Neo-Ottomanism (Turkish: Yeni Osmanlıcılık, Neo-Osmanlıcılık) is an irredentist and imperialist Turkish political ideology that, in its broadest sense, advocates to honor the Ottoman past of Turkey and promotes greater political engagement of the Republic of Turkey within regions formerly under the rule of the Ottoman Empire, the predecessor state that covered the territory of modern Turkey among others.
Neo-Ottomanism emerged at the end of the Cold War with the dissolution of the Soviet Union, forming two distinct waves of the ideology: the first, in the early 1990s, developed by the Turkish journalist and foreign policy advisor to President Turgut Özal, Cengiz Çandar; the second, associated with Ahmet Davutoğlu and his foreign policy goals of establishing Turkey as an influential power within the Balkans, Caucasia and the Middle East.
The term has been associated with Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's irredentist, interventionist and expansionist foreign policy in the Eastern Mediterranean and the neighboring Cyprus, Greece, Iraq, Syria, as well as in Africa, including Libya, and Nagorno-Karabakh. However, the term has been rejected by members of the Erdoğan Government, such as the former Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and Parliament Speaker Mustafa Şentop.
One of the first uses of the term was in a Chatham House paper by David Barchard in 1985, 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.
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 Justice and Development Party (Turkish: Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, abbreviated AKP founded in 2001) which came to power in 2002. 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. The AKP have used slogans such as Osmanlı torunu ("descendant of the Ottomans") to refer to their supporters and also their leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (who was elected President in 2014) during their election campaigns. 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 that of the Ottoman era. Critics have thus accused Erdoğan of acting like an "Ottoman sultan".
Neo-Ottomanism 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. 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. Özal's neo-Ottomanism is characterized by a rediscovery of Turkey's multiple identities, in contrast to the unitary conception of the Kemalist republic, and by a tendency to prioritize economic aspects rather than politico-state and security logics.
Neo-Ottomanism had a basis in religious circles. Fethullah Gülen, an influential Islamic leader, looks both to personal transformation and social and political activism, and fully embraces Turkish nationalism—the defining characteristic of which is Islam, not nationality—and economic neoliberalism while stressing continuity with Turkey's Ottoman past. His emphasis on the role of the state and neoliberalism are legacies of the changing nature of the late Ottoman state from the vantage point of the east, including conflicts between Muslims and Christians in Yugoslavia and, later, the expansion of the Soviet Union and the threat it posed.
The Ottoman Empire was an influential global power which, at its peak, controlled the Balkans and most of the modern-day Middle East. Neo-Ottomanist foreign policy encourages increased engagement in these regions as part of Turkey's growing regional influence. 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, once Turkey's ally, suffered, especially after the 2008–09 Gaza War and the 2010 Gaza flotilla raid.
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.
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. Such fears appear more frequently in Western media when Turkish tensions with Israel rise. Then-President Abdullah Gül dismissed claims that Turkey has shifted its foreign policy axis.
Focused on the rhetoric of the encounter between civilizations, Davutoğlu takes up the approach of former President Turgut Özal, who was the first Turkish president to begin discussions on Turkey's accession to the West. The latter put an end to the crisis that arose following the 1974 coup in Cyprus in order to move closer to the Western bloc, and thus to look towards Asia and extend its area of influence towards the countries of the Caucasus. Aiming at a policy of national harmony, Özal refuses any denial of specificity among Turkish citizens. He sought in particular to relaunch dialogue with the Kurds, wishing to put an end to the permanent state of war between the PKK and the Turkish state, a conflict which tarnished Turkey's image in the world.
As President, Erdoğan has overseen a revival of Ottoman tradition. While serving as the Prime Minister of Turkey, Erdoğan's AKP made references to the Ottoman era during election campaigns, such as calling their supporters 'grandsons of Ottomans' (Osmanlı torunu). This proved controversial, since it was perceived to be an open attack against the republican nature of modern Turkey founded by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. In 2015, Erdoğan made a statement in which he endorsed the old Ottoman term külliye to refer to university campuses rather than the standard Turkish word kampüs. Many critics have thus accused Erdoğan of wanting to become an Ottoman sultan and abandon the secular and democratic credentials of the Republic. The American philosopher, Noam Chomsky, said that "Erdogan in Turkey is basically trying to create something like the Ottoman Caliphate, with him as caliph, supreme leader, throwing his weight around all over the place, and destroying the remnants of democracy in Turkey at the same time".
When pressed on this issue in January 2015, Erdoğan rejected these claims and told TRT that he would aim to fill a role more similar to Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, explaining, "In my opinion, even the UK is a semi-presidency. And the dominant element is the Queen".
