Today there truly are three geographical and three political Turkeys. The "European" Turkey has the greatest potential to integrate with Europe, together with the prospect of becoming a part of the EU. Had all of Turkey comprised Istanbul, Eastern Thrace and Izmir, with a population of 25-30 million, there would have been fewer problems in terms of its integration with Europe. Western Turkey however, is unique, when compared with its"burdensome" central and eastern parts.
The "political" Turkey too, is divided into three parts. The Islamists, who dominate modern-day Turkish society, have taken advantage of the opportunity endowed by democracy and they are gradually "conquering" the secular nationalists, who were in power until 2002. The latter are the second major power in the political domain. The followers of Kemal Ataturk still have an overwhelming influence on the army and the other "deep state" that exists within the state. Second, are the liberals and the Kurds who, though having different objectives, are nonetheless united against the clerical-nationalist political elite that rules the country. Those who think that the creation of an independent Kurdistan in southeast Turkey can resolve this country's main political and ethnic problems need to consider the fact that if this happens, Turkey's progressive society could lose an ally in the Kurds.
So, which of these Turkeys will the West support? What kind of a Turkey does the United States and the European Union want to encourage? That of Orhan Pamuk and Hrant Dink, Ibrahim Baylan and Yilmaz Kerimo, or that of Talat and Erdogan?
After the eight-year governance by the Islamists, it became clear that their mindset does not differ all that much from that of the nationalists. The only difference, however, is perhaps the fact that the modern-day Turkish republic returned to its nationalist foundation, and the clerical foundation, which existed since the Ottoman times, became even stronger. It is not a coincidence that Turkey's pro-Western circles are raising an alarm for the threat of neo-Nazism. Turkey is already expressing the desire to become the leader of the Islamic world and, to that end, it is not even hesitating to take steps that run counter to the interests of the democratic world. The Turkish diplomats continue to "urinate"--in the literal and figurative sense of the word--on the walls of Western embassies.
In reality, today's Turkey still remains a smaller version of its former powerful empire, and its working mechanisms are virtually similar to those of the former USSR. Turkey has to go the path of social democratization and rid itself of ideological rhetoric, which the USSR went through by way honoring and defending the rights of national, religious and other minorities. Therefore the former Western Sovietologists and those new Turkologues who have received political and academic schooling from these Sovietologists can more efficiently deal with Turkey's problems.
The fact that until 2009, when the Armenian-Turkish Protocols were signed, relations between the two countries and peoples were much better than today proves to Turkey's neighbors that the country is willing to face its history and change its way of thinking. Unfortunately, the country becoming more fundamental, both in terms of Islam and nationalism.
Hovsep Khurshudyan is an analyst at the Armenian Center for National and International Studies
Related Material from Atlantic Community:
- Memo 21: Seizing Opportunities from Turkey's Growing Influence
- Brian Katulis: The US Needs Turkey for its Middle East Agenda
- Alex Jackson: Turkey and Iran: The Risks of Failure