Turkey's Neo-ottoman aspirations
The change in national priorities and behavior on the international scene is obvious when we look at Turkey's actions in the previous two decades and compare them with Ankara's goals from the 1990s. Among the changes that can be highlighted as the most striking is Turkey's gradual distancing from NATO, accompanied by loss of interest in joining the European Union. The disagreements that currently characterize Turkey's relations with a number of other NATO members, especially the United States, are partly caused by the expansion of Ankara's cooperation with Russia and China, especially in the field of arms procurement.
In addition to change of attitude regarding geopolitical cooperation, there are clear indicators which highlight the transformation of Turkish state and society, emphasizing the re-Islamization of the secular system founded by Kemal Ataturk, the development of neo-Ottomanism as state policy in terms of foreign policy with deeper participation and integration into Asian trade networks, infrastructure projects and regional organizations.
This claim is supported by the launch of Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs initiative "Asia Anew" on August 5, 2019. The goal of this project is to give more weight to cooperation with Asian countries, and it is composed of four key aspects. The first element of the initiative is to improve interstate relations, it is accompanied by expansion of trade capacities of the private sector, in the field of education it is intended to strengthen academic cooperation, and the fourth element emphasizes the development of inter-social interactions.
On the other hand, there is a clear difference when looking at Turkey's attitude towards Europe, especially after the beginning of the migrant crisis in 2015. It is enough to point out veiled threats which Ankara used on several occasions to extort significant sums of money from European Union in exchange for preventing several million migrants from leaving Turkish territory.
The 2014 Transatlantic Trends Survey showed that interest of Turkish citizens for membership in the Union is weakening. Unlike 73% of Turks who supported their country accession to the EU in 2004, in 2014 less than half of the respondents were interested, that is, 44%. Moreover, the exit of Great Britain and procession of crises shaking the EU could not have left a positive impression on the citizens of Turkey.
The frustration of Turks with the very slow progress of the EU membership process is understandable, and the experience of Turkey could serve as a lesson to political elites of other countries hoping for membership, such as Serbia. At the end of Turkey's path of reform, which EU demanded for the privilege of membership, it seemed less costly to give up and expand cooperation with other supranational bodies and states than to further participate in the negotiations with Bruxelles.
When we discuss ideology on which Turkey, and accordingly, its foreign policy is based on, it is necessary to keep in mind that for many years the goal of joining the European Union was actually a reflection of Turkey's official state ideology, not just its geopolitical and economic interests, given its largely secular nature and adoption of Western values. Considering how the biggest changes were related to abolition of the sultanate, the adoption of Latin alphabet and establishment of a legal system based on, not exclusively Islamic principles, but European as well, we can say with some confidence that these reforms were largely inspired by European experience.
With the decreasing probability of joining EU and the cooling relations between the Union and Turkey, which was partly influenced by Ankara itself, it was necessary to find a new ideological orientation which could then be translated into economic, geopolitical and diplomatic goals. Given its imperial past and the fact that classical Ottomanism was leading idea of the Turkish state centuries earlier, a return to this Turkish ideology after disappointment in the futile efforts of Western integration seems understandable. However, it should not be forgotten that a significant number of analysts and experts who observe the development of neo-Ottomanism, and often associate it with concept of pan-Islamism, study the rise of this ideology in tandem with the coming to power of the Justice and Development Party, led by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who performed both the role of Prime Minister and President of Turkey.
President Erdogan himself, as a political figure, already in his early career showed affection for parties with an Islamist ideology, such as the National Salvation Party and the Welfare Party, in which Erdogan was a member and held important positions. Given the personal preferences of the current Turkish president, it is not out of the question that he himself significantly influenced acceptance of neo-Ottomanism as a new ideological path to further strengthen Islamist currents within Turkish society and shape that same society in line with his own vision of what Turkey should to be. The outlines of neo-Ottomanism can be seen in Erdogan's statements, which range from questioning of Lausanne Treaty, where borders of modern Turkey were determined, to statements of a neo-feudal nature about Bosnia and Herzegovina, which was apparently “left in inheritance” to Erdogan by former leader of Bosnian Muslims, Alija Izetbegovic. In a 2018 statement for London Times, Erdogan emphasized how "Turkey is the successor of the Ottoman Empire", which stands in contrast with previously officially endorsed vision of Turkey.
