Muamar Khauli on the History of Turkish-Russian Relations

20 May, 2014

Recently published by the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies, Turkish-Russian Relations: From the Heritage of the Past to the Horizons of the Future (120 pp., ISBN: 978-9953-0-3014-2) provides readers with a detailed introduction to the history between two interlocked empires—the Ottoman Empire and Czarist Russia—and their successor states. By investigating the religious and geographical bases for that conflicted history, Khauli’s book provides a microcosmic view of the conflict between modern-day Turkey and Russia. 

The book examines the ebb and flow of Russian-Turkish relations, and the points at which these two countries’ policies meet and diverge. Importantly, the book maintains an awareness of the fact that the relations between states do not follow a deterministic path along a straight line, that the bi-lateral relations between Turkey and Russia are contingent on a host of bi-lateral interactions and shared global and regional interests.

The main hypothesis Khauli explores in these pages is the existence of a dependent relationship between the ascendency of the AKP in Turkey and Turkish-Russian relations. Khauli does so by examining the history of contemporary Turkish-Russian relations, dividing this into three phases: the foundation of a Turkish-Russian partnership, between 2002 and 2004; the emergence of a material, tangible partnership, between 2004 and 2008; and a final period from 2008 to 2012, during which time the shared interests between the two countries were diversified. The extent to which the Syrian crisis highlighted the sharp conflict between the two countries, however, compelled the author to add a further period of interest, bringing the book’s coverage up to April 2013.

According to Khauli, Turkish-Russian relations present a distinct and special case study in international relations. He notes that while relations between Turkey and Russia have been largely fluid, with periods of confrontation and friendliness alternating throughout history, they were founded on a basis of enmity rooted in the conflict between Ottoman Turkey and Czarist Russia. He claims that this enmity was born of a religious conflict, with the Russians never forgiving the Ottomans for the conquest of Constantinople, the focus of world Orthodoxy, in 1453. Khauli does, however, point to the improvement in the relations between the two sides during the interwar era, particularly after the Czarist state was toppled by the Bolsheviks in 1917 and Ataturk founded the Turkish Republic in 1924.

Khauli concludes that despite this historical animosity which survived both the Ottoman and Czarist empires, as well as the Cold War conflict between the Republic of Turkey and the Soviet Union, Vladimir Putin’s Russia and Recep Tayyep Erdogan’s Turkey have managed to build bilateral relations based on fruitful academic cooperation. Relations between Ankara and Moscow are no longer based on deep-seated phobias or fantasies, nor does Turkey see an old Soviet foe in Russia; Moscow, too, is prepared to look beyond trade relations to see a geopolitical dialogue partner in West Asia.

To obtain copies of this book and others published by the ACRPS, please visit the ACRPS Digital Bookstore (website in Arabic).  

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