The bridge of civilization built from Manas - YUSUF KAPLAN

The bridge of civilization built from Manas

We are in Kyrgyzstan for the Second Silk Road Civilizations Symposium organized in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan with a team from Istanbul Sabahattin Zaim University. The symposium is organized between Sabahattin Zaim, Manas and Ahmet Yesevi University in Kazakhstan.


The symposium’s first day sessions were held at Manas University in Bishkek on Friday. Sabahattin Balcı, the rector of Manas University, in his speech highlighted that the symposium will play a crucial role in terms of both overcoming the greatest chaos that the Islamic world has historically been through –and the one that we are currently experiencing-, laying the theoretical foundations for the Silk Road from China to London and laying the necessary groundwork for it.

The architect of the project, Professor Mehmet Bulut, and the founder of Adam Thinking Schools, which were initiated in Turkey and spread to Turkey’s great university campuses, also highlighted in his opening speech that the Silk Road Civilizations symposium will undertake significant roles in bringing up a pioneer generation, who will play a historical role by establishing the intellectual building blocks of our civilization and the drawing of a roadmap.

And he underscored that the joint initiative taken by the S. Zaim, Manas and Yesevi universities will build bridges of civilization between Turkey and Central Asia and the Islamic world as a whole, while he noted that it undertakes a historical responsibility by laying the groundwork for the development of a new civilization.


Before the symposium, we paid a visit to the mausoleum of prominent writers, artists and politicians - including Chyngyz Aitmatov - who resisted against Soviet oppression and were burned and slaughtered by the Soviets.

Meanwhile, we brainstormed for four hours with our Turkish and Kyrgyz fellows who were brought together by Sebat, the sister company of Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH) in Kyrgyzstan. The intellectual accumulation and concerns of our brothers and sisters here made my day and raised my hopes about the future.

Moreover, we had a program at the Radio-Television Institution of Manas University. The institution is led by Bülent Namal, who worked in prominent Turkish radios and television channels including Açık Radyo, NTV and TRT. Namal is a bright and hard-working fellow. We expect a lot from him. 

By the way, I would like to remind you that I am writing this piece at Bülent’s office and would like to thank him for kindly hosting me.

The second part of the Symposium will be held on Sunday at Yesevi University in Turkestan/Kazakhstan. Today, we will be heading to Turkestan in a 10-hour-long, tiring bus ride after the Newroz celebrations –in which Metin Kılıç, our ambassador also participated. 


I must make some explanations here: Our fellow Muslim brothers and sisters living in the Turkic republics of Central Asia are all alone as they are stuck between Russia, China and the United States. Currently, Russia dominates the region in all aspects. On the other hand, the U.S: and China try to provoke all local dynamics of countries in the region in efforts to weaken Russia’s dominance. 

Besides this tripartite equation, the fourth actor expected to play an active role in Central Asian countries is Turkey. For now, though, the countries in the region hold Turkey at arm’s length. But only for now. If Turkey can reach an economic and political strength able to determine the strategic priorities of the region, the balance in Central Asia may substantially be changed in a minute.

The global and regional conjunctures and balances are not yet ready for Turkey’s “golden shot.” But it is inevitable for these balances to change.

Because Central Asian republics cannot walk towards common goals, if the existing conjuncture does not change and Turkey does not economically and politically entrench itself in the region. They can neither escape from the shadow of Russia; or even if they do, they cannot avoid going under the control of the U.S. and China.


We are going through a period which requires Turkey to deepen its strategic relations with Central Asia, the Balkans and the Caucasus.

Turkey especially runs short of developing permanent, established and promising strategic relations with Turkic republics of Central Asia. Of course, Turkey carries out great projects with multinational institutions including the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TİKA), indicating that Turkey’s borders surpass geographical boundaries and are about civilization's borders.

For the first time Turkey was able to go beyond its national borders and spread its horizon to the geography of civilizations.

All of this has enabled Turkey to be perceived as a hope. However, Turkey was not able to actually become a hope; it was rather a virtual one. For Turkey to become an actual hope, she needs to present well-established civilizational intellectualism through initiatives such as the Silk Road Civilizations Symposium and to take steps which will be put into action through cultural, economic and political projects between the countries throughout the region.


I would like to share with you a small but meaningful project with you. 

A few years ago, a Kyrgyz by the name of Hadji Lenin from a village called “Karl Marx” -80 kilometers away from Bishkek- made a request to IHH for the construction of a place for offering Qur’an lessons. Initially, the guys at IHH did not take the request seriously as they thought “someone must be monkeying around”. But when they look into the matter, they learned that it was a valid request. And finally, they constructed the Karl Marx Qur’an classrooms under the leadership of Hadji Lenin. Currently, Kyrgyz children learn how to read the Qur’an here and memorize it. 

In summary, the nature will take its course, and bridges of civilization will eventually be re-built along the route of the Silk Road.


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