Erdogan views Thessaloniki and other Balkan and Middle Eastern cities as Turkish territory

by omouggos

Erdogan gave a speech which rankled his neighbors.

Erdogan gave a speech which rankled his neighbors.

One thing that is evident after observing Turkish President Erdoğan in action is that he is not afraid to speak his mind. There is no doubt that Erdoğan lies, obfuscates and keeps certain things hidden so as to further his agenda, however, he is rather forthright and if one listens to him you will get a pretty good idea of his intentions and mentality.

For instance Erdoğan sees himself as a very important world leader, and recently his rather arrogant attitude was in full display. Following Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s demands that Turkish troops withdraw from the Mosul region, Erdoğan bluntly and condescendingly responded, in a manner worthy of any past sultan: “You are not of my quality or at my level; know your place. We will go our own way in Mosul. … As we participated in Jarabulus and al-Rai [in Syria], we will participate in the operations in Mosul.1

Tied into Erdoğan’s geopolitical grandiosity is his neo-Ottomanism, his belief that the current boundaries Turkey do not encompass the entirety of the Turkish homeland and that the old possessions of the Ottoman Empire, which are currently sovereign nations, rightfully belong to Turkey. Erdoğan isn’t reticent when it comes to his neo-Ottoman views. He recently expressed his displeasure for the Treaty of Lausanne–which formally brought the Ottoman Empire to an end and relinquished Turkey’s right to its Ottoman possessions–and he, among other Turkish officials, bemoaned the ceding of most of the Aegean islands to Greece as a result of the treaty.2


Well it looks like Erdoğan is covetous of more territory than just the picturesque and idyllic Greek islands of the Aegean. In a recent speech given in Rize, a speech described as “megalomaniacal” by Greek news outlet Protothema,3 he stated “certain historians believe that the borders set by the national contract include Cyprus, Aleppo, Mosul, Erbil, Kirkuk, Batumi, Thessaloniki, Kardzhali, Varna and the islands of the Aegean.4 For those unaware, these cities are not to be found in Turkey, they are important centers in countries such as Syria, Iraq, Bulgaria, Georgia and Greece (see map below). For instance, Thessaloniki, is not some uninhabited island, but happens to be the second largest city in Greece and is almost 300 kilometers from the Turkish border.

So why does Erdoğan think these places to be part of the Turkish “national contract”? The answer is rather simple, at one time these places were apart of the Ottoman Empire. As Erdoğan stated in his Rize speech “Turkey is not just Turkey. Apart from its 79 million citizens, it is also responsible to the hundreds of millions of our brothers in the geographical area to which we are connected by historical and cultural ties.” When Erdoğan mentions historical ties he is referring to nations tied to the history of the Ottoman era and by cultural ties to the nations and places, while at no time apart of the Ottoman Empire, that are nonetheless Turkic in ethnicity (Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgystan, and parts of Russia and China).

One could argue that the lands historically and culturally tied to Turkey merely have a sentimental and nostalgic place in the hearts of Turks such as Erdoğan and there is no desire to reconquer them. But such a view seems highly naive in the context of Erdoğan’s rhetoric, actions and mentality. There is good reason why Haider al-Abadi wants Turkish troops to leave his country and has even warned their presence could provoke a war between Iraq and Turkey. He knows they are not there to fight terrorism as Turkey claims, but instead are there to further Erdoğan’s neo-Ottoman imperialist ambitions.

With Turkish troops already in Iraq and Syria, one wonders how long before they enter Greek territory and remain permanently? With the way things are going in the world today, I am beginning to suspect that we will not have to wait long to see such events unfold.

O Mouggos



[2] Erdogan and others are not pleased with the Treaty of Lausanne: another example of Turkey’s expansionist ambitions

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