In November 2015, the British BBC published an article related to the annual report of the European Commission dedicated to situation in Turkey and progress of this country on the path to full membership. This report looks back at the previous two years, highlighting the reluctance of Turkish authorities to take into account the growing problems in areas of human rights, democracy, journalistic freedoms and the judiciary, whose independent action has been called into question. Looking at the summary of the report, the standard Brussels rhetoric is clearly visible, forever concerned with eternal issues of democracy and human rights, but the behavior of Turkey under Erdogan's leadership gives reason to a more serious consideration of the European Commission's objections.
Regardless of what individual analysts have recognized as the reason for emergence of neo-Ottoman ideology within Turkey, the existence of neo-Ottomanism is tangible and noticeable. It is worth noting that in its current stage, neo-Ottomanism is not able to fully reproduce in the form of its predecessor, given that there are certain key preconditions missing, such as military domination, imperial structure in both political and ideological terms and the unquestionable privilege of Islam in social life.
In line with Turkey's current capabilities, neo-Ottomanism is trying to realize its fundamental assumptions through a set of tools adapted to current conditions. In period from 2008 to 2011, the then Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey, Ahmet Davutoglu, although a neo-Ottomanist himself, insisted on the policy of "zero problems with neighbors" however, aggressive tendencies within the neo-Ottoman ideology are undoubted and more noticeable over time.
Edward Wastnidge, in his work on neo-Ottomanism, points out that “since the coming to power of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), the Turkish government’s foreign and increasingly domestic politics have been characterized as ‘neo-Ottoman,’ a concept which both its critics and champions have wielded in different ways”. According to the basic definition neo-Ottomanism represents "imperialist Turkish political ideology which, in the broadest sense, promotes greater political activism of the Republic of Turkey in regions that were previously within the Ottoman Empire."
Given that one of the elements of neo-Ottomanism is Islam itself, it should come as no surprise that the Turkish political elite developed cooperation with the Muslim Brotherhood, an organization that had to seek refuge in Turkey after the overthrow of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi. The acceptance of representatives and members of the Muslim Brotherhood by Ankara has caused a decline in relations between Egypt and Turkey, which has been further aggravated by Turkish foreign policy moves, especially in Libya. Ankara has taken an active part in supporting the work of the Muslim Brotherhood and strengthening its institutions and presence both in Turkey and beyond. The Turkish state initially even took upon itself financing of events aimed at presenting the new Egyptian government as an outgrowth of foreign influence without a legitimate basis.
As we have already pointed out, Muslim Brotherhood Islamist roots and the political vision of the Turkish elite, where Turkey is seen as the leader of the Islamic world, had a significant impact on the closer ties between the Brotherhood and the AKP. Turkey's support for ousted Egyptian President Morsi was obvious, as was the intense development of relations between the two countries after Morsi came to power.
Meanwhile, however, the geopolitical and economic reality seems to have forced Turkey to make certain changes in rhetoric and behavior at the expense of the ideological bonds between Turkish leadership and the Muslim Brotherhood. This claim is supported by the recent order to television channels owned by the Brotherhood to stop open and provocative criticism of Egypt. Those who disobey will be punished. Nevertheless, the current Turkey and the Muslim Brotherhood remain natural allies and it is unrealistic to expect them to give up cooperation, but it is inevitable that form in which Turkey exports its ideology will have to be adapted to international circumstances, especially when Russia, one of the more important partners for Turkey, perceives Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization, while China, another important international partner is investing significant efforts in reducing islamism within its own borders. Given that both Saudi Arabia and Egypt have declared Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization, the issue of mutual relations and their normalization inevitably rests on the assumption of increased control over the Brotherhood by Ankara itself.
Neo-Ottomanism, by its very nature, is not an ideology intended exclusively for domestic use, but must also be manifested in the field of foreign policy in order to remain in line with the logic of its basic assumptions. Turkey's efforts, both in its immediate vicinity and around the world, can serve as an illustration of neo-Ottoman intentions. When it comes to Turkey's geopolitical environment, it is impossible to get over Ankara's involvement in several local conflicts, such as the recent war between Armenia and Azerbaijan, the wars in Libya and Syria, with special reference to constant provocations of Greece, violation of Greek airspace and conflicts regarding energy sources in the eastern Mediterranean.
In terms of extra-regional endeavors, Turkey has made significant progress in cooperating with certain African and Latin American countries, as well as with countries that could be considered related to Turkey on the basis of common Turkic origin.
