04 November 2006

1208) Why The Identity Of Europe is a problem? . . .Europe -Turkey : a matter of coherence


About The Identity Of Europe : Why It Is A Problem ?
Certainly, we may assume that everybody who speaks about Europe knows that "Erep" is an ancient Syrian (Semitic) term meaning sunset, or west; and that its opposite is "Assu", the sunrise, or east.

Hans-Peter Geissen lives in Koblenz (Germany), at the confluence of the Rhine and Moselle rivers. Interested in all what concerns faunistics (data about animal species) of the Midrhine region, he is the author of many scientific publications on these issues. He bent on the Turkish issue with a very specific approach so as "to prevent a self-definition of Europe on the grounds of historical or religious mythologies."

It is therefore clear that Europe is not Asia, just as East is not West. Moreover, there is no difficulty to understand that the term means a direction on the surface on the earth and therefore is geographical. The difficulty lies in the fact that it is a relative term, depending on the viewpoint of the observer. From a North American viewpoint, for instance, Erep is what we commonly call Japan and China, and Assu may start in Iceland or France. But for orientation as to what may be meant in global terms we may take the ancient city of Assur, which is in today's northern Iraq.

The "Christian Club" It may then seem astonishing that quite a many of people claim that Europe's identity would be harmed by a religion, Islam. Or that "the European Union must decide whether it is a Christian Club", as Mr. Erdogan had put it some times ago. Religion is not a geographical term. Then, how can it determine or harm something geographical ?

That seems quite nonsensical.

Nevertheless, we may look at this from an empirical viewpoint and establish that here the term has been shifted from a geographical to a spiritual meaning.

We cannot henceforth discuss the issue in geographic terms, and it would mean a serious confusion of mind were we to determine geographical borders of spirit.

As Johann Wolfgang von Goethe had it: "The Spirit blows wherever it wants so." Or not, as we might add.

However, we might move to a common denominator of geography and human spirit, which we may find in history. It may reveal which spirit was blowing where, and even when. And more.

Of course, then, we must restrict ourselves to times when Christianity at least was in existence. In this sense, Cesar or Cicero, Socrates or Aristoteles, Vercingetorix or Armin(ius) were not European. And in fact, the term "European" was not in use in these times.

It came into use in the Middle Ages, when indeed spiritual and geographical terms mingled. It is difficult for us today, to understand what exactly the term "Holy Roman Empire" meant. Perhaps, it would be wrong to search for accuracy in this context. But it is clear that "holy" is a spiritual term and "Rome" a geographical one.

And "empire" relates to space, too, at least in effect.

However, "European" did not just relate to that empire, which roughly contained what today is Germany and (north to central) Italy, and some neighboring regions. "Europe" in this sense also contained France, Britain and (northern) Spain as well. "European" was a political term meaning those lands who provided warriors for crusades against the Muslims, then established in what was not "Europe".

The very term "crusade", of course, related to the Christian cross, so we may guess that the spiritual meaning is quite obvious.

"Europe", then, is a bigger "Holy Empire", or, in German, a "Reich".

Moreover, it is anti-Islamic by definition. But if we look at crusades in a broader context, they were, at times, also directed against the "pagans" in eastern regions of what then became "Europe", and against the Orthodox church. "Crusades" were also directed against deviant Western Christian groups like the Catharians, Albigensians, or Waldensians.

We can, thus, not describe this Europe as simply Christian. It is more precisely Roman-Christian.

The Problem

We may then ask why this should be a problem today. Didn't we have developments like Humanism and Enlightenment, which surpassed the boundaries of (Western) Christianity. Hadn't already the Anglicans, the Lutherans and Calvinists, and finally the French Revolution succeeded in breaking free of Roman domination? Hadn't the popes even been removed from Rome to Avignon and then, already in 1338, even been denied a role in the elevation of the "Holy Roman" emperor?

Don't we include Orthodox Christianity in Europe, relate our thinking to Aristotle and Cicero, or even mention a "Jewo"-Christian heritage?

Aren't we secularists today, isn't even the Roman Church in favor of secularism?

Yes. And yet, we inherited antiislamism. It is this inherited antiislamism that is motivating the fundamental-opposition against Turkey's EU-accession, and it is in many of the more subtle forms of opposition or even of apparent approval.

A matter of "evil" It may be fatal to underestimate the consequences. Spiritually, what is inherited here implicates the eradication of the evil. The physical appearance of the evil may be Albigensians, Iberian or Balkan Muslims, or witches, or wolves, or the "Jewish World Conspiracy". Indeed, the "Third Reich" may be explicable best in terms of this heritage. We may ask wether Stalinism isn't just another of its distant consequences, irrespective wether some historians call it "Asiatic". Stalinism is about eradication of the (perceived) evil and is quite alien to any Asian culture, as far as my limited knowledge can reach.

There are more subtle forms of this heritage. Despite we know well about the importance of Islamic societies in the Iberian peninsula and Sicily for the development of both European Humanism and Enlightenment, and we don't bother to use Arabic numerals and Arabic terms like algebra and chemistry - "European History" ist mostly described as if it were without an Islamic heritage. But in fact, its development is not at all understandable without.

Not without Islamic cultures and not without antiislamism.

That is, we are dealing with an interaction, with synergistic and antagonistic aspects. This in turn is of course just one of the interactions that formed Europe, both on a European and global scale.

In fact, Islamic rule in Iberia tolerated large Christian and Jewish populations, and here it was that ancient Greek and other (Roman, Persian, Arabic) authors were translated from Arabic to West-European languages. Ironically, while "the evil" was eradicated in the Iberian peninsula, it expanded in the Balkan peninsula. And, still, in the Anatolian peninsula, where however it had started earlier.

The Ottomans Ottoman expansion in the Balkans caused a flood of antiturkish and antiislamic propaganda that is an essential part of our "European Heritage". The Ottoman proceedings in this conquest gave considerable reasons for deepest fears. First, they were militarily superior due to combined use of the disciplined (and quite Roman) Jannissary phalanx and Turkmenic light cavallery, superior logistics on campaign and in finance, and by the early use of cannons and musquets.

Moreover, they allied with and co-opted Christian princes of the Balkan people, and finally the whole "Byzantine" (Orthodox) church.

