The Turkic world on the path of integration
I have written more than once that the modern political world has entered the era of the formation of large integration projects that unite states for a variety of reasons and interests. In the case of the Turkic states, there are more than enough such reasons: the commonality of languages, cultures and histories, not to mention the interests that dictate the need for unification in the face of extreme turbulence in the political world, which has recently caused a rapid decline in security and the collapse of the last bastions of the world order. In these conditions, the decision of the 8th summit of the leaders of the Cooperation Council of Turkic-speaking states (12.11.21 is an absolutely symmetrical date!) to create the Organization of Turkic states can play a significant role in uniting not only the Turkic peoples, but also the entire world of Islam, which is in a state of crisis, indicating big transformations in the near future. The results of the second Karabakh war, which changed the geostrategic situation both in the region and in the world, became a positive event in this direction. Even without taking into account the large-scale external resistance to the noted integration processes, one should take into account the internal contradictions crushing the unity of both the Turkic and the Islamic world as a whole. What are the prospects?
The Turkic peoples developed in a complex and contradictory context of historical events related to the relationship between the Russian and Ottoman empires, which had the greatest impact on the nature of the formation of the Turkic mentality and the problem of the unity of peoples. A well-known discussion in pre-revolutionary Russia on the unification of languages and alphabets of all Turkic peoples under the norms of the Ottoman Turkish language, in which the Azerbaijani and Tatar intelligentsia took an active part. This was the era of the formation of national identity, and Mammadamin Rasulzade accurately linked this moment with the need to complete the process of formation of individual Turkic peoples and their cultures.
When in the early 1990s the main ideologist of the creation of the union of Turkic-speaking states, the President of Turkey Turgut Ozal put forward the idea of a “Turkic house”, under its roof people should have gathered quite distant from each other peoples with their unique history of development, however, equally poisoned by the poisons of the fight against “Pan-Turanism” (Pan-Turkism) in the USSR …
Obviously, under these conditions, the creation of a political and economic union of the Turkic-speaking republics of the CIS with Turkey could only be generated by an initial cultural and humanitarian activity designed to revive the lost historical episodes of the unity of the Turkic peoples. This role was assumed by the Turkic Council (2009), created at the suggestion of the President of Kazakhstan N. Nazarbayev. At the same time, which is not unimportant, international Turkic kurultays (the idea of the head of the Turkish Nationalist Movement Party A. Turkesh) began, in which Turkic communities and organizations from all over the world took part, including the Turkic republics within Russia and the Turkic-speaking population of other CIS countries. In January 1993, a law was passed under which Turkey took over the funding of two five-year education and culture programs. In the course of their implementation, large groups of students and schoolchildren from the CIS underwent civil and military training in Turkey, and in these countries a network of Anatolian lyceums was created – secondary educational institutions with in-depth study of Turkish and one of the Western languages, and a number of schools introduced the teaching of the Turkish language … In 1995, two Turkish universities named after Sultan Demirel and the International Turkic-Kazakh University named after Khoja Ahmad Yasevi (Almaty) were opened in Kazakhstan. Within the framework of the new language policy, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan in the 1990s. switched from Cyrillic to Latin graphic basis of national alphabets. Currently, the transition to the Latin alphabet has begun in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. In 2006 in Turkey’s Antalya, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan proposed to rewrite the general history of the Turks and start teaching it in schools. Rather, the creation of the Parliamentary Assembly of Turkic-speaking countries became a political act (TURKPA, Baku, 2009).
The nature of the economies and geography dictated the need to create a new global hydrocarbon transportation system connecting Europe and Asia through Turkey’s developed infrastructure. The political situation required the choice of exceptionally favorable relations with the United States, China and the Russian Federation, in which Turkey was very successful, at the same time destroying the factor of pressure on itself from the EU. However, by this time most of the leading states realized that the center of world politics and economy was shifting to Asia, where Afghanistan remained the last strategic problem. Today, many countries are invisibly fighting for the Taliban’s favor, and it must be said that Turkey is not lagging behind them. Moreover, the second Karabakh war, the opening of the prospects for new communications became practical steps that more closely fit Turkey into the context of modern world politics. And here the emergence of a new integration association with a population exceeding 160 million people turned out to be very opportune. In these conditions, it was necessary to consolidate and expand the political aspect of the unity of the Turkic peoples, opening up new prospects in connection with the establishment of the Organization of Turkic States, the adoption of the Istanbul Declaration.
