Kursat Cinar. Turkish Studies. Volume 14, Issue 2, June 2013.
Turkish foreign policy has experienced massive alterations after the end of Cold War. This has been most evident in Turkey’s relations with Turkic nations in Central Asia and the Caucasus, all of which gained independence from the USSR. This article aims to provide a thorough analysis on this issue. First, the article explores the ethnicity concept and applies it to the relations between Turkey and Turkic nations. Then, it examines Turkey’s relations with other regional and international powers, namely Russia, the USA, and Iran, through the lenses of Central Asia and the Caucasia. Finally, the article questions the often monolithic view of Turkic nations in the eyes of the Turkish public and delves into the rich yet diverse bilateral relations between Turkey and each Turkic state. To this end, it analyzes Turkey’s political, economic, and cultural ties with Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. Carefully going over all of these subjects, the article intends to illustrate the multifaceted nature of Turkey’s relations with Turkic nations and the prospects and obstacles ahead.
The end of the Cold War altered Turkish foreign policy drastically and Central Asia and the Caucasus, after the demise of the USSR, have been one of the focal points for Turkish foreign policy-makers. “The emergence of eight independent states in Central Asia and the Caucasus after the end of the Cold War presented challenges to Turkey, while enlarging its role in the world.” This article analyzes the contemporary challenges and opportunities that Central Asia and the Caucasus offer for Turkey.
The current state of literature about this topic can be defined as a motley body of research, each part of which focusing on different subtopics such as energy, economic relations, diplomacy, etc. This article intends to cover the relations between Turkey and Turkic nations in Central Asia and the Caucasus from various angles and hopefully come up with some elaborations to the literature. The first section of the research assesses the ties between Turkey and Turkic nations through the discussion of the term “ethnicity” and its relevant expansion on the topic. In the second section, the variables that are consequential on influencing Turkey’s policies regarding the region, specifically focusing on regional and international powers, are explored. Finally, the third section examines the bilateral relations between Turkey and Turkic nations. As asserted above, a well-rounded literature survey on the topic, as well as finding genuine areas to open up new avenues of research are the primary concerns of this article.
“Ethnicity” and Elaborations on the Topic
As stated earlier, Turkey has been deeply influenced by the developments in Central Asia and Caucasia after the end of the Cold War. The newly independent Turkic states constituted 85 percent of the former Soviet Union’s Muslim population, which is predominantly Sunni, as in the case of Turkey. “The main Turkic groups in these states are Uzbeks, Kazaks, Tatars, Azeris, Turkomans, Kyrgyz, Chivash, Bashkirs, Karakalpaks, Kumyks, Uighurs, Karachias, Turks, Balkars, and Nogais,” all of which are linked to Turkey in many ways, like linguistic ties of various dialects of Turkish language. The state building processes in these Turkic nations after the collapse of Soviet Union transformed Turkish foreign policy to a great extent. In this regard, Graham E. Fuller aptly asserts that “indeed, the very foundations and primal assumptions of the Turkish world view have been shaken, perhaps bringing about a fundamental shift in the character of Ankara’s modern policy.” Turkish state’s stance about the region was dominated by the policies that once refrained from forming an ethnocentric bridge between Turkey and Turkic states under the USSR so as to avoid any clashes in international arena, which continued for decades. However, although reluctantly at first, Turkish leaders started to undertake presidential and prime ministerial visits to newly established states and look for ways of developing economic, political, cultural, and even military relationships with them. On the other hand, the newly independent states in Central Asia and Caucasia, in general, started to look first to Turkey as an external ally. Yet, are the links between Turkey and Turkic nations in Central Asia and Caucasia clear enough to get into the details of the relations? To this end, it would be wise to clarify the ethnicity-related topics first so as to be able to come up with a thorough analysis of the issues at hand.
In this part of the study, the definition of “ethnicity” is covered. In light of Donald Horowitz’s typology, ethnicity refers to a highly inclusive group identity based on some notion of common origin, recruited primarily through kinship and typically manifesting some cultural distinctiveness. Therefore, ethnicity embraces groups differentiated by language, religion, races, nationalities, and castes. Similarly, an ethnic group can be defined as a subgroup within a larger community that has real or putative common ancestry, memories, and a common cultural focus such as language, religion, kinship, or physical appearance.