For the commoners, things depended on their geographic position. In the respective borderlands, they were subjected to the never-ending "Akinci" raids, which were among the reasonable grounds to name "the Turk" "terrible". "He" indeed was.

Which doesn't mean that "Christian" raids into Ottoman lands were much different.

Whatsoever, once inside the Ottoman Empire, the "Pax Ottomanica" had considerable advantages. Exploitation of the peasantry remained comparativly low and didn't imply serfdom. Nor were they forced to change their religious creed. Even many of those who had been enslaved in Akinci raids could hope to be manumitted some years later and find acceptable conditions of life. However, in their case conversion to Islam was strongly advisable.

Peasants and other commoners living further apart from Ottoman frontiers could compare the rumours coming in from the "Turkish empire", relating to the absence of serfdom and of religious persecution for instance, with their current conditions.

This in turn was probably reason enough to rain down as much defaming propaganda against "the Turk" on the boorish people as possible. Most efficiently from the church pulpits and at times in daily rhythm. Not much fantasy is needed to imagine why the effects may still be seen easily in Austria and Southern Germany, whereas they are much weaker in Northern Germany, or in Scandinavia.

Ottoman effects on European Christianity There were several political effects of Ottoman policies on European Christianity. First, they inherited from the Seljuks and other Islamic principalities the sympathy with the monophysite churches, especially the Armenian and Syrian, and their protection against the impositions of the Greek (Orthodox) church. Even more importantly, they first weakened but then protected the Orthodox themselves.

Rather decisive for European history were their wars against Catholic Habsburg, without which the survival and establishing of Lutheran and Calvinist Protestantism would in all probability not have been possible.

And then we have the example of Transsylvania, which under Ottoman suzerainity saw the Orthodox, Lutherans, Catholics and Calvinists (and a few Armenians) live together quite peacefully. Which means that the first peaceful coexistence of the major European Christian denominations was possible under Ottoman rule, and only under Ottoman rule it was even thinkable.

One should probably not underestimate the pedagogical effects on the whole of Europe. The autonomous principality of Transsylvania was at that time a major trade post between Central and Southeastern Europe, extending to Germany, Poland, and the Netherlands, Anatolia and the Balkans, the northern Black Sea region, even to Italy and Sweden.

Unforeseen, or nearly so, here we are back in geography. Once again, admittedly. History is used here as a common denominator of the two.

Spiritually, there were virtually no Muslims in this "second convivenza", and Jews were largely excluded from the public sphere.

And nonetheless, it was again Muslim request that enabled coexistence of Christians.

Next we will see that secular Christians still imagine that they developed secularism without the help of Muslims, and even against "Asiatic Despotism". Historically, of course, this is just a silly and self-serving imagination.

«The role of Islam in the emergence of the Christian Humanism and the enlightenment was largely omitted and forgotten : Islamic theology could not take place in Christian Europe as no Muslims had been allowed to survive...»

Hans-Peter Geissen lives in Koblenz (Germany), at the confluence of the Rhine and Moselle rivers. Interested in all what concerns faunistics (data about animal species) of the Midrhine region, he is the author of many scientific publications on these issues. He bent on the Turkish issue with a very specific approach so as "to prevent a self-definition of Europe on the grounds of historical or religious mythologies."

Enlightenment

Christian Humanism and Enlightenment, in one way or another, redirected the view on humans and society from a theological determination –however theoretic- to a variety of reasoning and imagination. An increasing spectrum of philosophies, arts, sciences and practices emerged, in which theology was but one of many disciplines. Again, there can be only a rough overview with a special focus.

The role of Islam in the emergence of this was largely omitted and forgotten, Islamic theology could not take place in Christian Europe as no Muslims had been allowed to survive. A Jewish one survived in some niches mainly in Eastern Europe (especially Poland-Lithuania). Both took place in the Ottoman realm. However, the Islamic “Counter-Enlightenment” had largely ended the development of sciences, while a quite efficient state centralism inhibited the development of alternatives.

Nonetheless, as far as religious tolerance and pluralism was concerned, European thinkers had to point to the Ottoman sphere, wether Rousseau or Voltaire, Lessing or Goethe, or the English Deists. There the example was given that it was possible. Secularism in the meaning of respecting different beliefs and an autonomous sphere of theologies did not emerge directly from Islam, but was hardly thinkable without.

The other side of the coin was autonomy of state and law from religion. Quite necessarily, it had to act anticlerical. Insofar, there was no room for Islamic rule, too. With respect to the state, it tended to support absolutism. As to society, the language was detected as a unifying factor defining political bodies, leading to nationalisms. This, together with liberalism, became the ideology of the emerging bourgeoisies.
The Ottoman system

The Ottoman system had already an absolutism of sort, expressed in a sultanic prerogative and law. As well as Christian absolutisms, however, they remained allied with religion as the major source of law and conduct. Due to special circumstances, the sultanic prerogative about the lifes and properties of his servants inhibited the emergence of a Muslim, but not of a Christian and Jewish bourgeoisy. Growing predominance of West European economies further enhanced Christian economic dominance in the Ottoman Empire, all the more as any activity of Muslims in the West was nearly impossible; European antiislamism had remained largely intact in practice since the Middle Ages, despite Enlighteners and a few exceptions, like Venice.

Quite the contrary: Humanism and Enlightenment, by rediscovering the heritage af the Antique, were deploring the “loss” of the “Greek World” to Muslim rule and in consequence a secular crusader movement under the flag of “Philhellenism” emerged. It wouldn’t be impossible to imagine Valerie Giscard d’Estaing as one of its most prominent stakeholders today.

A major handicap of the Ottomans in dealing with the problem was certainly the predominance of Islam in state law and bureaucracy, reinforced at times by a respective Islamic populism. Especially in its populist form, the “No novelties!” paradigm of Sunnitic conservatism was certainly a strong factor slowing down necessary adaptations.

Whereas the Ottomans in fact accomodated to the major developments, including equality of their subjects, constitutional monarchy, industrialization, public education a.s.o., they finally succumbed to the emerging nationalisms supported by Western movements and Russia. In fact, conservative and even many liberal governments supported the OE in order to prevent Russian expansion to the Mediterranean, both Christian and “Enlightened” neo-crusaders in effect supported Russia. The latter proceeded by several ideologies, first pan-Orthodoxy, then pan-Slawism, some pan-Christianism (regarding especially Armenians and Georgians), and finally Marxism-Leninism – and, of course, military aggression.
Nationalisms and Russian expansion

In the larger West, those with an idea of geopolitics opposed the Russian expansion and, up to now, succeeded repeatedly, if only by a hair’s breadth. Many of those with no idea of geopolitics in effect supported Russian advance and continue to do so. And their unifying ideology is still antiislamism.

