Publications of Szigetvári, Tamás

Turkey is back. Turkish interest on the Western Balkans

From the 15th to the end of the 19th century, most of the Balkans was part of the Ottoman Empire. The memories of the Ottoman past are still influencing the countries of the Balkans. While in some countries and regions (Albania, Kosovo, parts of Bosnia-Hercegovina, FYROM, the Sandzak region in Serbia and Montenegro) especially the Muslim population preserves good memories of the Ottoman times, for the majority of people the Turkish dominance awakes negative associations. By the beginning of the 20th century the weakening Ottoman Empire, ’the sick man of Europe’ as it was called, lost its power on the peninsula almost totally, due mainly to the rise of nationalism among Balkan ethnicities. The dissolution of the Ottoman Empire was completed after World War I. The new Turkish state was established in 1923 under the leadership of Kemal Atatürk. For long decades the attitude of Turkey towards the Balkans was rather passive, the relations were aggravated by both historical and ideological controversies. The economic opening in Turkey after the 1980’s was not enough in itself to reinvigorate relations. In the last decade, however, Turkish attitudes and policies towards neighboring countries and regions changed substantially. In our study, we are going to analyze the background and results of these changes.