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Turkey changes direction in the last 30 years

Reader comment on item: Who Lost Turkey?

Submitted by Ognyan Minchev (Bulgaria), Jun 11, 2010 at 08:55

Dear Mr. Pipes,

Your answer to the question "Who Lost Turkey" reflects the technical details of how this major swing to Islamism took place, yet it does not refer to the longer-term and deeper reasons of Turkey's political transformation. I think several points in that respects are useful:

1. Turgut Ozal started the cautious, but insistant involvement of Islam into the official state ideology - first in policies towards the outer Turks (on the Balkans and in the Middle East), and later on in domestic policies of his government.

2. Ozal has also revived the Ottoman imperial sentiments - he was in fact the statesman who created neo-Ottomanism and translated it into semi-official policy of the Turkish state. (See for example his book "Turkey in Europe and Europe in Turkey.) He authored the semi-official position of Turkey as the motherland of all Turks "from the Adriatic to the Great China Wall". That thesis combined neo-Ottomanism with pan-Turkism which constituted a double intrusion into the Kemalist legacy: first in terms of indirect restoration of Ottoman Islamist legitimacy, and - second - in degrading Kemalist principle of non-interventionism ("Peace in Turkey, peace n the world").

3. Islamism penetrated Turkish politics and government for two decades - not simply because of secular parties and elites fragmentation, but because of the legitimacy crisis of governing Kemalist ideology. The internal contradiction between Kemalist authoritarian nationalism and EU membership ambition has deepened this crisis and opened the way for hypocritical AKP "defense" of Europeanism against secularist status quo, guaranteed by the military and the National Security Council.

Yours cordially -

Ognyan Minchev

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