The 8th summit of the leaders of the Turkic Council in Turkey solved a number of very important tasks: changing the name of the organization, obtaining observer status by Turkmenistan, which allows the organization to cover all Turkic-speaking states, specifying the status of partner countries and observers, approving the Concept-2040, which forms the framework and norms of cooperation for a long period. In accordance with the agreement, the countries must adhere to a common position on foreign policy issues, coordinate actions to combat terrorism and crime, create a favorable environment for trade and investment, ensure comprehensive economic development, and expand cooperation in the fields of science, technology, education and culture.
The speeches of Turkish President R. T. Erdogan at the opening and following the results of the summit outlined the range of tasks: changing the name of the organization should affect the steps taken; countries should step up their activities on issues related to cooperation and regional processes; it is necessary to remove barriers to cooperation; raise the level of trade between the countries: “Trade between our countries reaches $ 21 billion, which is only 3% of the volume of trade with other countries of the world, while the potential for trade development is equal to $ 1 trillion. The countries of the Turkic Council should develop transport links, combined transportation, and also actively use the “Middle Corridor” across the Caspian Sea. The route through Nakhchivan (Azerbaijan) is also important ”. Among the proposed projects in the framework of the ecological concept “Green development of the economy”, a unified Civil Defense Mechanism for eliminating the consequences of natural disasters and cooperation in the fight against climate change.
The Turkish President expressed hope for the contribution of the new organization to the elimination of the blockade of Turkish Cyprus and its early admission to it, a joint fight against Islamophobia, terrorism, including with PKK-YPG militants, DEASH and the Fetullah Gulen organization. The Turkish leader made a special emphasis on the issue of overcoming possible confrontations in connection with the formation of a new organization: this structure is open to cooperation and is not directed against anyone. Indeed, the opening of a European office in Budapest, the interest of Russia and Ukraine in observer status are still working for the benefit of the Organization of Turkic States and its next chairman after Azerbaijan, Turkey.
Speaking at the forum, President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev noted the new realities of the South Caucasus, formed as a result of the 44-day war, large-scale steps to restore the Karabakh and East Zangezur economic regions of the country, drew attention to the importance of opening the Zangezur corridor connecting Nakhchivan with the eastern regions of the republic: “The Zangezur corridor will unite the entire Turkic world and become for us a link with Europe.”
The Russian press, on the eve of the opening the summit, exaggerated the theme of the creation of a new empire by Turkey – the “Turkic United States”, into which they are stubbornly trying to drag Turkmenistan. Indeed, the problem of Ashgabat’s membership in the Organization of Turkic States is one of the main headaches, which, however, will be gradually resolved as the influence of Russia and Iran on this country decreases and the status of neutrality may transform. In the meantime, Ashgabat believes that the emergence of a tougher alliance of Turkic states and the arrival of Turkey in the Caspian region and Central Asia as a political and, very likely, military force carries risks of regional security. True, Turkey has a significant economic influence on Turkmenistan, the main export destinations of which are China, Afghanistan and Turkey, while imports are mainly carried out from Turkey.
The history of the functioning of the Turkic Union is the history of the rapprochement of the Turkic peoples on the basis of a common language, culture, customs, and religion. And this process contributes not to the absorption of small peoples by large ones, but to the formation of a new self-awareness of unity, leveling the contradictions and conflicts characteristic of the Turkic peoples of the South Caucasus and Central Asia.
A much bigger problem should be the creation of an investment Fund of the Turkic world, which has not yet been implemented, although without such a Fund it is difficult to find a source of financing for ambitious business projects, to support small and medium-sized businesses. And the entire program, calculated until 2040, will hang in the air without powerful financial support. Is Turkey ready, faced with significant financial problems, to take on the entire burden of material support for the rapprochement of the Turkic states, can other countries share this burden with Turkey – there are no answers yet!
Finally, the countries of the Turkic world are connected in different ways by military and economic obligations with such competing organizations as NATO, CSTO, EAEU, SCO, and this is evidence of the need to revise foreign policy, since the organization by 2026-2028. plans to form a common market for goods, investments, labor and services.
We are witnessing a grandiose experiment of the 21st century, trying to create the unity of a number of states on an ethnic basis, on the basis that many peoples have abandoned, having common ethnocultural (Slavs, Germans) and linguistic (Spanish, Portuguese, Persian, etc.) roots. The question is, which of us will remain as a witness and who will become a participant in this experiment?
But one more question remains: will the Organization of Turkic States continue Turkey’s policy of strengthening the status of the leader of the Islamic world?
This article originally appeared in TURAN INFORMASIYA AGENTLIYI on 15 Nov 2021.