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Neo-Ottomanism (Turkish: Yeni Osmanlıcılık) is a Turkish political ideology that, in its broadest sense, promotes greater political engagement of the modern Republic of Turkey within regions formerly under the rule of the Ottoman Empire, its predecessor state. More recently, it has also been associated with the promotion of reviving Ottoman culture and traditions within Turkey.

One of the first uses of the term was in a Chatham House paper by David Barchard in 1985,[1] in which Barchard suggested that a 'Neo-Ottoman option' might be a possible avenue for Turkey's future development. It seems also to have been used by the Greeks sometime after Turkey's invasion of Cyprus in 1974.[2]

In the 21st century, the term has come to signify a domestic trend in Turkish politics, where the revival of Ottoman traditions and culture has been accompanied by the rise of the ruling Justice and Development Party. The use of the ideology by Justice and Development Party has mainly supported a greater influence of Ottoman culture in domestic social policy which has caused issues with the secular and republican credentials of modern Turkey.[3][4] The AKP have used slogans such as Osmanlı torunu (descendant of the Ottomans) to refer to their supporters and also their former leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (who was elected President in 2014) during their election campaigns.[5] These domestic ideals have also seen a revival of neo-Ottomanism in the AKP's foreign policy. Besides acting as a clear distinction between them and ardent supporters of secularism, the social Ottomanism advocated by the AKP has served as a basis for their efforts to transform Turkey's existing parliamentary system into a presidential system, favouring a strong centralised leadership similar to the Ottoman era. Critics have thus accused Erdoğan of acting like an Ottoman sultan.[6][7][8][9][10]


It has been used to describe Turkish foreign policy under the Justice and Development Party which took power in 2002 under Erdoğan, who subsequently became Prime Minister. Neo-Ottomanism is a dramatic shift from the traditional Turkish foreign policy of the Kemalist ideology, which emphasized looking westward towards Europe with the goal of avoiding the instability and sectarianism of the Middle East. The shift away from this concept in Turkish foreign policy under Turgut Özal's government has been described as the first step towards neo-Ottomanism.[11]

Then-Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and Hossam Zaki, Senior Advisor to the Foreign Minister of Egypt, at the Munich Security Conference in 2010

The Turkish-led Ottoman Empire was an influential global power which, at its peak, controlled the Balkans, most of the modern-day Middle East, most of North Africa and the Caucasus. Neo-Ottomanist foreign policy encourages increased engagement in these regions as part of Turkey’s growing regional influence. Turkey uses its soft power to achieve its goals.[12] This foreign policy contributed to an improvement in Turkey's relations with its neighbors, particularly with Iraq, Iran and Syria. However Turkey's relations with Israel, its traditional ally, suffered, especially after the 2008–09 Gaza War[13] and the 2010 Gaza flotilla raid.[14]

Ahmet Davutoğlu, Turkish foreign minister from 2009 to 2014 and "head architect" of the new foreign policy, has however rejected the term "neo-Ottomanism" to describe his country's new foreign policy.[15] In a speech, he said that "The Turkish Republic is a modern nation state and it has equal status with countries in the region. We can build diplomatic relations of equal status with any big or small country which was previously in Ottoman lands. This is what modern diplomacy requires." Erdoğan's storming-off at the World Economic Forum in Davos after an argument with Shimon Peres, the President of Israel, has been seen as a symbol of the freeze in Turkey's formerly friendly relationship with Israel, an attitude in line with almost all other Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East.[16]

Turkey's new foreign policy started a debate, principally in the Western media, as to whether Turkey is undergoing an "axis shift"; in other words whether it is drifting away from the West and heading towards the Middle East and Asia.[17] Such fears appear more frequently in Western media when Turkish tensions with Israel rise.[17] Then-President Abdullah Gül dismissed claims that Turkey has shifted its foreign policy axis.[18]

"Zero problems" with neighbours is a term often used to describe Turkey's new foreign policy.[17] "Soft power" is regarded as particularly useful.[17]

Vis-à-vis the European Union, Davutoğlu reaffirmed that full membership is still Turkey's strategic target.

See also


  1. [[David Barchard, "Turkey and the West", RIIA, 1985, ISBN ISBN 0710206186]
  2. Kemal H. Karpat, Studies on Ottoman Social and Political History: Selected Articles and Essays, BRILL, 2002, ISBN 978-90-04-12101-0, p. 524.
  10. "Google". Retrieved 7 April 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Murinson, Alexander (December 2009). Turkey's Entente with Israel and Azerbaijan: State Identity and Security in the Middle East and Caucasus (Routledge Studies in Middle Eastern Politics). Routledge. p. 119. ISBN 0-415-77892-1.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. Taspinar, Omer (September 2008). "Turkey's Middle East Policies: Between Neo-Ottomanism and Kemalism". Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Retrieved 5 June 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. Sarah Rainsford (16 January 2009). "Turkey rallies to Gaza's plight". BBC News. Retrieved 9 January 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. "Turkey condemns Israel over deadly attack on Gaza aid flotilla". United Kingdom: The Telegraph. 31 May 2010. Retrieved 5 June 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. "I am not a neo-Ottoman, Davutoğlu says". Today's Zaman. Turkey. 25 November 2009. Retrieved 9 January 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. "Turkish PM storms off in Gaza row". BBC News. 29 January 2009. Retrieved 9 January 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 17.3 Adem Palabıyık (29 June 2010). "Interpreting foreign policy correctly in the East-West perspective". Today's Zaman. Retrieved 8 September 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. "Claims of axis shift stem from ignorance, bad intentions, says Gül". Today's Zaman. 15 June 2010. Retrieved 9 January 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Further reading

  • Kubilay Yado Arin: The AKP's Foreign Policy, Turkey's Reorientation from the West to the East? Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Berlin, Berlin 2013. ISBN 9 783865 737199.
  • Graham E. Fuller, The New Turkish Republic: Turkey as a Pivotal State in the Muslim World, United States Institute of Peace Press, 2007.
  • Sahin, Mustafa, Islam, Ottoman Legacy and Politics in Turkey: An Axis Shift? [1]