Crossing the Borders: Turkey's Power Nexus with the Ottoman Heritage Communities at the Time of New Nationalism

Taşkın B.

International Political Science Association, Lisbon, Portugal, 10 - 15 July 2021, pp.1-24

  • Publication Type: Conference Paper / Full Text
  • City: Lisbon
  • Country: Portugal
  • Page Numbers: pp.1-24


The Kemalist reforms following the establishment of the Turkish Republic, struggled to convert a non-Western traditional society to a secular nation-state. This modernization process in Turkey, without direct intent, in the early 20th century also created schism between traditional Islamist wings and modernist wings among the Ottoman heritage Muslim ethnic Turkish communities that found themselves suddenly as Muslim minorities in the newly established nation-states, such as Greece, Bulgaria and Cyprus. The EU enlargements including Greece and Bulgaria were significant also for the minorities, as it meant unification of nation-states of the Southeast Europe and also with the adoption of EU values in addition to the global tolerance perspective, suggested the end of nationalism and national minority issues. While borders between EU and non-EU states (home-state and kin-state) become stronger, through adoption of the EU norms and institutions, the Muslim-Turkish minority in the Mediterranean region and the Turkish immigrants in Western Europe, gained opportunities for political representation at local, national and EU-levels. In the recent EU Parliament elections, ethnic Turkish party in Bulgaria (MRF) send four representatives to the European Parliament through participating to a national group (ALDE); A Cypriot Turk Niyazi Kızılyürek was elected from Cyprus’ Nordic Green Left list and three Turkish origin representatives are elected from Germany; however Muslim minority in Greece left without representatives when they collectively voted for the Turkish ethnic FEP, aiming to create an awareness to the minority issue, despite the fact that party has no vote potential to pass the electoral threshold.

How should we interpret the political behaviours of Turkish-Muslim minorities in their home-lands? Does their act portray normalization of majority-minority relations or rise of ethnic nationalist votes? Based on Brubaker’s ‘triadic nexus theory’ that describes a power relation between national minorities, nationalizing states, and external national homelands, this paper by making a comparative discourse analysis of the minority elites in Greece and Bulgaria, argues that the acceleration of negative rhetoric towards Muslims in Europe in addition to the growing radical-right populism, cause resurgence of ethnic nationalism within the Muslim minorities and increase their dependency to the kin-state Turkey for the protection of their cultural rights and identities. However, because of the diverse experiences of traditional vs. modernist schism in two communities and dissimilar internal factors they develop different survival strategies.