National Identity Perceptions of the Turks of Kosovo and North Macedonia: How Identity Turns into a Shield When Denied?
Turks of Kosovo and North Macedonia have become members of a nation that has turned into a minority in terms of population and influence both after the dissolution of the Ottoman State and after the dissolution of Yugoslavia. The aim of the study is to determine the identity perceptions of the Turks of Kosovo and North Macedonia. Within the scope of the study, a number of questions were asked to the participants regarding their identity definitions and perceptions by means of semi-structured interview technique. Participants' responses were discussed with a phenomenological approach and qualitative analysis. It was observed from the findings that Turks of Kosovo and North Macedonia experience nationalist feelings with a very high consciousness. They oppose the understanding of Turkishness as an ethnic identity. According to the majority, Turkish identity should be understood as a national identity built on the basis of religion and culture. And it is far from seeking ethnic ties or genealogy. In addition, some participants stated that although they defined themselves with Turkish identity in the past, nowadays they define themselves as Albanian. This situation can be explained as an alienation from the Turkish identity arising from different reasons; such as assimilation and denial. However, some of the participants dealing with questions such as “How can you call yourself a Turk? Is there any Turk left here after the Ottoman Empire? in daily life, state that they defend themselves by making reference to ethnic and ethnocentric implications. Because in such situations where identity is denied, identity turns into a shield.