Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Picking a nit

So I read this sentence in this article about how Turkish sympathy for the Turkic-speaking Uighurs is complicating Turkish-Chinese relations:
Turkey, heir to the Ottoman Empire, has long seen itself as a protector of Turkic-speaking people across the arc of Central Asia — and that includes the mostly Muslim Uighurs in China’s western region of Xinjiang, where ethnic tensions and outbursts of violence between Uighurs and ethnic Han, the dominant group in China, have been rising because of what Uighurs say is official repression, though Chinese officials blame terrorist ideology.
The first part of the sentence is odd, because the Ottoman Empire was not really a protector of Turkic-speaking people. The Ottoman Empire was a multi-ethnic empire that was Turkish ruled, but did not claim territory or justify its legitimacy based on ethnicity like the modern nation-state does. The Ottomans didn't always have good relations with their Turkic-speaking cousins in Central Asia either (e.g.). Pan Turkism (and the broad sympathy that comes with it for far-flung Turkic cousins like the Uighur) didn't exist until the last century of the Ottoman Empire and it is one of the forces that tore that country apart. It's not because modern Turkey is the heir to the Ottoman Empire that it sees itself as a champion of Turkic peoples around the world, it is because nationalism became the new grounds for national legitimacy when the Ottoman Empire collapsed. In that sense, pan-Turkic nationalism is a rejection of their Ottoman legacy, not the product of it.

(Yes, I realize that one sentence does not really matter. This is not a criticism of the overall article or the point it was making. Rather, this is just a reflection of my own obsession with Pan-Turkism (particularly since 2010). For Example. In any case, if I can't pick a nit, what is the point of having a blog?)