In the ethnicity literature, two strands constitute the main pillars of analysis, namely primordialism and constructivism. According to primordialism, identities are fixed and linked to the birth of individuals and they are impervious to socialization. In other words, primordialism assumes single fixed identities for individuals, who belong to particularistic ethnic groups. On the other hand, constructivism contends that identities are fluid, which can be redefined through political and social processes. According to constructivist scholars, ethnic identities are the product of modernization. Constructivists see ethnicity as a permeable phenomenon, in which ethnic identities can change vis-à-vis altering social and political circumstances. Finally, some constructivists maintain that ethnicity and ethnic identity are outcomes of rational calculations of individuals, who aim to secure benefits in a state structure such as jobs, lands, and markets.
Be it analyzed via a primordialist or a constructivist point of view, the discussion of ethnicity is illuminating while researching topics like the one at hand. The Soviet nationalist policy during the USSR regime led to the formation of relatively cohesive national communities in the Union republics. It was long before the revolts of the late 1980s that non-Russian Soviet peoples in general, and Turkic peoples in particular had gained a much more articulated conception about their ethnicities than most had possessed before 1917. This phenomenon persisted despite mass dispersions and migrations, Russification and Sovietization of culture, and severe restrictions on the expressions of nationalism under Stalin government and the post-Stalin governments.
After the demise of the Soviet Union, however, the ethnic issues in the region have grown as an intriguing matter. During this period, the nation making processes in Central Asia and the Caucasia launched as a top-down, state-generated project, rather than a natural evolution from language or culture. Language has not matched up with nation in the region as various Turkic languages of the region are closely related. “Classifying Central Asian Turkic languages/dialects is rather like cutting soup,” asserts one specialist. Those Western analysts who avow that the linguistic ties among the Turkic-speaking peoples might unify the Central Asian communities or create an affinity with the Turks of Anatolia failed to note that most of the languages of Central Asia are different enough from Anatolian Turkish that such identification remains an intellectual conceit. It is sometimes surprisingly hard to come up with linguistic homogeneity even within the boundaries of Central Asian states. For instance, Uzbeks in the west of Uzbekistan speak a dialect close to that of Turkmen, while those in the east are easily understood by Kazakhs or Kyrgyz. It is evident that linguistic differences within and beyond the boundaries of Turkic states do not act as a catalyst for enhancing primordial identities in the region.
Getting into the specifics about the national identities of Turkic communities, one can critically approach whether these identities can be seen as primordial or constructed. For instance, as for the case of Uzbekistan, contrary to what was claimed by Soviet Uzbek scholars that asserted that the Uzbek “nation” reached back to the first millennium BCE and perhaps even earlier, most analysts contend that “Uzbek” is a quintessentially modern identity and should properly be associated only with the twentieth-century Soviet and post-Soviet republics. In Turkic states, where many ethnicities come across each other, the governments strived to resolve problems of national and political identity through various provisional solutions. In this regard, Kazakhstan stands as a proper example. The Kazakhs have hardly been the majority in their own republic. What is remarkable related to this nation is that northern parts of the republic bordering with Russia have 80 percent of the population in the region who are non-Kazakh. To balance this multinational identity, Nursultan Nazarbaev, President of Kazakhstan, envisioned Kazakhstan both as the homeland of the Kazakhs via promoting the Kazakh language and a more national version of Kazakh history, and at the same time a multinational state in which all “Kazakhstanis” would have equal rights and opportunities. Related to the latter attempt, Russian was recognized as the second official language in 1995, an obvious reversal of the 1989 law that established Kazakh as the only official language.
References to other ethnic groups in Turkic states are plentiful. In these examples, the ethnicity rhetoric in these Turkic states is not as homogenous and—more strikingly—not as Turkic as some sources in Turkey claim. To quote an example,
Since a linguistically Turkic presence in Transcaucasia is generally believed to have arisen only in the eleventh century, the Turkic-speaking Azerbaijanis argue that linguistic continuity was not as decisive a factor as biological inheritance, claiming that the Azerbaijanis are the descendants of the Caucasian Albanians, the third great Christian power in the Caucasus (along with Armenia and Georgia) in whose domain Karabakh once lay.
As evident in these cases, the “ethnicity” in Turkic states is constructed, rather than being a primordial identity. Of course, one can come across many ostensibly primordial claims both in the academia and politics (especially at the state level). Yet, it is crucial to discern whether these claims are working along with a fixed and monolithic identity (Turkic identity in our case) or they are changing over time through political processes as alleged by constructivists. After a thorough analysis of various sorts, a neutral observer would probably claim the latter case, i.e. the ethnicity rhetoric is constructed.
