Myths and reality of Turkic unity

"A new world history books will open with chapters on Turkic unity. And only then the world will find the long-awaited peace. Turkic unity will shine to the whole world, like the sun, opening up new horizons for millions of people." These words belong to the founder of the Turkish state Kemal Atatürk. And now, the idea of the need for the rapprochement of the Turkic states has been permanently raised by the leaders of different countries for a century. But there are no tangible results yet.

Even in Central Asia, where "related peoples" live side by side and have the common historical past, it is quite problematic for different states to come to an agreement. Previously, it could be assumed that this was due to the rivalry between the two strongest leaders of the region, who heads Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Now, the barrier is likely to be the ambitions of a different order, dictated by a singular understanding of national interests of each state and the divergent vectors of the movement into the future.

Is there a future for the "Turkic integration"? Is the affinity of blood and language sufficient for such a unity to establish? Are there insurmountable contradictions in the Turkic world that hinder the rapprochement of the Turkic communities? Let's try to understand.

Askar Nursha, Head of the Almaty office of the Institute of World Economics and Politics under the Foundation of the First President of the RK:

"Any integration requires economic prerequisites"

- I would not agree with the opinion that the "contradictions" between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan were of significant importance here. By and large, the main challenge or, if you will, obstacle in developing a more extensive cooperation between the Turkic-speaking countries, has been geography. Firstly, the expanse of the territory, and secondly, the absence of common borders between the key states of the Turkic world. Another nuance is that the Turkic community also includes peoples who do not have their own states. And this makes the situation quite difficult. Many countries where the Turkic peoples live, by virtue of historical factors, react quite ambiguously to the development of the Turkic cooperation. In this context, the existing format for the development of cultural and humanitarian cooperation is appropriate. And all the participants of the Turkic community tend to agree about it.

In my opinion, developing relations with the Turkic world within the framework of Central Asia, we should move towards the format of interaction within the five Central Asian states, which include not only the Turkic peoples, but also Tajikistan. For me, the roadmap is the development of normal good-neighborly relations with our neighbors, as well as with Turkey.

Several years ago, an initiative of creating a Union of Central Asian states was put forth. But economic and political problems did not allow this idea to become reality. In my opinion, all the countries of Central Asia, if you analyze their relations, are more interested in investment assistance due to economic difficulties. Therefore, if we take the European integration as an example, it is obvious that such associations  must have donor countries or an alliance of donor countries that would become, on the one hand, locomotives of growth, and on the other, would actively invest in the economies of the partner-countries. And, given that the past decade was a crisis decade, it is evident that such countries as Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, were focused on solving internal problems in those conditions.

Any integration requires economic prerequisites. At least, the union must be steadily engaged in the economic development. However, the discussion on the Central Asian integration was of a political nature and was not worked through economically. As for political factors, there are also certain factors that complicate the relations between these states. These are mutual grudges, unresolved border issues, and uneasy personal relationships between the leaders of the regional countries. These made any close cooperation problematic.

On the other hand, the current regional processes – I mean the establishment of bilateral relations, cooperation in transportation projects – are, in fact, the necessary grass-roots level that will subsequently push the countries of the region to the development of cooperation.

The word "integration" has been made trivial so much that it turned repulsive, and many Central Asian countries are alarmed when they hear it. They have recently gained independence, abandoned the dictates of the Union center, and are not ready to re-unite on principles of integration. It is more realistic to discard the term integration, and talk about Central-Asian cooperation as a kind of community.

For the further rapprochement of the Central Asian states, first of all, the border issues must be finally settled, and secondly, it is necessary to gradually lift trade barriers and develop economic cooperation, which is the basic condition for such cooperation.