AHMP Letter to the Economist, June 27, 1995

To the Editor of The Economist:


In your June 17th article "Turkic Delights", you once again overstate the significance of the Turks' common linguistic heritage with the Turkic peoples of ex-Soviet Central Asia. Although you are correct in stating that their languages are closely related, this fact, which may be significant to a linguist, means precious little where practical communication is concerned.

Just as modern Romans can understand next to nothing when listening to a Rumanian, despite the fact that both speak Latin tongues, Kazaks, Uzbeks, Kirgizis, Turkmens and Tajiks likewise find it impossible to fluently communicate with a Turkish speaker. Furthermore, many within these Turkic peoples do not even speak their mother tongue as Russian has become their first language. As the separation between the Turks and their Central Asian cousins occured over half a millenium ago, even the cultural and ethnic similarities will have to be manufactured, rather than discovered, by Ankara. This is particularly so given the fact that the original Turkish invaders had no civilization (as opposed to culture) of their own and absorbed that of their Persian, Arab and Christian subjects like a thirsty sponge. Consequently, almost all purportedly Turkish things, such as baklava, "Turkish" coffee, and domed mosques, are not Turkish at all but Arabic, Persian, Greek (Byzantine) etc. Another consequence is that Turkic peoples in one region, having absorbed the surrounding culture, will have very little in common, save their religion, with Turkic peoples elsewhere.

It is comforting to see that you have finally consulted a map and placed news regarding Turkey where it belongs-- in your "Asia" rather than your "Europe" section. No matter how hard The Economist tries to make the inclusion of human-rights violating, genocide-denying, perpetually-invading Turkey in the EEU a more palatable idea, Turkey is far more a thing of Asia than of Europe. The most obvious oversight is the geographical one. Asserting that Turkey is a part of Europe because 3% of its land area is on the European continent -- through an incident of 20th Century conquest (and to Eastern Thrace's Greek [ex-]inhabitants' dismay) -- while the rest of Turkey sits in Asia is akin to declaring that the medieval Papacy was Muslim because of the foothold the Crusaders had secured in Palestine. Politically and culturally, Turkey is even farther from any claims to Europeaness than even its geography allows for.

Turkey's brutal 1974 invasion and continuing occupation of Cyprus and its recent invasion and occupation of northwestern Iraq evinces that, where the Turkish government can get away with it, bald military aggression is its preffered method of dispute resolution. Turkey's horrific human rights record, where a wide spectrum of Turkish citizens -- from Kurds to Christian Orthodox worshipers to Moslem Alawites to Turkish intellectuals -- are being coerced, imprisoned, tortured and killed, deserves particular attention when evaluating Turkish claims to westernization.

Yet it may be that Turkey's lack of any meaningful identification with and allegiance to the West is most convincingly manifested in the utter contempt the Turks have for the Greek and Roman treasures unearthed in their adopted home (to wit, your June 25th article "The Plundering of Istanbul"). In Asia Minor, Cyprus and Eastern Thrace, precious classical Greek, Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine artifacts, priceless witnesses to Europe's ancient heritage in Asia Minor, are being lost to us forever. Turkish developers unearthing such cultural treasures throw them away like so many pieces of rubbish. Even more damningly, where archeological artifacts and other finds are not lucky enough to be smuggled out by art thieves, as in Cyprus, they are often purposely and systematically destroyed to erase the European and particularly Greco-Roman heritage of the land in furtherance of its "Turkification". Other that the truly Orwellian dimensions of this cultural holocaust in the service of historical revisionism, such malicious disregard of European cultural treasures is more than simply not European. It is decidedly anti-European.


Phillip Spyropoulos, Esq.

[AHMP Home Page] [Announcements] [Media Alert!] [Recent Responses] [Responses by Source] [Responses by Topic]

HTML by the HR-Net Group / Hellenic Resources Institute, Inc.
misc2html v1.03 run on Sunday, 18 February 1996 - 19:16:03