Other Variables in the Game: Big Players on the Scene
It is obvious that Turkey’s foreign policy behavior has changed within the nascent conditions of post-Cold War era. Turkish official stance on the Caucasia and Central Asia has changed considerably as “Turkey broke several of its long-standing taboos” by putting her isolationist policies aside and becoming more active in the region. Of course, it is essential to underline that the assertiveness of Turkish foreign policy partly depends on domestic politics with an emphasis on the nature of political regime in Turkey, the economic conditions, the foreign policy-making structure, and partly on the changes in the regional and international structures. However, it should be highlighted that the self-perception of the public in Turkey (at least in part) has been influenced by the establishment of Turkic states in the Caucasia and Central Asia. As the threat of “antagonizing and provoking the Soviet Union” faded away,
… feelings of kinship with Turks living outside the boundaries of the Turkish state were proved to exist well beyond the small circles of active Pan-Turkists or the associations of exiles from different Turkish communities. [Instead] they [have become] widespread among the population, brought up to be aware of and glorify Turkish history, [which in turn] had a strong impact on politicians and were translated into action by Turkish governments,
as can be seen in the educational policies of the Turkish government in Eurasia. To sum up, the post-Cold War developments in the Caucasia and Central Asia have been consequential on shaping Turkish foreign policy into a more active standing point.
The paradigmatic shift of Turkish foreign policy, as discussed up to now, undoubtedly has had its repercussions on the policies of regional and international powers. The most significant powers in the region besides Turkey are Russia, the USA, and Iran. In this study, the power dynamics between these states and Turkey will be explored.
The rising power of Turkey in the region most of the times becomes conflicting, rather than cooperative, with Russia. “During the Yeltsin era, Russian interest in Central Asia lapsed. [However] under Vladimir Putin, Russia has moved to strengthen its role in the region” via usually relying upon local authoritarian leaders for influence. Although the Cold War is over, one cannot come up with same conclusion for the aspirations of Russia. “In the Caucasus and Central Asia, Russia [still] attempts to establish a sphere of influence that generally coincided with the domains of the Tsarist and Soviet states.” As Andrei Kozyrev, then the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia, publicly stated in 1992, “the country will not cease to be a great power” in the region.
Russian ambitions related to the region have found their reflections at the leadership level of some countries in the region. Central Asian and Caucasian ex-Soviet leaders, after the independence movements of their nations understood how closely their economic prosperity was linked to that of the USSR. This explains why there were no indigenous independence movements, no national liberators active in the region with the sole exception of Uzbekistan’s Erk (Independence) movement. The governing elite in these countries wanted the terms of the center-periphery relationship redefined yet none of these republics planned or supported a formal break with Moscow. This demonstrates the persistent power of Russia on Turkic states.
The aforementioned negative sides should not completely overshadow the positive ones between Turkey and Russia related to the region. Both countries’ long-run socio-economic strategies directed toward the West at certain instances strengthened the bonds between these states. For instance, “Turkey was the first among all Moscow’s neighbors in the Near East and Southwest Asia, with which Russia signed a Treaty on Fundamentals of Relations in May 1992.” Moreover, Turkey’s secularist model of market economy may stand as a decent alternative against Islamic fundamentalism for Russia in predominantly Muslim Central Asia. Also, both countries may find ways of cooperation related to transfer of natural resources from Turkic states, which would undoubtedly foster the bilateral relations.
Yet, as a whole, Turkey and Russia will most probably compete, rather than cooperate on the region as their stakes conflict on various grounds, be it based on politics, economics, or culture. Russia is still an influential player in the region and Russian politicians would not let Turkey assert its policies liberally in the region that may clash with their priorities. Likewise, Turkish foreign policy-makers would not be willing to experience the resurrection of Russian dominance in the region if there were ways to surpass it.
The American approach as a representative Western power for this issue has been usually sympathetic to Turkish policies as the Americans fear that “radical Islam might fill up the power vacuum created by the collapse of the USSR.” Therefore,
In these new countries, where authoritarian leaders and centralized economic and political control are still the norm, US policy makers must balance the goal of maintaining stability with that of promoting measures for democratic reform that are likely to bring instability in their wake.