Ironically, it were “nationalisms” that succeeded the Ottoman Empire by means of Russian military victories and with support from Western sources. None of these nationalisms is known to have been supported by a majority of the respective “nations” prior to the establishment of an independent state by foreign powers. While expanding, each new territory had to be ethnically cleansed in order to make the attempted nation reasonably apparent; then, languages, architecture, and history were cleansed as well. Lastly Titoism, which L. Carl Brown, in 1996, proposed to understand as a neo-Ottoman pluralism rather than Communism, failed, crushed under nationalism and antiislamism while all the Europeans stood by and looked at and shackled their heads about: Nay, those Balkan barbarians! And indeed, how could they, who never had looked into a mirror, recognize their own heritage, or rather their identity?

A heritage we can hardly be happy with.

Still, we cannot draw the geographical borders of Enlightenment, Humanism, or “Jewo”-Christianity. Obviously, they cross through countries, they even cross individual brains. The only way to draw reasonable geographical borders is by geographical methods. Otherwise, we sort people, not space. Necessarily, we’ll come back to that issue.

The end

Hans-Peter Geissen
Turquie Europeenne, France
Oct 25-31 2006
http://www.turquieeuropeenne.org

Some stuff for further reading :

ADANIR, Fikret (1998): The Ottoman peasantries, c. 1360 – c. 1860. – 269-310 in: SCOTT, T. (ed.): The peasantries of Europe. From the fourteenth to the eighteenth century. – 416 S., London (Longman)

ADANIR, F. (2001): Das Osmanische Reich als orientalische Despotie in der Wahrnehmung des Westens. – 83-121 in: KÜRSAT-AHLERS, E., TAN, D. & H.-P. WALDHOFF (Hrsg.): Türkei und Europa. Facetten einer Beziehung in Vergangenheit und Gegenwart. – 235 S., Frankfurt am Main (IKO-Verlag für Interkulturelle Kommunikation)

ADANIR, Fikret (2003): Religious communities and ethnic groups under imperial sway: Ottoman and Habsburg lands in comparison. – 54-886 in: HOERDER, D., HARZIG, C. & A. SHUBERT (eds.): The historical practice of diversity. – 278 S., Oxfort, New York (Berghahn)

AKSAN, Virginia H. (1999): Locating the Ottomans among early modern empires. – Journal of Early Modern History 3 (2): 103-134. Leiden.

AYDIN, Mahmut (2001): Religious pluralism: A challenge for Muslims – A theological evaluation. – Journal of Ecumenical Studies 38: 330-352. Philadelphia, Pa.

CIRAKMAN, Asli (2001): From tyranny to despotism: The Enlightenment’s unenlightened image of the Turks. – International Journal of Middle East Studies 33: 49-68. Cambridge.

DARLING, Linda T. (2002): Another look at periodization in Ottoman history. – The Turkish Studies Association Journal 26 (2): 19-28. Bloomington, Indiana.

DAVID, G. (2001): Limitations of conversion: Muslims and Christians in the Balkans in the sixteenth century. - 149-156 in: ANDOR, E. & I.G. TOTH (eds.): Frontiers of faith. Religious exchange and the constitution of religious identities 1400-1750. – 295 S., Budapest (Central European University/European Science Foundation)

FAROQHI, Suraiya (1978): The early history of the Balkan fairs. – Südost-Forschungen 37: 50-68. München.

FAROQHI, Suraiya (1997): Vom Sklavenmädchen zur Mekkapilgerin. Lebensläufe Bursaer Frauen im späten fünfzehnten Jahrhundert. – 7-29 in: KREISER, K. & C.K. NEUMANN (Hrsg.): Das Osmanische Reich in seinen Archivalien und Chroniken. Neyat Göyünc zu Ehren. – 327 S., Istanbul, Stuttgart (Franz Steiner Verlag)

FISCHER-GALATI, Stephen A. (1959): Ottoman imperialism and German protestantism 1521-1555. – 140 S., Cambridge, Massachusetts (Harvard University Press), London (Oxford University Press)

FODOR, P. (2001): The Ottomans and their Christians in Hungary. – 137-147 in: ANDOR, E. & I.G. TOTH (eds.): Frontiers of faith. Religious exchange and the constitution of religious identities 1400-1750. – 295 S., Budapest (Central European University/European Science Foundation)

GÖCEK, Fatma Müge (1996): Rise of the Bourgeoisie, Demise of Empire. – 220 S., New York, N.Y. (Oxford University Press)

GÖCEK, Fatma Müge (2002): Decline of the Ottoman empire and the emergence of Greek, Armenian, Turkish and Arab nationalism. – 15-83 in: GÖCEK, F.M. (ed.): Social constructions of nationalism in the Middle East. – 279 S., Albany (State University of New York press)

GOFFMAN, Daniel (2002): The Ottoman Empire and Early Modern Europe. – 273 S.. Cambridge (Cambridge University Press; New approaches to Europen History 24)

GROTHUSEN, Klaus-Detlev (1979): Die Orientalische Frage als Problem der europäischen Geschichte: 79-96 in: GROTHUSEN, Klaus-Detlev (Hrsg.): Die Türkei in Europa. - 271 S, Göttingen (.Vandenhoek & Ruprecht)

GROTHAUS, Maximilian (2002): Vom Erbfeind zum Exoten: Kollektive Mentalitäten über die Türken in der Habsburger Monarchie der frühen Neuzeit: 99-113 in: FEIGL, Inanc, HEUBERGER, Valeria, PITTIONI, Manfred & Kerstin TOMENENDAL (Hrsg.): Auf den Spuren der Osmanen in der österreichischen Geschichte. 179 S., Frankfurt am Main u.a. (Peter Lang, Europäischer Verlag der Wissenschaften)

HÖFERT, Almut (2003): Ist das Böse schmutzig? Das Osmanische Reich in den Augen europäischer Reisender des 15. und 16. Jahrhunderts. - Historische Anthropologie 11: 176-192. Köln, Weimar, Wien.

