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The family (aile ) is the basic structure of Anatolian village life. The word lacks a single specific meaning in peasant usage, referring instead to the conceptual group of coresidents, whether in a household, lineage, village, or nomadic band. The unit functions as the primary element in any concerted group action. The two most frequent referents of the concept are household and village community; every sedentary (i.e., nonnomadic) villager in the Anatolian countryside belongs to at least these two groups. Consequently, household and village are what the Anatolian Turk means by aile .
The household provides the framework for the most intimate and emotionally important social relations, as well as for most economic activities. The activities of the household, then, form the nucleus of village economic and social life. Household members are expected to work the household's fields cooperatively and reap the harvests that sustain its life. Because household members share an identity in the eyes of the village at large, every member is responsible for the actions of any other member. Wider kinship ties of the extended patrilineal family are also important.
Because of the pervasiveness and significance of kinship groups and relationships defined on the basis of kinship, nonkinship groups in Anatolian villages tend to be few in number and vague in their criteria for membership. Generally, three kinds of voluntary associations can be found in Anatolian villages: religious associations and brotherhoods headed by dervishes, local units of the main political parties, and gossip groups that meet in the guest rooms (misafir odasi ) of well-to-do villagers.
Prior to the 1950s, most Anatolian villagers owned the land they farmed, and within individual villages there were relatively small differences in wealth. Three criteria influenced social rank: ascribed characteristics such as age, sex, and the position of a person in his or her own household, lineage, and kinship network; economic status as indicated by landholding, occupation, and income; and moral stature as demonstrated by piety, religious learning, and moral respectability. However, by 1995 absentee landlordism and large landholdings had become common, and wealth alone tended to be the determining factor in ascribing social status. Thus, resident large landowners often dominated the political, economic, and social life of the villages.
The relationship of wealth to influence and social rank is illustrated by the institution of the guest room. It is estimated that only 10 percent of homes in Anatolian villages have guest rooms because they are very expensive to maintain. Village men gather most evenings in guest rooms and spend much of their time there during the winter months. Regular attendance at a particular guest room implies political and social support of its owner because, by accepting his hospitality, a villager places himself in the owner's debt and acknowledges his superior status.
Every village in Anatolia, as well as elsewhere in Turkey, has an official representative of the central government, the headman (muhtar ), who is responsible to Ankara and the provincial administrators. The headman is elected every two years by villagers (see Provincial and Local Government, ch. 4). The position generally is not considered a prestigious one because most villagers distrust the government. Thus, in Anatolia, it is not unusual to find relatively young men serving as village headmen.
Unlike the traditionally isolated villages of Anatolia, villages in European Turkey and along the Black Sea and Aegean Sea, and to a lesser degree along the Mediterranean Sea, have been exposed to urban influences for several generations. Agriculture tends to be specialized and is generally undertaken in association with fishing and lumber production. Economic links with market towns historically have been very important. Although the extended family plays a significant role throughout a villager's life, economic considerations rather than kinship tend to shape social relations. The commercial nature of these villages has resulted in the substitution of nonkinship roles--such as employer and employee, buyer and seller, and landlord and tenant--for most interactions outside the home.
In coastal villages, the elite is primarily a landed group. Large landowners, by providing employment and--to a lesser degree--land to their laborers and tenants, and by serving as an economic link between the village and urban markets, acquire influence and power. Their personal contact with the laborers and tenants on their lands, however, has lessened since the 1950s. By the 1990s, urban businesspeople with both the resources and the inclination to serve as middlemen between village production and city markets generally wielded as much influence as local large landowners. Businesspeople's influence continues to expand as a result of increasing crop specialization and market dependency.
Data as of January 1995
Turkey Table of Contents