The soft power of Turkey

Politics of Concentration Turkey’s Soft Power
The word Balkan originates from the Turkish word “Balkan” that means term. This detail helps us to understand how important the role of this country in the Balkan region is.
Changing the strategic objectives of Turkey

In recent years, especially with the power in the hands of the party of Justice and Development, significant changes took place in the exercise of foreign policy of our neighboring country. The main strategy of Turkey is about the emergence of the country as mild power at regional or international level. This swing in foreign policy is attributed both to Turkey’s Europeanization process in pursuit of strengthening its position in view of the accession to the EU and more generally to be upgraded towards the West.
The policy of Turkey seems to be interested in soft power concentration.


What is the soft power
Power is generally an important element of the behavior of states in an international system without a leading power. The architecture of the international system is pushing states to seek to obtain power in order to survive, to prosper, and to ensure their national interests in a highly competitive environment.

The American professor Joseph Nye introduced a distinction within the concept of power. Used the term «soft power» as opposed to «hard power» which is based on the use of coercion using mainly military and economic power. The Nye defines soft power as a form of power that convinces others to want what you want, instead of forcing them to. This is basically an indirect way of power projection.

Soft Power and Turkish serials

In recent years the will of the Turkish government to gather as much soft power as possible is taking place mainly through the fast growing of Turkish television industry. Since 2001, 65 Turkish television series have been sold abroad, generating more than 50 million dollars to Turkish television industry. The Turks protagonists are now very familiar faces in most countries where the shows are on, while the scenes of Istanbul have attracted thousands of tourists yielding significant gains in the tourism industry.

Besides the big sales and commercial success, equally important is the promotion of Turkey. In the Balkans and Middle East, regions that traditionally have distrust in Turkish influence, the power of television significantly contributes to repositioning the country. According to a recent report titled “Perception of Turkey in the Middle East 2010” of the tourism institute of economic and social studies, 78% of respondents said they have watched a Turkish TV series. The report also states that the series have become an important part of the “soft power” of Turkey, creating a permanent dynamic for the image of Turkey in the region.
“Strategic Depth” A. Davutoglu

The spread of Turkish television is a part of the “soft power” strategy of Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, as it described in his book “Strategic Depth”, published in 2001. Davutoglu promotes an active and multidimensional foreign policy, according to which the common history and culture of Turkey with former Ottoman lands is a strategic advantage and a “spear” for the Turkish strategy “soft power”.
Free promotion of Turkish serials abroad

Recently, it became known the intention of the neighboring country to promote out of charge these serials abroad. Turkish Culture and Tourism Deputy Minister Abdurrahman Arishi announced that the government’s intention to promote free Turkish series in foreign countries, by integrating this energy in the overall promotion of Turkey abroad. He said, “with these series we can enter into any home and spread the Turkish culture”, while he also referred to the increase of tourists visiting attractions in the country after watching a series. In addition, he added that: “The “Suleiman the Magnificent” is one of the most popular soap operas between them and the government would like to reach in Kyrgyzstan.”

Requirements of the Turks for serials

In fact these serials are an investment without particular risk for the leaders of foreign channels as this series is well-crafted and offered very cheap, whilst ensuring a high view percentage. Most importantly, the series have been delivered to them without special restrictions. The only requirement – inviolable term of Turks- is that these serials will not be interpreted in another language so that people may hear the Turkish language.

Sometimes, however, the responsible people for the movement of these programs even impose some restrictions. An example is the broadcasting of Turkish soap opera “Suleiman the Magnificent”” in our country. When the private station ANT1 bought the show, tried several times to convince the Turkish producers to avoid the title “Magnificent” and to name the series “Suleiman”, trying to limit the possible comments of television critics and viewers. On the other side the Turkish was adamant. Either the title will contain the word “Magnificent” or the serial will not be in their program; it was a requirement they were not willing to give up.
Neo-Ottomanism Scenarios

It is often heard that Turkey has expansionist ambitions towards the Balkans, which is trying to consolidate using culturally, politically and financially means. Several researchers indeed mention “neo-Ottomanism” adding that Turkish TV serials are not spontaneous extract of Turkish society but implementation of a Turkish neo-Ottoman expansionism plan. The role of the media in promoting this philobalcan perspective is particularly important and all the evidence suggest that the Turkish government has invested enough in this area.
Statements by Davutoglu in Turkish diplomats conference

The annual congress Turkish diplomats held in late 2011 in Edirne, the Turkish Foreign Minister A. Davutoglu in his opening speech emphasized that the policies to be implemented by Turkey in the future, by 2023, aimed at consolidating the area of the Balkans, Caucasus and Central Asia, which he said would be a peaceful way and will mean the return of Turkey to the Balkans after a century (…) with essential tools for achieving their targets in the economy, history and culture.
 Turkey’s relations with the Balkans

Through the export of Turkish serials Turkey attempts to smooth the memories and to change the negative image of the Balkan people in the Ottoman Empire. Dominant role in the theme of this series is to promote a particular system of values characterized by the primacy of the family and the dominant role of the patriarchic figure. This value system is characterized as common among Balkan countries and even from the Turkish side promoted the emphasis in this common value system. Recently, the English edition of Hurriyet newspaper reports in an article on the promotion of Turkish serials in Greece: “The Greeks say they do not see significant differences between themselves and the Turks. Also it said that the Turkish lines remind them of their own family life and society.”

Turkish TV series are “national case”

It is now clear that the promotion of Turkish culture through TV serials is a national issue for the Turks. Orhan Tekelioglou, communications professor from Bahcesehir University Istanbul, in an interview at SETimes interprets the news about the international spread of TV series in the Turkish press in a different way, saying: “The sales from the TV series are accepted with “cheers of victory” as if coming from a “military campaign” – it must be what they call “neo-Ottomanism”.
The role of the EU

The Turkish serials cause reactions not only because of their themes but also because of their funding. The British member of the British Conservative Party Pauline Latham complained that with EU money are shot some very famous Turkish series. The issue got great extension, forcing Britain’s Development Minister to announce a research on how the financial assistance of the EU is given to Turkey in order to produce Turkish TV series. In her complaint, the British MP says Turkey is the country that receives more financial help from the EU and abusive manners is using this economic assistance for the development of a soap opera industry with the obvious purpose of creating Turkish (neo-Ottoman) propaganda in Europe. The minister of Turkey for European Affairs, Egemen Bagis, has confessed according to the British, that those large amounts of European aid are given for the production of television series, which are then exported and Turkish channels earn huge profits.


Considering the above initially we conclude that in the recent years, especially with the taking of power by the Justice and Development Party significant changes in shaping Turkey’s foreign policy have been observed. More specifically, the government focuses on the influence of the Balkan countries, using as main tool the culture and the history of the Balkan region to the benefit of Turkey displaying a “common Balkan value system”. The neighboring country has developed a strong television industry trying to influence both the Balkans and the Middle East. The objective of this policy is both to change the negative image that the Turks left because of the enslavement of the Balkan people during the Ottoman Empire and to promote Turkish culture and Turkish language. The main objective of Turkey is to consolidate the area of the Balkans, Caucasus and Central Asia and the emergence of a regional superpower by 2023.
LAROSEL Dimitra-Laurence

Student of International and European Studies Department, University of Piraeus

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