ITZKOWITZ, Norman (1996): The problem of perceptions. – 30-38 in: BROWN, L. Carl (ed.): Imperial Legacy. The Ottoman imprint on the Balkans and the Middle East. – 337 S., New York (Columbia University Press).

KAFADAR, Cemal (1995): Between two worlds. The construction of the Ottoman state. – 221 S., Berkeley, Los Angeles, London (University of California Press)

KASABA, Resat (2003): The enlightment, Greek civilization and the Ottoman empire: Reflections on Thomas Hope’s Anastasius. - Journal of Historical Sociology 16: 1-21. London.

KIEL, Machiel (1983): The oldest monuments of Ottoman-Turkish architecture in the Balkans: the imaret and the mosque of Ghazi Evrenos Bey in Gümülcine (Komotini) and the Evrenos Bey Khan in the village of Ilica/Loutra in Greek Thrace (1370-1390). – Sanat Tarihi Yiligi – Kunsthistorische Forschungen 12: 117-138. Istanbul.

KISSLING, Hans Joachim (1991): Osmanen und Europa. (Dissertationes orientales et balcanicae collectae ). – 253 S., München (Dr. Dr. Rudolf Trofenik)

KITROMILIDES, Paschalis M. (1989): « Imagined Communities » and the origins of the National Question in the Balkans. – European History Quarterly 19: 149-192. London.

KITROMILIDES, Paschalis M. (1990) : Greek irredentism in Asia Minor and Cyprus. – Middle Eastern Studies 26 (1): 3-17. Abingdon.

KITROMILIDES, Paschalis M. (2003) : An Enlightenment perspective on Balkan cultural pluralism : the republican vision of Rhigas Velestinlis. – History of Political Thought 24 (3): 465-481. Thorverton.

KITSIKIS, Dimitri (1985): L’Empire Ottoman. – 127 S. Paris (Presses Universitaires de France).

KONTLER, L. (2001): „Mahometan Christianity“: Islam and the English Deists. – 107-119 in: ANDOR, E. & I.G. TOTH (eds.): Frontiers of faith. Religious exchange and the constitution of religious identities 1400-1750. – 295 S., Budapest (Central European University/European Science Foundation)

KORTÜM, Hans-Henning (2003): Der Pilgerzug von 1064/65 ins Heilige Land. Eine Studie über Orientalismuskonstruktionen im 11. Jahrhundert. - Historische Zeitschrift 277: 561-592. München.

KRAFT, E. (2003): Von der Rum Milleti zur Nationalkirche - die orthodoxe Kirche in Südosteuropa im Zeitalter des Nationalismus. - Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas 51: 392-408. Stuttgart.

KREISER, Klaus & Christoph E. NEUMANN (2002): Kleine Geschichte der Türkei. – 519 S., Stuttgart (Reclam)

KULA, O.B. (2001): Zum Türkenbild im deutschen Schrifttum vom 11. bis 19. Jahrhundert. – 47-61 in: KÜRSAT-AHLERS, E., TAN, D. & H.-P. WALDHOFF (Hrsg.): Türkei und Europa. Facetten einer Beziehung in Vergangenheit und Gegenwart. – 235 S., Frankfurt am Main (IKO-Verlag für Interkulturelle Kommunikation)

LOUIS, Herbert (1954): Über den geographischen Europabegriff. - Mitteilungen der Geographischen Gesellschaft in München 39: 73-93. München. (On the geographic concept of Europe.)

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MÄRTIN, Ralf-Peter (1980): Dracula. Das Leben des Fürsten Vlad Tepes. - 189 S., Berlin (Wagenbach)

McCARTHY, Justin (1996): Death and Exile. The ethnic cleansing of Ottoman Muslims 1821-1922. - 368 S., Princeton, New Jersey (The Darwin Press). McCARTHY, Justin (2001): The Ottoman peoples and the end of empire. - 234 S., London, New York (Arnold Publishers; Oxford University Press)

McCARTHY, Justin (2002): Population history of the Middle East and the Balkans. - 321 S., Istanbul (Isis Press)

PALAIRET, Michael (1997): The Balkan economies c. 1800-1914. Evolution without development. – 415 S., Cambridge (Cambridge University Press).

QUATAERT, Donald (2005): The Ottoman Empire 1700-1922. – 212 S., 2nd ed., Cambridge (Cambridge University Press; New approaches to European History 34).

RANDHOFER, R. (1998): Antiochias Erbe. Die Gesänge der syro-antiochenischen Kirche. - Antike Welt 29: 311-324. Mainz.

REHRMANN, M. (2003): A legendary place of encounter: The Convivenzia of Moors, Jews and Christians in medieval Spain. – 35-53 in: HOERDER, D., HARZIG, C. & A. SHUBERT (eds.): The historical practice of diversity. – 278 S., Oxfort, New York (Berghahn)

ROTH, Harald (2003): Kleine Geschichte Siebenbürgens. – 2., durchges. Aufl., 199 S., Köln, Weimar, Wien (Böhlau). RUSINOW, Dennison (1996): The Ottoman legacy in Yugoslavia’s disintegration and civil war. – 78-99 in: BROWN L. Carl (ed.): Imperial Legacy. The Ottoman imprint on the Balkans and the Middle East. – 337 S., New York (Columbia University Press).

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Europe -Turkey : a matter of coherence
Discussions about European identity and the accession of Turkey to the EU are frequently based on selected traits of historical and/or ideological developments. And so it is with respect to the precarious self-definition of Turkey as a nation-state, too. But both may be based on material grounds as well, which in turn may shift the arrangement of ideas about the meaning of specific historical events. Hans-Peter Geissen offers to TE’s readers a very specific reflection on the course of the Europe-Turkey relationship throughout centuries. In order to better understand the fate of the Ottoman Empire in a European context, and to draw some conclusions about useful steps in the near future, he draws a sketch of European history ; very coarse for the deeper past and denser for recent history.

Hans-Peter Geissen lives in Koblenz (Germany), at the confluence of the Rhine and Moselle rivers. Interested in all what concerns faunistics (data about animal species) of the Midrhine region, he is the author of many scientific publications on these issues. He bent on the Turkish issue with a very specific approach so as "to prevent a self-definition of Europe on the grounds of historical or religious mythologies."