In July 2020, after the Council of State annulled the Cabinet's 1934 decision to establish the Hagia Sophia as museum and revoking the monument's status, Erdoğan ordered its reclassification as a mosque. The 1934 decree was ruled to be unlawful under both Ottoman and Turkish law as Hagia Sophia's waqf, endowed by Sultan Mehmed II, had designated the site a mosque; proponents of the decision argued the Hagia Sophia was the personal property of the sultan. This redesignation is controversial, invoking condemnation from the Turkish opposition, UNESCO, the World Council of Churches, the Holy See, and many other international leaders. In August 2020, he also signed the order that transferred the administration of The Chora to the Directorate of Religious Affairs to open it for worship as a mosque. Initially converted to a mosque by the Ottomans, the building had then been designated as a museum by the government since 1934.
August 26, 2020, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan gave a speech, saying that "in our civilization, conquest is not occupation or looting. It is establishing the dominance of the justice that Allah commanded in the region. First of all, our nation removed the oppression from the areas that it conquered. It established justice. This is why our civilization is one of conquest. Turkey will take what is its right in the Mediterranean Sea, in the Aegean Sea, and in the Black Sea.
- Misak-ı Millî
- Taksim (politics)
- Pax Ottomana
- Turkish fear
- Blue Homeland
- Vision 2023
- Aegean dispute
- Turkish nationalism
- Turkish invasion of Cyprus
- Turkish occupation of northern Syria
- Armenian genocide denial
- Anti-Armenian sentiment in Turkey
- Wastnidge, Edward (2 January 2019). "Imperial Grandeur and Selective Memory: Re-assessing Neo-Ottomanism in Turkish Foreign and Domestic Politics" (PDF). Middle East Critique. 28 (1): 7–28. doi:10.1080/19436149.2018.1549232. ISSN 1943-6149. S2CID 149534930.
- Talmiz Ahmad (27 September 2020). "Erdogan's neo-Ottomanism a risky approach for Turkey". Arab News. Retrieved 13 May 2021.
- Allison Meakem (25 December 2020). "Turkey's Year of Living Dangerously". Foreign Policy. Retrieved 13 May 2021.
- Joseph Croitoru (9 May 2021). "Imperialist aspirations of Turkey - Ankara on course for expansion (Original: Imperialistische Bestrebungen der Türkei - Ankara auf Expansionskurs)". Die Tageszeitung: Taz. Die Tageszeitung (Taz). Retrieved 13 May 2021.
- Branislav Stanicek (September 2020). "Turkey: Remodelling the eastern Mediterranean" (PDF) (Briefing). European Parliamentary Research Service. Retrieved 18 May 2021.
- Raso Della Volta, Lea (2021). Les paradoxes du nationalisme turc: La construction de l'identité de 1869 au néo-ottomanisme de Recep Erdogan. L'Harmattan. p. 393. OCLC 1268921056.
- "Neo-Ottoman minister". POLITICO. 8 July 2009. Retrieved 22 February 2023.
- "The Davutoğlu Doctrine and Turkish Foreign Policy". Docslib. Retrieved 22 February 2023.
- Taşpınar, Ömer (1 August 2012). "Turkey's Strategic Vision and Syria". The Washington Quarterly. 35 (3): 127–140. doi:10.1080/0163660X.2012.706519. ISSN 0163-660X. S2CID 154875841.
- Antonopoulos, Paul (20 October 2017). "Turkey's interests in the Syrian war: from neo-Ottomanism to counterinsurgency". Global Affairs. 3 (4–5): 405–419. doi:10.1080/23340460.2018.1455061. ISSN 2334-0460. S2CID 158613563.
- Danforth, Nick (23 October 2016). "Turkey's New Maps Are Reclaiming the Ottoman Empire". Foreign Policy. Retrieved 8 October 2020.
- Sahar, Sojla (2 September 2020). "Turkey's Neo-Ottomanism is knocking on the door". Modern Diplomacy. Retrieved 8 October 2020.
- "Turkey's Dangerous New Exports: Pan-Islamist, Neo-Ottoman Visions and Regional Instability". Middle East Institute. 21 April 2020. Retrieved 4 May 2021.
- Sinem Cengiz (7 May 2021). "Turkey's militarized foreign policy provokes Iraq". Arab News. Retrieved 9 May 2021.
- Asya Akca (8 April 2019). "Neo-Ottomanism: Turkey's foreign policy approach to Africa". Center for Strategic and International Studies. Retrieved 13 May 2021.