Turkey, having a primarily Muslim population with a secular state can and does help American policies in the region. Furthermore, the ongoing influence of Russia, even after the demise of the Soviet Union, appears as an obstacle for these policies. It is also in this concern that the USA has been by and large lenient on Turkey’s assertiveness in the region. For instance, the USA supports “East-West corridor,” a dense energy transportation network from Azerbaijan through Turkey to Europe in order to bolster Azerbaijan’s economic development and independence from Russia’s sphere of influence. This energy network surely increases Turkey’s importance in the region, which is welcome on the US side so as to counterbalance Russia.
It is noteworthy that the American existence in the region is, of course, not dependent on Turkey’s role. The US opened embassies in each of the new republics soon after their declarations of independence. A number of trade agreements and bilateral assistance programs between all of the Turkic nations and the USA have been completed in various parts of Central Asia and the Caucasia. Moreover, agreements with lending institutions such as the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and US Eximbank aim to develop the economies of these countries. One can also come across with the US presence in the media of the Turkic states. For instance, Radio Liberty’s service, a US-backed radio in the region, broadcasts in Turkic languages that attract a large public and its reporting is relied upon heavily. However, all of these developments on the American side are typically welcome on Turkish side. As allies with the USA in the region, Turkey would not want to see Turkic states drifting to Iranian or Russian influence and these developments counterbalance such drifts. Overall, the policies of both countries most of the times have gone hand in hand and thus Turkish-American relations related to Turkic states have been cooperative.
The Turco-Iranian relations in the context of Turkic states are complex in nature, i.e. they are cooperative at some grounds and competitive at others. John Calabrese aptly summarizes the situation, which is as follows:
The independence of the predominantly Turkic, Muslim-populated states of Central Asia and the Caucasus … provided Iran and Turkey with opportunities to renew cultural and religious contacts with the area’s peoples; and to establish political and economic links with newly formed governments. Turkey’s location on Europe’s eastern periphery and Iran’s direct access to the Persian Gulf-given their contiguity with the southern belt of the former Soviet Union-also suggested possible enhanced geo-economic roles for the two countries. Thus, Central Asia and the Caucasus have emerged as theatres of Turco-Iranian cooperation and competition, in geopolitical as well as in economic terms.
Both countries have tried their best to emphasize the cooperation aspect of the relations. Swietochowski maintains that:
The two powers officially denied that they were rivals for influence in the Muslim republics of the former USSR; they were … willing to cooperate on particular issues and projects. The most notable example of this cooperation was the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO), a group which originally had included Turkey, Iran, and Pakistan, and in 1992 invited the six Muslim republics, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan, to join.
The “zero conflict with neighbors policy” of the Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi) government in Turkey has recently brought about a milder climate and rapprochement between Turkey and Iran. In the future, these developments will undoubtedly have their repercussions on bilateral relations as far as Turkic republics are concerned. Yet, there are still some potential areas of contention among Turkey and Iran. For instance, Iranian Azerbaijan may turn out to be such an area since Turkey is sympathetic to the claims on Azeri side related to the issue, i.e. uniting Northern Azerbaijan with what some Azeris refer to as Southern Azerbaijan. Furthermore, Turkey and Iran may clash on economic terms, specifically related to energy resources of Turkic states. Transmission of these resources to other parts of the world may create a competing environment between two countries. As stated above, Turco-Iranian relations are intricate related to Central Asia and the Caucasia and these two nations may go hand in hand at some topics while conflicting at others.
Overall, as it can be seen clearly, Turkish foreign policy related to the region is not immune from the existence of other major powers in the region, namely Russia, the USA, and Iran. There are areas of cooperation and competition regarding the vast resources and potential of Central Asia and the Caucasia. In this section, the relations between Turkey and other influential players in Central Asia and the Caucasus have been discussed. Of course, there are other areas and regions that bind these nations’ bilateral foreign policies. For instance, Turkey’s inclusion to the NATO’s missile defense system seems to infuriate Iran and Russia. Despite being out of the scope of this research, these instances clearly show that bilateral relations of countries are multifaceted. The analysis under this section, to this end, aims to clarify an important aspect of Turkey’s relations with major regional and international powers through the prism of Central Asia and the Caucasia.
Bilateral Relations Between Turkey and Turkic Nations
This study would have lacked depth if it missed the bilateral perspective of relations between Turkey and each Turkic state.
Many Turks have had a monolithic image of the ethnic and national composition of the Turkic republics and were bewildered when violent conflicts erupted between different Turkic ethnic groups such as the Kyrgyz and Uzbeks in the oblast of Osh in 1990.
