On Mt Carmel, there is a pleasant townlet, slightly more than a village, called Zichron Yaakov. Now known for its robust wine and Frenchy restaurants, in the days of World War One it was a home for the Zionist pro-British espionage ring, NILI. Its members, prominent Zionist settlers and citizens of Turkey, communicated with the British troops in Egypt, delivered to them news of the Turkish forces’ disposition and contributed to the Empire’s defeat. They were connected with Haim Weitzman, who squeezed the Balfour declaration from unwilling Brits and became the first president of the Jewish state. To this day, the NILI is greatly venerated in Israel, and schoolchildren are often taken to the museum where they are indoctrinated in Jewish loyalty to the Jews only, and in their duty to betray any other power if it is called for by their loyalty as Jews.
They had a good reason to betray their country, the Ottoman Empire, for if the Empire were still intact, the Jewish State with its millions deprived natives immured beyond the high wall, its millions of equally deprived guest workers locked in shantytowns would have never come into existence. Incidentally, the US attack on defenceless Iraq with its hundreds of thousands dead and ensuing civil strife would have never materialised, either, for Iraq was a part of that powerful Empire.
And not only has the Middle East suffered from the Empire’s demise, but NATO planes would have never had the fun of bombing Belgrade, if the Empire were still with us. Even Greece, the first break-away province, now devastated by the introduction of the Euro, and reduced to the status of an hotelier for wealthy Northerners, has a good reason to regret the days when Greeks formed the elite of the Empire from Alexandria to Constantinople. The Turks, the Empire-building nation, were admired and feared in Europe, while now they are treated as unwanted competitors for dish-washing jobs in Frankfurt and London.
We, the heirs to the Byzantines and the Ottomans, have now to deal with a great new challenge, the American colonisation project. The Mammonite forces now at the helm of the US are using the dismantlement of the great continental Empires to build their world-embracing neo-liberal one. In this new Empire, Western Europe will be ‘the old country’, Greece to Rome, object of imperial benevolence and guidance; while the rest of the world will be re-colonised. Instead of trying to fit into this plan by trying to join the EU, as some Turkish leaders hope to do, a better response would be to re-establish a big civilisation-based framework. Mankind is ripe for a new stage in its development, the re-formation of civilisation blocks. By the end of this stage, there will be five super-states, five civilisations: the US, Europe, China, Latin America and ours, the Commonwealth of the East. The alternative is a world colonised by Mammonite America.
Indeed, it is the right time to give a thought to bringing the Ottoman Empire back. The Empire did not fail because it was too big and unwieldy: in its heyday it was smaller than Brazil or Russia. It failed because inexperienced local elites grasped the poisoned fruit of nationalism, offered by the western Masters of Discourse.
Nationalism, this European invention, has probably killed more people than the Black Plague of old. Worse, it has not offered a plausible alternative to the unity of the Empire, where dozens of tribes and ethnic groups felt at home, in peace with each other. None of the break-away countries has succeeded in creating a viable state, and the Western predators continue to spread strife among smaller and smaller groups, as the Kurdish rebellion in Turkey and Iraq reminds us. The Pan-Arabism of Nasser and the Ba’ath Party, the Islamism of Osama, the Pan-Turkism of Ziya Gökalp and Halide Edib Adivar have all failed to propose a viable ideology to counteract the continuing onslaught of the Mammonite forces.
We should take a leaf from the book of our brothers in the EU. Europe has succeeded in bringing back the Empire of Charlemagne, which collapsed a millennium ago; our Empire is still alive in the memories of people, and in the glorious palaces, fortresses, mosques and churches. Our reconstituted Empire may and should embrace the entire post-Byzantine expanse: the bright future of Turkey, the Middle East, and the Balkans lays in joining in with Russia, Ukraine, and the Turkic republics of Central Asia.
These two heirs to the glory of Byzantium, the Russian and the Ottoman Empires, fought each other for centuries; but the same can be said of the French and the Germans, the heirs to the Western Roman Empire. If these eternal enemies in the West could succeed in uniting, it can be done in the East, too.
This summer as I travelled in Russia and Ukraine, I noticed much in common between the Russians and the Turks (or Tatars, in Russian usage). “Scratch a Russian and you will find a Turk”, fumed Churchill, his cigar in full blast. “And the other way around”, quipped Leon Gumilev, a great and late Russian historian, the guru of the Russian pro-Eastern tendency. Indeed, Russia as a state came into being as the union of the steppe-dwelling Muslim Turks and the forest-based Orthodox Slavs. Gumilev demolished the Western myth of the ‘Tatar (Turk) Yoke’ and correctly described the Moscow Rus as the successor state to the Golden Horde founded by the Turkic Genghisid princes. “Russia is unbeatable in its union with the brave Turks”, said Gumilev who identified the West as the greatest source of danger for Russian identity.
The National Bolshevik leader and a prominent writer, Edward Limonov, wrote recently of Russia being ‘a Turkey with German coating’. Russians still prefer ‘sharovary’, baggy trousers popular among Anatolian peasants and the Ottoman nobility of old. They squat like the Turks do, noticed Limonov. This positive feeling of Russians towards the Turks is so different from the European mistrust of them. It finds its way into the cinema: the new Russian blockbuster called The Turkish Gambit describes the Russo-Turkish war for Plevna without the usual, for Hollywood, racist overtones and presents Osman Nuri Pasha as a hero.
