Exploding, imploding; expanding, shrinking
It is not the fashion in today’s Turkey but perhaps it is wiser to remember why Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s Turkey in the making categorically rejected suggestions that Thessaloniki, the birthplace of Atatürk, also be included in the territory of the republic.
It has never ever been a secret; Atatürk always had an affection for the Balkans, particularly Macedonia, most particularly his home city Thessaloniki. Yet, he categorically rejected expansionist designs on grounds that if the infant formation heading to become the Turkish republic did not stop in 1922 at the armistice line – which with the absence of Hatay, Mousul and Kirkuk was more or less the Misak-ı Milli (national borders) resolution adopted by the last Ottoman assembly – it might not be able to stop land claims of others and end up with a smaller Turkey.
Just for the preservation of what was already at hand, precious ancestral lands were left to others. Similarly, at the Lausanne negotiations on a peace treaty Turkey gave considerable concessions including the Aegean islands, most of which are just at arm’s length from Anatolia’s coastline. Why? Same reason. That was the painful choice that the founding fathers of the republic had to make.
Some are now publicly voicing their suggestions, some are talking, so to say, through their stomachs and many are talking behind closed doors about the prospect of an exploding or expanding Turkey should it decide to reform its administrative system. How? By becoming a federation or an effective federation or simply like the United States of America by becoming a United States of Turkey. Why? Pundits – which include some members of the Turkish Cabinet – claim that the nation state was a phenomenon of the 18-19-20th centuries. It is now outdated. It is now the time of globalization, interdependence, lower borders and explosion of intercultural, interpolitical and intereconomical relations across the globe.
As was stated most recently by Şişli Mayor Mustafa Sarıgül’s Changing Turkey Movement Secretary-General Hasan Aydın, by becoming a federal Turkey, very much like federal Germany, or a United States of Turkey, like the USA, Turkey would terminate its existence as a nation state but become a common house of Turks, Kurds, Georgians, Azerbaijanis and other ethnicities and thus provide the grounds for an expansion, rather than shrinking, of the Turkish territory. How? Was it not obvious? By inviting Kurds of Iraq, Syria, Iran and God knows who else to join in that new Turkey.
Right, for example Mousul and Kirkuk were anyhow part of the Misak-i Milli (but outside the armistice line). Including them in new Turkey’s territory would perhaps be great considering the natural riches of those areas. But would it be that simple? While trying to explode Turkey’s physical and cultural presence in the entire geography with a neo-Ottomanist synthesis, are not we risking implosion of the country? While talking of expansion of territory, are not we risking huge chunks of Turkish ancestral land, down to Adana and Mersin?
Why did Atatürk voluntarily leave his birthplace Thessaloniki to Greece? Was he incapable of getting it or was he concerned that demanding a pebble that has become property of someone else might open the probability of others demanding land from Turkey?
Is it not enough with these neo-Ottomanist oddities?