The Turkic world from a cultural perspective


 JAN 11, 2022 – 12:05 AM GMT+3Illustration by Erhan Yalvaç.

In October 2009, the Turkic Council, which recently changed its name to “the Organization of Turkic States,” was founded. The crucial organization consists of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkey and Uzbekistan as member countries while Hungary serves as an observer state, with Afghanistan’s application for observer state status pending.

Nationalist or not?

“Kızılelma” or “Turanism” is an ideal in which all Turkic people are united as one nation. According to some, the very concept is considered racist while others, including myself, perceive it as a holy ideal. The notion does not contradict the ideology of uniting all Muslims as ummah, the Arabic word used to refer to the collective community of Muslim people. The Arab, Malay and Turkic worlds may sound nationalistic but they are part of a broader picture. Some undermine the tenets of Turanism despite being equipped with narrow-minded understandings. The current international system proves that the role of the Turkic world is crucial in all realms.

For the brotherly union of Turkic countries to be achieved, the fields of economy, education, culture, transport, customs and diasporas will be important at the start of this process. The nicest part is that the brotherhood will also focus on establishing a common history textbook to enhance cultural, educational and linguistic bonds among Turkic societies.

Hence, protecting the identity and beliefs of the Turkic people is a goal. The brotherhood was created to protect and revive its historical links and does not pose a threat to any neighboring states. The union does not have any implications on the sovereignty of other states but rather aims to cultivate a more interactive, dynamic region that will serve as a cultural bridge from China to Europe and beyond.

The complex issues

The Turkic community’s calls should be firm and friendly, rather than challenging Russia and China, given that it was established to beef up social exchanges between members and those interested and to create a safer region for new opportunities. Bottling up the issues with Russia and China may lead to uncertainty, mistrust, ambiguity and suspicion. Thus, addressing the problems frankly will circumvent the manipulative, provocative moves such as the assassination of Russian Ambassador Andrei Karlov in Ankara and the Turkish shooting of a Russian jet.

The Uyghur issue

This is an open sore in the Muslim world akin to the Palestinian and Rohingya issues. The Turkic alliance’s position is vital in solving the issue and preventing misunderstandings with Beijing. It should underline its demands regarding Uyghurs who are facing serious ethnic and religious oppression in China, and Beijing’s Uyghur hunting policies abroad. Also, those who escaped China should be granted residency and citizenship easily (for those who meet the requirements) in member states in the Turkic organization.

The alliance should make clear that minorities of Turkic descent, such as Kazakhs, Kyrgyz and Uyghurs, should be treated the same as Chinese citizens – a stance with linguistic and cultural backing. The treatment of minorities is closely followed, including ethnic and religious issues. “Sinicization,” a term for the process to modify by Chinese influence, should have its limits. I think that China’s minority policies in the mainland confuse the Turkic societies of Central Asia and Turkey, particularly the public, regarding the neutral perception of their countries’ ties with China.

The Crimean issue

The partnership between Ankara and Moscow has increased tremendously, despite that at the same time, both sides clearly demonstrate their viewpoints on the Crimean issue. Turkey sees Crimea as a part of Ukraine while Russia claims it as its own territory. This collision, however, does not cause unnecessary military showdowns as both sides view one another as critical neighbors.

Accordingly, the stronger political harmony on cultural matters of Turkic leaders will benefit Russia, other players and the wellbeing of Crimean Tatars, who share a cultural and linguistic resemblance with other independent Turkic nations. This approach will promote stability and equilibrium in Eurasia amid the growing military activities of Russia and the United States. There are still millions of people of Turkic descent in the Russian federation. According to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, the Organization of Turkic States “in general happens through cultural, linguistic and educational traditions.” Turkologist and Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov stated that “Turkey was not the center of the Turkic world and that the Altai region, which is a sacred location for all Turks, located within Russian borders, is the center of the Turkic world.” Peskov makes a reasonable point when suggesting that the Turkic organization invite and include Turkic people living in Russia to expand the fields mentioned by Lavrov. Learning a language and culture is not a crime, but rather an advantage.

Turkmens in Syria and Iraq

The war and conflicts in Syria and Iraq have affected Turkmens in the region, too. The revitalization of their culture and language also spurs the Turkic states to achieve bigger goals in the region. The discriminatory policies of Syria and Iraq impacted minorities the most and today, Turkmen people still struggle to attain their communal rights.

Nagorno-Karabakh of Azerbaijan

The Nagorno-Karabakh region was liberated from Armenia’s illegal occupation by Azerbaijan. The Turkic alliance may consider establishing a joint educational and cultural center in Shusha since it is the cultural capital of Azerbaijan.

The Organization of Turkic States can maintain its diplomatic channels to help minorities whose mother tongue, cultural identity and traditions are in danger, in compliance with the preservation of cultural, educational and linguistic values.

Azerbaijan’s former President Abulfaz Elcibey, who was a sincere and prominent politician, once said that the Azerbaijani was made up of three colors: the first color being “Turkishness,” the second “Freedom, democracy, and modernity” and the third “Islam.” Naturally, the statement demonstrates his great wit. In this philosophy, these are values in peril. With the increasing joint cultural and educational activities, we will eradicate the language barrier and create a sense of belonging among Turkic nations, which will help our youth synthesize our common religious and traditional values.

Consequently, cultural and educational interactions in Turkic nations will consolidate the bonds while developing integrity through these endeavors and invitations.


Holder of master's degree of Human Sciences in Political Science at International Islamic University, Malaysia


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