Amid Quest For Neo-Ottomanism, Turkish Diplomacy Veers off Republican Realism (III)

Turkey’s diplomacy seems to have veered off Ataturk’s famous postulate of “Peace at Home, Peace Abroad” to “War at Home, War Abroad.”

Abdullah Ayasun

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Historical Perspective

Diplomacy in the Ottoman-Republican Continuum

“We were all trained by the knowledge that the Ottoman-Republican foreign policy tradition had been deeply rooted in a set of unflinching principles and a strong foundation. We know that the Ottoman and Republican-era diplomats played very important roles in state affairs. The Ottoman diplomatic elites, during the long 19th century, had to strike a very delicate balancing act to prevent the demise of the empire,” the former diplomat Yasir Gokce says.

Reflecting a shared conventional wisdom among scholars, Gokce, a young career diplomat who had been dismissed by the Turkish government in late 2016 during emergency rule, argues that those balancing policies were instrumental in prolonging the life of a decaying empire in the 19th century in the face of multiple security and geopolitical challenges in the Balkans, in the Middle East and in the Mediterranean as Great Powers of the era were occupied by the vexing Eastern Question and were vying to carve up territories from the House of Ottoman, whose waning influence earned it the infamous title “The Sick Man of Europe.”

The young but the revolutionary generation of late Ottoman elites pioneered a drastic political transformation after the foundation of the Republic. The underlying theme of Gokce’s account is the continuity both at institutional and the generational level as the late Ottoman progressives were the ones who spearheaded a revolutionary change during the Republican era.

Echoing a novel approach spawned by the Dutch historian Erick Jan Zurcher whose views upended the ascendant academic perspective about the major contours of transition between the Ottoman Empire and the new Republic of Turkey by highlighting the notion of continuity, Gokce takes comfort in the idea that there was a strong tradition accumulated in the late Ottoman era and it was later transferred to the Republican period to be used in…

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Abdullah Ayasun

Boston-based journalist and writer. Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. 2023 WHCA Scholar. On art, culture, politics and everything in between. X: @abyasun