Ulla Johansen was born in Estonia. After the occupation of Estonia by the Soviet Union during the Second World War, she immigrated to Germany with her family and received German citizenship. She finished high school in Hamburg in 1947 and studied ethnology, history and eastern languages, primarily Turkish, at the University of Hamburg. She earned her doctorate in 1953 and started working as an assistant at the Hamburg Ethnographic Museum.

Three years later, she received a student scholarship given by Turkey and stayed in Turkey for 15 months. During this time, she first worked in the Karatepe archaeological excavation in Southern Anatolia and met the Yoruks. She attended classes as a student at Ankara Faculty of Language, History and Geography in the winter semester. She spent the period from April 1957 to October among the nomads. She visited nomads in the provinces of Kayseri, Maraş, Mersin and Niğde. She spent most of this time in Adana Saimbeyli Beypınarı Plateau. She migrated to the highland in April and May with an oba there; She stayed in Çukurova in October. She spent the summer months of 1964 on this plateau again. Apart from that, she participated in the migration by spending about a month on the plateau in the summer of 1970, 1982, 1989 and 1995. She gave lectures on the Cultures of Central Asian Turks at Istanbul University Faculty of Letters in 1970.

She has researches not only on the Turks of Turkey, but also on the Turks of Siberia, Central Asia and other Altaic languages. In this context, she worked in the Russian Academy and Scandinavian countries museums between 1959-1961 and in America in 1962. She became an associate professor by giving her thesis at Heidelberg University in 1968. In 1973, she was appointed as the Head of the Institute of Ethnology at the University of Cologne. After retiring in 1990, she did scientific research as a visiting professor in East Germany and Estonia.


Johansen, Ulla. 50 Yıl Önce Türkiye’de Yörüklerin Yayla Hayatı [Highland Life of Nomads in Turkey 50 Years Ago] Ankara: T.C. Kültür ve Turizm Bakanlığı Yayınları, 2005.