In period from 2013 to 2017 Turkey increased the number of its embassies in Africa to 41 from previous 12. The largest overseas Turkish military base is located in the capital of Somalia, Mogadishu, and serves as center for joint training of Turkish and Somali soldiers. In 2017, the state Turkish Airlines maintained 52 flights to 33 different African countries, a significant increase compared to 2011 when Turkish planes were welcomed in only fourteen African states. Bilateral trade with countries of the African continent has increased fivefold in a period of fifteen years and in 2018 amounted to 20 billion dollars. Of course, economic investment and humanitarian aid are both a form of support for Muslim communities in Africa and a form of soft power. Turkey's investment into African countries is not unconditional and largely depends on the willingness of countries in question to support Ankara's efforts to fight the global network of schools organized by the NGO of Fethullah Gulen, whom Turkish authorities consider the main organizer of the 2016 coup attempt.
President Erdogan himself pointed out that the closed schools will be replaced with schools organized by the Turkish state Maarif Foundation. Given that Turkey is using Fethullah Gulen issue to put pressure on African countries, it is not surprising that large number of them, including Senegal, Ethiopia, Angola, Rwanda, Mali, Tanzania, Benin, Niger, Madagascar, Zambia and Ghana, have already closed all educational institutions associated with Gulen.
In terms of Turkish co-operation with South American countries, four countries currently stand out as Ankara's main partners. In addition to Cuba, the four include Panama, Colombia and Mexico. Based on the agreements signed so far, a trade exchange of 20 billion dollars is predicted between Turkey and Latin American countries by 2023, which is more than double of the current 8 billion dollars.
When it comes to cooperation between Turkey and other countries that are ethnically similar to it, Ankara's original intention was to gain influence among linguistically and ethnically similar countries in the Caucasus and Central Asia through the ideology of pan-Turkism. Yet, as we shall see below, in terms of ideological orientations, Turkey’s foreign policy behavior has clearly given priority to neo-Ottomanism over pan-Turkism.
A better known analysts of the political situation in Central Asian countries, Gulshat Abdulayeva, points out that neo-Ottomanism „has represented a trend in Turkish policy involving the revival of Ottoman cultural traditions and has gained popularity because of the increasing re-Islamization of Turkish policy inside Turkey itself. As a doctrine, it has served there as the basis for the transition from a parliamentary system to a presidential republic leading to the establishment of a strong centralized government of the kind that existed in the Ottoman Empire. Both presidentialism and Islam make neo-Ottomanism more attractive than pan-Turkism to many leaders in the Turkic republics of Central Asia and the Caucasus”.
One gets the impression, when viewed from Ankara's perspective, that the current political trajectory has significantly improved status of Turkey itself, in terms of its position as a regional power, and that it has clearly positioned Ankara as one of the main geopolitical centers in the Balkans, Caucasus, Middle East and North Africa. Although there is undoubtedly a degree of truth to this view, the very existence of Turkey's neo-Ottoman behavior has led to a more organized and determined resistance to Turkish interests.
At this point, it is no secret that Turkey played an anti-Syrian and pro-Islamist role in the Syrian conflict. Since the beginning of hostilities in 2011, Ankara has provided support to opposition and terrorist forces that fought against units of the regular Syrian army. As the conflict escalated, so did the role of Turkey, which, from a logistics base and a corridor for oil sale by terrorist groups, became directly involved in combat operations by sending its own troops into Syrian territory. Moreover, the Free Syrian Army, composed of deserters from the ranks of the regular Syrian army, has been trained and equipped on Turkish territory and is known as the military wing of the alternative Syrian transitional government, which can be seen as Ankara's political project.
Turkey cannot boast of significant results, despite all the efforts that have been made. The Islamic terrorist groups supported by Ankara were mostly defeated. The only remaining strongholds of Turkey and the groups under its control are the territories around Idlib and Afrin, in the very northwest of the country. Northern Syria is largely open to regular army units, thanks to an agreement between the Kurds and the Syrian authorities. Moreover, the cause of the unexpected cooperation between the Kurdish units and official Damascus was the aggression of Turkey, whose aim were precisely the territories under control of the Kurds.
In addition to territorial losses, the official number of Turkish soldiers who died in Syria ranges between 260 and 320 which is far from a negligible figure. A significant number of Turkish casualties were caused by the actions of the Syrian army with the extensive support of the Russian aviation. The nature of this Russo-Turkish conflict remains complex given that the two countries have developed cooperation in several fields, with a special emphasis on the arms trade, but the fact remains that Turkey has turned Russia into a rival on the Syrian battlefield precisely by acting in accordance with neo-Ottoman geopolitical impulses.
