On Feb 27, the UN Security Council adopted resolution 2268, endorsing the cessation of all hostilities in Syria, including strikes by Russian and US-led coalition air forces. The resolution does not apply to terrorist organizations such as Jabhat al-Nusrah and Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Daesh)? Organizations banned in Russia and some other countries. But the same day Turkish troops fired at Kurd-controlled towns in Syria. It was the first and probably not the last breach of the resolution. One of the reasons the Turks are so active in Syria is that they care for Turkmens, a Turkic group living in the north of Syria. Senior researcher at the Center for Studying General Problems of the Modern East of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the RAS, PhD (History) Shokhrat Kadyrov has agreed to comment on these and some other questions in an interview to EADaily.
It is not a secret that Russia and Turkey are the key actors I the Syrian war. So, now that the war has been stopped, what is the key goal for the Turks in Syria - to fight the Kurds or to protect the Turkmens?
To fight the Kurds is their key goal, but their key supporters in this fight are the Turkmens. The Turks are keen to help their Turkmen brothers in Syria to retain their territories as this will help them to retain their presence in that country. The use of the ethnic card in the politics is a game of the rational and the irrational. When Russia urged Recep Tayyip Erdogan to apologize for the shot-down plane and to punish those guilty, the Turkish President rewarded the Turkmen who shot down the plane. If there were no Turkmens in Syria, the Turks would have fewer motives for interfering in Syria’s affairs. Nor would they have a foothold in that country.
Are the Turks of Turkey and the Turkmen of Syria one and the same people?
Oghuz Turkmens appeared in Syria as soldiers of the Seljuk (Turkmen) Empire much earlier than Turks emerged as a nation (XVI-XVII). It is due to Syria that Turkmen have survived as an independent ethnic group. In Turkey there are 200,000 of them, while in Syria their number exceeds 1,000,000. Before the Syrian war few people in Russia were aware of their existence. Syria-based Turkmens have never been in opposition, nor have they ever triggered any wars. Now too they are acting not as a compact ethnic force but as parts of different anti-Assad groups. Their key motive is their kinship with the Turks. Most of them see no future without Turkey’s patronage. So, as long as there are Turkmens in Syria, Turkey will be able to play the card of ethnic irrationality – and not only in Syria.
So, the use of the Turkmen card in the Syrian war is a well-considered policy to manipulate ethnic sentiments?
The Russian plane shot down by a Turkmen may be regarded as both a coincidence and an attempt to use newest irrational political technologies. Russian ethnography has no such technologies yet. Our ethnographers have even failed to say who the Syrian Turkmens are and if they have any relation to the Turks of the Caucasus and Central Asia. They think that ethnos is a fiction. But ethnic sentiments are not a fiction – they are part of our instincts. So, they are objective, just like the reproductive and parental instincts and even the instincts of collective subconscious and xenophobia. These instincts serve as pillars for cultural standards. Such behavior is typical for all human beings but depends on their ethnicity. In homes in different countries you will see Bible, Quran or Buddha statuettes next to pictures of relatives. This is the cult of blood, the concept of ethnos as a big family.
Recently, internet community has been discussing an interview given by Mr. Tishkov, Scientific Director of the Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, who says that Russia has just one nation, Russians, and 400 ethnic groups. Doesn’t he contradict his own self?
It seems that Mr. Tishkov dreams of hearing no more mentions of ethnos in future. But this will not solve our ethnic problems. By keeping secret the ethnic statistics and having removed the “nationality” line from our passports, our authorities have made the work of ethnologists much harder. The UN has almost 180 states, while the number of nations in the world is much bigger, let alone the number of ethnic languages. I am sure that there are more than 400 ethnic groups in Russia.
Ethnic groups are eternal. They do not vanish. At worst they are incorporated into other groups and turn into ethnic collectives. In their times Oghuz Turkmen turned into Turks and Azerbaijanis. Almost all Central Asian ethnic groups are mutually incorporated. In the Turkmen tribe of Nokhurli you can even find descendants of Karabakh Armenians.
Ethnic groups are more efficient than social groups in mobilizing people around the idea of enlarged (real or unreal) relationship. In present-day ethnocratic Central Asian states this idea has become part of the official doctrine. So, here it no longer matters what Central Asian Turk thinks about his relation to Turkish or Syrian Turk and if there is such relation at all. What matters here is that all Turkic states use one Pan-Turkic slogan in their relations with Turkey: “Two states one nation.”
In Turkmenistan, this process has certain peculiarities as the ethnonym “Turkmen” is identical to the name of Syrian Turkmens.
Ruhnama, a book written by Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov (Turkmenbashi), says that all Turks descend from Oghuz Turkmens, whose Seljuk Empire spread from Spain to China and served as foundations for Ottoman Turkey. In Turkmenistan Ruhnama is equal Quran with its nationalism aimed at distracting the Turkmens from Islamic fundamentalism. The latter has become a real challenge after the death of Turkmenbashi. This is why Ruhnama is the main book in non-atheistic but secular Turkmenistan. Now that Russia has interfered in the Syrian war, it may spoil its relations with the Turkic world of the Caucasus and Central Asia, which has been a safety cushion for the Russians since the times of the Russian Empire and now too serves as a basis for the Eurasian Union. So, it would be a strategic mistake on Russia’s part to neglect this fact.