This monolithic way of looking to the region would have left us with an incomplete analysis. Thus, at this final section of the paper, the details about the state relations in the bilateral level, i.e. Turkey and each Turkic state in Central Asia and Caucasia will be discussed.
Azerbaijan, the most proximate country to Turkey geographically, linguistically, and culturally among all Turkic states has unsurprisingly one of the closest relations with Turkey. These close relations had their roots back in Ottoman times, specifically after the reign of Abdulhamid II (1876-1909). However, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Turkish Republic, refrained from direct and assertive policies related to Azerbaijan (and the Caucasus in general), aiming to prevent any clashes with Bolshevik Russia. This stance has been carried on the Turkish side until the end of the Cold War, notwithstanding the extremist pan-Turkist movements in Republican history. After the demise of the USSR, however, the bilateral relations entered into a new stage. Turkey was the first country to recognize the independence of Azerbaijan. Effusive statements have also been made about the Turkish role on the Azerbaijani side. Typical was the remark by Azerbaijan’s then Foreign Minister, Tofik Gasymov, in Ankara in August 1992 that “Turkey is our greatest helper. We want Turkey’s aid in establishing links with the world.” Materials steps were also made related to civic life in Azerbaijan. “With respect to easier contacts with Turkey and the West,” Azerbaijan adopted Latin in January 1993. In total, Turkey-Azerbaijani relations have been close in political, economic, and cultural terms. Politically, Turkey ardently defends Azeri position regarding Azeri’s Nagorno-Karabakh conflict with Armenia. Economically, both countries have growing trade volume and more importantly linkages for energy transmission routes such as the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline project. Moreover, “for Turkey, Azerbaijan [is] the linguistically closest nation, the linchpin of the old Oghusianism, the stepping-stone in any commercial and cultural expansion in Central Asia, a country with a solidly pro-Turkish following the politically articulate” and thus acts as a very vital country for Turkey’s prospects. Likewise, Turkey acts as a sturdy bridge for Azerbaijan to the West in various grounds. Therefore, strong Turkish-Azerbaijani relations are likely to be sustained in the upcoming future even though issues such as a potential, yet currently distant Turkish-Armenian rapprochement (especially without any resolution for the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan) may occasionally strain these well-built relations.
As stated in earlier parts of this research, large numbers of Russian settlers (i.e. six million inhabitants) dominate the north, with 38 percent of this huge republic’s total population in Kazakhstan. Moreover, Kazakhstan forms the most striking example of European settlement in Central Asia, with many of its towns and cities that have large numbers of Europeans. However, starting in the early 1980s, the departure of the Europeans—including not only Russians and Ukrainians, but also Volga Germans, Jews, and Greeks—began. The talent vacuum that is created by these departures is aimed to be filled by Kazakh officials. Turkey to this end seems to be of help. There are officially 27 Kazakh-Turkish high schools and two Kazakh-Turkish universities in Kazakhstan. Moreover, 4000 Kazakh students were educated in Turkish universities between 1992 and 2007. All of these attempts target to provide Kazakhstan with necessary and qualified workforce in the long run. Turkey helps Kazakhstan in other cultural areas too. For instance, the enormously important Yassaui mausoleum in the city of Turkestan (South Kazakhstan oblast) was finished in 2000, thanks to the massive financial assistance from Turkey. There is also cooperation between these two nations related to energy issues. For example, the Trans-Caspian pipeline deriving from Aktau, Kazakhstan that would go through Azerbaijan and reach the Mediterranean at Ceyhan is currently under construction. Overall, Turkish-Kazakhstani relations are at a very decent level bilaterally and they seem to be expanding on various grounds.
Turkey-Kyrgyz relations followed similar tracks like the cases analyzed so far. Kyrgyz officials made laudatory speeches regarding Turkey. For instance, “in an enthusiastic speech, Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev called Turkey a ‘North Star,’ to be looked for guidance.” To be culturally more aligned with the West, which undoubtedly includes Turkey, Kyrgyzstan adopted Latin script in recent years. Both countries also strive to enhance their relations in education. Almost 4000 Kyrgyz students came for scholarly purposes to Turkey just between 1997 and 2002. Moreover, International Atatürk-Alatoo University was opened in 1996 and the Turk-Kyrgyz Manas University was established in 1998, both with the supports of the Turkish government. There is economic cooperation among these nations too. To give concrete figures in a nutshell, more than 600 Turkish business enterprises operate in Kyrgyzstan. Furthermore, trade volume between two nations reached 160 million US dollars in recent years. To sum up, Turkish-Kyrgyz relations are in very good terms with a potential of further development over time.
