Turkey-Azerbaijan: “One Nation, Two States”?
In this interview, SciencePo CERI researcher Bayram Balci analyzes international relations between Azerbaijan and its Turkish and Russian neighbors. He sets out to explain why Turkey and Azerbaijan maintain such a “special relationship,” because of their history but also of their economic, cultural, geographic and political ties. Besides, Balci analyzes Azerbaijan’s relations with its powerful neighbor Russia, arguing that one should not make too much of their recent rapprochement. Finally, he deplores a marginalization of Armenia as it is left out of new energetic deal currently being made in the region.
REPAIR: Why are Turkey and Azerbaijan so close?
Bayram Balci: For Turkey, Azerbaijan is not a country like any other and cannot be compared to its other neighbors. There is a definite proximity in their identities since both countries belong in the same Turkic identity zone, or at least hold roughly the same views on Turkishness, which is not the case for other Turkish-speaking countries of the former USSR. Even if there are some differences between Turkish identity in Anatolia and Turkic identity in Azerbaijan, that proximity is recognized and asserted on both sides. Secondly, in the last twenty years, Turkey has developed a national Turkist and even pan-Turkist rhetoric which Azerbaijan relates to most strongly. Thirdly, both nations are geographically close, which is not really the case of other Turkish-speaking countries such as Uzbekistan or Kazakhstan. During the Ottoman Empire, a small part of the country even found itself under Ottoman rule for a short period, long enough though to create strong bonds, something that did not happen with other Turkish-speaking Republics which were never part of the Ottoman sphere. Fourthly, in order to better grasp relations between Turkey and Azerbaijan, one should note that upon the advent of the Kemalist Republic, many Azeri intellectuals in the Russian Empire who had been active in the Muslim reformist movement moved to Turkey to help with the foundation of the new Republic. All this contributed to creating special ties between the two countries. And finally, since the breakup of the Soviet Union into independent nations, the fact that these two countries now have the same “enemy”, namely Armenia, has brought them somewhat closer.