"Europe now has a serviceable model to propose for universal emulation" Tony Judt

I will start with a definition of Europe : I follow the German geographer Herbert Louis (*see below) in that Europe is the region of coherent dense settlement in the west of the Eurasian continent. The coherent density of settlement in turn is based on rain-fed agriculture. Basically it’s not a mere coincidence that the same region is rich in lakes and rivers suitable for fishing and shipping, as both depends on rain. Accidentally, however, the region is also very rich in coasts, inland seas and islands. So some fishing and shipping is widespread since the mesolithics. And it’s located where the axis of Africa meets that of Eurasia, at a point which is quite next to America, too. Geographical features may be considered preconditions of historic developments. For instance, Europe is, geographically, in a quite central position with respect to the inhabitable world, both in history and the foreseeable future.
A specific geographic and ecological setting for Europe

The southeastern borders of Europe are nearly identical with those of present Turkey, but also include Caucasia. At any rate, the Ottoman heartlands (Anatolia and the Balkans) have always been part of Europe, and this holds true for the whole Black Sea region. Then, Southeastern Anatolia south of the Taurus chains, and a stretch of Northern Syria north of the Syrian desert, are the borderlands between Europe and the geographical Orient. SE Anatolia is the main homeland of traditional European agriculture and stockbreeding, and so it is historically basic for the very definition of Europe.

Starting with the Bronze Age, proto-states ruled by warriors emerged. Religion, in that context, became a mediator between the rulers and the ruled, by setting identity-building rituals and ethical standards, among other things. Rulers and religious authorities allied. Here I bypass the developments in the Hittite Empire and the "Arzawa" lands, ancient Greece, and the Roman Empire, as well as the Arab incursions, but make a short stop in the later Middle Ages.

The Germanic expansion had caused a specific understanding of society to come into a central position in further developments. In short, decisions were made in an assembly (of warriors or a whole village or tribe), which was holy to the god Tyr or Ziu. Decisions were inforced by an oath holy to the same god. Freedom and peace are basically the same in the word stem "fri" (obviously meaning "undisturbed"), which is also connected to settling, courting, and honour. Irrespective of some Christianizatioon in the meantime, this customary understanding was basic for the first popular (proto-democratic) revolution (the so-called "oath comrades" of Switzerland, 13th to 14th century) and quite some related developments in what today is Britain, Germany, the Netherlands a.s.o., which are connected with assemblies and people’s self-rule, independence, and elections of the leader(s).

But still the late Roman Empire was present in its religious ally, the Roman church, and fought for its own survival and dominance - both against dissidents in the West (worldly leaders as well as religious dissidents), and against the Eastern Roman church(es), basically the Orthodox. And, of course, against Islam, as well as against pagans. The latter three were all objects of crusades, which had the Roman church in alliance with western warrior leaders.

Meanwhile, in SE Europe, the East Roman (ethnically predominantly Greek) Empire was gradually superseded by the Ottomans, basically a subgroup of mainly Turkic immigrants from Central Asia. Being political (warrior) leaders, with respect to religion they were allied with Islam. But they were unique by gradually setting up a system of parallel but hierarchical coexistence of several religions and sects, each of which had a role in the ruler-religion alliance of government and administration.

All those alliances in Eastern and Western Europe had their specific intra-religious divides. Schematically one can speak of the ruler-related "orthodox" and the somehow dissident "heterodox". Examples of the latter in the East are Paulians, Bogumils, the monophysite churches (e.g., Armenians), Kizilbash (Alevites), in the West Catharians, Waldensians and Protestants, for instance. One may consider that a "heterodox" movement may become "orthodox" if they manage to ally with an actual and successful ruler (like Iranian Shii or European Protestants). In Anatolian Islam some Sufi orders, especially the Bektasiye, had a somewhat intermediate and buffering role for centuries. In England, the ruler could set up the ruler-related Anglican church, and so Roman Catholizism became the "heterodox" sect in the British Isles, politically allied with subjugated Celtic peoples.
European expansions

First excursions leading far from Europe were already done in the Middle Ages, by the Vikings of Hleif Eriksson to North America around 1000 and then in the 13th ct. by the Italian Marco Polo to China. But expansions started in the first half of the 15th ct. by the seafarers of the Portuguese kingdom shipping around Africa. About a century later the Portuguese, Spanish, British, French, and Dutch were crossing the oceans, acquiring and competing for colonial outposts. At the same time the Ottoman Empire expanded beyond the European space into the Arab lands. Another century, and Russian settlers went beyond what is geographically Europe (which includes Western Siberia) to Middle and Eastern Siberia, with Russian administration following those rather anarchic settlements.

One may see certain connections. The troops of Selim I., defeating "heterodox" Turkish tribes and conquering Arabia, were both stemming from the Balkans and non-Muslim to a large degree, ethnically Greek, Slavic, or Albanian (however, a later consequence of those victories was an increasing Sunnitization of the empire, including marginalization of non-Sunnis in the political sphere for some centuries). Spanish seafarers were frequently Italians. Russian geographic exploration, trade, military and administration for instance included Germans, Swedes, Poles, Dutch, French, Danes, Italians, Greeks, and others. Despite many differences it can be said that each of the resulting world empires was dwelling on European manpower (including Anatolians and Tatars in the Ottoman case), which in first instance may be a result of Europe being a large space of rather high settlement density. This includes a rather high economic activity (production potential), not least a high amount of trees suitable for ship building (both however resulting in large-scale woodland devastation and need of reafforestation).
A theocratic view

There was a major rift, too. The common European political space was defined by a ruling aristocracy which frequently intermarried between different states. They saw themselves as equals. The Ottoman Empire could not be included because of different religion, which prohibited intermarriage ; and because the Ottomans did not in fact have a ruling family, but a different and indeed unique kind of household recruited from "Kul" slaves (the marriages of Suleiman II./Hurrem and probably Selim II./Nurbanu, unfortunately, remained episodic). Interestingly, though, also the Swiss, Irish, Finns, Icelanders, and Latvians weren’t integrated into the European ruling elites as there were no (or no accepted) aristocracies for different reasons. As to European Jews, they too were separate for religious reasons.

