The Ottoman Empire whose power already declined with the First World War, officially ended in 1922 when the title of the Ottoman Sultan was eliminated. After this, in 1923, Turkey was declared as Republic. With the declaration of the Republic, discussions about whether Turkey is a continuation of the Ottoman Empire or not start to take place.
In 1923, the country’s name was changed from the “Ottoman Empire” to the “Republic of Turkey” which was recognized in the Lausanne Treaty since it was signed by Turkey. Two terms (Turkey and Ottoman Empire), however, had long been used interchangeably. Indeed, Turkey was one of the names which have been used by Western countries to describe the Ottoman Empire.
Moreover, under international law, Turkey is not a new state; it was the same state as the Ottoman Empire only with a much smaller territory. Moreover, according to another principle of international law, a change of government does not in itself amount to the creation of a new state.
By looking at these arguments, it can be concluded that in the international sphere, Turkey is considered as the continuation of the Ottoman Empire. In fact, in the Lausanne Treaty, Turkey was described as the state which existed from 1914 to 1924 without withstanding the fact that Turkey was formally declared as Republic in 1923. This clearly shows that parties of the treaty recognized both entities as essentially the same.
If this is the case for the international arena, in terms of Turkish foreign policy, it is likely to see some continuity. This can be witnessed in three ways: institutional, protocol sensitivity and policy.
Institutionally, first of all, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is the continuation of the Umur-u Hariciye Nezareti, which established in 1836, in terms of organizational structure and bureaucratic population.
During the Ottoman time, dragomen who trained at the chamber of translation had to attend an interview to be a diplomat in the Hariciye. The same goes on for Turkey. In the Turkish Republic, diplomat candidates should pass the exam of career employees and should be successful in the interview to become a diplomat. Additionally, the embassy building constructed during the Ottoman era was taken over by the Turkish Republic rather than other countries.
For the bureaucratic population, Numan Mememncioğlu can be a specific example. At the beginning of the First World War, he was a clerk in Sophia who worked for the Harciye and during the Second World War, he was the minister of foreign affairs.
France had an ambassadorial representative in Turkey ever since 1535 when they first appointed Jean de la Forest as a representative. In return, the Ottoman Empire appointed its first ambassador Yirmisekiz Mehmet Çelebi to France in 1721. Their main aim was observing the cultural and military improvements in France to adopt them to their empire. In fact, the France Embassy Mission of Yirmisekiz Mehmet Çelebi is considered to have a major influence on the Westernization of the Ottoman Empire.
Turkey has still an embassy in France and France has an embassy in Turkey. Indeed, Turkey’s relation with France is considered the longest diplomatic relation they have with a foreign country. France was the first Western country that recognized the Ankara government which established in 1921.
Today, in Turkey’s Embassy in France there is a visible Ottoman heritage. On June 6, 2019, a ceremony was held by Turkey’s Embassy in Paris which marks the restoration of the tombs of Ottoman dynasty members carried out by the Turkish Cooperation and Agency (TİKA). During the event, Yavuz Selim Kıran, Turkey’s Paris Embassy Deputy Foreign Minister, stated that it is a privilege to carry on the Ottoman legacy. Turkey’s Ambassador to Paris İsmail Hakkı Musa during his opening speech, emphasized the continuity of state tradition.
Moreover, it was the diplomats who led the westernization and modernization processes both in the Ottoman Empire and Turkey. An Ottoman statesman and diplomat, Koca Mustafa Resit Pasha was known for being the chief architect of the Tanzimat reforms and fellow diplomat Ali Pasha prepared the Islahat Fermanı which gave equal citizenship opportunities and certain privileges for Raia. As for the Turkish Republic, it was the Fatin Rüştü Zorlu, ministry of foreign affairs, that took an action to make Turkey be a member of the European Economic Community in 1959.
The examples of 1699 Treaty of Karlowitz and 1974 Osman Olcay can emphasize the durability of protocol sensitivity.
By definition, protocol refers to the official procedure or system of rules governing affairs of state or diplomatic occasions. In that sense, there are certain actions that diplomats and statesmen are expected to do.
During the negotiations of Karlowitz, the first thing that discussed was which side will enter the room first, Austrian’s or Ottoman’s? As the winning side, Austrian’s demanded to enter first but Ottoman’s rejected it because they were an empire. To solve this tension, as mediators, British and Dutch diplomats come up with an idea of having a room with seven doors where everyone will enter at the same time.
In 1974, there was a coup in Cyprus and due to that the president Makarios had to leave the country and came to New York. He was going to attend the United Nations General Assembly in order to explain and discuss what happened in his country. According to rules of protocol, permanent representatives should welcome the president by standing ovation, however, because of the conflict in Cyprus Osman Olcay didn’t want to stand up. As a result of that, he entered the room right behind the president to not to disobey the protocol.
Finally, in terms of the policy, the biggest heritage of the Ottoman Empire is the balance of power. Even though the Ottoman Empire is originally a military state, territorial losses after the series of conferences due to Eastern Question forced them to adopt a policy based on protecting the integrity of the empire. This resulted in the policy of balance of power. Turkey, on the other hand, adopted this policy and this is visible on many occasions such as forming good relations with Middle Eastern countries, being the first Muslim country that recognized Israel and the policy during the Second World War was the balance of power. Moreover, Turkey tried to protect its territorial integrity by defending the National Pact at the Lausanne Conference.
Overall, by looking at these arguments it can be said that even though there is a shift from monarchy to the Republic, several principles of the Turkish Republic are the reflection of the Ottoman Empire in terms of foreign policy.
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