The commonality of Turks and Slavs goes back a long way. In northern Ukraine, I visited the erstwhile capitals of Russian princedoms, Novgorod, Chernigov and Kiev. Their princes married Turkic princesses, daughters of the steppe, and Turkic warriors formed an integral part of their retinue. The Russian epic lay of the 12th century depicts a Novgorod Prince Igor war raid into Turkic steppe; the prince was defeated, but his captor Konchak Khan gave him his daughter in marriage, and he returned home to Novgorod. A sizable part of Russian nobility still has Turkic names, be it Nabokov, the author of Lolita, or Usupov, the wealthiest Russian prince at the court of Nicolas II.
In a recent book, The Eurasian Symphony by St Petersburg writer van Zaichik, an alternative history of our part of the world is proposed. What would have happened if the Turkic Golden Horde’s enlightened ruler Sartak Khan, a friend of St Alexander Nevsky, had survived an assassination attempt and, as a consequence, the Russians and the Turks had remained in one prosperous state? Van Zaichik calls this resulting empire ‘Ordus’, an amalgam of Horde and Rus, embracing the bulk of the Eurasian landmass. Ordus is a land where modernity has incorporated tradition and religion; the family has remained intact; and even though there are wealthy men, the unbridled pursuit of wealth is frowned upon.
“We work together and contain our egoism”, this is the credo of Ordus, a model suitable for the East. Mosques and churches are plentiful; however, all the citizens are united in harmony. This image of an alternative universe was so attractive to the Russians that I spotted a few cars carrying stickers “I want to live in Ordus”. By the way, Ordus includes a Jerusalem Vilayet, where many of the descendents of Jews found refuge from Hitler’s rise in Germany (yes, there was a Hitler and a Germany even in the alternative universe), but live as equals with the native inhabitants.
A fascinating new Russian historian, Fomenko, has proposed a heretical model of history: in his eyes, there was always an Empire, or rather, The Empire; and the city on the Bosporus is the natural capital of Eurasia. Whether or not it was ever the case in the past, it can certainly be the case in the future.
Instead of fighting for leadership in Eurasia, the Turks, Slavs, Arabs (and their smaller neighbours) can unite their forces and make Constantinople (‘Istanbul’ is just a corrupt reading of Constantinople) their joint capital and the seat of the Imperial government. Constantinople can be our answer to Brussels, New York and Beijing. While the centuries-long quest for hegemony in Eurasia has caused many wars, a union would satisfy all desires: the Russians will have Constantinople as their capital, without dislodging the Turks; the Turks will have lifelines to the Crimea and Tashkent, even to the far-away diamond reserves of Yakutia, the land of the Pravoslav Turks, restored without fighting a single Russian. The Middle East will once again be incorporated in Eurasia as it was; and it won’t have to listen to orders from Washington, London or Brussels. Instead of being a far-away place, Turkey will become the meeting place for the people of Baghdad and Kiev, Belgrade and Cairo, Vladivostok and Ankara.
Let us raise the twin-headed eagle of Byzantium once again as the symbol of our Eastern Civilisation’s unity of the Orthodox and the Muslims, invest our ruler with the twin crown of Caliph of Islam and Emperor of the Orthodox, bury petty nationalisms of the recent past and begin an exciting new page in our history and the history of the world. The reconstituted Commonwealth of the East, the rightful successor to the Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Russian and Ottoman Empires, will possess vast material and spiritual resources, making it a world superpower, next to a united Europe, to the US and to China.
This Commonwealth will be united by an idea, as well as by material considerations. For East and West are different, split by a metaphysical cleavage. In the West, the Mammonite heresy brought in the American troop carriers of the World War, had won the day. They accepted a brutal faith of greed, of unbridled desire for individual success, of the right and duty to grab and consume as much as possible. They rejected solidarity in the name egoism they call “absolute freedom of man”. They destroyed Woman by turning her into an imitation of man; they destroyed Man by making him compete with women. Having rejected God, their churches are empty, their cities are centred on the business quarters, while ours are centred on learning, art and prayer.
The East has retained its Christian identity, for Islam is just a form of Christianity, though as distanced from the Nicene Orthodoxy as is the Calvinism of the Swiss. The East denies Mammon for we have not rejected God; we put spirit above material considerations as we have not rejected Christ al Mesih, we adore Woman for we have not rejected His Mother, Sitt Maryam. The East still loves nature, despises the dishonest rich, believes in the value of work, and prefers harmony to success. We like manly men and womanly women. We respect tradition and family. The US-led West creates a nomad civilisation out of an open society of atomised individuals disconnected from family and soil. In the Commonwealth of the East, we shall proceed in the opposite direction. We will discourage immigration and encourage capital transfer. We shall be in favour of the autochthon, for the autochthon knows the needs and desires of his locality better.
The West has proclaimed the sanctity of private property. We respect it so long as it is small, but reject its excesses. We shall rule against greed by taxing the super-rich, confiscating their property and sending them for re-education and ‘de-greeding’ to a friendly Anatolian or Siberian village. There will be no privatisation of resources, no sale of lands to foreigners, no dispossession of peasants. We shall discourage the growth of cities and promote the countryside. The West over-regulates private life; we shall uphold the eternal liberties of the East. We shall be good friends to our neighbours, or terrible enemies, if they so choose.
This fantasy is actually the only plausible
alternative to having our lands colonised by the US or by the rising
superpowers of Europe and China.
Israel Shamir, http://www.israelshamir.net/English/Ottomans.htm