Byzantine fantasies

In Germany, there are 2.793,000 citizens with Turkish descent. About 200.000 of them live in Berlin. That’s about 6% of the city’s population, thus making Berlin the biggest Turkish city outside Turkey.

Many of those are drawn into the conflict going on in their country of origin. Well, not really conflict, it’s a surge of Erdogan-ordered political cleansing. By what I gather, most of the local Turks here in Berlin are avid supporters of Erdogan. With a minority vivdly protesting against the ongoings in the aftermath of the recent attempted coup of parts of the military in Turkey.

Outwith the western orientated areas around Istanbul and other, bigger cities, in 1990 the rural population, especially in Anatolia, was very poor. Erdogan managed to build up the economy at a rapid pace, providing jobs, education and welfare for millions. He did all this without plunging the country in enormous debt. In fact, he lowered the dept-to-GPD ratio from 39% in the 90ies to 30% now. This is virtually nothing, compared to European states (the samte ratio for Germany was 78,4 in 2013) and I have no idea by which means he worked this near miracle. But it allowed for a new middle class in Turkey. And grants him huge support in the electorate.  I hear this story over and over again. How Erdogan made Turkey a liveable place again. How the people thrive. How great he is. How it seems to be a good idea now, to maybe build or buy a house or flat to settle down back home again in old age. And all this is – in general – credited to Erdogan. He’s the man.

Moreover, recently, he’s not just the man, but he’s the one to make Turkey great again in the eyes of the entire world. Especially here in Germany, where his cooperation in the refugee crisis caused by the war in Syria is of critical importance, his fellow Turks have the feeling of importance and greatness again. One can virtually see their swollen chests, talking about their home country. Erdogan will make Turkey great again.

Oh well, we’ll see about that. Being Austrian, we have our own history with the Osmanic expansion drive. We happily kept the coffee left by the invaders we drove from Vienna twice. First in 1529, then once again in 1683, when the Osmans  beleaguered the Austrian Empire’s capital the second time.

Vienna Battle 1683 by Frans Geffels now shown at Badisches Landesmuseum
Fighting the Siege by Romeyn de Hooghe

Of course, the Byzantine history speaks of grandeur and it is very understandable, every Turk dreams of world leadership (at least in the Northern hemisphere) again. Remember, I am Austrian and know full well about the side effects of falling from ruling power to utter unimportance.

But what really worries me, is the blind enthusiasm, I hear, when Erdogan is mentioned. Despite the thousands of public officers, judges, policemen and journalists now being jailed in Turkey. The lists of non-conforming individuals (namely followers or sympathisers of a certain Mr. Gülen,  Kurds or Alevites) popping up in Germany, instructing Turks not to do business with those any longer or to report such people to the Turkish government.  Especially with the Kurds, I am surprised, many of them are big Erdogan fans and are now pushed into a corner, they never dreamed of being in.

Alarm bells should ring everywhere about this. Does it not sound exactly like what went on in Germany (and Austria) in the late 20ies and early 30ies? When a certain Hitler just had done similarly well with the country’s economy and as a politican? Using his political strenght to start WWII and the holocaust, giving the population groups of enemies to hate (Jews, foremost, but also Gays, left-wing politcians, Jehova’s Witnesses…).





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