In the Eastern Mediterranean, an agreement between Ankara and the Islamist government in Tripoli on cooperation and trade has strained relations between Turkey, on one hand, and Greece, Cyprus, Egypt and Israel, who are also supported by Paris, on the other.
Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias pointed out that the agreement on a joint exclusive economic zone between the governments in Tripoli and Ankara is "verging on the ridiculous as it ignores something that is blatantly obvious – namely the island of Crete"
According to 2017 data, domestic energy production in Turkey was sufficient to cover 25% of country’s needs, clearly indicating that Turkey is heavily dependent on energy imports from other countries, which may partly explain Ankara's moves in the eastern Mediterranean, but in this case it is clear that the neo-Ottoman ideology and the energy needs of the country emerge as two categories complementary to each other.
As in case of Syria, Turkey's behavior has led to the creation of a broader coalition of countries in the region whose common interest is reflected in resisting Ankara's aggressive moves. Disagreements between Athens and Cairo over oil and gas exploration in the eastern Mediterranean have been overcome, and the two countries are in process of considering areas that would be of interest to both sides in terms of co-operation. Positive progress in cooperation between Egypt and Greece occurred in 2021, but even at beginning of the previous year, the Greece-Cyprus-Israel axis could be gleamed during signing of an agreement on cooperation between these three countries on construction of a 1.900-kilometer underwater gas pipeline which would transport gas from Eastern Mediterranean deposits to the European market.
Turkey's moves in the east of the Mediterranean have attracted more than just the attention of four previously mentioned countries whose interests are most affected by the Turkish-Tripoli agreement. France, linked to this area by its colonial history, has also reacted to Turkish actions, primarily through its own media and official statements, including the one by President Macron, followed by deployment of French warships into Eastern Mediterranean waters.
Cooperation between countries that have found themselves at odds with Turkey over the past few years has increased, even in areas such as security, and its further upward trajectory is to be expected, especially given that Ankara, judging by the current state of affairs, has no real intention of changing its own foreign policy goals.
An illustrative case confirming earlier claims are events in Libya, where the Turkish neo-Ottoman vision again found itself in conflict with Russian and Egyptian interests. The situation in Libya is extremely important for the authorities in Cairo, especially when you take into account the political situation in Egypt itself and the fact that Libya and Egypt are countries that share a border and a long history of relations.
After the collapse of Muammar Gaddafi's government, primarily due to Western aggression, Libya went through a period of internal crisis during which two opposing factions crystallized, one based in Tripoli is characterized by its Islamist character and ties with the Muslim Brotherhood, and the faction in Tobruk whose most recognizable representative was General Khalifa Haftar.
As pointed out earlier, the Turkish authorities are counting on the government in Tripoli to achieve their political ambitions in the eastern Mediterranean. In order to strengthen the position of its allies, Ankara was ready to send military units, equipment and instructors with the aim of stopping the progress of General Haftar's forces, which reached the outskirts of the capital just before the Turkish intervention.
After Turkey's intervention changed the balance of power in favor of faction from Tripoli, Russia's diplomatic engagement and an open warning from Egypt made it clear to Ankara that change in the fortunes of war would not have a significant impact on Haftar's support. Egyptian President Sisi unequivocally informed Tripoli and Turkey that further advance of Tripoli and Turkish units towards Sirte, a city of importance on the Mediterranean coast, would lead to the direct involvement of Egyptian army in the Libyan conflict.
During the Libyan civil war, which officially ended in 2020, a large number of countries found themselves in opposition to Turkey, providing open or secret support to General Haftar's regime. In addition to Russia and Egypt, Haftar was supported by France, the United Arab Emirates, Syria, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Chad, Jordan, Belarus, Greece, and judging by some sources, even Israel.
Despite the fact that Ankara's intervention restored Tripoli’s government control over almost entire western part of the country, abandonment of further attacks with Tobruk preserving control of oil sources and processing plants clearly illustrates the reach of Turkish capabilities. There is no doubt that the military plans of Tripoli and Turkish strategists covered the entire country and fight against Haftar until his final defeat, but Egypt's aggressive approach with the support of a number of other countries undoubtedly made it known to both Tripoli and Ankara that they had reached the red line.