It may be noted that there is a widespread understanding of a uniform (Christian) Europe and an Ottoman Empire, which belongs to an "Islamic World". This is basically a theocratic view. It doesn’t meet and never has met neither the geographic-ecological setting, nor the social realities of the Ottoman Empire, nor those of what is called "Europe" here.

* LOUIS, Herbert (1954) : Über den geographischen Europabegriff. - Mitteilungen der Geographischen Gesellschaft in München 39 : 73-93. München

Discussions about European identity and the accession of Turkey to the EU are frequently based on selected traits of historical and/or ideological developments. And so it is with respect to the precarious self-definition of Turkey as a nation-state, too. But both may be based on material grounds as well, which in turn may shift the arrangement of ideas about the meaning of specific historical events. Hans-Peter Geissen offers to TE’s readers a very specific reflection on the course of the Europe-Turkey relationship throughout centuries. In order to better understand the fate of the Ottoman Empire in a European context, and to draw some conclusions about useful steps in the near future, he draws a sketch of European history ; very coarse for the deeper past and denser for recent history.

Hans-Peter Geissen lives in Koblenz (Germany), at the confluence of the Rhine and Moselle rivers. Interested in all what concerns faunistics (data about animal species) of the Midrhine region, he is the author of many scientific publications on these issues. He bent on the Turkish issue with a very specific approach so as "to prevent a self-definition of Europe on the grounds of historical or religious mythologies."

European empires had several advantages for the peoples that inhabited them, especially the Europeans. There was a large space in which to travel freely for trade or jobs. Ethnicity was of minor importance, as it had been in the Middle Ages and the Antique. The medieval revolution in what became Switzerland, too, retained their multi-ethnic nation with four official languages to the present day.

In parallel with geographical discoveries, developments took place in philosophy, empirical sciences, and technologies, arts, as well as economy and administration. In the 16th and 17th centuries, the superior logistics, training and organization of the Ottoman army was copied in much of Europe, even including military music, which had a major role in European military success. The living together of different religions in the Ottoman state influenced the English Deists and German Enlightenment and secularism, among others, so shaping to some degree the development of ideas. All those developments were accompagnied by serious power struggles, but also frequent exchange of knowledge between European states and peoples - thanks to the intermarriage and mingling of the ruling classes, artisan and other travel and migrations, and printing technologies.

At that time, however, the Ottoman elites largely followed an Islamic tradition in that developments in the "infidel" parts of the world couldn’t be worth the interest of true believers. In fact, informal exchange with the west and north of Europe, due to wandering mercenaries, seems to have been more intense up to the late 15th ct. So it seems that the classical period was also laying the ground for later decline. It’s an irony of sort that the only dignitaries of the Ottoman household of the classical period (16th/17th ct.) who held intense diplomatic contacts with European states, namely sultan wifes/mothers who originally had been Kul of western origin, were held responsible for the decline that more probably traditionalism had caused.

Whatsoever, the resulting defeats of the Ottoman armies from the 17th ct. onwards increased interest in "the West" enormously and led to many reforms as well as diplomatic contacts. They did however ultimately not lead to sufficient results. As is nearly always the case, so in the Ottoman sphere reforms were accompagnied by conservative counter movements. There is a difficulty with that : the past, generally, was in fact quite pragmatic, the Ottomans and their brand of Sunnism being no exception. However, conservative ideologies interpret it as something "pure" or "orthodox", and try to "return" to this sheer imagination. In the end, it can and indeed does never happen, but may be destructive by simply slowing down necessary adaptations.

One of the results of economic and technological developments in western Europe was a class of traders and industrial producers, in French called the bourgeoisy. As they became more numerous and powerful, they challenged the ruling aristocracies. Another development, in the context of Enlightenment, was the discovery of ancient and contemporanous languages as study objects, and of the community of speakers of a language as a social community sharing a communication, historical, and thus political space - the (ethnic) nation. Both led to further power struggles in Europe, the fights for independence or unification of ethnicities, democracy and freedoms including several revolutions which may be called national-democratic or national-liberal.

Turning to the Ottomans, a system of extraordinary taxes and confiscations prevented the development of an Ottoman bourgeoisy. Following major military defeats, and economic weakness (due to a variety of reasons), Ottoman citizens under protection of a European power (due to a "capitulation" privilege) could escape the confiscations, and so an Ottoman bourgeoisy emerged. However, this was only allowed for non-Muslims, and thus the bourgeoisy was exclusively non-Muslim (mainly Greek and mixed "Levantine"). There was one field in which some Muslims had an advantage (local administrative functions and/or landownership), and became entrepreneurs mainly in agrarian production and trade - the ayan. However, their prospects were limited due to the confiscations. Meanwhile, traditional Turkish artisans, craftmanship, and (caravan) trade were declining due to western industrial and trade competition and lack of financial capital on the part of the Muslims/Turks. As marriage of Muslim women with Christians was forbidden by Sharia law, whereas Christian bourgeois could not convert to Islam due to the impending confiscations, family ties (a method of acquisition, fusion and political arrangements of prime importance in early capitalism) could be developed neither with Muslim merchants nor with the western-type Muslim bureaucracy ("state bourgeoisy" in F.M. Göcek’s innovative terminology), nor with traditional ruling households. The Muslim entrepreneurs of former times were more or less proletarianized, accordingly.

Meanwhile, there was a rift in Greek perceptions. On one hand we have the "national" bourgeoisy and its allies, not least western-type scholars in the tradition of European Enlightenment. They chose to build their own ethnic nation.

The traditional way, on the other hand, saw the Greeks as a religious community (or millet) - the Orthodox. Their leaders were opposed to Enlightenment and its derivatives, including Greek nationalism. Many of the common members of this "Greek" religious community only spoke Turkish, Romanian, Albanian, or a Slavic language, whereas the liturgic language of the church was indeed Greek. So any ethnic nationalism would, obviously, lead to a division of the church. And indeed, finally it did, starting ironically with the secession (autocephaly) of the ethnically Greek church, with a Turkish-Orthodox micro-church being the last to secede in the 1920ies.

It must be stated that most Greeks (as well as Turks) tend to ignore that inner-Greek rift, as it doesn’t meet the needs of current national mythologies.

