Amid Azerbaijan-Armenia Fighting, Turkish Dailies Propose ‘Turkic NATO’: ‘The Turkic States Must Unite’

Turanism, also called pan-Turanism and pan-Turkism, is a political philosophy whose adherents seek to unite the world’s Turkic peoples, who live primarily in Turkey, the Caucasus, and Central Asia. While the origin of the idea of a language group, and by extension a national group, uniting these peoples can be traced to major Enlightenment-era philosopher and mathematician Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, the idea began to spread among Ottoman military officers and elites living in Imperial Germany in the 1870s. The question of the precise role of this idea in the policy and philosophy of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, founder of the Republic of Turkey, is a subject of debate, but some of the policy and rhetoric of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his ruling AKP reflects pan-Turanist influence.

The website of the Turkic Council, an international organization whose General Secretariat is in Istanbul, Turkey, reads: “The Cooperation Council of Turkic Speaking States (Turkic Council) was established in 2009 as an intergovernmental organization, with the overarching aim of promoting comprehensive cooperation among Turkic Speaking States. Its four founding member states are Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkey. During the 7th Summit held in Baku in October 2019, Uzbekistan joined the Council as a full member. Hungary received observer status at the Turkic Council during its 6th Summit in Cholpon-Ata, Kyrgyz Republic in September 2018.”

Amid the recent fighting between Azerbaijan and Armenia over control of Nagorno-Karabagh, there has been talk in the Turkish press about the formation of a “Turan Army.” While its exact shape remains a subject of discussion, the proposed “Turan Army” would be a military organization comprising the armies of the states in which these peoples live. The discussion is prompted in part by the military support of Turkey, most of whose population is ethnically Turkic, for Azerbaijan, another such country, in the recent fighting.

In an October 27, 2020 article in the Turkish daily Türkiye about the formation of a “Turan Army,” professor and writer Dr. Kürşad Zorlu called it an “important goal” but warned: “For projects like this to be announced too much before the necessary mental framework and international balances have reached an acceptable level can cause the process to come to nothing.”

In the same article, professor and writer Dr. Cemalettin Taşkıran said of the recent fighting between Azerbaijan and Armenia: “It would not be wrong to say that the support that Turkey gave [to Azerbaijan] changed the balance in the region.” He then cryptically warned against discussing the topic too openly: “Will this go on to [the formation of] a Turan Army? Inshallah it will. But it is too early to put this into words. To say such things will wake up many of those who attend meetings.”

In an October 28 column in the Yeni Çağ daily, writer Ahmet Gürsoy went into more detail about the structure of such an organization, calling it “a kind of Turkic NATO,” and said that: “Before forming a Turan Army, the infrastructure that will get us there must be established. First of all, joint commercial institutions must be established. Then a process for an art and culture union should be put in order with a clear plan. Much more important, education policies should be developed, and student exchanges should be done not randomly, but systematically, in an organized manner, for this purpose.”

The following report will review recent commentary in the Turkish press on the formation of a “Turan Army.”

“The Turkic States Must Unite: The Turan Army Is The Hope”

The front-page headline of the October 27, 2020 issue of Türkiye daily, which has the fourth-highest print circulation of any daily in Turkey, read: “The Turkic States Must Unite: The Turan Army Is The Hope.” An introduction to the article read: “The success in Karabagh has brought once again to the agenda one of the West’s greatest fears: the Turan Army. Azerbaijan, which has become stronger with the military training, joint drills, and support with armed drones that Turkey has provided, has broken Armenia’s back. This picture of success that has appeared has once again brought to life the hopes concerning a Turan Army, that would be the joint military power of the Turkic states. The Turan Army, which will be a unique option for disrupting the plots in the region, will become a leading actor on every issue.” Subheadings read: “It Will Be A Global Power – It Is Early But Definitely One Day.”