As in case of Libya, Turkey's involvement in Caucasus conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan can be viewed within the framework of neo-Ottoman ideology given that in one historical period both territories were under Istanbul's control, the Caucasus war again complicated relations between Turkey and Russia. This outcome was expected given Ankara's efforts to increase its presence in area which Moscow sees as its zone of influence, and because of the now standard practice of Turkish authorities to use Islamists and terrorists who gained practical experience during the Syrian civil war for their own interests.
Turkey's generous assistance to Azerbaijan is an unquestionable fact. Ankara has provided the Azerbaijani military with modern Barjaktar-type drones, other forms of weapons, advanced training through Turkish military instructors and field support through the use of the aforementioned Islamists. Without this extremely significant and, most likely, crucial help from Turkey, the positive outcome of conflict in Artsakh for Baku would be far from unquestionable.
Despite all forms of support for Azerbaijan, when the conflict ended, the agreement, which established a new state of affairs in the afflicted region included only Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, without any reference to Turkey. True enough, Turkish military will participate together with their colleagues from Russia in work of the monitoring center, but that is far from the plans that Ankara had in terms of strengthening its own influence in Armenia and Azerbaijan. Moreover, reached agreement not only strengthened Russia's influence by increasing its military presence in the region, but further pushed Armenia into Russia's sphere of influence, while also drawing in Azerbaijan, which can currently communicate with its exclave in the southwest only through a land link controlled by Russian peacekeeper troops.
Yerevan is in the same situation, considering that only direct communication between territory of Armenia proper and Artsakh passes through the Lachin corridor, an area that now de facto and de jure belongs to Azerbaijan, but is also under control of Russian troops. The author has already dealt in more detail with issue of the war in Nagorno-Karabakh in an earlier article, so it is enough to point out the impossibility of maintaining the newly established order if Russia withdraws its troops.
Although complex, the situation in Caucasus after the end of war confirmed the essential importance of Russia, not Turkey, in maintaining stability and peace. There is no doubt that Ankara, in cooperation with Azerbaijan, will attempt to expand its own economic influence, but all other countries in the region are not just empty outlines, but active states with their own interests, resources and plans.
As can be seen, Turkey's neo-Ottoman aspirations led to more autonomous but at the same time more dangerous foreign policy, for other political actors and Ankara itself. The deepening of cooperation between a larger number of countries, especially those around the eastern Mediterranean, in order to limit Turkey's ability to act aggressively, comes as a direct result of previous Turkish moves, that is actions in accordance with the neo-Ottoman ideology. This development leaves Turkey, to some extent, isolated and could lead to formation of serious alliances against Ankara. In each of mentioned cases, Turkey has achieved its set goals only partially, at the same time provoking reactions of many countries and thus disrupting diplomatic and other relations.
In addition to the complex situation regarding foreign policy relations, situation within Turkey itself indicates existence of a crisis that can best be seen by looking at Turkish finances. Namely, since 2018, the financial sector in Turkey has been facing a crisis characterized by sharp drops in value of lira and distrust of foreign investors in economic policy of the country. Given that the causes of instability are the long-running current account deficit, the large share of private debt in foreign currencies and President Erdogan's own experimental economic policy, withdrawal of foreign investment has a significant impact on the stability of Turkish finances.
From 2018 to 2021, President Erdogan fired as many as three directors of the Turkish Central Bank due to different approaches to the country's economy. After Qatar decided to pump $ 15 billion into Turkish banking sector at the beginning of the crisis, Turkish currency did stabilize, but with the removal of Naci Agbal, lira lost 7.5% of its value in just one day. Although Turkish economy continues to function, the causes of crisis remain present and by their very existence create uncertainty within the economic system. Poor economic indicators spilled over into the political arena, costing Erdogan's party positions in Istanbul and Ankara in 2019 local elections.
In addition to the crisis of the financial system, Turkey is also facing the beginnings of demographic problems already present in European countries. When looking at Turkey’s overall fertility rate since 1950, the change is unquestionable. The fertility rate has dropped to 1.8 children per woman in the last seventy years compared to seven children in the 1950s. In addition to declining fertility rates, process of population aging is starting to become more noticeable.
