Ukrainian Oriental Studies Expert Yaroslav Pilipçuk: “Joining the Organization of Turkish States will provide Ukraine an opportunity for more active interaction with Turkey.”

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Today, the shift center of the economy to Asia and the developing cooperation in the geography of the Turkish world, located between Europe and Asia, provide important opportunities to the participating countries. The request to join the organization, which was founded in 2009 in Nakhchivan by Turkey, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, expanded with the participation of Hungary in 2017 and Uzbekistan in 2018, and whose new name is the Organization of Turkish States, is voiced by Ukraine this time. The Ukrainian authorities expresses their beliefs that that they have special ties with the Turkic

In this context, Ankara Crisis and Politics Center (ANKASAM) presents the views of Orientalist Yaroslav Pilipçuk1, Doctor of Historical Sciences, in the context of Ukraine’s historical ties with the Turkic World, ideas for joining the Organization of Turkic States, and searches for regional cooperation.

Mr. Pilipçuk, the Republic of Hungary joined the Turkic Council in 2018 as an observer member. So, how do you evaluate the initiative of Ukraine to join the organization as an observer member?

Yes, Turanism is very popular among Hungarian people. Hungarian people consider Huns as their ancestors rather than Ugrians. There are also some parallels in the pre-Christian beliefs of the Hungarians and the pre-Muslim beliefs of the Turks. Recently, Ukraine has expressed its desire to join TURKSOY. Since Ukraine is the homeland of the Turkic peoples Gagauz, Karay and Crimean Tatars, it should be a member of these organizations. Besides, Azerbaijan and Turkey are the friendly nations to Ukraine in a traditional way. The participation of Ukraine to Organizations of Turkish States as an observer will create an opportunity for Ukraine to interact more actively with Turkey. Ukraine should particapate in the Turkic Council and support the integration of Central Asian states to Turkish World along with Turkey.

Well then, how do you evaluate Ukraine’s relations with Central Asian countries?

Ukraine possesses different kind of relationships with each of Central Asian countries. For example; the state, which has no relations with Tajikistan, has weak relations with Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. Actually, states that integrate with Russia are forced to treat us coldly. Many relations with these countries are maintained by the personal contacts of diplomats, cultural and scientists. Many ordinary Kazakhs support Ukraine. Along with this, we have relations with Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan at the institutional level since the 90s. Former President of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov supported the attempts of former President of Georgia Eduard Shevardnadze and former President of Ukraine Leonid Kuchma to create GUUAM organization as a counterbalance to Russia. President Viktor Yanukovych, who carried out a policy towards Russia in 2010, took the initiative to dissolve the organization as soon as he came to power. In 2014, Yanukovych’s government was overthrown, but meanwhile, the Russo-Ukrainian war and European integration events in Donbass severely alienated Ukraine from Central Asia. Under current President Volodymyr Zelensky’s adminastration, we are witnessing the re-establishment of ties with Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, in addition to European integration. It is easier to restore relations with the Uzbeks, since the President of Uzbekistan, Shevket Mirziyoyev, has the image of a reformist and liberal leader. Turkmenistan displays a neutral stance and it is important for us that Turkmens do not side with Russia on the Crimea issue. The Turkmen Cultural Center, named after the Turkmen poet Mahtumkulu Firaki, operates in Kiev, Ukraine. The number of Kyrgyz and Kazakhs living in Ukraine is much less than the Turkmen, Uzbek and Tajik communities. Kyrgyzstan, on the other hand, is a democratic country, although geographically far from us, and is similar to Ukraine in many ways.

You said that Ukraine and the Turkish world are connected by a historical bond. As a historian, can you talk about our common history from past to present?

Yes, there are deep-rooted bonds between Ukraine and the Turkish World. About half of the territory of Ukraine is steppe. Historically, Slavs and Turks have been in close interaction. The ancient Ukrainian tribes were allies of the Oghuz Turks against the Russian, Pechenegs and Volga Bulgars. In the 17th century, the Crimean Tatars sided with the Ukrainians in the Ukrainian people’s national liberation war and formed alliances with some Ukrainian Hetmans, Crimean khans and Ottoman sultans. The Ottomans supported Ukrainian Hetman Petro Dorosenok and Yuri Khmelnitsky. Rather like the Soviet historians tried to show that the Zaporozhian Kazakhs were not open enemies of the Muslims. After the Russian Empress Yekaterina Zaporojian defeated Sich, some of the Zaporozhian people moved to the Danube delta, which was Ottoman territory, and lived there until 1829.

China’s “Belt and Road” initiative has an important place in the Asia-Europe line. In Ukraine, the ideas of joining the project with a new corridor are being voiced. Do you think this option will interest China?

In Ukraine, the following idea is expressed: Chinese goods should reach Azerbaijan-Georgia via Iran and be transported through a corridor to be opened to Ukraine through the ports of this country. In this case, Chinese export goods can travel from China to European countries via Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey and Ukraine; in addition, vice versa, German equipment, Iranian oil, Ukrainian ore and grain, Afghan copper and rare metals can be transported. However, many things in this Project are connected to the relations between China and Russia. I think Ukraine is not in the first place in China’s plans. Besides, China is actually a rival to the USA which is one of the main allies of Ukraine. For me, a new branch of the “Belt and Road” Project is not possible. In fact, the constitution of such a branch is going to prevent our integration with the USA, Europe and Turkey. It is hard to make estimatations on such an issue.

An interview on our website is the personal opinion of expert and may not reflect the institutional view of Ankara Center for Crisis and Policy Research (ANKASAM).

The original version of this interview was published on The Asia Today on 06.12.2021.

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1Doctor of Historical Sciences, Orientalist, lecturer at M.P.Dragomanov National Pedagogical University of Ukraine. His main area of ​​research is the history of the Kipchaks of the 9-13 centuries. In 2019, the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine I.Kripyakevich Institute of Ukrainian Studies “9-13., he defended his doctoral thesis on “Social History of the Kipchaks in the Centuries”. He has 30 articles published in peer-reviewed scientific journals, three single-authored and two co-authored books.

Ülviye FİLİYEVA ERKEÇ-Lisans eğitimini Bakü Devlet Üniversitesi Gazetecilik Bölümü’nde tamamlayan Ülviye Filiyeva Erkeç, aynı zamanda Karabük Üniversitesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü’nden de mezun olmuştur. Yüksek lisans derecesini, Aksaray Üniversitesi Kent Sosyolojisi Programı’nda sunduğu “Türk ve Rus Basınındaki Algılanışı ile Türkiye’ye Evlilik Yolu ile Göç Olgusu” başlıklı tezle elde eden Erkeç, Karabük Üniversitesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Anabilim Dalı Bölge Çalışmaları Bilim Dalı’ndaki yüksek lisans eğitimini de sürdürmektedir. Filiyeva Erkeç, ileri seviyede İngilizce, Rusça, Avarca ve Azerbaycan Türkçesi bilmektedir. ANKASAM bünyesinde yürütülen çalışmalara katkıda bulunan Filiyeva Erkeç, Orta Asya ve Kafkasya bölgelerine yönelik akademik çalışmalarını sürdürmektedir.