Adiges, Kabardeys, Abhazians or Circassians. As a matter of fact, sharing the same geography, same life style and many traditions, all of the other Caucasian tribes also show very close cultural similarity. Therefore, it is not surprising that their traditional folk dancing is almost exactly the same. Thus, it is normal to see the same dances being preformed by different Caucasian tribes under a different name. For example, a dance that is popular among the men through out Caucasia is named “Islamey” by Adiges, “Zilga Kaft” by Asetinians, “Lezginka” by Daghestanians and Chechenias, “Koshemek” by Nogays, “Togerek Tepseu” and “Aslanbiy” by Karachay-Balkars. Apart from slight differences of regional characteristics, the way of performing this popular dance is the same for all the Caucasian tribes.
1. KOÇKAR, M. Tekin.“Teknolojik Gelişmelerin Halk Kültüründeki Değişime Etkisi: Ertuğrul Köyü Örneği” Kültür ve Turizm Bakanlığı-Kocaeli Üniversitesi-Motif Halk Oyunları Öğretim ve Eğitim Vakfı, Halk Kültüründe Değişim Uluslararası Sempozyumu Bildirileri, Kocaeli, 17-19 Aralık, 2004, ss.326-327
2. KOÇKAR, M. Tekin. a.g.e., ss.326-327
3. ÜNLÜ, Ömer Barbaros. Abezek: A “Choreographic Poem”, Unpublished Presentation Project, ICTM Symposium, Italy, 2001. s.1
4. ERKAN, Aydın Osman. “Tarih Boyunca Kafkasya”, Çiviyazıları, İstanbul, 1999, s. 82.
5. ÜNLÜ, Ömer Barbaros. “Abezek” a “Choreographic Poem”, Unpublished Presentation Project, ICTM, Italy, 2001. s.1
6. KOÇKAR, M. Tekin. “Teknolojik Gelişmelerin Halk Kültüründeki Değişime Etkisi: Ertuğrul Köyü Örneği” Kültür ve Turizm Bakanlığı-Kocaeli Üniversitesi-Motif Halk Oyunları Öğretim ve Eğitim Vakfı, Halk Kültüründe Değişim Uluslararası Sempozyumu Bildirileri, Kocaeli, 17-19 Aralık, 2004, ss.326-327
7. KUDAYEV, Muhtar Chukaevich. “Karachaevo–Balkarskie Narodnie Tantsı”, Izdateltsvo “Elbrus”, Nalchik, 1984, pp. 4–11.