Pan-Turkism beyond Turkey in powers’ spotlight

Alwaght-Concerning the presence and influence of the Pan-Turkism beyond Turkey’s borders, it must be said that such powers as China and Russia are seen as major international rivals for the Turks. Due to the Russian sway in the Central Asian countries in terms of politics, culture, security and the existence of Russian speaking population in all of these states, the leaders of Central Asian countries are forced to seriously take into account Moscow’s considerations and its unhappiness with the Turkish influence there.

On the other hand, Russia has always watched Turkey’s efforts with concern to get close to the region and to hold the conference of the leaders of the Cooperation of the Turkish speaking States or Simply Turkic Council, which comes with a Pan-Turkist theme.

Russia and China are greatly worried about the influence of Pan-Turkism in Central Asia region. They interpret Turkey’s presence there as a Western and American presence in the region. Some analysts see China standing as Turkey’s serious rival in the region due to its deep economic influence. At the same time, Beijing holds its own worries and considerations about Turkey and the Pan-Turkist activities in its eastern regions like in Xinxiang province, the population of which are Muslims from Turkish descents which hold separatist ideas.

Struggling for deep economic influence in Central Asia, China has tried to thwart the Pan-Turkist projects inside its own Turkish-speaking regions. In fact, one of the reasons for China’s massive presence in Central Asia, especially after the formation of Shanghai Cooperation Organization, is this country’s sensitivity over Turkish presence and Ankara’s pursuing of Pan-Turkist projects. On the other side, the US, the EU and even the Israeli regime have their own considerations over Pan-Turkism. Some analysts claim that Washington’s and Tel Aviv’s wide-ranging presence in Azerbaijan comes as part of a scenario to contain Turkey in the region.

Regional and small powers’ consideration of Pan-Turkism’s presence and influence out of Turkey

Looking at the regional countries’ consideration of Turkey’s position and at the same time the hurdles Ankara is facing in pursuing the Pan-Turkism through political, cultural and economic cooperation and through focusing on the ethnic commonalities, three principal issues could be highlighted:

1. Some of the countries of West Asia region are not welcoming implementation of the intended Pan-Turkist plans

The two countries of Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, both member states of Turkic Council, are rejecting to see Turkey as the council’s “big brother” and at the same time they emphasize on Uzbek and Turkmen nationalism.

The regional countries are against Turkey’s cultural policies. They highlight the need to strengthen their local languages like Uzbek, Turkmen, Kazakh and Cossack rather than supporting a standard Turkish language intended by Ankara and Baku. In addition to language, Turkey’s way of writing history of the Turkic world is unwelcomed because the Central Asian countries are insisting on their national history and their specific experiences. These countries are also on a collision course with Turkey and the Pan-Turkist circles over the Turkism term. They even dislike using the term. The Central Asian states have also rejected a Turkish initial proposal for being linked to the Western world through Turkey. The extensive relations of the Israeli regime with Central Asia and the US’ direct links to the same region, especially after September 11 and the war in Afghanistan, have impaired Ankara’s plan to turn out as a linking road with the West.

2. Rise of ideologies rival to Pan-Turkism in the region

Islamism is seen as presenting a major rival ideology to Pan-Turkism and even the local nationalism in the Central Asian region. The fast growth of Islamist movements like Hizb ut-Tahrir party in Uzbekistan indicates that there is a highly powerful transnational rival ideology in Central Asia. Since the beginning of the twentieth century, the religious thoughts have influenced the public opinion in Central Asia more than did the ethnic and nationalist rival movements or transnational nationalism. The ideological movements of local nationalism as well as the Islamism have created new conditions, challenging the growth of Pan-Turkism in the region. Local nationalism in each and every state of Central Asia has turned out as a mobilization factor supported by the countries’ political elites. Actually, to preserve their power, the ruling elites in these states have forsaken their former socialist ideals and moved to creation of a new political identity on a basis of local and ethnic nationalism. That is how the Kirgiz, Cossack, Turkmen and Uzbek nationalisms have risen in the face of the transnational Pan-Turkist ideology. Furthermore, Islamism is considered a principal rival for Pan-Turkism and even local nationalism in Central Asia. The fast development of Islamist movements, like the Hizb ut-Tahrir party in Uzbekistan, shows that there is a greatly strongly transnational rival ideology across Central Asia region.

3. The regional and transregional rivalry

After independence of the Central Asian republics, Turkey has established the Friendship, Brotherhood and Cooperation Congress of Turkish States and Communities, drawing the sensitivity of many of regional and transregional powers. The Pan-Turkism’s annexationist aspects have made the neighboring countries sensitive and thus guarding against the ideology.

In addition to the Islamic Republic of Iran, other countries like Pakistan, India and Saudi Arabia are in contest with Turkey. Riyadh is trying to get a toehold in the region through religious aspects. The growth of radicalism in Central Asia is indicative of influence of Saudi Wahhabist schools. Furthermore, India and Pakistan are making efforts to penetrate the region economically and culturally. Some see Pakistan’s supports for Taliban in Afghanistan as part of Islamabad’s plans to gain influence in Central Asia. Additionally, due to its cultural and economic influence in the region and its turning out as a superpower, India is considered as a significant rival for Turkey. Actually, India’s influence, specifically in the areas of music and cinema, in Central Asia is way deeper than Turkey’s influence of arts and cinema in the region.

By Alwaght