It seems that the leaders of the Phanar community of leading Greek families and the Orthodox patriarchate did not consider the Ottoman Empire as merely a Turkish or a Muslim empire, but the Muslim/Turkish (Ottoman)-led continuation of the Roman ("Byzantine") Empire. There seems to be some evidence that even Mehmet the Conqueror saw it this way. In this logic it would have been possible to save the empire by simply changing the leadership from Ottoman-(Turkish)-Muslim to "Greek"-(multiethnic)-Orthodox. Unfortunately, however, the imperial ideology, especially since Selim I., was strongly based on Islamishness (Sunnite dominance) of the empire - in theory even more than in practice. The Ottoman elites could not even imagine a non-Muslim rule, so the support of the empire by the Orthodox and Armenian churches could not work and ultimately was in vain.

At the same time those elites (and the non-Turkish bourgeosies) could not easily accept an emancipation of the Turkish ethnicity (of the Turkish commoners or raya) either, which in fact would have included an emancipation of the Alevite sect(s), as well as the emergence of a powerful Turkish bourgeoisy, and even some socialist labour movement. Each might have threatened traditional rule. And if so, the only option left, consequently, was Islamism - as indeed was the course followed by Abdülhamit II. This was a rather liberal or pragmatic Islamism unlike the Salafi/Vahabite brand. But there was only one net gain for the empire in this, the mobilization of some Kurdish tribal militia in the name of Islam (finally a double-edged sword, too), whereas the Christian financial bourgeoisies, and the western-type Turkish state-bourgeoisy alike, were further alienated from Ottoman rule. A possible link of several Anatolian and Balkan populations, the Bektasiye, was already forbidden and expropriated in 1826, and largely remained underground (the main exception was their Albanian stonghold until the communists came to power).

Discussions about European identity and the accession of Turkey to the EU are frequently based on selected traits of historical and/or ideological developments. And so it is with respect to the precarious self-definition of Turkey as a nation-state, too. But both may be based on material grounds as well, which in turn may shift the arrangement of ideas about the meaning of specific historical events. Hans-Peter Geissen offers to TE’s readers a very specific reflection on the course of the Europe-Turkey relationship throughout centuries. In order to better understand the fate of the Ottoman Empire in a European context, and to draw some conclusions about useful steps in the near future, he draws a sketch of European history ; very coarse for the deeper past and denser for recent history.

Hans-Peter Geissen lives in Koblenz (Germany), at the confluence of the Rhine and Moselle rivers. Interested in all what concerns faunistics (data about animal species) of the Midrhine region, he is the author of many scientific publications on these issues. He bent on the Turkish issue with a very specific approach so as "to prevent a self-definition of Europe on the grounds of historical or religious mythologies."

One possible option to establish political influence of the Ottoman bourgeoisy was an Ottoman egalitarianism, promoted by the "Young Ottomans" and Christian Istanbulites, and introduced, but immediately suspended with the constitution of 1876. This option was strongly supported by minor groups like the Jews and Vlachs, who couldn’t hope for an own state. It failed due to resistance of the ruler and of Islamic tradition(alists). The other possibility was the statehood of the respective ethnic communities, prepared by grammar schools. The latter came into effect in most of the Christian ethnicities or proto-ethnicities. On the Turkish side (mainly the western-type Turkish bureaucracy), the "Young Ottomans" were succeeded by the "Young Turks", they too with an ethnic-nationalist profile.
The mixed nature of the Ottoman population

The resulting conflicts became more complicated due to the fact that different religious communities were involved. In that respect the Muslims, who were considered superior to others in the Ottoman system, were religiously isolated in the context of European powers. Nonetheless, some other relations had developed in the meantime on diplomatic, cultural, and personal levels, and in form of military alliances.

Given the mixed nature of the Ottoman population, the secession of ethnic nations inevitably implied bloodshed on a large scale. Other effects were intra-ethnic struggles due to conflicts between modernists and traditionalists (like elsewhere in Europe), and the splitting of the Orthodox Church in several national churches. It turned out that there was no Ottoman nation as the speakers of Ottoman Turkish had been a rather small elite of military, administrative, and religious functionaries clearly separate even from the Turkish-speaking population, an aristocracy of sort in Western terms, which couldn’t manage to merge or ally with the upcoming bourgeoisy.

The emergence of new ethnic nation-states, which were aiming at ethnically and religiously homogenous nations which however did not exist, caused large-scale ethnic cleansing, expulsions, and forced assimilation of the respective others, starting with incipient Serbia 1804 and the Greek national uprising of 1822. A related option was and still is suppression of remaining ethnic and religious minorities. This can be observed in each and every of the emerging states of SE Europe, starting with Greece and Serbia. Similarly destructive effects resulted from the dissolution of Austria-Hungary.
Ethnic nationalism as a common feature

As a result, Turkey emerged as an ethnic nation but, at the same time, as a refuge of several Muslim populations of the Ottoman Empire, including the old Ottoman elites (Ottoman-speakers) and a large authochthonous Kurdish population. As the latter resisted to (forced) assimilation (in contrast to most refugee groups), a new conflict emerged.

A common feature of the post-Ottoman states is a fervent ethnic nationalism. Each has its myth of a "Golden Age" and an evil destroyer of those imaginary lucky times - the Byzantine Empire for the Greeks, the Serbian and Bulgarian Empires, whereas the Turks and the remaining Muslim minorities think of the Ottoman Empire as the "Golden Age" - except the Alevis, who remember Ottoman times as centuries of oppression. For most of the Christian nationalisms (but not for most of the millet elites), the Turks were the evil destroyers of ancient glory, whereas for the Muslims (and Jews) it was the betrayal of the Christian millets and/or the Western powers that actually destroyed the imagined golden times.

Neutral historians, however, can detect neither any "Golden Ages" nor notorious evildoers, but groups and persons who have pursued their respective interests and/or ideals depending on their limited knowledge about the realities.

Instead, basic deficiencies of the emerging nation-states become more and more obvious. All the new states in the Balkan region were largely devoid of administrative and diplomatic experience, as the main administrators had been Muslims. Moreover, they experienced serious economic downbreaks due to the loss of the giant market of Istanbul and due to the exile of Muslim agricultural entrepreneurs, resulting in shifts from market to subsistence economy in the countryside, which in turn affected state finances and capital accumulation negatively. The Turks in turn had virtually no financial bourgeoisy or productive entrepreneurial class left, except some market-related agriculture, mining, and handicrafts, with an overwight of military (and religious) functionaries. The Kurds had neither capital nor administrative resources, relying thus on subsistence agriculture and traditional religious and tribal leaders. The Albanian mountaineers lost the labor markets of the Ottoman Empire, not least the Ottoman army.

