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Diversity in turkey & wot it means in games

I’ve recently returned from Turkey. i’ve been several times and have been struck by the visual diversity in the staff.

I’m not here talking about Turkish minorities like Kurds or Armenians but the visual diversity in the Turkish people I met. I am making assumptions based on name badges, hearing them speak confident Turkish and how unlikely i think Erdoğan’s Turkey is to allow free employment to immigrants.

There is perhaps a traditional portrayal of Turks as moustachioed darker skinned (often fez warring) informed by the worse habits and prejudices of Orientalism.

turkish actress Aybuke Pusat

However we had Turkish staff at hotel with very light skin and ginger hair, very east asian looking features and there were also (natural) gingers in the Turkish staff at the airport too. There were also east asian looking staff at the airport and a wide variety of skin tones.

So this is a context of Turkish population movements. When the turks settled in Anatolia they were a Turkic tribe from central asia with a more east asian appearance they mixed with local Greek and other inhabitants of Anatolia. (The Turkish tv drama Etugual deals with the central asian pre history of the Ottomans but is largely invention it’s on netflix i should check it out.) They went on to the conquer Balkans and North Africa and mixed there. So while not a traditional US/Western Europe melting pot a lot of diversity of turk speaking peoples was present throughout the Ottoman Empire.

The founder (and bastard in history and fascinating character) Kemal Ataturk was ginger born in modern day Macedonia. Post Turkey’s war of independence (1919-23) by agreement the Turkish populations from Greece and other Balkan countries moved to the Turkish republic and the Greek population in Anatolia to Greece bringing in variety which had previously been spread across the Empire. ( This mutual ethic cleansing is seen as a positive by a Turkish tour guide i spoke to years ago who’s family left Greece – thought to remove future chances of war with Turkey’s neighbours.)

Of course Turkey has other glue in its societal mix. It’s 98% muslim and until recently a civic secular nationalism based on the founding of the Republic and Kemal Ataturk is a foundation of the state (and why the Kurds who are a rejection of its tenants suffer in modern Turkey.)

So what does this mean in games

Unless your fictional societies are ethnic mono states on isolated planets or magic sealed valleys they should have more diversity in their appearance . This should be informed by population movements and old waves of immigration or conquests.

Ruling tribes or cliques will spread their genome throughout the social strata. They will also potential have reduced influence if their subjects produce more children. It’s worth thinking about or talking about in session zero as part of building a fantasy or sci- fi secondary world.

in a recent special on half orcs James Holloway talks about different ways to deal with this problematic character type. Looking at it through the prism of Turkish diversity you could see how say history could leave populations spread and very much culturally part of the mainstream of a society.

Also I you tend to think of societies are purely racially homogenous – think broader and better about the glue that holds your societies together – religion, civic patriotism, heroes of the past (however flawed).) shared mythology etc)


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