In the Balkans, the Ottoman Empire is gone but not forgotten. Many of the citizens of republics in southeastern Europe long for the past to return, a nostalgia that has not gone unnoticed in Turkey. For years, politicians have sought to mobilize this post-imperial memory for their own purposes.
On the margins of capitalism or in the furnace of communism, Turkic peoples have borne the brunt of modernity’s failures and experienced few of its successes. Ancient history, invented or otherwise, offers a refuge.
After 1923, homogeneity, sameness, consistency, and obedience were qualities strictly enforced — a kind of ethnic chauvinism that repudiated the weak pluralism of the Ottoman state … When the entire political class of a nation is so consumed by a furtively distrustful mindset, there is never a correct time to trouble the state with a demand for greater rights or greater equality.
As I was furiously taking notes, one of the attendees of a tour in city of Hebron whispered at me, “You’re one of those leftists working for an NGO. You’re here to collect evidence of all the terrible things we do.”
What on paper seemed to the bureaucrats who engineered the 1923 population exchange between Turkey and Greece an ingenious arrangement to help both countries cement their own nationalist myths was in practice anything but.
The Red Apple is a symbol of a vision and quest for modern Turkey — to wield influence and hegemony that extends well beyond its borders into Muslim-majority lands that were formerly ruled by the Ottomans in the Balkans, Middle East, and the Caucasus.
A century after the end of the Ottoman Empire, no successor to Istanbul’s sultan-caliph has emerged