So all the nations suffered in several respect : direct population losses, expulsion from their former homelands, and/or economic decline. And all are still in search of a scapegoat on the "other" side, while remaining minorities are still discriminated against. There is a certain inflation in "genocides" (basically sparked off by German payments to Jewish organizations in the 1960ies ff.), which can easily be increased by Muslim groups. But obviously, this is a cul-de-sac. The decline of Anatolian Greeks was largely caused by Panhellenism and the "Megali Idea" (and this is still true for the Cyprus problem), the decline of the Ottoman Empire was largely caused by the ideology of Muslim (Sunnite) superiority, the expulsion and harassment of Ottoman Armenians by the hopeless terrorism of Armenian nationalist organizations, and so on. The only hope to understand and correct is to never forget the context and interface, and to look on the "own" side first in search for the causes.

Discussions about European identity and the accession of Turkey to the EU are frequently based on selected traits of historical and/or ideological developments. And so it is with respect to the precarious self-definition of Turkey as a nation-state, too. But both may be based on material grounds as well, which in turn may shift the arrangement of ideas about the meaning of specific historical events. Hans-Peter Geissen offers to TE’s readers a very specific reflection on the course of the Europe-Turkey relationship throughout centuries. In order to better understand the fate of the Ottoman Empire in a European context, and to draw some conclusions about useful steps in the near future, he draws a sketch of European history ; very coarse for the deeper past and denser for recent history.

Hans-Peter Geissen lives in Koblenz (Germany), at the confluence of the Rhine and Moselle rivers. Interested in all what concerns faunistics (data about animal species) of the Midrhine region, he is the author of many scientific publications on these issues. He bent on the Turkish issue with a very specific approach so as "to prevent a self-definition of Europe on the grounds of historical or religious mythologies."

[...]

Meanwhile, we may look on the developments in other parts of Europe. The blending ( !!) of nationalism and imperialism led to two World Wars with incredible losses in every respect. The spark on the gunpowder-keg was stroke in Serbia and Bosnia again, but the keg was build of imperial rivalries and filled with nationalisms. Then, communist dogmatism and imperialism was to follow. On the other hand we have seen that democracy is dependent on nation states, too, if however not necessarily on ethnicity (remember Switzerland). Third, we have seen that the destruction of empires also caused heavy losses by itself. The fate of post-Ottoman economies is quite instructive. Fourth, communism was caused by social problems, but wasn’t able to resolve them (irrespective some limited success) and instead caused further human losses.

So the invention of the European Communities was quite brilliant : to make a community of nation states, formerly the heartlands of competing empires, and build a common market like the ones that formerly existed inside the respective empires only. To minimize economic and social problems, and avoid communist rule, by cooperations. The idea proved to be attractive. States that had for quite some period lived in some isolation, like Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Greece, and Austria joined, as well as three of the Nordic countries (the remaining two, like Switzerland, became largely integrated without being full members). Then, formerly communist countries followed.
EU and old empires

We may look to former Habsburgian empire of Austria-Hungary in Central Europe : Austria, Hungary, Czechya, Slovakia, and Slovenia are already members of the European Union. A few regions of the Austrian-Habsburg empire now belong to Italy and Poland, also in the Union. This is by far the major part of the former empire. And Romania and Croatia are scheduled to follow soon. There we have quite some overlap with the former Ottoman Empire.

Now we may look to the former Ottoman (and "Byzantine") heartlands. Istanbul is still the center, geographically and economically. The straits are still of prime importance for European security and trade. As pipelines, rails, and highways replace the caravans, also Anatolian harbours increase in significance again. On the other hand, economic prospects largely depend on hinterlands that are already in the EU or are scheduled to be, on transit functions and tourism and the common European market. Intensive cooperation in economic and security issues, traffic and environment, is a must. Finally meaning the reunification of the Ottoman heartlands in their European context, just like the old Habsburgian and Baltic regions, or the Adriatic. It includes at least Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia (the links between southeastern, eastern, and central Europe), and may include Armenia and Azerbaijan as well.

However, a hypothetical Cypriote state has joined the EU, but is governed against its own constitution and poisoning the EU with a fierce ethnic nationalism. We see Greek nationalism at work in the ridiculous official name of Macedonia (which I refuse to write down or speak out) as well as harassment of the Turkish minority in Western Thrace. We still see a disturbing antiislamism (and antijudaism) in much of Europe, with quite recent events in Bosnia and Kosovo. At the same time we have painfully one-sided, and indeed shameful campaigns about so-called genocides. But there is also the Turkish policy of eradicating Kurdishness, attempts to reeducate Alevi youth into Sunnis, and harassment of Christian minorities.
A larger historical view

These and other effects, like widespread neglect and destruction of Ottoman architectural monuments, are results of "deep history", of historical propagandas, religion policies (rather than religion as such), and nationalisms. Common work is needed on those historical stresses, both in historical investigations and inter-religious and inter-ethnic cultural exchange.

In that context it must be clear that the history of these lands can in no way be written without the various Ottoman archives, chronicles, and local Kadi registers, nor without the rich archaeological record, nor without the Greek-language sources, like those of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Nor without the West-European or Russian sources. Even investigation of folklore may be important, as is the case in other parts of Europe and the world at large, and the geographical and ecological setting.

Modern economic, social, cultural, and administrative structures have developed through different systems, in Greece and Turkey, perhaps, somewhat more than in formerly communist states of the Balkans and Black Sea region. But much remains to be done in either case.

But now, too, the long-term ideological problem of Europe (since some 17 centuries) is on test again, namely wether different creeds and world-views, including Islamic sects, can live together as equals. The test subjects are both Turkey and the EU. So far, the test results haven’t really been favorable for any of the two. Still there is hope. But this is a field where the future of Europe in a "global" world will be determined (and that of Turkey anyway). Thus, what is needed is not hope, but determination to succeed.

The End

Hans-Peter Geissen
10/07/2006
www.turquieeuropeenne.org

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