Turkey will face the same problems as other countries affected by demographic crisis, but in case of Ankara, it could have even more dramatic consequences for the country's internal stability. Turkey's population is currently approximated at 84 million. What can be easily overlooked while observing population of Turkey purely through a numerical representation is the fact that between 15 to 20 million inhabitants of Turkey are Kurds. In addition to making up approximately 20% of the population, the fertility rate among the Kurdish population is, according to certain sources, 3.41, which is almost twice the fertility of the Turks themselves. Erdogan himself has repeatedly stressed that "Muslim women must give birth to more babies, given that terrorists have 10 to 15."
There is no need to explain who are those Erdogan labels as terrorists. The most serious operations of Turkish army in the north of Syria can be mostly characterized as attacks on Kurdish territories and units, but in one more important aspect, as attacks on the autonomous Kurdish political entity that arose in response to the war in Syria. There are objective grounds for fear that Kurdish population in Turkey, encouraged by the example of their compatriots across the border, could take a more decisive and possibly more drastic stance on their own status within Turkey in the following decades.
The acceptance of neo-Ottoman ideology entails, although it is not immediately apparent, question of identity and can lead to the opening of more Kurdish-like problems. Namely, if we take into account the previously mentioned definition of neo-Ottomanism as an ideology that seeks to enable significant influence of Ankara in the former territories of the Ottoman Empire through cultural, historical, economic, educational, religious and civilizational ties and similarities, we must simultaneously accept that this leads to deviation from Turkey Kemal Ataturk envisioned which was founded as a democratic and pro-Western country, but also as a nation state, whose nation-building people, and thus the most important, are the Turks.
Neo-Ottoman identity rhetoric could be seen on several occasions during various speeches by President Erdogan in which he refers to Turkish peoples in Central Asia and Caucasus, as well as Muslims in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Albania, in emotional and close terms. It is unrealistic to expect that majority of these previously mentioned countries would agree to replace their own identity with a Turkish one, and efforts in that direction would certainly have negative consequences for the very reputation of neo-Ottomanism as an ideology. Contrary to the imposition of Turkish, the development of neo-Ottoman identity would bring together all these different particular identities. However this implies either weakening of Turkish identity or its reduction to just another identity under the umbrella of neo-Ottoman one.
Such a process seems inevitable, given that the key factor in first expansion of Ottoman territories, and thus Ottoman identity, use of brute force, is in large part inaccessible to modern Turkey. Willingly or otherwise, Ankara must accept that various forms of soft power represent the most cost-effective and accessible way of spreading influence in accordance with the presumptions of neo-Ottomanism. However, when we talk about soft power, it is necessary to remember it is never exclusively a one-way process and that those societies Ankara wants to add to its sphere of influence can at the same time exert, to a lesser extent, influence on Turkish society itself.
In modern Istanbul itself, there are city districts named Belgradkapi (Belgrade Gate), Belgrade Ormani (Belgrade Forest) and Janibosna (New Bosnia). Very etymology of these neighborhoods emphasizes and historical record confirms that their inhabitants were Slavs from Serbian lands and as such they had no, in the beginning, points of contact with the Turks themselves. Unofficial estimates, in regard to this population, mention at least several million people of Slavic or Serbian origin. On the other hand, there has long been a consensus among Byzantine scholars that Asia Minor was inhabited by approximately ten million Greeks at the time of invasion by Turkish nomadic tribes in the late eleventh century. Depending on the number of Turks, after they settled in Anatolia, it is not impossible that original Turkish tribes experienced the Bulgarian scenario where the original Turks were gradually assimilated by the, for that time period, massive Greek population which inherited Turkish name, religion and cultural customs.
An incident from a couple of years ago, when mayor of Kahramanmaras province Hayrettin Gungor was filmed saying to a woman from Trebzon province "we made you Muslim" gives some credence to the earlier thesis. It would simultaneously imply that even within Turkish nation itself there is a kind of historical memory and understanding regarding roots and origins of its constituent parts. Namely, of all territories of the former Byzantine Empire, Trebzon was the last to fall under Ottoman rule, and even today there are several thousand inhabitants of the area who self-identify as Muslims but who speak in Pontic dialect of Greek.
Caught between internal crises and risky external moves, Turkey, guided by neo-Ottoman ideology, has the capacity only to further deepen tensions both within itself and with the countries around it. In Ankara's interest is an effort to replace the current political ideology with a concept of foreign policy that would constructively and symbiotically integrate Turkey into infrastructure, economic and political projects in the Eurasian space, thus ensuring internal stability and a balanced approach in international relations.