The bilateral relations between Turkey and Turkmenistan have been smooth and strong since the declaration of independence by Turkmenistan. In fact, Turkey was the first country to recognize the independence of Turkmenistan. Thanks to the growing relations, the trade volume among these countries reached 528 million US dollars in the first nine months of 2007. The investment volume by Turkish firms in Turkmenistan surpassed 1 billion 250 million US dollars in 2007. Moreover, the two countries signed the Trans-Caspian natural gas project in 1998. The elaboration of the relations between these two states is not confined to economic terms. For instance, almost 6000 students arrived from Turkmenistan to Turkey for educational purposes between 1997 and 2002. Taken as a whole, Turkish-Turkmen relations have the prospective of developing more in the future.
Uzbekistan is undergoing an important shift from Russian influence to its Islamic and Turkic symbols. Uzbek is a Turkic language approximately as distant from Turkish as Portuguese is from Spanish. Moreover, Uzbekistan seems to be pursuing Turkish ties aggressively so as to counterbalance, although not replace, Russian ones. Strikingly enough, Uzbek president Islam Karimov publicized that “[Uzbeks] regard Turkey as an elder brother.” The interest about Turkey is not only confined to the upper echelons of Uzbek nation. Overall Uzbek populace has come to realize the ties between the Turks and Uzbeks. Turkey, as a country that has close linguistic, historical, and cultural linkages with Uzbekistan caught the interest of Uzbek population in general and served as a model, thanks to her relatively prosperous, Western-oriented, traditionally Islamic country with a secular state. Although hampered by some shortcomings (Turkey’s own economic shortcomings, etc.) and limitations (still extant Russian power on Uzbekistan), the bilateral relations have a promise for further expansion in upcoming years.
Overall Assessment of Bilateral Relations
As observed throughout this research, especially under the last section, there is room for improvement for the bilateral relations between Turkey and Turkic states in the future. Specifically, the relations in economic terms may flourish even more via efficient use of already existing energy routes and establishment of new energy routes, and expanding trade and investments bilaterally. However, the education aspect of the bilateral relations seems to be deteriorating in recent years. Although the quantity of the students coming from Turkic states to Turkey is quite high, the numbers have started to decrease in years. Moreover, inadequacy of economic resources on the Turkish side limits the scholarships offered to these students.
There were criticisms that the Turkish authorities were not paying serious attention to the selection of students coming from the Turkic Republics and other Turkish and Turkic communities elsewhere. Turkey, according to this line of argument, has chosen quantity over quality, i.e. has opted for bringing the average student rather than the best and the brightest.
The progress of economic relations is quite consequential yet it does not suffice. Educational and cultural links between Turkey and Turkic nations in the bilateral level are crucial if Turkey targets to strengthen its bonds with these nations.
This article has analyzed the relations between Turkey and Turkic nations after the end of the Cold War era. To do this, various dynamics of the relations have been explored. First, the “ethnicity” concept has been clarified and then investigated through the lenses of this study. Second, Turkey’s policies with regional and international powers, i.e. Russia, the USA, and Iran have been discussed with regard to the Caucasus and Central Asia. Third, the bilateral relations between Turkey and each Turkic state have been examined. All in all, this article intends to bridge different strands of literature about the political and socio-economic relations between Turkey and Turkic nations in Central Asia and the Caucasus.
It is evident that the “big brother” approach of initial Turkish foreign policy with an overarching strategy to “enlighten” the populace in Turkic states created some problems on developing the relations with these countries. The prior Turkish experience with Turkish minorities in Bulgaria, Greece, Cyprus, or Iraq are clearly not comparable to the cases that Turkey faces in Turkic states, which lived under Soviet control that affected every tiers of the society in these countries. A potential subjugation by another power is not an appealing vision to the leaders and intelligentsia of Central Asia. “They wish to become citizens of the world, after a long period of what they see as neo-colonial rule and harsh exploitation by Russia.” Moreover, neutral observers should concede that these newly established states have many other options besides Turkey related to their development paths both politically and economically and Turkey serves only as an alternative (although a strong one) among many others. Yet, in general, a sympathetic and supportive approach by Turkey will be most probably welcome on the side of Turkic states for their integration to the liberal world. By this way, all sides will benefit through various angles and this will strengthen all parties’ hands in international political arena in the future.