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TİKA’s Heritage Restoration Projects: Examples of Foreign Aid or Proof of Neo-Ottomanism?

Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Turkey has been using the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TİKA) to gain soft power and increase its influence in the Balkans, Caucasia, and Central Asia. As Turkey’s focus is on countries that were once part of the Ottoman Empire, many have characterized this attempt as Neo-Ottomanism. Especially problematic is the fact that, over the years, TİKA has funded the restoration of numerous Ottoman monuments in these regions. Using Serbia as an example, this article explores whether such projects are proof of Turkey having a ‘Neo-Ottoman agenda’ of reviving Ottoman culture and exerting influence over former Ottoman territories, or just a way of Turkey gaining soft power through foreign aid.

TİKA s Heritage Restoration Projects Examples of Foreign Aid or
Ten students participating in TİKA’s Experience Sharing Program participated in the cleaning works of the Ottoman tombs in Novi Pazar, Serbia in August 2018. TİKA / AA
 

 

 

 

Introduction

 

Joseph Nye introduced the concept of soft power in the 1990s as a means to distinguish between two types of power in the modern world: hard power, which relies on the economic and military might of a country, and soft power, which relies on the way others perceive the country. Admittedly, hard power is what people usually associate with ‘power,’ but nevertheless, both soft and hard power accomplish the same goal –getting other countries to do what you want; hard power does this through intimidations and rewards, while soft power does it by shaping the preferences of others so that they start aligning with yours.1 And while some authors bring the very notion of soft power into question,2 policymakers have been paying a lot of attention to this way of thinking about power.

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