Crimean Turkic is an unusual admixture of Kipchak and Oghuz spoken in Crimea and to the north of the Sea of Azov. There are four groups of Crimean Turkic speakers, each of which is defined by ethnicity and religion. It is more appropriate to describe the varieties they speak as ethnolects, as they are by and large the same, but do have minor differences in pronunciation and cultural vocabulary:
- Crimean Tatar, with Coastal, Orta, and Steppe subvarieties, spoken by Muslim Tatars and Turks.
- Urum, spoken by ethnic Orthodox Christian Greeks; they are the only group not in Crimea, having relocated to the north of the Sea of Azov in 1777
- Krymchak, spoken by ethnic Jews
- Crimean Karaim, spoken by Karaites, who practice a non-Talmudic form of Judaism
Originally, all of these groups lived in Crimea and spoke a Kipchak language similar to Kumyk and other Kipchak Caucasian Turkic varieties. Later, after the Ottoman takeover of Crimea, speakers of these groups living in the south of Crimea came to speak a variety of Turkish, an Oghuz language. This was partially because the original Kipchak-speaking population shifted to Oghuz, and partially because Turks, Greeks, and Jews from Anatolia relocated to Crimea. Certain varieties of Crimean Tatar are still mostly Oghuz (hence the three subvarieties), although all of these subvarieties do exhibit some admixture. Subsequent disruptions to the population meant that speakers of the Oghuz and Kipchak varieties were forced to intermingle, resulting in cohesive ethnic groups that spoke fairly different varieties of Turkic. Because these varieties were similar enough, an admixure resulted, with individual speakers switching freely between Oghuz and Kipchak forms. For example, a speaker may employ either eki (Kipchak) or iki (Oghuz) for 'two'.
Below is a timeline of events that shaped these people, led to the meeting of Oghuz and Kipchak, and resulted in a situation where ethnicity was more salient than language, resulting in admixture of Oghuz and Kipchak:
- The Khazars are likely the first Turkic peoples to move into the Caucasus, although their language cannot be definitively called Turkic.
- The Kipchaks and Cumans move west from Central Asia, populating the areas around the Black Sea with Kipchak speakers.
- Work begins on the Codex Cumanicus, documenting the Kipchak language spoken around the Black Sea.
- Grand Duke Vytautas of Lithuania relocates hundreds of Karaites from Crimea to Lithuania. These Karaites preserved elements of Kipchak Karaim that have become mixed in Crimean Karaim.
- Hacı Giray defeats the remnants of the Golden Horde and establishes the Crimean Khanate.
- The Ottoman Empire defeats the Greek and Genoese states in the south of Crimea and makes the Crimean Khanate a vassal state. From this point on, Oghuz varieties become common in the south.
- The Crimean Khanate becomes a Russian vassal state after Russian defeats the Ottomans in the Russo-Turkish war of 1768–1774.
- On the orders of Catherine the Great, ethnic Greeks (including Urums) are relocated from Crimea to the north of the Sea of Azov
- Russia formally annexes all of Crimea.
- The Holocaust. 6,000 Krymchaks, nearly 70% of the population, are killed by the Nazis. The Karaites were not officially considered Jewish, but were still often killed by Nazis who were not aware of their separate legal status.
- Joseph Stalin orders a series of deportations of Greeks, mostly from the Black Sea region. It is unclear whether this directly affected the Urums, who were small in number and who tended to live separately from Greek-speaking Greeks.
- The Sürgün. Joseph Stalin orders the deportation of the Crimean Tatars as a result of perceived Nazi collaboration. Thousands died and those who survived were relocated to Central Asia. This population transfer often picked up non-Tatars who spoke Crimean Turkic, including the few Krymchaks who survived the Holocaust.
- Israel declares independence. Many Krymchaks and Karaites who are able emigrate to Israel.
- Crimean Tatars are allowed to return to Crimea. 260,000 do so.
- Russian Annexation of Crimea. Crimean Tatar press and cultural activities have been suppressed.
- The Donetsk People's Republic have been very active in regions where the Urum reside.