- Michael Arizanti (10 October 2020). "Europe must wake up to Erdogan's neo-Ottoman ambition". CAPX. Retrieved 13 May 2021.
- Srdja Trifkovic (2011). "Turkey as a regional power: Neo-Ottomanism in action". Politea. ReadCube. 1 (2): 83–95. doi:10.5937/pol1102083t.
- Slaviša Milačić (23 October 2020). "The revival of neo-Ottomanism in Turkey". World Geostrategic Sights. Retrieved 13 May 2021.
- Hay Eytan Cohen Yanarocak (8 November 2021). "Turkish Irredentism and the Greater Middle East". Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security. Retrieved 12 November 2021.
- Raxhimi, Altin (26 April 2011). "Davutoglu: 'I'm Not a Neo-Ottoman'". Balkan Insight. Retrieved 7 January 2021.
- Rakipoglu, Zeynep (29 January 2021). "'Turkey determined to protect its rights': Official". www.aa.com.tr. Retrieved 21 June 2021.
- David Barchard (1985). Turkey and the West. Royal Institute of International Moin Ali Khan Affairs. ISBN 0710206186.
- Kemal H. Karpat, Studies on Ottoman Social and Political History: Selected Articles and Essays, BRILL, 2002, ISBN 978-90-04-12101-0, p. 524.
- "İstanbul Barosu'ndan AKP'li vekile çok sert tepki". www.cumhuriyet.com.tr (in Turkish). 16 January 2015. Retrieved 8 October 2020.
- "AKP'li vekil: Osmanlı'nın 90 yıllık reklam arası sona erdi". www.cumhuriyet.com.tr (in Turkish). 15 January 2015. Retrieved 8 October 2020.
- "İslami Analiz". www.islamianaliz.com. Retrieved 8 October 2020.
- "AKP'nin Osmanlı sevdası ve... - Barış Yarkadaş". Archived from the original on 8 February 2015. Retrieved 8 February 2015.
- "Yeniden Osmanlı hayalinin peşinden koşan AKP, felaketi yakaladı!." www.sozcu.com.tr (in Turkish). Retrieved 8 October 2020.
- "Kılıçdaroğlu: AKP çökmüş Osmanlıcılığı ambalajlıyor". T24 (in Turkish). Retrieved 8 October 2020.
- 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 978-0-415-77892-3.
- Kaya, Ugur (2017). "Frontière et territorialité dans la perception du monde selon l'État turc". Confluences Méditerranée. 101 (2): 13. doi:10.3917/come.101.0013. ISSN 1148-2664.
- "Fethullah Gülen". rlp.hds.harvard.edu. Archived from the original on 27 March 2019.
- Taspinar, Omer (September 2008). "Turkey's Middle East Policies: Between Neo-Ottomanism and Kemalism". Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Retrieved 5 June 2010.
- Sarah Rainsford (16 January 2009). "Turkey rallies to Gaza's plight". BBC News. Retrieved 9 January 2012.
- "Turkey condemns Israel over deadly attack on Gaza aid flotilla". The Telegraph. United Kingdom. 31 May 2010. Retrieved 5 June 2010.
- "I am not a neo-Ottoman, Davutoğlu says". Today's Zaman. Turkey. 25 November 2009. Archived from the original on 25 October 2013. Retrieved 9 January 2012.
- Adem Palabıyık (29 June 2010). "Interpreting foreign policy correctly in the East-West perspective". Today's Zaman. Archived from the original on 3 July 2010. Retrieved 8 September 2010.
- "Claims of axis shift stem from ignorance, bad intentions, says Gül". Today's Zaman. 15 June 2010. Archived from the original on 6 October 2012. Retrieved 9 January 2012.
- Lea, Raso Della Volta (2021). Les paradoxes du nationalisme turc : La construction de l'identité de 1869 au néo-ottomanisme de Recep Erdogan. L'Harmattan. p. 401. OCLC 1268921056.
- Lea, Raso Della Volta (2021). Les paradoxes du nationalisme turc : La construction de l'identité de 1869 au néo-ottomanisme de Recep Erdogan. L'Harmattan. p. 396. OCLC 1268921056.
- Calian, Florin George (25 March 2021). "The Hagia Sophia and Turkey's Neo-Ottomanism". The Armenian Weekly. Retrieved 28 May 2021.
- "Europe must wake up to Erdogan's neo-Ottoman ambition". CapX. 10 October 2020. Retrieved 28 May 2021.
- Todorović, Miloš (2021). "TİKA's Heritage Restoration Projects: Examples of Foreign Aid or Proof of Neo-Ottomanism?". Insight Turkey. 23 (3): 141–156. doi:10.25253/99.2021233.8. S2CID 244203965. Retrieved 8 December 2022.
