Historical and current aspects of the ‘Eastern question’

Published 19.11.2014 01:16

The concept of the Memalik-i Mahrusa (the well protected imperial domains) was not a matter of concern for the Ottoman Empire alone, it was also of vital importance to the rest of the world, as it was foreseen in the 19th century that all humanity would face major problems once the empire fell apart. So, the "Eastern question" was a concept that was introduced by Western ideologues and historians as a result of the disintegration of the Memalik-i Mahrusa.

In his historical masterpiece called "Sultan Abdul Hamid," François Georgeon describes the Eastern question as such: "What is the Eastern question? This phrase covers the entirety of serious problems that big states encountered when the Ottoman Empire lost its territories in the Balkans and Mediterranean." So, the Eastern question is not only a process of disintegration of the empire, but it also points to the endless wars, massacres, destruction and exile which arose when the Memalik-i Mahrusa could not be protected. When Sultan Abdul Hamid succeeded the throne in 1876, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Cyprus, Lebanon, Palestine, Armenia, Kurdistan, Kuwait and Iraq were all territories within the boundaries of the Ottoman Empire, while Sarajevo, Nicosia, Beirut, Jerusalem, Basra, Karbala and Baghdad were all key cities of the Memalik-i Mahrusa.

Today, the Eastern question continues through these cities and their soil further extending the war on sharing. In this sense, a large part of the Eastern question revolves around the period after the fall of the East due to war only to then be colonized by the West. So, it is obvious that the Eastern question is not a problem created by Easterners, who resisted the status quo throughout history. On the contrary, what maintained the status quo and the crises that accompanied it was the West itself.

In 1853, Karl Marx suggested that the Eastern question would trigger conflict and war among "big states," saying that, while Turkey strived to change the status quo ante (the way things were before) a reactionary bloc of "civilized" Europe re-established it. At this point, it is possible to say that since the very beginning, the Eastern question has been a Western question at the same time. So, the Eastern question of the 19th century and the Western question of the 21st century can be overcome by establishing a new and holistic economy with a market that spans a geography that extends from the Balkans to Caucasia.

It was important that last week's G-20 Leaders' Summit mainly addressed the topics of energy, global development, economic improvement and new rules of global commerce, but it failed to develop a holistic solution to all these critically important topics. The severe criticisms of the U.S. and the U.K. against Russia will not change the latter's Eurasia strategy. Russian President Vladimir Putin left the summit earlier than expected in response to these criticisms. Putin emphasized the importance of BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) throughout the summit whilst emphasizing the importance of China's new Silk Road strategy that was announced at the recent Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit. From now on, Russia will pursue a more unyielding and expansionary strategy in its Eurasian Union project, which it started in 2010 by including Belarus and Kazakhstan in its customs union, and will go beyond the borders of the old Soviet Union. In this sense, China's new Silk Road strategy is not only a project of a new commercial network, but of a large and extensive integration. However, the success of this project is only possible by protecting the Memalik-i Mahrusa.

The Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TTP), which were put forward by the U.S. and the EU to create a new commercial network, are not possible without Turkey. Just as it was after the 19th century, the West has to take Turkey and its straits into account in its strategies toward the Middle East and the Mediterranean region. In the 19th and 20th centuries the West pursued a policy of divide and rule to establish economic unity among Turkey, the Middle East and countries of the region lying on the Mediterranean. Today, however, it turns out that this is an unsustainable line for humanity. So, the fragmentation of the Memalik-i Mahrusa means endless world wars, genocide, and fascism. Now, the Memalik-i Mahrusa should be recalled and these territories should be made a center of peace, justice and welfare for all humanity.

Today, there are two important lessons to learn from all this to solve the West's current systemic crisis. The first one is that the Memalik-i Mahrusa should be rebuilt as an integrated region of peace and welfare, rather than a territory of war, in order to bring together the European market and ports of the East China Sea. Secondly, the fact that Turkey is a key country for this integration as it was in the 19th century should not be ignored.

In short, the fragmentation of the Memalik-i Mahrusa was described as the Eastern question in the 19th century, but today, it is a problem developed by the current system. So, a new version of the Memalik-i Mahrusa should be founded under current conditions.

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