The Turkic World: A Concept of Co-operation Between Central Asian Countries

What is the modern concept of co-operation between the Central Asian countries and why is the Turkic world, according to many scientists, a promising concept of such co-operation? We try to understand this issue in this article. Considering historical retrospect, we note that the territory of modern Central Asia, in the XIX century, was in the sphere of interests of the Russian tsar, who established a protectorate over this territory to protect his southern borders. Later becoming part of the USSR, the territory of Central Asia was divided into five Soviet republics: Uzbek SSR, Kazakh SSR, Tajik SSR, Turkmen SSR, Kyrgyz SSR.

The advantages of living in the USSR included the large-scale construction of schools, hospitals, factories, irrigation facilities, and infrastructure facilities that are still functioning today, industrialization and literacy. There were also plenty of  disadvantages: together with other Soviet republics, the Central Asian republics experienced the “charms” of collectivisation, repression, authoritarian rule, and most importantly, forced Russification: in all republics, the official language was Russian, which caused a natural discontent of the indigenous nationalities of these republics. For example, a young man from the Uzbek hinterland, where the Russian language was not predominant and was not taught well enough at school, experienced difficulties in studying at a university and further building a career due to insufficient knowledge of the Russian language.

The collapse of the Soviet Empire radically changed the life of the countries of the region. Currently, the Central Asian countries have a fairly high economic and demographic potential, as well as a convenient geographical location for the transit of goods from Europe to Asia and back. The attractiveness of the region for many leading world powers has led to rivalry between them for influence on the countries of Central Asia. Thus, the EU and the US are seeking to strengthen their influence, while Turkey, Iran, India, and China are seeking to strengthen their positions in the east. Russia also does not want to lose influence in Central Asia, considering this region to be a historically established sphere of its interests. Russia needs to maintain its influence in the region in order to realise its political and economic interests, in particular with the development of energy resources and maintaining a monopoly on them, using this factor as a lever of pressure on both the leaders of the Central Asian countries and their Western partners.

China, like Russia, is aggressively promoting the idea of a multipolar world, preparing itself for the role of one of its centres. The countries of the region are also in the orbit of Chinese interests, due to the need for the Chinese economy to have access to energy resources and oil and gas reserves.

Despite the multi-vector policy of the Central Asian countries and their desire to maintain relations with Russia and China, there is an obvious trend towards co-operation of these Turkic countries.

The integration of the citizens of the Republic of Turkey with the countries of Central Asia was brilliantly foreseen by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who wrote: “Today, the Soviet Union is our friend, our neighbour, our ally. We need this friendship. But no one can predict what will happen tomorrow. The world can achieve a new balance. We have brothers with one language, one faith and one core. We must be ready to integrate with them. To be ready is not just to be silent and wait for this day. How are the nations preparing for this? Keeping the spiritual bridges intact. Language is a bridge… Faith is a bridge… history is a bridge… We have to go down to our roots and join our history, divided by events.” That is, more than a hundred years ago, Ataturk predicted the integration of the Turkic countries based on the values of the Turkic world. The collapse of the USSR and the formation of independent states with a predominantly Turkic population, from the position of the Turkish leadership, provided a unique chance for the Turkish Republic to expand its zone of influence.

The Turkic world, as a special historical reality, was formed in the Middle Ages. The ancient thinkers of the East (Abu Nasr al-Farabi, Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khorezmi, Abu Rayhan al-Biruni) laid the philosophical, ideological, moral foundation of the concept of the Turkic world. The values of the Turkic world include freedom and independence, morality, justice, responsibility and tolerance.

The Turkic world is being strengthened in regional and international politics thanks to the active policy of the Turkic Council, which is an inter-governmental international organisation established for comprehensive co-operation of the Turkic-speaking states. The Turkic Council includes Turkey, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan

An example of co-operation between countries within the framework of the Turkic Council is their interaction during the coronavirus pandemic, when member countries and observer countries agreed to create a “green corridor” to facilitate the crossing of borders by people and essential goods, medicines and medical equipment. In 2021, the Turkic Council was transformed into the Organisation of Turkic States. Co-operation between the countries of the Turkic world has a huge potential, since 300 million people speaking Turkic languages live on the planet.

The co-operation of the countries within the framework of the “Turkic World” concept is aimed at achieving the following goals:

 – convergence of economic policy and all relevant regulatory frameworks;

– achieving full trade integration;

– creation of a single investment space;

– digital integration;

– Improvement of transport and energy links between the countries of Central Asia.

The countries of the Turkic world are striving to create a single transport space, which is necessary to increase trade turnover between them. Turkey has started transporting its goods to Central Asia, developing trans-Caspian routes and deepening co-operation with the Caspian countries. In December 2020, a new export route from Turkey to China was opened, passing through Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Kazakhstan.

Co-operation between the countries of the Turkic world is promising and long-term. The program “Vision of the Turkic World-2040” developed by representatives of the Organisation of Turkic States of the countries is the basis for co-operation and considers a set of measures to be implemented in the period up to 2040.

Thus, it can be concluded that co-operation between the Central Asian countries and the Republic of Turkey is based on spiritual, cultural and linguistic community, on the common values of the “Turkic World”.

The growth of foreign trade of the Turkic-speaking countries is due to the involvement of Turkish business in the implementation of important industrial and infrastructure projects. Trade with Turkey is also beneficial for the Central Asian countries, as Turkey is a growing market.

Tatyana Konyakhina

Higher education in Finance. Freelancer.