Turkey’s millennium-long standoff with the West - YUSUF KAPLAN

Turkey’s millennium-long standoff with the West

The history of our relations with the West goes back approximately a thousand years, it is deep-seated; it gave the West a hard time, and in time, it gave us a hard time as well.

We can best illustrate our relations with the West using the terminology of aesthetics.

The process that started with the battle of Manzikert was epic. It was legendary. It resulted in our building the land of peace in three continents with the conquest of hearts.

The period that started with the Karlowitz and Passarowitz treaties and continued with the Tanzimat (Reform) era was tragic: We lost confidence in ourselves during this period. Meanwhile, the era the Republic was tragicomic: it is the parade of falling in love with your executioner.

Thousand-year journey

As soon as we settled in Anatolia with Manzikert, we got in contact with the West. Byzantine was the gate of the West.

Our march that continued from Manzikert to the depths of Europe concluded in three centuries.

We had relations with the West until the reform period as an actor that determined the flow of history. We were the ones who determined the direction of relations. But after the reform period, this relationship form reversed: the West started to be the ones determining the flow of history.

Turkey lost its direction with the reform period and orbit with the Republic; the Ottoman Empire withdrew from history; Turkey turned from being an actor that made history, that changed the flow of history to an extra that took a break from history. It turned into an extra that is dragged in front of the history made by the West, not an actor that shapes its course.

The Republic era was an extension of Tanzimat: the final point of Turkish modernization.

In a sense, Turkish modernization is, in an aspect, a direct but passive way for Turks to be in contact with the West; and in another aspect, it is an attempt to isolate them from Islam.

Hence, we were in contact with the West, hence with modernity since the Tanzimat era so as not to be destroyed.

The modernization of the Ottomans, the Tanzimat era was, in a sense, a form of resistance against the challenge of modernity. In the process leading to the constitutional eras, we had the chance to both get to know the West from up close and started to find our opportunities in discovering our own path and clarify our way out. In the period that extended from the 19th to the 20th century, we managed to build a great ideological background. We have never been able to reach the intellectual background, vibrancy and level throughout the history of our Republic that was reached during that period. We could not have possibly reached it because the radical modernization/secularization project we embraced with the era of the Republic was ordering us to abandon our civilization claims and enter a Western orbit. Yet, thinking that the level of contemporary civilizations could be reached by denying civilization claims was hoping for the impossible – and this is against the nature of objects.

Despite everything, the Republic allowed us to gain time. It allowed us to win the century. When Ismet Inönü was leaving Laussane, he had mentioned this by saying, “We can breathe now for another century.”

The architects of the Republic’s radical modernization/secularization project may have started the strict Westernization project to gain time and hence, eliminate the West’s reasons for attacking us, thinking they want to exile us from Anatolia.

The Republic’s five turning points

We experienced five major incidents with the Republic. First, Turkey could not be colonized physically by the West from abroad, but it was mentally colonized from within. Second, we – somehow – told the West that we gave up our civilization claims, but we did not allow them to tread over this piece of land.

Third, the founding cadres of the Republic were obliged to pave the way for the switch to the multi-party life. The Democrat Party government was an attempt for Turkey to find its way, as well as its attempt at development, but it was also the project of domesticating the community, secularizing it by the hand of its own actors.

The system would not even allow this; it did not hesitate to send Adnan Menderes to the gallows. Thus, this led to the start of the period Turkey would be adjusted through coups.

The fourth turning point was Turkey’s courage in Cyprus (take land from the West). After the Cyprus Peace Operation, the global system placed Turkey on the target board. Turkey’s interference in Cyprus was the breaking point in Turkey-West relations.

The fifth significant event was late Necmettin Erbakan becoming prime minister in 1996, and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan coming to the same post in 2003. The Turgut Özal period is an era that prepared Erbakan and Erdoğan.

The system gave a hard time to Erbakan and distanced him with a coup. Erbakan founded the century’s biggest project, the D-8, and then was sent away.

Erdoğan spread Turkey’s horizon through the civilization geography. He announced that Turkey was putting up a fight for independence and the future.

The global system first responded with the Dec. 17-25 covert coup, then by using the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETÖ) network within the country for the July 15 overt coup. It got its answer to this with Operation Euphrates Shield; it was the turning point of our struggle for independence and future.

Turkey will overcome its tough test with the West once it realizes its civilization claim.

The way to achieve is this by Turkey strengthening in every field, but especially by reviving the old education system, degenerated culture, decaying values, the young generation that is drifting away, and our struggling cities along the axis of our civilization dynamics.

Turkey can win its test with the West not through reaching financial and military power, but by achieving spiritual power (strong, deep-rooted thought, educational, cultural and art life).


Cookies are used limited to the purposes in th e Personal Data Protection Law No.6698 and in accordance with the legislation. For detailed information, you can review our cookie policy.