JBO'C's Historical Reference

The Afshar of Anatolia

The Afshar of Anatolia

From Impressions of Turkey during twelve years' wanderings by Sir William Mitchell Ramsay

Afshar.—The Afshar are a race of strange history. Their chief seat is in the northwest of Persia; and Sir A. H. Layard gives a very interesting account of his experiences among them. Another considerable body of them now inhabits the Anti-Taurus range between the rivers Zamanti and Sarus. These formerly dwelt on the high rolling uplands between Sivas and Kayseri to the east of the river Halys, called the Uzun-Yaila (Long Summer-Quarters), where they maintained themselves in almost complete independence of the Turkish authority. The government profited by the Circassian immigration about thirty-five years ago to find a means of reducing the powerful and turbulent Afshar. They presented the UzunYaila to the Circassians, and bade them enter in and take possession. This was a thoroughly Turkish plan; whichever side conquered, the government would be rid of two troubles, for in a war between two such races the losers would be sadly broken in numbers and power, and even the winners would suffer severely. In the end, after a hard struggle, the remnant of the Afshar was driven into the Anti-Taurus, and the Circassians now own all the Uzun-Yaila.

Cooped up in these glens, the Afshar have lost much of the nomadic character; they are adopting the settled habit; and, shorn of their former power, they are far from being so free as they were on the Great Yailas. But even yet they are far bolder and prouder than the Turkish villagers. In 1882, when a zaptieh who was with us began to demand camp-requisites in his usual hectoring style, he was told to remember that he was now in the mountains, and that, if he uttered another word in that tone, they would beat him till he could not stand.

But there are other Afshar villages in Asia Minor in which the recollection of racial character has been almost or entirely lost. It is not uncommon to find a village named Afshar: in the valley of the Kazanes (Kara-Eyuk-Ova) there are two, distinguished as Afshar and Kum-Avshahr.1 In all such cases it is clear that a nomad group of Afshar has been stranded, and has settled down to village life; the group was at first distinguished from surrounding peoples by its tribal name, and this has now become a mere appellation for the village.

Impressions of Turkey during twelve years' wanderings; Sir William Mitchell Ramsay, G.P. Putnam's sons, 1897

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