Zan Tao: Historical Evolution of Türkiye and Eurasian Geopolitics

Speaker:Zan Tao Date:2022-10-19

On the evening of October 13, 2022, the Institute of International and Strategic Studies (IISS), Peking University (PKU) held the 59th series lecture of “North Pavilion Seminar”. Zan Tao, Professor of History Department of the PKU and Director of Center for Turkish Studies of the PKU, gave a lecture entitled “Historical Evolution of Türkiye and Eurasian Geopolitics”. The lecture was hosted by Gui Yongtao, Vice President of IISS, PKU and Vice President of the School of International Studies, PKU.

Prof. Zan first took the mediation role of Türkiye in the Russia-Ukraine conflict as an example, pointing out that Türkiye has been increasingly active on the international stage in recent years, which deserves academic research and attention.

According to Prof. Zan, to understand the founding of the modern Republic of Türkiye, one should not only consider the geopolitical factor that it controls the naval access to the Black Sea and stretches across both Europe and Asia, but also pay attention to the important geo-civilization factor. Historically, Türkiye came to the Mediterranean region and Europe from inland Asia but was not assimilated by Europe like other invading forces. One important reason was that Turks converted to Islam before and during their conquest of this region, and the Ottoman Empire even became a world center of the Islamic civilization later. Therefore, Türkiye holds an important position not only in geopolitics, but also in geo-civilization.

Then, Prof. Zan analyzed the close relationship between Türkiye and the geopolitical evolution of Eurasia since the decline of the Ottoman Empire. The establishment of the Republic of Turkey in the 20th century was to a large extent the result of a series of geopolitical changes in Eurasia at that time, such as the October Revolution and the founding of the Soviet Union. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Türkiye not only provided assistance to Central Asian and Caucasus countries, but also became an example for these countries to seek transformation. The 21st century has been seeing the gradual rising of Türkiye. With the change of its strength and position, Türkiye has established a strong influence in Central Asia and the Caucasus, and seeks to play a more active role in international affairs.

Finally, Prof. Zan concluded that Türkiye should be analyzed as an important “geo-strategic chess player” in both the current geopolitical changes and the structure of geo-civilization in Eurasia.

In the Q&A session, Prof. Zan discussed with the faculty and students present at the lecture on a series of topics, including Türkiye’s domestic political environment, whether the cultural relics of the Eastern Roman Empire affect contemporary Türkiye, whether anti-globalization exists in Türkiye, comparison of Türkiye’s foreign policies in different historical periods, and comparison between the Ottoman Empire and Caliphate of Córdoba. (Contributed by: Chen Danmei)

Editor: Li Fangqi Photographer: Zheng Peijie

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Copyright@2014 Institute of International and Strategic Studies Peking University. All Rights Reserved.