- Oktay Özilhan. "AKP'nin şarkısında 'Uzun adam' gitti 'Osmanlı torunu' geldi ! – Taraf Gazetesi". Taraf Gazetesi. Archived from the original on 8 February 2015.
- "Erdoğan: Kampus değil, külliye". ilk-kursun.com.
- "Recep Tayyip Erdogan: The 'new sultan' now has a new palace – and it has cost Turkish taxpayers £400m". The Independent. Archived from the original on 18 June 2022.
- "Erdogan Is Turkey's New Sultan – WSJ". WSJ. 13 August 2014.
- "The next sultan?". The Economist. 16 August 2014.
- Akkoc, Raziye (2 February 2015). "'Turkey's president is not acting like the Queen – he is acting like a sultan'". Telegraph.co.uk.
- Barsamian, David (10 October 2020). "Noam Chomsky Discusses Azeri Aggression on Artsakh". Chomsky.info. Retrieved 10 January 2021.
Erdogan in Turkey is basically trying to create something like the Ottoman Caliphate, with him as caliph, supreme leader, throwing his weight around all over the place, and destroying the remnants of democracy in Turkey at the same time, Chomsky said
- Akkoc, Raziye (30 January 2015). "Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan: I want to be like Queen of UK". Telegraph.co.uk.
- AFP. "Erdogan wants to be like Queen Elizabeth". www.timesofisrael.com. Retrieved 4 November 2021.
- Bethan McKernan (25 July 2020). "Erdoğan leads first prayers at Hagia Sophia museum reverted to mosque". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 February 2021.
- "Presidential Decree on the opening of Hagia Sophia to worship promulgated on the Official Gazette". Presidency of the Republic of Turkey: Directorate of Communications. 10 July 2020. Retrieved 17 July 2020.
- "Turkey's Erdogan says Hagia Sophia becomes mosque after court ruling". CNBC. 10 July 2020. Retrieved 24 July 2020.
- "Church body wants Hagia Sophia decision reversed". BBC News. 11 July 2020. Retrieved 13 July 2020.
- "Pope 'pained' by Hagia Sophia mosque decision". BBC News. 12 July 2020. Retrieved 13 July 2020.
- "World reacts to Turkey reconverting Hagia Sophia into a mosque". Al Jazeera. 10 July 2020. Retrieved 10 July 2020.
- "Kariye Camii ibadete açılıyor". Sözcü. Archived from the original on 21 August 2020.
- Yackley, Ayla (3 December 2019). "Court Ruling Converting Turkish Museum to Mosque Could Set Precedent for Hagia Sophia". The Art Newspaper. Retrieved 9 December 2019.
- "WATCH: Turkish conquest is spreading the justice of Allah, Erdogan says". World Israel News. 6 September 2020. Retrieved 18 November 2022.
- Prasanna Aditya, ‘Neo-Ottomanism’ in Turkish foreign policy, Observer Research Foundation, 2020.
- 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.
- Florian Calian, The Hagia Sophia and Turkey’s Neo-Ottomanism, The Armenian Weekly, 2021.
- Stephanos Constantinides, Turkey: The Emergence of a New Foreign Policy The Neo-Ottoman Imperial Model, Journal of Political and Military Sociology,1996.
- Graham E. Fuller, The New Turkish Republic: Turkey as a Pivotal State in the Muslim World, United States Institute of Peace Press, 2007.
- Marwa Maziad, Jake Sotiriadis, Turkey’s Dangerous New Exports: Pan-Islamist, Neo-Ottoman Visions and Regional Instability, Middle East Institute, 2020.
- Alexander Murinson, Turkish Foreign Policy in the 21st Century: Neo-Ottomanism and the Strategic Depth Doctrine. I. B. Tauris, 2020. ISBN 9781784532406
- Darko Tanasković, Neo-ottomanism: A Doctrine and Foreign Policy Practice. Association of Non-Governmental Organisations of Southeast Europe-CIVIS, 2013. ISBN 9788690810352
- ISBN 9781601270191
- Arestakes Simavoryan, Ideological Trends in the Context of Foreign Policy of Turkey. Europe & Orient, no. 11 (55-62), 2010.
- Miloš Todorović, TİKA’s Heritage Restoration Projects: Examples of Foreign Aid or Proof of Neo-Ottomanism?. Insight Turkey, no. 23/3 (141-156), 2021.
- Hakan Yavuz, Nostalgia for the Empire: The Politics of Neo-Ottomanism. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2020. ISBN 9780197512289.