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TÜSİAD and the Armenian-Turkish Relations: Turkish Economy between Progress and National Identity

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image of Iran and the Caucasus

In examining the endeavours of the Turkish entrepreneurs' association TÜSİAD, a politically embedded economic interest group, it becomes clear how highly discriminative it must act, and react, in its pursuit to deliver economic and political benefits to its members. This can be observed via the example of the association's attitude vis-à-vis the Armenian-Turkish rapprochement process. On the one hand, the association speaks up freely and acts independently, and it has supported and engaged in numerous Armenian-Turkish initiatives, thus promoting a dialogue through trade. Improving economic conditions in the eastern provinces of Turkey and taking steps in line with the European Union accession process have been the major impetus for these moves. On the other hand, when it comes to highly contentious issues considered to be of Turkish national interest, such as the Armenian Genocide debate, TÜSİAD has been strongly affected by nationalist sensibilities. Its approach in this matter is deadlocked and determined by historical legacy. It conforms to the state ideology, rejecting the term genocide for the Ottoman massacres of Armenians in 1915 and considering any contrary arguments as an attempt by foreign powers to damage Turkey's reputation. One of the reasons behind this attitude is the way that a particular Turkish identity was formulated in the transition between the Ottoman Empire and the Turkish Republic, in which a sole “national culture” was founded exclusive of ideological divergence. The state, as a historically powerful guardian of this identity, has consistently attempted to enforce the conformity of social actors and the public sphere with this “national culture”. However, along with continuing globalisation and a general trend of individualisation of society, TÜSİAD and other civil organisations are in a process of disengagement from these structures. Should this process continue, TÜSİAD could further contribute to a prosperity that extends beyond economic advancement in Turkey's eastern border provinces, leading to a sustainable reconciliation in the South Caucasian region.

Affiliations: 1: Orient-Institut, Istanbul


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