Bayan Ardakh: Is Kemalism over?

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When Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan came to power the Islamic policy of the country changed. This immediately reminded the first president of this country Mustafa Kamal (1881 - 1938).

The well-known Mustafa Kemal envisaged Turkey as a modern, democratic, secular nation-state. However, Erdogan has re-established the foundation of Islam in the country and established an autocratic system of government by abandoning secularism. These two people are like two different conceptions, two different tendencies, and destinies of this country. Thus, Turkey seems to have completed a period and reaching a new crossroads in its history.

During the establishment of the Republic of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal laid the foundation for the future development of the Turkic-speaking countries in Central Asia in that direction. With the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Republics of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, and Kyrgyzstan were able to build a nation-state in the same way as the Turks.

We can find the basis of the above-mentioned relations between Turkey and the Turkic-speaking countries in Central Asia in the policy implemented by M. Kamal. In a difficult historical situation - during the First World War, when the Allies (led by Britain and France) implemented a policy of complete dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, M. Kamal made a political decision to establish a Turkish nation-state in Anatolia - the Republic of Turkey. At that time, the "Young Turks" led by M. Kamal had three different paths. The first was the restoration of the Ottoman Empire over a vast area, including Asia, Europe, and Africa. The second is the creation of the Turkic Union, which unites the Turkic nations of Central Asia, taking advantage of the dissolution of the Russian Empire. The third was the creation of the national Turkish Republic in Anatolia by abandoning the political legacy of the Ottoman Empire. Mustafa Kemal chose the third way. He formed a new Turkish nation and completely modernized the state. Obviously, this decision was the right one. For example, compared to the choice of the Russians, the Turks were lucky. The Russians also had three different paths. The first is to save the shaky Russian Empire. The second is the creation of the Union of Slavic Peoples. The third was to abandon the idea of creating an empire and create a Russian nation-state. We know that in this choice the Russians could not give up the idea of building an empire. For the Russians, it ended with the dissolution of the empire once again (the dissolution of the Soviet Union on December 25, 1991) and may not be the last.

Establishing the Turkish Republic in place of the abolished Ottoman Empire was not easy at that time. One of the reasons was that they were not supported by the victorious side of the First World War - the Entente. However, Turkish politicians, led by Mustafa Kemal, received support from the United States, which is situated on the other side of the ocean. Research on this period indicates that the Turks asked for and received help from the 28th President of the United States Woodrow Wilson. In international politics, Wilson expressed support for the Turkish Republic. As a result, the Entente countries allowed Turkey to thrive with their help. Such support allowed Turkey to become a member of the Western community, led by the United States. After World War II, the Turks became members of NATO. This can be considered as a result of Mustafa Kemal's idea of establishing a single Republic of Turkey (similar to the United States), regardless of race, nationality, or religion.

As the foundations of the Republic of Turkey, the political balance began to crumble after Recep Tayyip Erdogan came to power. The Islamic factor has intensified. The secularism of the state was tested. This change could exacerbate conflicts over race, ethnicity, or religion. Turkey's political turn has created a difficult situation in relations with the Turkic-speaking republics of Central Asia. These states, based on national unity rather than a religious unity, are keeping a close eye on Turkey's idea of a new empire with an Islamic character. They certainly know that their renunciation of secularism will be a clear threat to their national independence if conflicts arise over race, ethnicity, or religious affiliation.

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